Bitcoin Comes to MIT

TWO STUDENTS AT the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge have raised more than US$500,000 for an unusual project.
Bitcoin Comes to MIT

This fall, they plan to give $100 in bitcoin—digital-only currency that supports peer-to-peer payments without need for a central bank—to all 4,528 undergraduate MIT students.

The goal is to create an ecosystem for digital currency at MIT, say Jeremy Rubin, a sophomore studying computer science, and Dan Elitzer, founder and president of the MIT Bitcoin Club and a first-year MBA student at the MIT Sloan School of Management. The pair hopes that the MIT Bitcoin Project will inspire academics across campus to study how students use their bitcoin and how the currency might spark academic and entrepreneurial activity—establishing MIT as a global hub for bitcoinrelated research.

“Giving students access to cryptocurrencies is analogous to providing them with Internet access at the dawn of the Internet era,” says Rubin. The project was funded largely by alumni and representatives of the bitcoin community. In addition to providing bitcoin to students, the funding supports infrastructure and informational activities related to the initiative. These have included helping campus merchants set up to accept bitcoin payments and sponsoring an event in May that featured presentations and workshops on the bitcoin phenomenon. Rubin and Elitzer also are collaborating with MIT’s Big Data Living Lab to seek approval from the Institutional Review Board to use human subjects for studies of bitcoin use, including allowing students to opt in to the virtual currency experiment.

To read more about MIT’s bitcoin club and project, visit bitcoin.mit.edu.