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Bitcoin, Blockchains, and Smart Contracts: Flights of Fancy and Crash Landings

Created by a shadowy figure with a half-billion dollars in assets that have never been touched, Bitcoin has achieved fame largely as the currency of choice for drug dealing and ransomware. Yet it has also been championed as a technical innovation for liberating ordinary users from the stranglehold of vested financial interests. At the same time, those very same vested financial interests are eagerly experimenting with Bitcoin’s technical underpinnings, known as “the blockchain.” I’ll talk about the sweeping technical vision that has stimulated a billion dollars in venture capital investment, assassinations for hire, a $50 million dollar cryptocurrency venture fund heist unrolled by something called a “hard fork,” and many more Hollywood-esque stories. I’ll also discuss one of the most exciting technical directions, known as smart contracts, and how they could transform finance, the law---and crime. Finally, I’ll explain the sobering possibility that the whole grand venture could devolve into little more than a collection of somewhat larger and fancier databases.

Ari Juels| Bio

Ari Juels is a Professor at Cornell Tech (Jacobs Institute) in New York City, which he joined in 2014, and a Co-Director of the Initiative for CryptoCurrencies and Contracts (IC3). He was previously the Chief Scientist of RSA. In 2004, MIT’s Technology Review Magazine named Dr. Juels one of the world’s top 100 technology innovators under the age of 35. Computerworld honored him in its “40 Under 40” list of young industry leaders in 2007. He has received other distinctions, but sadly no recent ones acknowledging his youth.

 

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