Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) students have launched a new Bitcoin development initiative that will give each of the university's 4,528 undergraduate students $100 worth of the cypto currency to experiment with.
The Bitcoin project was created by MIT sophomore electrical engineering and computer science student Jeremy Rubin, and Dan Elitzer, first-year MBA student and founder and president of the MIT Bitcoin Club.
The project has already gathered $500,000 in funding, the bulk of which was collected from MIT alumni and the Bitcoin community. The project is designed to create a self-sustaining Bitcoin ecosystem and economy within MIT and will see Rubin and Elitzer work to get merchants operating on the university campus to begin accepting Bitcoin payments.
Bitcoins are a self-sustaining and regulating digital currency, created in 2008, which allow instantaneous, semi-anonymous online transactions to be made outside of traditional banking systems. The semi-anonymous nature of Bitcoin has made it popular with many criminal groups and it has become the currency of choice on many cyber black markets, such as the infamous Silk Road.
Despite Bitcoin's popularity in criminal circles, the currency's ability to operate independently of existing banking systems has the potential to revolutionise modern commerce. Rubin said the project is designed to test Bitcoin as a replacement to traditional currency.
"Giving students access to crypto currencies is analogous to providing them with internet access at the dawn of the internet era," said Rubin. "When the distribution happens this fall, it will make the MIT campus the first place in the world where it will be possible to assume widespread access to Bitcoin," he said.
The aim of MIT's project goes against many experts' projections for Bitcoin. Analysts from EY estimated Bitcoin is at least 50 to 100 years away from being a challenger to traditional currency during a press briefing attended by V3 in December 2013.
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