Stanford has yet again established itself as a leading cutting-edge research institution in the US with the launch of their “Center for Blockchain Research” last Wednesday. Their Engineering newsletter provided an in-depth explanation about the goals for creating such a center, their expectations from it and its place in society. The development of this center was initiated – and founded – by two professors of computer science: Dan Boneh and David Mazières. In addition, this center’s impressive faculty also includes academicians such as Alex Aiken, David Dill, John Mitchel, Tim Roughgarden and a member of law faculty, Joe Grundfest.
Boneh predicts, “Blockchain will become increasingly critical to doing business globally.” He also believes that Stanford needs to be equipped to understand the new and innovative uses of this technology.
Since blockchain technology can be adapted to perform many different tasks, the aim for developing such a center is multifaceted. Firstly, it will allow the faculty at Stanford to understand the framework behind blockchain technology as it continues to become part of different industries. It will also allow prospective students to learn, develop and manage various uses of blockchain technology.
Because of blockchain’s transparent, secure and reliable characteristics, companies are branching out to find creative uses for it in various fields such as “supply chain management, real estate, record keeping, identity verification, reward system, voting technology to name a few”. While it is widely associated with the domain of digital currencies, humanitarian uses for blockchain can also be created such as using this technology to create reliable food vouchers for refugees.
According to Stanford article “Blockchain works by creating the digital equivalent of a ledger book of transactions, and distributing multiple copies of identical ledgers over the internet. Each time a new transaction occurs, a data block is added to the chain of information stored in each and every copy of the ledger. This decentralized and highly distributed approach ensures that past transactions cannot be modified and that new transactions can always be added.”
This is a very exciting and challenging task for the Center for Blockchain Research. They will have to use all their resources to find means to bring this technology to every digital user without compromising security or customer trust. Even though blockchain technology is a highly promising field there are still some serious challenges that need to overcome before it can be useful in real life. The cost of electricity used to maintain confidentiality of blockchain network, while maintaining trust in the technology are few of challenges facing the industry.
While there are some concerns that need to be publicly addressed, the Stanford faculty is excited because they believe that once the finer nuances behind the technology are understood, the field will garner a lot of interest. Boneh further commented “…this area will generate many PhD thesis across all of computer science and beyond.”
There are some well-known and established players in the blockchain world who are supporting center’s first five-year research program, namely: The Ethereum Foundation, Protocol Labs, the Interchain Foundation, OmiseGO, DFINITY Stiftung and PolyChain Capital. Vitalik Buterin, the founder of Ethereum has publicly announced support for Stanford’s Blockchain Research Center initiative. It is clear that blockchain organizations are extremely interested in spreading the knowledge about blockchain technology. With a greater number of interested users, the technology is sure to boom and take over various industries in the market.
— Vitalik "Not giving away ETH" Buterin (@VitalikButerin) June 21, 2018
The growing interest of blockchain enterprises in universities and academia will provide more opportunities for students to develop their careers in this very new, yet promising field. Stanford university has definitely taken the first baby step in this long journey towards future innovation.
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