1 Introduction – What is the problem we are trying to solve? In this session we talk about the general issues to be covered in the course, as well as ways in which you might follow these questions further, e.g., through subsequent projects. We want to have informed debate and to include all views in the classroom, including both enthusiasm for and skepticism about this kind of new technology.  
2 Centralized trust and the organization of finance – how exactly does blockchain make a difference?

The first session of this course introduced you to the general issues – and we debated how blockchain might or might not have broad impact on the organization of economies and financial systems. In this session we dig deeper into some of the details, including how trust operates today and how it may operate in the future.

Guest: Laurent Lamothe, founder, LSL World Initiative; former Prime Minister of Haiti.

First day for Individual Write-ups
3 The Prospects for a Central Bank Issued Digital Currency In this session we discuss official sector thinking about Bitcoin and related blockchain developments. Central banks are a key part of determining how governments will react. It currently looks like innovation in this area will be encouraged. But to what end and with what limits?  


Part I of the course focused on blockchain basics, including the role of policymakers in determining what happens next. There is a substantial list of “problems to be solved”. But to what extent is blockchain technology necessary or sufficient for workable solutions?

Part II digs deeper into particular use cases by examining the details of opportunities that – arguably – are developing around the world. Throughout these discussions, we are trying look both at the case for the adoption of some form of blockchain, as well as legitimate skepticism regarding claims that are being made.

4 What’s the future business model: Platforms or Protocols? In this session we discuss how platform-based companies have fueled their success by ensuring the network effect takes place on their applications instead of using an open protocol and how, as a result of the blockchain, open protocols may become more prevalent – with potentially significant impact on existing business models.

Guest: One or more team members from the Union Square Ventures.

5 Managing Digital and Physical Property Rights in a Decentralized Network

From governments to the music industry, in this session we’ll discuss ways the blockchain could be used to increase transparency and efficiency in organizations and industries that have historically had opaque or outdated business processes.

Guest: one or more team members from the Open Music Initiative.

6 Medical Records, Insurance Claims, and Other Personal Data From the US Government to Sony Records, it seems like every week we hear about another
cybersecurity attack that reveals our personal information. We’ll look at a few ways companies, industries, and technologists are testing whether blockchain-based solutions could address these critical problems.

Guests: Jonathan Ruane will discuss his project with Insurance Ireland. Jonathan is developing a project that will allow greater sharing of information among insurance companies. He will give you a front line assessment of what blockchain can and cannot do in this area. The inventors of MedRec are also invited.

7 Financial Inclusion In this session we dive more deeply into some of the social-good use cases for which the blockchain is being proposed, most importantly financial inclusion with a focus on the developing world. This discussion picks up on and reinforces some of the points made in session #3 (on central banks).

Dazza Greenwood (Media Lab DCI affiliate) and Cailtlin Stilin-Rooney. Dazza and Caitlin are working on a project based on “savings circles” with ethnic Haitian communities in the Dominican Republic/Haiti border region. See for more detail.

8 Supply Chains, Internet of Things (IoT), Decentralized Electricity Grids Here we look at use cases that merge the blockchain with the physical world of devices and goods. In a decentralized world in which billions of devices transact with each other, a system is needed to develop trust in each of those nodes. This is pertinent, for example, for the anticipated proliferation of decentralized solar energy grids that use smart meters and household panels to build localized power markets. Can the blockchain help? And if these solutions can be applied to sensors that track goods in a supply chain, can we now give producers – and their customers – provable visibility over the provenance of materials and goods traveling the trade routes of the world?  
9 Clearing, Settlement, and Big Finance A great deal of innovation is taking place on Wall Street – within the largest financial firms and in consortia and start-ups that they are backing. The goal is to improve the fundamental mechanisms of finance, including the clearing and settlement of all securities transactions. But is there also a bigger
agenda of creating a quasi-private digital money. Would this be backed by the central bank? What are the implications for the financial system and more broadly for the world economy? And what is the right ledger infrastructure to develop here: a decentralized, public blockchain like bitcoin, or a more centralized private, distributed ledger managed by financial institutions?

Guests: Neha Narula, research director, MIT Media Lab’s Digital Currency Initiative. Also invited – a Wall Street innovator.

Last day for Individual Write-ups


Part I of the course covered the basics – including fundamental debates about what kind of blockchain technology will prevail and with what kind of impact. Part II looked more deeply at potential use cases – and helped develop your understanding of blockchain specifics, as well as some of the alternatives. Blockchain is changing the competitive landscape – and some of the provoked responses may also prove to have profound consequences.

In Part III we look more broadly at what may be coming next in this area of technology and entrepreneurship broadly defined. We are open to suggestions from students and will work with you to design interesting sessions. In the past, some of the most interesting material – as well as connections that later led to great projects – have arisen from this kind of student-initiated content.

10 Student-suggested Session Session 10, 11, and 12: Students will suggest the topic and faculty will develop the content and potential guests with them. We are happy to provide suggestions but we also welcome all kinds of ideas.  
11 Student-suggested Session Student-suggested topics.  
12 Student-suggested Session and Course Wrap-up Student-suggested topics and course conclusion. Group Research Paper due