Last weekend I went to the MIT Bitcoin Expo in Cambridge, MA to try to gain a deeper understanding of what is going on in the space and what people are working on. The conference had me walking away confident in the strength of the Bitcoin community and it’s drive and focus on making this project successful.

There were a lot of people I follow on Twitter and elsewhere on the web that gave great talks including Nic Carter, Pierre Rochard, Tadge Dryja from MIT’s Digital Currency Initiative, Jeremy Welsh from Casa, Peter Van Valkenburg, Meltem Demirors, and a ton more that I’ll just post the schedule at the bottom of this post (the talks I attended are bolded).

What I liked about the conference at MIT is that it really got down to the knitty gritty on almost every facet of the issues facing the project at the moment. It was refreshing to walk in on Day 1 and have Andrew Poelstra from Blockstream walking through the math of how multisignature transcations work in Bitcoin instead of people talking about abstract ideas of governance and other theoretical stuff that, quite frankly, doesn’t matter.

The project right now is working towards a few different goals:

  1. Scaling
    • Reducing the amount of data neeeded to get a verified view of the network
    • Reducing the amount of data put on the blockchain (lightning, schnorr signatures)
  2. Privacy
    • Increasing the privacy on Layer 1 via Coinjoins, Lightning
  3. Legal
    • Clarity on bitcoin as an asset class, money transmission laws, custodianship, securities
  4. Onboarding
    • Wallets and tools to make it easy for users to get Bitcoin, run their own nodes, program new projects on it

I would also throw “network incentives” on the list because of the talk that Nic Carter discussing the future of Bitcoin’s fee market and inflation rate, which was somewhat controversial from some people at the conference and online. As Nic said in his talk, I don’t think we’ll have to worry about the fee market for another ten years or so, and that’s fine. As the amount of new Bitcoins being created decreases, we will see a steady rise in the fee placed on transactions, and competition amongst miners will keep prices and the system in balance.

MIT Bitcoin Expo 2019

2019 Expo Schedule Day 1      
Time Description Presenters Moderator
8:00 AM - 9:00 AM Registration    
9:00 AM - 9:15 AM Welcome by MIT Bitcoin Expo Director and Expo Committee Members Manasi Vora  
9:15 AM - 9:45 AM Schnorr, MuSig, Thresholds and More for Bitcoin: A History Andrew Poelstra  
9:45 AM - 10:15 AM Utreexo: Reducing Bitcoin Nodes to 1 Kilobyte Tadge Dryja  
10:15 AM - 10:50 AM Blockchain Attack Vectors and Ecosystem Security Mark Nesbitt + Cory Fields + Carl Dong Sharon Goldberg
10:50 AM - 11:00 AM Break    
11:00 AM - 11:25 AM Wasabi Wallet: Unfairly Private David Molnar  
11:25 AM - 11:50 AM 10 years of Bitcoin: Evaluating its Performance as a Monetary System Nic Carter  
11:50 AM - 12:30 PM Decentralized Exchanges: Self-Custodying Your Assets Steve Jain + Ryan Fox + Ethan Fast Leigh Cuen
12:30 PM - 1:30 PM Lunch    
1:30 PM - 2:10 PM Taming the Wild West: Effectively Regulating the Blockchain Space Gary Gensler + Hester Peirce  
2:10 PM - 2:35 PM Non-Atomic Swaps James Prestwich  
2:35 PM - 3:00 PM Zcash Governance: The Road Toward 2-of-2 Multisig Josh Cincinnati  
3:00 PM - 3:10 PM Break    
3:10 PM - 3:35 PM Zero Knowledge Proofs and Smart Contracts with Bulletproofs Cathie Yun  
3:35 PM - 4:00 PM Non-Custodial Solutions for Centralized Exchanges Sharon Goldberg  
4:00 PM - 4:35 PM Let’s Talk About CEX: Centralized Trading Platforms Jed Breed + Allan Stevo Parker Hao
4:35 PM - 4:45 PM Break    
4:45 PM - 5:15 PM Livestream from 34-101    
Time Description Presenters Moderator
8:00 AM - 9:00 AM Registration    
9:00 AM - 9:15 AM Welcome by MIT Bitcoin Expo Director and Expo Committee Members Manasi Vora  
9:15 AM - 9:27 AM The Technology for the Borderless Economy Naveed Ihsanullah  
9:27 AM - 9:39 AM Blockchain Education Network: Teaching the Next Generation Erick Pinos  
9:39 AM - 9:51 AM Defending Against Counterfeiting Attacks in Zcash Paige Peterson  
9:51 AM - 10:03 AM Lelantus: Improving on Zerocoin Matt Koskinen  
10:03 AM - 10:15 AM Funding Cryptocurrency Development Arjun Balaji  
10:15 AM - 10:50 AM Landing a Node on the Moon; Does it Have to be Rocket Science? Justin Moon + Pierre Rochard + Jack Mallers Marcin Jachymiak
10:50 AM - 11:00 AM Break    
11:00 AM - 11:25 AM Plasma Cash: Towards improved Plasma constructions Georgios Konstantopoulos  
11:25 AM - 11:50 AM Counterfactual: A Framework for Generalized State Channels Nima Vaziri  
11:50 AM - 12:30 PM Lightning Implementations: A Scaling Story Fabrice Drouin + Christian Decker + Tadge Dryja  
12:30 PM - 1:30 PM Lunch    
1:30 PM - 2:10 PM Livestream from 10-250    
2:10 PM - 2:35 PM The Path to Personal Sovereignty Jeremy Welch  
2:35 PM - 3:00 PM Incentivizing Mesh Networks with Layer 2 Micropayments Richard Myers  
3:00 PM - 3:10 PM Break    
3:10 PM - 3:30 PM Handshake: An Experimental, Peer-to-Peer Root DNS Boyma Fahnbulleh  
3:30 PM - 3:50 PM Security Analysis of PoW Consensus Protocols Lucianna Kiffer  
3:50 PM - 4:10 PM Abra’s Crypto Collateralized Contract Technology Bill Barhydt  
4:10 PM - 4:45 PM Investing in a Digital World: New Approaches to VC Niraj Pant + Meltem Demirors + Ash Egan Amanda Fabiano
4:45 PM - 5:15 PM Money, Apathy, Cryptography: The Fates of Internet Societies Amber Baldet  
2019 Expo Schedule Day 2      
Time Description Presenters Moderator
8:00 AM - 9:00 AM Registration    
9:00 AM - 9:15 AM Welcome    
9:15 AM - 10:00 AM Zuck Bucks, Dimon’s Diamonds and Bitcoin: A Debate on Permissioned vs. Permissionless Systems Peter Todd + Jamiel Sheikh Rhys Lindmark
10:00 AM - 10:30 AM Blockchain: An Origin Story, and a Warning About its Scientific Foundation Stuart Haber  
10:30 AM - 11:05 AM Democratizing and Decentralizing Finance Rune Christensen + Nadav Hollander + Todd Lippiatt Kristen Ragusin
11:05 AM - 11:15 AM Break    
11:15 AM - 11:40 AM The Cosmos Launch: Defining an MVP for a Next Generation Blockchain Zaki Manian  
11:40 AM - 12:05 PM Polkadot & Substrate: Supercharging Blockchain Innovation Bjorn Wagner  
12:05 PM - 1:05 PM Lunch    
1:05 PM - 1:50 PM Regulation and Law: Layer 2 Peter Van Valkenburgh + Katherine Wu + Caitlin Long + Lindsay Lin Bruce Fenton
1:50 PM - 2:20 PM Synchronous, with a Chance of Partition Tolerance Elaine Shi  
2:20 PM - 2:30 PM Break    
2:30 PM - 3:00 PM Funds are ScAFE: Security Assessment of Open Source Hardware Wallets Charles Guillemet  
3:00 PM - 3:30 PM Deconstructing the Blockchain to Approach Physical Limits Giulia Fanti  
3:30 PM - 4:00 PM Busted Setup David Vorick  
4:00 PM - 4:30 PM A Guided Tour Through the World of Snarks Rebekah Mercer  
4:30 PM - 5:15 PM Preventing Catastrophic Cryptocurrency Attacks Neha Narula  
5:15 PM - 5:30 PM Closing Remarks