MIT Media Lab has announced the launch of Digital Currency Initiative, a three-pronged program aimed at increasing awareness of the technology on campus and abroad while providing research to promote policy and standards initiatives.
The news was first detailed in a post penned by former White House senior advisor and Digital Currency Initiative director Brian Forde, who today officially joined the university-run research laboratory.
Forde previously worked with the administration of current US president Barack Obama to help the government leverage emerging technologies.
Media Lab director Joi Ito, who earlier this week suggested an imminent announcement regarding the future of bitcoin at MIT, expressed his enthusiasm at the appointment while praising digital currencies for their disruptive potential.
“Brian’s experience mainstreaming emerging technologies from the rural mountains of Nicaragua to the White House will be invaluable as he tackles the challenges of digital currency – one of the most promising emerging technologies for the next 10 years.”
In his separate post, Forde went on to detail how the Digital Currency Initiative will seek to address questions regarding the technology’s security, scalability and privacy, while convening governments and nonprofits “to research and test concepts” related to its use.
To drive this research, MIT Media Lab indicated it plans to engage a range of participants, from its current researchers to undergraduates like Jeremy Rubin, who helped pioneer bitcoin development on campus with the MIT Bitcoin Project.
Rubin’s work was also cited by Ito who added:
“The students running the MIT Bitcoin Club, the MIT Bitcoin Project, and the various events including the Bitcoin Expo have been a key part of getting this initiative started.”
Some of the more experienced names involved will be CSAIL’s Nickolai Zeldovich and Sloan School of Management’s Simon Johnson, who was the former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund.
Forde hypothesized that by engaging such participants in the development of digital currency, the campus could ensure that the technology is able to bring about a new wave of innovation.
“For comparison, the Internet had more than 20 years to mature in academia and government before its tremendous impact on mainstream commercial and personal use,” Forde wrote.
Still, he suggested that more work needs to be done for the technology to be safe, secure and reliable enough for more widespread use, and that the industry is still openly suffering for poor public perception.
The announcement notably follows on the heels of the public struggles by the Bitcon Foundation, the industry’s oldest industry trade organisation and, historically, the group that funds the development of bitcoin’s open ledger.
In recent weeks, the group has openly discussed pivoting away from core development, though debate remains ongoing regarding what, if any, role the foundation will continue to play in this process.
In his remarks, Forde suggested that the MIT Digital Currency Initiative would be open to hosting developers, though no specifics were detailed.
“Interested companies, developers, and forward-thinking policy makers will also be engaged in the effort,” Forde’s post added.