This coming fall the Massachusetts Institute of Technology will launch the "MIT Bitcoin Project," which will grant every student $100 in Bitcoins as a way to create "an ecosystem for digital currencies" at the school.
Two students, sophomore Jeremy Rubin and first-year MBA candidate Dan Elitzer, have raised more than $500,000 for the project from alumni and members of the "Bitcoin community," the Telegraph reports.
According to the press release announcing the project, some of that money will go towards researching how the students use the cryptocurrency, and towards "spurring academic and entrepreneurial activity within the university in this burgeoning field." The students will be able to spend the money however they want (though not on Silk Road 2.0, presumably), but won't be able to trade it in for $100 in cash.
The Telegraph explains that the project would allow for the study of the digital currency in an environment where individuals assume that every other member of the community is using Bitcoin — which is currently far from the case, in general. Bitcoin users still can't count on the fact that friends will take their money. That environment will allow MIT to become "a global hub where Bitcoin-related research, ideas, and ventures are studied, discussed, and developed," per the press release.
And Rubin takes the project's import a bit further, saying that “giving students access to cryptocurrencies is analogous to providing them with internet access at the dawn of the Internet era.”
Though the students won't be given instructions on how to spend the funds, Elitzer hopes that the early announcement will give them plenty of time to think about how to use the money, saying:
We decided to announce this project now to give students lead time. We want to issue a challenge to some of the brightest technical minds of a generation: "When you step onto campus this fall, all of your classmates are going to have access to bitcoin; what are YOU going to build to give them interesting ways to use it?"
Reuters points out that Bitcoin projects have not always ended well:
Tokyo-based Mt. Gox, once the world's biggest bitcoin exchange, filed in February for bankruptcy protection in Japan, saying it may have lost nearly half a billion dollars worth of the virtual coins due to hacking of its computer system.
But Elitzer is confident the MIT project can avoid such pitfalls, telling Reuters that "We are going to make sure this is done in a secure fashion." Let the games begin.