Bitcoin News caught up with Nick Assimenos from the University of Nicosia at Blockchain Live 2018, where he discussed the university’s leading blockchain and technology programs, as well as the crucial nature of education to legitimize the industry.
Institute for the future
The Cyprus-based university, the first in the world to offer formal education in blockchain and digital currency, has a specific department named the Institute for the Future, which offers initiatives in blockchain, artificial intelligence (AI), virtual and augmented reality and forecasting. Assimenos says these areas have been grouped together because, in the future, these nascent technologies will work simultaneously with one another in ways we will not think twice about.
”For example,” he explained, ”in ten years time, if your self-driving car goes into a parking lot, the car will ask you how long you want to stay and it will instruct your mobile phone or digital wallet to exchange a token with the parking meters. Machines will own money for the first time in history, not just people, and the machines will need to be taxed if they are going to be replacing people’s work.”
Technology and education
Assimenos believes that education should be encouraging people to enter areas of developing, coding and computing to give them the skills to build AI and future tech innovations. Quoting Nelson Mandela, he said, ”Education is the thing that will set us free.”
Crucially for the cryptosphere, Assimenos thinks that ”education is the one thing that will get us global acceptance of digital money now,” as well as being necessary to keep on top of the wave so people are not replaced by robots. He believes academia can help find and develop the skills in the workforce that will continue to need humans.
In an area unfortunately tainted by misinformation, education can also help provide a solution, but Assimenos thinks it is problematic that most universities haven’t recognized these technologies like Nicosia has since around 2012:
”Everybody heard about Bitcoin and said “oh, it’s gambling money, drugs money, for Silk Road, kidnapping money”, we saw it and recognized this huge opportunity that is going on.”
One of the issues facing wide-scale blockchain education, as he sees it, is that normally universities and academics are not known for being outgoing in embracing new and revolutionary technologies. The University of Nicosia bucked this trend.
The University of Nicosia offers a Master of Science degree in Digital Currencies, and the first module of the course that is offered for free, Introduction to Digital Currencies, has been followed by over 30,000 students so far. One of the lecturers of the course includes the renowned Bitcoin advocate and expert, Andreas Antonopoulos. It is the only university to offer a degree in the field at this academic level, but they recognize this won’t be the case forever and are keen to stay competitive.
”We are regarded as leaders in education and research in these fields. The reality is, though, we’re only leaders as long as someone like Oxford or Stanford don’t decide that they want to be number one because we can’t afford to compete with them financially.”
So, they have taken a number of initiatives to try and stay in that lead. One of these is their now annual Decentralized event, this year taking place from 14 to 16 November in Athens, Greece. ”It’s a fantastic meeting of industry leaders and policy makers, thought leaders meeting serious investors. Everybody involved in the space is welcome,” Assimenos explained.
The university considers last years event a huge success, with 520 attendees from 48 countries watching the 60 world-renowned blockchain and cryptocurrency speakers; ”They delivered eye-opening, mind-expanding talks in their individual areas of expertise.” You can watch a video of last years event here.
They hope that the Decentralized 2018 event will be even more impressive, with this time over 70 speakers booked, and 1,200 attendees from over 50 countries. The University of Nicosia is the only academic institution to offer such an event.
”It is the largest and most in-depth event of its kind in Europe focused on the business and political implications of blockchain technologies. Decentralized 2018 will feature over 70 world-renowned industry leaders and academics from the blockchain and crypto industry,” Assimenos told Bitcoin News.
The event will take place on the 14th-16th November at Divani Caravel in Athens, Greece.
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Image Courtesy: Amelia Trapp/ Blockchain Live 2018