Blockchains and Cryptocurrencies: Burn It With Fire

Presented by Nicholas Weaver

Friday, April 20, 2018
12:30 p.m.
210 South Hall 


The entire cryptocurrency and blockchain ecology is rife with frauds, criminalities, and tulip-mania style hype and needs to be properly disposed of into the ashes of history. A “blockchain” is just a horribly inefficient append-only file which costs a literal fortune to secure without actually providing meaningful distributed trust, while cryptocurrencies are provably inferior than actual currencies for legal real world transactions. Beyond the sheer uselessness have emerged a whole host of bad ideas, ranging from the “put a bird^H^H^H^H blockchain on it” hype to unregistered (and mostly fraudulent) securities with “Initial Coin Offerings” to an invitation for massive theft in the form of “smart” contracts.

It is time for those ideas to die.

The first step to disrupting this space is simply knowledge. This talk begins with a summary of why just about the entire space is effectively useless at best and downright malevolent at worst. But there is also room for targeted responses. There are opportunities for criminals to greatly step up their activity in ways that will result in massive profits to them but have the collateral effect of disrupting the underlying cryptocurrencies. On the legal front, governments already have sufficient legal authorities needed to effectively cripple the cryptocurrencies and even independent actors willing to spend a moderate sum of money can trivially and legally disrupt blockchain-based cryptocurrencies on a global basis.

Speaker Bio: 

Nicholas Weaver is a staff researcher with the International Computer Science Institute (ICSI) and lecturer in EECS, where he teaches machine structures and computer security. He earned his Ph.D. in computer science from Berkeley in 2003 and joined ICSI to study network security and measurement.