Bitcoin Money and Trust
Bitcoin is a complex system built on economic incentives. Its success up to now has also come with a lot of hype and misinformation. Firms and governments have emphasised different parts of it with terms like ‘blockchain’ and ‘distributed ledger technology’ increasingly being seen as forces for good.
This module will provide you with a comprehensive understanding of Bitcoin, Cryptocurrency, and other Blockchain technology applications. On completion of the module, you will be better informed, not just on how the technology works, but also the potential transformative consequences it has in many areas. At one extreme optimistic libertarians see a future that brings enormous benefits to the developing world, has companies without directors, and very little, if any role left for government (with, for example, smart contracts allowing public good provision). At the other extreme, pessimists point to the problems Bitcoin faces today, including environmental concerns, crime facilitation, wild volatility exacerbated by scams and a bubble that could potentially collapse entirely.
To try and make sense of what bitcoin really is and how it works, the module starts with a study of the theory behind the protocol written in the bitcoin whitepaper. This is followed by a brief history of money and bitcoin, before finishing with applications of the technology in practice.
Full module specification
|Module title:||Bitcoin Money and Trust|
There are no pre-requisites for this module but students without either programming or economics experience may find they need to do some additional reading
|Duration of module:||
Duration (weeks) - term 2: |
Overall, this module aims to provide you with a broad, comprehensive understanding of what bitcoin really is, and hence how ‘blockchain’ technology really works. With this foundation, and with economic incentives at the centre, you will be able to identify strategic opportunities for business and be able to understand different views on how the technology could be used in the future. You will be introduced to new developments in this fast changing space through direct contact with industry experts, with the aim of developing the foundation you need to form strategic visions for future commerce in this area.
ILO: Module-specific skills
- 1. explain how the programming code and economic incentive structures make bitcoin (and hence any public or private blockchain) work
- 2. critically review and discuss a range of academic and non-academic papers reflecting on the future of bitcoin/blockchain technology
ILO: Discipline-specific skills
- 3. critically evaluate and formulate a well-founded answer to a specific topical research related question
ILO: Personal and key skills
- 4. deliver coherent arguments in written work
- 5. demonstrate analytical and critical thinking skills
- 6. work as a team to formulate strategy based on theoretical perspectives and market research
Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)
|Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities||Guided independent study||Placement / study abroad|
Details of learning activities and teaching methods
|Category||Hours of study time||Description|
|Contact Hours||14||14 x 1 hour lectures|
|Contact Hours||8||8 x 1 hour lab sessions|
|Contact Hours||5||5 x 1 hour tutorials|
|Guided Independent Study||123|
|Form of assessment||Size of the assessment (eg length / duration)||ILOs assessed||Feedback method|
|Tutorial exercises||50 minutes||1-5||In class|
|Group presentation workshop||30 minutes||6||Oral feedback on group project|
Summative assessment (% of credit)
|Coursework||Written exams||Practical exams|
Details of summative assessment
|Form of assessment||% of credit||Size of the assessment (eg length / duration)||ILOs assessed||Feedback method|
|Assignment||90||4,000 words||1-5||In class|
|Group Presentation||10||20 minutes||3,5,6||Oral feedback on group project|
Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)
|Original form of assessment||Form of re-assessment||ILOs re-assessed||Timescale for re-assessment|
|Assignment and Group Presentation||5000 word assignment||1-6||August reassessment period|
- Theoretical study of the bitcoin whitepaper
- Brief history of money up to modern central banks and fractional reserve banking
- How Bitcoin emerged from the ashes of the financial crisis
- How Bitcoin actually work in practice: cryptographic hash functions; merkle trees, digital signatures; block creation; distributed consensus; proof of work; economic incentives and the solution to the byzantine generals problem
Indicative learning resources - Basic reading
Martin, Felix. (2013) Money: The Unauthorised Biography
Narayanan, Arvind and Bonneau, Joseph and Felten, Edward and Miller, Andrew and Goldfeder, Steven. (2016) Bitcoin and cryptocurrency technologies.
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