When the fall semester begins, every MIT undergraduate is going to get a fun piece of swag. No, it’s not a T-shirt, water bottle, or reusable bag. It’s obviously $100 worth of bitcoin for each student. Your school didn’t do that?
The MIT Bitcoin Project is an initiative out of—what else?—the MIT Bitcoin Club, which raised half a million dollars so it could give all 4,500 plus students some seed cryptocurrency. According to a press release, the project is “aimed at creating an ecosystem for digital currencies at MIT.” MIT sophomore Jeremy Rubin and first-year MBA student Dan Elitzer raised money from alumni and people “in the world of bitcoin” to purchase cryptocurrency for the whole undergraduate population and fund research into how the students spend their money. Students can spend the bitcoin on anything, but they can’t convert it back to U.S. dollars.
The main goal of the project seems to be to study bitcoin in an environment where it is viewed as a normal currency that everyone in a community has access to, rather than a novelty. Rubin and Elitzer are seeking Institutional Review Board approval to study students’ bitcoin behavior, conduct interviews, and generally document the process. Undergraduates will be able to accept the money and still opt out of participating in studies.
It seems like a worthy and fascinating experiment, but keep in mind that $500,000 could pay the tuition plus room and board of eight or nine MIT students.