Introduction to Blockchain Technology

Professors: Hartnett, Lilly and Zhang
Units: 0.5
Elective Course
Concentrations: Economic Analysis, Quantitative Methods, Policy Analysis
Prerequisite: The successful completion of introductory probability and statistics (covered in Pardee RAND's Empirical Analysis I: Probability and Statistics) is sufficient for the course. However, past coding experience (in any language) as well as a basic familiarity with non–base-10 number systems will be helpful but not necessary.

This course will provide a timely introduction to blockchain technology and its applications to cryptocurrencies, smart contracts, and permissioned ledgers. The course is intended to be as self-contained as possible, and prerequisite concepts in computer science and cryptography will be introduced in the first week. Bitcoin will then be introduced as a paradigmatic example of a cryptocurrency. Next, the more sophisticated Ethereum is introduced as a Turing-complete smart contract platform. These public blockchains will then be contrasted with permissioned enterprise-style ledger systems such as the Hyperledger project. In the final week, a survey of the current state of blockchain technology will be given, covering areas such as the application to currencies, regulatory structures and national security implications. At the end of the course students should expect to be able to exchange cryptocurrencies, deploy a blockchain network of their own, and draft a so-called “white-paper” for their very own blockchain-based proposal.