Chinese Universities Embrace Blockchain Technology–Should US Universities Do Likewise?

Commentary Eric Adams, the mayor of New York City, believes schools and colleges across the land should add cryptocurrency to future curriculums. Bitcoin, in his opinion, is “the new way of paying for goods and services throughout the entire globe.” It’s not, and, in all likelihood, it never will be. Try buying a loaf of bread with bitcoin; chances are you’ll find it difficult, if not impossible. Until ordinary people can buy everyday items with the world’s premium cryptocurrency, bitcoin will remain more of a plaything for the super-wealthy than something of actual substance. However, we shouldn’t throw out the baby with the bitcoin bathwater. Blockchain, the underlying technology behind the world’s most popular cryptocurrency, should be taught in schools and colleges across the land. Let me explain why. First, we must ask: what exactly is blockchain technology? A blockchain is a distributed software network that acts as a digital ledger. Okay, so what does that mean, in plain English? According to IBM, this immutable ledger “facilitates the process of recording transactions and tracking assets in a business network.” An asset can be both tangible and intangible. For the former, think of a house or land. For the latter, think of something a little less tangible, like intellectual property. As IBM notes, virtually “anything of value can be tracked and traded on a blockchain network, reducing risk and cutting costs for all involved.” Cutting costs come in many forms, but the biggest cost-cutter involves the removal of pesky middlemen (and women)—the likes of banks, brokers, legal teams, etc. Okay, now that we have a basic definition of blockchain, we must ask: why is it important? A construction worker walks past bitcoin mining at Bitfarms in Saint Hyacinthe, Quebec, on March 19, 2018. – Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency and worldwide payment system. It is the first decentralized digital currency, as the system works based on blockchain technology without a central bank or single administrator. (Lars Hagberg/AFP via Getty Images) Some experts believe that a new iteration of the internet, known as Web 3.0, is fast approaching. (The current iteration of the internet, which birthed the likes of Google, Facebook, and Twitter, is known as Web 2.0). If Web 3.0 arrives, it will be powered by blockchain technology. The internet revolutionized both commerce and communication; blockchain has the potential to revolutionize society in several ways, from the way we bank to how we vote. Blockchain also has the potential to disrupt supply chains and transform the United States’ rather decrepit healthcare system. Tackling Crime Every two seconds, somewhere in the world, a person has his identity stolen. Many of these people live in the United States. Each year, tens of millions of Americans are victims of identity theft. In 2020, for example, 49 million citizens had their identities stolen. To combat identity theft, blockchain technology is necessary. Acting as an immutable register, blockchain can store social security numbers, driver’s license IDs, etc. Each individual is provided with a unique code that is difficult to hack (although not impossible). The blockchain is transparent—meaning, if a hack does take place, then culprits leave a digital trail. Unlike conventional systems of data storage, blockchain is many times more secure. Last year, many Americans were victims of fraud. In fact, in the United States, with social media scams alone, more than $770 million was lost. According to a Federal Trade Commission report, “of those who reported losing money to fraud in 2021, more than 95,000 indicated that they were first contacted on social media—more than twice the 2020 number.” Fraud is on the rise. Again, blockchain has the potential to help. Fraudsters use several methods to conceal their identities and intent, including creating fake websites and fraudulent files. By increasing the visibility and transparency of communication and transactions made, a shared, decentralized, traceable digital ledger can help reduce (but not entirely eliminate) fraudulent activity. Digital breadcrumbs always leave a trail. These are just some of the possibilities offered by blockchain technology. This is why it needs to be taught in schools and colleges across the land. Sadly, though, the United States is doing a poor job of educating people about future technologies. A Worrying Lack of Talent The United States, we’re told, simply isn’t ready for a war in cyberspace. Why? For starters, there is a dire lack of cybersecurity talent. In fact, according to Jeanette Manfra, a cybersecurity expert who previously worked as the assistant director for cybersecurity for Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), the lack of well-trained professionals is “a national security risk.” The country doesn’t “have the talent regardless of whether it’s in the government or the private sector.” This is a

Chinese Universities Embrace Blockchain Technology–Should US Universities Do Likewise?

Commentary

Eric Adams, the mayor of New York City, believes schools and colleges across the land should add cryptocurrency to future curriculums. Bitcoin, in his opinion, is “the new way of paying for goods and services throughout the entire globe.”

It’s not, and, in all likelihood, it never will be.

Try buying a loaf of bread with bitcoin; chances are you’ll find it difficult, if not impossible. Until ordinary people can buy everyday items with the world’s premium cryptocurrency, bitcoin will remain more of a plaything for the super-wealthy than something of actual substance.

However, we shouldn’t throw out the baby with the bitcoin bathwater. Blockchain, the underlying technology behind the world’s most popular cryptocurrency, should be taught in schools and colleges across the land. Let me explain why.

First, we must ask: what exactly is blockchain technology?

A blockchain is a distributed software network that acts as a digital ledger. Okay, so what does that mean, in plain English?

According to IBM, this immutable ledger “facilitates the process of recording transactions and tracking assets in a business network.” An asset can be both tangible and intangible. For the former, think of a house or land. For the latter, think of something a little less tangible, like intellectual property.

As IBM notes, virtually “anything of value can be tracked and traded on a blockchain network, reducing risk and cutting costs for all involved.” Cutting costs come in many forms, but the biggest cost-cutter involves the removal of pesky middlemen (and women)—the likes of banks, brokers, legal teams, etc.

Okay, now that we have a basic definition of blockchain, we must ask: why is it important?

Epoch Times Photo
A construction worker walks past bitcoin mining at Bitfarms in Saint Hyacinthe, Quebec, on March 19, 2018. – Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency and worldwide payment system. It is the first decentralized digital currency, as the system works based on blockchain technology without a central bank or single administrator. (Lars Hagberg/AFP via Getty Images)

Some experts believe that a new iteration of the internet, known as Web 3.0, is fast approaching. (The current iteration of the internet, which birthed the likes of Google, Facebook, and Twitter, is known as Web 2.0). If Web 3.0 arrives, it will be powered by blockchain technology.

The internet revolutionized both commerce and communication; blockchain has the potential to revolutionize society in several ways, from the way we bank to how we vote. Blockchain also has the potential to disrupt supply chains and transform the United States’ rather decrepit healthcare system.

Tackling Crime

Every two seconds, somewhere in the world, a person has his identity stolen. Many of these people live in the United States. Each year, tens of millions of Americans are victims of identity theft. In 2020, for example, 49 million citizens had their identities stolen.

To combat identity theft, blockchain technology is necessary. Acting as an immutable register, blockchain can store social security numbers, driver’s license IDs, etc. Each individual is provided with a unique code that is difficult to hack (although not impossible). The blockchain is transparent—meaning, if a hack does take place, then culprits leave a digital trail. Unlike conventional systems of data storage, blockchain is many times more secure.

Last year, many Americans were victims of fraud. In fact, in the United States, with social media scams alone, more than $770 million was lost. According to a Federal Trade Commission report, “of those who reported losing money to fraud in 2021, more than 95,000 indicated that they were first contacted on social media—more than twice the 2020 number.” Fraud is on the rise. Again, blockchain has the potential to help.

Fraudsters use several methods to conceal their identities and intent, including creating fake websites and fraudulent files. By increasing the visibility and transparency of communication and transactions made, a shared, decentralized, traceable digital ledger can help reduce (but not entirely eliminate) fraudulent activity. Digital breadcrumbs always leave a trail.

These are just some of the possibilities offered by blockchain technology. This is why it needs to be taught in schools and colleges across the land. Sadly, though, the United States is doing a poor job of educating people about future technologies.

A Worrying Lack of Talent

The United States, we’re told, simply isn’t ready for a war in cyberspace.

Why?

For starters, there is a dire lack of cybersecurity talent. In fact, according to Jeanette Manfra, a cybersecurity expert who previously worked as the assistant director for cybersecurity for Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), the lack of well-trained professionals is “a national security risk.”

The country doesn’t “have the talent regardless of whether it’s in the government or the private sector.” This is a problem that Manfra expects to “grow larger.”

In 2020, the United States experienced more than 65,000 cyberattacks, or roughly one every eight seconds. Many of these attacks came from China, a leader in all things tech. China has already stolen the personal data of 80 percent of American adults.

china hacker
A member of the hacking group Red Hacker Alliance is monitoring global cyberattacks at their office in Dongguan, China’s southern Guangdong Province, on Aug. 4, 2020. (Nicolas Asfouri/AFP via Getty Images)

Remember, these attacks have come in the age of the abovementioned Web 2.0. What about when Web 3.0 arrives? Expect attacks to become more frequent and sophisticated. In this age of cyberwarfare, data is the new oil. And again, please remember, blockchain technology will be the building block for Web 3.0.

To protect the country and its citizens, the United States needs professionals who understand the fundamentals of this technology, including its vulnerabilities. More U.S. colleges and universities must offer blockchain-centered degrees for such professionals to exist.

Not surprisingly, China, the United States’ number one competitor, already does.

Exactly two years ago, China’s Ministry of Education greenlit the creation of the country’s first-ever blockchain undergraduate degree. The institution that had applied for approval was Chengdu University of Information Technology.

But Zhejiang University, situated in the city of Hangzhou, must be given credit for getting the blockchain ball rolling. Back in 2018, when blockchain was little more than an afterthought for 99.9 percent of the world’s population, the university was already offering a course on “Blockchain and Digital Currency.”

The United States is now playing catch-up. Although four leading U.S. universities, including MIT and Cornell, offer blockchain-based courses, they don’t offer actual degrees in the subject. Interestingly, though, MIT already uses blockchain technology to issue diplomas—it just doesn’t offer diplomas in blockchain.

I argue that blockchain majors are required because it’s a revolutionary technology that possesses the potential to redefine society as we know it.

As researchers at RMIT have noted, since 2015, there has been “a 200 percent year-on-year job growth in blockchain.” A report published by Deloitte in 2020 found that major global organizations now view blockchain as both “critical” and a “top strategic” priority going forward. These organizations will require experts, people with degrees in blockchain, maybe even graduate degrees.

But some will shout, can’t people learn what they need to know about blockchain without enrolling in college classes?

Of course, they can. But don’t expect to find a job by taking “classes” with the “University of Google.”

Fortunately, or unfortunately, college degrees still matter. Employers still look for people who have attended college and graduated with traditional degrees. As the world leader in education, it is in the United States’ interest to further integrate blockchain education into its academic programs.

Last year, several prominent U.S. universities saw their rankings fall. The U.S. education system appears to be on a downward trajectory. Perhaps this is the time for more U.S. universities to further embrace cutting-edge technologies and prepare students for the world of tomorrow.

Otherwise, just like we’re currently witnessing with the cybersecurity shortage, there’ll likely be another lack of talent capable of identifying and preventing threats from bad actors.

Considering very few people actually understand what blockchain is (it’s so much more than cryptocurrencies), the United States has a long way to go before it has enough experts to meet the innumerous challenges that await us.

Now is the time to act. Benjamin Franklin’s quote of failing to prepare and preparing to fail has never sounded more apt.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.


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John Mac Ghlionn is a researcher and essayist. His work has been published by the New York Post, The Sydney Morning Herald, Newsweek, National Review, and The Spectator US, among others. He covers psychology and social relations, and has a keen interest in social dysfunction and media manipulation.