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October - Online
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CSIRO’s Data61 network describes blockchain technology as ‘a revolutionary new approach to database management’ that will prompt ‘significant changes in existing Australian industries’. Yet, despite significant investments of time and money by institutions around the world, we still lack robust proof of social or commercial benefit. 12 years have passed since Bitcoin’s ‘Genesis Block’ was mined, but that foundational use case—digital cash without traditional intermediaries—has not challenged the legacy payments infrastructure. Where blockchain-based assets are used as monetary instruments rather than investments, those transactions are atypical in subject-matter and frequency.
All of this begs the question: if the goal of blockchain technology is to eliminate ‘trusted third parties’, why is that something to aspire to? Is the answer to that question commercial or political? And, most importantly, is it correct? The aim of this subject is to answer these questions, and to do so by situating cryptoassets in their global context—as a matter of law, economics, politics and society.
Principal topics will include:
- Digital money
- From Mesopotamia to M-Pesa
- Local currencies
- Gaming currencies
- Introduction to blockchain technology, cryptoassets and smart contracts
- Blockchain: law and commerce
- Supply chains
- Pseudonymity and disintermediation
- Digital assets and money
- Blockchain: politics and society
- Legal systems and social norms
- Mining pools and coding cores
- Decision-making and accountability
- Digital money and future commerce
- Cashlessness and crime
- Data, identity and money
- Social and economic inclusion
Intended learning outcomes
A student who has successfully completed this subject will:
- Grasp and articulate key ideas concerning the theory of money, and identify what is at stake (for countries, companies and consumers) in designing digital currency;
- Understand the rationale of Bitcoin, and the mechanisms by which blind consensus protocols and smart contracts work;
- Isolate legal, political, economic and social challenges to widespread adoption of blockchain technology;
- Draw their own conclusions about whether blockchain technology will and should bring about 'significant changes in existing Australian industries'.
A student who has completed this subject will have developed the following skills:
- Mastery of principal areas of law as they relate to blockchain technology and digital money;
- Expert, specialised cognitive and technical skills for critical and independent thought and reflection in the context of blockchain technology and cryptocurrency;
- Mastery of technical research skills relevant to consumer claims;
- Problem-solving skills, applied to the critical evaluation of new applications and research relevant to the area of blockchain technologies; and
- The ability to expertly communicate specialised and complex information, ideas, concepts and theories relevant to blockchain technologies and digital money in global perspective.
Last updated: 29 July 2022