INF 385T - Special Topics in Information Science: Blockchain and the Decentralized Economy

Spring 2020
Unique ID: 27619
Syllabus:   Syllabus
Prof:  Warburg, Bettina
Room: UTA 1.208
Days:  Fri
Time: 9:00 am - 12:00 pm
 

Prerequisites:
Graduate standing. Additional prerequisites may vary with the topic.

Description:
Study of the properties and behavior of information. Technology for information processing and management.

Three lecture hours a week for one semester.

May be repeated for credit when the topics vary.

*Co-taught with Tom Serres
Partially taught online. See notes below.

Meets with undergraduate INF 350E, topic: Blockchain and the Decentralized Economy

The course will meet each week for 3 hours over the semester, and sessions will consist of a combination of face-to-face meetings and online webinars (both synchronous and asynchronous). Each session will include lecture-based content and discussion on selected topics, expert guest lectures, and product/startup building. At the end of the semester, students will be graded on their ability to pitch and present their startup idea, the relevant empirical research supporting their ideas, and a succinct business plan for taking their idea to market.

Topic Description:
Blockchain and the Decentralized Economy

Notes:
Built on the back of a blockchain computing stack, this course
will focus on topics and research key to the transition to a
decentralized economy. We will cover the dynamics of emerging
technologies, highlight new ideas from leading entrepreneurs and
researchers shaping this future, and provide students with an
opportunity to build their research into a product or startup.
Students will use lean methodologies and anchor their approach in
content covered through the course.

The course will meet each week for 3 hours over the semester, and
sessions will consist of a combination of face-to-face meetings
and online webinars (both synchronous and asynchronous). Sessions
will include a mix of lecture-based content and discussion on
selected topics, expert guest lectures, and product/startup
building. At the end of the semester, students will be graded on
their ability to pitch and present their startup idea, the
relevant empirical research supporting their ideas, and a
succinct business plan for taking their idea to market.

The shift towards a decentralized economy is in full swing.
Emerging technologies like Blockchain, AI/ML, and IoT are
combining to radically change the way we engage with the economy,
and are forcing us to rethink our businesses and societal
interactions. At the heart of this new economy, is a new
blockchain-based computing stack, that allows not just humans,
but machines to transact products, services, and information.

This course will take a practitioner’s approach to explaining
these complex (and confusing) technologies, grounding our
understanding in how they’re evolving, and why they’re paving
the way for a future where machines represent a new consumer
class: 50-billion devices armed with wallets and purchasing
power. This future will transcend age-old models of commerce,
supply chain, information management, finance, and governance to
create something far more interesting: a distributed,
transparent, and autonomous infrastructure for the decentralized
exchange of value.

Throughout the course we will focus on topics and research key to
the transition to a decentralized economy, hearing from leading
entrepreneurs and researchers shaping these new opportunities.
Topics will include an introduction to blockchain and its
economic context, the technology stack of the decentralized
economy, smart contracts, specific networks (Bitcoin, Ethereum,
Dfinity, etc.), business use cases, regulatory considerations,
and more. To help students apply this knowledge, the course also
provides students the opportunity to practice the art of building
startup projects through lean methodologies, anchored in the
topic of decentralization of trade. Progressing from individual
research to user interviews, peer review, and eventually
prototyping, students will gain valuable experience in taking an
idea from inception to pitching.
Part “big idea course” on where information and economics
combine, part “startup bootcamp,” students will come away
with both a framework for thinking about the future, and a
concrete final project that helps envisage that future.

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