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#242 Neha Narula: MIT's Digital Currency Initiative - A Research-Driven Approach to Blockchain

3 126 views | 4 Jul. 2018

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When the Bitcoin Foundation fell apart and funding for Bitcoin core development was needed, the MIT founded the Digital Currency Initiative to step in. In the years since, the DCI has evolved into a vibrant center of cutting edge research on some of the most difficult challenges around blockchain technology.

DCI Director Neha Narula joined us to discuss the DCI's position between academia and industry, their policy on conflicts of interest, and their most fascinating research topics.

Topics discussed in this episode:

- How her interest in distributed systems and scaling lead led her to the blockchain space

- The mission and history of the MIT's Digital Currency Initiative

- How cryptocurrency might evolve over time as an academic field

- The DCI's project on digital fiat currency

- How zkLedger could enable privacy-preserving auditing for distributed ledgers

- Why sharding is unlikely to succeed in the short- and medium term

- Why Neha is most optimistic about layer 2 approaches to scaling like lightning network

- The story of discovering and writing about IOTA's vulnerability

- How DCI handles conflicts of interest and strives for neutrality

Links mentioned in this episode:

- MIT Digital Currency Initiative: https://dci.mit.edu/

- Neha Narula Personal Website: http://nehanarula.org/

- What’s New at MIT’s Digital Currency Initiative: https://medium.com/mit-media-lab-digital-currency-initiative/whats-new-at-mit-s-digital-currency-initiative-9d53c39502d3

- The Importance of Layer 2: https://medium.com/mit-media-lab-digital-currency-initiative/the-importance-of-layer-2-105189f72102

- Cryptographic vulnerabilities in IOTA: https://medium.com/@neha/cryptographic-vulnerabilities-in-iota-9a6a9ddc4367

- zkLedger | the future of audit: https://dci.mit.edu/zkledger/

- zkLedger Whitepaper: https://static1.squarespace.com/static/59aae5e9a803bb10bedeb03e/t/5aa1b35ce4966bd538d3f1d2/1520546653653/zkledger.pdf

- Neha Narula: The future of money | TED Talk: https://www.ted.com/talks/neha_narula_the_future_of_money

This episode is also available on :

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pandor x

dci are dishonest ppl . dont believe a word that comes out of these misinformation spreaders

juan jesus

No conflict interest??? Neha are you sober???

alex burg

ant transhumans ar born bilding inside the human body bild city skyline mega polis ad on human body its like swalow a big IT campus biger than we have an on the richt plays

gil O

Thirsty huh?

Jimmy Durmody

It is just really bad you know, Im not gonna say why, and yeah you cant really steal money I mean you just dont want it in your crypto, and its not like we could really exploit it, but its bad, right, it is just something bad, yeah that bundle would not be accepted by network, but it still is bad, again, Im not gonna tell why it is such a big problem, but it is alarmingly bad, you get me?
Great explanation Neha! You proved the point, just not yours...

Rah archa

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One of the BEST episodes I've watched on this channel.
Ms Narula has a very much pragmatic and rational approach to the cryptospace: looking at the pros, the cons, the potentialities, the technicalities and opportunities.
Research definitely has a role to play in advising regulators, users, managers and developers. It is about time Blockchain courses are offered to the general public, so that they can contribute with their individual perspectives. :)


Lol @ the IOTA shills. I'm sorry, but being that thin skinned about criticism is a red flag.


56:35 talking about IOTA https://twitter.com/milancheck

Nicklas Eriksson

The founders of IOTA reacted to the article written by Neha Narula. She uses a completely different tone when talking about in hindsight:


"[..] We do not think the coordinator would have prevented the burning user funds or stealing attacks because the original transaction is not relayed to the network, so the coordinator wouldn’t be able to tell the second, colliding transaction was an attack."

"[..] We show the details of our proposed attacks, one which destroys user funds and one which steals IOTA from a user, in this repository. "

So here she clearly says that before the fix people's money were at risk but in the interview it's more like "naa... we don't know... we haven't tried it, let me be clear on that".

Mistakes has been made on both camps according to me and the whole situation is inflammatory. I hope Ethan doesn't use inflmmatory language on the black hat conference in august.


Jens Bucher

How is working for the MIT Media Lab "not having financial interest".

DCI has monetary incentive to push products innovations and patents. Either Narula doesn't understand the company she is working for or is simply lying (or im wrong, in which case i would love to be proven otherwise)


Leon M

it was a good interview


She says at first there are no financial interest in the IOTA affair, then when pressed about her holdings she admits to having a "small amount". Sorry but her credibility just left the room. Game over, there were vested interest in discrediting IOTA.

RajaIndraKaran e

First of all, one should be aware of the difference between blockchain enable digital coins and IOTA.They are apples and oranges, since IOTA is not a blockchain or a product of it.As to what manner of participation and interests held by individuals in blockchain generated digital coins or related services is a different aspect that can not be presented along the side of equating blockchain/s and IOTA.

What Ever

Give a bunch of students in elite school free Crypto.... they form a group to help Central Banksters. sigh
The whole point was to replace central banks not give them more power. Crypto is about decentralization, not centralization. It seems Neha completely missed the point. What a waste of Ivy league IQs.

She wants to build a crypto that gives the Central Banks visibility into who has how much $$. THIS IS NOT PRIVACY! Giving a central non-elected authority full access to not only control the money supply but now with the added bonus of knowing where I spent every dollar, and the ability to garnish citizen's accounts with bail-in's for bankster mistakes with the stroke of a keyboard. This is the slippery path to financial totalitarianism. This is NOT a requirement for a functional global financial system! It did not exist before 1913 for THOUSANDS OF YEARS, and the world continued to spin just fine. In the end though, we'll be fine. Central banks will get their FedCoin that is inflationary and which they can manipulate the money supply and spy on the citizenry and the citizens will eventually clue in that hey there's other coins that actually increase my value over time and give me real privacy.

alex burg

put mini smart phone inside intes

Maksymilian Fuglewicz

Fabian Crain is soo dumb rly :)

Billy Bang Bang

Neda know what she talking about and has more brain power even in one her little toes... than you have in your whole anti-intellectural rotten crazy ass worm filled tiny little low IQ mind. Mr. What Ever... you need to shut the fuck up and stand down!!! Because your mind is on vaction and your mouth is runnning on overtime... because you don't know what the fuck you are talking about !!!

Психология отношений

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Wrogbe Nepe

When you hate central banks but you're all about that knownledge

Zambala Senpen

Great interview guys! Thank you.


The devil is in the details.
The collisions were created under the assumption that the system was already hijacked. That's a weird way to prove that there could be a problem.
If people want to read about other details that are frequently left out, such as Neha's stake she has in IOTA's failure etc, then read the first part of this.
It's important to stay critical, this is a shark pond.

Neha narula

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Bitcoin Security and Ethics with Neha Narula

1 520 views | 12 Jul. 2019

While I was in Boston, I

While I was in Boston, I sat down with Neha Narula, the Director at MIT’s Digital Currency Initiative. We discuss bugs in Bitcoin, Proof of Work being too risky and whether Bitcoin developers are ethical.




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“I think Proof of Work is very risky, it’s amazing its been working in practice for 10 years.”

— Neha Narula

Interview Location: Boston

Interview Date: 20th June

Company: MIT’s Digital Currency Initiative

Role: Director

The security of Bitcoin is one of the factors which gives it so much value, and after ten years there still hasn’t been a single counterfeit Bitcoin created, there has never been a successful 51% attack, and the few potentially catastrophic bugs have been fixed without any negative consequences. But how secure is Bitcoin? Is Proof of Work too risky? Can we trust those that are developing Bitcoin to do so with the right ethical judgement?

In this interview, I spoke with Neha Narula, the Director of MIT’s Digital Currency Initiative to talk about these critical issues. We discuss:

- How the DCI got started

- Bugs in the Bitcoin protocol

- Proof of Work risks

- Ethical Bitcoin development

- 51% attacks

- Government controlled crypto

Death Metal

Good stuff man & waiting for pics with Mr Trump @ The Titty Bar with whiskey sours

Ernest Of Gaia


vizeet srivastava

Bitcoin does not only depend on proof of work...full nodes will not accept any reorg...miners and developers are different...

Sun dev

Nice video what u think about Trump tweet on bitcoin today

Big Keto

This girl drinks the shitcoin kool aid

Robert Graham

Cough, "SHE'S A SHITCOINER", cough

Sun dev

Also i want to teach my children about bitcoin, please suggest best book if u know, age with 9

vizeet srivastava

Code complexity is risk...but changing code will be even bigger risk...

Gaël des Montagnes Noires

Grayscale's second biggest holding after Bitcoin is ether classic?


Why is using a blockchain as a voting plattform a bad idea?

Dey Trader

Congrats on 7k subs. It's a shame great YouTube channels don't get more subscribers.

Gaël des Montagnes Noires

It feels really strange to have seen the community grow since 2013 while I quietly lived through all Bitcoin "deaths" witnessing an ebb & flow of specialists ... it's now such a vast ecosystem; fascinating. I thought of forking BTC after Doge did hahaha 5% of me wishes I had :)
Bi-weekly DCA & stack your Satoshies?


“Kinda, probably, maybe, I think, I’m not sure, I don’t know.”

Neha narula

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Bitcoin 2020 + with Neha Narula and Elizabeth Stark - Mainnet 2020

763 views | 18 Jun. 2020

At Messari's Mainnet

At Messari's Mainnet virtual event, MIT Media Lab's Neha Narula and Lightning Lab's Elizabeth Stark discuss what's to come this year and beyond for both Bitcoin and the Lightning Network.

Crypto Remix

is she related to tony stark?

Steven W.

Thank you both so much for your contributions to these amazing protocols. I can't fathom why so many people fail to understand the idea that complexity in the base protocol is a bad idea. It seems that should be obvious to any software engineer.