Introductory Seminars for First-Year Students

The Blockchain Revolution Will Not Be Televised

CS 58N

This Frosh Seminar course will explore the nature of cultural revolutions supported and enabled by technological change. We will begin by looking at the Internet and the smart phone as two inventions with widespread social, political and economic consequences. These short investigations will help us understand how difficult it may be to predict the consequences of technological innovations. The main portion of the course will look at blockchain technology, the state of international banking, and the potential for blockchain technology to allow dramatic wide-sweeping change.

This project-based course will meet twice a week. Approximately one meeting per week will bring in new information, including visits from expert guest who are active in blockchain technology, cryptocurrency, or financial infrastructure. Other class meetings will involve work in teams, presentations, and discussion. Each student will be responsible for leading a section of a course meeting. In doing so, they will be responsible for preparing and serving as an expert on a particular question raised in the course. The outcome of the course will be a collected assembly of thought, in a medium to be decided by the class.

Source material for the class includes: Stanford CS 58, You Say You Want A Revolution (Blockchain Version), winter 2019 and Stanford 251, Cryptocurrencies, blockchains, and smart contracts, autumn 2019. Guests may include Sam Blackshear, designer of Move blockchain programming language, Dahlia Malkhi, designer of HotStuff blockchain consensus protocol, Dan Boneh, cryptographer and director of the Stanford Center for Blockchain Research, and others.

Meet the Instructor(s)

John Mitchell

"Over my 30 years at Stanford, I have done research on programming languages, computer security and education. I spent six years as vice provost. returning to the computer science department in 2018 and beginning my term as department chair in 2019.

"In the area of programming languages, I have worked on type systems, modularity, and mathematical methods for proving properties of programming languages. A portion of this work helped establish the tone and scope of current programming language conferences (POPL, PLDI, etc) and contributed to object, type, and module constructs in Java and other languages.

"In the area of computer security, our group worked on security of network protocols, authentication, authorization, privacy, and foundations of security. Among other topics, we developed a number of principles for web security and collaborated on the initial security architecture of the Chrome browser.

"My research in education started with development of Stanford CourseWare platform, which served as the foundation for initial flipped classroom experiments at Stanford and helped inspire the first massive open online courses (MOOCs) from Stanford. As vice provost, my team worked with more than 500 Stanford faculty members and instructors on over 1,000 online projects for campus or public audiences. I also co-founded the Lytics Lab to improve educational outcomes through data-driven, co-lead the Carta project, and set up collaboration with the San Francisco Unified School District around CS education.

"My current research focuses on blockchain, AI explainability, and CS education."