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"Digital Finance and Economic Lives in Africa"
Tavneet Suri, Associate Professor of Applied Economics, MIT Sloan

Mobile phones have changed every aspect of life in parts of Africa. I will discuss how the advent of mobile money has moved over 190,000 households out of extreme poverty in Kenya. In addition, I will discuss ongoing work showing that digital credit products built over mobile money have dramatically broadened financial access while providing stability and resilience during unforeseen negative events to users.
 

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"Fin Tech: Solving the Macro Development Problems"
Roberto Rigobon, Society of Sloan Fellows Professor of Management; Professor of Applied Economics, MIT Sloan

I will discuss how fintech can help countries travel the murky waters of the middle income trap. Fintech applications on financial inclusion, decision, transparency, efficiency, fairness and security can help countries such as Argentina and Chile that have been struggling to find the new source of wealth.
 

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"Algorand: A Truly Distributed Ledger"
Silvio Micali, Ford Professor of Engineering, MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory

Abstract: A distributed ledger is a tamperproof sequence of data that can be read and augmented by everyone. Distributed ledgers stand to revolutionize the way a democratic society operates. They secure all kinds of traditional transactions –such as payments, asset transfers, titling– in the exact order in which they occur; and enable totally new transactions ---such as cryptocurrencies and smart contracts. They can remove intermediaries and usher in a new paradigm for trust. As currently implemented, however, distributed ledgers cannot achieve their enormous potential.

Algorand is an alternative, democratic, and efficient distributed ledger. Unlike prior ledgers based on ‘proof of work’, it dispenses with ‘miners’. Indeed, Algorand requires only a negligible amount of computation. Moreover, its transaction history does not ‘fork’ with overwhelming probability: i.e., Algorand guarantees the finality of all transactions.

Finally, Algorand enjoys flexible self-governance. By using its hallmark propose-and-agree process, Algorand can correct its course as necessary or desirable, without any ‘hard forks’.
 

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"Some Simple Economics of the Blockchain"
Christian Catalini, Theodore T. Miller Career Development Professor; Assistant Professor, Technological Innovation, Entrepreneurship, and Strategic Management (TIES), MIT Sloan

Abstract: Blockchain technology promises to transform how we source talent, capital and ideas throughout the digital economy. In this talk, we will adventure beyond the blockchain hype and discuss the economic impact of the technology as well as the challenges linked to its implementation. We will then explore some of the new business models that can be built on top of a cryptocurrency, and how this represents both an opportunity and a threat to established platforms and intermediaries.
 

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"Cyber Security and The Future Web"
John Williams, Professor of Information Engineering, Civil and Environmental EngineeringMIT

Abstract: Cyberattacks and data breaches are facts of life for government agencies, businesses and individuals alike in today's networked world. In defending against cyber threats organizations must conduct a risk analysis involving likely attacks and consequences of a breach. Usually, companies cannot defend against every kind of cyber/physical attack and must choose a commensurate defense. The most common attacks are 1) Socially engineered malware, 2) Password phishing attacks, 3) Unpatched software, 4) Social media threats, 5) Advanced persistent threats. The so called “Kill Chain” enumerates the steps the attacker must accomplish to succeed. Data on successful breaches show the attacker is often in the organization’s network for almost a year before discovery. Some of the most devastating attacks are by insiders, either willful or due to negligence. Among 874 incidents, reported by companies to the Ponemon Institute for its 2016 Cost of Insider Threats Study, 568 were caused by employee or contractor negligence; 85 by outsiders using stolen credentials; and 191 by malicious employees and criminals. An Accenture paper on social media quotes the head of privacy and information management at a major bank who says, "The biggest risk for me is our employees disclosing information about our clients on social media.” The asymmetry of attack and defense has led to a move away from centralized systems to distributed systems and to the concept of the Future Web with a distributed architecture. These systems can sustain a level of failure or damage while still maintaining the ability to function correctly. This is epitomized by blockchain and its related technologies, where a distributed ledger can be maintained even when a proportion of the machines have been taken over by adversaries. In this talk we will review some of the work at MIT on simulating global networks and of the new machine learning approaches being taken by companies to thwart attackers and discuss how the Future Web could evolve.
 

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"FinTech and Financial Regulation"
Chester Spatt, Distinguished Visiting Professor, Golub Center for Finance and Policy (GCFP), MIT Sloan

Abstract: FinTech presents numerous opportunities for innovation, but also unique challenges to regulators. At the heart of some of the challenges is much greater anonymity and absence of central registries for ownership due to the decentralized structure of information. The automation of various business activities (whether robo investing or in another domain, even self-driving vehicles) raise fundamental issues about the nature of liability. Furthermore, new financial instruments such as ICOs and cryptocurrencies themselves raise novel issues. Understanding these in more fundamental ways will be crucial for departing from the traditional regulatory framework, which has been important for addressing externalities and informational problems that have required regulation.