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Who should attend
- Business leaders
- Technology leaders, including CTOs
- Developers and software engineers interested in learning blockchain fundamentals
- Anyone seeking to develop a greater understanding of blockchain and cryptocurrency
About the course
Blockchain has recently become synonymous with cryptocurrency, but its applications go far beyond financial transactions. Companies in every industry are just now beginning to understand how to apply blockchain-based solutions to solve business problems. In this certificate series, you will delve into the world of blockchain technology and its cryptographic underpinnings to demystify the technology and the promise it holds for business. Learning from world-renowned blockchain experts from Cornell Tech, you will begin by studying how cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin make use of the blockchain to facilitate peer-to-peer digital transactions. Then, with a solid understanding of the mechanics of the Bitcoin blockchain protocol, you will discover the problems blockchain technologies aim to solve and determine how they can support your business goals. Ultimately, you will walk away with a proposal for an application of blockchain technology in your organization.
Cryptocurrencies and Ledgers
Since the advent of the internet, programmers have been trying to figure out how to create a [digital] world in which people anywhere - even complete strangers - can transact directly with one another safely and efficiently. In essence, they have been trying to recreate the bedrock of civilization: an orderly system of bookkeeping that allows people to trust each other's claims about what they own, what they owe, and what they are owed. For most of the digital age, this “trust” has been facilitated by third parties such as banks, governments, or credible companies that are willing to guarantee that a transaction is valid and secure. But transactions via third parties are slow and expensive, and they cannot be verified by just anyone, which opens the door to fraud and theft.
Today, the notion of a secure and trusted third party in a digital world isn't purely mythical. And in fact, it's exactly what blockchain technology embodies in a kind of magical way. In this course, you will explore the mechanics of blockchain technology and how the blockchain acts like a trusted third party. To do this, Professor Ari Juels will design a theoretical cryptocurrency from scratch to illustrate how Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies make use of the blockchain to transfer value from person to person. Then, once you understand how the blockchain acts as a trusted ledger, you will practice articulating other transformative ways in which blockchains can change how commercial and interpersonal connections happen online.
Cryptography has been around for thousands of years and is at the heart of digital communications today. Most people rely on cryptography on a daily basis without even knowing it; most popular messaging apps use encryption to ensure the security of messaging between two people. Blockchain technology, in a similar way, relies on cryptography to protect the identity of those sending and receiving messages and ensures that all information and transactions are secure and legitimate. Thus, to really understand blockchain technology, you have to understand the core principles of cryptography.
This course will walk you through the basics of cryptography: how information has historically been disguised (encrypted) and revealed (decrypted) using mathematics. You will see how a message can be turned into a number, and how that number can be encrypted and decrypted by two complete strangers. You will practice encrypting your own message to understand the basics of what makes a good encryption scheme. Then, you will delve deeper into the specific type of cryptography used in blockchain technology -- public key cryptography - and the promises and limitations it has in carrying out the core functions of a blockchain. You will create your own theoretical gold exchange in order to more fully understand how you can send anything to anyone around the world without a middleman. Ultimately you will know exactly how information on the blockchain is secured, legitimized, and authenticated without needing a third party to verify it.
Variations of blockchain technology have existed for decades, but the recent hype is the result of a new kind of blockchain, one that distributes the responsibility of verifying transactions and thereby making it more secure, transparent, and enduring. This course will teach you to understand the differences between the blockchain technology of today and the former, less accessible and less transparent blockchains of decades past. You will dig into the mechanics of the [newer] Bitcoin blockchain protocol and how it ensures the longevity of a decentralized public ledger as well as how it gets consensus for approving transactions. With that knowledge you will then work to analyze what problem(s) blockchain technology aims to solve, how it solves them, and how to make sense of the promises that developers of new blockchain protocols make.
You will analyze a sample protocol to determine why the protocol might not satisfy the key properties that make a “good” blockchain secure. You will be better prepared to critically analyze all the endless new cryptocurrencies that emerge and the underlying blockchain technology that they operate on. You will outline several industries and business purposes for which the blockchains of today make sense. You will solve a computational puzzle in Excel to better understand how transactions get verified in the Bitcoin blockchain protocol. In the course project, you will design a theoretical blockchain for a company, outlining advantages and disadvantages of the properties you will think the blockchain should have based on the unique aspects of your business.
Applications of Blockchain Technology
Blockchain has recently become synonymous with “cryptocurrency,” but its applications are much wider than financial transactions. Though cryptocurrencies constitute the most popular of applications, the business applications are endless. In fact, any industry that makes use of an intermediary to verify transactions could in theory make use of blockchain technology. But how do people know if their industry and/or company stands to gain from adopting the technology?
This course provides you with the tools to discern the applicability of blockchain technology to your business model. You will do this by learning about smart contracts and how you can implement minimal trust applications for almost any task imaginable. You will analyze how smart contracts work, how they’re used today, and how to reason about their capabilities, and what ongoing technical challenges they pose. In the course project, you will come up with your own smart contract application and outline the challenges that might exist in its adoption. Ultimately you will walk away with the ability to answer one important question: Does your business need a blockchain?
KEY COURSE TAKEAWAYS
- Learn the mechanics of blockchain technology
- Understand applications and implications of blockchain for your business
- Identify key problems blockchain technology solves and how it solves them
- Discover the cryptographic underpinnings of blockchains
- Articulate the capabilities and practical application of blockchains/digital ledgers
- Propose how digital signatures can be used in business applications
- Determine how blockchain technologies can support your business goals
WHAT YOU'LL EARN
- Blockchain for Business Certificate from Cornell Tech
- 32 Professional Development Hours
Professor at the Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute at Cornell Tech and Computer Science Ari Juels is a professor at the Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute at Cornell Tech, a Computer Science faculty member at Cornell University, and Co-Director of the Initiative for CryptoCurrencies and Contracts ...
Rafael Pass is an Associate Professor of Computer Science at Cornell University and Cornell Tech. He obtained his bachelor’s in Engineering Physics and a master’s in Computer Science, both from the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) in Sweden, and his Ph.D. in Computer Science from the Massachus...
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