Who wants to be a crypto millionaire? Inside Oxford’s Blockchain Society – The Oxford Student

Image description: Oxford Blockchain Society, Oxford University shield and Doge against black background

The world of cryptocurrency is undeniably polarizing – obsessed with its dedicated enthusiasts while the uninitiated view it with a mixture of suspicion and derision. This was never more apparent to me than when I first became interested in the Oxford Blockchain Society, founded in 2016 with the aim of bringing together crypto enthusiasts across the university. The mere mention of crypto seems to evoke raised eyebrows and grimaces from many Oxford students and this attitude is also prevalent in the wider community. While discussing the company with a friend over lunch at an unnamed Oxford noodle restaurant, the manager interrupted our conversation, urging us to stay away from cryptocurrency. , which he viewed as an unreliable industry overrun with scammers.

Speaking to members of the Blockchain Society however, I found no such skepticism. I spoke with one member, Elena Vicario, after hearing her get excited about the company over drinks in our college bar. I invite Elena to discuss the controversial financial technology taking over the world from the comfort of the grimy kitchen of my apartment. She borrows my microwave to reheat her eggplant with canned tuna and we’re talking crypto.

Elena is a fairly new addition to the ranks of the Blockchain Society, having joined in November last quarter after a collaboration event with Oxford Women in Business. Attendees of the event received $40 worth of Ethereum cryptocurrency to experiment with as well as access to the wisdom of senior members of the Blockchain Society. Initially hesitant to attend the event, Elena was instantly hooked and found herself at dinner with the Blockchain Society committee members once the event was over. “I felt like a whole new world was opening up for me. You don’t have to be a computer geek to be a part of it,” she tells me.

“You don’t have to be a computer geek to be a part of it.”

Elena played a role in the company’s recent project, in which they transformed their structure and now run the company as a DAO – a decentralized autonomous organization – or, as Elena tells me, a sort of business in the world of cryptography, which is around a communal rather than hierarchical structure. I can’t claim to have completely followed the concept, but I nodded bravely as she continued to tell me about blockchains, crypto tokens, NFTs, and more. As my head begins to swim with these concepts, the big math brains involved in the Blockchain Society seem like an imposing prospect. The society is dominated by postgraduate students, all studying in fields of dizzying complexity – society president Keivan Samani, himself a nuclear physicist, lists quantum computing and artificial intelligence among the disciplines academic studies studied by members of the society.

But Elena assures me that this great reserve of intellect is nothing to put off: “One of the main things for me was openness. They really want to help you learn,” she insists. This seems to reflect Keivan’s goals for the company, he explains that “we try to build and maintain a culture that makes it friendly for everyone”. He talks about discovering his passion for helping newbies become active participants in the industry, citing the power of a “good old-fashioned pep talk” to encourage nervous hobbyists to try their hand at coding and learning. other skills. This enthusiasm for new members and the spread of crypto-love is starting to make sense as I discover that a large network of enthusiasts is highly sought after in the crypto world. It was the relatively large membership of the company that enabled the transition to a DAO in the first place.

It seems there is room for everyone in the Blockchain Society, but this friendly approach can’t detract from the aura of serious moneymaking that surrounds some of its members. I talk to James O’Leary, the vice president of the company, who is very keen to discuss his personal achievements in the crypto world. He claims to have personally raised a large sum of money from venture capitalists or VCs for his football management game. Footium in which players own an NFT football club. The confidence with which he reveals his project’s statistics tells me that they must be impressive, even if they mean very little to me, and he claims that Footium is the most successful NFT project founded by a British student.

While James maintains that he received little help from the company while working on this project, he strongly recommends Blockchain Society membership for crypto newbies, citing their recent collaboration with ChainShot, a company that offers Ethereum coding courses, in which some members of the company won scholarships of up to £4,000 for its Ethereum developer bootcamp.

The crypto world is growing rapidly, and everyone working on projects now considers themselves to be ahead of the game. Even for an initial skeptic like me, the enthusiasm I encounter among members of the company is infectious. I felt like I was on the ledge of what is called the “crypto rabbit hole”.

Bitcoin uses more electricity per year than it takes to power entire nations, overtaking the Netherlands, Argentina and the United Arab Emirates in energy consumption.

I can’t get too carried away though. The eyes that a mention of cryptocurrency is inevitably met with throughout Oxford are often associated with a sincere ethical concern about the industry’s contribution to climate change. The cryptocurrency mining process is extremely energy intensive; Bitcoin uses more electricity per year than it takes to power entire nations, surpassing the Netherlands, Argentina and the United Arab Emirates in terms of energy consumption. I’m a little hesitant to bring this up with the crypto devotees I speak to, not wanting to dampen their enthusiasm, but needn’t worry – their belief in the industry is unwavering.

James insists that environmental concerns have nothing to do with blockchains themselves, mentioning blockchains such as Algorand which have claimed they actually have a positive impact on the environment because of their sponsorship of various climate-focused projects. I’m not entirely surprised to get no response when I ask Keivan the same question. It seems that members of the Blockchain Society can’t be tempted to dwell on the more dubious aspects of their passion, sticking steadfastly to shiny and shiny aggressive selling.

As proof of the enduring recruiting spirit that is so strong in Blockchain Society, Keivan quickly offered me a position writing articles for the society as a way to enter the world of crypto – and I I was perhaps almost tempted.

Image credit: AIR FORCE ONE via Flickr / Chevron Tango via Wikimedia Commons / Oxford Blockchain Society / Elsie Clark

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