UCL CBT Online Open Seminars

Free access seminars for our Research and Industry community

During this proving time, we recognise the difficulties and sense of isolation that many are experiencing. While many events and conferences have been cancelled worldwide, UCL CBT believes that now more than ever it is essential to stay focused and keep pushing the boundaries of knowledge with a sense of solidarity and altruism.

In this spirit, we launched a massive series of Online Open Seminars. These will be free access seminars promoted by the UCL CBT to give voice to our Research and Industry community. Find below the schedule for 2020.

2020 Open Seminars

April 30th

War of Attrition and the cost of smart contracts in Ethereum



Ethereum has been the first peer-to-peer decentralized platform to allow for the execution of smart contracts. These are contracts which are implemented automatically, hence do not need a third party for their enforcement. Users wishing to execute smart contracts in Ethereum have to pay the miners for their computational costs. To do so they invest a sum before running the contract, and so before knowing exactly how much the computational cost will be. Such sum, called gas fee, is the product of the so called gas limitwithgas price. If the gas limitis higher than the amount of gas used by the platformfor computing the contractthen the user pays only for the contract cost and is reimbursed the exceeding investment. If instead the gas limitis below the gas needed for contract computation then the user pays the gas fee, because the platform spent resources in computation, but the contract will not be implemented. In the paper we argue that such payment scheme for smart contracts is analogous to a War of Attrition, that is to a second price all-pay type of context. Based on this we discuss how users could optimally choose how much to invest to pay for smart contracts in Ethereum.

May 28th

Antitrust in the Blockchain Era



Similar to the Internet Era, which generated new value chains based on digital marketplaces, the blockchain has the potential to be the next cutting-edge technology which will revolutionize markets.  Blockchain technology built on a consensus mechanism can make intermediaries [or third parties] unnecessary and reduce the market power of today’s centralized platforms.  Antitrust enforcers should oversee the transformation of digital markets by means of blockchain technology to prevent anticompetitive conduct that might block the path to innovation.  Using the Web as a model of reference, a public blockchain could run on universal and open protocols; with goods and services traded in a single universal blockchain.  Antitrust enforcers are fundamental in keeping blockchain markets open and free.  Rather than leading to the death of antitrust and regulation, blockchain will require more sophisticated versions of both.

June 25th

Dynamics of fintech terms in news and blogs and specialization of companies of the fintech industry



We perform a large scale analysis of a list of fintech terms in (i) news and blogs in English language and (ii) professional description of companies operating in many countries. The occurrence and co-occurrence of fintech terms and locutions shows a dynamics revealing a semantic stratification and a progressive evolution of the list of fintech terms in a technical vocabulary. By using methods of complex networks that are specifically designed to deal with heterogeous systems, our analysis of a large set of professional description of companies shows that companies dealing with fintech topics, services, and products are specialized to some degree with respect to the attributes of country, city, and economic sector. By using the approach of statistically validated networks, we detect geographical and economic specialization of a set of companies operating in the multi-industry, geographically and economically distributed fintech movement.

July 30th

New Sources of Risk (and the case for building antifragile systems)



“The natural world embodies antifragility as a key systemic property. But when it comes to human-made artificial systems, we aren’t very good at building antifragile systems just yet. The loophole is our limited understanding of how “reality” — the sum total of processes and natural laws that bound us — works and how to construct systems that mimic it. Instead, we’ve built systems that are at odds with the antifragility of the natural world. The defining question is that when the dust settles down, would we come out stronger or would it be business as usual? What does building an antifragile system — that gains from volatility and stressors — look like and how to design them?”

August 27th

REA, Triple-Entry Accounting and Blockchain: Converging Paths to Shared Ledger Systems



In recent years, the concept of shared ledger systems offering a single source of truth has begun to put traditional bookkeeping into question. To date, its historical development remains unclear and under-researched. This paper conducts a genealogical analysis of shared ledger systems from their early forms such as Resource-Event-Agent (REA) accounting and triple-entry accounting (TEA) to their present incarnation in blockchain. We show how accounting frameworks developed between the 1980s and the early 2000s constitute the historical roots of TEA and have impacted much-discussed blockchain applications of today. As such, we duly acknowledge the influence of each individual contributing to this development, correct common misconceptions and map out how the paths of REA, TEA and blockchain converge in the realm of shared ledger systems.

September 24th

Blockchain and Sustainability: Past, Present and Future



Among many other things, blockchain has been hailed as a technology that can help mankind to solve numerous sustainability issues. Simultaneously, the proof-of-work consensus algorithm, which is frequently applied in public and permissionless blockchains, has been described as a disaster for the environment, indicating that this technology has both positive and negative repercussions when it comes to sustainability. In this presentation I am going to summarize previous academic research on how blockchain can positively and negatively impact environmental, social and economic sustainability. Furthermore, I will present several promising industry projects and a framework to categorize the sustainability impact of blockchain technology. The main goal of this talk is to create awareness for the sustainability implications of blockchain and to encourage systematic research in this field.

October 29th

If We Ruled the World: The Role of Personal Values in Blockchain Adoption Decisions



Given the rise of blockchain technologies (BCTs, i.e., a distributed ledger for conducting disintermediated transactions of digital assets), understanding the impact of personal values on the individual decision-making process towards contemporary innovation adoption becomes crucial. Coherent to personal values, early Bitcoin user studies provide evidence that people’s core political values clearly play a role in user adoption, especially in the very early adoption phases. However, little is known about the socio-technological factors affecting the individual adoption of permissionless BCTs and how personal values shape the perception of these technologies towards its intention to use. As users need to rely on the decisions and political motives made by blockchain developers understanding the value concepts embedded in blockchain systems and its impact on usage intention becomes crucial. To address this lacuna, we draw on the Schwartz theory of basic human values and develop and test a model of individual antecedents of permissionless blockchain adoption decision-making. Using a metric conjoint experiment, we study attractiveness judgments of permissionless blockchain systems made by potential users. Next to the understanding of how blockchain technology characteristics can enhance its adoption in society, our multi-level approach also investigates cross-level interaction effects of potential users’ personal values, which offer novel insights into the adoption of IS technologies. We derive implications for IS adoption and offer practical implications for blockchain developers as well as managers.