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UB club gets cryptic

Students embrace increase in blockchain technology

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Cryptocurrency -- digitalized money or assets -- is unique in the financial market because its value is not backed by any banks or government.

With a current frenzy for cryptocurrency, UB Blockchains & Cryptocurrency Club is bringing interested students together. Members of the club are taught cryptocurrency’s financial impact and the technology behind how the currency obtains its value.

Bitcoin, the first cryptocurrency, was introduced in 2008 with the aim to create direct peer-to-peer transactions.

The club president’s Ralph Ades said having no mediator between transactions is what attracts users to cryptocurrency.

“It’s slowly becoming more and more reputable as a source of income and as just a currency itself,” said Ades, a sophomore business administration major. “A lot of people are fed up with the government controlling currency. So, people want to move away from and take control for themselves.”

The club is recognized by UB’s School of Management, but Ades said it isn’t just for business and economic students. By combining both the interests from cryptocurrency and the blockchain technology, Ades hopes to attract students from other majors.

“Every knowledge base is valuable so the more we can figure out, the better advantages we will have,” Ades said.

The club held its first meeting Feb. 23, with roughly one hundred attendees. Sajid Khan, a graduate student in the computer science program, said he attended the meeting to learn more about the blockchain technology.

“As a computer science major, you have to know about the new technology,” Khan said. “With blockchain being this new technology that not a lot of people know about, learning about it gives you an advantage over competitors when you’re looking for a job.”

The transactions made by cryptocurrency are backed by cryptography, the writing or solving of codes. Bina Ramamurthy, a computer science professor, said the complex algorithms involved in cryptography provide a secure network for monetary transactions.

A cryptocurrency transaction is a peer sending currency to another peer, Ranamurthy said. Several transactions make a block, and then miners collect the transaction, verifying and validating it.

“If someone goes and changes something in the block, the link is going to be broken,” Ranamurthy said. “It [will] be invalid, and no one will accept that.”

Ades said it is important to start discussing the impact cryptocurrency will have. He said he believes cryptocurrency and blockchain technology will be important in the financial future.

“There are already platforms that are making [cryptocurrency] a worthwhile thing,” Ades said. “The more willing people are to hold them, the more credibility they get.”

In Dec. 2017, Bitcoin peaked at $19,783. Today, the current value of one Bitcoin falls below $12,000, according to The Economist. Brian Wolfe, a UB finance professor, said this extreme change is due to cryptocurrency’s novelty and advises students to be cautious when investing in the market.

“It’s a very popular investment for students, but because it is new, it’s really dangerous and has the potential to be very lucrative as well as very risky,” Wolfe said. “When you buy into an equity share or when you buy something like cryptocurrency, it can go to zero.”

Scott Arilotta, the club’s vice president of technology, said he is not afraid. Arilotta, a junior management information systems and finance major, said he sees cryptocurrency as the cash of the future and isn’t worried about recent fluctuations.

“Each time the market goes back down, people try to get out of the market,” Arilotta said. “It’s definitely the most volatile market, but because I know and understand the technology, I know this is going to be used in the future.”

He said he is going to make a “decent amount” off of cryptocurrency, so he is willing to hold his investment for two to five years.

Arilotta is excited for the club. He hopes it will be informative for those who are newly interested in cryptocurrency and hopes it becomes a common space for those that share his passion.

“For a school this big, I can’t believe this club hasn’t already been made,” Arilotta said. “Just talking about cryptocurrency gets me excited, and I know there are people in UB who need an outlet just as much as I do.”

Wanly Chen is an assistant features editor and can be reached at wanly.chen@ubspectrum.comand @wanly_chen.


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