UMN Cryptocurrency Club discusses alternative banking trends

The Cryptocurrency Club was founded one year ago and is focused on building enthusiasm and providing education on this alternate monetary form.

Samir Ferdowsi

The University of Minnesota’s Cryptocurrency Club is tracking trends in alternative banking one meeting at a time.

Headed by second-year computer science major Ethan Schulz, the club meets sporadically and holds discussions centered around alternate forms of electronic payment technology.

The club’s members range from the casually curious to investors in the technology and cryptocurrency enthusiasts.

“Advocacy, community and education are the principles the club is based on,” Schulz said. “We’re trying to get people to realize what bitcoin is and understand that it actually has a use. It’s a pretty new field, so it’s awesome to have people come out and talk about it.”

Schulz was inspired by his brother who invested in Bitcoin around eight years ago when it was less than a dollar per share. It is now over $1,000 per share.

Schulz says he hopes the community will continue to grow alongside user-friendly technology.

“There’s not really good abstract layer for the average person or grandma and grandpa to go on and buy some cryptocurrency,” Schulz said.

Built with complex code, cryptocurrencies are a digital form of value that can be purchased on the internet.

This mode of monetary exchange can be purchased on various websites, acting almost as virtual “tokens” of value. A consumer is then able use the e-coins on websites that accept this form of payment.

Though enthusiasm for cryptocurrency is still building, skeptics point out that there are several caveats to the online capital.

At a recent lecture during a club meeting, University mathematics professor Andrew Odlyzko presented his critiques of cryptocurrency to about 40 members. For instance, while alternate forms of currency are valid, they are not always immediately viable.

“Cryptocurrency payment systems are notoriously slow to change,” Odlyzko said. “People cannot build completely secure systems.”

The main reason for this uncertainty, Odlyzko said, is because the world of cryptocurrency is in the same stage of its life that the internet was in back during the late 1990s.

Because transactions through crypto-payments are binding and nonrefundable, these contracts cause concern for skeptics like Odlyzko until the technology is developed further.

Still, many consumers are pursuing avenues leading to cryptocurrency assimilation.

Russ Haywood, primary organizer for the Minneapolis Ethereum Meetup — which has 131 members according to its website — said he hopes that these types of payment systems will take off in the near future.

“This is very exciting technology. You just have to be very, very careful from a sense of trusting the marketing if you don’t understand the coding yourself,” Haywood said.

A previous version of this article incorrectly spelled Ethan Schulz’s name.