Wall Street Journal columnist Michael Casey leaving paper for MIT’s Digital Currency Initiative

MIT Media Lab launches Digital Currency InitiativeMIT Media Lab launches Digital Currency Initiative

The MIT Media Lab

Brian Forde, director of the Digital Currency Initiative at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab, announced this week that Michael Casey will join the Media Lab as Senior Advisor to the Digital Currency Initiative on September 1st.

Casey has spent nearly 25 years as a journalist, most recently as a senior columnist at the Wall Street Journal. He is the co-author, along with fellow WSJ reporter Paul Vigna, of The Age of Cryptocurrency: How Bitcoin and Digital Money are Challenging the Global Economic Order, and the newspaper’s BitBeat column, which follows developments in the digital currency realm.

“Leaving The Wall Street Journal after 18 years is not a decision I took lightly. What it does reflect is my belief that digital currency is on the cusp of becoming a major transformative force in society and I can’t think of a better place to help make that happen than the MIT Media Lab’s Digital Currency Initiative,” said Casey, as reported by Forde in an online post.

As Strategic Advisor to the Digital Currency Initiative, Casey will work with professors and students on social impact projects and improving digital currency communication and awareness. Forde said Casey will work with students, professors, and the digital currency community to write blog posts and produce videos that help people better understand cryptocurrency and its potential impact.

“Few people have done as much as Michael to help raise the public’s understanding of Bitcoin, its many applications, and its potential to increase social and economic welfare, especially in the developing world,” said Coin Center executive director Jerry Brito as quoted in Forde’s post. “I look forward to working with him in his new position at MIT to continue to educate the public about the impact of digital currency.”

In an interview with TechCrunch, Casey said, “This was a just too exciting an opportunity to pass up. I sincerely believe that this is one of those moments in which a new technological platform has the potential to facilitate explosive change. I saw a role for me in helping explain it and tell the story around it.”

Casey told the news outlet that his position is more of a facilitating role than an academic one. “Much of what I will do will involve communicating, both to get the broader message out and to act as a liaison between the future consumers of this technology and those who are developing it, such as the grad students at MIT. As a journalist, I’m trained in communicating. So in that sense it’s a continuation. But clearly, this is a big change: I’ve moved into more of an advocacy position.”

With respect to his involvement in Digital Currency Initiative’s social impact mandate, Casey told TechCrunch he is particularly keen to create blockchain-based property title solutions. “This is the idea that people in such countries who until now have been held back by shoddy record-keeping and a lack of executable title to their property could, with a system like this, create legal collateral against which they could borrow, take out insurance and generally access the financial system that we all take for granted. I’m also interested in ways to use the blockchain to create irrefutable, self-sovereign markers of identity, which will also help give these ‘unbanked’ people access to the financial system.”

Casey said he thinks cryptocurrency’s future is bright and Bitcoin will survive. “But,” he told TechCrunch, “I’m agnostic as to whether it needs to be the dominant platform on which these applications are built. I think we will see all sorts of blockchain models arise, some decentralized, others less so. I do think the sidechains initiative and others aimed at expanding bitcoin’s potential will be important in giving it a place in this future.”

Image credit: Knight Foundation