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April 9, 2018

Meet the TAs – Josh Broomberg – Crypto & The Blockchain 2018

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If we hadn't already standardized the headings for these TA spotlight blogs, I would not have hesitated to name this one "The Prodigal Son Returns." Josh Broomberg already has his place in iXperience lore. He first came on to work as part of the core iX team in 2015, where he quickly showed a remarkable ability to pick up just about any skill that was required of him. He self-taught himself to be proficient in iOS Development, before going on to be a TA for our iOS Dev course in 2016 and, it must be said, he did a damn good job too. Josh has spent the past two years travelling and furthering his academic credentials at Minerva (furthering your career WHILE travelling? It would never work), but he'll be returning to iX this year as a TA for our Crypto & Blockchain course in Berlin.

iXperience TA Josh Broomberg

  • 1. What are you working on now? Tell us about an exciting project that you’ve recently completed or are currently involved with

Two projects stand out.

I have spent the last couple months designing and building a platform which powers Initial Coin Offerings at Zerion Inc. The emphasis of the platform is around better democratization of sales, in terms of token distribution, and better user experience for investors. This was large and complex and it was a bumpy journey to get to where things are now: a fully operational platform that’s helped raise over $60M.

I am also involved in research on the application of Deep Neural Networks to problems of Causal Inference. Causal Inference is the study of cause and effect - evaluating whether policy/decisions/treatments are actually having an effect on the world around them. In an increasingly complex world, it is too easy to confuse correlation for causation or miss an effect entirely! Neural Nets represent the next generation of methodologies and promise to bring increased accuracy to more complex causal problems.

  • 2. What do you love most about this industry?

The truth is that there isn’t a single blockchain industry. Blockchain is an idea which unites cryptography, distributed computing, and economics/game theory into products which work. This is exciting because the eventual applications will almost certainly be wide-ranging and unexpected - affecting hundreds of different industries. I am excited about this diversity. I am also excited about the potential for the technology to reduce wasteful intermediation costs, improve privacy, and empower individuals. But how these things play out will need only be revealed with time.

  • 3. Why did you decide to get involved with teaching and how do you continue to keep things fresh?

In this space, keeping things fresh is certainly not the problem! Teaching-wise, I get great enjoyment from distilling complex concepts into explanations which are easy to understand and build on. I think this makes me, and those I teach, smarter: win-win. I am particularly excited about teaching in this space given the eclectic range of applications: we will need many different kinds of people who understand and are excited about blockchain technology in order to drive change across industries. I am hoping to meet some of them in my classes.

  • 4. What are you most looking forward to about iXperience this summer?

iXperience is always the perfect blend of intense intellectual effort and fun. I am excited to be teaching a blockchain course in Berlin where the city is so well aligned with the spirit of the material. I am excited to see 25 like minded students learning cool content in a cool city and am lucky that I will be a part of it.

  • 5. How do you see this industry changing in the next year to five years? What skills will consultants need to have?

The big question is around regulation and adoption. There will be a day in the near future where cryptocurrencies are tightly regulated but this will be a good thing. Developers and thought leaders alike will need to understand how regulation will affect the way consumers interact with this technology. They will also need to understand the myriad industry-specific regulations encountered along the path toward disrupting existing practice more broadly.

In terms of adoption, there are big open questions about making this technology more user friendly. A key challenge for any player today is developing systems people understand and want to use. This has hardly happened.

  • 6. What skills will iX students have after graduating from your class?

Students will have both an understanding of, and deep appreciation for, the technologies and economic theory underlying blockchain. This is really the secret sauce because the final form for these technologies is totally undecided. People who understand the core principles, and have the creativity to apply them to new problems, will be far ahead of the rest of the field.

  • 7. What’s one piece of advice that you have for the iX class of 2018?

iX is a unique opportunity to meet hundreds of like minded people. The environment, both in class and out, is designed to facilitate conversation and meaningful interaction. These people will be the lasting value that you get from the program. Also, seize this time as an opportunity to reinvent/iterate on parts of yourself. Use the space, and the break from your real life back home, to think about big problems, learn new things, and prepare yourself to re-enter better than ever.

  • 8. What are your ‘desert island’ books or movies?

I don’t read much fiction but if I had to pick a book which I think has had the biggest impact on me, it would be the Culture Series by Ian m Banks. It lays out a vision for the future of humanity which is both exciting and terrifying. Exciting because AI and other inventions have unshackled us from resource constraints, war, and persecution. Scary because losing these chains reveals its own set of challenges and problems. I think it’s a must read for anyone who is interested in projecting the consequences of technological develop forward into the medium-to-far future.

  • 9. What song do you know all the lyrics to?

None. I am the kind of person who relies heavily on the algorithms over at Spotify to choose my music for me.

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