Popular blockchain influencer gets caught plagiarizing academic paper

Those who follow me on Twitter (and you should, because I’m funny) know I have some strong feelings about the cryptocurrency and blockchain world. In short, I think it’s the equivalent of Herbalife for nerds, with bad technology that’s propagated by a Dickensian cast of grifters and hucksters. Among them, in my view, is Siraj Raval, who recently got caught plagiarizing an academic paper. Oh dear.

First, a recap. Raval is a popular tech influencer. He has over 70,000 followers on Twitter, and nearly 700 thousand subscribers on YouTube, where he produces videos about artificial intelligence, blockchain, and entrepreneurship.

At first glance, Raval has an impressive CV. His channel shows him interviewing legendary investor and computer scientist Vinod Khosla, who is perhaps most notable as the co-founder of Sun Microsystems. He wrote a book for O’Reilly about distributed applications (which has some damning reviews on Amazon). He also gave a talk at TNW 2017, where he breathlessly ranted about killer robots while dressed as Gerard Way circa 2006.

But, unlike other influencers, Raval tries to carry himself with an air of academic credibility. He recently published a paper about quantum qubits, which is the unit of measurement used by quantum computers to store data.

Unfortunately, significant chunks of his paper were lifted en-masse from other researchers, as discovered by Andrew Webb, an ML engineer at vTime. Webb downloaded Raval’s paper and, suspecting foul play, uploaded it to an online plagiarism checker.

This showed that huge chunks came from other…

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