As the creator of Ethereum, Vitalik Buterin is arguably the face of cryptocurrency.
The success of his creation has caused him to wrestle with personal values he deems contradictory.
One might expect the inventor of the world’s second-largest cryptocurrency to boast about its successes. But Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin is instead preoccupied figuring out how he feels about his creation, which has become the epicenter for DeFi, NFTs, and DAOs.
In a Twitter thread Monday evening, Buterin lays out 10 contradictions in his values that he is mulling over—and most of them deal, directly or indirectly, with what Web3 and Ethereum should be.
For one thing, Buterin admits that while he loves the ethos of decentralization, he often finds himself siding with “intellectual elites” over the hoi polloi.
He’s also conflicted about the direction that such actors in a decentralized ecosystem are taking Ethereum. Buterin points to “contradiction between my desire to see Ethereum become [a layer-1 network] that can survive truly extreme circumstances and my realization that many key apps on Ethereum already rely on far more fragile security assumptions than anything we consider acceptable in Ethereum protocol design.”
In other words, he’s worried that the secure blockchain is being used in insecure ways.
Thread: some still open contradictions in my thoughts and my values, that I have been thinking about but still don’t feel like I’ve fully resolved.
Often, too, the “key apps” on the network are for things he doesn’t value, such as “$3M monkeys,” a reference to Bored Apes and other profile picture NFTs that proliferate on Ethereum marketplaces. The biggest such marketplace, OpenSea, is the most used Ethereum application over the past 30 days, according to DappRadar, with over 360,000 users and $2.3 billion in trading volume.
Last year, Buterin said that NFTs were the use case that most surprised him. In March, he clarified that he didn’t “hate apes,” but that he was in favor of funding public goods over partaking in NFT market speculation.
But Buterin suggests he has to take the good with the bad, saying he realizes “that that stuff is a big part of what keeps the crypto economy running and pays for all my favorite cool DAO/governance experiments.”
DAOs are groups of people who manage funds and/or a technology protocol through the use of tokenized voting atop a blockchain. In April, Buterin praised Ethereum scaling protocol Optimism for experimenting with a DAO that uses quadratic voting, a method he’s championed as a way of preventing whales from having an outsized impact on protocol development and treasury management.
Buterin is arguably the public face of crypto. In 2008, the pseudonymous Satoshi Nakamoto published the Bitcoin white paper, and then spent the next two years getting the network off the ground. By the end of 2010, Nakamoto had disappeared, resurfacing just once to rebut a Newsweek cover story fingering a California engineer as the BTC creator.
While Satoshi made a lot of noise in just two years, his creation only really took off after he left. We don’t know how his views might have changed given the ongoing development of blockchain technology and the Web3 space. Does he like what Bitcoin has become, or would he be super into Bitcoin Cash? (Or even, as some would have you believe, Bitcoin SV?)
But Vitalik Buterin, who first dreamed up Ethereum in July 2015, has left a public ledger of his thoughts with every Ethereum milestone. His admission that he hasn’t got it all figured out stands in sharp contrast to many other cryptocurrency creators, including Terra’s Do Kwon, who double as marketers for their networks and associated assets—sometimes with little pause for reflection.
That mentality could even be spotted in the responses to Buterin’s thread. Charles Hoskinson, a co-founder of Ethereum who went on to create the rival blockchain Cardano, replied: “It’s not to [sic] late to come to Cardano….”
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