If your impression of the blockchain is still stuck as speculative currency, Vitalik Buterin, born in 1994, is a clear stream in the blockchain world. This Russian-born Canadian has a huge brain and a skinny body. He speaks very fast and is different from ordinary people in economics, politics, technology and logic.
Nakamoto’s bitcoin paper opened the door to cryptocurrency. However, early on, people have been trying to apply the blockchain, but they couldn’t find a breakthrough. Until 2017, through Ethereum’s smart contract platform. You can issue your own tokens, blockchain fires, and people find new ways to open. The Ethereum created by Vitalik has pushed the whole industry to its peak. In order to express admiration for him, the 25-year-old man has been nicknamed “V God”.
V God’s growth experience is also very special. He mainly acquires knowledge through the Internet rather than school education. His father, Dmitry Buterin, is a computer scientist. He received his first computer in his life when he was 4 years old. His parents divorced when he was 5 years old . At the age of 6, he immigrated to Canada from Russia with his father. In the third grade of primary school, he was able to double the speed of ordinary people. Gradewise, he found his mathematical talent. At the age of 12 he wrote a small game in C++!
In high school, he knew Bitcoin under the influence of his father. Afterwards, he became addicted to it. At the age of 17, he became a contributor to Bitcoin Weekly. Vitalik earned 5 bitcoins per article. At the age of 19, he dropped out of school.
Vitalik always thinks that he is “outside the system”. His original intention was to establish Ethereum so as to serve a group of marginalized people. Ironically, after the ICO burst in 2017, Ethereum became a paradise for speculators and analysts. This is contrary to Vitalik’s original dream.
The first impact of Ethereum was similar to the wave market. The cryptocurrency was a marketing-oriented coin, which greatly stimulated the idealists. Vitalik said that if the wave field transcends Ethereum, “I will lose in the ratio of one to humanity.”
The second shock is Libra from Facebook. Libra is a more realistic and imaginative product. Vitalik said that Libra will definitely compete with the decentralized blockchain public chain.
Vitalik’s growing story, unique ideas and thoughts make him one of the most talkative characters in the blockchain world. Below is an interview with Vitalik.
Talking about Libra
“Decentralization is not only an ideal, but also a very practical and very practical strategy. ”
Q: What impact will Facebook have on Libra and Bitcoin?
Vitalik: I don’t think that the cryptocurrency of a big business like Libra will completely replace decentralized finance. The platform that is not controlled by any individual or centralized organization still has great value.
Silicon Valley is definitely trying to get involved in the financial sector. Be aware that making a cryptocurrency is much simpler than creating a payment business. The latter you need to have a good relationship with the financial systems of each country.
Q: Will Libra have an impact on the currency of other countries, such as the renminbi?
Vitalik: It is possible. Because most of the major players who endorse Libra are American companies. Other countries are wary of such a largely US-controlled project.
Q: Pure idealists rarely become the final winners in history. Is a more realistic project like Facebook’s Libra a key enabler for large-scale application of blockchain?
Vitalik: Maybe. There are some things that actually happen in the blockchain. Others are likely to have direct conflicts with the expectations of idealists including me. Every technological revolution is like this.
The vast majority of Libra verifiers are in the United States. Many countries do not trust US-based systems because they do not trust the US government. This may be a major obstacle to its global application. Decentralized systems like Ethereum do not have this obstacle.
Therefore, decentralization is not only an ideal goal, but also a strategy with a very high success rate in a world that is increasingly lacking in trust. A very practical strategy i might add. We should stick to it to increase our chances of success.
Q: You agree with freedom and decentralization. What gave you the first enlightenment of liberalism and decentralization?
Vitalik: I have always felt that freedom, openness and equality are important. When I was in high school, these feelings began to become a more stable outlook on life. At the time, I discovered the free open source software community, Austrian economics, and Bitcoin, all of which appeared in my world during the same period. I spent a lot of time reading books and articles on the Internet to explore these ideas and communities.
To some extent, I am a person who has always lived outside the system. The experience of learning a lot of things on the Internet myself made me realize that one thing is important: to build a world where people who are out of the mainstream in any way can live here.
When I was young, I didn’t have a credit card. Bitcoin allowed me to buy something on the Internet. More importantly, it allowed me to find a job online and start making money. For me this is an important real-life demonstration that shows the value of decentralized technology. This creates a more inclusive world.
Q: In the real world, people seem to be inclined to believe in centralized organizations such as governments, banks, and big companies. What is your opinion on this?
Vitalik: I don’t think decentralized systems should take over the world, as long as they can occupy a key area.
Q: The area occupied by the blockchain is not too small. Only the exchange and a part of the cryptocurrency. Right?
Vitalik: It’s just that technology hasn’t developed yet. When the technology develops to that extent, let’s see what happens.
Q: You once said that if the wave field defeats Ethereum, you will lose some confidence in mankind. Do you think wave field will succeed?
Vitalik: If another blockchain bubble happens, projects like wavefields could swell very much. It can even evolve into items that are useful for something. For instance, gambling.
But it is not really decentralized, which is the result of my great concern. This kind of thing may cause the government to intervene in regulation and then attack the entire industry.
Q: The blockchain field is growing too fast, what is the problem?
Vitalik: The Ethereum blockchain is currently 100% full (referring to the Ethereum network congestion). If growth grows faster, the extra energy will not be spent on useful things.
At the same time, network congestion and user account security is another big issue. Imagine if there is a $50 billion cryptocurrency in the mobile wallet and there is a backdoor in the operating system… That’s why I openly promote better account security solutions on Twitter every week, such as multi-agency and social recovery.
I know that the great advantage of China’s scientific and technological community is to establish a good user experience. Therefore, solving account security problems may be something that people in the Ethereum community in China can try and do well.
Talk about subversion
“You either follow the rules of the network I built, or you build your own network. ”
Q: People always think that the blockchain will subvert everything now. Is the blockchain really a “new thing”? What is historically similar to blockchain?
Vitalik: The interesting thing about the blockchain is that it combines the dual characteristics of economic incentives and social organization. People actively contribute to it because people really believe in its value and recognize the concept of decentralization.
Different blockchain projects have different focus points. For example, Zcash pays great attention to privacy protection (Note: Zcash is a cryptocurrency designed to use encryption technology to provide its users with greater privacy than other cryptocurrencies. V God is their advisor). Bitcoin is more focused on coin storage. Ethereum aims to build an infrastructure that allows people to easily build a variety of decentralized applications.
But at the same time, these projects have their symbolic tokens, the price of the token will fluctuate. If you hold it you will definitely want it to rise. So, combining these motives determines that it is different from the things in history.
Q: Many people claim that the company no longer needs to exist in the blockchain world?
Vitalik: It’s really different to be a company and to do Ethereum . The company has a profitable nature. Open source project members are free to participate in the contribution.
Ethereum can be said to be an open source project, but it is not just an open source project. For example, for an open source project, you can easily copy the code and make a different or even beyond the original software. But for the blockchain, you either follow the rules of the network I built or build your own network.
To be a business, you don’t need more people to participate in building an ecosystem. You need to get your business on the right track and let the employees do their jobs. At this time, attracting users and getting users is the most important. For open source projects, users can find what they are interested in.
As a business, you will develop a route to guide your team to do things. Your control will be much weaker in open source projects. You will see community members spontaneously contributing to this ecology in a variety of ways. Your community will therefore become more inclusive and diverse.
Q: If cryptocurrency is popular after 10-20 years, what will the world look like then? What is the biggest change?
Vitalik: I think the financial sector will benefit a lot. At that time, the application of smart contracts would be as simple as using the Internet today.
I went to Africa 2 months ago. I asked local members of the Ethereum community what everyone is doing with the blockchain. Their answer is simple. Many Africans now work remotely on the Internet for companies in developed countries. In this way they can make a lot of money. But if there is no cryptocurrency, it is difficult for them to transfer the money back to Africa. Intermediaries like banks will still draw at least 10%. I think this application is simple but meaningful.
Decentralized applications also have potential. Platforms such as the media and sharing economy should not be completely controlled by centralized organizations (such as large companies). Just like the world without Internet 20 years ago, people can only do software on their own. You make it on your computer, and I make it on mine. There is no contact between each other.
Q: Do you think Google will still exist at that time?
Vitalik: Google will definitely still exist, but it will adjust its business model and way of doing things. Technology will not change the subversion of government organizations and big companies. However, it will prompt them to change.
Q: In the blockchain field, what do you think is overestimated and what is underestimated?
Vitalik: In the short term, DeFi (decentralized finance) is somewhat overrated. There are some gratifying achievements in this field, but I don’t think the technology has kept up. People underestimate the risks involved, especially the serious consequences of smart contract loopholes. For example, last week, a DeFi platform was successfully attacked by a hacker because of a bug in one of the nodes, resulting in a loss of $37 million.
As for underestimated, I think non-financial Dapp will be interesting. For example, identity authentication. Currently there is a project in Singapore to do academic qualifications for colleges and universities to ensure that no fraud can be made.
Talk about evolution
“The next step in Ethereum: Enhancing privacy and downplaying personal influence”
Q: What was the biggest compromise you made during the upgrade of Ethereum to 2.0?
Vitalik: The biggest compromise may be was having to give up something. For example, we don’t have time to create more perfect and more beautiful algorithms.
Casper FFG is an example. Even today, we know that Casper CBC is theoretically better, but we decided to put it in a future version. The Casper FFG protocol is about 30% shorter than it was six months ago, because we worked hard to simplify it. (Note: Casper FFG is the core consensus mechanism of Ethereum 2.0. Casper CBC is another consensus mechanism that is more complicated than the former.)
Another key decision was to separate Ethereum 2.0 as an independent public chain from Ethereum 1.0. It makes the protocol design clearer, but it also means that the transition from Ethereum 1.0 to Ethereum 2.0 is difficult to manage. We had to choose between the most perfect and the most concise agreement. We chose the latter.
Q: Who is the biggest opponent in Ethereum now and who will the biggest opponent in the future?
Vitalik: Ethereum is a diverse ecosystem with many things. If you think of it as a cryptocurrency, it faces competition from other cryptocurrencies. If you think of it as a decentralized application, it faces more and more competition for such applications.
As an infrastructure for applications such as Dapp (decentralized applications), it is hard to compare with other centralized infrastructure. For example, the blockchain has a total of 10 million users. The number of users on platforms like Facebook and WeChat is 100 times that of the blockchain. If the blockchain cannot provide the services required by users of the centralized platform, then no comparison can be made.
Q: Many people say that Ethereum has no other mainstream applications except ICO. After Ethereum 2.0 goes online, do you think there will be a killer app?
Vitalik: I hope there will be.
Q: So far, what do you think are the three most important items in Ethereum?
Vitalik: Depends on how you define “important” and “project”. For example, Solidity and Vyper (both Ethereum programming languages) are very important. If they don’t exist, Ethereum will not be available. But let’s not talk too much about them.
I think that improving privacy is very important for Ethereum’s next step, while taking security into account. But you can’t easily earn billions of cryptocurrencies from these projects unless you are Zooko (Zcash co-founder).
The above is closer to the infrastructure. In terms of application projects, the exchange Uniswap is one of my favorites this year. It makes the exchange between cryptocurrencies easier. It’s a purely decentralized application, easier to use than centralized applications.
Q: You have been trying to dilute your influence on Ethereum. Are you worried that your withdrawal will weaken the competitiveness of Ethereum?
Vitalik: It’s quite possible that a small group of people working on projects early in the project is necessary. But as the project matures, I feel that a more distributed, decentralized community architecture will become important.
To make Ethereum more and more decentralized, it is not necessary for me to leave or retreat, but to need more outstanding people to join, and assume the same important role as me.
Q: In addition to you, who else can decide the fate of Ethereum 2.0?
Vitalik: The decision-making process of Ethereum 2.0 is relatively concentrated. Most are determined by 3-5 core people: myself, Danny, Justin, Hsiao-wei, Dankrad (all core developers of Ethereum).
The decision-making process of Ethereum 1.0 is more open because it is a public chain that is already running. Ethereum 2.0 is also moving towards this stage.
Talk about the world
“If you have a lot of money, then you can master the absolute initiative. This is the biggest problem with anonymous quantitative voting in the mainstream of the blockchain. ”
Q: There is a view that the blockchain is in China, and everyone pays more attention to money than ideas and technologies. Do you agree? How do you see the difference in the development of blockchains in different countries?
Vitalik: In fact, the blockchain is similar in the United States and Asia, including China and East Asia. Because of the large number of VCs and investment funds, large projects can consume these funds to create products. This situation in Europe is not much. There is a non-profit hacker-culture spirit.
Of course, the United States and Europe have more similar places. Everyone emphasizes on ideas and technologies. The concepts include decentralization, open source, freedom, social welfare, etc. The technologies include consensus algorithms, zero-knowledge proof, and signature schemes. Asia is more concerned with cryptocurrencies, trading and mining.
But this situation has changed recently. The project center is concentrated in the academic circles of the United States and China. Independent research projects on privacy, fragmentation and other technologies have emerged in China and Asia. At the same time, the process of accepting blockchains is progressing steadily around the world.
Q: So the competition in the public chain will mainly occur between China and the United States?
Vitalik: I think it should be between the three, the United States, China, and Europe. There are also projects in Europe that are doing very well. For example, Tezos (a smart contract platform similar to Ethereum).
The members of the Ethereum Foundation are located in these three regions. If you consider Australia, it is the four major regions. We try to achieve geographic decentralization.
Q: There are social tensions and political crises in many countries around the world. Is the blockchain likely to change the existing political ecology? For example, many people think that it’s mechanism can be used to achieve organizational autonomy?
Vitalik: If you study economics, you will find that there are many problems with the current mainstream anonymous quant voting in the blockchain. The biggest problem is that if you have a lot of money, then you can master the absolute initiative. On the contrary, people who have no financial strength will not have the right to participate in decision-making. There are many examples in history where a company acquires and controls another company by acquiring a majority stake in that company.
I am also working with Dr. Glen Weyl to design a quadratic voting/funding to try to solve the many problems of anonymous quantitative voting.
Q: Is DAO (Decentralized Autonomous Organization) an attempt to autonomy this kind of organization? What is the current effect?
Vitalik: DAO is a very interesting topic. On one hand, I am very happy to see many DAO organizations’ attempts. They can do a lot of things that the general organization can’t do. However, the DAO organization’s implementation stage is not as magical as some people think. DAO is still at a very early stage.
For example, you can see MolochDao (a DAO project recently established to help raise funds for charity projects in Ethereum). Its existence is a good thing, but it did not solve the problem of the essential economic incentives. The most direct reason is why it is difficult for charitable projects to raise funds.
Unless there is a centralized organization, or everyone in the DAO organization makes their own decisions, each person can only get a small portion of the reward. Everyone has an incentive to participate. MolochDao now has $2-3 million in funding. The 3 million-value Ether (Ethernet) comes from donors who would have liked to contribute to the cause. There are also many projects that are very valuable to Ethereum, worth far more than $3 million.
Talk about yourself
“A good life is not only about what you have, but about what you have lost. ”
Q: After you have money, what is the most expensive thing you buy?
Vitalik: I won’t tell you (laughs).
Q: What would you do if you didn’t have Ethereum?
Vitalik: I would have gone deeper into the decentralized economy. See, like the quadratic voting/funding that I mentioned earlier, which I am very interested in except Ethereum.
If it rises to the social perspective, society actually needs innovation in governance. For example, large-scale group decision making can help solve problems through some tools. There is also some research on cryptography, which is not limited to applications in the blockchain.
In addition to cryptography and the economy, there are areas that I am interested in. For example, life-long research, projects that address poverty in the world, and more. Because I am not an expert in these fields, I can only support them through donations.
Q: Who is the person you admire the most in the blockchain world?
Vitalik: Outside of the Ethereum area, I respect Zoogo very much. He is not a “coin pumper” (a person who only cares about making money with cryptocurrencies) or a narrow extremist. He has a deep understanding of technology and society. Such people are few in the blockchain world. He is one of those few.
If you look at the number of people in the blockchain world, more than 70% of the founders of most cryptocurrencies are selling their own. But Zooko and I are quite similar. He is always discussing a wide range of interests. He even introduced me to a Twitter account that publishes the World War II summary every day.
I also like Tim Swanson. Although he is a critic, he is willing to communicate with the blockchain world and become friends with some of the people.
Q: Which book has the biggest impact on you?
Vitalik: A recent blogger, Slate star CodeX, has a lot of information. The feeling is like reading five books.
There is also The Elephant in the Brain by Robin Hason. The interesting thing about this book is that he discusses the complexity of human motivation.
For example, you may feel that the starting point for doing things yourself is to benefit the world or to make sense to society. But in the end you will find that the things you are doing that are good for the world are the things that make you rich and famous. Although we do one thing at the same time there are N kinds of motives, such as the welfare of all mankind, selfishness, subconscious motivation and so on. We also lie to ourselves and think that one of them (good motivation) is the real motivation for us to do this.
Q: What is the underlying theory you use to understand the world and make decisions?
Vitalik: I think that only one underlying theory is not enough. I will paint myself as a prisoner.
The philosopher Isaiah Berlin wrote a book, The Hedgehog and the Fox. The book titled a reference to the fragment of the ancient Greek poet Archilochus: “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows a big deal.”
Hedgehog has a grand theory (such as liberals, atheists) who are willing to extend these theories to many areas, enjoy their simplicity, and express their views with great confidence. On the other hand, the fox is skeptical about macro theory, not sensitive to predictions, and is prepared to adjust his ideas based on actual events. Philip Tetlock, a professor of organizational behavior, believes that foxes are better predictors than hedgehogs.
Q: What is the most important thing in your life besides creating Ethereum?
Vitalik: Maybe it’s all the text I wrote.
Q: If you can choose a person in history to interchange with, who would you choose?
Vitalik: I prefer to be close to the future and have a higher chance of survival – until we invent the technology that prolongs life and can live longer.
If it is the past, I still need to think about it. I am not sure that being a celebrity in history is a good idea. Celebrities don’t necessarily have the best life.
Q: What is a better life for you?
Vitalik: My opinion has changed a lot in the past few years. Ten years ago, what I would like to have was: famous, respected, and more money.
However, recently my thoughts have changed. Agood life is not only about what you have, but also about what you have lost.