Ethereum Co-Founder Vitalik Buterin was live from New York on Wednesday night. He was spotlighted in a live-stream interview with Laura Shin for the crypto journalist’s Unchained podcast, a sold-out event that was held at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism.
Buterin remained diplomatic with his responses, even inserting bits of humor and moxie where appropriate. The blockchain pioneer fielded questions on everything from the Ethereum (ETH) price to regulation to ICOs to Satoshi Nakamoto.
Buterin was candid about the importance of the ETH price, tipping his hand to the logic behind “some of the earlier rhetoric…veering on the more extreme side of price not mattering at all,” saying:
“In part, it was counter-signaling to distinguish [Ethereum] from other crypto projects that do pumping and lambo-ing way too much. But also it was about minimizing the legal risk by basically trying to make the project seem more distant from something that would be covered by financial regulation.” *
By now regulators know what cryptocurrency is and understand that coins have a price attached that fluctuates. They understand the blockchain and that developers can build applications on these networks, which can add a great deal of value to people’s lives.
“Even if people try to claim the price doesn’t matter at all, [regulators] are totally going to see through that,” said Buterin.
In fact, achieving consensus hinges on ETH having value attached.
“I can tell you what things are clearly important about why the price being higher rather than lower is good. One of them is obviously security. If the price is zero, then the network can’t be secure. That’s true in proof-of-work and proof-of-stake,” he said.
The second reason he gave was the many blockchain projects in the Ethereum ecosystem that hold much of their funds in cryptocurrency.
“If the price is higher, they’ll have more money to do the things they want to do…They’ll be better funded if the price goes up.”
Of course, there will always be the “maximalists” who hold crypto for the very purpose of the price going up. And there are members of the ETH community who “want it to be more of a cryptocurrency,” said Buterin, adding that the “Ethereum Foundation doesn’t have a monopoly on messaging” and “if that’s a direction other groups are going to promote, there’s not much we can do.”
Unchained’s Shin then polled the audience about whether Ethereum developers are paying enough attention to the price of ETH, more than one-third of whom responded that they don’t care.
Buterin didn’t disagree that much of Ethereum’s success came as a result of the platform being a “launchpad for the ICO craze,” the latter of which has since fizzled amid a regulatory crackdown. Buterin maintains, however, that ICOs would have found a way with or without Ethereum’s help, saying:
“To some extent, though, ICOs are something that was going to happen on some platform regardless of what platform it ultimately was.”
One thing he did take issue with was scams.
“Projects that were just scammy, projects [where] marketing was just way over the top and excessive. Projects that would run up beside me, take a selfie, run away and claim that I took it,”
Some of those projects would perpetuate the lie and claim that he was an advisor.
“Those are definitely very unfortunate things. If there were a magic wand that could have shut them all down, that probably would have been better. But magic wands don’t exist,” said Buterin.
In a Q&A Session, Buterin was asked if he could go back in time, what advice would he give Satoshi Nakamoto? This is where his playful side showed, with Buterin saying he would tell the Bitcoin creator to visit a GitHub link for the specs and build Ethereum 2.0. He also gave credit where credit was due, saying:
“Satoshi had a really hard job and could not have predicted which way the ecosystem would have went, [that it ] would have turned into something more than a science experiment.”
Disclaimer: Vitalik’s quotes are approximate translations from a live-streamed event.