Vitalik Buterin, one of the originals in the Bitcoin media space as the co-founder of Bitcoin Magazine, and the creator of Ethereum, conducted an Ask Me Anything on Bitcoin-centric Q&A site ZapChain recently in order to answer questions by the community at large.
The majority of questions asked were in relation to Ethereum, and one of the most important things that Buterin said was this:
Now, one of the misconceptions that there are around ethereum is that it’s a currency and the whole point is to speculate on it just like any other ****coin. That’s not true; the “currency” is just there for plumbing.
Here follows some of the most notable answers given, especially regarding Ethereum.
Regarding the Future of Cryptocurrency
Bitcoin works decently well as digital gold (basically, a weird sui generis asset class that will maintain equal salience in society and thus grow at the same rate as GDP in the very long term but hopefully be countercyclical), but as far as payment protocols go I’m inclined to believe that existing systems will continue to be replaced by better and better technology, and the platform that wins will be the platform that manages to guarantee maximal agility to continued innovation.
On Why Decentralized Infrastructure is Superior
I think decentralization is particularly valuable for what I call “base layer” services: stuff that everything else relies on. Identity is a great example; I think that the current regime of having to “sign in with Google/Twitter/Facebook” to everything is simply insane, and have even made the point that if this continues 10 years from now it may be harder to change identity providers than it is to change countries.
Also read: Cryptocurrency BURST Makes Smart Contracts a Reality, What Happened to Ethereum?
On Why He Chose Not to Build on Bitcoin Core
Originally, back in Nov 2013, Ethereum was meant to be a metacoin (like MSC, XCP), and I actually chose to build it on top of Primecoin and not Bitcoin because the Bitcoin core devs were on a rampage against meta-protocols at the time with the limitation of OP_RETURN to 40 bytes and other similar events and I wanted to step away from those issues; they certainly would not have been interested in me trying to add general-state scripting to the Bitcoin protocol.
He also enclosed this screenshot of the Mist, the forthcoming Ethereum client:
I have not yet seen from Maidsafe a good answer for what happens when one of these “close groups” fails (eg. 5 nodes disappear, 28 of 32 nodes get bribed, etc). I would consider a system that doesn’t answer that problem hopelessly fragile, and likely in practice to eventually break and not be able to recover. Now if Maidsafe does come up with a good answer to the problem (or if they already have), I will be quite glad to change my opinion; though I suspect they’ll end up reinventing my fallback schemes and challenge lottery mechanisms.
I support the classical-liberal ideas in favor of free trade, individual freedom in personal and economic spheres, the preference for maximum decentralization in decision-making, anti-militarism, anti-nationalism, distaste for many of the modern moral crusades, etc, but not applying the principles in a doctrinaire way and being willing to go against them when evidence suggests that that is the right decision – for example I fully support carbon taxes, think the US federal gas tax should have been increased by 3x back when the oil price was dropping, support Singapore-style road taxes, am fine with environmental regulation (though I strongly prefer Pigovian systems over anything of the form “you can’t do X, Y and Z”), and am fine with welfare programs. I really like land value tax. […]
I think that one thing that needs to be taught much more in schools is what I would call “competitive epistemology”: how do you learn the truth when you are receiving information from a large number of sources, all of which have their own incentives and some of which are actively trying to screw you over? You can think of this as being kind of like “critical thinking” but on steroids and with a lot more Bayesian math and signalling [sic] theory involved. […]
I believe that we are fast entering a world where citizenship is nothing more than an arbitrary label – but then, I’m interested in the question: what replaces it?
The virtual press conference, as it were, had the effect of illuminating a lot of questions people had previously had about Ethereum. To read the full AMA and ask your own questions of this cryptocurrency visionary, go here.
Images courtesy of Shutterstock and Ethereum.