Vitalik Buterin Shares State of Ethereum, Blockchain’s Future & Google Job
In The Thoughts Of Vitalik Buterin – The State Of Ethereum, The Future Of Blockchain, And Google's Attempts To Hire him
One of the earliest stories told about Vitalik Buterin, the long-revered creator of Ethereum, was during his time working as a programmer. When working one night, the database was subject to a series of hacking attempts, which threw members of the team into a panic. But with the report from one team member that ‘Vitalik is on it', what was once a forum in anarchy, suddenly settled into a relaxed regularity.
This goes to demonstrate with what skill Buterin developed Ethereum and continues to be an active presence within the blockchain world. During an event hosted by Berkeley University's student-run organization, ‘Blockchain at Berkeley', Buterin shared a number of his thoughts regarding the state of Ethereum, and the future of blockchain technology to a small, but highly attentive congregation.
Among his experiences, Buterin's fireside chat with Jason Hsu, Software Engineer and ‘Crypto Congressman', according to Buterin, provided insights into major topics currently facing the crypto community.
“The reason why I hosted the panel with Vitalik is that I believe the industry needs a correction of course, as too much money comes too quickly. I feel too much focus is on the price of crypto and not on executions of projects. I’ve got to know Vitalik for over a year and see him as guardian of Ethereum.”
The conversation also shed light onto the reason for Buterin's obscure new title for Jason Hsu.
“In fact he gave me the nickname “Crypto Congressman,” which now becomes my mandate in Taiwan’s Parliament. I invited Vitalik for a deep conversation to express his concern and give an update on the development of Ethereum. It’s important to think the force driving cryptocurrency shouldn’t just be money-seeking, but rather we should think how blockchain technology will bring about a fundamental shift in the way our trust system is built, Hsu told me.”
While the conversation with Vitalik was just about to begin, Buterin made it clear that there were a number of aspects that he was focusing on with regard to the Ethereum blokchain, most notably, with its ongoing issues with scaling.
“Recently, I am spending a lot of time working on the proof-of-stake and sharding protocols. This is what the Ethereum research community is focusing on more than anything else at this point.”
The twin issues of scaling and sharding have seen a number of Ethereum Improvement Protocols developed by the community, hit the metaphorical desk both in July and through 2018 as proposed solutions.
Buterin commended the community on its support and commitment in finding solutions to these pressing issues.
“We think that proof-of-stake and scaling are both really important and there has been a lot of progress on improving the algorithms and the development of multiple limitations over the last couple of months.”
One of the other pressing matters which coincides with the current limitations caused by scaling is the issue of transaction fees, something that has come up consistently for a number of developers using the Ethereum blockchain, most notably CryptoKitties.
“I’ve also been looking at the economic analysis of transaction fees and how transaction fee algorithms can be improved to basically cut fees down and make the protocol alignment centers better and more efficient. Those are the main things I’ve been working on myself.”
While there remains a certain amount of friction in gaining momentum around it, Buterin reacted with a great deal of optimism when asked about the Casper protocol.
“I think that there has been a lot of frameworks for state channels coming out recently. The Casper protocol is getting much closer to being finalized at this point. It’s just pending review on academic analysis,” Buterin noted.
Thinking About The Future – Blockchain
While blockchain has enjoyed a remarkable amount of airtime from media outlets, including a spectacular volume of investment for startups using it. One of the biggest problems that it faces is the very real disparity between theoretical and practical application, with the amount of hype-generated uses being far higher than tangible use cases.
“The amount of sustainable usage of blockchain is very low. Although it exists, there are a lot of people giving value to cryptocurrencies, yet the amount of useful stuff happening is still much lower than the $200 billion market cap makes it seem. The main challenge for the industry as I see it is basically understanding how to bridge that gap and get to the point where there is $200 billion in some sense of actual final value being generated.”
While blockchain has obtained a significant amount of press as being a step up for users in terms of security, Buterin reiterates that preserving privacy is something that blockchain has to deal with too.
“Currently, there are no good ways to use blockchain while preserving privacy. There have been good efforts to solve this using Zcash for example, along with research on top of Ethereum. However, there is still a way to go in terms of preserving privacy on the blockchain.”
Blockchain – Talking About My Regulation
The matter of regulations is something that won't be going away anytime soon, but with each country having their own take on it, it certainly paints a biographical portrait of what each country thinks of blockchain.
Two juxtaposed stances appear to be the United States, which still struggles with finding a clear, legalistic description of blockchain and the various cryptocurrencies that come with it. Meanwhile, Malta has been taking the space by storm with its firm but fair approach, attracting major names like Binance.
Buterin, when asked about regulation, stated that countries should be passing regulatory policy which, while assuring the security of users, should be working towards incentivizing the small-scale use of cryptocurrencies.
“I want to be able to walk into a convenience store, get a card and pay a small fee to start using Bitcoin Cash. Allowing people to use small amounts of cryptocurrency for everyday use is valuable within crypto, and also particularly for use cases of blockchain that go beyond crypto. Even non-financial blockchain use cases still require transaction fees. If we can reduce this friction with one trip to the convenience store, it would be simple to start using cryptocurrency.”
The first step for governments to take on a more friendly approach towards blockchain, which necessitates an understanding of the significance of blockchain for the future.
“One simple use case would be to design national ID cards to sign digital signatures. Another more far-fetched example would be state-issued cryptocurrencies. This would be an interesting way for small counties to put themselves on the map and provide some economic power in the world economy.
Also, on the regulatory side, cryptocurrency exchanges, project fundraising, etc. need to have crypto-friendly regulations. Most importantly, encouraging a strong academic ecosystem is also needed for governments looking to pass regulations.”
A Moment Of Reflection – The State Of Ethereum
There has never really been a dull or news-light moment for Blockchain as an area, but where the amount of buzz, hype, and speculation around blockchain has never really ceased, there's a lot of curiosity surrounding Ethereum, especially now as we see its overall price fall to a year-low in spite of the constant positive attention.
While Ethereum still dominates the world of smart contracts, and serving as the blockchain of choice for companies looking to start up an Initial Coin Offering, Buterin argues that the concept of an ICO is becoming ‘old and boring'.
Upon reflection, Buterin expresses a significant amount of satisfaction when it comes to the ongoing progress within Ethereum. Particularly, he was satisfied with the progress of both the state and plasma channels.
When it came down to the issue of scalability, Buterin stated that the Ethereum Foundation is currently in the process of authorizing scalable properties, and reaching higher levels of consensus. While the movement toward completing these objectives have been slower than previously anticipated, Buterin points out that this was considered, to him, far better progress than what was possible five years earlier.
“I am seriously looking forward to when the cryptocurrency community basically passes away with proof-of-work.”
Being On The Shortlist – Google Trying To Hire Buterin
While a great volume of highly analytical discussions were held during the extent of the talk with the Berkeley hosted talk, Buterin managed to end the conversations on a very humorous note. One of the best notes being on the time when Google made a concerted effort to hire Buterin for some undisclosed reasons.
“There were rumors a few months ago that Google wanted to hire you. I take it you are in town for your job interview,” Hsu asked Buterin in a comical inquiry.
“I hope we all realize that this was a joke. Some random HR person from Google emailed me, most likely because some machine-learning algorithm analyzed my GitHub and saw that I had some high score in the international Olympiad. Apparently, I fit the blueprints as a great candidate to hire at an intern salary.”