What is Ethereum
Computer code runs on physical machines which process it. It has always been like that and it will also always be so in the future.
We as normal people have code run for us either on our devices or in the cloud. Cloud doesn’t actually exist, what is called cloud are just machines nicely abstracted away so we don’t have to deal with them. This structure has worked more or less ok so far and will also work in the future.
There is however a new system coming up which won’t outright replace the old one, but at points where it makes sense it will. We are not yet completely sure exactly what these aspects that would work better in the new way are, but there is a strong consensus among forward looking researchers and thinkers that change will come because it is natural. First it will come slowly, then faster and faster. Some won’t notice it, some will, maybe some already have. Building blocks for this new technology are already in place and for the next 50 years there will be a ton of work required to realize its fullest potential.
So what exactly is the new paradigm shift? The similarity is that code still runs on machines and the difference is that nobody can influence or change the code once it’s inside the New World Virtual (is there any non-virtual?) Computer. This is currently not the case: the code in the cloud is a) hidden b) cannot be trusted in mathematical sense — if someone that controls the machines manipulates it in any way, you wouldn’t know.
How has it started? Vitalik Buterin was 19 at the time he got the seed of the idea. He is 22 now (in 2016) and the seed had become a fast evolving billion dollar (or much more) entity already. Vitalik and the team are just starting, that is for sure a̶l̶t̶h̶o̶u̶g̶h̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶h̶a̶r̶d̶e̶s̶t̶ ̶a̶n̶d̶ ̶m̶o̶s̶t̶ ̶r̶i̶s̶k̶y̶ ̶w̶o̶r̶k̶ ̶i̶s̶ ̶n̶o̶w̶ ̶b̶e̶h̶i̶n̶d̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶m̶ and they still have to bust through a couple of dimensions (eg. scale to 1m TPS via sharding stacked on top of sharding run on top of a security deposit-based PoS backbone).
Bitcoin will probably fade in importance (or it already has when you read this — very likely) and people that predicted this might have been right but for all the wrong reasons (except those who predicted it after 2013/14). Bitcoin seeded the crucial innovation that some other projects picked upon and extended much further. While Bitcoin was invented for trustless finance, Ethereum is a general platform for trustless computing.
Experts predict that fairly soon we’ll move to a world in which a critical mass of people maintain a wallet with at least a few hundred dollars worth of cryptocurrency, facilitating Ethereum’s rapid integration into the real economy.
Ethereum is like life or the universe — you cannot fully understand it all at once at the same time. You only see glimpses into it depending on how well you look — into present or future.
At the end Ethereum is an incredible, never-seen-before computer, but on the other hand it’s just a computer. It is not intelligent in the traditional sense and will never be artificially intelligent. With our help it can be naturally intelligent and in sync with our needs and desires.
Who will develop applications for Ethereum?
This is not a traditional goldrush anymore, it’s more than that. It’s selfless development of cool stuff that can benefit whoever understands it. Small gold rushes come and go like they have since forever. To build something on Ethereum that just works and can sustain itself is a different task than builing a mobile app that pays for itself somehow or becomes free after some time. There is no free things on Ethereum. Code execution needs gas which is an internal currency for an unit of computation bought with Ether before each code execution request in the blockchain.
Only things that really deserve to be executed in this manner will be. Most of other things that don’t have to will work fine as they do now. Ethereum is even more interesting because it is not something entirely new separate from current technology and reality but one of the final pieces in computing. I said pieces because “everything else” is built from these pieces. Now more and more things will be built purely with code that has to make sure it always possesses enough resources to continue executing, if not, it stops for some time or forever.
Virtual reality is a big concept but is also fifty years old, it will explode in current years because the world (processing) around it matured enough so that it can live. Ethereum is not fifty years old, but two or three (in 2016) and is the slowest computer on Earth. By design.