excuse me, are you Vitalik Buterin?

where is your ethereum?

No, No don’t prejudge me as a fan-girl hopelessly besotted with Buterin, just because I wrote a series of “ besotted with blockchain…

Don’t think I don’t know how Vitalik looks, for I have seen!

Don’t be harsh and say I find Buterin in everyone and everything in Buterin!

(Cointelegraph’s article claiming to have spotted him at the football match in London yesterday doesn’t help my case either. Sigh! )

If I hadn’t seen Vitalik, you may well excuse me for confusing random good-looking men on London streets for Vitalik, but the men I encountered were neither good looking, nor bore any resemblance to Vitalik! Then why ask them, you may ask? No, I wasn’t hitting on them. :P

It was just my euphemism for “Do you think you are Vitalik Buterin? Then where is *your* ethereum?”

Don’t gloss over “ethereum” in above line, its not “ether” I meant. There may be people holding more ether than Vitalik Buterin, for that’s just the nature of “decentral”. Hello world, rejoice, we no longer live in the era of founder monopolies! (God may be the only ultimate monopoly. But, for everything else there is decentralisation to try!)

I’m sure you want to ask me why do I want to ask a man if he is Vitalik, knowing fully well he is not, nor can he be genetically close to even the cat on Vitalik’s rucksack? A question within a question … A circular question! hmm.. now we are getting close to ring signatures and homomorphic …

I’m sure you want to know, and I am going to tell you three stories in both short and long versions.

Story 1 :

So I return to London, having hosted Ethereum India Summit in Mumbai with Vitalik in May 17, images of the man still fresh in mind. I meet this guy I have seen around at meetups for a while. But, suddenly he is in his new avatar of an ICO consultant now, and wants to know what I am doing. I appraise him dutifully and he doesn’t get it. He argues with me why I am doing it, becoming unbecomingly aggressive. I tell him “ It doesn’t matter. Relax. I don’t have to explain it to everyone who doesn’t get it”. He walks away in a huff. “Are you Vitalik Buterin, to get everything a cat or human or alien has to say?”

Story 2:

No, the software you created with a “billion” transactions per day throughput that you claim is not a blockchain! If there was a way for a blockchain to do even a million transactions per day, Vitalik & co would have figured it. Are you Vitalik Buterin? Then show me your Ethereum, without me having to sign an NDA and waste my time only to find out that is a kind of VR game; where players pretend they are coding the next ethereum, and your clients pretend they are buying a blockchain solution that the world is yet to wake up to. You are not talking at a Blockchain conference where the speakers are as clueless as the audience and as those new crypto buyers in India. You are speaking to the Ms Khan, the one besotted with blockchain…, since 2015!

Story 3:

No, Tokens are NOT Ethereum’s Killer App! Are you Vitalik Buterin? Then show me your stuff that is better than Satoshi’s? I mean where’s your ethereum? I’d like to see it. (no pun intended)

Long form

Isn’t the crypto world on fire? Just like in any other tech revolution, we are seeing an influx of new talent. Publicists that make your script sound good. Technical advisers that pepper your white paper with high falutin arguments and abstract mathematical formulae. Sleek marketers that no industry can do without. You can rely on them to deliver a well-rehearsed pitch or an impromptu AMA (Ask me Anything) with equal élan. Branding guys with sleek logos. Is this still blockchain space, you wonder?

I thought geeks inhabited this world, who were generally incapable of anything but churning some obscure looking code. How wrong was I? Looks like we are losing control of the space.. In literally just a few months the landscape is transformed. Now littered with tall fair blondes doing PR, ICOs are looking more like investment bankers’ parties (straight from Wolf of Wall Street if you have not been a banker yourself nor read Liar’s Poker)! Okay, the bitcoin millionaires parties are as imaginative I hear from one person who attended BIP 17 and lived to tell the tale. I won’t trust him though till I have verified that he has attended a real life banker party in Champery or Kitzbuhel. Ace graphic designers demanding 9% of a token issuance for doing graphics. Ofcourse, how could an ICO succeed without their compelling creativity! For a successful ICO, you are looking at a USD5 million for just coming up with a few graphics? Some pricing that! Not for nothing, they call London the creative capital. An ICO may well compare with a “Scream” in valuation. Well, that’s not too far-fetched because when Scream — the painting went under the hammer, I recall it’s valuation had been the same as that of Linkedin! At that time, I had consoled myself that if I don’t manage to ever create a Tech titan unicorn, I am still hedged. As an artist I still have my most idle years and decades ahead of me, and I could still do a “Scream” in my twilight years! So who are we to undervalue the creativity that goes into the unique positioning of ICOs?

The marketers and the advisers pitching for my business told me, no one would offer to work with me on an ICO if didn’t offer them tokens. I sheepishly offered — “But, but what if I have money to pay. Can’t I pay fiat? Ofcourse, you were charging fiat for these services earlier — I mean services like logo design, brochure design..?” My pleas had one sharp repartee “My Dear, the times they are-a-changing…!” I tried no more negotiation, and in my spontaneous creative spark figured I simply had to go look for a designer that was still ignorant of the ICOs but smart enough to design for one!

That’s a lot of influx of great new talent. Then, what is my problem?

That the number of blockchain experts has stayed the same — a constant maybe, while of those claiming to be one has increased, and the newly minted self-proclaimed experts are clueless. Now, how do I know that? Sometimes I imagine myself to be the cat on Vitalik’s rucksack, that’s how.

Story 1:

Sample a case of ICO hubris. The clueless guy you used to meet at meetups is now a Partner at X Capital (no they are not investing but are offering services to market your ICO and taking tokens in exchange). Almost everyone who was jobless earlier now has a visiting card with some “CAPITAL” and is working with ICOs. In all honesty, I had been waiting to get acquainted with the ICO marketing company so I was pleasantly surprised that this chap is now a Partner at that company. I was relieved about one less introduction I had to work for. He asks me about my idea and I explain. After a few minutes, he is almost angry at me about how I came up with this idea. He could understand Melonport trying to disrupt the asset management industry, but how could I come up with something he had not yet heard of? How could Himalaya Labs think of disrupting the capital markets? I thought he was keen to educate himself, so I offered — “Just as the asset management industry operates in secondary markets, banks play a role in primary markets issuance so there is similar scope for decentralisation-driven benefits”. No, that did not help. I asked him if he has worked in banking before. Now he started taking on an aggressive tone saying of course he has, and how dare I talk that way. Now I was confused whether he was vexed with his inability to grasp the idea or if it was more an indignant shock at how I came up with this big of a deal? I further explained that the issuance of securities can now be automated with blockchain as a simple use case. He said the corporates can do it themselves, why do they need your platform? Is it not inefficient for every company to create a security issuance platform on blockchain and find their own investors, I countered. He was visibly flustered. At which point I realised my life did not depend on converting every unbeliever, and that the market which would understand the proposition was quite large. After all, we are living in times of decentralisation! He left in a huff slighted by my insinuation of his dispensability. The real problem — I had discounted him as an inert pillar that stood still, and now he was claiming new respectability as an ICO expert and I wouldn’t give him any.

My friends who saw him getting upset came up to me and asked me if I was alright. To add to the drama, he meets me a week later at a conference and apologises to me for his behaviour! hmm.. I’m a teetotaller, so it had completely slipped me that others may not be. :P

so — hey, are you Vitalik Buterin? No, I don’t think so. So, politely disappear from my view if I don't pay you any attention.

Story 2:

The other day I went to meet a company. I respectfully pointed out that they had claimed to provide a million transactions per day an year ago, and I was curious to learn of their progress. The CEO corrected me with a visible glee — Now it is a billion transactions, not a million per day! My mind resisted — That happens only in the IT software world of Infosys, TCS and Oracle, not in blockchain? So I naturally wanted to see what that “Blockchain” looked like — that had eluded the geniuses of cryptosphere! I asked him what protocol was it built on. The CEO was quick to enlighten me “The only folks that open source is of interest to is thieves! Tell me, who does open source? to open it up to thieves? Surely, you don’t want a bunch of hackers to make away with your “source”?” the word thieves prying open my source and making away with my code cracked me up! Still I looked on curiously, greedy to get a glimpse of this genius invention that had escaped the scrutiny and attention of terabyte processing power of some other minds I know!

The CEO offered -“ No, the closest thing you can hope to get from us is an offer to sign an NDA”! I mentally completed his sentence “if you are lucky…”

Now I was convinced of the might of this contraption that was lurking at a City office in London, that the world had not yet woken up to with a jolt! My immediate reflex was to warn Vitalik “hey, someone has dethroned you from your position of King of Crypto. You just don’t know it yet!” :P

Would I .. umm.. perhaps be able to get a glimpse of this technology?

Is it anything like DPOS, does it use state channels, or perhaps interledger maybe? My questions gushed forth in a quick flurry! All I got back was another of those smug expressions, which by now were irritating and infuriating me in equal parts — “you see, in inter ledger when you send a transaction and it doesn’t reach the other node , where does it go? It can get lost! But in our “blockchain”, the status of our sender node doesn’t get updated until the receiver node has updated it.” hmm.. if it is a blockchain why don’t they show the code and why can’t he tell me if it is POS or something else… I left with many questions, but one certain answer that I definitely didn’t want to be that lucky to sign his NDA and learn what a VR game of a contraption he had built, with coders pretending they had built an ethereum and his gullible buyers who were exchanges and other financial services players pretending they had downloaded a “blockchain”! Then it struck me, what do they care if it is a blockchain or a pretender. All they care about is perhaps issuing a press release that they are also on “blockchain”! I must admit, the guy was atleast not dumb enough to show his technology and give irrefutable proof that it was a VR game!

So, there I go again “excuse me, are you Vitalik Buterin? If so, why are you hiding? and where is your ethereum?”

I promised myself I would never run into that asylum residee even by accident ever again. Then it occured to me, in life I can’t write myself a smart contract like that! :P hmm… look at me troll someone who could be the Satoshi in hiding?!

Story 3:

Then I found myself at a celebration of another ICO which has been phenomenally successful.

I found it interesting, and spent time attending every single presentation even though it was a repetition to various groups.

They had a well-crafted sales pitch which was delivered to perfection.

One such claim in the pitch was that the promise of decentralisation has not been realised by any of the big alliances. To add to it, the spokesperson said Ethereum’s killer app is token sales. That got to me. Having raised an unparliamentary amount of ether for their own token sale, it occurred to me as uncivil hypocrisy which I had to counter.

So I first complimented them on their general illustration of decentralisation which I thought was beautiful. Money raised at ICO was not all a waste. I was encouraged.

Then they asked for this monologue, which I delivered in public!

“ Firstly, an alliance is formed when some entities come together to serve a common purpose, and they have in their discretion and judgment decided Ethereum is the only infrastructure they can build on and the best choice among the available alternatives, and formed an alliance around it. Tomorrow there can be a litecoin alliance or a Robber Coin alliance. Litecoin or Vitalik have no more control over what these so alliances or clubs do and can’t be held responsible for their actions or inactions. A Foundation has nothing to do with an Alliance. Infact, what these alliances can or cannot do is neither a justification nor lack of justification for what the technology itself can do. So you cannot equate the alliance’s actions with the technology’s capabilities.

Secondly, Ethereum is a base architecture that enables the future possibilities in blockchain. We certainly cannot control which entities will use the platform how. We certainly cannot rely on big institutions or members of alliances to come up with solutions that put the benefits of decentralisation into the hands of public. Each actor maximises his own self-interest. It is for entrepreneurs and innovators like you and me to aspire for and achieve decentralisation. Tokens are a promise of decentralised applications of tomorrow. Tokens enable these dreams to be realised, including yours — haven’t youraised a ton of money on Ethereum’s ERC 20 token yourself?

Thirdly, you claim bitcoin is limited by 3 tps and ethereum by 20 tps and that your technology is superior. We know that ethereum is tested and we know exactly what kind of applications run on it. May I please know your tps? and what if I may ask, is this promise based on? Is it tested, and what kind of applications have been tested — are they simple or complex?

There are other arguments — which I made at a different interaction. That ethereum also has network effects that anyone claiming to have a superior technology has yet to build.

Calling Token sales the killer app of Ethereum is far-fetched and unfair, after doing your own token sale on ethereum!

So, for one last time — excuse me, are you Vitalik Buterin? Where are you hiding?.. I mean your ethereum! :P

BTW, all the three are true stories and not fictitious, including Vitalik deciphering his cat’s dreams. I attended a London conference last week where I actually pitched the idea. People got it in less than 5 minutes without difficulty, including those who are not from the banking background, and even marvelled at how each of the banks was going after a limited use case, while I was. The smarter ones of course concurred that this is the holy grail of investment banks and there is a lot at stake if I succeed in building the platform. Of course, I also published my idea and had it reviewed by some friends who are reputed asset managers. Dr Emin Gun Sirer of Cornell was kind enough to review it in a day and provide useful comments. None of the reviewers disagreed with the central idea of decentralisation delivering benefits for issuers and investors. Afterall, how could they argue with Ms Khan, the one besotted with blockchain?

beware, she may just ask you “excuse me, are you Vitalik Buterin?”