Meeting with Vitalik Buterin. Q&A on Scale, personal spending and Country-Coins.
Yesterday i attended a meet-up in Israel 🇮🇱 with special guest Vitalik Buterin, the founder of Ethereum in a central bar of the city. Unlike Bitcoin we can put a face on top of one of the most successful and promising blockchain protocols. The event was packed and full of energy, desire to build something great, positive curiosity and admiration for the young man. He did a great favor to the israeli ecosystem coming over (and there is a week long, sold out, event next week in the prestigious Technion about Blockchain)
He’s a nice, tall (very tall), shy-at-first, discrete person, very articulate, and looks from another planet, including when, in the noise of the back-crowd, he pushes sudden strides (boo-hoo) to surprise people and lead them to quiet down.
I can’t say i understood everything he said but it was fascinating to see and meet and talk with one of the central figures of some of the most important industry revolution ever happened. I was like a kid meeting Mickey mouse at Disneyland.
He talked about his vision of current state of Ethereum (here the facebook live video i managed to shoot — sorry impossible to export).
Everyone wanted to ask question after his talk.
I was very interested in asking 3 questions directly. i asked 3 questions (ok. i may have abused my allowed quota of questions for a crowded meet up, but i could not resist). he kindly answered.
Question 1: What will it take for crypto currencies to break out to massive mainstream adoption?
I added that probably 10/20 million people on earth deal somehow with blockchain. That is a tiny fraction of the world connected population. (about 1 billion). So what is necessary for that to expand to hundreds of millions?
He started with a small joke saying that when people like Putin know what Bitcoin is and Paris Hilton endorse an ICO we’re already there :)
For Vitalik, and it makes sense, there need to be serious advancement in the ability to deal with scale and speed. Right now All protocols are too slow (a few minutes to mine a block), too expensive (a few dollars, thanks electricity and graphic card costs)to process. Hopefully coming forks and other advancements like sharding will help make that happen. From what i understood this won’t be before a good year all the key milestones are hit with various stages (Metropolis, Casper and Proof of Stake). And it makes sense: sending a transaction in ETH should be as fast if not faster than sending an email or a text message. This is not the case and large scale apps are not there yet. He also brought the notion that there needs to be serious advancement in cryptology and security so the ecosystem feels safer and anyone can consider the blockchain a trusted space for anyone, including new comers.
I personally believe that foundation layers improvement won’t be enough. Much better UX/UI and Dapps will also help in a second stage so mainstream users adopt blockchain powered services. But that’s that.
Question 2: Vitalik, how do you use and spend crypto-currencies on a day to day basis
Vitalik does spend Crytpos regularly. did not give indications of exact amount spent or range, but he did mention he does spend regularly thanks to a Payment Visa type Crypto-cards (i guess something like TenX or WireX or Xapo) for all sorts of things, he buys domains name on Namecheap, and even flight tickets on Cheap-o-Air (not so cheap as he said). I asked whether he was not concerned, like Fred Wilson who sees it more as a store of value nowadays (my view too), to spend virtual currencies that could be worth 10x or 100x more in the future vs spending cash. His answer made sense: if he does not spend in currency he would spend with fiat currencies that he would use anyway to buy cryptos. So no bad equation there. This means of course Vitalik is not spending all his savings on Crytpo, but that this is just a side spending :)
update: i wish i had the time to ask about his personal set-up and how he manages his currencies (eg what wallet(s))
Question 3: Are State owned Crypto-currencies going to be a thing?
Estonia will soon issue a state owned currency to all its residents. It would be a first. And Blockchain.com (one of the largest Crypto wallets) CEO Peter Smith recently predicted in a podcast that one of the top 10 Grossing GDP Countries will issue a successful nation-wide blockchain powered currency. Vitalik did not seem to be particularly excited or optimistic about it by that idea but recognized this is going to happen and that we’ll have to wait and see. One question i am asking myself is how this currency could be used and what for? I guess a token would be more useful to citizen for “societal” apps like voting, administrative tasks, registries rather than an alternative payment system. But the future will tell us…
update: i wish i had the time to ask him that if not for currency how he thinks government would use and leverage the blockchain in a close future.
Bonus: Israel, ICO craze and Crypto-economics
Just before Vitalik talked i asked him just before our picture if he believed, like me, that Israel could become soon a powerhouse in the Blockchain space. He seems to be very positive about it.
I also liked the fact he mentioned, like i did a few days ago, that those ICOs are a little nuts right now (he said that better) and that not every industry or business needs to be tokenized and that the excess need to calm down.
He took many many questions from the audience and was patiently answering all of them. The guy is a rockstar in the space. It’s hard to follow him but he’s ones of those guys that will remain in history like Sergey Brin, Bill Gates, Zuckerberg and Bezos. Maybe even more like Forbes, Keynes and Hobbes. Because blockchain won’t just impact the internet as we know it. It will impact all aspects of the economy and maybe even society. He actually clearly stated that the theme that was exciting him most was crypto-economics: the ability to run a trusted economy through cryptology and economic/gaming frameworks.
Don’t ask me too much to explain those things here, but I came out impressed and super excited
sidenote: he was wearing an OmiseGo T-shirt (he’s advising them). I guess this is a company we should track :)