Vitalik’s Quantum Conundrum

Vitalik Buterin, a russian programmer and co-founder of Ethereum, is the vocal leader of the ETH project. With such visibility, scrutiny is inevitable. What is starting to emerge from Vitalik’s past is not very encouraging.

Before ETH, Vitalik was interested in mining for Bitcoin. So much so, that he decided the only way to make any decent money would be to pursue the rather arcane method of simulating a quantum computer.

In other words, he wanted to simulate the massively parallel and simultaneous-states that quantum mechanics are known for, but utilizing what is termed mathematically as “solving NP-Complete problems in Polynomial time”.

NP-Complete is a mouthful, but it describes a large array of problems that can be solved in “feasible” or “fast” time constraints. (Ref: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time_complexity#Polynomial_time)

One such problem is something Amazon or UPS goes through, packing random objects into the minimum amount of boxes needed to ship them. It is a whole other order of magnitude to attempt solving the cryptographic puzzle required of Bitcoin hashes.

This didn’t stop Vitalk, however. He pursued his ambition to simulate a quantum computer and convinced people to invest in it. This strikes some eerie parallels to his current project, Ethereum. ETH regularly has “roadshows” where they tout the advantages and then pass the hat for investor interest.

When asked on a popular forum about his estimate of succeeding at the endeavor, Vitalik had this to say:

“10% at most. It was a project that seemed worthwhile even at a 1% chance of success because the benefits of practical quantum computing were so massive. I now admit that I greatly overestimated even that 1–10% figure.”

(Ref: https://www.reddit.com/r/ethereum/comments/685jvs/a_question_on_quantum_mining_for_vitalik_buterin/)

So, for a probability of 90% failure, (and by his own admission, over-estimated, so perhaps closer to 99%), Vitalik had no qualms about asking people to hand over money and invest in his idea.

This should give every ETH investor pause. Or at the very least, some stomach problems.

If ETH’s self-appointed head developer and prominent leader of the project engages in such blatant deception, what else is lurking beneath the surface? I’d rather not speculate, but at this time there are some interesting stories emerging from the ETH ecosystem.

GDAX, the Coinbase owned exchange, had a large sell order go through last night. Around ~100,000 ETH were sold, blowing through the order book until the low was hit around $13 USD. Yes, that is the right price — not a misprint.

(GDAX regained some of its composure and the price snapped back, but this is like the small earthquake before the “big one” hits.)

Feel free to look up ETH/USD on Tradingview, just make sure you select the Coinbase listed pair. That ugly low was the product of a misconfiguration of an ICO launched on the Ethereum network.

But market crashes aside, Vitalik’s pet project has the outward veneer of the eye-popping post dot-com VC success story, but there are cracks showing in the facade.

One of the overhanging risks is the potential of a SEC investigation of such ICO’s (Initial Coin Offering). Another is the large blocksize and short confirm times creating a storage nightmare — ETH has already eclipsed Bitcoin’s storage requirements and is on track to exceed 1 Terabyte (1,000GB+) later this year.

It all has the hallmarks of someone pushing a project that isn’t ready, isn’t scaling well, and essentially has been shoved out the door in order to maximize profit potential.

Much like trying to finance a simulated Quantum Computer, Vitalik may have finally bitten off a problem that may not be solved in a “feasible” amount of time.

And his investors and believers are the ones that will be paying the price.