In 2021, TIME Magazine elected Vitalik Buterin, founder of ETH, one of the 100 most influential people in the world. Now, he was on the cover of one of the issues of the magazine that called him the “prince of cryptocurrencies”.
In a long and detailed article, the magazine tells the trajectory of Buterin from before the creation of the network that hosts the second largest cryptocurrency in market value, Ether, to the present day.
The publication defines Buterin as “ironically funny and almost entirely devoid of pretense or ego”; a “thinker of everything, fluent in disciplines ranging from sociological theory to advanced calculus and the history of land tax”.
The report also highlights Buterin’s concerns about the future of ETH and cryptocurrencies in general.
Concern about misuse of cryptocurrencies
For the 28-year-old programmer, crypto technology should be used for the purposes of sociopolitical experimentation. This includes fairer voting systems, urban planning, universal basic income and public works projects.
Furthermore, he sees cryptocurrencies as a form of liberation from authoritarian governments and Silicon Valley domination.
However, digital assets are being used instead for speculation, money laundering, tax evasion, scams and wealth demonstration.
“The danger is that you have these $3 million monkeys and it becomes a different kind of game,” he said, referring to the Bored Ape Yacht Club collection of NFTs. “There are definitely a lot of people who are just buying yachts and Lambos. [Lamborghinis].”
Buterin recognizes that his vision for ETH is in danger of being overtaken by greed. Thus, he had to abandon neutrality and be more risky in his speeches:
“If we don’t exercise our voice, the only things that get built are the ones that are immediately profitable. And those are often far from what is really best for the world.”
Use of Cryptocurrencies in War
Since it purposely lacks the ability to prevent ETH from veering off course – as the platform is decentralized – Buterin is limited to blogging, attending conferences, giving interviews, and conducting research:
“I’ve been screaming a lot, and sometimes that scream seems to howl against the wind,” he says.
Recently, Buterin spoke publicly about the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, the region where he was born. He condemned Vladimir Putin’s attacks and said the act was a “crime against the Ukrainian and Russian people”. In addition, he joined the global wave and donated thousands of dollars in aid to Ukraine.
Despite the terrible impact of the war, he pondered one “positive” aspect:
“One positive aspect of the situation over the past three weeks is that it has reminded a lot of people in the crypto space that, ultimately, the purpose of crypto space is not to play games with million dollar ape figures, it is to do things that have effects. significant in the real world,” Buterin wrote in an email to TIME on March 14.
Buterin further said that he would rather ETH offend some people than turn into something that means nothing.
Future of cryptocurrencies
Finally, on the future of cryptocurrencies, Buterin fears that dictatorial governments will use crypto. For him, the worst case scenario is that blockchain technology ends up being concentrated in the hands of dictatorial governments. Therefore, he strongly advocates the decentralization of cryptocurrencies right now.
According to Buterin, crypto technology is the most powerful equalizer against surveillance deployed by governments and corporations.
“I would love to have an ecosystem that has a lot of good freaks and bad freaks. The bad madness is when there’s just huge amounts of money being drained and all it’s doing is subsidizing the hacking industry. Good madness is when there’s tech work, research and development, and public goods coming out the other side. So there’s this battle. And we have to be intentional and make sure more of the right things happen.”