EP 51 -Vitalik Buterin on SBF, AI fears, what crypto needs and more

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When people ask about “dream guests”, Vitalik Buterin has always been on the list. His role in Ethereum is well-known but he’s a deep thinker across a broad range of topics.

This conversation didn’t disappoint: from Vitalik’s recap of the last year, his thoughts on Sam Bankman-Fried, his thoughts on AI safety, Elon and Twitter, zk-SNARKS and more. And oh, how he hides in plain sight often. Vitalik was generous in this conversation and it didn’t disappoint. Enjoy!

Section Titles

  • Vitalik’s Lessons—Good, Bad, and Ugly—Learned since the Merge – 1:41

  • Ethereum’s Slow Shift from the Abstract to the Practical – 4:22

  • Do more Features Detract from ETH’s General Purpose? – 5:39

  • Stack Ranking Privacy, Security, and Scalability – 6:50

  • On the Problem with Fees and Vitalik’s Goal for ETH Fees – 8:35

  • The Importance of the Values in the Crypto Ecosystem – 10:15

  • On FTX and SBF – 12:30

  • Vitalik’s Thoughts on Financialization – 15:46

  • The Intersection of Capitalism and Token Holder Governance – 16:45

  • Vitalik’s Thoughts on NFTs – 17:35

  • Given his stature in Crypto, does Vitalik feel pressure/act differently? – 25:04

  • Vitalik’s Theory on his Hats – 25:59

  • On Grifters and Con Artists – 26:25

  • One Thing that most people don’t know about Vitalik – 31:02

  • Learnings and Lessons from the Ethereum Foundation – 32:31

  • Vitalik’s Thoughts on Elon’s & Twitter – 37:52

  • On Verification and Blue Checks – 40:54

  • What would Vitalik do if he was in charge of Twitter? – 45:20

  • Vitalik on AI – 47:57

  • On Regulation and Innovation – 56:53

  • What is the future for zk-SNARKS? – 1:00:00

  • When is Vitalik’s job done? – 1:05:02

Notable Quotes

  • “If you listen to presentations I gave back from 2015 or 2016, I was talking about the same things I’m talking about now. For instance, the importance of proof of stake, scalability, and privacy. I recently dug up  a presentation I gave in Taipei in 2017. And one of the slides said, the top three problems of Ethereum are our scalability, privacy, and wallet security. The core topics for me on a technological level, are basically the same.”

  • “Everything in the last one and a half years has made me appreciate the need to really focus on the values in the ecosystem and its long term fundamentals.”

  • “We really need to start creating things that have that balance sustainability with respect to users and our values.”

  • “The challenge that I see with a lot of the “less good stuff” is that it creates this pressure to go in a direction which is very unaligned with the other aspects of crypto. It’s the sort of thing that makes sense as a short term alliance, but not so much as a longer term alliance. Tensions grow really quickly—the values of self-custody, freedom, decentralization quickly just drop out of a lot of these NFT platforms.”

  • “[Ethereum must become] a technology that really needs to be ready for the world and needs to be ready to solve real world problems for people.”

  • “We want to see an ecosystem where if you zap any one organization out of existence, or even if you zap any one country out of existence, then the whole thing still continues. I feel like we’re actually very close to that.”

  • “It’s Interesting how the number of shady characters that we can count is decreasing…There are a lot of them who just become really big, have this long two year arc, and then, at the end of the two year arc, they end up being completely disgraced.”

  • “A fundamental part of this whole space is turning it into something that’s actually useful for people.”

  • “Decentralization is not no leaders, decentralization is many leaders.”

  • “Instead of AI killing 30% of the jobs, which would be catastrophic and terrible, AI is killing 30% of your job, which is actually an amazing time saver…it’s empowering people more than replacing people, at least so far.”

  • “The human to superhuman AI transition is scary. That level of transition, I would argue, has only happened three or four times in history.”

  • “The Ethereum clients of 10 years in the future, I expect, are going to basically be systems where you download 3.6 megabytes from the internet, run a couple of polynomial equations, and be done and verified—[they will be] very lightweight, very simple, like a few hundred lines of code.”

  • “I actually think that if we add privacy components, then the whole institutional, enterprise, government blockchain becomes viable…So I’m super excited about zk-SNARKS both for scalability and privacy applications.”

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