Vitalik’s answers to the big questions

I found this nice twitter thread from Vitalik Buterin, the inventor of the Ethereum blockchain:

I’m not in the 268 people followed by him, but there are a lot of interesting questions in there that he answers. Here are some of my favorites:

Hardest lesson? Coordinating people with huge incentive conflicts.

This is most probably linked to the other question: “What were you dead wrong on?”. He answers with: “Move to PoS in 1-2 years”. Vitalik is a big visionary, but obviously it’s difficult for him to spread his visions to other people. More specifically now that he has this trillion-dollar venture behind him.

Biggest impact on politics/governments?

Adopt incubated ideas at country scale

I like the first answer because he describes the blockchain as a playground for new ideas. It shows to me that he doesn’t think that “we will solve all the worlds problems”. But rather he sees Ethereum as a fast incubator and hopes that some of the ideas will be put into practice.

Provide fully-digital services globally

This is where I think it will be difficult to actually use blockchains in the foreseeable future. Current systems are just too slow, too limited, and too power-hungry for large-scale use. So until systems are faster, this will have to wait.

Most widely adopted privacy preserving technology? zk-SNARKs

zk-SNARK means: Zero-Knowledge Succinct Non-Interactive Argument of Knowledge. It is a very powerful cryptographic tool. With it you can create cryptographic proofs about mathematical statements. And this without having to reveal too much. Vitalik himself wrote an article on the subject. Some common use-cases are to prove:

  • you’re over 18 without revealing your age
  • you have enough funds without revealing how much you have
  • you are part of a group without revealing other members

Vitalik thinks this will make blockchains finally privacy-preserving. For example, Bitcoin has all transactions in clear. On the other hand, Zcash is a blockchain that uses zk-SNARKs to hide all transactions.

Using ZK-proofs brings a new set of problems: in 2019, hackers discovered a bug in the Zcash protocol. It allowed them to spend money they didn’t have! And because of the ZK-proofs, nobody knows if this bug has been exploited or not.

I know where the eth1 masternode is located but after the merge, are you planning to keep the eth2 masternode in the same location?

Yeah, there was a plan to move the masternode from the Mines of Moria to Cirith Ungol but unfortunately that’s been a bit delayed because Moria still has a 14 day quarantine

Now this one’s a trick question. As Ethereum is decentralized, there should not be a masternode. All nodes in the system should participate equally. But some people always speculate that there is a masternode controlling it all. Also some blockchains do have masternodes that drive the consensus. And as such they are not ‘real’ blockchains.

But Ethereum does not have a masternode. So Vitalik jokes about how they will move it from one virtual space to another.