Who is Vitalik Buterin? First and foremost, the twenty-two year old prodigy is the mind behind Ethereum, serving as Chief Scientist for the Ethereum Project. Born in Russia and raised in Canada, Buterin currently resides in Switzerland but can be found all over the world spreading the good word of decentralization.
First discovering Bitcoin in 2011, Buterin quickly realized the importance of the blockchain and co-founded with Mihai Alisie the Bitcoin Magazine, a digital and print magazine covering Bitcoin and crypto-related topics. He also began writing for other Bitcoin-related publications. During this time period Buterin also entered the University of Waterloo and, like other movers and shakers before him, promptly dropped out. Spending six months wandering around the globe, the young man eventually hit upon an idea that would shape the future and revolutionize the still-nascent technology known as the blockchain: rather than limit the blockchain to a ledger keeping track of a currency, Buterin conceived of a “generalized cryptoeconomically secured state machine architecture” that could simultaneously track and execute smart contracts, keeping track of massive amounts of information in a fully trustless and transparent manner. In short, he hit upon a way to restore the decentralized and free spirit of the internet while pointing out the direction such an undertaking should follow.
According to his website, Buterin conceived his idea because he wanted to move beyond “just being a cryptocurrency person”, wishing to acquire a more general perspective on the role of technology in the future. He strikes his listeners as a young man overcome not only with a great intelligence, but with a deep-seated concern for the state of technology in the future and how our ever-increasing technological output affects us on a human level. Despite potentially being a more generalized case of the Internet (that is, Ethereum could someday see itself in every home, spread out among scores of nodes and operating forever without fear of being shut down – a true “Internet of Things”), and fulfilling the Orwellian fears of technologists and luddites alike, Ethereum’s saving grace might be its trustless and decentralized nature, not to mention the ease with which laypeople will (ideally) someday be able to participate in the project, be it in the form of joining/starting a DAO and earning a passive income, or launching a dApp of their own – or one of the many ways in which Ethereum will function in the future that we aren’t aware of yet.
The future of Ethereum seems hard to pin down. For those already familiar with cryptocurrencies and the blockchain, Ethereum is either the bastard child threatening to overthrow Bitcoin from its rightful place as king of the cryptos, or the long-awaited savior that will bring the tech underlying Bitcoin to new heights and a mainstream awareness, thereby launching a future full of decentralized organizations, new business models for the young entrepreneur, and safe, legal smart contracts that manage your business for you. Regardless, if you believe in the project it is hard to imagine what isn’t possible on the Ethereum infrastructure. Already we have seen dApps ranging from prediction markets like Augur and Gnossis, to a solar power trading and selling platform in NYC. With the promise of a peer-to-peer operated Internet, Ethereum stands to revolutionize third-world countries still struggling to catch up technologically with richer nations. Suffice to say the future of Ethereum is bright, and it has Mr. Buterin to thank.