In Spring 2018 issue of Tank Magazine, Hans Ulrich Obrist interviews Vitalik Buterin, cofounder of the blockchain-based system Ethereum, which describes itself as “a decentralized platform for applications that run exactly as programmed without any chance of fraud, censorship or third-party interference.” Among other things, Buterin discusses how decentralized platforms like Ethereum pose a challenge to our established ways of organizing the economy. Here’s an excerpt from the interview:
HUO: Is Ethereum’s biggest challenge becoming a world computer?
VB: This is where the fourth part of being a language comes in. Languages can be global. The people who make up the community could be anyone on the internet. Ethereum definitely does have this property. No matter where you are, you can always run Ethereum, start participating and use applications, or just start building stuff yourself. There’s two reasons why I initially liked bitcoin. The first was I really liked the global feel to it. The other was the way it worked; I still remember how I personally worked a bunch of hours to earn 20 bitcoins and spending ten to buy a T-shirt. It was like a microcosm of an economy. Doing those transactions together made me realise that you can have a community of people who needn’t rely on an existing financial infrastructure. They are recreating a really important social foundation by themselves. Ethereum carries on this spirit of empowerment. Obviously, it is about lots more than just money.
HUO: Could Ethereum become the main infrastructure of the world? What will happen when it takes over, how will our lives change?
VB: The internet has touched everything. Quite a lot of people say that this is the next generation of the internet and that it will touch quite a lot of things, too. On the other hand, blockchains are quite a different innovation to the things that came before. If you look at e-commerce opposed to regular commerce, the main benefit of e-commerce is basically convenience. I see blockchains as expanding people’s ability to do things that already exist and opening the doors for new ways for people to economically interact with each other. If you look at insurance today, for example, you buy insurance as a product from a company. You pay $400 a month and you get a guarantee that the insurance company might give you some amount of money. You can’t really tell ahead of time whether they are screwing you over or not.
Image of Vitalik Buterin via about.me/vitalik_buterin.