He May Be a Financial Titan Like No Other

Cryptocurrency giant Vitalik Buterin, who eschews power and riches, is profiled in 'Time'
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 19, 2022 10:00 AM CDT
A Crypto Giant Worries About Its 'Dystopian Potential'
Vitalik Buterin, from a video in which he talks about Ethereum.   (YouTube)

Bitcoin is the king of cryptocurrency, and its founder is thought to be a mysterious figure who goes by the name of Satoshi Nakamoto. Ether is the second-biggest cryptocurrency, but less mystery surrounds its founder: Meet 28-year-old Vitalik Buterin, subject of a lengthy, fascinating interview and profile at Time. He was born outside Moscow, though his computer-scientist parents moved the family to Toronto when Buterin was a young boy. Buterin's net worth is at least $800 million, based on public records on the blockchain, but Buterin seems authentically uninterested in riches, according to the story by Andrew R. Chow. In fact, Buterin hardly fits the image of a financial titan. "He sniffles and stutters through his sentences, walks stiffly, and struggles to hold eye contact," writes Chow. His "elfin features" make him the butt of jokes on social media.

And yet, "almost everyone who has a full conversation with Buterin comes away starry-eyed," writes Chow. He's brilliant, funny, "and almost wholly devoid of pretension or ego." The piece digs into the technicalities: Buterin conceived the Ethereum platform ("ether" is its native currency) "as a way to leverage the blockchain technology underlying Bitcoin for all sorts of uses beyond currency," writes Chow. "Since then, it has emerged as the bedrock layer of what advocates say will be a new, open-source, decentralized internet." However, Buterin is worried about the greed that currently permeates crypto culture, and he's begun taking a more active role in fighting it. The problem: Because he created Ethereum as a decentralized platform, he's somewhat limited in what he can do. His big weapon is his clout. "Crypto itself has a lot of dystopian potential if implemented wrong,” he says. The recent use of crypto to help Ukrainians, on the other hand, heartens him. (Read the full profile.)

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