Vitalik Buterin: What Were You Thinking?

Enough with all the stuff over fake news versus real news.  It is hard to find reality these days. What information is coming from trustworthy sources versus those with a secret interest to promote?  I am not talking about the stuff coming from the White House, FBI, CIA or any of those folks. I am talking about something much more important.

What I am getting at is news in the crypto world where our digital assets are invested. Just the other day, I wrote a piece raising the question whether crypto usership for acquiring goods and services was falling.  Those who collect data on these trends seem to think it is.

There could be lots of reasons for this, both in the method of collecting the data as well as real human behavior.  One thing seems clear, crypto prices keep getting further away from those frothy levels of last Christmas.

We also have to keep in mind that there is no such thing as long term history with crypto. It is inherently volatile.  So the analysis of data can change quickly.

Goldman Sachs Was Bad Enough

Last week’s conflicting headlines coming from Goldman Sachs via Business Insider claiming that the big investment bank was pulling back on its plans to open a crypto trading desk in favor of a more limited commitment to essentially offering a wallet for big institutional investors sent a quick shock through prices.  It didn’t matter that other sources at Goldman merely claimed they were delaying the rollout.

What’s With Vitalik?

So if you are the founder of some pretty amazing technology whose success ultimately depends on mass adoption, you would expect to hear a constant barrage of exciting news about your project, kind of like Elon Musk.

But not Vitalik Buterin.  Over the weekend headlines from Ethereum World News read: “There Isn’t An Opportunity For Another 1000x Growth”.

The source of the headline comes from Bloomberg News who interviewed Buterin at the recent Ethereum & Blockchain Conference in Hong Kong. Below is Vitalik’s direct quote:

“The blockchain space is getting to the point where there is a ceiling in sight.  If you talk to the average educated person at this point, they probably have heard of blockchain at least once. There isn’t an opportunity for yet another 1,000-times growth in anything in the space anymore.”  Buterin’s remarks were described as a shock to those attending the conference.

Nobody is challenging the depth of Buterin’s knowledge, but what is happening in that part of his brilliant mind that is devoted to common sense?  As the co-founder of Ethereum whose success thus far is build on applications developed by others, why would you want to disparage the future?  It positively makes no sense.

What makes sense, as the article points out, is a long-term growth plan that encourages a steady flow of adoption and real world use.  Bravo for that observation and one I totally agree with. But that wasn’t working at the conference. “That strategy (marketing and worldwide adoption) is getting close to hitting a dead end.”

But here is the killer. Rather than focusing on evolutionary developments like Bitcoin’s Lightning Network or Ethereum-based Raiden Network, Buterin chooses to dwell on the obvious.

“. . . every present day existing blockchain, including ETH and BTC, sucks. . . . “.

Connecting the Dots

Whether accurate or not, Buterin’s opinions, at best, were ill timed.  If you believe them to be accurate, why would you invest in Ether or any other crypto?  It would make no sense to do so. On the other hand if his comments were cleverly crafted to discourage rampant speculation and volatility, that is not his job.  In fact, it is a form of manipulation. That is not smart.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock. 

James Waggoner is a veteran Wall Street analyst and hedge fund manager who has spent the past few years researching the fintech possibilities of cryptocurrencies. He has a special passion for writing about the future of crypto.