Audio Of The Week: Vitalik Buterin on Cryptoeconomics and Markets in Everything

I received a bunch of emails last week suggesting I listen to this interview with Vitalik.

I finally did and it was as good as advertised.

So I am now suggesting that all of you give it a listen too.


Comments (Archived):

  1. William Mougayar

    And for those who prefer to read a transcript, like I did:…Good interview that goes outside of the crypto zone.

    1. jason wright

      he doesn’t seem that taken by Switzerland.

      1. William Mougayar

        he was commenting about Zug in particular, but he admitted he hasn’t been there so often lately.

        1. jason wright

          did he say ‘Zug’ or ‘Zurich’? I know they are geo adjacent, but different cantons.are you locating to Zurich?

  2. Pointsandfigures

    https://streetwiseprofessor… Thought this was a good counterpoint to Buterin’s thoughts about centralized exchanges

    1. Adam Sher

      Money quote from the article, “It reminds me of the Mark Twain quote: “When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years.” Except seven years haven’t passed for the Buterins of the world, and frankly, I seriously doubt that they will. Instead, they inhabit a techno-Groundhog Day.”

  3. Arnold Waldstein

    Listening as I drive to the trailhead for a day of hiking in the Rockies.Good way to ease into the day.

  4. sigmaalgebra

    Buterin has taken seriously nearly every technology buzz word going and has 1″ deep opinions on all of them and more.Cowen is a perceptive interviewer.But the question remains: What the heck is crypto uniquely and significantly better for besides avoiding taxes, laundering money, replacing fiat currencies in sick countries, etc.?

    1. jason wright

      his horizontal sound bites don’t do it for me. perhaps he should drift away with good grace. perhaps he already has but is compelled by forces beyond our detection to keep making PR and marketing appearances from time to time to stop the ether balloon from deflating.

    2. kidmercury

      distributed computing

      1. sigmaalgebra

        AFAIK, the main issues in distributed computing outside the tightly closed logical boundaries of a server farm are authentication, capabilities, and access control lists.These were in really good shape with Kerberos on the MIT Project MAC system Multics in about 1969 and have been a workhorse in computing, at IBM, Microsoft (Active Directory), certificate authorities for the Internet, etc., since. The MIT public key crypto system RSA (Rivest–Shamir–Adleman) helped make the communications secure. We are also good at versions of distributed relational database, with security. E.g., to me the database security in Microsoft’s SQL Server looks a lot like authentication, capabilities, and access control lists. And there is at least some implementation of those concepts in Microsoft’s long standard hierarchical file system NTFS (New Technology File System) — I get pushed into using those facilities occasionally.IIRC these security ideas meet some of the apparently severe and well designed US DoD computer security standards. E.g., consider IBM’s RACF (Resource Access Control Facility).I’ve used the ACLs, etc. facilities on some Prime computers (close to Multics), IBM mainframe computers, and to some extent on Windows, SQL Server, the Internet, etc. I have Kerberos and RSA source code and plenty of documentation, papers, and books on the details, e.g., the number theory and Fermat’s little theorem, baby talk for what I’ve done in abstract algebra. I regard that ACL, etc. stuff as rock solid, well known technology, that has the problems SOLVED.I’m willing to learn, wanting to learn, waiting to learn how blockchain can be a unique, significant improvement to what we already have, but so far all I can find is fluff, hype, buzz words, some claims, etc. The situation looks like a nothing burger as in the old Wendy’s ad with “Where’s the beef?”, to borrow from a movie, like where the bull went number 2.I just did a round and round on machine learning with the guy David Rosenberg Bloomberg hired. See the recent thread…and especially the comments by Hacker News members davidrosenberg and graycat with a last, summary remark at…All together that thread and Rosenberg’s course lectures on YouTube make more clear just what most of current machine learning is and is not. When we boil it down to what’s new, correct, and significant, we don’t get much. When we just look for what might have some utility, we get some flawed tools that could too easily be misused and give results that are misleading, maybe even harmful — such machine learning is not ready for prime time in serious situations involving even a little blood or any big treasure. When we compare with nearly everything currently popular about machine learning we see that the popular stuff is 99% hype, 1/2% okay if used carefully for not very serious work, and the rest water.I’m tired of walking behind bulls and stepping in #2.

        1. LE

          and graycat with aBeing good at patterns I had actually figured out that was your handle on HN a long long time ago. It was the way you phrased things that caught my attention at first. [1] Then I said ‘hmm I wonder if graycat is sigma algebra?’. So I checked further back in your comments and found definite signs that it was you for sure. Figuring that type of thing out is what I like doing and I was actually pretty happy (with no obvious benefit) when I concluded that.I also comment on HN. However I take some care to not use similar tone and structure that I use here at AVC. No particular reason just decided to roll that way.Not to be all cheap ‘network b grade police show’ but I am wondering if Jenny was your wife’s name or someone else you cared about.[1] May have been as simple as your use of ‘Okay.’ which got my attention and caused me to probe further and run down the lead.

          1. sigmaalgebra

            Meow!I don’t know anyone named Jenny. My wife’s name was Emily. She is still in my brain daily, involuntarily, maybe something like PTSD.In probability we consider events: If we flip a coin, that the coin comes up heads is an event. We can denote the event heads by H, and that is the set of all experimental trials where the coin came up heads. The probability (once we define and make sense out of it) of heads, H, is written P(H) and is a number in the interval [0,1].If we measure something, then we get the value of a random variable, say, X. That X is greater than 2 is an event, we can write as {X > 2}, and is the set of all trials where the number we measure is > 2. Then we can write the probability of event {X > 2} as P({X > 2}) or more simply just P(X > 2). To be still more clear,{X > 2}really is short for precise set theory{w | X(w) > 2}which reads as the set of all trials w so that the value of X at trial w is > 2. Yes, here X(w) says that X really is a function of trials, w, in a probability space which is the set of all trials. Now you have taken the first step into a course in graduate probability :-)!!Given events A and B, that is, sets of trials, we can consider A and B or A or B. So, A and B is the set intersection of sets A and B, and A or B is the set union of A and B.And there’s a little more we want from all the events. Well, the full, exact, precise, story is that we want all the events to be a sigma algebra.For all the subsets of the real line to which we can assign a length or all the subsets of the plane to which we can assign an area, we also want those to be sigma algebras. Actually the work on the line and plane was done about 1900 by H. Lebesgue, and the application to probability was done by A. Kolmogorov in 1933.The sigma is to suggest a countable sum. So, for events A_1, A_2, …, we want the union of them all, countably infinitely many, also to be an event. So, that’s one of the assumptions for a sigma algebra.For real random variable Y, we can have E[Y|X], the conditional expectation of Y given the value of X. Well, E[Y|X] is a function of just X, is some f(X), and, thus, also a random variable.Well, the X can be something really complicated, say, the history of the universe back to the big bang. That can be a bit tough to write in the usual notation. But those random variables, in a nice way, generate a sigma algebra of events, we could call sigma(X). Then we can define E[Y|sigma(X)] so that we are taking the conditional expectation of Y given not a random variable a sigma algebra. The sigma algebra approach is more general and at times much easier to work with. That we can do such a thing follows from the Radon-Nikodym theorem although Gihman and Skorohod have a cute, short, direct proof. IIRC conditioning on sigma algebras instead of just random variables is a Kolmogorov idea.Yes, you can guess, correctly, that at times the Russians have done well in probability theory and stochastic processes. So have the French and Japanese. By now the US is well caught up, but it remains that some of the best material on the library shelves is still from Russia, France, or Japan.

          2. Lawrence Brass

            Hmm, so.. what’s your cat’s name?;-)

          3. sigmaalgebra

            My last one died, and I haven’t gotten another one yet!For now, the startup comes first.

      2. jason wright

        partitioned value.

    3. LE

      What the heck is crypto uniquely and significantly better for besides avoiding taxes, laundering money, replacing fiat currencies in sick countries, etc.?I am curious if Kid Mercury thinks that there are many people that care about currencies? There are not. Kid must realize that.Something has to not only have a purpose but it also has to be relatively easy for both normals and decision makers to understand. If not, you can push and push and it is simply never going to become a big thing. I can’t really think of any exceptions that had to be ‘sold’ like crypto is being sold. The world wide web didn’t have to be sold. People pretty much found it valuable ditto for AOL before that. Sure in the beginning it was slow but people still wanted to use it. [1] So honestly to me that is the thing that worries me about crypto. To much selling going on and to much busy work and conferences and articles and blog posts. Which bothers me since I am making money off of it. So I am not hating for the wrong reasons.And no I don’t think it’s a matter of a killer app either.Two obvious examples: Computers dropped in price significantly when demand increased and one reason was GUI’s making it easier for more people to use them. Ditto the iphone because it was easy and could be ‘understood’ completely opened up new markets and unfortunately the side impact was kids are now addicted to their phones. [2] No selling needed with snapchat. No selling needed with Facebook. No selling needed with Google. Uber ditto. Avoid taxis? I’m in said the people. Airplanes? Survived and thrived even with the danger. Endless list.[1] Of course AOL did carpet bomb disks and CD’s but that was icing on the sales cake. The people were liking the product even with slow dialup. It gave them something they didn’t have and that they needed.[2] Prior to that there were video games and of course TV which was way easier to control access to.

      1. sigmaalgebra

        First cut, guess what new thing might become the next big thing is tough to do accurately. But, your examples clear the foggy air and look relatively solid. Or to go along with some Paul Graham advice, do something people will “love”.My short, simple, simplistic, KISS explanation for the rise of the 8086, …, Intel I7 is that they replaced the typewriters. To me, and literally hundreds of millions of people, typewriters were a huge pain. One of the big examples was early on 12/7/1941 as the Japanese embassy in DC was late with their typing, later than the six Japanese aircraft carriers bombing Pearl Harbor. There is an old story that at some negotiations with the Soviets, the US word whacking did the typing for BOTH the US and the Soviets! In the movie The Hunt for Red October the sonar guy got some of his messages from his fancy sonar computer from a daisy wheel typewriter, not from Xerox Diablo but from Qume. IIRC that detail in the movie was correct. To me, those daisy wheel typewriters were a huge thing, went through the typewriter industry like whatever, Sherman through Georgia, crap through a goose, Patton through France, whatever. I still have a Xerox Diablo daisy wheel typewriter (printer) and use it for addressing envelopes, typing little notes to put in, say, plastic freezer bags with various parts and pieces, and typing inserts into jewel cases for CDs and DVDs and connected to my little CD/DVD library system. Way back there I got the industrial sized box of carbon film ribbon spools for refilling the plastic ribbon cartridges — I’m still in great shape for ribbons! The Diablo is built like a tank.But I believe that you are correct more generally — Runoff programs, WordStar, Lotus, Excel, WordPerfect, Word, Knuth’s TeX (right away, slam, bam, thank you Ma’am, the nearly instant, and still, totally dominating, unchallenged international standard for mathematical word whacking), Outlook, AOL, the Internet, Firefox, Google, Facebook, Twitter, …. I use Google a lot, and YouTube. But, I use Twitter just to follow Gingrich, POTUS, and FLOTUS. I make almost no use of Facebook.Airplanes? Yup, the US DoD wanted some jet engines for fighter planes. Boeing got four of them, put them on a Boeing 707 passenger plane with swept back wings so that the plane could fly maybe 80% of the speed of sound, 0.80 Mach, NYC to London, Paris, etc. The only competition was from the steamships that took 5-6 days. As nice as the steamships could be, really, mostly people just wanted to get where they were going. So, for, no doubt, a lot less than a steamship ticket, the Boeing 707 was a flying license to print money and sank the steamships faster than any U-boats.Just the reason you mentioned: Those products solved big problems for people. For TeX, finally the word processing is less work than the math research! TeX is not a big thing for the common man in the street but is HUGE for anyone writing anything very mathematical.I hope this nice, simple, direct, no beating around the bush, no appeal to luck, KISS explanation for the main driver of the next big thing is correct and that my startup is an example!> Something has to not only have a purpose but it also has to be relatively easy for both normals and decision makers to understand.Well, apparently at least partly the crypto people are hoping also that their baby will become a deep part of some crucial infrastructure 4+ billion people will need several times a day, and in that case the common man in the street need not know about the details of the baby anymore than they do now as they depend on the details of authentication, routing, the domain name system (DNS), TCP/IP, HTTPS, the secure version of HTTP, dense wavelength division multiplexing (DWDM), the protocol at the core of the backbone of the Internet, border gateway protocol (BGP), the video codecs, managed memory, virtual memory, virtual machine, security rings, error correcting coding, the various wireless standards, …, etc. But there have to sell not based on hype but on solid technology to committees of the IEEE, W3C, IETF, etc.Since never is a long time, tough to say that crypto will never be a big thing. Still, as usual, the burden of proof is on the proposer.

  5. Richard

    At what level is the crime that bitcoin facilitates gong to be too much for even the venture capital community?If you believe in the Russian election hypothesis, Bitcoin funded the trump win!

    1. jason wright

      as nothing compared to the crimes facilitated by the US dollar over the decades.

  6. Laurent Boncenne

    Not relevant to the discussion itself, but I’ve come to really loathe how soundcloud forces you to go to their cluttered site to have any kind of control over any type of embeds. They have seemingly reduced functionality everywhere in their products (main site, mobile app, embeds) with little benefit to show.Why is not possible to skim through the audio or see the waveform anymore? So frustrating…

  7. Lawrence Brass

    his attempt to reinvent ethics is interesting

  8. Vendita Auto

    Be good if when one’s comment is/was removed the reason was shown ? The link that was removed directly related to blockchain / crypto economics not being secure in the advent of small machine quantum interoperability / entanglement. I will admit to banging the drum often n on the same subject whilst reading /watching vids on blockchain security that are meaningless with secure systems ………. If Fred W removed it he has every right if it was the adjudicator WTF I said my piece