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Ethereum Founder Vitalik Buterin Muses On Crypto-Skeptic Letter to Washington

It’s normal that “various classes of normies and often soon grifters move in over time” as movements like crypto grow, Vitalik said.

3 min read
Vitalik Buterin is the creator of the Ethereum blockchain. Image: Siam Blockchain

Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin appeared to muse on, if not directly respond to, an open letter from tech professionals urging lawmakers in Washington to be wary of crypto.

The letter he was responding to, published Wednesday, was signed by 26 computer scientists from American tech giants including Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google. It asked policymakers to question the narrative that cryptocurrencies “are an innovative technology that is unreservedly good.”

Later that evening, Buterin posted a lengthy Twitter thread—it was almost longer than the letter itself—saying it saddens him to see the way the crypto community has grown much more adversarial over the last 10 or 15 years.

"A big difference between the 'new idealistic movement' scene 10-15 years ago vs today is that back then it felt possible to be on all the good-guy teams at the same time,” he wrote in a tweet. “Today, much more adversarial thinking and conflict. I've been trying to understand.. where to from here?” 

Buterin has recently become the unofficial moral compass for the crypto community, parsing industry-wide developments in Twitter threads. 

In the past, he’s written that he feels conflicted about the future of Ethereum, called algorithmic stablecoins “a propaganda term” in the wake of the Terra collapse, and said he wishes Bored Ape Yacht Club NFT holders would “fund public goods.”

Buterin specifically called out the fact that tech writer Cory Doctorow had signed the letter, saying it upset and confused a lot of people in the crypto community because they’d considered Doctorow an ally. In 2018, Doctorow delivered his “Decentralize, Democratize, or Die” keynote speech at DevCon, the annual Ethereum developer conference. 

In one of the letter’s more damning passages, the signatories write that crypto “will remain forever unsuitable as a foundation for large-scale economic activity.”

Buterin said that in addition to crypto’s split from big tech, or at least from its vocal skeptics, the crypto community has also been dealing with a lot of infighting. He suggested it was a natural byproduct of the fact that many projects have amassed huge followings, but it's a phenomenon that still makes him sad.

“As Cory mentioned,” he wrote, seemingly referring to Doctorow’s 2018 keynote, “crypto was at first just decentralization enthusiasts, but now there's also various types of ‘money people.’ This is an inevitable part of becoming bigger. In non-financial movements too, various classes of normies and often soon grifters move in over time.”

More pushback to the letter

Buterin wasn’t the only one to publicly acknowledge the letter.

It also drew fire from Bradley Rettler, a University of Wyoming philosophy professor who’s currently writing a book about Bitcoin. 

“When you're writing an essay, you need to support your claims—the bolder the claim, the more support needed,” he said in his own Twitter thread yesterday. “This letter is long on bold claims and short on support. In short, it's shockingly bad.”

Blockchain lawyer Preston Byrne, who works for the firm Anderson Kill, wrote his own counterargument, taking issue with the amount of effort that had seemingly been spent getting press to write about the letter, the claim that its signatories work in fields related to cryptocurrency and then proceeded to rate facts from the letter as misleading or false. 

“The problem with cryptocurrency regulation isn’t that the two parties have provided leadership of any kind,” Byrne wrote, “it is that they have done nothing, that they continue to do nothing, and while they dither the world is eating our lunch.”

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