Vitalik Buterin: How Ethereum will help heal the world

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Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin appeared at Ethereal Summit 2020 today, where he discussed Ethereum’s possible role in a post-coronavirus future, and whether the current crisis would trigger an influx of users into cryptocurrency.

Speaking to The Defiant’s Camila Russo, Buterin suggested Ethereum could be the glue that holds a fractured world together in the fallout from Covid-19. However, he stopped short of predicting a global influx to cryptocurrency at the present time.

Vitalik Buterin speaking at Ethereal Tel Aviv in 2019. Image: Decrypt.

The last big financial crisis is what gave way to the creation of Bitcoin and crypto believers, stated Russo. She asked Buterin if the present state of the world we’re living in now will spur a new wave of cryptocurrency adoption.

“I think there’s some similarities between 2008 and what we’re going through now. 2008 was entirely a financial crisis. 2020 is not really a financial crisis first and foremost…it’s a virus crisis, and on top of that it’s a political crisis,” said Buterin, adding, “There are definitely financial elements—there’s a lot of the money printing. But the financial side is definitely not at the heart of the story.”

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When pushed on whether he thought the current wave of quantitative easing and big tech censorship would actually draw more people towards cryptocurrency, Buterin agreed that those elements have some influence, but emphasized the financial difference between now and 12 years ago.

“The concerns around censorship, privacy and institutions are all very real. There definitely has been the older censorship resistance thing going on with Tor, Bittotorrent etc. In 2020 we’re definitely seeing some of the same themes [as in 2008]—but somewhat less financially,” he said.

Russo proposed a hypothetical post-covid world in which the dollar declines, China rises, and political uncertainty reigns. “Will people seek refuge in cryptocurrency,” she asked Buterin, adding “What is Ethereum’s role in that situation?”

“There’s definitely an element of seeing more and more political discord and distrust between countries over time. And there’s definitely a real role for blockchain to play in helping being part of the glue that holds all of these countries and currencies together,” said Buterin, adding, “Ethereum definitely has a role to play in being the glue.”

When asked directly if he thought Ethereum could be the network that connects all of these disparate elements across the globe, Buterin nodded, “I think so.”

Moving onto lighter topics, Buterin shed light on his daily schedule of late, which included reading, studying cryptography, working on Ethereum, and, “trying to learn.” He also revealed he’s been hitting the treadmill, and listening to episodes of Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History podcast—for four hours at a time.