Vitalik Buterin had a bad hair day when he was scheduled to be interviewed by Naval Ravikant on the stage of TechCrunch Disrupt earlier this week. The results were both hilarious and enlightening.
No disrespect, but Vitalik looked like a kid who came to show off his model volcano at a high school science fair. I mean, look at this outrageous shirt he wore:
Vitalik's shirt, image source: Etsy
It's a cat wearing Clark Kent glasses and a Roman wreath, riding a unicorn llama under a rainbow while UFOs hover above in the sky. It just screams: ‘professional’...
But make no mistake. On top of his slender, underdeveloped shoulders, between those big ears and under his cowlick hairdo is a mind like no other.
Ethereum explained like you’re five
This interview is a must-watch if you’re still in any way confused about the concepts of blockchain and cryptocurrency, or smart contracts, or what's specific about Ethereum and how all these things relate to each other.
Invest half an hour of your time to watch it and many of these concepts will become as clear as the sky on Vitalik's shirt.
But what kills me is the part when Naval cites Vitalik’s About.me page, where the crypto wunderkind explains how he got into blockchain in the first place. Not even the shirt prepared me for this:
"I happily played World of Warcraft during 2007-2010, but one day Blizzard removed the damage component from my beloved warlock’s Siphon Life spell. I cried myself to sleep, and on that day I realized what horrors centralized services can bring."
I’ve made up my mind: we are living in a glitchy sim
If we are living in a simulation like Elon Musk says we are, then someone needs to alert the guys in charge that it’s starting to glitch.
It's like that Rick & Morty episode where the CPUs rendering the simulation are maxing out and they have to reduce its fidelity.
In whatever reality we’re living in, Dennis Rodman is offering to make peace between his two pals, reality-star-turned-president Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Elon Musk himself is pulling companies out of his sleeve and giving them pun-derful names: a boring company called "Boring Company," really? Yet nobody is questioning his serious intentions.
And then you have 23-year old Vitalik, the former WoW fanatic who co-invented a general-purpose blockchain that can potentially replace money, internet protocols, Wall Street and who knows what else — out of frustration that his WoW character lost some of its powers.
Of course, all this is still some distance in the future. Even Vitalik admits so in the interview.
But what strikes me is how powerful a role pop culture and entertainment—particularly gaming—can play in all these developments.
What we think of as time-wasting is actually the wellspring of technological innovation
You would think that technology and the politics of the day dictate how entertainment evolves (both the medium and the message). But actually, it is a two-way relationship.
When it comes to politics, few people know that Trump’s recently-fired strategy chief Steve Bannon—who was also the chief executive of his election campaign—cut his machiavellian teeth working for IGE, a company that specialized in peddling World of Warcraft virtual goods.
Admittedly, that’s peanuts compared to how gaming shapes technology.
Consider this: the first video games were made by engineers who were fooling around on mainframe computers intended for code-breaking.
A few decades later you already had a gaming industry pushing the development of GPU hardware.
And now that same GPU hardware has been repurposed for cryptocurrency mining—essentially a code-breaking process.
These were breakthroughs in both hardware and blockchain technology, and both were made by former hardcore gamers.
In a roundabout way, this convinces me that gaming will most likely be the first industry to be radically changed by blockchain.
Think about it like this: humans settle for good enough in a lot of practical matters in life. Take smart homes. For 99% of us, turning the light on with a flick of a switch is good enough. So much for IoT.
Money transfers and dealing with banks? Well, PayPal is quite convenient, isn’t it?
But when it comes to fun and entertainment—games in particular—we want more, better, faster, now!
That's why I wrote about GameCredits last week as an example of a cryptocurrency worth examining. I may be looking at this through too narrow of a lens, but I invite you to take a peek through it as well.