I recently interviewed the person who started Ethereum Classic (ETC). His motives are admirable. His reason for wishing to remain anonymous is a reminder of why blockchain technologies are important. Here is a slightly edited version of the interview:
How do you want people to refer to you?
I use [the] personal pseudonym "Arvicco". BitNovosti is... the name of my business: a leading crypto media group in Russia that includes websites, video production, publishing[,] etc.
Please tell a little about yourself.
I’m from Russia and my professional background is in IT and online media. As I have seen [the] Internet develop from very early stages (Mosaic, anyone?) into the unstoppable force it is today, I’ve always been interested in [the] transformative potential of digital technologies as it relates to society and [the] economy. Exploring virtual economies and virtual currencies, I stumbled upon Bitcoin in 2011. As with many other people in [the] crypto-space, my life has never been the same from that moment on. I have been mining, trading, evangelizing and building projects in [the] crypto space ever since. It is my life goal to make sure that Blockchain technologies fully realize their transformative potential, changing our societies and [the] human condition for the better.
Why do you want to remain anonymous?
There is very significant legal uncertainty surrounding cryptocurrencies in Russia. Crypto information resources are regularly outlawed and blocked by Russian courts. Businesses accepting BTC are subject to legal and extra-legal pressure. Only late last year, [the] Russian government put on hold a legislative initiative introducing [a] criminal penalty and jail terms for people dealing with cryptocurrencies. But, knowing how things move in Russia, such legislation could be re-introduced and enacted [with] very short notice. Due to such risks, many Russian citizens active in [the] crypto space prefer to maintain pseudonymity.
You do realize that being anonymous reminds people of Satoshi Nakamoto?
Such comparison[s] may be flattering but [they are] not very meaningful. Satoshi single-handedly created [Bitcoin] blockchain technology, coded a working version of Bitcoin software and maintained [the] Bitcoin network until others took notice and got involved. My role was much more limited.. from the very beginning it was a team effort - I was more visible simply due to the fact that I had media skills and was responsible for communications.
Please describe the very beginning of ETC.
It all started with me publishing A Crypto-Decentralist Manifesto that articulated [the] blockchain principles [that are the] sine qua non[s. That was followed] by a call to action to keep the original Ethereum chain[.] After that, a small group of (mostly Russian-speaking) enthusiasts started working on setting up all the necessary infrastructure: Github orgs, Reddit, Slack, mining pool, block explorer, ETC website and so on. In no time, volunteers from all around the world started showing up around [the] ETC subreddit and Slack offering their help and taking [the] initiative to complete necessary tasks. Once the DAO bailout fork was behind us[,] and it became clear Ethereum Classic [would survive], then external support started pouring in: exchanges, mining pools, high-profile endorsers like Barry Silbert and Charles Hoskinson, and so on.
Why did you do it?
A bit of background first, I’m one of [the] early supporters of Ethereum. Probably, one of the earliest in Russia. [I financed] Ethereum development via [the] pre-sale, mined ethers early on, [and,] published multiple Ethereum articles in Russian language media. My expectation was that whatever happens Ethereum [would] stick to the principles of Blockchain[s:] neutrality, openness and immutability. So[,] it came as a shock to me when I realized that as a result of [the] DAO debacle [the] Ethereum Foundation [was] going to move Ethereum in [a] completely opposite direction. As [did] many other opponents of [the] DAO bailout fork[,] I felt that by doing so EF not only broke the initial Ethereum’s vision and social contract, but also betrayed foundational Blockchain principles. [The] Ethereum Classic project was born as a way keep the original Ethereum’s vision and social contract alive, even if EF abandoned it. A small group that started ETC felt it [was] important to offer a decentralized alternative, and it turned out that many people agreed – so, [the] ETC community as we know it today started to coalesce around the project.
Why is ETC important?
[A decentralized] platform for “applications that run exactly as programmed without any possibility of downtime, censorship, fraud or third party interference” is one of key technology components that will allow [the] Blockchain revolution to fully realize its potential, change economic and social structures, [and,] radically [transform] human society into a more equitable [and] decentralized configuration. It’s hard to see what is more important than that.
What are your feelings about Vitalik and the rest of the Ethereum (ETH) community?
Each person is free to determine what is most important for him/her and [to] choose their path accordingly. It goes for communities as well as for individuals. Personally, I think that by endorsing [the] DAO bailout [the] ETH community broke the very value proposition its success depended on. Frankly, it’s sad so many people in that community either don’t understand the foundational principles of [blockchains], don't agree with them[, or,] just don’t care.
What do you hope to see in the next 5, 10 or 20 years for ETC?
ETC needs to become a reliable, trustless [and] public infrastructure for unstoppable consensus-dependent applications [-- the] infrastructure that underlies the economic and social structures of tomorrow. We are still at the very beginning of this path – will it take 5, 10 or 20 years? Who knows. But what I have no doubt about – in order to arrive there, we need to build this infrastructure on a firm foundation of principles.
What do you think are the biggest problems that ETC must overcome?
Monetary policy and decentralized governance are the most pressing issues [the] ETC community [is] facing today. It is very important to find the right models that ensure long-term [success]. There is a lot of productive discussion around both topics in the community right now and I’m confident we’ll be able to arrive [at] positive conclusions.
Is there anything that worries you regarding ETC?
It worries me a bit that some people in the community complain about slow progress, problems or issues without really trying to contribute to solutions. In Ethereum Classic, everything is a community effort. If everyone is simply contributing to the issue s/he is most passionate about[,] and feels most qualified to achieve progress, we can make many wonderful things happen. It’s just as simple as doing your best and listening to community feedback.
Is there a reason you and Vitalik are from Russia? Is there something about that part of the world that makes for great blockchain technologists?
Russians are sometimes stereotyped as stubborn people often doing something unconventional, something others consider impossible [-- like] putting the first man into space, you know. Blockchain is currently this Frontier opening the ways to change everything, do impossible things. So, there must be something there resonating with Russian mentality, I guess.
Anything else you want to add?
[The blockchain] revolution won't be centralized. We can make it happen, and we don't really need "supreme leaders" for this.
Feel free to leave any comments or questions below. You can also contact me by clicking any of these icons:
I would like to thank IOHK (Input Output Hong Kong) for funding this effort.
This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 4.0 International License.