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Crypto Characters: Vitalik Buterin Decentralizes the World with Ethereum

There are very few figures in cryptocurrency that have been as influential as Canadian-Russian programmer Vitalik Buterin. The 26-year-old raised $15.5 million through an ICO to co-found Ethereum and literally change the way cryptocurrencies interact with each others. Ethereum is often referred to as the silver to Bitcoin’s gold but the reality is that its a dramatically different product that introduced the smart contract system and opened the door to various DeFi applications and tokens.

With Ethereum 2.0 on the horizon there has never been a better time to dig into the background of the man behind Ethereum.

Vitalik Buterin

Who is Vitalik?

Vitalik Buterin, a 26-year-old Russian-Canadian programmer, philanthropist, writer and founder of Ethereum. You’ll often find him patiently addressing the questions from presenters at one of the conferences he often visits.

Almost at every meetup, people ask him to share his view on what blockchain is, what smart contracts are and how soon Ethereum will reach the state of Serenity, ETH 2.0. Vitalik has always excelled at  deconstructing complex programming concepts in a simple language, which has made him a hit at such conferences.

Vitalik has a broad spectrum of preoccupations. Not so long ago he demonstrated an interest in how our universe works, pushed the idea of working towards immortality by promoting “Fable of the Dragon Tyrant”, started thinking about the concept of “rollups on top of sharding” in ETH 2.0 and added one more article to the list of already written articles in his blog.

So you can’t help but ask yourself what this man would be doing with some free time on his hands if not for another conference, meetup or an interview.

Playing Around with Macro at Four Years Old

Vitalik Buterin was born in 1994 in a small Russian town of Kolomna located 60 miles away from Moscow. Back then, his parents were still students at MIET, National Research University of Electronic Technology, and the boy had to spend a lot of time with his grandparents.

When he was 4 years old, mom and dad gave him his first personal computer as a gift, but instead of playing games, Vitalik started playing around with a macro built in Excel.

The 90s were not an easy time for former Soviet citizens, many people had to struggle through severe poverty as a result of the economic and political collapse. So in 1999, Vitalik’s parents decided to travel to Canada in pursuit of a better life and better career opportunities.

Twice as Fast as Anybody Else at School

In third grade, teachers in Canada agreed that Vitalik could benefit from advanced classes and transferred him to the program for gifted children – even though he himself didn’t want to separate from his friends.

However, as the time went on, the boy was drifting further apart from his peers. He was naturally predisposed to math, economics, programming, could add twice as fast as anybody else in his class – people started considering him a genius, which made him get isolated from other kids.

Eventually, he decided to dive deep into learning and the Internet where he later found new friends, writing work that paid in Bitcoin and communities of early crypto enthusiasts.

Eureka in Israel

In 2013, Vitalik dropped out of University of Waterloo, after his parents’ approval, and went travelling around the world talking to “crypto” people in different countries. In Israel, he came across a very interesting project “MasterCoin” that was exploring the use of blockchain for various applications, and it became Buterin’s eureka moment.

While talking to the team, he suggested creating a blockchain, separate from Bitcoin and built with a specifically – designed programming language. He wanted it to be fit for different things, including issuing tokens, enabling businesses to use financial contracts and so on. But the team was not very supportive, so Vitalik came back home and started writing the draft of the whitepaper on his own.

To his surprise, a lot of people approved of his work and initiated contact with him once he published it online. So, he chose those first 15 people who reached out, and they started developing the very first version of Ethereum.

It was late 2013.

“Life is Not a Sprint, it’s a Marathon”

In one of the interviews about his son, Dmitry Buterin mentioned the famous quote that presumably has shaped his son’s mentality.

The Ethereum founder knew it’d take them years to push the project beyond its limits, he wasn’t in a hurry, and his patience paid off.

Everything started with the Frontier phase in 2014 when the earliest implementation of the project culminated in going live.  The next task was to stabilize the network, and this kind of work was being implemented from 2016 up to 2017 in the Homestead phase.

In the latest Metropolis phase, the developers have been preparing the project for the transitioning to the very first phase of Eth 2.0.

The phase mostly consisted of working on different testnets, including Medalla that went live on August, 4th, 2020.

Medalla – let’s pause for a moment and talk about its importance in detail.

Ethereum in 2020

Ethereum aims to be a global, open-source platform for decentralized applications.

On Ethereum, you can write code that controls digital value, runs exactly as programmed and is accessible anywhere in the world.

Currently, the native token of the ecosystem, Ether (ETH), is one of the most popular coins in the world. Its price has been exponentially growing over the past six months and it’s only second to Bitcoin in terms of market cap.

At the end of 2020, Ethereum looks like one of the most important blockchain projects in the niche if not the most important. Only DEXes that run on Ethereum are aggregating a volume of almost $4 billion as of writing.

Being expensive due to its nuclear popularity among DeFi projects, the project is experiencing the perfect momentum to go for an upgrade. As a result, this summer the project’s dev team has rolled out Medalla, a final multi-client public testnet that will push the project closer to Phase 0 of the Serenity state.

Why is Serenity important? Serenity is the state where we’ll have better scalability, throughput, speed, security and much less energy consumption than with Proof-of-Work. So, yes, in 2020, Ethereum is closer than ever to its perfect state.

What’s next for Vitalik Buterin and his project, then?

“His Heart is in the Right Place”

Although Vitalik rarely reveals the details of his private life, what is absolutely clear about this man is that he’s a lifelong learner.

Now that his net worth is estimated to be $100 million, he lives in Singapore and still keeps on working on his main project as well as on additional things that grab his attention: immortality, writing, traveling, charity.

“His heart is in the right place,” Dmitry Buterin says about his son, and he’s got a point. In 2017, Vitalik donated $763,970 worth of Ether to the Machine Intelligence Research Institute. A year later, the amount increased up to $2.4 million worth of Ether – this time it was the donation for the research on rejuvenation biotechnologies and human life extension.

Vitalik explains that money is far from being the only motivation for him to go on. In his opinion, just like the king from the Fable of the Dragon Tyrant, we owe to the future generations. Yet, we owe not the money but our commitment to further research on more important matters: global decentralization and longevity for everyone.

These concepts sound purely philosophical and unrealistic, but don’t forget that Vitalik manages to transform them into something very practical within Ethereum, one of the most progressive technological projects of the present, past and, seemingly, the future.

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Julia Gerstein

About the Author

Julia Gerstein

Julia Gerstein graduated from The Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia as a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism. She had been working as a reporter at a major news agency RIA Novosti and for The Rolling Stone Magazine before she got interested in Blockchain & Crypto. For the past three years, she has been covering news, creating analytical & educational blog posts and writing about fellow cryptonians. Julia's mission is to help readers find what they need, understand what they find and use what they understand appropriately.