Though he’s not yet 25 years old, Vitalik Buterin has become one of the most influential figures in cryptocurrency and decentralized applications by creating Ethereum. By introducing support for smart contracts, the Ethereum platform allows the cryptocurrency to be used for a wide variety of transactions not natively supported by Bitcoins or other currencies, and innovative new uses are being developed seemingly every day.
In his short career, Buterin has already done enough to cement his reputation as an important thinker, and it will be fascinating to see what’s next for both him and the Ethereum platform he created.
Education And Early Career
Buterin was born in Russia, and his family emigrated to Canada when he was six years old. His father, Dmitry, is a computer scientist, and Vitalik showed a prodigious talent for mathematics and programming even as a young child. By third grade, Vitalik has been placed in gifted classes at school, and he went on to attend a private high school in Toronto that he cites as an important influence. During high school, he attended the International Olympiad in Informatics, winning a bronze medal and networking with other young programmers.
During high school, Buterin accepted a job writing articles about Bitcoins for an obscure blog; he was paid five Bitcoins per post, which equaled about $3.50 at the time, and the website folded after a few months. However, his writing caught the attention of Mihai Alisie, a Romanian cryptocurrency enthusiast, and the two soon went on to co-found Bitcoin Magazine, which was one of the earliest publications about the technology.
Buterin also contributed to other periodicals that covered cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin Weekly and the scholarly journal Ledger, and he continued to write for Bitcoin Magazine until 2014; the magazine has since ceased its print operation, but it still publishes an online edition.
Creation Of Ethereum
After graduating from high school, Buterin enrolled at the University of Waterloo, but he left the university after publishing the Ethereum whitepaper, which proved to be a huge success. Buterin’s decision to leave school was supported by two important developments: he attended a Bitcoin conference in San Jose, California, that confirmed others were as enthusiastic about the technology as he was; and his Ethereum whitepaper won the $100,000 Thiel Fellowship grant that guaranteed some degree of financial security.
Ethereum’s most significant difference from its predecessor, Bitcoin, is that it supports smart contracts. Smart contracts work by encoding the terms of a deal into computer code, so that both payers and payees can guarantee that the other party is holding up their end of the deal, and the platform can support very flexible arrangements involving any number of participants, asset types, and sequential events.
Several other factors also distinguish Ethereum from other cryptocurrencies: it was designed to make communication between applications easier, and its ERC-20 standard makes it easy for new special-use tokens to borrow its blockchain.
Like many advocates of cryptocurrency, Buterin has expressed strong libertarian views, and he cites Milton Friedman, Ludwig von Mises, and Ayn Rand as among his favorite economic thinkers. However, he has also expressed that the point of complete freedom is not simply profit, but rather to unleash creativity and meaningful innovation.
Personal Life And Current Projects
Buterin holds nearly 500,000 Ethereum tokens, and is thus worth at least $175 million, depending on the exchange rate on a given day. However, he still remains busy, and he continues to both write articles and contribute code to software projects, mostly relating to cryptocurrencies and decentralized applications. He also tweets regularly about these subjects, and acts as a spokesperson for Ethereum.
Buterin’s influence on the cryptocurrency community, and market, shouldn’t be underestimated: in mid-2017, when pranksters spread a false rumor that he had died in a car accident, the value of Ethereum plunged by nearly a third. Surely, the world of cryptocurrency users and investors is still very interested in Buterin and his work.