Vitalik Buterin tells Time Magazine that crypto “has a lot of dystopian potential”


ETHDenver, one of the most popular crypto conferences in the world, took place this year between February 11 and March 21. The conference is the premier developer-focused event of the year. It offers plenty of opportunities to learn about new Blockchain innovations in addition to happy hours, open bars, and after-parties.

Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin was understandably the star of the whole conference. Even though he didn’t attend after-parties as he doesn’t drink and feels uncomfortable in crowds, Butlerin took every opportunity to share his thoughts on the crypto industry and the future of Ethereum.

On the last day of ETHDenver, Time Magazine held an 80-minute interview with Buterin where he shared his worries about the future of crypto.

Cover of Time Magazine March 28/April 4, 2022 via
Cover of Time magazine, March 28/April 4, 2022 (via

“Crypto itself has a lot of dystopian potential if implemented poorly,” said Buterin, referring to mining’s large contribution to pollution, the use of cryptography as a means of tax evasion and money laundering, as well as providing a platform for form for unthinkable scams. Most of his worries stem from the fact that reality is going in the opposite direction to Buterin’s visions.

Ethereum as a platform for experimentation

Buterin wants Ethereum to turn into a launchpad for social experimentation in the future. He wants the platform to host trials for fairer voting systems, city planning, a universal basic income system and similar public projects. With such projects, Buterin wants Ethereum to balance the power of authoritarian governments and the domination of Silicon Walley over our digital lives.

Buterin has always been very careful with the question of centralization. This went so far as not to introduce himself as the “founder” of Ethereum because he feared influencing the community. So he tried to limit public appearances as much as possible.

However, he also acknowledges that his future vision on Ethereum could be quickly taken over by greedy people. Thus, he is reluctantly positioning himself in a larger public role to help push the future of Ethereum in the right direction. He says:

“If we don’t exercise our voice, the only things that get built are those that are immediately profitable. And these are often far from what is actually best for the world.

Decentralization goes beyond Buterin

Despite its importance to the Ethereum network, it still cannot create the push it wants. This is because no one but himself designed Ethereum to be completely decentralized. Buterin rejects the idea of ​​anyone holding unilateral power over Ethereum, including himself.

That’s why it can’t go beyond mere suggestions through blog posts, interviews, speeches, and research. However, it is difficult to say that his methods have any effects on the community. He feels his voice is not heard. He expresses his concerns by saying:

“I screamed a lot, and sometimes that scream feels like screaming in the wind.”

Overexpansion of wealth

Another thing Buterin worries about, which pushes the community in the opposite direction to his vision, is the distraction created by excessive wealth expansion. He comments on the exponential growth of the market and states:

Surely the biggest divide was that many of these people cared about making money. For me, that was absolutely not my goal. There are certainly a lot of people who just buy yachts and Lambos.

Buterin refers to the emergence of Lamborghini’s luxury sports car as a symbol of success in the crypto space.

People who have received impressive returns for their investors have publicly spent their crypto on Lamborghini to prove the credibility of both the crypto space and their crypto savvy. It has taken root so well within the crypto community that the phrase “When Lambo?” makes its way to the crypto dictionary.

Buterin believes that this excessive expansion and shameless displays of wealth are creating destruction for the community. This drives them to follow profit rather than what the crypto space may become.

NFT is a bet

Talking about excessive wealth expansion, Buterin also touched on the topic of NFTs. He mentioned that NFTs have also become symbols of wealth and behave like high-level games of chance. Referring to Bored Ape Yacht Club NFTs, he said:

“The danger is you have these $3 million monkeys and it becomes a different kind of game.”

Buterin did not predict the rise of NFTs. They have undoubtedly contributed to the growth of the Ethereum network and the price of Ether. However, they also overwhelmed the network due to their volume, leading to a sharp increase in gas prices. More importantly, they push Ethereum growth further than Buterin’s visions.


Buterin also acknowledged community frustration with high gas fees on the Ethereum network. He sided with the community in their frustration and said this needs to be fixed as soon as possible. He said:

“With the fees as they are today, it’s really getting to the point where the financial derivatives and the betting stuff is starting to price some of the cool stuff.”

It looks like Buterin has accepted that the community is chasing a quick buck right now. However, he realizes that if the fee isn’t lowered soon, the community will look to other options to pursue his gain. If that happens, Buterin won’t even be able to push the network to his visions because no one will use him.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine

Buterin also commented on the latest news regarding the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the role of crypto in this matter. Coming from Russian-Ukrainian heritage, Buterin has also taken action, channeling hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants to help efforts in Ukraine.

Acknowledging the positive effect of war on crypto, Buterin said:

“A silver lining to the situation over the past three weeks is that it has reminded many people in the crypto space that ultimately the purpose of crypto is not to play games with. pictures of million dollar monkeys is to do things that accomplish meaningful effects in the real world.

It seems the war has put crypto in a place that aligns with Buterik’s vision for the future of Ethereum. Donations to help Ukraine could be collected quickly, without high cost and quickly all over the world. A perfect picture of global collaboration and unison matches Buterin’s aspirations.

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