Resolving Vitalik's contradictions
May 17th, 2022

This is my opinion how Vitalik’s contradictions are healthy and necessary, and how they can be reconciled. I relate with Vitalik’s contradictions, which is why I can write a quick blog post without thinking about it:

Contradiction between my desire to see Ethereum become a more Bitcoin-like system emphasizing long-term stability and stability, including culturally, and my realization that getting there requires quite a lot of active coordinated short-term change.

To attain long-term stability, short-term change is necessary. Unlike Bitcoin, whose premature ossification means there’ll always be fundamental flaws, and it’ll be much harder to resolve later than sooner. So, build a robust system first, ossify second.

Contradiction between my preference for reducing reliance on individuals and trying to build fixed systems that can stand the test of time and my appreciation of "live players" and their role in helping the world move forward.

Trust is an essential part of the human experience. Not everyone can be good at everything, so most people learn to trust others with most things. This is the fundamental bedrock of human civilization. So, empowering “live players” is also indirectly empowering the individuals that rely on and trust them.

Contradiction between my desire to see Ethereum become an L1 that can survive truly extreme circumstances and my realization that many key apps on Ethereum already rely on far more fragile security assumptions than anything we consider acceptable in Ethereum protocol design.

Ethereum’s goal should be to build the most resilient settlement layer for the internet. People, applications, developers and rollups are free to choose their own trade-offs, and Ethereum accepting all of them is a testament to its credible neutrality.

Contradiction between my love for things like decentralization and democracy, and my realization that in practice I agree with intellectual elites more than "the people" on many (though definitely far from all) specific policy issues.

As mentioned above - not everyone is good at everything. To form a healthy society, we must have experts in respective fields - the intellectual elites. Where we are lacking is education for “the people” - and perhaps Ethereum can play a role in this.

Contradiction between my desire to see more countries adopting radical policy experiments (eg. crypto countries!) and my realization that the governments most likely to go all the way on such things are more likely to be centralized and not friendly to diversity internally.

Radical policy experiments will necessarily be done by smaller collectives. I do think these can be democratic, though. E.g: Iceland democratically mandating wage parity across genders for the same work.

Contradiction between my desire to see more diversity in interesting *cultures* and my realization that maintaining a culture that's distinct from the mainstream seems to often require *some* kind of insanity or artificial barrier or similar thing that I ideologically dislike.

A culture that’s relevant enough will likely go mainstream, and that’s fine. At the same time, new countercultures will appear.

Contradiction between my dislike of many modern financial blockchain "applications" ($3M monkeys etc), and my grudging appreciation for the fact that that stuff is a big part of what keeps the crypto economy running and pays for all my favorite cool DAO/governance experiments.

Contradiction between my desire for crypto to grow beyond finance and my realization that finance (incl payments+SoV) is still by far the most successful category of crypto apps, *especially* among third-world residents, human rights activists and vulnerable people generally.

These two are related.

IMHO, blockchains today are unsuited for most non-financial applications. Due to the way blockchains gain economic security, liquidity and grow, financial applications are necessary.

I believe appealing to third-world residents and vulnerable people need a different structure than traditional blockchains. The goal should be to appeal to benevolent institutions and organizations, enable a level playing field for them. So, we should form structures based not on plutocratic proof-of-stake or coin-voting, but add an element of trust back into the equation (of course, proof-of-personhood will help a lot) for the vulnerable and marginalized people. On the convex/concave scale, blockchains and centralized corporations are extremes. I believe there’s a healthy middle-ground that is not being explored, that may be enabled and empowered by blockchain tech, but not directly use it, thus avoiding its limitations. I have more thoughts on this, but this will do for now.

Contradiction between my desire to maximally simplify the L1 and my desire to maximally simplify the whole ecosystem (as a simple L1 often "exports" its complexity to higher layers of the stack that users have to adopt anyway)

A maximally simple L1 will attract maximally complex applications built on top, and a whole spectrum in between :)

Contradiction between my desire to be a positive-sum mediator figure that can be everyone's friend and my desire to stand strongly with good against evil those times when true evil is what we face.

Standing against evil is positive sum!

The evil are fundamentally opposed to being “everyone’s friend”.

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