Lately, you’ve probably been hearing the terms Ethereum and Vitalik Buterin more and more frequently.
In fact, you might even be wondering, What exactly is Ethereum? Even if you are not familiar with this cryptocurrency, you may still have heard about Vitalik Buterin, who has been at the forefront of this technology since its inception in 2013. If you want to learn more about Vitalik and his brainchild but don’t know where to start, here are eight facts that will help you gain some insights into both Ethereum and Vitalik himself!
1) The name Vitalik is derived from vitalikor, a blend of vitality and potency.
At a young age, he was diagnosed with congenital pneumonia and was placed in an incubator for several weeks. As a result of his illness, he has been deaf in his left ear since birth. He also does not have much sense of smell or taste. While Buterin is mostly non-religious, he believes that there are certain aspects to religion which I think are good. He further clarified that his belief in God comes from cultural upbringing rather than due to any sort of deep philosophical reasoning or scientific basis.
He has stated that he does not consider himself to be an anarchist, but rather a proponent of privacy and decentralization, which he considers to be different from anarchy. On 9 January 2014, Buterin published a white paper titled Ethereum: A Next-Generation Smart Contract and Decentralized Application Platform. On 30 July 2014, he released a research thread entitled Ethereum: The Ultimate Smart Contract and Distributed Application Platform on the Bitcoin Talk forum. This announcement was followed by a formal release of Ethereum’s technical whitepaper on 31 July 2015. The paper detailed information about Ethereum’s internal code operation and its scripting language.
2) His parents immigrated to Canada when he was six months old
Vitalik was born in Russia, but his parents emigrated to Canada shortly after he was born. If his family hadn’t moved, it’s unlikely he would have been exposed to Bitcoin or any cryptocurrency for that matter, and we might not be talking about him today. The takeaway? Immigration matters!
Buterin learned about Bitcoin when he was 17, thanks to his father. However, it wasn’t until 2013 that he discovered blockchain technology and cryptocurrency, after reading a news story about Silk Road (the underground marketplace for illegal drugs and other goods). This experience inspired him to build on Bitcoin’s capabilities. He co-founded Ethereum with Mihai Alisie and Charles Hoskinson in 2014.
He invested early in blockchain and Bitcoin: In 2011, a Thiel Fellow known as Robert Morris started BitMerch, a marketplace for buying and selling digital goods. The project flopped, but it caught Buterin’s attention. He subsequently used his family’s credit card to invest $1000 in bitcoin and Ethereum at an average price of $1 per coin. It was worth more than $400,000 when he sold it all three years later!
3) He was diagnosed with epilepsy at the age of four
During his childhood, Vitalik dealt with severe epileptic seizures that were sometimes triggered by flashing lights. In fact, he first had a seizure after watching a horror movie at age six. As a result of these issues, he was homeschooled for part of his childhood and turned to computers as an outlet for creativity and self-expression. Computers were what I did when I wasn’t doing anything else, he has said.
At one point in high school, he took nine hours of classes per day, mostly in computer science and math. He graduated high school at 16 and continued his education at McGill University, where he studied philosophy. As a student, he began working on smart contracts – blockchain-based contracts that can self-execute when certain conditions are met. These were later incorporated into Ethereum as smart contracts.
4) He learned about Bitcoin in 2011
It was not just a fun calculation – it was Vitalik showing us his appreciation for one of his favourite writers, Issac Asimov. In 1955, when he published I, Robot, Asimov predicted that by 2014 robots would have taken over every job that they could be programmed to do more efficiently than humans. He called them The Machines That Will Do Everything (MTE). Although recent advancements in Artificial Intelligence have certainly made many human jobs obsolete, it is safe to say that we are still a long way from me. Whether or not Ethereum will be able to live up to its name and become The World Computer remains to be seen – but it sure is going to get us one step closer!
As many of you already know, Vitalik is one of Bitcoin’s biggest fans. He first discovered it while travelling in Europe and was fascinated by Satoshi Nakamoto’s white paper on blockchain technology. In 2011, he made an investment in a cryptocurrency called Fairbrix. According to his own words, he put a substantial amount of money into it because I liked what they were doing but then I eventually realized that I could make better projects myself… so I started working on them instead. The result is one of my favourite cryptocurrencies – if not THE most important cryptocurrency project we have today: Ethereum!
5) At one point, he calculated the maximum amount of coins that can be issued by Ethereum as 220,202,439.094771958 Ether (the current cap is 100 million).
It’s no secret that cryptocurrencies are powered by math. It might be surprising, however, to learn that one of them was created by a teenage boy who loves video games and cites Chuck Norris as an idol. One of them has never worn shoes in his life but still managed to become a billionaire at 22 years old. How? By inventing a currency called Ether and selling it on an initial coin offering (ICO) that raised $18 million in 3 days. We’re talking about Vitalik Buterin and Ethereum—two people who changed digital money forever.
I thought it was unlikely that any cryptocurrency would be able to replace all of [the functions of money], he said in a speech at an event in Russia. I still believe that. It’s unlikely that cryptocurrencies will completely replace traditional currencies, but there is a good chance they will become very widespread. How did Buterin manage to create something so extraordinary? Let’s find out!
What makes it better than Bitcoin?: In some ways, Ether is what Bitcoin should have been. While still profitable, its market capitalization is more than 10 times smaller than bitcoins at roughly $3 billion.
6) He is 24 years old
Buterin, who is a Russian-Canadian programmer, was born in Kolomna, Russia. He moved to Canada when he was six years old and currently lives in Singapore with his father Dmitry and mother Olga. He dropped out of college: Although it might not be surprising that one of Bitcoin’s most brilliant minds never finished college, it’s worth noting that he didn’t even attend university for very long: Buterin enrolled at Toronto’s University of Waterloo in 2011 as an engineering student but dropped out after just two years to focus on his role as an early member of the cryptocurrency community.
He met his co-founder Joseph Lubin while attending university. And while he was only at school for a brief time, it appears he still got something out of his time there: That’s actually where I did most of my learning, he says. He used to sell things on eBay: A few years after dropping out of school, he was forced to get a job in order to pay rent and support himself.
7) One of his first investments was in Augur
While working as a trader, Buterin invested in Augur and made over $800,000 worth of ETH from its rise. While he doesn’t actively trade anymore (and neither should you), it’s still quite a profitable investment! Prediction markets aren’t uncommon (and can be extremely accurate), but blockchain-based prediction markets are. This is just one example of how blockchain technology is changing our future.
He actually slept on a friend’s couch for two years.: I’m sure many of us can relate to feeling like we had nothing to our name when we moved out, but Buterin really did. He still remembers walking into an Ikea near campus and asking a worker where he could find couches before spotting one in an aisle, taking it home and sleeping on it. These days his only furniture consists of a simple desk made from plywood and marble dust. A testament to frugality? Or just being a minimalist? We may never know…
8) When asked what he would do if he weren’t doing crypto right now, he responded If I weren’t working on crypto, I’d probably be doing some kind of AI research.
Vitalik has a Masters in Computer Science from the University of Waterloo where he did research on formal methods and program verification. This came after earning his undergrad degree in computer science at McGill University. He’s been involved with Bitcoin since 2011. In 2013, he proposed Ethereum as a next-generation cryptocurrency and decentralized application platform. He is currently working on Casper, sharding, and proof-of-stake for Ethereum. He resides in Toronto, Canada with his mom and doesn’t have any plans to move out anytime soon!
One of these unexpected career turns came when Buterin dropped out of university in 2012 to work on cryptocurrency full-time. He began writing for Bitcoin Magazine and other publications, which earned him a reputation as one of crypto’s most vocal advocates. It also made him more valuable to new blockchain projects that we’re launching, which led to his current job at startup investment fund Ether Capital. Recently, however, he announced plans to take a break from active duty and focus on education again. This time it will be about making Bitcoin easier to use and understand.
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