Vitalik Buterin and Charles Hoskinson make their differences in design approaches public.



Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin told podcaster Lex Friedman that the “profound academic rigor” that was attempted to be mirrored in Cardano, the crypto project led by former Ethereum co-founder Charles Hoskinson, was overstated.

Projects like these “really emphasize having this great academic evidence for everything,” Buterin said in the podcast uploaded to YouTube Friday. In response, Buterin said, “Ethereum tends to be better with heuristics, partly because it tries to do it faster.”

Intuitively, Buterin refers to problems solved by practical solutions rather than theoretically perfect formulas. Updates in Cardano, on the other hand, must be approved by a rigorous academic committee that reviews each change by their peers.

Hoskinson claims that the Cardano design improves Ethereum. He said that while building the project in 2013, his ideas were not popular with Ethereum developers.

Hoskinson told Decrypt in 2019:

A lot of people hate me in the Ethereum ecosystem. They say I’m a monster, the only reason I got involved was because I wanted to hurt Ethereum.

Buterin said researchers often choose heuristics over deep academic rigor because they often overlook the biggest failures.

He also gave an example of an out-of-model failure: “selfish” Bitcoin mining, where miners collude to hide newly minted blocks from the public blockchain and then expose them on a private network where the shortage would lead to higher profits.

Selfish mining was first described by Cornell researchers Emin Gün Sirer and Ittay Eyal in a 2013 paper four years after Bitcoin was launched. This issue has not been disclosed by researchers like Bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto.

Ultimately, what you’re trying to achieve can never be fully described in official language, Buterin said, “This is the great discovery of AI security guards.”

He mentioned the analogy of “paper clip maximizer,” where far ahead someone asks a super-intelligent AI to create as many paper clips as possible. The machine concludes that humans made of atoms are perfect fodder for paper clips, causing the death of humanity.

Buterin believes meticulous designs often fail to account for such failures. (He donated a lot of money to organizations that are improving AI security, including billions of dollars worth of meme tokens).

Charles Hoskinson responded to Buterin with a video talk from his hotel room in Miami, where he attended the Bitcoin 2021 conference (along with Buterin) this weekend.


I believe the way we do things is a little more mature and responsible because the way we do things provides better assurance that the systems we build will not fail. privacy is at stake if things go wrong.

He said that if development is rushed and adoption escalates to a point where changes can no longer be implemented, it could result in software “tragic and brutally flawed”.

As a counter-example, Hoskinson cited Boeing 737 crashes that killed 346 people in 2018 and 2019. He said accidents show how software failure can have disastrous consequences and why precision is so important in technological design. (A study from the New York Times later concluded that accidents were the cause of regulation, not technological failures).

Hoskinson said Cardano will adhere to the “guiding principle” of “evidence-based software” based on academic peer review processes conducted through conferences. But the “protocols of Vitalik et al” will also eventually succeed, he said.


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