The original catalyst behind the creation of cryptocurrencies, Buterin noted, was social change. Instead, millions of people have crypto wallets for a decidedly more whimsical purpose: “so they can trade monkey pictures,” he said Wednesday at the Blockchain Futurist Conference in Toronto.
Crypto’s pioneers pondered the “great battle between the authority of the nation-state and the desire for individual freedom,'' he said. Fast-forward to now and “It's like, ‘Hey, look, it's a monkey!’” he joked.
More seriously, Buterin believes this is an example of the double-edged sword of cryptography. “The problem with crypto space is that it has great incentives, but at the same time, it has incentives to go into very weird directions sometimes,” he said, noting the Ape NFTs.
This isn’t the first time Buterin has commented publicly about the utility of BAYC’s NFTs. During an interview with Time in March, he compared the immensely popular NFTs to gambling. He later clarified in a tweet that he doesn’t necessarily hate Ape NFTs, but rather he wants them to “fund public goods.”
Buterin was also very upbeat about the Ethereum Merge, an event that could take place next month that will dramatically change the underpinnings of the network, cutting energy consumption in the process.
“Ethereum’s energy consumption [after the merge] will be reduced by more than 99.9%, so it’s a big improvement,” he said. “It's also an opportunity to kind of take some of the ideas that we've learned over the last eight years or so, and use that to really redefine what the different parts of the Ethereum chain [can do],” Buterin added.
Buterin’s optimism was reflected by the markets as well, with the network's native token ether (ETH) hitting the highest price since June as traders have become more bullish on the Merge.
After the switch, Buterin said, the network could be made more secure, transactions sped up and costs lowered. It also opens Ethereum up to more upgrades in the future, he said. Buterin added that immediately after the Merge, the biggest focus will be on the scalability of the network.
Besides making the network consume less power, the rest of the benefits that Buterin talked about are still in the distant future. The third and final major milestone leading up to the Merge was achieved Wednesday with a test version of Ethereum.
Read more: Ethereum After the Merge: What Comes Next?
Margaux Nijkerk contributed to the reporting of this story
The leader in news and information on cryptocurrency, digital assets and the future of money, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups. As part of their compensation, certain CoinDesk employees, including editorial employees, may receive exposure to DCG equity in the form of stock appreciation rights, which vest over a multi-year period. CoinDesk journalists are not allowed to purchase stock outright in DCG.