September 25, 2023

Basic Takeaways

  • Vitalik Buterin said that blockchain applications should prove their usefulness instead of promising that they could be useful in the future in the next 10 years.
  • Buterin also said he expects some Optimistic Rollup projects working to scale Ethereum today will shift to embrace ZK-Rollups because of their “fundamental advantages.”
  • He added that Ethereum will need to be upgraded to protect against quantum computing attacks in the future, but it may be a few decades before any upgrades are needed.

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Buterin reiterated his view that ZK-Rollups are likely to be Ethereum’s top Layer 2 scaling weapon and said that quantum computing will be an important factor for the protocol in the future.

Buterin on the future of Ethereum

Vitalik Buterin is optimistic about Ethereum’s future, but believes there are big challenges ahead.

Ethereum’s creator discussed the long-term future of the protocol in a closed press conference ahead of the launch BUIDL Asia and EthSeoul today, focusing on scaling technology, quantum computing, and major barriers facing the network.

Buterin said the next decade will be critical for blockchain technology, arguing that applications will soon have to prove their usefulness in an open market. “I think the next 10 years is when crypto needs to transform into something that’s not based on promises that it will be useful in the future, but is actually useful,” he said. “Because a lot of apps are promising in theory, but they’re just not completely viable because of scaling issues today.” He added that if a blockchain application fails to work once Ethereum completes its Proof-of-Stake “Merge” and zero-knowledge technology is proven, there’s a good chance that it “doesn’t make sense” to use blockchain in the first place.

Elaborating on the scaling issues facing Ethereum, Buterin expressed excitement for the upcoming wave of Layer 2 solution aggregation, taking the position that zero-knowledge based ZK-Rollups will prevail over Optimistic Aggregation as the superior, albeit artificial, technology. “In the long run, ZK-Rollups will eventually beat Optimistic Rollups because it has these fundamental advantages, like not having to have a seven-day withdrawal period,” he said, before commenting on the difficulties of creating ZK-Rollups. “ZK is a technology that is simply difficult to manufacture. There are many challenges and the Optimistic Rollup technology is more mature.” Buterin clarified that he was still confident that some of the current Optimistic Rollup projects would succeed, but he expected some projects to pivot in the future. “They’re going to do great. But I fully expect that eventually, at some point, they will switch to ZK.”

A “Complete” Ethereum

Buterin also commented on how a “full” Ethereum would fare in the deep future following his recent comments at EthCC in Paris, where he stated that Ethereum would be “55% full” after the merger. “After the big items—you know, Merge, Surge, Purge, Verge, Splurge—Ethereum will basically be in a place where the protocol doesn’t need to change. Everything can be done at Layer 2.”

Buterin added a caveat that Ethereum will have to take quantum computing developments into account at some point in the distant future. “We have to upgrade at some point for quantum security,” he said, considering a transition to “new forms of cryptography” that would be resistant to potential attacks. Crypto skeptics have often pointed out that quantum computing could kill blockchains, but Buterin said it will be some time before cryptocurrency makers need to make changes. “We are constantly very close contact with the AI ​​researchers who continue to work on this problem and make better algorithms,” he said. “But that’s a long way off and could be 10, 20 or 30 years from now.”

Disclosure: At the time of writing, the author of this piece owned ETH and several other cryptocurrencies.

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