Vitalik Buterin Schools Elon Musk on Blockchain

Vitalik Buterin Schools Elon Musk on Blockchain
Image by Sasin Tipchai from Pixabay

Yerevan ( – Vitalik Buterin, the co-founder of Ethereum, schooled Tesla CEO Elon Musk (and his fans) by publishing a lengthy paper on the limits of blockchain scalability.

Earlier this month, in reply to a tweet praising Dogecoin, Elon Musk projected the meme cryptocurrency as technologically superior to its established peers. The claim did not sit well with Buterin.

The Twitter user, who goes under the name @itsALLrisky, claimed that “#Dogecoin has faster transaction speeds, lower fees, and less environmental impact than #BTC,” tagging the Tesla CEO. Musk responded, “Ideally, Doge speeds up block time 10X, increases block size 10X & drops fee 100X. Then it wins hands down.”

This response, although loved by Dogecoin fans, caught the attention of Buterin. He decided to publicly educate Elon Musk and his Dogecoin army on the workings of blockchain and the issues of block scalability.

Apparently, things are not as easy and simple as Musk suggests. In the lengthy write-up published in his blog, the Ethereum co-founder punched holes in Musk’s theory. He gave a point-to-point explanation of why Musk’s simplistic claim is flawed and unrealistic.

Buterin: Not Worth the Sacrifice

Buterin argues, that in order to provide such high scalability, one has to sacrifice the very essence of blockchain-decentralization.

“As it turns out, there are important and quite subtle technical factors that limit blockchain scaling,” Buterin writes.

“It’s crucial in blockchain decentralization for regular users to be able to run a node. Once you take that away from the system, the entire concept of decentralization collapses. By agreeing to surpass users that run nodes, you are essentially compromising the fundamental properties that make a blockchain. It will eventually lead to “extreme centralization.”

Technically, Buterin argues, one could increase the parameters just as Musk suggests. However, it would come at a cost. Is it wise to sacrifice the idea of blockchain for faster block creation?

The strength of blockchain technology lies in the fact that it does not have a single point of failure as no individual controls the system and runs the entire chain alone. This provides higher security against failures and also provides security against cyber attacks.

Can We Effectively Increase the Number of Users Who Run Nodes?

Buterin argues that maximum security is achieved when more users are running verifying nodes. When an attacker tries to break into a code, the chances of failing are more as individual users help in rejecting malicious activities that go against the chain.

Technically, one could increase the number of users who can run a node. For this, one would need to increase attributes like computing power, bandwidth and storage. However, according to the article, even that won’t help in getting the desired results at the scale that Elon Musk envisions.

What the Tesla CEO is envisioning are, according to Buterin, “overly optimistic estimates” and will not work.

In effect, the co-founder of Ethereum has advised Elon Musk and his overly optimistic fans not to build castles in the air and be more realistic.

Will Elon Musk pay heed?

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