Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending the ethereum meetup in Boston. There were a range of people there. There was a recent MBA, coders, former coders, and entrepreneurs. People attending would seem to be smart, and inquisitive. Ready to learn new things. Like myself, many people attended without having a full grasp on Ethereum’s implications. We all seemed to know different aspects of the topic so I believe the interaction was very productive for all.
The brains behind the project
One topic of discussion was speculation that Neal Koblitz and Nick Szabo are involved with ethereum. You may know that Neal Koblitz is the same Koblitz that the elliptic curve used in bitcoin is named after. The idea of a smart contract originated with Nick Szabo. It was suggested that there is a who’s who of cryptography, finance, and other subjects working on ethereum. My initial investigations into these claims verifies that Neal Koblitz and Ralph Merkle of Merkle trees are advisors to the ethereum project.
Proof of stake
There was discussion around Vitalik who is currently not sure if ethereum will implement proof of stake. Neocash Radio listeners may recall that proof of stake is when the proof of ownership is used to mine a block. The longer your coins have not been spent, the more stake you are considered to have. Proof of stake mining creates a different type of economy where ownership of coins can mean that more are issued to you. If proof of stake is implemented in ethereum then the initial purchase of ether would perhaps be more valuable as the ether will also be needed to mine. Proof of stake is implemented in peercoin. A economically opposite feature was implemented in freicoin.
Wow that’s AMAZING! What is it?
What surprised me is that many people at the meetup were still trying to figure out ethereum. This was the fourth meetup. I thought I was showing up late to the party. Apparently, there is still a lot to learn and understand. It felt like I was one of those blind people explaining what the elephant looks like, while other people were doing the same with other parts of the elephant. All and all, I learned. I would recommend that anyone with a curiosity attend one of these meetups. There was a real sense of being on the cusp of a revolution. Not a gunpowder and cannon revolution, something more along the lines of the industrial revolution.
Challenges and unanswered questions
I came with questions and I left with questions. I am concerned about how the decentralized network will process all of this information on a global scale. Right now bitcoin can only process 7 transactions a second. Contracts will be more demanding. Will the ethereum network be able to process all contracts that are thrown at it? How will it scale? I know that Vitalik has considered this problem, but I have not parsed the solution just yet. There are economic decisions that are being made that also raise concerns. The price of computations and fees are necessary to stop a denial of service attack and other reasons. The concern is that the prices need to be right ahead of time. If the price is too high then people won’t use ethereum. If the price is too low then the network could grind to a halt with too much activity. Also remember that the price is set in ether, a unit with no historical precedence. Hopefully all the good brains working on the project can effectively solve these issues.