Two of the most compelling personalities in the pro wrestling drama of the cryptocurrency space are Vitalik Buterin and Craig Wright. Buterin is the face—a 24-year-old math wunderkind who co-founded Ethereum, a cryptocurrency with a market cap of $39 billion USD—and Wright is the heel.
Wright’s celebrity (or perhaps more accurately, notoriety) is due to publicly claiming to be Satoshi Nakamoto, the pseudonymous creator of Bitcoin, in 2016. He backed off of the claim once it became clear that his evidence was not sufficient, and some of his biggest initial supporters backed off along with him. Since then, Wright has mounted something of a comeback as “chief scientist” at a company called nChain. His main preoccupation lately, though, seems to be promoting a fork of Bitcoin called “Bitcoin Cash” and getting in social media fights with respected cryptocurrency developers over math.
At the 2018 Deconomy conference in Seoul, South Korea, Buterin and Wright were both booked as speakers, and the sparks flew. During question period for a panel that included Wright, Buterin (according to audience video from multiple angles posted to social media) stood up in the audience and asked, “Given he makes so many non-sequiturs and mistakes, why is this fraud allowed to speak at this conference?” The audience, video shows, went wild. Buterin also live-tweeted the talk.
In response, Wright tweeted, “Vitalik has one issue… When we demonstrate what [Bitcoin Cash] can do, he knows that [Ethereum] will wither and die.” When I reached Wright in a Twitter message to ask if this was indeed responding to Buterin’s comments at the conference, Wright simply answered, “Yes.”
Quoting one of Buterin’s tweets during the Deconomy talk, Wright also added in a tweet, “Oh well…. looks like I broke Vitalek… :) He is a twig.. must remember to be gentle next time ….,” a wrestling taunt worthy of Mankind (okay, maybe Dude Love).
Buterin did not immediately respond to Motherboard’s request for comment.
By this point you may be wondering what, specifically, Buterin’s heated comments to Wright at Deconomy were related to. The video clips posted to social media are short, but in them Buterin references arguments Wright made in his talk relating to “selfish mining.” Selfish mining is an attack on the Bitcoin network that was first described in a 2013 paper by researchers Ittay Eyal and Emin Gün Sirer. Recently, Wright has been maligning this attack as “lie” and giving reasons as to why. Apparently, if we look at Buterin’s live tweets from Wright’s Deconomy talk, one of Wright’s jusitications caused the young Ethereum co-founder’s “bulls*** meter [appear] to be showing a negative value…. oh wait that was an integer overflow.” Sirer chimed in on Twitter, adding that “Vitalik is right” and “Craig doesn’t know math.”
As I’ve written before, the governance model for most of the biggest cryptocurrency communities can be best described as “fighting nerds.” And, as the current beef between Wright and Buterin illustrates, sometimes that can be pretty damn entertaining.
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