The cryptocurrency world witnessed its own version of Ali v. Foreman after Vitalik Buterin, the Co-founder of Ethereum and prominent cryptocurrency skeptic, Nouriel Roubini, faced off at the Deconomy Forum in Seoul. The two stalwarts were up against each other on a panel discussion titled, ‘Fundamental Value of Cryptocurrency and its sustainability,’ moderated by Antony Lewis.
The debate was billed as the most exciting panel discussion of the year, with Nouriel Roubini and Vitalik Buterin having squared off several times previously. The debate itself covered a range of subjects, including, centralization, scalability, and censorship resistance, among other things.
Ethereum’s Co-creator spoke about the utility of cryptocurrencies and how they can be censorship resistant and be used to allow more people access to financial services, while exploring more use cases such as DApps. The economist dismissed this, stating that the privacy and anti-censorship argument was a ‘joke.’
Calling it nothing more than a myth, Roubini said that since governments have the power and authority to overrule crypto-systems, cryptos can only be as resistant as the government allows them to be. Further, since many regulators impose KYC norms, anonymity and censorship resistance will be rendered moot, he said.
Roubini further added that since felonies such as tax evasion, human trafficking and terrorist financing are common, governments have no incentive to accept cryptocurrencies. Instead, they’ll be motivated to act against anonymous finance, he said. Buterin responded by saying that anonymity was not mutually exclusive with finance. He also added that private and compliant finance is possible.
Roubini and Buterin also crossed swords on the issue of scalability and decentralization. Proof-of-Work networks such as Bitcoin and Ethereum are not sufficiently scalable, Roubini said, citing the consensus algorithm’s slow transaction speeds. The economist also spoke about the alleged degree of centralization within the mining and developer community.
Buterin was quick to respond however, stating that solutions such as Ethereum’s sharding not only allows maximum efficiency for nodes and miners, but also contributes towards improving scalability and decentralization.
Emin Gün Sirer, a professor at Cornell University, had this to say about Roubini’s comments on centralization,
“Ok, he even called out the centralization among developers. Not wrong, but kind of unfair to direct it at ETH, one of the few coins with a decentralized developer ecosystem.”
Buterin and Roubini also spoke about a scenario where Central Banks hold cryptocurrencies in the future. While Roubini said that it was not possible, Buterin commented that it wasn’t impossible since central banks already hold gold reserves.
Ethereum’s Vitalik Buterin also had some interesting insights on what present-day cryptocurrencies are supposed to become in the future. He said,
“I don’t advocate for BTC or ETH to become a unit of account for the world. Things like @MakerDAO have potential. But value of most of crypto in short term is not to replace global fiat.”