Ethereum: Taking Crypto Beyond Just Currency
On February 27th 2014, New York City enjoyed a dedicated public meet-up called “Ethereum 101”, the first of a series of meetings intended to showcase and discuss the Ethereum metacoin. Ethereum aspires to go far beyond being a simple altcoin, instead this platform seeks to pick up where Satoshi left off by applying a scripting layer on top of the block chain concept to create a radically different economic, legal, and social environment. In this space, “smart” autonomous agents, among other instruments, would radically challenge our existing systems – and even the very concepts – of commerce, ownership, law, and more.
The meeting started off with a quick greeting by Rik Willard of MintCombine which is the incubation company that sponsored the meeting. From there the floor was given to Aaron Zirker of Cryptocurrency Analytics, one of the startups incubated by MintCombine who gave a short talk introducing his company’s Bitcoin exchange arbitrage services and even passing around some introductory coupon codes for his service. We definitely will be keeping a close eye on this company as time goes on.
From there, the event went straight on to a total Ethereum focus, led by Jonathan Mohan. Jonathan is well known for being New York City’s long-time crypto currency event organizer. After a quick introduction, an Ethereum-explaining video was shown to the crowd of about 45 attendees on the 3rd floor of the Coworkrs office space at 115 East 23rd St.
Following the conclusion of the video, the meeting turned into a long Q&A session where Jonathan took on Ethereum questions of all types from anyone who wanted to ask. Since the crowd held a broad spectrum of familiarity with Ethereum, Bitcoin, and crypto currencies overall, the answers range from simple reviews of basic concepts all the way to very specific Ethereum details – or at least as much as is known at this time.
One of the most exciting and thought-provoking points surrounded Ethereum’s promised Distributed Autonomous Organizations (DAO). Mentioned in the project’s white paper, this DAO concept, if fully-realized, would certainly alter much of how business and even daily life were carried out. Simply explained, these are to be computer scripts that would run on the Ethereum network and after they were launched, they would perform tasks without human intervention. These scripts would be “powered” by Ether, the currency of the Ethereum system – the metaphor Jonathan used was to describe Bitcoin as gold and Ether as oil – and would continue to carry out their tasks automatically, so long as they had enough power, again in the form of Ether, to run.
As these software agents grew in sophistication, they could be allowed to reinvest any profits in themselves, enabling continued and indefinite self-sufficiency. Jonathan led the group through one possible example where an autonomous car operates as a self-owned taxi – and then makes sufficient profits to not only let it continue to exist as such, but to reinvest in itself to purchase another autonomous vehicle to work for it, effectively becoming an autonomous small business that does not even require a human owner. Can I get a “Whoa…”?
Of course other platforms are working on similar approaches – Mastercoin, NXT and Invictus are all recognized metazoans working towards fairly similar goals that Jonathan claimed should interlock well with Ethereum, however unfortunately he was not able to give solid launch dates or milestones at this time as their are busy organizing their funding efforts and working on some big decisions about where they want to take the metacoin. To keep tabs on their progress, engage in further dialogue, or ask your own questions, check out their forums here.
Update: An earlier version of the text misstated the role of MintCombine in organizing the meeting, its relationship to Cryptocurrency Analytics, and added an unnecessary space in the title. This has been fixed in the current copy and we regret the error.