Vitalik Buterin, Creator of Ethereum, on Understanding Ethereum, ETH vs. BTC, ETH2, Scaling Plans and Timelines, NFTs, Future Considerations, Life Extension, and More (Featuring Naval Ravikant) (#504)

Illustration via 99designs

“We wanted digital nations but we got digital nationalism.”

— Vitalik Buterin

Vitalik Buterin (@VitalikButerin) is the creator of Ethereum. He first discovered blockchain and cryptocurrency technologies through Bitcoin in 2011, and was immediately excited by the technology and its potential. He co-founded Bitcoin Magazine in September 2011, and after two and a half years looking at what the existing blockchain technology and applications had to offer, wrote the Ethereum white paper in November 2013. He now leads Ethereum’s research team, working on future versions of the Ethereum protocol. In 2014, Vitalik was a recipient of the two-year Thiel Fellowship, tech billionaire Peter Thiel’s project that awards $100,000 to 20 promising innovators under 20 so they can pursue their inventions in lieu of a post-secondary institution. You can find his website at

Naval Ravikant (@naval) is the co-founder and chairman of AngelList. He is an angel investor and has invested in more than 100 companies, including many mega-successes, such as Twitter, Uber, Notion, Opendoor, Postmates, and Wish. You can subscribe to Naval, his podcast on wealth and happiness, on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast, or wherever you get your podcasts. You can also find his blog at

Please enjoy!

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What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.


Want to learn more about cryptocurrency? Listen to the conversation Naval and I had with cryptographer Nick Szabo, in which we discuss the problems cryptocurrencies were designed to solve, wet versus dry code, quantum thought, future occupations, and the existential risks of blockchain governance.


  • Connect with Vitalik Buterin:

Website | Twitter

  • Connect with Naval Ravikant:

Website | Twitter | Naval Podcast


  • What is Ethereum, and how does it differ from Bitcoin? [10:47]
  • Ethereum applications Vitalik is most excited about. [14:48]
  • What is DeFi? [18:41]
  • How does intellectual property retain its value in such an interconnected system? [20:54]
  • Digital nationalism, castles made of math, and comparing and contrasting how Ethereum and WordPress operate. [25:30]
  • What was the initial vision for Ethereum, and what has Vitalik found most surprising about how it’s been used between concept and the current day? [27:53]
  • Addressing the challenges of making Ethereum scale: enter Ethereum 2. [34:21]
  • What does proof-of-stake mean in the context of the blockchain, and why is its efficiency debated? [41:45]
  • How layer 2 operates more efficiently than layer 1, and to what degree when you factor in rollups and future computational capacity. [45:54]
  • When can people betting their businesses on these improvements realistically expect them to be implemented? Is there a risk that some people won’t want to make the transition, and could this cause problems down the line? [54:37]
  • As someone who prefers to coordinate rather than dictate, what happens when Vitalik disagrees with the way developers utilize Ethereum? [1:01:42]
  • How the Ethereum Foundation, ConsenSys, and Uniswap (to name just a few organizations and applications) co-exist and collaborate within the Ethereum community, and how this dynamic differs from the Bitcoin ecosystem. [1:03:02]
  • How tokens on the blockchain are like fire: crucial to progress, but not without their own dangers. It really depends on the motivations of the person using them. [1:05:24]
  • On the sovereign-resistant resilience of cryptocurrencies in the face of regulation, and how some authorities are coming around to the idea that blockchain technologies can be useful. [1:13:14]
  • What is Vitalik’s current point of view about where the ETH supply heads and what the ETH price means for the ecosystem? [1:18:05]
  • As someone who’s concerned about wealth inequality, what does Vitalik think about the distribution of wealth in a crypto-run economy as opposed to an economy based on a fiat currency like the US dollar or the Euro? [1:23:08]
  • These days, what’s Vitalik thinking about that falls outside the cryptosphere? [1:28:12]
  • What is quadratic funding, and can it be done anonymously? [1:30:30]
  • How quadratic funding can be combined with other means to finance scientific research. [1:35:39]
  • Naval’s thoughts on campaign financing following a similar approach. [1:39:23]
  • What areas of scientific research is Vitalik most interested in supporting? [1:40:17]
  • What is Vitalik doing to live to 1,000 (and beyond), and what would we improve in the area of scientific research? [1:42:49]
  • After 2020’s tumultuous changes, does Vitalik have ideas of where the world is headed in the next few years with which his peers might disagree? [1:49:54]
  • What advice does Vitalik have for someone who wants to get involved in the Ethereum ecosystem? What are the points of leverage? [1:52:09]
  • Another contrarian thing Vitalik believes. [1:55:57]
  • As a lover of language learning, how does Vitalik recommend someone begin learning a language most effectively? [2:01:32]
  • Parting thoughts. [2:04:54]


The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 600 million downloads. It has been selected for “Best of Apple Podcasts” three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it’s been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.