Vitalik Buterin Attacks Cardano, Charles Hoskinson Responds

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Everyone can see the disparities in design methods between Vitalik Buterin and Charles Hoskinson.

In an apparent dig at Cardano, the crypto project run by former Ethereum co-founder Charles Hoskinson, Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin told podcaster Lex Friedman that “deep academic rigour is overrated.”

Such efforts “really emphasise having these big academic proofs for everything,” Buterin said in the podcast, which was published on YouTube on Friday. Buterin, on the other hand, stated that “Ethereum tends to be more okay with heuristic arguments, in part because it is attempting to do more faster.”

Buterin defines heuristics as issues handled using practical answers rather than theoretically perfect equations. Cardano updates, on the other hand, must be authorised by a rigors academic body that conducts peer reviews on each modification.

Hoskinson thinks Cardano’s design outperforms Ethereum’s. He said that his views made him unpopular among Ethereum developers when he was establishing the project in 2013.

In 2019, Hoskinson told Decrypt, “A lot of people in the Ethereum ecosystem despise me.” They think I’m a monster who only got engaged because I wanted to harm Ethereum.”

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Buterin stated that he prefered heuristics over strong academic rigour since scholars frequently overlook the most significant errors.

He gave an example of an out-of-the-box failure: “selfish” Bitcoin mining, in which miners work together to hide newly-minted blocks from the public blockchain, disclosing them later in a private network where scarcity leads to higher profitability.

Cornell academics Emin Gün Sirer and Ittay Eyal first found selfish mining in a 2013 article, four years after Bitcoin was established. This issue was overlooked by researchers such as Bitcoin’s inventor, Satoshi Nakamoto.

“Ultimately, what you’re trying to achieve can never be fully described in formal language. This is the big discovery of the AI safety people,” said Buterin.

It’s similar to the “paperclip maximizer” scenario, in which someone in the future requests a superintelligent AI to manufacture as many paperclips as possible. The machine determines that people, which are made up of atoms, are good food for paperclips and causes humanity’s end. Buterin argues that rigors designs frequently fail to account for such errors. (He has given a large sum of money to groups that promote AI safety, including billions of dollars in meme tokens.)

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Charles Hoskinson replied to Buterin through a video speech from his hotel room in Miami, where he’s attending the Bitcoin 2021 conference this weekend (alongside Buterin).

“I just happen to believe the way we do things is a bit more mature and responsible because the way we do things results in a better assurance that the systems we build won’t fail,” Hoskinson said, stressing that if something goes wrong, customers’ money and privacy are at danger.

If development was hurried and adoption surged to the point that improvements could no longer be implemented, he warned, it may result in “tragically and brutally flawed” software.

As a counterexample, Hoskinson mentioned the Boeing 737 crashes that killed 346 people in 2018 and 2019. He said that the crashes show how software failure can have disastrous consequences, and why precision is so important in technological design. (An investigation from the New York Times later concluded that the crashes were the cause of regulatory, not technological failures, however).

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Hoskinson said that Cardano will stick to its “guiding principle” of “evidence-based software” that relies on academic peer-review processes run through conferences, he said. But “the protocols of Vitalik and his friends” will also eventually succeed, he said.

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