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)

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“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 of looking at what the existing blockchain technology and applications had to offer, wrote the Ethereum white paper in November of 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 path. 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

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#504: 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)

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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.

#244: The Quiet Master of Cryptocurrency — Nick Szabo


  • 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) coexist 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 he 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 that his peers might disagree with? [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 900 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.

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23 Replies to “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)”

  1. You should have Brian Foote, the CEO of Humbl on your show. They will soon have a solid peer to peer blockchain App out globally for merchants, freelancers, and individuals. They recently purchased Tickeri, an online ticketing system that is being merged into the Humbl app to be released this month.

  2. Ethereum has a very long track record of pivots and narrative changes to gain hype. It is a running joke when it comes to scaling and schedules for scaling. Naval promised tough questions but Vitalik’s endless word salad seems to have been swallowed whole. It will be interesting to revisit this in a year and subsequent years

      1. Hi Apri,

        I hadn’t receive a notification about your comment, I am curious what do you mean with yours?

        Maybe you wanted to comment on someone elses post?

  3. Excellent discussion! I had this creepy thought, though, while listening: I can imagine an NFT representing an actual person and perhaps even trading in their relative value. Another question is who could own your personal NFT (PNFT? – I just coined that)? – only you? Somebody else? the government? Yikes.

  4. I can’t tell you how happy I am to see you bring on all of these crypto/blockchain SMEs, Tim. The push to Web 3.0 is a pending tidal wave and it’s still early enough for people to educate themselves and capitalize on the opportunity.

  5. The world could be a better place with crypto technology, but high energy consumption, money laundering and high price volatility are some of the real problems that must be addressed asap by the crypto community. I was surprised none of the great thinkers of the podcast addressed any of these in this podcast.

    1. > high energy consumption

      Proof-of-stake solves this

      > money laundering

      Unlikely to be a solvable problem in a decentralized world, but I’d argue it’s easier to monitor compared to cash

      > price volatility

      Stable coins already exist

  6. Hello Tim,
    Thank you for everything you are doing for mental health awareness. I am the director of a nonprofit counseling agency that does not turn anyone away. That is right. We do not turn anyone away. Ever. In addition, we provide free counseling in over 30 schools, and have trained over 7,000 people in QPR suicide prevention. Our model is unique and keeps growing. This model could be replicated across the country so that other communities could also have a safety net where they can get the gift of hope. Mental health should not be a luxury. If someone reaches their hand out to us, we grab it. I would love to share more with you. [Moderator: contact information removed here but preserved in the intake field.] [Moderator: Link to mosaiccounseling dot com removed.]

  7. Hi Tim, I’m new to your podcasts and love the thoughtful content and exploration. I couldn’t help noticing one thing that I hope you would address with future guests. Of the past 50 interviews on your podcast, 5 were with women. There are many thrilling and thoughtful female thinkers out there whose perspective I’m sure you’d appreciate, and I’m guessing so would your listeners. thanks for listening

  8. Thank you very much for the article. It was a very enjoyable and very informative article to read. Good luck.

  9. I love Ethereum and Bitcoin, both backed by solid tech. Crypto is such a mess right now with so many useless and copycat coins. ETH, BTC, and Hbar are my only hodl’s now. If you never heard of hbar its the coin of Hedera Hashgraph, and will be the consensus mechanism for the world, it’s faster by a lot, more secure being aBFT, and energy efficient. check it out. Also Vitalik is really an android.

  10. Crazy as it is, my family is the one featured in the enormously-popular podcast “The Shrink Next Door.” It’s being made into a movie right now, starring Paul Rudd (as the abusive psychiatrist), Will Ferrell (as my uncle), and Kathryn Hahn (as my mother). I appear in a few of the podcast episodes and my character will likely be in the film, although I asked them to change my name.
    If you’re not familiar with it, it’s such a bizarre and sad story. I won’t get into detail here, but the nutshell is that a psychiatrist took over my uncle’s life and drove him to disown our family – which he did, through me, by writing me a letter on my 12th birthday. Thankfully, my mother and uncle have repaired their relationship, but of course there are scars all around. 
    I believe that my experiences have enabled me to grow muscle for the rest of my life. (I think I’ve heard you share the same sentiment before, right?) I don’t believe things happen “for a reason,” but I do believe we can find meaning and purpose in the things that happen to us. And once we do that, we open the door to help others if we so choose.
    Me, I choose to help others. 
    I am now a parenting coach. I help parents disrupt unhealthy family patterns, so their kids won’t have to recover from childhood. I have a private practice, a Parenting Transformation Program, and I’m about to publish my first book which teaches parents how to stop yelling at their kids.
    I would love to support your community and the work you do – it’s so important and I’m here to help. Please let me know if you want to talk.

  11. Hi Tim,
    My husband and I are big fans of your podcast. Most of our books & purchases are from your recommendations. I’m a 1st yr MBA student and Georgetown Univ. Its been a tough virtual year for us and I was wondering if you can support us with a few words on zoom some time in the coming weeks. I am a leading a few clubs at the University and my peers would love to hear from you about keeping the spirits up with online classes and how you should also take a moment to reflect on your life amid MBA studies, recruiting etc.
    Please let me know how I can connect with you or your team to set up a meeting.


  12. Proof of stake is just flawed. Eth is just flawed. Invite Craig Wright the inventor of bitcoin to your show not all these copycats (Tim be brave on this). He will tell you a lot of useful information. (don’t listen to the trolls)

  13. Hi there!

    Thanks for another fantastic episode!

    I’m curious how you anticipate innovations in life-extension will impact global population levels? What avenues do you see to mitigate the impacts of sky rocketing population if people live to the age of several centuries? Would this imply a ban on births? What mechanisms would you propose to ensure that the planet remains inhabitable with this new mass of humans?

    As an organic farmer, I am acutely aware of the reality of natural cycles, carrying capacity, and the boom and bust population cycles. Let us not forget that humans are a natural phenomenon. Humans are part of nature. Humans are nature. As we work to extend life span, we need to be aware of how the modification of this parameter will impact the different elements of the system.



    1. Smart Contract runs on the blockchain platform. Though smart contract ensures integrity, tamper-proof, decentralized, and automated, we need to ensure the security of smart contract too. For this, we need to involve the auditors who conduct security audits on the smart contract. [Moderator: link removed.] identifies bugs present in the code that can lead to security vulnerabilities like huge loss of money, theft, and loss of personal data. It is usually conducted by external auditors and eventually removes the flaws in the code and provides you an extra layer of security. Bug-free code is nice to have in other types of software, in blockchain applications, it is essential.

  14. I found this interview very interesting and detailed. Thank you for presenting this to your listeners.

  15. Tim – I have really appreciated the podcasts regarding cryptocurrencies, blockchain, NFTs, etc.; I have learned a lot about this technology from these episodes. However, I have not heard anyone say anything about the environmental impact of this technology. Recently, I have read about the extreme environmental impact of NFTs in particular. As a matter of fact, I know that some digital artists are not creating NFTs because of the environmental cost. Is this something you are aware of? I would like to see this topic addressed in a future podcast. Thanks.

  16. Thank you for sharing information.
    My question is Bitcoin, cryptocurrency, eth, eth2, ethereum, life extension, naval ravikant, nft, stablecoins, vitalik buterin in this type of cryptocurrency is safe for investment or grow more in the future?