Vitalik Buterin series: the early years
Vitalik Buterin is the wunderkind co-founder of the Ethereum blockchain. Buterin is well known in crypto circles for his authenticity and intellect. Unlike some other crypto billionaires, Buterin is seemingly not motivated by riches and wealth and instead is guided by a Messianic-like vision for how crypto will make the world a more egalitarian place.
As such, in many ways, Buterin appears the closest thing the blockchain community has to a spiritual leader. He is humble, yet at the same time strong in his convictions.
In this series of article series, we put Buterin under the microscope. Starting with his early life, we delve into how this genius came to be and follow his ups and downs from the early days of Ethereum, to the DAO hack, all the way to the present day. Vitalik is a true leader, who despite his youth continually demonstrates immeasurable wisdom.
Buterin was born on the 31st of January 1994 in Kolomna, Russia. Kolomna is a small Russian city just over a hundred kilometres from Moscow. When Buterin was six he moved with parents to Canada, who left Russia in search of better employment opportunities. Computer science is the Buterin family’s trade, with Vitalik’s father, Dmitry, also in the software business. It was from Dmitry that Vitalik first learned of Bitcoin.
Even as a young child Buterin’s genius was clear. In primary school in Canada his studies were accelerated and he was included in a gifted and talented program. Buterin took a keen interest in economics, mathematics and computer sciences and stemming from his outperformance of his peers he had a prevailing sense of being different. He has previously described moments in his childhood when he wished he could be normal and have “75 per cent average like everyone else.” But Buterin certainly wasn’t normal. Even in his early years, he could add three-digit numbers in his head twice as fast as the average human being.
Vitalik has seemingly always had a fascination with creating something bigger. His father has recalled an instance when Vitalik wrote a lengthy document called the Encyclopaedia of Bunnies. In the document, he detailed an entire universe populated by bunnies that was governed by very strict formulas. No wonder then that he has gone on to develop an entire blockchain ecosystem similarly governed by strict rules and code.
As an only child, Vitalik is known to be content in his own company. During childhood, he was so comfortable with solitude that he did not realise that other kids would hang out together after school. In fact, he was none the wiser that extracurricular social events were a thing.
Although extracurricular social events were few and far between for Vitalik he was an avid player of World of Warcraft. However, he quit the game in his mid-teens upon realising how centralised it was when Blizzard decided to remove the damage component from his favourite warlock’s Siphone life skill. This centralisation, he says, was one of the inspirations for Ethereum.
Buterin attended The Abélard School; a private high school in Toronto, known for its academic rigour and utilisation of the Socratic method of teaching. The evolution of the Ethereum ecosystem has been heavily reliant on a Socratic-like style of development, perhaps a preference Buterin picked up in highschool.
It was at seventeen that Buterin’s journey into the world of crypto and his rapture with the technology began. In 2011 he was introduced to Bitcoin by his father, but this wasn’t an instance of love at first sight. Buterin was initially suspicious of Bitcoin. His suspicions echo those that many people have when they first learn of the technology. Buterin questioned how the cryptocurrency could have any value if it didn’t have any physical backing. In time, he warmed to the concept and quickly was well and truly fascinated by the potential of blockchain technology.
In the next article, we look at Buterin’s early writings on Bitcoin and how the idea for Ethereum and its seminal whitepaper came about.