“The project begins in the programmer’s mind with the beauty of a crystal ... For a time, the world is a calm, mathematical place.” –Ellen Ullman, Close to the Machine
Ethereum is an elegant paradigm—not just computational, but social. The Ethereum Yellow Paper, by and large a highly technical document, concludes by calling the protocol a new “social operating system.” Some call Ethereum a “World Computer,” because of its ability to automatically coordinate people around the globe and because of its profound versatility: any transaction that can be represented by a computer—financial, legal, political, social—can be facilitated by the Ethereum blockchain.
Ellen Ullman, who worked on some of the very first graphic user interfaces, has written elsewhere that “We build our computers the way we build our cities—over time, without a plan, on top of ruins.” Ethereum, however, is an opportunity to build with a plan, and from the ground-up. It’s better to think of the old systems not as ruined, but as reimaginable. One refrain from the Blockchain for Social Impact Conference on Friday was that blockchain is a new way of thinking about ownership, trust, and human systems. No one (everyone) owns Ethereum. On a blockchain, people can transact who would otherwise have no means to trust one another. Joe Lubin capped off the conference with a vision of this new social operating system in full gear:
“A decentralized, tokenized world is a world where we all have a stake in one another’s projects and we’re all rooting for one another, because everyone owns a piece of everything. People are extremely enthusiastic about what they’re doing, focusing less on survival and more on education, creative expression, personal and community health.”
Isn’t it pretty to think so? At ConsenSys, we think it’s better to build. To actually do it. To show the world that the system runs, and that it works.