Vitalik Buterin poked fun at the Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC) non-fungible tokens (NFTs) built atop the Ethereum ecosystem he co-founded, and expressed optimism about the Merge, the impending fundamental overhaul of how the network is run.
The original catalyst behind the creation of cryptocurrencies, Buterin noted, was social change. Instead, millions of people have crypto wallets for a decidedly more whimsical purpose: “So they can trade monkey pictures,” he said Wednesday at the Blockchain Futurist conference in Toronto.
Crypto’s pioneers pondered the “great battle between the authority of the nation-state and the desire for individual freedom,” he said. Fast forward to now and “it’s like, ‘Hey, look, it’s a monkey!’” he joked.
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More seriously, Buterin said this is an example of the double-edged sword of cryptography. “The problem with crypto space is that it has great incentives, but at the same time, it has incentives to go into very weird directions sometimes,” he said, noting the Ape NFTs.
This isn’t the first time Buterin has commented publicly about the utility of BAYC’s NFTs. In March, he compared the immensely popular NFTs to gambling, during an interview with the Time. He later clarified in a tweet that he doesn’t necessarily hate Ape NFTs, rather he wants them to “fund public goods.”
Buterin was also very upbeat about the Ethereum Merge, an event that could take place next month that will dramatically change the underpinnings of the network, cutting energy consumption in the process.
Read more: Vitalik Buterin Discusses Ethereum’s Upcoming ‘Merge’ and ‘Surge’ at EthCC in Paris
“Ethereum’s energy consumption [after the merge] will be reduced by more than 99.9%, so it’s a big improvement,” he said. “It’s also an opportunity to kind of take some of the ideas that we’ve learned over the last eight years or so, and use that to really redefine what the different parts of the Ethereum chain [can do],” Buterin added.
Buterin’s optimism was reflected by the markets as well, with the network’s native token ether (ETH) hitting the highest price since June as traders become more bullish on the Merge.
Read more: Ether Tops $1.9K as Ethereum Runs Final ‘Merge’ Rehearsal
After the switch, Buterin said, the network could be made more secure, transactions sped up and costs lowered. It also opens Ethereum up to more upgrades in the future, he said. Buterin added that immediately after the Merge the biggest focus will be on the scalability of the network.
Besides making the network consume less power, the rest of the benefits that Buterin talked about are still in the distant future. The third and final major milestone leading up to the Merge was achieved Wednesday with a test version of Ethereum.
Read more: Ethereum After the Merge: What Comes Next?Margaux Nijkerk contributed to the reporting of this story