Vitalik Buterin, ethereum’s co-founder, said he refuses “to take the convenient path of throwing Virgil under the bus, because I firmly believe that that would be wrong.”
Buterin said “Geopolitical open-mindedness is a virtue. It’s admirable to go to a group of people that one has been trained since childhood to believe is a Maximum Evil Enemy, and hear out what they have to say…
And in fact, this virtue of his has paid off in multiple other contexts; improved relations with Ethereum Classic, Hyperledger, and others…
I don’t think what Virgil did gave DRPK any kind of real help in doing anything bad. He delivered a presentation based on publicly available info about open-source software. There was no weird hackery ‘advanced tutoring’… Virgil made no personal gain from the trip.
So I hope USA shows strength rather than weakness and focuses on genuine and harmful corruption that it and all countries struggle with rather than going after programmers delivering speeches parroting public information,” emphasis his.
Virgil Griffith, a senior employee at the Ethereum Foundation, was arrested for giving a presentation in North Korea that apparently included a slide on how to avoid sanctions.
Griffith maintained this was his personal trip and had nothing to do with the Ethereum Foundation. Buterin said “many counseled against” the trip.
North Korea is the most isolated country in the world, with Griffith retweeting a statement by Trump that said: “Chariman Kim has a great and beautiful vision for his country, and only the United States, with me as President, can make that vision come true. He will do the right thing because he is far too smart not to, and he does not want to disappoint his friend, President Trump!”
The linked site says: “The interest of participants to continue building bridges of friendship and collaboration with the DPR of Korea, as well as the exclusive environment of confidentiality and contacts with the highest government officials and engineers, demanded to organize a second conference with even more audience and wider scope.”
That makes all this highly political, with North Korea starting to take an interest in crypto last year.
There are suggestions they mine bitcoin, but very little is known about this completely isolated country or its people.
It’s unclear for example whether they have internet in schools and universities, but the elite there most probably does.
In which case, Griffith’s presentation would have been mere public knowledge information, with this suggestion of using cryptos to avoid sanctions coming from Russia, which itself is sanctioned.
Russia arguably lacks the tech know-how as shown by the incompetence of the Petro and by Iran seemingly not quite getting their heads around stated plans for a gold or oil backed crypto or a state crypto at all.
This very loud message by USA, therefore, is basically saying: you techies are our main competitive advantage, so you do what we say.
That places coders in a very difficult position because they shouldn’t have to take sides between America, Russia, China or even Europe under the principle of technological neutrality.
Making this one of the most political case of the decade as the geopolitical consequences of blockchain’s invention become apparent to all.