Conflict of opinions, ideological differences? Analyzing the arrogance and prejudice in the Ethereum Black Mountain Conference

Authors: Charlie Chen, Lyv, Aki Network Research; Nova Whale Hunting Community also contributed

Source: Foresight News

From May 19th to May 23rd, the 5-day Ethereum 2023 developer community conference came to an end in Podgorica, the capital of Montenegro. From the Super Demo Preliminaries on the first day of the 19th to the Super Demo Finals on the 23rd, there were 48 roadshows and 53 topic sharing. At the same time, outside the main venue, many DAOs and investors also organized various technical sharing and social activities.

In this high-intensity and high-density communication and interaction, we perceive a kind of difficult to express tension that accumulates quietly among participants. Attendees from different backgrounds seem to have gradually discovered many conflicts in their views and ideological differences, especially the tension between Chinese practitioners and their European and American counterparts. To some extent, the emergence of this tension or anxiety is closely related to the content performance, organizational form, participant composition, and background of this conference. Aki Network Research and partners will analyze the origins and development of these prejudices for readers.

Everyone is talking about Zuzalu

The core participants of this conference mainly include Vitalik Buterin and his close team, Ethereum Foundation, Ethereum community, Zuzalu developers, and various digital nomads. They gathered in Zuzalu initiated by Vitalik and his friends. It is a groundbreaking social experiment in the form of a flash city community located in the Sea Forest resort in Montenegro.

The purpose of Zuzalu is to exchange and make decisions in a co-creative and symbiotic way to solve the development direction and problems of the Web3 industry in the next ten years. For this reason, Vitalik personally invested $2 million to sponsor eligible organizations, projects or developers to enter Zuzalu and provide them with necessary support such as hotel accommodations. This diverse participant combination not only emphasizes the importance of underlying technology but also highlights the importance of infrastructure such as account abstraction and user privacy to ensure that future scalability and transaction needs can be met on a large scale, while also paving the way for standardized entry.

Although Zuzalu, as a social experiment with a strong 70s hippie style, has received a lot of attention in the developer community, it has also been criticized for being too centralized in its structure, using a nepotistic selection process, and showcasing a Silicon Valley elite lifestyle.

Chinese players who feel out of place

Another prominent group of participants comes from Asia, seeking greater influence and value in the global market. These participants, especially representatives of Chinese projects, are highly concerned and insightful about user growth and product experience. Their thinking and efforts provide rich possibilities and imagination for the development narrative of blockchain applications.

However, due to differences in their innovation and practice direction from the mainstream ideas of the Ethereum community, they generally feel that their views and voices were not fully understood and valued during the conference. This sentiment and feeling may manifest as a deep sense of dissatisfaction and frustration, adding a difficult-to-describe tension to the conference atmosphere.

“Big Fan” but “No Chinese”

This hidden contradiction and conflict was not resolved through the extension and communication of the conference, but was pushed to a climax by an accidental and inevitable event. The author interviewed an anonymous participant who said that they were rejected when they sought to take a photo with Vitalik: “No Chinese, thank you, but sorry.” The interviewee said, “At the time, I said that I was a big fan and wanted to take a photo, and my T-shirt was covered with project tags. Many Chinese projects had looked for Vitalik to take photos to endorse their projects, so I understood this attitude.”

This incident sparked some controversy in the Chinese community, and the emotions seem to not have dissipated with the end of the conference. On the contrary, it seems to have left a deeper mark in the hearts of the participants, as if telling us that although the conference has ended, the real problems and challenges have just begun. We can clearly feel that in the dynamic of the global market to come, we will face not only surface problems, but also this invisible pressure, competition, and tension.

Conflict can be understood as a fierce confrontation between two different ideological concepts. Whether classified as arrogance, centralization, or impatience and frustration, these are just surface collisions. Evaluating, classifying, and labeling these ideas is relatively easy. However, truly understanding the underlying dynamics and exploring the deeper reasons behind these surface phenomena is a complex and difficult task.

Therefore, the author attempts to understand and interpret this process, although the proposed viewpoints may be limited by personal perspective and may be one-sided, all criticism, correction, and feedback are welcome to help the author gain a more comprehensive and in-depth understanding.

Excessive Attention to ZK Infrastructure Projects

Ethereum’s development path has always been working to solve some fundamental challenges, including scalability, account abstraction, and user privacy.

These are all major issues related to the stability of Ethereum’s underlying infrastructure and user experience. Although in the long run, this is paving the way for the next innovation stage, preparing for the arrival of a wider range of applications and users, however, these efforts may not form a distinct new story in the short term. In terms of the attention of the zk infrastructure project, Ethereum’s decision-making seems to be more driven by technical possibilities than by the potential of existing user bases and application ecosystems.

However, what we cannot ignore is that although Ethereum has done a lot of work on underlying technology and infrastructure, there is still a lot of room for improvement in building better user experiences and application layers. Entrepreneurs in Europe and the Middle East are too focused on infrastructure and B-end service construction, and have not seen the project side with the potential to promote new industry narratives that the Ethereum community needs to pay attention to and support more projects focusing on user experience and product design to better meet the needs of existing and future users.

The author believes that as a new industry, Web3, although has huge potential and growth space, has also passed the stage where it can be simply and crudely assumed that users will naturally grow with the flow. This argument may be very clear to Asia-Pacific entrepreneurs who have seen the cruel competition in the era of mobile Internet, but it may take more time for European and American entrepreneurs to accept. New Web3 users need a wider range of application scenarios to make better infrastructure useful, which is the first principle.

Be Vigilant of New Centralization, Will the Dragon Slayer Become a Dragon?

The investment of the European and American venture capital circles in infrastructure projects is indeed increasing, which has led to the soaring valuation of related projects. However, many such projects have not been able to articulate strong differentiation and can only rely on airdrop expectations to attract and retain users. This has created a tense and anxious atmosphere in the bear market.

Viewing new infrastructure projects as a means of locking liquidity may be path-dependent thinking, or it can be said to be a last resort. In the blockchain ecosystem, liquidity is key, and new infrastructure projects usually attract a lot of liquidity. However, this strategy may also cause some problems.

First, it may stifle innovation. If liquidity is mainly concentrated in some infrastructure projects, other innovative projects may lack sufficient liquidity to develop. In addition, this strategy may also make the ecosystem too centralized, leading to a lack of competition and diversity.

Second, locking liquidity may cause market instability. If liquidity is heavily locked in some infrastructure projects, a liquidity crisis may occur once these projects encounter problems, which may affect the entire market.

Therefore, although locking liquidity through new infrastructure projects may have some short-term effects, in the long run, we need to find healthier and more sustainable ways to manage and increase liquidity, such as by encouraging competition and innovation, and by establishing robust risk management mechanisms.

Ethereum’s Heavy Infrastructure Construction and Layered Progression

The key topics related to Ethereum’s own development in this EDCON include Roll-up expansion, zkEVM roadmap, account abstraction, user privacy, etc., which are old topics for developers.

At the same time, we need to be clear that Ethereum has always been scheduling the promotion of key infrastructure in a layered manner, and the delivery status has been good so far: from a few years ago, it began to layout the transition to PoS consensus mechanism, to the Roll-up-centric expansion plan established in the past two years, to the account abstraction that began to show its power at last year’s Bogota meeting, etc.

Ethereum’s technological accumulation has also affected various participants in its ecosystem, such as PoS transformation covering the miner community, the scalability plan mainly targeting developers, and the current AA and on-chain privacy directly serving ordinary users’ infrastructure construction.

It can be said that Ethereum has never neglected the development of the application side. On the contrary, it is paving the way for the next project or paradigm that can break the old model in its own way. In this process, centralized organizations, such as the Ethereum Foundation and Vitalik’s small circle, will inevitably have many considerations in prioritizing technological progress and product iteration.

As Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin pointed out in his keynote speech, Ethereum faces three major technical challenges: scalability, privacy, and user security. He pointed out that “in the past decade, Ethereum’s main focus has been on the security of smart contracts, and in the next decade, we will pay more attention to the security of accounts.”

According to the theme classification of the official website agenda, we can roughly understand the current direction and energy allocation that Ethereum is most concerned about. Obviously, for Ethereum, it is now time to vigorously promote account abstraction and user privacy. This is logical-the industry needs to first ensure that the underlying technology can carry huge traffic and volume transactions, and then optimize the user interface and formulate unified standards.

Overseas communities’ concerns and vigilance about Ponzi culture

On the other hand, many overseas developer communities at this EDCON also expressed their vigilance and concerns about Ponzi culture. FOMO and Ponzi should be an important manifestation of market operation capabilities in the early growth of projects among Asia-Pacific entrepreneurs; while outside of Asia-Pacific, most people seem to only see the process of a project’s asset prices falling from the highest point, and ignore the positive impact from 0 to 100 in the first half.

Of course, the entire industry also needs better consensus and community mechanisms to knock on the project side, requiring them to strengthen their self-regulation and self-discipline. At the same time, investors also need to improve their ability to identify and better judge which projects are realistic and reliable, and which ones may have risks.

However, this process is not easy. Due to the anonymity and transnational nature of blockchain and cryptocurrencies, this makes it more difficult for project parties to monitor and track. We must face this reality and take measures to reduce this risk as much as possible. It is foreseeable that in the future, following the improvement of infrastructure and the influx of larger traffic, the following coping strategies will be gradually improved.

  • Enhancing self-regulatory capability of the industry: Participants in the cryptocurrency and blockchain industry should jointly work to build and maintain self-regulatory mechanisms, such as establishing industry ethical standards, clarifying industry norms, and publicly exposing on-chain violations to encourage compliance.
  • Improving investor education and public awareness: Educating the public and investors is crucial to help them recognize typical characteristics of fraudulent activities like the CX scheme and to increase their awareness and ability to discern investment opportunities that seem too good to be true.
  • Strengthening technical regulatory measures: Utilizing the transparency of blockchain, developing better analysis tools and regulatory technologies can help detect and prevent fraudulent behavior.
  • Strengthening laws and regulations: Although cryptocurrency and blockchain are transnational, strengthened laws and regulations can still prevent and combat fraudulent activities to some extent. Governments should enhance legal supervision of such fraudulent behavior and cooperate with other countries to jointly combat transnational fraudulent behavior.
  • Encouraging transparency and accountability: Encouraging project parties to openly and transparently display the operational methods, team members, financial situation, and other information about their projects, and also requiring project parties to take responsibility for their actions and consequences to investors and communities.

East meets West: How to have a more effective dialogue and learn from each other?

The Ethereum Foundation did show some self-centered attitude and seemed to lack sensitivity to the development of the application end during the event.

Therefore, Chinese and Asia-Pacific entrepreneurs may feel that their views and contributions have not been given enough attention and understanding during the process. All of this reflects that the Ethereum community needs more inclusive and diverse voices, and needs to have a deeper understanding and support for those applications that are truly user-oriented to improve the health and prosperity of the entire ecosystem.

This problem also reminds us that the Ethereum community needs to take more proactive actions to understand, pay attention to, and support those projects and entrepreneurs who have a keen sense of development at the application end, regardless of where they come from.

Although Chinese projects value user growth and product experience, their abstract core narrative often appears to be less firm and strong, and the needs imagined by the founding team often go beyond practical thinking based on actual scenarios, which to some extent highlights the need for them to strengthen the product positioning in the international world.

Therefore, this collision and tension, although it may appear to be conflicting, can also be seen as a valuable learning and growth opportunity. This provides a platform for communication and understanding of different modes of thinking, cultures, and values, allowing all parties the opportunity to re-examine their perspectives and assumptions.

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