In brief

  • Shin reveals new details about Vitalik and other early Ethereum figures.
  • The book has gossip about the Ethereum Foundation and the founders of Cardano and Polkadot.

In a list of the most important new technologies of the 21st century, Ethereum should be near the top. Since launching in 2015 as a more versatile form of Bitcoin, the blockchain and its smart contracts have transformed finance, computing, and online governance—and spawned a colorful culture of visionaries, entrepreneurs, and hackers.

Given Ethereum’s enormous impact, it’s helpful to know who made it and why. A new book, The Cryptopians: Idealism, Greed, Lies and the Making of the First Big Cryptocurrency Craze, goes a long way in telling us. This isn’t the first book on Ethereum but, thanks to author Laura Shin’s meticulous research and deep crypto pedigree, it’s the most authoritative.

Shin, a one-time Forbes journalist and host of the influential Unchained podcast, covered the early days of Bitcoin and is deeply sourced in the different tribes that make up the world of blockchain. For her dive into Ethereum, she hopscotched the globe—visiting Switzerland, Singapore, San Francisco and other crypto meccas—to uncover its origin story and that of its boy genius founder, Vitalik Buterin (known to everyone in crypto simply as Vitalik).

The broad strokes of Vitalik’s background are well-known: a precocious child raised in Toronto by Russian emigrés, he survived an awkward adolescence by finding community in the online world of cryptocurrency. He founded an influential Bitcoin publication…

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