Let's introduce Ethereum to a roomful of hackers in 5 minutes.
HOPE X (x.hope.net) begins in Manhattan the day after tomorrow. It's the 10th biennial hacker convention sponsored by 2600 Magazine (2600.org). Several thousand hackers (including myself) will be in attendance to attend seminars, workshops, and speeches, such as one by this year's keynote speaker Daniel Ellsberg, as well as a scheduled video chat with Edward Snowden (conditions permitting, obviously).
Most presented content at HOPE X will be 30-60 minute long presentations that were scheduled months or even years in advance. While there will be a presentation on Bitcoin, no altcoins or other alternative blockchain technologies (such as Ethereum) are on the official schedule. Fortunately, the organizers of the conference dedicate a seminar room a couple hours each day for "5 minute talks" on items of interest to the hacker community.
I have proposed giving a 5 minute-long introduction to Ethereum to the conference attendees. Knowing what I do about this conference, there may be as few as 5 or as many as 100 other people in the room during these talks (which is normal, depending on the randomly assigned time slot). If we could get even one or two hackers interested in Ethereum, this could be worthwhile to the project.
I have proposed presenting this brief introduction to Ethereum to the conference organizers, with the following caveats:
1) As I am not involved with Ethereum development (I am merely an enthusiast at this point) I will back down in case any other official Ethereum person(s) attending HOPE X wants to present instead of me
2) If Ethereum project leadership (Vitalik, any other founder, or Stephen) does not want me to present at all for any reason (they don't know me, there are snags with the project, they hate hackers, etc) then I will stand down. Please PM me immediately if that is the case.
With all that out of the way, how do we introduce Ethereum to a roomful of strangers in 5 minutes? Is it even possible? Using the old axiom of 1 minute per slide, I was thinking along these lines:
I) Who am I? I am ****X****, an IT professional interested in, and closely following the development of, Ethereum. Ethereum is a distributed consensus platform. It takes the proven cryptographic techniques used in Bitcoin and expands them to other applications.
II) Ethereum - like Bitcoin, but expanded.
Bitcoin uses cryptographic hash functions distributed around the world to verify financial transactions, which are regularly written to a shared database known as the "blockchain." Like Bitcoin, Ethereum uses the same blockchain technology, but it is programmed to validate other conditions beyond only financial transactions. The Ethereum platform enables "cloudlike" applications over a peer-to-peer framework that are powered by the exchange of Ethereum's cryptographic tokens, known as "Ether".
III) Ethereum applications
Ethereum's intent is to serve as the data layer for several different transaction methods, including:
1) Smart Contracts - the core functionality of Ethereum. Once agreed-upon conditions take place and are validated, transactions are made. This could be something as simple as trading Bitcoin for fiat on a currency exchange, or something more complex, like an escrow service or gambling website.
2) Hosting/Bandwidth - if you agree to provide computing resources (storage, bandwidth, CPU cycles) you can host an Ethereum distributed app (aka "Dapp") and receive payment in Ether tokens.
IV) Ethereum apps (continued) and Ether
3) Decentralized Autonomous Corporations - manage your entire organization on the Ethereum platform. Decision-making, shareholding, organizational hierarchy, budgets.
Ether, the cryptographic tokens that fund Ethereum's distributed platform, can be "mined" like typical cryptocurrencies (such as Bitcoin), but a new mining algorithm "Dagger" is in development to enforce decentralization of the network. (no ASIC chips)
V) Ethereum status update - Ethereum is currently in alpha development with the main net scheduled to go live by the end of 2014. The primary development languages for Ethereum Dapps are a customized version of Python, called Serpent, along with a simplified (yet Turing-complete) scripting language, EtherScript, which is used to write smart contracts. A crowd-funded presale of Ether is also being organized and scheduled. Ethereum's head developer is Vitalik Buterin, best known as the co-founder of Bitcoin Magazine. You can learn more about the project and download the test client at ethereum.org.