Cosmos Co-founder Ethan Buchman On Cosmos End-Game, ATOM 2.0, & IBC: Exclusive Interview From Cosmoverse 2022

Zinger Key Points
  • Co-founder of Cosmos and CEO of Informal Systems Ethan Buchman Explains ATOM 2.0
  • Ethan Buchman Talks Cosmos End-Game, ReFi, and Local Wealth Building

Benzinga traveled to Medellin, Colombia to attend Cosmoverse 2022. The event curated the brightest minds in the Cosmos ecosystem––from developers putting carbon credits on-chain, to industry leaders in interchain security. Among the speakers at the conference was Ethan Buchman, CEO of Informal Systems and co-founder of Cosmos.

Cosmos is a technology focused on interoperability, blockchain sovereignty, and scalability. Although Cosmos has a long history, mainstream investors began taking the protocol seriously in 2021, with the token’s market capitalization reaching over $10 billion at the start of this year.

And Cosmos isn’t slowing down. The conference was teeming with developers, building on hubs like Juno and Evmos. In aggregate, the Cosmos ecosystem has over $60 billion worth of tokens under management.

Let’s dive into interchain security, Cosmos’ end-game, and ATOM 2.0.

BZ: You’re a self-proclaimed internet biophysicist. What does this mean?

Buchman: I studied biophysics and the origin of life. I was fascinated with the problem of, how in a universe that’s always running down according to the 2nd law of thermodynamics, how is it that living systems run up and sustain themselves over the long term? I came to understand living systems as the quintessential sustainable systems.

That was sort of my background, and I wanted to figure out how to apply this to society at a larger level and understand what it means to have a sustainable civilization; so much around us is based in destruction and unsustainable practices. I saw the internet as a revolution in biological communication. I wanted to apply what I learned in biophysics and these ideas around sustainable organisms to this new world that was going to exist in a digital environment on the internet.

Similarly, I saw Bitcoin and blockchains as a breakthrough in biological coordination happening on top of this communications infrastructure that is the internet.

I think about the internet and the systems we’re building in biophysical, ecological terms where I think about the information flow and what it means for these systems to be sustainable in the long-term. So combining my background in biophysics with modern internet practices is how I came to the term “internet biophysicist.”

BZ: What types of applications are most prevalent on Cosmos and why do you think that is?

Buchman: Cosmos is about the community computer revolution. It’s about giving communities the ability to be sovereign over their own infrastructure and applications. We’ve seen a lot of blockchain applications being developed using the Cosmos development stack, that we’re now calling the interchain technology stack. Many of these communities orient around a token that represents the values of the community and are distributed in a way that represents these values.

There have been a number of finance applications; there’s infrastructure applications, but the kinds of things I’m really interested in are the social impact applications, such as Regen Network that’s building carbon credit marketplaces with a much wider vision than just that.

There’s a wide variety of application types, and the ones I’m most interested in ultimately are ones that focus on local communities and real-world impact. I think right now there’s still hype around DeFi, and Cosmos is seeing that. It’s all really exciting because it provides new ways to experiment and try new things. It allows them to do things that would be much more difficult, if not impossible, to do on a standard layer one. The two main reasons developers are coming to Cosmos is sovereignty and interoperability, which allows these chains to interact with each other.

BZ: What applications do you see being most prevalent on Cosmos when it reaches its end-game?

Buchman: Over the long-term, we’re trying to upgrade the state of political economies. To help give more representation to people who feel underrepresented in existing institutional structures. Ultimately, something I’m working towards in the long-term is there being more community-oriented currencies and economic systems that are geared towards building wealth locally rather than everything being extracted to external, foreign investors.

Right now, there’s a lot of experimentation happening in this sort-of blockchain bubble, but the goal is to break out of this bubble and into the real world to really help local communities to build more sustainable financial, social, and societal economies. Ultimately, part of the end-game may be enabling cities to be more sovereign and provide better infrastructure for their citizens.

BZ: How does the Inter-blockchain Communication (IBC) protocol offer a level of security other cross-chain applications can’t provide?

Buchman: Many of the bridges out there are designed in an ad-hoc, esoteric, one-off way to bridge two particular chains, and the security they provide isn’t well specified. So, you don’t really know what you’re getting into as a user. The IBC protocol went through years of research and development with many stakeholders involved to ensure it would be usable for a broad class of use cases. IBC is now a very general-purpose protocol for arbitrary forms of communication between different blockchains or even non-blockchains––it’s very powerful. IBC is a new protocol for a new kind of internet. It’s the internet protocol for the internet of blockchains. We believe the entire space should be adopting IBC.

BZ: What features are you most excited for in terms of the fundamental technology, and what features of ATOM 2.0 improve the tokenomics of the asset?

Buchman: In the new Cosmos Hub whitepaper, we propose a new layer for secure economic scaling of the Cosmos Hub. It has 2 foundational components: interchain security and liquid staking. Interchain security really for the first time opens up a development environment around Cosmos that hasn’t been possible before. It allows the functionality of the Cosmos Hub to be extended by anyone, allowing for new applications to be launched that inherit the security of the Cosmos Hub.

Two particularly exciting features proposed on top of this in the Cosmos Hub paper are the interchain scheduler and the other being the interchain allocator. The scheduler creates an on-chain marketplace for future block space that provides much stronger guarantees for the ordering and executions of transactions across multiple chains. That opens up tons of new possibilities for apps to provide stronger guarantees for users.

BZ: For someone interested in crypto but not involved with the Cosmos ecosystem, what opportunities would you recommend to them to get started?

Buchman: The first thing to do is to try IBC. Install Kepler, the wallet, and get yourself some tokens to start playing around. The experience of using IBC is really transformative––it’s unlike any other ecosystem. Just to feel it out by trying it, starting small. It’s a really good way to get started. Of course, there’s the forums, the discord, and other ways to engage with the community to find new ways to use what we’ve built.

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