William Shatner really, really likes ethereum, even if he doesn’t know much about it

Ether exponent.
Ether exponent.
Image: Reuters/Mario Anzuoni
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What does Captain Kirk do in his spare time? Apparently, tweet about cryptocurrency.

In the last week, William Shatner joined the online debate about digital currencies and demonstrated strong support for the founder of Ethereum, Vitalik Buterin, who has fallen out favor among one crypto faction. Shatner’s simplest tweet tagged the 24-year-old programmer, giving him a thumbs up.

That wasn’t nearly the end of Shatner’s crypto-dabbling though. In fact, the former Star Trek star set off a fierce debate about whether the Ethereum Project—which strives to create a decentralized “world computer”—is actually centralized.

In particular, some respondents to Shatner’s tweet raised concerns about the Ethereum premine, that is, the decision by the project’s creators to set aside ether—the network’s cryptocurrency—for themselves before releasing it to the wider public. The Ethereum premine (which happened several years ago) has drawn the ire of observers, especially as ether—the token used to interact with the ethereum blockchain—has risen in price. Today, ether costs $210 per unit, so generally, premine recipients have made out handsomely. Of course, it’s possible these frustrated onlookers are just upset that they missed out on the crypto boom.

Shatner—who serves as spokesperson for Solar Alliance, which recently began efforts to mine cryptocurrencies using solar power—wasn’t going to let people get away with calling Buterin a “literal scammer” though. He fired back, telling detractors to go make their own decentralized projects or keep money under a mattress. “I hear that’s only overseen by the bed bug community,” he wisecracked.

Some in the crypto community latched on to what seemed like Shatner’s impressive knowledge of Ethereum’s technical approach, as the actor explained that his opponent’s “viewpoints don’t take into account the fact that the code has to be audited by an auditing firm and approved by consortium or it doesn’t get accepted.” Shatner also listed off a set of ERCs, or Ethereum Requests for Comment, suggesting that the existence of these standards somehow enhanced decentralization.

But if you look closer, Shatner’s arguments hold no water. Ethereum’s code is not “audited by an auditing firm” and “approved by a consortium.” (If it were, wouldn’t that be evidence of the exact centralization people were complaining about in the first place?)

As pointed out by Mathias Grønnebæk, founder and CEO of Braveno, Ethereum’s development is an open-source effort. “Anyone can fork or submit pull requests to most projects,” explained Grønnebæk. “Great that William is interested etc, but that is no excuse to let it slide when he says something so wrong.”

So, while Shatner is certainly a crypto fanboy, don’t mistake his technobabble for anything more.