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The Infinite Machine: How an Army of Crypto-hackers Is Building the Next Internet with Ethereum

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Written with the verve of such works as The Big Short, The History of the Future, and The Spider Network, here is the fascinating, true story of the rise of Ethereum, the second-biggest digital asset in the world, the growth of cryptocurrency, and the future of the internet as we know it.

Everyone has heard of Bitcoin, but few know about the second largest cryptocurrency, Ethereum, which has been heralded as the "next internet."

The story of Ethereum begins with Vitalik Buterin, a supremely gifted nineteen-year-old autodidact who saw the promise of blockchain when the technology was in its earliest stages. He convinced a crack  group of coders to join him in his quest to make a super-charged, global computer.

The Infinite Machine introduces Vitalik’s ingenious idea and unfolds Ethereum’s chaotic beginnings. It then explores the brilliant innovation and reckless greed the platform—an infinitely adaptable foundation for experimentation and new applications—has unleashed and the consequences that resulted as the frenzy surrounding it grew: increased regulatory scrutiny, incipient Wall Street interest, and the founding team’s effort to get the Ethereum platform to scale so it can eventually be  accessible to the masses.

Financial journalist and cryptocurrency expert Camila Russo details the wild and often hapless adventures of a team of hippy-anarchists, reluctantly led by an ambivalent visionary, and lays out how this new foundation for the internet will spur both transformation and fraud—turning some into millionaires and others into felons—and revolutionize our ideas about money.

320 pages, Hardcover

Published July 14, 2020

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Camila Russo

2 books34 followers

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5 stars
761 (36%)
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893 (43%)
3 stars
334 (16%)
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59 (2%)
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12 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 218 reviews
Profile Image for Rick Wilson.
700 reviews259 followers
February 16, 2022
One of the better books I’ve read about crypto currency. As there are very few books in general that’s not saying a ton, but if you’re interested in the space, read this. It’s focused on Ethereum but I think it touches enough on other parts of the space that it provides a well done overview.

I think it strikes a line between getting caught up in the hype and having a reasonable distance from the subject talked about. I’ve noticed most authors seem to be the whole hog enthusiast or entirely critical. Perspective and deep synthesis of the technology/space seem entirely absent. Given the low bar set by others, this book was great. It’s definitely a narrative focused book and that’s a drawback if you’re looking to understand the technology. Talking about the drama and the people associated with the movement rather than taking a deep dive on the technology makes for better storytelling, but still leaves a lot to be desired as far as evaluating the ideas. I don’t think a programming language was mentioned more than once or twice in the whole book.

As such, this book definitely has some glaring missing pieces, I don’t think the author really discussed the environmental impacts of Ethereum and similar such technology, which is definitely a negative. There was kind of this unintentional theme of “replacing the establishment“ but what really struck me is that than the Ethereum collective (nonprofit? Agency?) become the establishment in their own way. New boss, same as the old boss, they just talk about blockchain and proof of work more. I think that that could be carried across all of Blockchain is that even though it is an open source project to some extent there’s always this level of gatekeeping based upon the people understanding and who can actually alter the technology. We’re essentially doing this ad hoc across society where we’re moving the institutional partners we have for parts of our life and trying to privatize and profit off that. I think health insurance in the United States is the most glaring negative example, but it carries across a ton of industries. Energy, water, etc.

That said. Don’t read this for impartial reporting or technical illustration. Read this to understand who’s behind the Twitter logos you see arguing with each other. I definitely recommend this to someone interested in the space, but maybe read a little on bitcoin first so you have a general idea of the contacts that Ethereum was created in and response to. I kind of accidentally read Digital Gold and then this book, and that seemed to be a really good pairing.

Claiming we understand this whole phenomenon of crypto/NFTs is like saying we understand how a football game is going to play out after the opening kickoff. There’s an ocean of nonsense not contained in here. Theres also a kiddie pool of nonsense that has still seeped in. That said, There’s a couple quality narrative threads that weave through this book that maybe can give you a bit of an understanding of the types of people that are core drivers of this technology. Read this like a biography of Churchill in the early 1930’s, with a skeptical eye, knowing that a hell of a lot is still to come.
Profile Image for Soumya Tejam.
164 reviews32 followers
August 7, 2020
Camila Russo delivers a fast-paced, Michael Lewis-style history of the possibilities of cryptocurrency, the personalities involved and the business history of the concept. If you're looking for the nuts and bolts, you won't find them here. Instead the book works for its storytelling, finesse, and dedication to detail. As cryptocurrency and borderless digital finance sweep the world, The Infinite Machine: How an Army of Crypto-hackers Is Building the Next Internet with Ethereum will be canonical for every tech enthusiast and financial radicalist.
Profile Image for CL.
23 reviews1 follower
August 18, 2020
This is kind of the Ethereum ecosystem bible, for everyone. No need to be technical to read this book.
A must read for most people involved in digital currencies.
Very descriptive, some interesting details, about humans and technology. Covering the most important developments of the ecosytem.
I would have expected a little bit more of opinions, visions and ideas for the future from the different people and from Camila herself.
Very good read. I recommend.
Profile Image for jasmine sun.
139 reviews156 followers
July 31, 2021
def made more sense on the second read / after learning more about the ecosystem

as much a book about the challenges of institution-building as one about crypto
Profile Image for Mico Go.
105 reviews18 followers
January 1, 2022
Concise breakdown of ETH through the brains behind the wheel. I liked the style of writing, with Camille taking us through the stories of the different individuals who were key in building up Ethereum into what it is today. Honestly learnt a lot about the other projects now taking the headlines (that apparently came from the minds of former ETH devs - like Cardano and Polka Dot to name a few); gave a lot of background as well to the rise of ETH, and why a PoS model is definitely the future. Great read to get bullish on the future of DeFi, especially with the heightened progress of so much tech that can be potential game changers; LRC with their L2 scaling and DEX looking to be a lot more groundbreaking.

Would definitely recommend this to people not into the crypto space but curious as to how blockchain tech will likely change the world.
Profile Image for Alex Reyes.
4 reviews1 follower
August 4, 2020
I gave this 3 stars, which is significantly lower than most reviews made recently. Here's my thoughts real quick:

- I enjoyed the book, but at times it felt like a slog to finish.
- There was lots of (seemingly) irrelevant details and names throughout. There were probably 50+ individuals mentioned by name who each got a small blurb about their life.
- This book feels like the 'Social Network' of Blockchain. It's got the same kind of get rich quick while partying vibes that make you want to start a company

- This book is about the time leading up to Ethereum's development up until early 2020. It's mostly about getting rich, so if you're interested in learning about blockchain/ethereum specifically, this isn't for you.
Profile Image for Yahya Alshukri.
256 reviews15 followers
August 9, 2020
The book is good. However, it gives a narrow view about the future and crypto world. It uses complicated language for those who have no idea about cryptocurrency.

Ethereum is the new thing.
How's that? no one knows. It's amazing how the concept of money changed in the past 20years. We evolved from trading banana for fish, to trading banana for a gold (uneatable), to trading gold and fish with number. Money is subjective thing (or that what crypto implement). It could change from a form to another depending in the number of believers and the value set by them. You could make money out of anything (leafs, stones, or even sh*t..), just convince a large group that and sit roles and legislation. Furthermore, numbers and algorithms are the backbone of the new era and by-right it could to be the the new currency.

I learned about crypto 2years ago and it's seems ever evolving. I'm not a maximalist but I think crypto could solve some of our issues, when implemented in correct way. Nowadays, people are buying crypto for quick ride to the moon. However, that's not the reason the system have been put in place in the first place. Quick rides to the moon will not help addressing the issue of centralisation; far from that it will lead tot the accumulation of wealth in a hierarchical manner.

One problem with crypto is that it uses a complex language as it based on numbers, algorithms and newly invented concepts and ideas. Normal people will finding it hard to keep up with these alien concept. So, developers will have to simplify the concepts and make them presentable.
Profile Image for Lucas Gelfond.
72 reviews10 followers
July 17, 2021
Rounding up from 4.5—incredibly engaging/well-written narrative about Ethereum that gives useful/exciting context about some of the tech's motivations/explains the hype around it. I am fully cryptopilled now LOL
6 reviews
February 4, 2023
Lovely book by Camila...

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Thank you
Profile Image for Mark Peacock.
80 reviews2 followers
March 5, 2023
Well-written story about the founding and growth of Ethereum; more about the people and the gestalt with just enough high-level skim of the underlying technology when needed. It has a Michael Lewis-style Liar's Poker/The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine feel to it, but more balanced. It quickly becomes apparent that Russo likes/respects Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin, but she's more subtle/less polemic than Lewis can be.
Profile Image for Tom Rogers.
34 reviews25 followers
August 28, 2021
I really enjoyed this book overall. Lags a bit in the last quarter but overall a great breakdown of the history of ETH.

Exciting times ahead
Profile Image for Louis Shulman.
101 reviews7 followers
May 31, 2021
Please make a movie out of this.
Highly recommend.

Entertaining (check)
Educational (check)
Easy To Read (check)
Profile Image for Siobhán Antoinette.
68 reviews4 followers
February 26, 2022
If you need a book to explain crypto to you, this is a great place to start. I had heard enough about the subject to know I needed so much more explained to me, and I was drawn to Ethereum in particular. Russo does a good job of trying to stay neutral, neither getting swept up in the speculative market, nor tearing it down as a cranky crypto cynic. There are moments of such drama that you almost feel as if you're reading a novel, rather than financial non-fiction.

Concerning Ethereum itself, it did disappoint me that the system seemed to become what it tried not to be: a market of speculation and get-rich-quick schemes available only to the rich. Essentially, more of the same annoyances already present in our day to day dealings with financial markets and capitalism in general. The rich get richer, and the money doesn't seem to be real or used for anything at all except to make those rich people richer.

At the end of the book, the bull and bear markets had come and gone and I was left with some hope for the future of Ethereum. The ideas surrounding decentralization are still possible now that the feeding frenzy has worn off a bit. At the very least, I'm grateful to this book for introducing me to the ideas described. If Ethereum doesn't become the "world's computer" then maybe something else can.

Separately, I do think Russo could have benefited from a better editor. I was shocked when she thanked a Hollis Heimbouch at HarperCollins for her editing. There were typos(or perhaps they were spelling errors?), bad phrasing, awkward sentences, and occasionally jumpy narration, all of which might be expected when someone is writing in a non-native language, but that's where the editor is supposed to come in and help clarify your narrative for speakers of whatever language the target audience speaks. Heimbouch did not appear to pay attention to detail here.
Profile Image for Boyan.
123 reviews10 followers
June 12, 2021
Ethereum. One of the most important projects in Blockchain technology of our recent times. I have been lucky enough to been involved in this project since the beginning, so I can honestly say that I am a good critic. This book explains the underpinnings of Ethereum in a very HUMAN language.

I was shocked and super pleasantly surprised to find that it is an amazing book, super fluid and easy to read, full off all the pertinent information, and in many ways a literary master piece. It made “Bitcoin Billionaires” look like it was written by a child in comparison.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in Cryptocurrencies, Finance in general, Blockchain Tech, or/and the Modern World!
19 reviews50 followers
February 16, 2021
I didn’t realize that ETH was created by more people than just Vitalik. I thought the chronology of the book got a little confusing at times. It was interesting to hear the comprehensive backstory and all the things I’d various heard over time put into context. I thought the book didn’t do a great job of actually explaining blockchain concepts like DAOs, DeFI, proof of stake, etc, but at the same time I guess I can’t say it was the intention of the book to explain these things. But I do think that for such a technical thing like crypto, how it all works is relevant to the story and why it matters.
36 reviews2 followers
May 13, 2021
An intimate view of the trials and tribulations for this collection of misfits and idealists on their very rocky path to creating this world-changing technology. I just wished that I read this 6 months ago!

The only reason I didn't give it 5 stars is that the technology talk was sometimes beyond my capabilities (and I'm reasonably familiar with the concepts around crypto).
Profile Image for Heidi C.
151 reviews2 followers
January 7, 2022
Studying crypto-currency is like learning a whole new world. This book contains a lot of historical info on how ethereum was set up and some quite interesting stories. However, with all things happening so fast I just don’t see the book relevant enough for today, as the last log dated back to 2019.
Profile Image for Myrela Bauman.
14 reviews1 follower
January 22, 2022
This book almost “fictionalises” the inception of Ethereum but does so in a factual way. It is centred around Vitalik Buterin, his unique vision, and the trials and tribulations leading up to where the platform stands now (as of late 2019). Seeing as this is a male-dominated ecosystem, I appreciate to learn about this from a female author for once.
Profile Image for Arun Philips.
194 reviews6 followers
June 25, 2021
MUST READ! This will become the go to Ethereum bible, following the incredible journey of Ethereum: from the beginnings with Bitcoin, Vitalik’s whitepaper, the crowdsale, market up and downs, DevCons and the thrilling story of how the world’s biggest supercomputer was built.
Profile Image for Liam.
26 reviews3 followers
October 30, 2021
Easy and interesting read, would be comfortable for a non-technical reader. It was interesting to see how little everyone had starting out, all but a laptop and a drive for change is what ultimately ignited this revolution. It's only the beginning.
Profile Image for Дөл.
104 reviews3 followers
April 3, 2022
Anyone who’s curious about crypto - especially about Ethereum - should read this book. It talks about the crypto space and the history of Ethereum, among other things, at great detail. It makes you really understand why we need blockchain and why the world is slowly but steadily moving in this direction. Highly recommended!
Profile Image for James.
12 reviews
December 24, 2021
A really through history and analysis of the creation of Ethereum that manages to be very readable as well as extremely informative. Essential reading for anyone interested in cryptocurrency and Web 3.0 (and yes, it's not aimed towards technical audiences either).
12 reviews2 followers
July 26, 2021
Ethereum will be one of the most important creations of the 21st century, shoulder to shoulder with the World Wide Web, far surpassing Apple, Microsoft, fb and Tesla combined. This books narrates the genesis of the creation, and all the founders are still alive and very reachable in a way.
Profile Image for Daniel.
128 reviews3 followers
March 4, 2022
Amazing intro to this wonderful world and initiatives related to Ethereum and the people behind it. I found it quite hyped with exaggerated stories (the stories are real and I even know some personally, but the way it's written it's a bit too sugar coated). Bit extense with, I'd say, unneeded details as well.

Someone had to wrote this story and it was written.
Profile Image for Samuel van Deth.
49 reviews3 followers
July 11, 2022
Great read to understand the dynamics and people behind Ethereum and blockchain industry in general. Written like the author was there when this history got started. She really brings the inside story.
Profile Image for Cecilia.
7 reviews
November 17, 2021
Engaging read! Hard to put down. When it’s time for the movie (much like the social network) on the early days of web3, this book could easily be what’s adapted to a screenplay :)
Profile Image for palurie.
10 reviews
April 13, 2022
Well written and easy/fun to read, I'm not surprised as the author is a famous journalist with vast experience. The book is focused on the history of Ethereum - as the title says, telling the story in detail about the founders of this great technology. It tells how all the founders and people involved got into crypto and how Ethereum evolved from an idea to a powerful open source blockchain. However, I would not recommend this book to someone who is not interested in the subject.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 218 reviews

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