Charles Hoskinson is on a charm offensive. In the run-up to this months’ summit in Miami, the IOHK founder is crisscrossing the world, from Africa to Athens and America. When I met him last week, he seemed to have spent more time in the air than he had on the ground.
Although he was was eager to tell me about Cardano’s big milestones, and IOHK’s big blockchain projects in Ethiopia, I cut to the chase to ask the real question on everyone’s mind:
Why does everything in Cardano have such a weird name?
I’m not the only one asking this question, which has also been discussed on Reddit, Twitter, Steemit and throughout the crypto-verse. Hackernoon devoted an entire article to the various figures in the blockchain pantheon.
Cardano isn’t alone in this regard: VeThor sounds like something out of the Marvel Universe, and some tokens seem to have gotten their names from a scrabble-bag. There’s a popular quiz circulating on social media to see if you can tell the difference between a Pokemon and a virtual currency.
But Cardano stands out for its cumbersome and obscure names, and in the world of cryptocurrency, that’s saying a lot. Not to mention the difficulty it creates, for anyone trying to research the complexities of Orobo…. Ouroubor….. of the Cardano consensus mechanism.
I’m not saying the Cardano team is nerdy, but they seem to make decisions using a twenty-sided die.
“We’re now trapped.”
Asked about the origins of the project’s nomenclature, Hoskinson responds as if he has heard these questions before.
“If I hired a branding or marketing agency, they’d tell me ‘Oh God, what are you doing?’ Hoskinson chuckled. “They have those lists like memorability, pronunciation, ease to spell….every one of those categories we tend to fail.”
Part of the trend started accidentally. “This is what happens when you have a chief scientist who’s Greek,” Hoskinson explained. “Aggelos Kiayias is from Athens, and he named Ouroboros. So for a wallet, we said let’s give it a Greek name—we used Daedalus, he’s the creator of the Labyrinth.”
After that, one Greek name led to another. “We’re now trapped in that naming group,” Hoskinson said.
While the milestones are largely Greek, development teams are named after famous mathematicians— Hoskinson rattles off a long list of mathematical luminaries, like a teenager reciting the latest pop stars. Other milestones come from his favorite poets.
Most of them were chosen to make a point. Shelley, an upcoming milestone, was named for the author of Ozymandias, a parable of the futility of power.
“Shelley is a reminder that everything you build has an impermanence about it,” he explains. “That’s the point of the financial system… No matter who’s in control or who has the power today, at some point in the future that’s all going to be ruins in the dust.”
Incidentally, Percy Shelley’s literary stature has since been eclipsed by that of his wife, who has yet to be beatified in the Cardano Canon. That’s probably for the best; we can count ourselves lucky that the cryptocurrency was not named Frankenstein.
“What are you, Stanley Kubrick?”
However, Hoskinson did not fall into the same trap when it came to graphics. IOHK’s circuit-winged butterfly is a real pleasure, both to draw and to look at, and the project’s other logos show similar attention to detail.
“My design director hates me,” Hoskinson admits. “We did over 240 iterations of one logo, again and again and again”— Hoskinson rapped the table emphatically. “He was so miserable, he said what are you, Stanley Kubrick?”
But, Hoskinson, said, he insisted on getting the designs right. “If we don’t get this right, someone’s going to tattoo it on their ass and we’re going to own that for the rest of our lives,” Hoskinson told his designer. “Guess what? It happened! And we were very glad that we did 240 iterations and didn’t permanently scar anyone’s skins.”
For Hoskinson, this is a sign that Cardano is making headway when it comes to community growth. “You know you’re doing something right when people tattoo your logo on their back.”
Asked which would be the worst logo to get as a tattoo, he mused: “Certainly EOS. Or BitConnect.”
The author is invested in ADA, which is mentioned in this article.