On Tuesday, Microsoft co-founder and avid philanthropist Bill Gates participated in an Ask-Me-Anything (AMA) session on Reddit, where users of the site present questions on any topic for the billionaire to answer. Among questions of coding semantics and peanut butter sandwiches, one Redditor asked for Gates’ opinion on cryptocurrency.
Redditor /u/Askur1337 asked Gates for his take on cryptocurrencies, to which Gates provided several sentences explaining why he has adopted an unsupportive approach to the recent craze. While many may assume that the technology magnate recognizes the massive potential of cryptocurrency, Gates takes a much more pragmatic view on the emerging tech.
Gates suggests that the primary use of cryptocurrency is anonymity, which hinders the government’s ability to monitor and prevent malicious activities, such as drug trafficking and terrorism. Gates goes on to state that cryptocurrencies have been responsible for a number of drug related deaths. “Right now crypto currencies are used for buying fentanyl and other drugs so it is a rare technology that has caused deaths in a fairly direct way.”
Another Redditor, /u/dikkepiemel, reminded Gates that the US Dollar is also used to purchase illegal drugs. Gates responded that USD is different, as physical transactions remove a level of anonymity from the transactions. Things such as “kidnapping payments” are more difficult when they require a real world exchange, according to Gates.
Gates also commented on the recent proliferation of Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs). He sees these new investments as “super risky for those who go long”. It’s evident that Gates has a complete lack of faith in the futures of these new cryptocurrencies.
This negative perception comes as a surprise to veteran cryptocurrency enthusiasts, who likely remember positive remarks made by former richest man in the world several years ago. In a 2014 Bloomberg interview, Gates considered Bitcoin to be “better than currency”, citing values such as speed, cost, and virtuality of the first cryptocurrency.
In 2015, his optimism showed again, when speaking on cryptocurrencies in a Blackchannel interview. He reiterated his earlier sentiments on Bitcoin, but also hinted at the need for other cryptocurrencies to aid the growth of the Bitcoin movement. “We need things to draw on the revolution of Bitcoin,” said Gates.
Given his recent change of heart, it’s very likely that the hype and manipulation associated with the massive growth of cryptocurrency within the past year has made Gates wary of the value of blockchain technology. Either way, similar views have been shared for years by other powerful individuals. It is unlikely that such comments will have a lasting effect on the future of Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies as a whole.