Bill Gates, the famed technologist-turned-world-savior took some time off from delivering toilets to the Third World to conduct a Reddit AMA interview this week. He reminisced on his early days at Microsoft. He threw in his two cents on how automation will affect the future of work (he’s pro-automation). And he surely took a moment to address cryptocurrency.
“What’s your opinion on cryptocurrencies?” writes Reddit user Askur1337 in language that’s just about as neutral as you can get.
Gates surely cracked his knuckles before typing back a critical paragraph. “The main feature of cryptocurrencies is their anonymity. I don’t think this is a good thing,” wrote the Microsoft cofounder. “The government’s ability to find money laundering and tax evasion and terrorist funding is a good thing. Right now cryptocurrencies are used for buying fentanyl and other drugs, so it is a rare technology that has caused deaths in a fairly direct way. I think the speculative wave around ICOs and crypto currencies is super risky for those who go long.”
Gates stirred a giant with this response. “You know what else is used to fund terrorism, buy fentanyl and other drugs?” writes Reddit user Suuperdad. “The USD.” Reddit user gonzobon moderates r/Bitcoin, and responded to Gates’s comment with the criticism that “the main feature of cryptocurrencies is their anonymity” was “fundamentally untrue.” He earned ire across subreddits. Over at r/Cryptocurrency, one user explained that Gates was clinging to an old, inaccurate narrative about what cryptocurrency is for. He specifically identifies Gates’s perceived misunderstanding as a “bullish long-term indicator” for crypto.
It certainly bears mentioning that the Gates Foundation makes use of cryptocurrency technology to achieve its own mission. The foundation funded and supported a payment network used to reach the third world, and that network was built on top of Ripple.
In any event, Gates’s comment will be remembered as the misleading words of a softening fuddy-duddy for perhaps a few more days. By then there will surely be new sources of scandal, cause for outrage, and caps lock headlines.