Is Microsoft's Bill Gates' bitcoin death-remark the death-knell for bitcoins?

Last Updated: Thu, Mar 01, 2018 18:32 hrs
Melinda Gates and her husband attend a news conference in New York

Bill Gates, the renowned philanthropist behind the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and founder of Microsoft has revolted against bitcoin, saying it has resulted in mass deaths.

Gates, 62, said digital currencies such as bitcoins were used in procuring illegal drugs, arms, and funding terrorists. Thereby they are indirectly resulting in deaths.

Gates was answering questions in a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything), and a user sought his thoughts on cryptocurrencies.

"The main feature of cryptocurrencies is their anonymity. I don’t think this is a good thing. The Governments 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 cryptocurrencies is super risky for those who go long."

- Bill Gates, 62, Founder- Microsoft and Philanthrophist

Gates's reply received a mammoth 13500 upvotes, and also 6 Golds. His reply could be a death-knell for bitcoin users considering Microsoft had supported the cause of cryptocurrencies since 2014. In fact, Microsoft was one of the pioneers in enabling game-pay-outs in the form of cryptocurrencies.

Xbox, Micrososft's video-gaming console, allowed users to top-up their accounts via bitcoins, and allowed them to buy movies, purchase games and even apps. Price volatility led Microsoft to stop accepting bitcoin payments briefly during the second and third week of January 18. Back then, Microsoft had called bitcoins as "unstable currency". Microsoft at the moment accepts bitcoin payments. 

During the AMA, Gates also debated if Elon Musk's Hyperloop concept will work. Musk's Hyperloop works on the idea of transporting passengers or goods at speeds of nearly 1200 km per hour at fraction of the cost of air travel. Musk had proposed in 2013 that passengers would be transported in floating pods inside low-pressure tubes.

"I am not sure the Hyperloop concept makes sense. Making it safe is hard," said Gates.

Gates' aversion to calling bitcoins as a cryptocurrency is in stark contrast to popular perception that placed him among the supporters of bitcoin and cryptocurrency. 

The top 7 voices in the raging argument over the usage of cryptocurrency include Elon Musk, Peter Thiel, Patrick Byrne, Paul Krugman, Robert Shiller, and Joseph Stiglitz. The first three names support while the latter three held mixed to opposing views on bitcoin.

Here are the other prominent views from popular billionaires, authors and economists:

  • Elon Musk: Musk in an interview had said that bitcoin was a good step in innovative payments, but needed legal clarity. There were rumours that Musk was the Satashi Nakamoto, the man who had written the original white-paper on Bitcoins. Musk rubbished those claims. As on date he owns 0.25 BTCs, and that too as a token. A friend gifted them to him. Musk is the co-founder of Paypal.
  • Peter Thiel: Co-Founder of Paypal: Invested an estimated $15-20 million in BTCs in 2016. Said, bitcoin critics' "understimated" cryptocurrency.
  • Jeff Bezos: Has so far stayed away from answering with a simple Yes/No. Made investments in blockchain, but may not be too enthused with Bitcoins, as Amazon collects good margins from payment processors - Visa and Mastercard.
  • Jamie Dimon CEO, JPMorgan Chase: Bitcoin is a fraud.
  • Mark Cuban, Owner Dallas Mavericks: Only invest if you're prepared to lose your money.
  • Tony Robbins, American Author: Investing in bitcoin is 'like going to Vegas'.
  • Jack Bogle, Retired CEO Vanguard Group: Bitcoin has no underlying rate of return. Avoid it 'like the plague'.
  • Marc Faber, Gloom, Boom and Doom Report: Bubble of Bitcoin may burst in 2018.
  • Dr Nouriel Roubini, American Economist: Biggest Bubble in Human History.

Gates' recent views on cryptocurrency will find acceptance among hi-profile billionaires such as George Soros and Warren Buffett. Both had negative opinions on bitcoin.

Buffett, the high-profile investor and D-street guru, is known for his hatred of technology. He is known to have shied away from computers, and has sent only one email in his entire life.