3 Tech Titans On Bitcoin & Cryptos
Interest in cryptocurrencies continues to surge. With the world increasingly opening up to cryptocurrencies as a legitimate digital asset, and more big corporations investing heavily in Bitcoin, more and more people are looking to understand how cryptos can benefit us individually and as a society.
As with any great shift in the technological landscape, we turn to the leading lights of the industry for their insight and expertise on the matter. Here we explore the views of three of tech’s brightest and most influential minds on digital currencies.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has remained pretty shtum on Bitcoin. This is perhaps not much of a surprise given that Zuckerberg has a long-standing rivalry with self-made Bitcoin billionaires Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss. The twins – who became the world’s first Bitcoin billionaires in 2017 after investing in the crypto early doors – famously sued Zuckerberg and won a $65 million settlement, after claiming Zuckerberg stole their idea to create social networking site Facebook.
While he may give Bitcoin short shrift, Zuckerberg has certainly recognized the power and possibilities that cryptocurrencies offer. He previously expressed his belief that “encryption and cryptocurrency […] take power from centralised systems and put it back into people’s hands […] I’m interested to go deeper and study the positive and negative aspects of these technologies, and how best to use them in our services.”
As Facebook continues its global domination, it came as little surprise when the social media giant announced plans in 2019 to launch a cryptocurrency of their own called Libra. Unfortunately for Zuckerberg, plans for the Facebook-backed digital currency project have faced strong opposition from regulators and it lost several key backers and executives along the way. Late in 2020, Libra went through a drastic rethink and was rebranded as Diem. Rumours are that the Diem Association is aiming to launch a pilot with a single stablecoin pegged to the U.S. dollar some time in 2021. All eyes will be on Diem when it launches to see whether it will give Bitcoin a run for its money.
When Bill Gates stepped down from the day-to-day running of Microsoft in 2008, he began using his extraordinary wealth to set up a multi-billion dollar investment portfolio, with a special interest in business ventures that are actively creating positive change in the world for millions.
Gates’ interest in digital currencies is steeped in his desire to combat poverty. Through innovative financial technology, Gates see the opportunity to create financial systems and products that are more universally accessible. He has argued that: “Transforming the underlying economics of financial services through digital currency will help those who live in poverty directly. It will also support a host of other developing activities, including health and agriculture.”
That said, Gates has remained rather dismissive of the world’s most popular crypto Bitcoin. As well as sounding the alarm on Bitcoin’s extreme volatility, urging casual investors to “watch out”, he is also concerned about Bitcoin’s negative impact on the planet. In a discussion on CNBC he explained that “Bitcoin uses more electricity per transaction than any other method known to mankind”, arguing in no uncertain terms that the crypto is damaging the climate.
Meanwhile, through the Gates Foundation, Gates is continuing to seek holistic digital currency solutions to lower transaction fees and give more people the opportunity to build up credit, accumulate savings, access loans to expand business operations, purchase insurance, and more.
While many only know him as the face of Tesla, Elon Musk has a long history with digital financial technologies. Back in 1999, Musk founded X.com, one of the first online banks. The platform eventually evolved into PayPal, the popular digital payment service that has simplified the process of sending and requesting money online.
Despite his background in disruptive financial tech, Musk remained rather ambivalent on cryptocurrencies for the longest time. Asked whether he was bullish on Bitcoin, Musk’s only answer was that he was “neither here nor there on Bitcoin.” More bizarrely, on several occasions Musk has tweeted praise for Dogecoin, a meme-based altcoin that was created as a joke. It’s difficult to ascertain whether Musk was posting in jest or not, but the move saw interest in this rather oblique crypto surge.
However, when it comes to blockchain – the underlying system that powers Bitcoin – Musk has been outrightly enthusiastic, calling it “quite brilliant” and adding that it “bypasses currency controls … Paper money is going away. And crypto is a far better way to transfer values than a piece of paper, that’s for sure.”
Despite his praise for blockchain, Musk’s relationship with Bitcoin has remained as volatile as the crypto itself. In March 2021, in a move that shocked many, Tesla announced that it would start accepting bitcoin as a payment method for its products. However, just a couple months later, Musk made a complete U-turn on the decision, stating that the company would no longer accept Bitcoin over climate concerns. “We are concerned about rapidly increasing use of fossil fuels for Bitcoin mining and transactions, especially coal, which has the worst emissions of any fuel,” Musk explained. “Cryptocurrency is a good idea… but this cannot come at great cost to the environment.”
Whether Musk himself has any plans to set up his own eco-friendly crypto remains to be seen.
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