It's becoming clear that Bill Gates is not a fan of the anonymity that technology provides in some instances, particularly when it comes to financial transactions. That happens to be one of the touted benefits of cryptocurrency, which he addressed on Reddit during an Ask Me Anything (AMA) session.
When asked about his opinion on cryptocurrency, Gates brought up the negative things that anonymous transactions can facilitate, such as money laundering and funding terrorist activities. But what really stands out about his response is the claim that cryptocurrency is directly killing people.
"The main feature of cryptocurrencies is their anonymity. I don't think this is a good thing. 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," Gates said.
There are several potential benefits of the underlying blockchain technology that cryptocurrencies are based on, but there is definitely a seedier side to it all. The same could be said of cash, though cryptocurrency transactions are arguably easier to hide. This seems to be the point Gates is making, or part of the point.
As for funneling drugs and actually killing people, Gates highlights the sale and use of fentanyl, which is stronger (and potentially deadlier) than heroin, according to STAT. Just 3 milligrams is enough to kill an adult, versus 30 milligrams of heroin.
"Most recent cases of fentanyl-related harm, overdose, and death in the US are linked to illegally made fentanyl. It is sold through illegal drug markets for its heroin-like effect. It is often mixed with heroin and/or cocaine as a combination product—with or without the user’s knowledge—to increase its euphoric effects," the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says.
Gates also spoke out about the "super risky" nature of trading cryptocurrencies, and especially "the speculative wave around ICOs." Data to support that claim is much easier to come by. Just the other day, Bitcoin.com took a look at last year's cryptocurrency ICOs as tracked by TokenData and found that nearly half of them failed, or more than half if you count the ones that suddenly went silent on social media.
The bigger issue for Gates, however, seems to be anonymity. This is not the first time he's brought up the topic as it relates to technology, or even the first time this month. Just a couple of weeks ago, he insinuated in an interview with Axios that companies like Apple should allow government agencies to peek into mobile devices through a backdoor in some instances.
"Companies need to be careful that they're not... advocating things that would prevent government from being able to, under appropriate review, perform the type of functions that we've come to count on... There is no question of ability; it's the question of willingness," Gates said.
Heavy stuff. On a lighter note, unfortunately Gates did not have an answer to (or address) when graphics card pricing will normalize, which is the burning question we all want answered.