You may soon use bitcoin without even knowing it.
Venture capitalist Ben Horowitz is one of America’s most vocal bitcoin believers, and also has helped invest tens of millions of dollars in bitcoin-related startups. Financial blogger Felix Salmon is one of the digital currency’s most vocal skeptics, writing that bitcoin will not disrupt digital transactions.
Back in February the pair hashed out their differences on NPR. That conversation ended with a wager:
Five years from now, in January, 2019, we’ll poll a representative sample of Americans. If 10 percent or more say they have used bitcoin to buy something in the past month, Ben wins. If it’s fewer than 10 percent, Felix wins.
The victor receives a pair of Alpaca socks, which was one of the first items available for purchase via bitcoin. This bet came up yesterday morning as part of a bitcoin-focused breakfast conversation at Fortune Brainstorm Tech, held in Aspen, Colorado. Participants included Nick Shalek (partner with Ribbit Capital), Barry Silbert (CEO of Bitcoin Investment Trust) and Chris Larsen (CEO of Ripple Labs).
The consensus seemed to be that more than 10% of consumers likely will have leveraged bitcoin to make purchases, but that few of them would know it. In other words, bitcoin (or some other digital currency) often would be the ubiquitous behind-the-scenes infrastructure, rather than a massively-adopted consumer-facing currency.
What that means is that Horowitz likely would win the wager’s spirit, which makes sense given that he has much more experience in technology than does Salmon. But Salmon would win the actual bet, because survey respondents need to say they’ve used bitcoin — something they likely wouldn’t if that use was pipes rather than some mobile app with a shiny “B” on it. This too makes sense, given that Salmon is the professional writer (yes, I know Horowitz blogs and has a book, but it isn’t his day job).
So Horowitz may want to grab a pair of socks and store them away for Salmon. Or just wait until he makes millions of dollars on bitcoin, and buy him something a bit nicer.
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