In today’s “celebrities are just like us” segment, Bill Gates is in the news for saying what a lot of people have been thinking lately; he wouldn’t touch cryptocurrencies and NFTs with a ten foot pole. Speaking at a TechCrunch climate symposium, the famously wealthy investor and philanthropist poo-pooed the mere notion of cryptocurrency. He also took a few shots at its associated artwork, known as non-fungible tokens (NFTs).
At the conference Gates was asked by the moderator what he thinks of NFTs. These are digital assets such as JPGs that you can buy the unique rights to, despite anyone being able to right-click and save a copy. The usually straight-laced former CEO delivered an uncharacteristically sarcastic reply. “Obviously expensive digital images of monkeys are going to improve the world immensely,” he quipped. He’s of course referring to the Bored Apes Yacht Club NFTs, which sell for ludicrous prices online. However, the recent decline in the price of Ethereum has allowed them to sell for less than $100,000 for the first time in over a year, if you can believe that. Famous actor Seth Green also recently paid hackers a $260,000 ransom to get his stolen Bored Ape NFTs returned.
Instead of NFTs, Gates says he’s more interested in “asset classes” that produce things. As examples, he listed farms that produce food, or companies that make products. NFTs though, he said, are an asset class based on “greater fool theory.” That’s the theory that the only value an item has is that there’s someone else willing to pay more money for it. He also said he doesn’t like that blockchain transactions have anonymity “at their heart.” This allows them avoid taxation and other government regulations regarding reporting fees and payments. Gates summarized his thoughts by saying he’s not involved in anything related to the blockchain. “I’m not long or short on any of it,” he said.
News of Gate’s dismissal of crypto comes in the wake of a horrible week for the crypto market. A week ago Sunday, one of the biggest lenders in the space stopped all activity on its network due to “extreme market conditions.” This prevented its customers from being able to access any of their digital assets, causing widespread outrage. The net effect of it was a massive sell-off of other big currencies, such as Bitcoin and Ethereum. Both currencies have seen their values plummet recently, reaching prices not seen in years.
Interestingly, this is not the first time Gates has dismissed cryptocurrencies, according to CNN. In 2021 he was interviewed by Bloomberg, and asked about Elon Musk investing $1.5 billion in Bitcoin on behalf of Tesla.”I do think people get bought into these manias, who may not have as much money to spare, so I’m not bullish on bitcoin,” Gates said. “My general thought would be that, if you have less money than Elon, you should probably watch out.” Around the same time, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen also warned investors to be careful. “It is a highly speculative asset, and I think people should beware. It can be extremely volatile, and I do worry about potential losses that investors in it could suffer,” she said. When these comments were made, Bitcoin was priced at $48,000 per coin. As of this writing it’s hovering around $21,000.