He made it very clear in today’s Ask Me Anything session on Reddit. A user going by the alias of Askur1337 inquired about Gate’s opinion on cryptocurrencies who, in reply, wrote:
“The main feature of crypto currencies 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 crypto currencies 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 crypto currencies is super risky for those who go long.”
He was of the view that people who want to keep their financial transactions hidden are usually up to no good. While this has been historically true given Bitcoin’s considerable success on crime laden platforms like Silk Road, the sentiment appears to be a broad generalization. It is also true that physical cash, while being relatively untraceable, remains a portability nightmare. It is not easy to transfer and big amounts can cause real hassle. That makes cryptocurrency a viable alternative which can replace cash at the cost of volatility.
Bill Gates seemed to be concerned about the rise of this new wave of anonymous currencies as he believes this will facilitate financial crime and will pave a convenient way for terrorists, drug dealers and other criminal elements in the society to fund their malicious activities. Cryptocurrency makes for a malicious activity friendly tender with its tempting features of anonymity and hidden transactions. With stability, it can indeed become a go to currency for criminals.
While Gates is not objectively incorrect here as authorities often claim that big shot criminals are hiding billions in black money in the form of virtual currencies. However, it should be noted that crime usually involves other physical exchanges that can always be tracked down.
To be brutally honest, there are other aspects of cryptocurrency that are far more concerning than being an accessory to criminal activity including speculative bubbles that cause average people with no trading experience to lose thousands of dollars in no time. Just like any other product can be used positively or negatively, cryptocurrency packs both types of potential.