Bill Gates: Bitcoin Highlights the Utility of Digital Money

(@pete_rizzo_) | Published on October 2, 2014 at 23:03 BST

During an interview on Bloomberg TV's "Street Smart" today, Bill Gates responded to new questions about bitcoin and its potential to bring innovation to the payments industry.

The technology advisor at Microsoft, founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and recently crowned richest man in the world, in turn, provided short and somewhat muddled responses, though Gates addressed bitcoin more specifically than he has in the past.

Calling bitcoin "exciting" because of its ability to provide a relatively low-cost transaction network, Gates told Bloomberg:

"Bitcoin is better than currency in that you don't have to be physically in the same place, and of course for large transactions currency can get pretty inconvenient."

However, while seemingly positive, Gates went on to suggest that though he believes the world needs lower-cost payments solutions, bitcoin is perhaps not the best example of how the market should look to provide this solution.

Gates suggested that bitcoin may not appeal to the mass market due to its relative anonymity, as well as its associations with terrorism and money laundering.

He added:

"The customers we're talking about aren't trying to be anonymous, they're willing to be known, so bitcoin technology is key and you can add to it or you could build a similar technology where there's enough attribution where people feel comfortable that this is nothing to do with terrorism or any type of money laundering."

The interview took place at Sibos 2014, a banking and financial conference held in Boston, where Gates also addressed the challenges facing the financial industry and the underbanked.

Notably, the first day of the event was dedicated in part to highlighting developments in the digital currency industry, with representatives from Circle, Ethereum and Ripple Labs.

Evolution in thought

Though brief, the statements mark an evolution in Gates' public statements on bitcoin.

This February, the noted technologist and philanthropist participated in an Ask Me Anything on the social network Reddit where he was asked for his thoughts on bitcoin by multiple users.

At the time, Gates largely sidestepped the issue, choosing instead to focus his praise on digital money networks like Kenya's centralized mobile service, M-Pesa.

Gates addressed bitcoin only once, saying:

“The foundation is involved in digital money, but unlike bitcoin it would not be anonymous digital money.”

Hat tip to Bloomberg

Image via Bloomberg

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