What do influential people think about bitcoin?

(@danielcawrey) | Published on September 8, 2013 at 11:06 GMT

Just like any other movement, bitcoin needs people who can be symbolic leaders. Specific examples are people like Gavin Andresen, bitcoin’s chief scientist, who works as the lead developer on the Bitcoin protocol. Another one is Patrick Murck, the Bitcoin Foundation’s general counsel, who has been busy helping to forge a path forward for regulatory compliance.

These are people that are well qualified for their specific duties. Yet bitcoin needs influencers beyond that. It needs global leaders outside of cryptocurrency circles and people of some renown to speak out about it. So who has done this? Let’s take a look.

Bill Gates

When it comes to the business side of technology, Bill Gates has made himself a very wealthy individual. Often described as irascible during his time as Microsoft’s CEO, he has since mellowed now that he’s outside of the private sector.

As the chairman of his own foundation, which he runs with his wife, Gates looks to tackle difficult problems that perhaps capitalism can’t solve. One of his focal points has been in Africa, a continent where people are grossly under banked, which makes it fit for digital currencies like bitcoin.

In terms of finding problems for smart people to solve, digital currencies are one area that Gates believes has promise in terms of development.

“Someone who’s interested in finance can help drive innovations such as digital currency that reduce transaction costs so that poor people can borrow at five percent a year instead of 15 percent.”

Since leaving Microsoft, Gates has been able to use his smarts to work on global problems. Source: Flickr
Since leaving Microsoft, Gates has been able to use his smarts to work on global problems. Source: Flickr

That’s not exactly an endorsement of bitcoin, but that may be because Gates isn’t concerned about which digital currency thrives. It’s the concept that he believes in because transaction fees ultimately affect those with less financial means more than others.

It’s no wonder, then, that Kenya’s M-PESA on mobile phones has become so popular. Gates has probably seen its beneficial effects first hand while spending time in Africa.

Jim Cramer

Cramer is the host of CNBC’s nightly investing show Mad Money. He’s also a former hedge fund manager. He has a quirky, high-energy personality that works well on television, making investing fun.

Although he’s mostly a stock market investor, he is seen by many as an economic expert as well. During the 2008 financial crisis, he was featured as a commentator on the news regarding the banking collapse.

Cramer has tweeted about bitcoin several times. Source: Twitter
Cramer has tweeted about bitcoin several times. Source: Twitter

Cramer was featured on an episode of the Good Wife called “Bitcoin for Dummies” that revolved around an illegal currency. In it, he plays himself and opines that “There’s no central bank to regulate it; it’s digital and functions completely peer to peer.”

To say that he “endorsed” bitcoin in the show is a little off, but he does have knowledge of it. Cramer’s audience is comprised mostly of viewers looking to invest for retirement. Because of this, he’s not going to give an overly glowing opinion that makes people go out and buy bitcoins. It’s a store of value, for sure, but because of its relative youth compared with other financial instruments, it would be hard to recommend as a watertight strategy for retirement at its current stage.

Ashton Kutcher

As well as being successful in the movie business, Kutcher has been successful in the technology space. Airbnb, Uber and Foursquare are among the better-known companies he’s invested in. With his firm A-Grade Investments, he’s surrounded himself with smart people that give him good perspective on the future. Bitcoin, for Kutcher, has been no exception to this when he said at TechCrunch Disrupt “the bitcoin revolution is taking place.”

In terms of digital currency-based ventures, Kutcher has investments in BitPay and Dwolla.

Al Gore

Al Gore has long been known as an expert on technology policy. As former Vice President and board member of Google, he is uniquely in touch with digital concepts. This gives him some understanding of new paradigms like bitcoin. And he has a favorable position; something he talked about during the The Innovation Project 2013.

When Gore says things, people listen. Source: Flickr
When Gore says things, people listen. Source: Flickr

“When bitcoin currency is converted from currency into cash, that interface has to remain under some regulatory safeguards. I think the fact that within the bitcoin universe an algorithm replaces the functions of [the government] … is actually pretty cool.”

So Gore’s position is that because bitcoin is exchanged for fiat currency, it needs to be properly regulated. But he likes the more freewheeling aspects of it; an interesting take for a former politician.

A university study

The University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, known for economic acuity, released a somewhat unfavorable survey about what economists think about bitcoin.

When posed this statement, 61% of economists agreed that “A bitcoin's value derives solely from the belief that others will want to use it for trade, which implies that its purchasing power is likely to fluctuate over time to a degree that will limit its usefulness.”

Source: Chicago Booth
Source: Chicago Booth

Although there have been influential people that have expounded on the positive aspects of bitcoin, it is perhaps the experts in financial policies that lead the way. Surveys like this from Chicago Booth have some merit. Yet in order for bitcoin to thrive it will likely require positive opinions from popular people who the mainstream public listens to.

So let’s assume that it is true that bitcoin’s value comes from the belief that others will want to use it, like the survey suggests. If so, the more influential people who talk about it, positive or negative, the better off it will probably be.

Who do you think would be an ideal person to offer a confident opinion about bitcoin? Do you think that there is an individual that could help to increase the level of bitcoin adoption?

M-Pesa

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