- Adrien Book
These 13 Quotes from Business Leaders will Help you Better Understand Crypto
Smart people have had stupid opinions about technology ever since we invented textile machinery. With each new invention, influencers take to books, newspapers, radio, TV and, lately, social media to share their thoughts. As technology is increasingly complex, these takes become increasingly fallible.
Crypto is no exception. For the past 5 years, politicians and business leaders the world over have spread their hot takes on the topic, regardless of their knowledge or background. Their opinions tend to fall into 4 categories :
Bullish on Crypto
Old, white and grumpy millionaires
Bearish on Crypto
And even though their takes are hit or miss, there is something to be learnt from them, even the more outlandish ones.
Bullish on Crypto
Jack Ma — Alibaba founder
“Blockchain technology could change our world more than people imagine. Bitcoin, however, could be a bubble.”
That’s a lot of “could”, highlighting the space’s inherent volatility. Back when the iPhone first came out, we didn’t say it “could” change the world. It already had.
During an interview in 2019, Ma also said that Bitcoin was “just a tiny application” of blockchain. He is absolutely right. Bitcoin and NFTs are just fun distractions. The future will be much more Smart Contract oriented, as the digital world slowly digests the physical world. The monetization of every day action will have a bigger impact that Bitcoin ever will. You can be bearish on cryptocurrencies while being bullish on crypto.
It’s important to remember that nothing is said in a vacuum. The Chinese Communist Party is staunchly against Bitcoin; it’s difficult to know Ma’s real opinion on the topic as he is beholden to the government in charge of his fate.
Ann Kaluvu — Lecturer; Founder of Women in Blockchain for Women Inclusion
“We as a continent are barely scratching the surface on what blockchain technology can do for us. Imagine if governments could harness the benefits of traceability that the technology offers. This could increase accountability in all sectors.”
“Barely scratching” is correct : the African continent only receives 2 percent of the global value of all cryptocurrencies.
While NFTs might be the hot “new” feature of blockchain technology, Kaluvu believes that its real potential is in fixing issues such as corruption. Transparency and traceability, blockchain’s core components, could enable that. The difficulty, however, is that entire economies would have to be rebuilt around a blockchain-led system, across many countries, before we see any results. Seeing how trigger-happy some African governments are regarding cutting off internet access, I’m not optimistic.
Furthermore, we are here talking about a continent rife with totalitarianism and instability, where attacks on civilians are frequent. Is full traceability really what you’d want in such an environment?
Bitange Ndemo — Kenya’s former ITC Minister; Professor
“Because cryptocurrency platforms bypass traditional banking services by introducing decentralized peer-to-peer lending services, they can help level the economic playing field and expend finance options to underserved customer markets.”
Though the situation has improved drastically over the past 20 years as much as 350 million adults in Sub-Saharan Africa live without sufficient banking facilities. They need a safe way to store and transfer money.
Meanwhile, cryptocurrencies offer a fully digital, rapid, and low-cost cross-border payment platform. Whereas international wire transfer fees cost an average 7 percent of the total amount sent and could take several days to clear, some cryptocurrencies are designed to support foreign exchange and money transfers for less than a U.S. penny and process payments in 3 to 5 seconds. Seems like an easy solution.
With that said, I worry that we’re just retro-fitting crypto to fit Africa's problems. I will only believe crypto’s power on the continent when I see a local solution being implemented. The chances of being yet again taken advantage of (and becoming bag-holders) are too great.
Masayoshi Son — Softbank CEO; Vision Fund Investor
“There’s a lot of discussion over if Bitcoin is a good thing or a bad thing, what’s the true value or is it in a bubble— honestly speaking I don’t know.”
Even major tech investors don’t know what this whole crypto thing is about. Son lost around $130M because he didn’t fully understand the concept. This should highlight how carefully we should invest in the space. It is being defined in front of our very eyes and no one knows for sure where we’ll end up.
With that said, Son is not the wisest investor, having made major mistakes on WeWork, Tesla, Amazon... You might be a better investor than him… or not. Only time will tell.
However, Son is still very bullish on crypto, saying “[It] can’t be ignored. (…) I think digital currency will be useful. But I don’t know what digital currency, what structure, and so on.” It’s very possible that in 10 years, all digital assets in existence today will be worth nothing, replaced by a platform that has not yet been built.
Old, white and grumpy millionaires
Jamie Dimon — JP Morgan CEO
“I don’t really give a sh*t about Bitcoin”
Dimon seems to care enough about crypto to launch a company coin called JPM Coin, which facilitates real-time value movement, helping to solve common hurdles of traditional cross-border payments. Do as he does, not as he says.
JPMorgan analysts also say that Bitcoin is “particularly well-designed as a modern store of value, and the strong design has contributed to the increased confidence in and value of Bitcoin.” That’s a far cry from some of the derogatory comments their CEO made in the recent past.
Seeing all this, I’d say Dimon is bullish on crypto. He just doesn’t like the fact that he’s not controlling it, and is trying to shoot down the competition. Something, something, 3D chess, am I right?
Janet Yellen — US Treasury secretary
“Bitcoin is an extremely inefficient way of conducting transactions, and the amount of energy that’s consumed in processing those transactions are staggering.”
Yellen is absolutely right. Bitcoin should have never left the realm of MVP. It’s cost on the environment is too great. But, there are other blockchains, and other coins built on top of them. Some are working hard on solving energy inefficiencies. Whether they’ll be successful remains to be seen, so some healthy skepticism in that regard is probably a good thing.
In fact, Yellen is not stridently anti-crypto. She has been careful in her comments to emphasize that she wants to preserve crypto’s potential benefits, such as a “faster, safer and cheaper” payments system.
In the end, it’s her job to protect customers. It’s good to have her and others as counterbalancing forces against the perma-bulls and scammers, which hype highly speculative assets for their own selfish gains.
Warren Buffet — Berkshire Hathaway founder
“Cryptocurrencies basically have no value and they don’t produce anything… they can’t mail you a check, they can’t do anything, and what you hope is that somebody else comes along and pays you more money for them later on”
Buffet is making the mistake of trying to apply 20th century rules to a 21st century market. Fundamentals do not apply — they haven’t since software ate the world. We live in a hype economy, where excitement drives value more than profits or revenues. You’d think more people would have realized that by now.
Furthermore, could it be that a man who depends on fiat currency and stocks to make a living doesn’t like something that could threaten said living? Picture me surprised. We should always be aware of such underlying motivations when looking at and analyzing quotes from business leaders. They’ll say anything to stay ahead of the game.
Buffet will never own cryptocurrency, and will die a billionaire, surrounded by loved ones. Make of that what you will.
Cathie Wood — Ark Invest CEO & fund manager
“What’s going on right now would have been Nobel prize winning economist Robert Mundell’s dream: to introduce a global monetary system not under anyone’s control”
Where do we start? Firstly, Mundell did advocate for supply-side economics, wherein lower regulations are key, but he did specify that some centralization was necessary. Mundell also envisaged a new global monetary map from the regional rather than the national viewpoint. His ideas of Optimum Currency Area led to the creation of the Euro as a currency, as it was more effective geographically. None of this is linked to what Wood alludes to. Jesus Christ, read a book.
Secondly, some entities will always have an outsized control over the crypto world. These entities will either be governments, who have guns, or corporations, who have money. Egypt, Iraq, Qatar, Oman, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Bangladesh, and China have all banned cryptocurrencies. Meanwhile, platforms like Coinbase and OpenSea, which create APIs that connect everyday users to the blockchain, control most ingoing and outgoing transactions. Big words like “decentralized” are attractive, but they’re not grounded in reality.
Elon Musk — Tesla & SpaceX CEO
“Crypto is a far better way to transfer value than pieces of paper, that’s for sure… I think one of the downsides of crypto is that computationally it is quite energy intensive.”
Elon knows that fiat currencies are more than “just pieces of paper”. He’s playing dumb. Just like Cathy Wood. And he’s doing so for his own gain, that’s obvious — like Dimon, he loathes what he doesn’t own.
But even a man who revels in meme culture and sh*t-coins recognises the polluting aspect of current blockchains. That says something about how atrocious the current model is.
This is neither here nor there, but if I were him, I’d launch a blockchain. He’s shown a key interest in the topic. He’s respected by the large majority of crypto-bros. His core businesses are centered around the future and disrupting existing industries. He’s deep in the electricity game. Seems like an obvious win…
Tim Wu — White House economic advisor
“Bitcoin may be in a bubble, but it is part of a much bigger trend that is here to stay: a shift in trust from government to technology”
Well yes, but actually no. The numbers show that people generally trust less than a decade ago, across the board. It just happens that people started to distrust the government at a faster rate than technology companies. There’s no “transfer” from one to the other. A few more scandals, and both governments and tech giants will be equally trusted — i.e not at all.
There’s something more pernicious behind Wu’s phrase. A wish from the public to see governments just go away and let companies do what they want. But we need policy, laws and rules. Tech without regulation would be catastrophic — just look how bad it is WITH regulations. *Gestures broadly at everything*.
In Wu’s defence, he is not necessarily saying that it’s a good thing. In any case, and as previously mentioned : if you like crypto but not tech you’re a scam artist, regardless of whom you work for.
Bearish on Crypto & Tech
Christine Lagarde — President of European Central Bank
“Bitcoin is a highly speculative asset, which has conducted some funny business and some interesting and totally reprehensible money laundering activity”
This is an interesting take. Indeed, Bitcoin is speculative (what isn’t nowadays?). I however disagree with the fact that you can use Bitcoin to launder money. You can try, but it’ll be very very hard. That’s because cryptocurrencies do what they promise : they’re highly transparent, and all transactions are visible on the blockchain. Sure, there are many, many ways around, but it’s easier to just use a casino as a front.
The fact that the President of the European central bank is bearish should be a warning to a lot of people. You’re not smarter than her. Trust me.
Gita Gopinath (IMF chief economist)
“Bitcoin is an example of a cryptocurrency that doesn’t serve the role of money at all. It’s a very speculative investment class. In terms of substituting for what money is, I don’t think it comes close.”
She’s right. It doesn’t serve the role of money. It serves the role of either a security or a gambling asset, depending on who you ask.
That’s why it’s successful. The world sucks. We can’t afford homes. The world is burning. We live on platforms that literally thrive on anger and discontent. Corporations post memes on Twitter as they enslave children abroad. We wish upon shooting stars that are actually billionaires going to space for fun. We laugh at cows wearing VR headsets, while letting Netflix automatically play the next episode. There is nothing to do except gamble.
Zephyr Teachout — Fordham University law professor
“There is no such thing as no-governance regimes. When I talk to crypto advocates, they’ll often frame it as if it is a world with no governance. But there is never an absence of governance. In the end, someone controls supply.”
Here comes the new boss. Same as the old boss. There will always be some sort of governance, whether national or otherwise, as described above.
Take China : After initially allowing people to trade or mine crypto coins, it started cracking down on mining activities eand banned the trade in 2021. Reports say most miners of significant infrastructure had to move out of the country to continue their operations. China is now developing a digital version of its currency, Yuan, and is testing the centrally regulated crypto coin.
Crypto advocates were never going to win, but they did pave the way for authoritarian regimes to better track their people. Thanks.
Why are so many smart people contradicting each other?
Primarily, no one knows what they’re talking about. The tech is too new, and people are doing too many stupid stuff with it (NB : this is the way).
Furthermore, everyone in a place of power today has an incentive to be for or against crypto. You can’t trust anyone and what they’re saying.
Finally, when someone is very successful and good at what they do, they start believing they’d be good at everything. This is why business and politicl leaders feel free to give their opinion on something they clearly know little about. The good news is that no one knows anything. So make you own mind up.
Good luck out there.