(ANTIMEDIA) It’s been an embattled year so far for Bitcoin and the cryptocurrency world in general. The start of the year saw a precipitous drop in Bitcoin value, marking somewhere around blockchain’s 250th death. Then, numerous financial institutions, government regulatory agencies, and elite moguls rubbed salt in the wounds with a series of rhetorical attacks aimed at discrediting cryptocurrency and dismissing it as a dangerous bubble. Even Facebook got a few kicks in when Zuckerberg — after seemingly pondering the efficacy of crypto in a post — banned all altcoin ICOs from advertising on the site.
Now, about a month later, Bitcoin and most of the other major altcoins have recovered, and predictions are once again calling for meteoric growth through 2018. Almost as if on cue, enter Bill Gates to announce that cryptocurrency is quite literally killing people.
Gates made the statement during a Reddit “Ask Me Anything” session in which he declared that the ability to conduct anonymous financial transactions is a great boon for drug dealing, financial crimes, and terrorism:
“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.”
Of course, Gates is accurate in saying cryptocurrency has been and is used for illegal activity. A recent study out of the University of Sydney stated 25 percent, roughly 24 million illicit users, of the Bitcoin network is funded via illegal activity.
Another study, conducted in Australia in 2017 using “forensic finance techniques,” found nearly half of Bitcoin’s transactions facilitate some form of illegal activity, including drugs, weapons, and pirated software.
However, others argue that these numbers are skewed and that things have changed since the fall of the Silk Road, when Bitcoin was pretty much synonymous with ‘shady’ transactions on the Dark Web. In fact, blockchain may make it more lucrative for law enforcement to track criminals.
“If you catch a dealer with drugs and cash on the street, you’ve caught them committing one crime,” Detective Sarah Meiklejohn says. “But if you catch people using something like Silk Road, you’ve uncovered their whole criminal history. It’s like discovering their books.”
“We’re getting a lot better through law enforcement tracking those [criminals] and holding the exchanges more accountable,” one Homeland Security official said. “I think [Bitcoin]’s a lot more legitimate than people give it credit for.”
More importantly, as with any great technology, the great promise of cryptocurrency comes with great peril, and this volatile balance fluctuates just like other economic vectors, so it’s intellectually dishonest to argue that cryptocurrency is killing people any more than digital technology or the Internet is killing people.
Blockchain could revolutionize banking and finance with fraud protection, faster transaction times, financial efficiency, transparency, decentralization, and user-controlled networks. Future uses of blockchain include distributed cloud storage, smart contracts, digital voting, cryptography, decentralized notary, machine learning, graphic rendering, and big data analysis.
It’s also worth pointing out that Gates’ former company, Windows, has been developing blockchain applications since 2015.
Seeing the potential of cryptocurrency’s underlying blockchain technology, it is only logical that such a tool could also be used for nefarious purposes. Virtually all forms of technology result in collateral deaths, most of them vastly more so than cryptocurrency. One could apply his quote applies to nuclear technology, biotechnology, nanotechnology, or artificial intelligence — or fiat currency itself, something we’re unlikely to see Bill Gates relinquish.
In other words, while there are risks associated with cryptocurrency, they are outweighed by the rewards of technological and social progress.
What do you think about Bill Gates’ statement? Is it fair to say cryptocurrency is killing people?
This article originally appeared on our Steemit blog.
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