Bill Gates: cryptocurrencies ‘cause deaths in a fairly direct way’

Microsoft founder argues that the technology’s anonymity mainly benefits criminals

Bill Gates
Bill Gates founded Microsoft when he was just 19
(Image credit: Ramin Talaie/Getty Images)

Tech entrepreneur Bill Gates has warned that cryptocurrencies have a deadly effect, by enabling anonymous payments that hinder law enforcers hunting down criminals.

“The main feature of cryptocurrencies is their anonymity,” Gates argued. “I don’t think this is a good thing.”

The Microsoft founder spoke out after being asked about his views on digital coins by a fan during an “Ask me anything” session on Reddit. “Right now, cryptocurrencies are used for buying fentanyl and other drugs, so it is a rare technology that has caused deaths in a fairly direct way,” Gates added.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

When another Reddit user argued that real-world money can also be used anonymously, he replied: “Yes - anonymous cash is used for these kinds of things, but you have to be physically present to transfer it, which makes things like kidnapping payments more difficult.”

Cryptocurrencies, such as bitcoin, are not “innately anonymous” as every transaction is logged on a public online ledger, says tech news website BGR.

What Gates is probably referring to is the technology’s lack of government regulation, which makes it easier for criminals “to cash out cryptocurrencies in secret”, the website adds.

Gates also had “harsh words” for other emerging technologies, The Guardian reports.

“I am not sure the Hyperloop makes sense,” he said, arguing that it would be “hard” to make the high-speed transport concept, developed by SpaceX founder Elon Musk, safe enough for public use.

But according to the newspaper, Gates was “positive about the overall direction of technology”, and dismissed fears over the impact of automation on jobs.

“Automation has been driving productivity ever since the industrial revolution including things like tractors and garment making,” he said. “Eventually we won't have to work as much, but we are still at least a generation away from a big change there.”

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.