Pat Gelsinger: “Bitcoin today is not OK”

(Image credit: Adam Shepherd/Dennis Publishing)

Chief executive of virtualisation giant VMware, Pat Gelsinger, has hit out at cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Facebook's Libra, arguing that their usage is unsustainable and fuelled by criminal activity, comparing them to opioid addiction.

As part of his opening keynote for VMworld 2019, Gelsinger touched on the idea that technologists have an obligation to make sure that the technology they create is being used for good purposes. He noted that while technology itself is neutral, it often leads to unfortunate outcomes if not closely monitored.

"[Blockchain has] given way to Bitcoin, which I will argue is bad. 95+% of its uses are illicit and criminal, and it is a climate crisis, consuming almost a household of energy for every single ledger entry. Bitcoin today is not okay. But the underlying technology is extremely powerful, and blockchain and distributed ledgers are not the problem."

Speaking to IT Pro, Gelsinger stated that although blockchain technology (of which VMware is a provider) can be a powerful enabler for more efficient currency models, there is no major world government that is going to "disenfranchise currency from their political and governmental control processes".

"As a result, what's it used for? 95% is criminal activities! So how can you call that good? If I turn the world into opioid addicts, right, and I made it feel a little better in getting there, was that good or bad?"

He also blasted Libra, Facebook's nascent cryptocurrency platform, which has come under extreme scrutiny from lawmakers and financial experts, including US treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin, who called it a "national security risk". Gelsinger voiced similar concerns, declaring that the company lacked the credibility to undertake such a project.

"I'm not a Libra expert here," he told IT Pro "but I think Facebook has no credibility in the social domain, much less in the finance domain, to bring forward a new model of currency for the world."

Adam Shepherd

Adam Shepherd has been a technology journalist since 2015, covering everything from cloud storage and security, to smartphones and servers. Over the course of his career, he’s seen the spread of 5G, the growing ubiquity of wireless devices, and the start of the connected revolution. He’s also been to more trade shows and technology conferences than he cares to count.

Adam is an avid follower of the latest hardware innovations, and he is never happier than when tinkering with complex network configurations, or exploring a new Linux distro. He was also previously a co-host on the ITPro Podcast, where he was often found ranting about his love of strange gadgets, his disdain for Windows Mobile, and everything in between.

You can find Adam tweeting about enterprise technology (or more often bad jokes) @AdamShepherUK.