Gilder-Wright Fireside Chat: Bitcoin as digital gold, and the red socks

The CoinGeek London Conference 2020 event has wrapped up, finishing with a fireside chat between Dr. Craig Wright and George Gilder to a full house audience. The audience, both at the venue and watching on the livestream, enjoyed a hearty chat full of economic theory and memorable soundbites, along with a few contrasting points of view.

Gilder had just finished his keynote presentation in which he reviewed some of his classic views and catchphrases on economics and technology from the past decades. As part of his favored Information Theory of Economics, Gilder reminded us that wealth is knowledge, growth is learning, and the true value of money comes from the time it takes to earn it.

The following conversation was perhaps out of character for the usual CoinGeek event fare—in that it featured Dr. Wright in student mode, with Gilder taking the teacher role. It was a refreshing change to see Wright in the presence of one of his idols, seeking direction rather than giving it.

“George Gilder is the only person I’ve ever seen you totally fanboy out on,” said moderator Jimmy Nguyen, who proceeded to ask the two a series of questions about what Bitcoin can do and where it’s all going.

Gilder said it was people like Gavin Andresen and Ian Grigg who’d convinced him Dr. Wright was Satoshi Nakamoto—despite “earnest” attempts by Nick Szabo and Vitalik Buterin to persuade him otherwise.

Dr. Wright said he’d long appreciated Gilder’s “informational economics,” and the notion that the real money is time. This became a recurring theme in the discussion. Time is scarce for everybody and the only thing of real value. Gilder concluded the conversation by saying if he could be Wright for a day, he’d make the most of his (relative) youth.

Many visions of the future

With its focus on technology and the future, the conversation veered in several different directions. Both agreed that technology’s potential to advance the human condition was unlimited, though it should be seen as a tool of humans rather than a replacement for them.

“The great error of Silicon Valley is that tech is supposed to usurp human intelligence rather than enhance it,” Gilder said.

The pair’s focus on humanity rather than technology itself is something that sets Gilder and Wright apart from most technologists today, and it was easy to see where they found common ground.

Wright said that getting connectivity to people in distant places was vital, and that people anywhere could become entrepreneurs with increased access to tech and information. The future, he added, would be determined by latency—how quickly you could get information in order to act on it. The scarcity is in which order people get the information. On that note, Gilder predicted WiFi 6 would prove to be more important than 5G technology.

Moderator Nguyen asked that if the future world is powered by Bitcoin, what would they like to see as a result?

“I think if we create a secure internet that doesn’t cause paranoia across whole economies, the fragmentation of commerce, that’s a huge achievement. A future money that plays the role of gold will be an equally important achievement,” Gilder said.

Wright said he’d like a future where individuals could maintain privacy, but one where financial criminals (including terrorists, drug dealers, human traffickers, corrupt dictators, banksters) could be traced and stopped.

Gilder agreed, but preferred to “couch it in a more positive way” by saying an immutable, unimpeachable record could be used to prove innocence for those wrongly accused.

A few points of difference

There were a few minor points of disagreement. Gilder is famous for his view that gold is the only reliable form of money (so far) as it has maintained a constant value over time. He stood by the notion that Bitcoin is actually digital gold, and asked why Satoshi had capped the supply of Bitcoins to 21 million (each divisible by 100 million). A fixed value would be better than a fixed supply, he said.

Wright stood by his view that Bitcoin should not be digital gold. A fixed value would need someone to fix it, he said, a responsibility he didn’t want and that shouldn’t be given to anyone else. This made it too hard to determine, and made it subject to change.

Gilder countered that money can’t be a part of what it measures, as this would make it circular, and self-referential. Money must have an oracle outside of itself to determine its value.

“I’m still a little confused about… if you create money as a commodity where people can prosper by hodling, you nullify it as money. Money is valued by its utility.”

For his part, Wright said he’d disagreed with some of Gilder’s past (positive) takes on Ethereum, pointing to the useless ICOs of past years and comparing them to the speculative Web IPOs of the late 1990s, which eventually caused the 2000 dot-com crash.

Bitcoin, like Ethereum, does permit tokenization, he noted. But it does it in a more accountable and scalable way.

The red socks question answered

An audience member asked the question Bitcoiners have long wondered about: Why does Craig Wright always wear red socks?

Wright’s answer? “Red socks are lucky. In Chinese and Asian cultures red is the color where the gods don’t notice you, fate doesn’t whack you down. But that’s totally wrong, I can tell you!”

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At the end of the discussion, which also concluded the conference, Gilder congratulated Dr. Wright on his “incredible historic achievement,” while Wright thanked Gilder for giving him inspiration.

“I hope I can do that for other people too. Take what I know and pass it on to younger people, so they can spend their lives doing something amazing. I hope to be in your position in 30 years time, sitting here talking to someone I’d inspired.”

New to Bitcoin? Check out CoinGeek’s Bitcoin for Beginners section, the ultimate resource guide to learn more about Bitcoin—as originally envisioned by Satoshi Nakamoto—and blockchain.