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‘Dr. Doom’ Nouriel Roubini and BitMEX CEO Arthur Hayes battle in Taipei

Quick Take

  •  A face-off between noted economist and crypto skeptic Nouriel Roubini (aka “Dr. Doom”) and BitMEX CEO Arthur Hayes took place in Taipei City Tuesday
  • At the 2019 Asia Blockchain Summit, the debate centered around whether cryptocurrencies are a scam or the future
  • Roubini and Hayes, of course, had completely opposite views

A debate between noted economist and crypto skeptic Nouriel Roubini (aka “Dr. Doom”) and BitMEX CEO Arthur Hayes made sparks fly in Taipei City Tuesday.

At the 2019 Asia Blockchain Summit, the debate centered around whether cryptocurrencies are a scam or the future. Roubini and Hayes, of course, had completely opposite views.

“Shitty behavior” occurs in the cryptocurrency industry with scammers and criminals around, Roubini said. Bitcoin is “not secure, not decentralized and is not even scalable,” the economist added.

Hayes counterpointed, saying that bitcoin’s $220 billion market capitalization represents “a huge bug bounty,” yet it has “never successfully been hacked.”

“Don’t store your f*cking bitcoin on an exchange. Hold your own keys” to secure your assets, he added.

On scalability, the CEO said that it takes “decades to scale”, e.g., credit cards and traditional banking took decades. The ten years of progress for bitcoin is “impressive.”

Roubini argued that the world doesn’t need cryptocurrencies as the revolution is already happening in the fintech space, and artificial intelligence (AI), Big Data, the Internet of Things (IOT) will “fix” things.

Dr. Doom also noted payments initiatives in developing countries such as Unified Payments Interface (UPI) in India and Alipay in China, which will take care of the digital future.

“We don’t need that cesspool of stinking shi*coins,” Roubini said.

Hayes, on the other hand, said the world needs a choice moving from “analog to digital” as physical cash will be “stripped away.”

Further, these payments initiatives, such as WeChat Pay, are “very convenient,” but all of your transactions are getting viewed by Tencent and the Chinese government. , “Privacy is important,” Hayes added.

The CEO agreed that crypto is less popular today with “less than 1%” of the world’s population owning it, but it is “worth more than zero” and that people value financial privacy.

“In 50 years, if Alibaba, Facebook and Google control everything, people will like that thing that isn’t controlled by the large companies. Bitcoin won’t be a niche market,” Hayes said.

Roubini, repeating his points, said that there is no financial privacy, scalability, decentralization or security. “Most shi*coins lost 95-99% last year, including some in the top 10. Bitcoin fell 30% in one week,” he said.

Hayes argued: “Bitcoin and crypto markets are the only real free market left in the world,” and in five years from now, crypto will be “a trillion dollar plus asset class, which is still very tiny.”

Roubini, reiterating his views, said that “this will all go to zero,” and “Museum of failed coins” will exist where people will collect bitcoin, ether and monero cryptocurrencies.

Elsewhere in the face-off, both also discussed fake volumes on crypto exchanges, regulatory uncertainty and Facebook’s upcoming Libra cryptocurrency, among other things. 

While Roubini and Hayes both agreed Libra is “not a cryptocurrency,” Roubini said “it is a symbol of crypto failing,” while Hayes said people will start to experience “the joys and pitfalls of crypto with Libra.” Speaking to Bloomberg on Tuesday, Hayes said that he thinks Libra “will destroy commercial and central banks” once it launches.