What’s the Deal with Elon Musk and Bitcoin?

Just about everyone in bitcoin has an opinion on Elon Musk. But what’s Elon Musk’s opinion on bitcoin? 

A recent tweet by the Tesla boss asking the @Bitcoin account “How much for some anime Bitcoin?” has drawn attention to Musk’s crypto proclivities. It doesn’t take a forensic search to turn up comments from Musk on the digital currency. For someone whose profession revolves around building and marketing sophisticated tech for the future, this shouldn’t be surprising: any journalist or podcast host worth their salt will solicit Musk’s view on bitcoin and blockchain, not least due to his past involvement in fintech via PayPal. As is his garrulous custom, the tycoon is prone to waxing lyrical when detained on this subject.

There was even a theory doing the rounds a few years back that Musk was Satoshi – a notion he seemed to find quite amusing.

A Potted History of Elon Musk on Bitcoin

Some of the earliest comments the SpaceX visionary made about bitcoin were in 2014, with BTC’s price sitting at $340. Quizzed by Walter Isaacson at Vanity Fair’s New Establishment Summit in San Francisco, he seemed relatively positive about the crypto’s prospects. “I think bitcoin is probably a good thing. I think it’s primarily going to be a means of doing illegal transactions. But that’s not necessarily entirely bad. You know, some things maybe shouldn’t be illegal.”

Given the timing of those comments – Silk Road 2.0 would close just a month later – perhaps it’s natural that bitcoin’s utility as a facilitator of illegal transactions was the aspect Musk chose to stress. Silk Road and bitcoin were virtually synonymous at that juncture, and the network was still relatively immature.

In the 5+ years since the Isaacson discussion, bitcoin’s credibility, price and institutional interest has grown steadily, and so too has the cult of personality surrounding the enigmatic Musk, with the billionaire often compared to Marvel character Tony Stark/Iron Man. The film’s director, Jon Favreau, even suggested that he’d been a template for Robert Downey Jr’s portrayal.

In any case, Musk’s view on bitcoin (and crypto generally) has expanded in the intervening years. In 2018, he conceded to owning a small amount of bitcoin, which a friend had sent him “several years ago” – although he claimed not to know where it was and denied that he’d stacked any sats since. A year later, during an interview with ARK Invest, he gushed about bitcoin’s structure, calling it “quite brilliant” due to the way in which it could bypass currency controls; he also added that “crypto is a far better way to transfer value than pieces of paper” which were, in any case, “going away.”

Of course, there were caveats: bitcoin was “computationally energy intensive” and, despite constant calls for Musk to throw his weight behind the digital economy, it may not be “a good use of Tesla’s resources to get involved in crypto.” So, it looks like the former PayPal CEO won’t become a BTC whale anytime soon – at least if you take his comments at face value. But it’d be interesting to know if he has been made aware of CoinShares’ subsequent report into bitcoin mining, which indicated that 74% of all activity is powered by renewable energy.

Prior to his most recent tweet, Musk’s latest comments on bitcoin were made on the Third Row Tesla Podcast in January, when he again compared crypto to cash, saying that the former would be a replacement for the latter in the new paradigm. Could this transition to a cashless economy be expedited by current events?  

What About Ethereum and Dogecoin?

It’s fair to say that most of Musk’s crypto comments have centered on bitcoin, though he has proffered an opinion on other currencies. Last April, he proclaimed that “Dogecoin might be my fav cryptocurrency. It’s pretty cool.” Of course, this remark came a day after Musk topped a Dogecoin poll asking users who should become the crypto’s new CEO, so it’s safe to assume that tongue was wedged firmly in cheek. That said, Musk doubled down a year later, remarking “They have the best coin.”

As for Ethereum, he weighed in with a one-word tweet that quickly generated over 100,000 likes last April. The word? Ethereum. As the twittersverse was busily trying to extrapolate meaning from this, Musk followed it up with “jk” a few minutes later before soliciting views on exactly what should be developed on the network. Perhaps he was simply curious. Whatever: Ethereum chief Vitalik Buterin’s subsequent involvement in the conversation got tongues wagging, as he suggested several use cases including the creation of registries and certificates that would be digitally signed, certified and revoked on-chain. Musk, meanwhile, chided him to “Stop giving away free ETH!” before quietly exiting the discussion.

Is Musk genuinely interested in ethereum, dogecoin or bitcoin? It seems unlikely. But with his profile bigger than ever, you can be sure that any mention of crypto – however abstract or disingenuous – will continue to be seized upon by a community eager for him to get onboard. Bitcoin might make it to the moon, but only Musk can take it to Mars.

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