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Former Coinbase CTO talks about VR, crypto, and politics in latest ‘What Bitcoin Did’ podcast



Balaji Srinivasan, the former CTO of Coinbase and general partner at Andreessen Horowitz, discussed the future of emerging technologies such as crypto and VR.

Virtual worlds of the future

In the first part of the What Bitcoin Did podcast, Srinivasan told host Peter McCormack that virtual reality and virtual currency are an obvious marriage and that both technologies are still at their very beginnings.

Cryptocurrencies, while just 10 years old, have already disrupted the world in ways yet to be understood. However, their impact is always discussed in terms of how they affect current monetary systems and create a new type of financial freedom.

What isn’t discussed is the way cryptocurrencies can help shape the future in which new technologies such as virtual reality and artificial intelligence become the norm.

Balaji Srinivasan, the former chief technical officer of Coinbase and general partner at Andreessen Horowitz, believes cryptocurrencies will be what facilitates the development of what he calls “virtual worlds.”

In an episode of the “What Bitcoin Did” podcast, Srinivasan talked at length with host Peter McCormack about what cryptocurrencies mean for the development of future worlds where “virtual” would become the norm.

When asked about what he thought of the increased “virtualization” that has happened in the past few years, primarily in the form of video games such as Fortnite and Minecraft, and how it connects with cryptocurrencies, Srinivasan offered an interesting take on the matter.

“VR will be to crypto what the iPhone was to the internet,” he said.

Srinivasan explained that the internet was thriving and growing long before Apple launched the iPhone, but became much “more useful” following the launch of the revolutionary phone in 2008. With the entirety of the internet available at everybody’s fingertips, a whole new world of uses and applications opened up. This, Srinivasan explained, is what VR will bring to cryptocurrencies.

Instead of a dystopian, automated future, Srinivasan believes in a technologically advanced world where virtual economies are the norm. Coupled with the development of robotics, virtual reality could enable remote working-which would, in turn, need cryptocurrencies to function.

While remote working via VR and existing in an economy dependent only on virtual currencies will be reserved for sci-fi movies, for the time being, Srinivasan’s predictions for the future are certainly a breath of fresh air.

Cryptocurrencies won’t be the end of governments

As the podcast went on, McCormack shifted the focus on politics. Srinivasan’s view of Bitcoin‘s effect on politics was much more optimistic than McCormack’s, who said that cryptocurrencies were bringing about the separation of money and state.

The former Coinbase CTO said that he believes the rise of crypto won’t cause governments to fall. He pointed out that the recognition Bitcoin got in the past few months alone would be unprecedented back in 2013. With everyone from the president of the United States and the head of the Federal Reserve to the managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) keeping a close eye on Bitcoin, the entire asset class is being taken more seriously.

Srinivasan also said that we could see a scenario where governments run by pragmatists and engineers will be the first to embrace cryptocurrencies. He cited the example of China, Singapore, and Israel, whose heads all come from a technical background. While Israel and Singapore are both known tech hubs, China has been working on the development of its own national cryptocurrency.

Smaller governments also won’t shun cryptocurrencies. Srinivasan believes some have most likely already established positions in Bitcoin.

“Governments won’t fail simultaneously as crypto rises,” he explained. The slow and steady assimilation process could make way for things like CEOs of software companies becoming more involved in politics.

Decentralization challenges censorship

Integrating tech figures into politics brings about a whole new problem. McCormack pointed out that some of the biggest tech companies in the world are inherently politically biased. Twitter has been accused numerous times of silencing conservative and right-leaning voices, while Facebook‘s anti-harassment policies seemed more focused on suppressing the “politically incorrect” rather than policing actual harassment.

McCormack cited his own ban on Twitter, saying he wondered whether his joke would get him in trouble if it was aimed at a Republican figure.

Srinivasan noted that while the overwhelming majority of Silicon Valley executives were Democrats, a good “software CEO” will look at the policies that benefit the company and its employees, not a political party. However, he admitted that short-term incentives are to comply with the mob, which in today’s political climate in the U.S. is left-leaning and progressive. This, he said, is why certain companies comply with the public pressure of “de-platforming” certain people.

When it comes to cryptocurrencies and their connection to the political system, Srinivasan said that the most important swing vote not just in the U.S., but globally, is an “anti-Trump, pro-crypto Democrat.” Twitter’s Jack Dorsey and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg fit this category and perfectly illustrate the way both companies could transition to a more centrist position with the help of blockchain.

Srinivasan explained that Dorsey’s push to add Bitcoin into Cash App and Zuckerberg’s Libra show that both execs understand the value of cryptocurrencies and blockchain. As their involvement with cryptocurrencies deepens, the policies enacted by their companies could become more centrist.

He also believes both companies are headed towards a future on a blockchain, which would help them solve the problem of privacy and ensure a better revenue model. While neither Facebook nor Twitter have said they were looking into putting their platforms on blockchain, decentralizing the two social networks doesn’t sound like a bad idea.

You can listen to the full interview with Balaji Srinivasan below.

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US Senators Coercing Libra Partners is Un-American: Coinbase CEO



Facebook’s plan to launch Libra came under further pressure after its partners Visa, Mastercard, Paypal, and Stripe announced that they were leaving the digital currency project. And as it turned out, there was some political pushing involved.

Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) sent letters to the chief executive officers of Visa, Mastercard, and Stripe, wherein they asked the trio to quit Facebook’s Libra project. The politicians iterated that the social media giant had failed to respond to regulatory concerns related to money laundering, terrorist financing, economic stability, and monetary policy. They further reminded the executives about Facebook’s track of record of misusing users’ data.

“Your companies should be extremely cautious about moving ahead with a project that will foreseeably fuel the growth in global criminal activity,” the senators wrote.

The language turned threatening as both Schatz and Brown warned Visa CEO Alfred F. Kelly Jr., Stripe CEO Patrick Collinson, and Mastercard CEO and president Ajaypal Singh Banga of consequences should they not quit Libra. The senators intimidated the trio that they would impose additional scrutiny if they decide to move against their recommendations.

If you take this on, you can expect a high level of scrutiny from regulators not only on Libra-related payment activities, but on all payment activities,” they wrote.

Coinbase CEO Bashes US Senators

Facebook did not provide any statement on the matter. But Brian Armstrong, the chief executive of San Francisco-based Coinbase cryptocurrency exchange, strongly objected to the way lawmakers went after Libra members. In a thread published on Sunday, Armstrong called the senators’ behavior “un-American,” adding that they both were resorting to “intimidation tactics.”

“[It] doesn’t matter what you think of Libra. If it’s not a useful tool or innovation, people won’t use it. Why the need for the intimidation tactics? This would be called anti-competitive/monopolistic behavior if any private company did it,” – Armstrong tweeted.

“Do we want to have a centrally planned economy, or let 1,000 ideas be tried in a free market to see which ones break through and deliver real value? Breakthroughs are by definition contrarian ideas, otherwise they would have already have been tried.”

Avivah Litan, vice president at Gartner Research, raised similar concerns. In her interview with CNBC, the analyst noted that governments are afraid of losing their authority to emerging technology projects like Libra. She also mentioned bitcoin, a non-sovereign asset, for scaring governments with its potential to replace all their monopoly.

“In the case of Libra, you replace central authority with task force authority and big tech authority. In the case of Bitcoin, you just replace all central authority,” said Litan.


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Coinbase Eyes European Growth After Winning Irish E-Money License



Cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase has been granted an e-money license by the Central Bank of Ireland.

Writing in a company blog Saturday, Coinbase UK CEO Zeeshan Feroz said the exchange is one of the very first firms to receive the license from the central bank, following a Dublin office opening a year ago.

The license will also help open up EU and European Economic Area (EEA) markets for Coinbase customers, Feroz said.

Speaking on the announcement, state-sponsored business development agency IDA Ireland – which was set up to attract foreign investment to Ireland – called the move a net positive for the local financial industry

As CEO Mike Shanahan put it:

“Coinbase’s choice of Dublin for this operation reinforces the strength of Ireland as a destination for financial services companies, providing a consistent, certain, pro-enterprise policy environment for businesses to grow and thrive.”

Coinbase was granted a U.K. e-money license by the Financial Conduct Authority in March 2018, allowing the exchange to operate as a money service in the country.

While the U.K. is currently an EU member state, its government is currently attempting to leave the economic bloc via the so-called Brexit in coming weeks or months. If it goes ahead, the separation would render Coinbase’s local license of limited benefit.

Earlier this month, Coinbase gained access to the UK’s Faster Payment Scheme through ClearBank following a split with banking partner Barclays that temporarily caused deposit and withdrawal issues for users.


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Bitcoin Exchange Coinbase Dives Into European Expansion, Reaches Milestone With Coveted E-money License



Coinbase, the leading cryptocurrency trading platform in the US, just scored a major victory for its expansion plans in Europe.

Regulators from the Central Bank of Ireland have granted the San Francisco-based exchange an e-money license, making it one of only a few companies in the space to obtain such approval.

The company says its latest milestone will allow it to expand its operations in Ireland and across some its fastest-growing markets. Coinbase first stepped into Ireland at the end of 2018 when it opened a new office in Dublin, a hotspot in the growing European digital economy.

Management says its expansion in Ireland represents a huge opportunity for Coinbase to grow its operations in Europe at large.

According to the announcement,

“[The approval from the Central Bank of Ireland] will also allow us to secure passporting for our customers across the EU and EEA. We are committed to ensuring that our customers have the same safeguarding and security as any regulated financial institution, and the approval of a second European regulatory authority demonstrates our position as the world’s most trusted cryptocurrency platform.”

Globally, the license will facilitate Coinbase’s ultimate mission of leading the new decentralized financial movement.

The company remains focused on challenging legacy banking by building a new open, crypto-based system that can more easily people around the world who have no bank accounts or are lacking affordable financial services.

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