A Fool’s Game: Bill Gates criticizes the intangible value of NFTs

Speaking at a conference on climate change, Gates affirmed his apprehension about the asset class, stating that it is "100% based on greater fool theory."

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Tech billionaire, and currently the world’s fourth-richest person, Bill Gates, spoke at the TechCrunch climate change conference Tuesday about the progress society has made in supporting the climate movement, his assessment of current global economics, alongside his skepticism of NFTs. 

The NFT market has closely correlated the tumultuous financial decline of cryptocurrencies over the past few months, as previously sought-after collections resort in the vicinity of 60-80% reductions in value. As a result, cynical attitudes have emerged to dominate the industry narrative.

In his interview, Gates singled out the market's most popular collection, Bored Ape Yacht Club, sarcastically stating, “Obviously expensive digital images of monkeys are going to improve the world immensely,” adding, “We all agree on that.” 

“I’m used to asset classes where like a farm they have output, or a company where they make products. Having an asset class that’s 100% based on […] greater fool theory that somebody is going to pay more than it than I do — and where it has at its heart this sort of anonymity that you avoid taxation or any sort of government rules about kidnapping fees or things [...] I’m not involved in that. I’m not long or short, or any of those things.” 

In financial terms, the greater fool theory refers to the inflated valuation of assets — whether that be stocks, real estate or indeed NFTs — distributed between the hands of foolish willing participants. 

Microsoft's inaugural affiliation with NFTs came while Gates occupied a seat on the board in December 2019 with the launch of Azure Heroes, an Ethereum-based digital collectible on the Azure cloud platform designed to promote and reward inclusive behaviors between developers. 

The beaver avatars ascend in rarity level determined by the difficulty of attainment, with the learner being the entry-level asset, and the prized possessions being the Mentor and Maker Badgers. 

Just over two years later, Microsoft released “Azure Space Mystery” a digital game in partnership with Enjin and interoperable with Minecraft which educates players on prominent female scientists throughout history. 

Related: Xbox head Phil Spencer is skeptical about NFTs in video games

As for Gates, he has consistently advocated for cryptocurrency investors to adopt cautious discretion when investing in the market, most recently in February declaring that "I do think people get drawn into these manias who may not have as much money to spare", and that "I’m not bullish on Bitcoin".

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