Professor Nouriel Roubini Calls the Blockchain a 'Glorified Excel Spreadsheet'

Professor Nouriel Roubini, the economist nicknamed "Dr. Doom" for predicting the housing bubble crash of 2007-2008, who is one of the biggest crypto bears in the world, called the blockchain "a glorified Excel spreadsheet" at yesterday's panel on cryptocurrencies at the Milken Institute Global Conference 2018 in Beverley Hills, California. Naturally, this didn't go down well with the Bitcoin (BTC) and blockchain advocates at the panel, and the resulting "cryptobrawl" was by all reports quite entertaining.

Roubini, who teaches economics at New York University Stern School for Business, and who is quite famous for his generally bearish views on financial markets in general and blockchain/cryptocurrencies in particular, had previously launched several attacks on Bitcoin -- calling it "a Ponzi scheme", a "lousy" store of value, and "a conduit for criminal/illegal activities" and "the biggest bubble in human history" -- and the blockchain, calling it "one of the most overhyped technologies ever."

And, sitting at a panel, with Alex Mashinsky -- founder of Celcius Network, an Etherium-based peer-to-peer platform for lending/borrow (based on the idea of using your crypto holdings as collateral) -- and Bill Barhydt -- founder and CEO of Abra (the company that developed the Abra mobile app for cryptocurrency trading) -- Roubini didn't hold anything back.

“All this talk of decentralization is just bullsh*t,” said Roubini, which Mashinsky countered with "Everything you just said is irrelevant"; as for Barhydt, he said that he didn't "even know where to begin."

After the moderator, Anna Irrera, who is a Fintech correspondent for Reuters, asked for a timeout to let the parties cool off, another panel participant, Brent McIntosh, a lawyer who works for the U.S. Department of the Treasury, offered to "step in and regulate this panel."

When Mashinsky said crypto assets would let people bypass banks, Roubini replied “You’re just making stuff up."

Roubini also called Bitcoin a "bubble" and said that people who "arrived late to the party are the suckers." After hearing that Roubini had never even bought a single bitcoin, Mashinsky, told Roubini: "Why don’t you buy one coin and then tell us how it works." And Barhydt made fun of Roubini by saying "It’s like a horse salesman saying we don’t need combustion engines."

Despite Roubini's extremely bearish attitude towards cryptocurrencies, he is a little less critical when it comes to blockchain technologies and can see some use cases for them: "Ultimately, blockchain's uses will be limited to specific, well-defined, and complex applications that require transparency and tamper-resistance more than they require speed — for example, communication with self-driving cars or drones."

BitMEX’s Arthur Hayes Battles Nouriel Roubini at ‘Tangle in Taipei’ Debate

The highly anticipated ‘Tangle in Taipei’ debate on Bitcoin and cryptocurrency between “the entrepreneur,” Arthur Hayes, and “the academic,” Nouriel Roubini, took place on Tuesday morning (UTC+8) at day two of Asia Blockchain Summit. Here’s how it went down.

Prior to the commencement of the debate – which was moderated by Andrew Neil of Press Holdings – a live Slido poll had Hayes as a 73 percent chance of reigning supreme. Little surprise, it would seem, given the composition of the major blockchain conference’s attendees.

Opening Statements

Roubini, a well-known economist and skeptic on cryptocurrency and blockchain technology, came out swinging against BitMEX – the “sick and rotten” industry’s top cryptoasset derivatives trading platform – lambasting its lack of know-your-customer (KYC) and anti-money laundering (AML) requirements.

BitMEX has ascended to prominence by “making money off of people going into financial ruin,” Roubini remarked; citing the Twitter account 'REKT', the bio of which reads: “Bitmex liquidation bot. Immortalising those that have blown their margins. Not affiliated with @BitMexdotcom”

Hayes’ used his opening statement to rebut Roubinis critque of BitMEX's high leverage, emphasising the innate propensity one has to engage in speculation saying that “human beings love to speculate." He noted that in regulated markets investment products can be even more volatile than bitcoin, citing the XIV exchange-traded note (ETN) which plummeted 80% one evening in early 2018.

Ranting Roubini Takes Aim at ‘Dangerous’ Bitcoin

The various arguments put forward by Roubini – the professor of economics at NYU’s Stern School of Business – were exactly as anyone familiar with the industry would expect.

Reasons why he believes cryptocurrencies like bitcoin “are the biggest fallacies of this era” include problems surrounding immutability, decentralization, privacy, and scalability. Indeed, he feels as though more tangible, value-adding innovation is coming via the fintech space with innovations in big data, AI and IOT. When asked about the future for bitcoin and cryptocurrenices Roubini was sure that the bitcoin price will "go asymptotically to zero."

“Blockchain is the most hyped technology in history and is no better than a spreadsheet.”

Nouriel Roubini

Hayes Highlights the Need for Bitcoin

What is so special about cryptocurrencies like bitcoin? According to Hayes, it’s because of its ability to provide the everyday person with “a choice;” something he deems increasingly important amid a world where “physical cash [is being] stripped away.”

Hayes noted that a political activist in Hong Kong, for example, may find bitcoin particulary useful. This arguement echoes the work of bitcoin analysts Hasu and Su Zhu in their excellent blog post titled 'Bitcoin is a hedge against the cashless society.'

Other arguments expressed by the BitMEX co-founder in favor of Bitcoin related to network security, decentralization, and self-custody. Hayes agreed with Roubini that bitcoin does not yet compete with centralised payment systems on speed but said he believed scalability will come in time. Looking five years on he thought bitcoin will become a trillion dollar industry that will continue to change the way humans transact value.

So, Who Won? Roubini or Hayes?

Neither! That is, when measuring against each participant’s vote allocation at the time the debate started.

Indeed, as the ‘Tangle in Taipei’ progressed, as did moderator Neil’s proportion of total votes, from 2 percent at the time the trio walked on stage with Survivor’s Eye of the Tiger blaring, of course, to 34 percent by the close of polling; a parabolic surge akin to…well…cryptocurrencies.