At the SXSW conference in Austin, Texas this year, Elon Musk was photographed holding a book on cryptocurrency basics. This has driven increasing speculation as Musk’s brushes with crypto grow more frequent.
In November 2017, a former intern at SpaceX named Sahil Gupta wrote a Medium post claiming that Satoshi Nakamoto, the creator of bitcoin, was probably Elon Musk. Musk quickly shot the rumor down but mentioned that a friend sent him some bitcoin years ago that he lost.
Not true. A friend sent me part of a BTC a few years, but I don’t know where it is.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 28, 2017
In December of that year, Musk replied cheekily with a satirical article on bitcoin when asked about his involvement in its creation. One month later, Musk made another sarcastic reference to cryptocurrencies and blockchains while promoting his flamethrower product.
But wait, there’s more: the flamethrower is sentient, its safe word is “cryptocurrency” and it comes with a free blockchain
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 29, 2018
Responding to user concerns about spam, on February 22nd, Elon Musk clarified that his cryptocurrency holdings consisted solely of .25 bitcoin acquired from his aforementioned friend.
Not sure. I let @jack know, but it’s still going. I literally own zero cryptocurrency, apart from .25 BTC that a friend sent me many years ago.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 22, 2018
These incidents have culminated with the photo of Musk holding the book, which initially appeared on an SXSW visitor’s Instagram on March 10th. The book itself is titled Cryptocurrencies Simply Explained, by Julian Hosp. Hosp is involved with multiple blockchain companies, and his book explains the fundamentals of cryptocurrency and blockchain.
Speculation, But Nothing Concrete
The initial photographer, Ryan Chylinski, claimed on Reddit that “Elon took one thing to sign from the crowd at SXSW, a book on cryptocurrency, but he kept it.” Some Redditors doubted the claim, speculating that Musk was feigning interest, or the photo was staged to generate further crypto awareness.
In another thread, Reddit user Ma_tee_as claimed that the photo was a PR move by Hosp. Citing Hosp’s unsavory history with multi-level marketing, they concluded, “This is also a marketing move by Hosp. He handed it to him himself, took a quick photo and Musk returned it to him.”
Despite the discrepancy between each side of the story and Musk’s own seeming lack of interest in cryptocurrency, many people believe that this photograph conveys Musk’s growing desire to learn more about blockchain. Cryptocurrency could very well be the next logical step for the former CEO of Paypal—a radical online payment system in its own right.
Medium user “catalintaras” speculated on Musk possibly incorporating cryptocurrency into one of his existing businesses, explaining:
“Also this technology could be used for some energy producing products that could use the surplus of energy to mine a cryptocurrency related to TESLA that than could be traded and it would be backed by energy. Another speculation is that a cryptocurrency might be used for the Hyperloop project that is looking to revolutionize transportation as we know it and that is soon to come in 2018”
While theories run wild, Musk himself has not currently announced any association with blockchain or cryptocurrencies, aside from his relatively small bitcoin holdings. Regardless of his own participation, other malicious parties seem intent on using his likeness and resources for personal gain within the crypto sphere.
On February 20th, Tesla (Musk’s electric car company) was found to be the victim of cryptojacking. The hackers used an Amazon web service to gain access to Tesla’s cloud. From there, they utilized processing power to mine cryptocurrency for themselves. Fortunately, it appears that no data was leaked, and the hackers only stole processing power.
However, this was not Musk’s only run in with cryptocurrency crooks. Recently, impostors have taken to Twitter, impersonating famous figures, and promising free cryptocurrency to anyone who sends cryptocurrency to their wallet address. It is another iteration of the “African prince” scheme, and Musk impersonators seem to only be increasing.
Musk’s innovative work in the fields of technology, combined with his prior experience with online payment systems have led many to believe he is will introduce his own cryptocurrency or blockchain platform in conjunction with his existing projects. This belief has only been compounded by Musk’s recent encounters with crypto.
However, Musk himself has not expressed great interest. Besides the photo of him holding the book, his biggest “indirect” with cryptocurrency has been hackers and scammers attempting to profit from him.
One thing is for sure – only time will tell if Musk has more serious plans to move into crypto.
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