Former U.S. President Bill Clinton has been a busy man since retiring from the White House with prolific book releases and numerous speaking engagements. On Monday, Clinton was seen at a cryptocurrency event called Ripple Swell in San Francisco delivering a keynote presentation before a crowd of experts in blockchain technology, cryptocurrency investing and banking.
Clinton was joined by Gene Sperling, a former White House advisor who sits on Ripple's board of directors. Clinton – who served as U.S. president between 1993 and 2001 – was the top speaker at the event, which saw former Federal Reserve chair Ben Bernanke take the stage last year.
During the question-and-answer session with Sperling, Clinton touched on a wide range of topics such as the cybersecurity challenges facing the U.S. government. He also discussed topics seemingly outside the bounds of a financial technology conference, including gun laws, foreign policy, and his recently published novel.
“This whole blockchain deal has the potential it does only because it is applicable across national borders [and] income groups. The permutations and possibilities are staggeringly great.”
While Clinton recognized the potential of disruptive technologies like blockchain, the former president urged that economic and social policy “work better as positive-sum games.”
Clinton remarked about the “disparity of access” to new technologies like blockchain as they develop and grow, pointing to the emergence of e-commerce solutions in the late 1990s as a parallel.
“The more you develop new technologies like blockchain … AI technologies, robotic technologies … the more the disparity of access is going to be felt.”
He also supported the viewpoint that new technologies can be exploited, indicating at the concerns that cryptocurrencies can be used by terrorists or other criminals to launder money.
Referring to similar concerns over technologies like the Global Positioning System (GPS), Clinton noted that,
“there needs to be an intelligent effort to identify the downsides” and that “you can't apply an old regulatory regime to a new technology.”
“You end up killing the goose that laid the golden egg,”