Roger Ver at Webx Asia: Reflections on Payments, Self-Custody, and the Role of Crypto Lawbreakers

When asked whether he’d rather be called a “bitcoin evangelist,” or “Bitcoin Jesus” at the recent Webx seminar in Tokyo, Roger Ver responds: “I prefer to be called Roger.” The enthusiastic and outspoken figure in crypto, scattering sats around the world with unapologetic frankness about government, the bitcoin block size wars, and conflations of legality with morality, Roger Ver has been somewhat quiet in recent months. That notwithstanding, the early bitcoin investor had much to say about the state of crypto in Tokyo this week, talking payments, altcoins, FTX, and the role of literal outlaws in changing the world for the better.

‘I Am Not Satoshi Nakamoto’

Taking the stage at the Tokyo International Forum on Tuesday, pioneering Bitcoin investor Roger Ver reassured journalist Kazumoto Ohno that he is indeed, not Bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto. However, according to Ver, the Bank of Japan did contact him early on, around 2012 — having heard he was promoting bitcoin in Japan — asking to meet with the enigmatic bitcoin mastermind. “I realized that they hadn’t even done much research at all, at that point,” Ver remarked.

When Ohno inquired whether crypto had evolved over the past 10 to 12 years as Ver expected it to, the founder noted that “we’ve made a huge amount of progress, but it didn’t happen quite as quickly as I thought it was going to in the early days,” further reflecting that “the world changes very, very quickly, so make sure you enjoy the journey.”

To Ver’s thinking, which idea he credits to American computer scientist Ray Kurzweil: “we always overestimate the amount of progress we’re going to make in the short-term, but we underestimate the amount of progress we’ll make in the long term — and I think that’s been true of my experience in crypto.”

BTC’s Loss of Utility and the Critical Importance of Censorship Resistance

Ver also weighed in on why he thinks what is now known as “Bitcoin” (BTC) is heading in the wrong direction, and why “Bitcoin Cash is the original Bitcoin,” citing the unwieldy fees attendant to BTC transactions, and the Bitcoin white paper. He emphasized:

It’s become a speculative asset … whereas [as] we heard from other people on the previous panel: payments, payments, payments is the underlying utility that makes these cryptocurrencies so useful.

Ver pointed to the asset’s loss of market dominance and nodded to the fall of defunct social media platform Myspace when the user experience suffered, and consumers left for greener pastures. BTC, in other words, is still cruising largely on its “brand recognition,” as Ver puts it, and maximalist cliques even go so far as to mock people for wanting to make peer-to-peer payments with Satoshi’s permissionless peer-to-peer payments protocol.

Meanwhile, as Chainalysis Japan’s Hayato Shigekawa warned of the dangers of darknet marketplaces (DNMs) and other “illicit” uses of crypto at the same massive 2-day conference, Ver credited DNMs with bringing the utility of bitcoin payments to the masses in the beginning, noting that “If you look at what brought bitcoin to the world in the first place, it was these darknet markets that were using it for illegal commerce … today almost none of them use bitcoin, they’re using things like monero or other coins, and that’s a sign that bitcoin isn’t as useful for payments as it used to be.” Ver emphasized:

Whether it’s monero, or bitcoin cash, or ethereum or whatever else, there’s a huge, giant wide world out there and people having more choices is a good thing … and if people want to speculate on BTC, have at it. If you want to speculate on something else, more power to you … We have a decentralized set of currencies, and you can choose which one of those cryptocurrencies or protocols you want to use, and that’s a good thing.

Thoughts on FTX and the Importance of Rule-Breakers for Human Progress

Ohno broached the topic of FTX toward the end of the fireside chat, asking Ver: “How would you see the impact of the FTX debacle on those who were about to invest in cryptocurrency? Did it scare them away?” Ver replied that it did scare some away, but pointed out that the collapse of FTX is really nothing new, citing Mt Gox, Celsius, and other previous collapses, and pointing out that the same thing happens in traditional finance.

“It happens in traditional finance, it happened to crypto finance, but that’s why self-custody, or at least having the ability to hold the cryptocurrency yourself is so incredibly important,” Ver said, elaborating: “and that’s one more example why chains that are very scalable with low fees make it easier for people to hold the crypto themselves.” CEO Dennis Jarvis would echo this sentiment the next day on another stage at the Tokyo International Forum, declaring that “Really the ethos of bitcoin and crypto is self-custody of funds,” and stating that while centralized exchanges can fulfill a role, the goal is to make it so that crypto holders “are not stuck in Web2.0 crypto” with their funds constantly at risk due to lack of custody.

Emphasizing that a real-life physical wallet allows one to control their own paper money directly, Roger Ver cautioned against confusing true crypto wallets with mere “accounts” such as those on centralized exchanges and at traditional banks. “The moment I take the money out of this wallet, and I give it to UFJ Mitsubishi [bank], now they have my money and I am at their mercy … You’re completely out of control as soon as you turn over your money to somebody else.”

Ver ended the fireside echoing a point he had made earlier on in the interview, when he noted:

So, the world we live in you have to play by all the regulations, because if you don’t men with guns will send you to jail … but that doesn’t mean that you have a moral obligation to obey those rules and regulations.

Explaining that when bitcoin came along “it was too exciting to stay quiet politically any longer,” Ver called on the audience — peopled with those present to hear talks from politicians and startups on government regulation of crypto — to stand up for what they believe in:

I want to point out to everybody, that just because politicians get together and they write down words on a piece of paper and call it a law, it doesn’t change morality. Right is right and wrong is wrong regardless of what the politicians say. And if you see something that’s wrong, stand up there and say ‘no, this is wrong, this is not okay, we should not do that.’

In doing this, Ver said that maybe others who felt the same but were too afraid to speak out would be encouraged to do so. Connecting regulations on economic freedom to other laws viewed as unjust, Roger Ver reflected on his time in federal prison in the United States, when he was incarcerated with several other non-violent human beings, some of whom were placed behind bars for cannabis, a simple plant.

“Thats how all human society moves forward — it’s by the lawbreakers and the people who are willing to disobey bad laws, that the laws get changed,” he noted. Ver interrupted the event’s emcee after the official finish of the talk to add one more point:

It’s still early days in the worldwide adoption of cryptocurrency … tell your friends, tell your family, show them how cryptocurrencies work … explain to them why cryptocurrencies are better than government-issued currencies and why competition leads to better quality products that more people around the world get to use. So it’s up to all of us, to go out there and continue to push this forward to the world, so that the world becomes a better place, sooner rather than later.

What are your thoughts on Roger Ver’s talk at Webx Asia? Be sure to let us know in the comments section below.

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