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Bitcoins, Research & Development Bucks, And Tubmans

May 2, 2016, 11:21 AM UTC
Tibanne CEO Mark Karpeles At Mt.Gox Bitcoin Exchange And Bitcoin Images
A twenty-five bitcoin is arranged for a photograph in Tokyo, Japan, on Thursday, April 25, 2013. The digital currency, which carries the unofficial ticker symbol of BTC, was unveiled in 2009 by an unidentified programmer, or group of programmers, under the name of Satoshi Nakamoto. Supply is capped at 21 million Bitcoins and managed by a software algorithm embedded into the digital currency?s design, rather than a monetary authority such as a central bank. Photographer: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Photograph by Tomohiro Ohsumi — Bloomberg/Getty Images

The creator of bitcoin has unmasked himself, or so most of the media think this morning. Australian tech entrepreneur Craig Wright has given the BBC and The Economist proof that he is the mysterious Satoshi Nakamoto who started the bitcoin craze. He had previously been identified by Wired and Gizmodo, but some skepticism remained. If Wright is Nakamoto, he holds about $457 million worth of the digital currency. The Economist still has some doubts.

We think bitcoin’s past, while mysterious, is less interesting than its future. Many of the companies and investors who share that view are descending on New York this week for Consensus 2016, the second annual blockchain technology summit, to explore its potential for transforming the way transactions are managed online. I’ll be interviewing former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers on the summit stage Tuesday.

Separately, Justin Fox at Bloomberg View did a nice job crunching numbers from recent earnings reports to see which companies are spending the most on R&D – a proxy for long-term thinking. The results? While old line companies like Chevron, Exxon Mobil, AT&T and Verizon still lead the way in capital spending –buildings and machines – tech firms starting with Amazon, Alphabet, Intel, Microsoft and Apple are top spenders on R&D. Moreover, Fox notes, spending by the top 15 companies is twice what is was in 2006. A caveat: companies have lots of leeway in deciding what to categorize as R&D. But overall, America’s tech leaders seem to be making a big commitment to the future.

I skipped the annual White House Correspondents Dinner this weekend, but pass on President Obama’s best line of the evening. Referring to Hillary Clinton’s speaking fees, the President said if his speech went well, “I’ll use it at Goldman Sachs next year. Earn me some serious Tubmans.” (If that went past you, click here.)

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