In interviewing Garry Kasparov before, we spent time talking about his support for bitcoin, and his enthusiasm for marrying technology and human rights through chairing initiatives like the Human Rights Foundation, which hosts the Oslo Freedom Forum. Now, after interviewing him during the Collision Conference which took place in Toronto in June 2022, the world is a very different place than when I last interviewed him. With the outbreak of war, and the conflict between democratic and autocratic values on full display, it was time to ask him for his thoughts again on the state of the world.
These interview questions and answers are from a recorded transcript of our conversation together.
What do you think of the current state of the world and what seems to be the general rise of autocracy?
Now the future of autocracy and democracy depends on the outcome of the war [in Ukraine]. This is the front line of the war between freedom and tyranny and if Putin, God forbid wins, well, then we are entering the Dark Ages.
If Ukraine wins, I think it’s the change of these negative trends, as you mentioned, of the rise of autocracy. It looks like the free world now is gradually grasping the idea that there’s so much at stake in Ukraine. It’s not just Ukrainian sovereignty, it’s not its territorial integrity, but it’s the future. Because war of that magnitude has impact on every aspect of our life and every corner of the world.
Now, there are food problems in Africa and beyond that we have expectations from both sides. Everyone is watching. Every dictator in the world is now trembling because if Putin loses, Putin is the spearhead of autocracy. Then, it will embolden freedom fighters in their countries (Author note: since this interview, Iran, the People’s Republic of China, and other autocracies have seen significant protest movements).
What is the role of new technologies when it comes to the fight for freedom, at least online?
You know, I don’t pretend to be an expert in tech. But I’m more you know, just on the philosophy side — why I believe it is necessary. Because technology is a tool. Technology is agnostic. It’s how we use it. So I think we’ve reached the point where we have to embrace every technology that empowers individuals.
Even if we have negative elements of technology: because oh, like Bitcoin
I feel like it [”crypto”] is a part of the global fight for empowered individuals and we’re not only talking about the terrorist agenda of dictators and terrorists and all sorts of authoritarians.
We have to look with great caution on our own governments — they are benign, it’s not cancer, but every government is trying to gain more space at our expense.
And that’s why when you look at the big investors and top government officials like the Fed ,they always have negative comments about Bitcoin, because they understand it’s taking away their power, the power to control not only macroeconomics, but basically control our pockets.
They print more money and you know, our savings are devalued. And all of a sudden, there is something that is based in math, something that is based on technology that offers equal opportunity to you and to me and Warren Buffett.
What are some projects the Human Rights Foundation is working on?
For instance for Belarus, for the protests in Belarus. We raised a significant amount of money, around $5 million. […] We raised over $1 million through HRF, and overall it was about $5 million. Again, it’s relatively small, in Ukraine you’re talking about millions of dollars, but it’s a much bigger scale.
But the idea is there. People have new means to support good causes. […] We never stop working. You can look at the latest initiatives, one of them, we are supporting Afghan women, doing educational projects in Afghanistan today, this is one of them. Some of them are smaller, some of them are much bigger.
What do you think about central bank digital currencies like the e-CNY/digital Yuan or the digital dollar?
Digital currency, you know, must be decentralized. Otherwise, it’s not a digital currency the way we understand it. There will be attempts, not only from China to actually to take it to put it under control, but that — they go against the tide.
The Chinese — there’s an old saying, who is smarter than Prince Talleyrand? (the foreign minister who served both the French monarchy and Napoleon I, and whose name has become a symbol of shrewd yet cynical diplomacy). The whole world. […]Yes, China is powerful, the Chinese is powerful, but they are fighting the world.
They are fighting the winds of history. And this is not the wisdom of the crowd or the money of the crowd. Eventually the sheer numbers will be on this side. My daughter, she will be 16 in three months. So you know, let’s say five years from now she’ll be 21. My son will be 12.
And I mean to them, crypto will be even more natural than that. What is the dollar? I mean, it’s disappearing cash. So you’re talking about online payments, payments made by credit cards. So we are already moving in this direction.
So the idea of dollar, this becomes more and more vague. So they understand that payments are digital, and I think it’s for them the transition from dollar into crypto will be I think very natural.
And I think it’ll be such a powerful push. What it will come from, it’s America or even from within China or African countries or Europe. There will be more and more younger people just not willing to to lease our rights, sovereign rights, to control our money to unelected officials.