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Winklevoss twins take dig at 80-year-old cryptocurrency critics

  • Tyler Winklevoss hit back at the older generation of the financial community who have criticized cryptocurrencies, telling CNBC that they don't understand the future of money.
  • Business veterans like Warren Buffett and Jamie Dimon have slammed virtual currencies.
  • Winklevoss said many older figures are "wedded to the frameworks" of the current monetary system and can't see the potential of cryptocurrencies.

Tyler Winklevoss, one half of the famous twins, has hit back at the older generation of financiers who have criticized cryptocurrencies, telling CNBC that they don't understand the future of money.

The twins, who co-founded the Gemini cryptocurrency exchange, spoke to CNBC at the Milken Institute's MENA Summit in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday.

When asked to respond to criticism leveled at digital coins from leading business figures such as investor Warren Buffett, International Monetary Fund head Christine Lagarde and J.P. Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon, Winklevoss said such negativity was a "failure of the imagination."

Brother Cameron Winklevoss added that millennials would rather have software over hardware in their portfolios, meaning bitcoin over gold.

CNBC asked the twins to clarify if they meant some people are just too old to understand cryptocurrencies.

In comments that some might construe as ageist, Tyler Winklevoss said: "As you get older your brain loses its plasticity at some point and you get wedded to the frameworks that you have.

"You enter this world and you're taught money is this thing that's green, or it's this precious metal, and you start confusing what's familiar or what you use as what's real or the way things have to be.

"It's also a framework that's been embedded in, burned into your brain for let's say 65-70 years and maybe in some of these cases, examples, you're talking about 80 years. It's hard to like unlearn that or think about something new and look, if you're those individuals, the status quo is really good."

Winklevoss said there are many people in the world who have no access to a bank account and that critics are often a "privileged minority."

"If you go to Africa is there J.P. Morgan branches opening up there and banking the unbanked?"

He said that the payments system is "broken" and that cryptocurrencies are a way to fix it.

"The biggest joke is the fastest way to get money from NY to London is to jump on a plane with a bag of cash because if you try and wire something on Friday night it's not getting there until Tuesday," Winklevoss said.

"Imagine if your email was only open from 9 a.m. to 5 a.m., Monday to Friday. You might actually be happy about it because you get some sanity back but it's ridiculous that money doesn't work the way email does. All of a sudden with bitcoin and these cryptocurrencies it can and that's really the possibilities."

The Winklevoss' comments follow some heavy criticism of cryptocurrencies from leading business figures and banks. Goldman Sachs published a note earlier this week saying that most virtual currencies would crash to zero, while J.P. Morgan's Dimon has called bitcoin a "fraud" and Buffett said the space would "come to a bad ending."

The Winklevoss twins famously settled a dispute with Facebookfounder Mark Zuckerberg in 2008 over the claim that he stole the idea for the social network from them. They are now heavily involved in the cryptoworld and were credited with becoming the first bitcoin billionaires.

Both brothers are bullish on cryptocurrencies. In the same interview with CNBC, Cameron Winklevoss said that bitcoin could be worth 40 times its current value one day.