Would Bitcoin survive a nuclear war?

Nuclear bomb bitcoin

Several renowned cryptographers, such as Nick Szabo and Ralph Merkle (the inventor of Merkle trees), have claimed that Bitcoin would survive a nuclear war. Although it is almost impossible to verify, today Protos asks: Is Bitcoin nuclear weapons proof?

Ralph Merkle’s latest article states: “If a nuclear war destroyed half our planet, [Bitcoin] would live on, uncorrupted. It would continue to offer its services… The only way to shut it down is to kill all the servers that host it. Which is difficult, because many servers host it, in many countries, and many people want to use it.”

Although it is safe to say that in the current circumstances the Bitcoin protocol is hosted on “many servers” and that “many people want to use it”, the realities of a nuclear fallout make Merkle’s blunt statement moot.

Bitcoin after the nuclear war

Much of the concern and criticism of Bitcoin proof-of-work refers to the “waste” it generates due to the energy required to secure the network, which consumes more energy than in some not-so-small countries.

However, one of the first problems humanity would encounter in a full-scale, or even medium-scale, the nuclear conflict would be the lack of reliable power sources. This would not simply be due to a “nuclear winter” – or cooling of the Earth’s atmosphere due to radioactive soot thrown into the air, which would make solar energy sources more or less useless – but also due to the shortage of equipment worldwide. and to transportation shocks.

It would immediately become more difficult and expensive to obtain fossil fuels, extract resources, and ship anything. This means that everything will cost more and that it will only be worth supplying energy to very particular goods. The main concern once nuclear armageddon begins will definitely not be securing the Bitcoin network – especially when considering another scarce resource: food.

In the event of a nuclear war, hundreds of millions of lives could be lost instantly. But the real death and destruction would come in the years that followed. Nuclear winter would cause large-scale crop failure and countries with some surplus would find it difficult to transport goods due to supply chain constraints and fuel costs.

A global famine would likely kill billions more people than the initial attacks, suggesting that any reliable energy source would likely be used for more food and clean water.

The value proposition

Another point of conjecture is the value of bitcoin after a nuclear war. Martin Pfeiffer, a doctoral candidate at the University of New Mexico, investigates the imaginaries of nuclear weapons.

“Under the conditions set forth [in this hypothesis],” Pfeiffer says, “the claim that Bitcoin would survive and be useful in any meaningful sense strikes me as ridiculous.”

Like the money in our pockets, large gold bars, or stocks in brokerage accounts, bitcoin will have little use in a world defined by trade and barter, a world in which food, water, medicine and weapons are the preferred currencies. This doesn’t mean that the thousands of individuals and companies mining bitcoin would instantly shut down their ASICs and kill their servers the moment a nuclear war broke out, but chances are those luxury expenses wouldn’t last long.

It’s confusing why cryptographers are suggesting Bitcoin would survive a nuclear apocalypse, and why some proponents are suggesting buying bitcoin to prepare – mostly because it’s hard to decide if they’re being ignorant or looking to prove another open-eyed theory.

All things considered, betting on Bitcoin for the nuclear apocalypse seems like a mistake, but we prefer not to test the hypothesis at all. Meanwhile, Martin Pfeiffer agrees with Ralph Merkle on at least one point: “The only way to kill Bitcoin is to make it obsolete… like through nuclear war!”