The Doomsday Clock is only two minutes away from Atomic Midnight, indicating the world is critically close to the threshold of nuclear war. At least 15,000 nuclear warheads are distributed across the world, with more than 2,000 deployed and ready for launch. It would take just one nuclear bomb being detonated by a terrorist or rogue general to initiate a worldwide nuclear apocalypse that could wipe out most life on planet Earth.
Since the first nuclear weapons obliterated Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, the world has been in a state of peace driven by nuclear deterrence, but it is a tense peace that could end at any time.
If the unthinkable happens, Bitcoin would be a highly durable currency during nuclear war, as compared to fiat currency, which would fail for multiple reasons.
In a hypothetical future scenario in which intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) carrying nuclear warheads detonate over major population centers, centralized banking organizations would quickly become non-functional.
Since fiat money exists in the physical word and is not a digital entity like Bitcoin, it would be susceptible to being incinerated in the nuclear fireballs. Banks could instantly lose their cash reserves needed to operate.
Nuclear weapons pose a triple-threat to banking infrastructure. Aside from the destructive fireball and radioactive contamination, nuclear weapons release a vigorous electromagnetic pulse (EMP).
There are 3 distinct phases to a nuclear EMP called E1, E2, and E3. E1 is caused by gamma radiation ionizing the upper atmosphere, and the resulting rogue electrons blast downwards towards the Earth’s surface at 90 percent of the speed of light. A strong electrical current travels radially outwards from the nuclear blast site, exceeding the breakdown voltage of most technological devices. E2 follows fractions of a second after E1 and is caused by a scattering of gamma rays. E2 is similar to lightning and usually would be easy to protect against, but it follows so closely after E1 that technology would be caught off-guard. E3 is caused by the nuclear explosion distorting Earth’s magnetic field and can last tens to hundreds of seconds.
Essentially, when a magnetic field fluctuates, it generates an electric current in conductors. E3 is similar to the mechanism that destroys technological infrastructure during geomagnetic storms induced by solar flares.
The synergy of E1, E2, and E3 is enough to obliterate power and telecommunications infrastructure across a wide radius beyond the initial blast zone. If a nuclear weapon is detonated 400 kilometers over the center of the United States, it can cause a destructive EMP over most of the country. Therefore, during a nuclear first strike, about a dozen well-placed nuclear detonations could destroy most of the technology in the world.
In the face of such an event, any payment system or bank would be crippled by the same catastrophic flaw: a single point of failure. Bank balances would suddenly become meaningless as no one would be able to go to the bank or ATM to get their cash since the banks would stop operating the day the first nuclear bombs detonate.
Some banks will be vaporized outright. Others will be contaminated with radiation, and even more will have no power or communications. Even if some banks in less impacted areas continue to operate, a run on the banks would make them unusable within a day. Bank balances that were available the day before will suddenly become meaningless.
Compare this to Bitcoin, which has no physical presence. No Bitcoins will be destroyed even in the most intense nuclear fireball. More importantly, Bitcoin is decentralized and has no single point of failure. As long as there is at least one node running Bitcoin, the Bitcoin network will continue to function. It is highly likely that many Bitcoin nodes would survive even the worst nuclear attack since nodes are scattered worldwide, and they could communicate with each other via satellite internet.
More to the point, banks need optimal conditions to operate, and normal survivalist citizens could not legally run a fiat bank, even if it was essential to do that to keep the fiat system running. Bitcoin, on the other hand, can be operated by anyone. Someone with their own power source and proper EMP insulation could continue to run Bitcoin even in the worst case scenario.
Bitcoiners should take some steps to ensure that they can keep using Bitcoin even in a worst-case scenario when most of the world is destroyed by nuclear weapons. Satellite internet will be essential since mobile phone networks and landline internet cables could be non-functional for years. A self-sufficient power source like wind energy or solar power is essential. Gas generators are a decent idea, but radiation lasts for years, and a generator would run out of gas.
Most important is creating an EMP shield for your computer. A nested faraday cage is all that is needed to save any piece of technology during an EMP, and this can be built with aluminum foil or galvanized metal trash cans. Literally, put a smaller trash can inside of a larger one, and separate the trash cans from each other with a plastic trash bag, and you have a nested faraday cage that can protect technology even during the most catastrophic nuclear EMP.
It is impractical to put all of the world’s technology into nested faraday cages, but Bitcoiners can easily do this at the first sign of an imminent nuclear war. They could also just keep a Raspberry pi, solar panels, and satellite internet downlink in a couple of proper trash cans just in case. If several Bitcoiners do this, they can bring their nodes online as soon as the nuclear bombs stop going off. Further, since nodes are scattered worldwide, nodes in rural and isolated areas will keep running even without proper protection, as long as the node operator has some self-sufficient backup power.
It is also important to protect Bitcoin private keys. Bitcoiners who save their private key will be able to access their Bitcoins as soon as they get to a working computer, assuming they are not in a location which is impacted by the nuclear fireball. Compare this to fiat banks, where even with full account information and verification there will be no way to access money in the worst case scenario.
Beyond Bitcoin’s fundamental durability in a full-scale nuclear war, economically Bitcoin stands a better chance to retain or gain value. Fiat currencies depend on the survival of the country that issues them; if the country that issues a fiat currency is destroyed in a nuclear war, then the fiat would become instantly worthless. This is a catastrophic single point of failure. Even in a small nuclear war the ensuing calamity could cause fiats to hyperinflate, as governments print tremendous amounts of cash to fund the war while economies simultaneously slow, and investors crash the stock market out of fear since they will be selling their stocks for the cash they need to survive. Bitcoin is completely decentralized, and a more durable type of money than fiat during nuclear war as explained above, so as hyperinflation devalues fiat worldwide, people would be buying Bitcoin and Bitcoin’s price would likely rise rapidly.
Thus, due to Bitcoin’s decentralization, the network will continue to run even in the event of a total worldwide collapse of electrical and telecommunications infrastructure, as long as some Bitcoiners acquire satellite internet downlinks, self-sustaining power sources, and protect all the equipment they need for the node in nested faraday cages. Bitcoin’s decentralization also makes it impervious to economic calamity that would ensue from a nuclear war. As the many single points of failure in the fiat system are activated by nuclear war, Bitcoin would continue to run perfectly since it has no single point of failure.