Markovian Death: What Happens to A Blockchain Once Enough People Die Without Any Dead Man’s Switch?

Kumar Thangudu

October 14, 2017

I’ve had death and blockchains on my mind a lot lately. I don’t have a solution to this problem, I’m just curious and opening a can of questions.

My main curiosity has stemmed from talking to people who own a large quantity of cryptocurrency. It’s kind of morbid, but I ask them what would happen to their crypto if they were hit by a bus….eek.

“A dead man’s switch (for other names, see alternative names) is a switch that is automatically operated if the human operator becomes incapacitated, such as through death, loss of consciousness, or being bodily removed from control.”

There’s no dead man’s switch for cryptocurrency, if you die your wallet keys disappear with you and the tokens in your wallet disappears into eternity.

I can only think of the unusual future quandary of any blockchain from Markovian death, I’m calling it that out of convenience.

I don’t know how to measure consensus or imagine incentives in the future.

Questions swirling through my head about what happens after enough people die and their keys disappear.

  • How many dead wallets are there?
  • How many decimal points does the cryptocurrency go out to?
  • What’s the avg. # of dead wallets/day and how much cryptocurrency sits in them?
  • If the X-Coin total available pool situation gets bad enough will the community support decreasing the smallest denomination?

This problem persists for any blockchain as long as there’s no dead man’s switch on a wallet, right?

The smallest unit possible in bitcoin today is 0.00000001.

If anyone has answers, I’ll add them here, just tweet to me…

Disclaimer: Please do not contact me for investment advice. I get hit up every 24–48 hours asking for cryptocurrency investment advice. Here’s the reality, I have no advice, I just enjoy graph theory and studying blockchain stuff. I just hold dogecoin because I like dogs and I blew $2K USD in bitcoin on a chicken sandwich + fries 5 years ago. I really don’t think you want to be taking advice from me.

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