As so-called “doomsday prepping” grows in popularity thanks to news of coronavirus lockdown in Chinese cities, red flag gun laws and rampant Fed stimulus in the U.S., preparedness enthusiasts are asking about the viability of bitcoin in a SHTF situation. From cautious, light investor, to vehement denigrator of the “NSA-created surveillance money,” there is no shortage of opinion. Still, as there are various possible scenarios, a one-size-fits-all proclamation doesn’t seem to work. Turns out, when it comes to money, what has survival value is ultimately a community affair.
Prepping: A Sensible Practice in the Current Climate
Preppers often get a bad rap in pop culture, laughed off as tinfoil hat-wearing, conspiracy theory-addicted alarmists. But to anyone who is paying attention to world events or has read a history book, there’s nothing ridiculous about being prepared for a worst case scenario when it comes to disaster and the collapse or throttling of vital societal infrastructure.
Recent videos surfacing from China appear to show police forcibly quarantining people who may or may not have the coronavirus. Venezuela’s Maduro is forcing residents of the country to transact with his petro shitcoin while people across the nation struggle just to eat. The U.S. Federal reserve continues to devalue the dollar while innocent people are extorted, jailed, and even killed for trying to preserve a little of their financial autonomy.
Should the state’s continued defecation-disguised-as-order finally and decidedly come into contact with the blades of reality, running to the hills or splintering off into micro communities could become a very real necessity for some.
Preparedness advocates have traditionally diversified into gold and precious metals, in case of hyperinflation or obsolescence of fiat currencies, but with the advent of bitcoin in 2009, the conversation began to evolve. Some preppers began to think bitcoin might also be a useful tool in the kit belt. Still, what good is an internet money without the internet, and isn’t the whole thing a creation of the U.S. government, anyway? It turns out there are multiple ways bitcoin could be leveraged, and these questions — as well as skeptical rebuttals — deserve careful examination.
Internet Money Without Internet
The first and most obvious reaction to suggestions of bitcoin as apocalypse survival money is the question of the internet and electricity. If bitcoin requires it, and doomsday destroys it or otherwise makes it unfeasible, it stands to ask how the hell bitcoin can be of any use to anyone in such a scenario.
This is a valid and obvious point. No electricity means no bitcoin transactions and no mining. Although people have gotten creative and sent transactions which initially do not require internet, cellular data, or electricity other than batteries, ultimately the system depends on a power source and network connectivity to function long term. So when it comes to the complete lights out scenario collapsitarians are envisioning, crypto would indeed seem to be a largely useless appendage.
Many preppers maintain this is why gold is superior to bitcoin, pointing to situations like the one depicted in the video below, where a woman in China is said to be trading gold for rice with her upstairs neighbor in a locked-down apartment complex.
In situations where some network connectivity and power remain, however, the story might be different. Bitcoin is already touted as a means by which to avoid government devaluation of currencies and destruction of economies. Even in spotty circumstances the digital asset could at least theoretically survive, and retain this capacity to an extent, depending on the local community.
Mesh Networks and Localized Survival of Bitcoin
In a situation where an ISP fails, or some disaster cuts connection to the services most rely on to transmit bitcoin and crypto transactions, there are yet alternatives. Things like mesh networking and even amateur radio equipment can help bitcoin to remain viable in localized areas of infrastructure outage or collapse. Companies like Gotenna, for example, have developed technology which allows for portable antennas to push bitcoin transactions to nearby nodes even in the absence of cellular or internet service. Once the tx hits an internet-connected node on the mesh network, the transaction can be recorded.
In the case of political and economic meltdown, local fiat money may become better suited for toilet paper or kindling, while trade in bitcoin — presumably still valued and used by the outside world — could go on.
As engineer for Gotenna Richard Myers wrote in May last year:
Fortunately, alternatives to centralized ISP networks are starting to appear. Local mesh radio networks, satellites, and long-range radio have all been proposed as ways to enable decentralized peer-to-peer communication—both for Bitcoin transactions and for resilient communication generally.
At the end of the day, if a sociopath politician or act of god destroys, devalues, cripples or otherwise collapses infrastructure, networks with enough redundancy could enable bitcoin and trade in crypto to live on while plans for the next course of action are made. Still, even for things as conceptually straightforward as radio, a total martial law dystopia would make crypto’s survival doubtful, but at that point, humanity would have to preserve another currency, arguably much more precious: life itself.
To the credit of the skeptics, should the situation arrive when all the forced medical treatments, red flag gun laws, and rage and anger over the immoral drug war and endless military conflict finally boil over, bitcoin might be the last thing on people’s minds. When in the dark of your mountain bunker, trying to feed your family and keep them warm, checking Coinmarketcap probably won’t be a temptation.
However, before such a complete dystopia shows up, crypto is one way to peacefully fight for another storyline. One where free trade and economic sovereignty hold more and more sway as the capabilities of bitcoin are leveraged by people who are — contrary to the played-out statist propaganda — generally good and peace-seeking, and just want to be left alone to live their lives and pursue happiness to the fullest. Further, the sound economic model of bitcoin presents a means by which to preserve and leverage value better than fiat models and government systems allow, enabling one to better prepare for unexpected disasters right now.
As for the NSA creation theory, that is ultimately anyone’s guess. Regardless, by all rational estimations the tech works. And even if it were all some grand trick defying imagination, the outcome would still be much the same as the situation at present, anyway: man vs surveillance state.
As Long as There Is Society, Sound Money Will Have Value
Sound money has always had immense value in any society compared to lesser alternatives, and always makes a comeback, in the end. Even the cowry shells of the past, much better than other mediums of exchange at the time, stood to lose value to holders in episodes of prolonged disaster or tyrannic cruelty — simply due to the fact that mere survival can become the primary concern. When society is shattered, so is the very basis for any monetary system in the first place.
Gold similarly does little good if no one’s around to trade rice or other necessities for it. Bitcoin being subject to these same realities doesn’t mean it should be discounted as a useful tool for survivalists — just that it should be viewed soberly. As long as there is society, sound models of money will be in demand, and until you’re holed up in a cave all alone, miles from anyone on the blackened husk of an exploded world, bitcoin seems to be a valid consideration, even for those “nutty” preppers.
What are your thoughts on bitcoin and doomsday prepping? Is it useful to have some in the case of societal collapse? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.
Op-ed disclaimer: This is an Op-ed article. The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own. Bitcoin.com is not responsible for or liable for any content, accuracy or quality within the Op-ed article. Readers should do their own due diligence before taking any actions related to the content. Bitcoin.com is not responsible, directly or indirectly, for any damage or loss caused or alleged to be caused by or in connection with the use of or reliance on any information in this Op-ed article.
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