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Crypto Space: Interplanetary Blockchain

Crypto Space - Imagining Interplanetary Blockchain and Cryptocurrency

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Crypto Space is a new series in which Heidi Hecht introduces the basic tenets of cryptocurrency, imagining and examining its utility in a future where trade is conducted not between countries, but between planets and stars.

An interplanetary trader walks into a space station bazaar with a little ball of fur that he’ll sell unsuspecting customers for ten Credits a head. What is a “Credit,” and how can it work in an interstellar environment where you need warp drive to get anywhere in any reasonable amount of time? The space station doesn’t have an ATM. There’s not a purse in sight. So, how do people pay for things? It would be fair to assume that the Federation Credit, in this instance, is a form of digital currency that is designed for interstellar trade.

In the 21st century, a form of digital currency that could work with a few improvements already exists. Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin can provide a secure and convenient medium of exchange that our theoretical interplanetary traders can handily carry on a small tablet on their belts. Astronomically-themed cryptocurrencies like Marscoin, Earthcoin, Solarcoin and Orbitcoin already exist, and could be refined to become currencies that are actually used in an environment where nobody will want to carry a purse or haul bulky physical money like gold, silver and paper bills any long distance.

Cryptocurrencies can work for an interplanetary economy in these five ways:

  • Cryptocurrencies can provide fast, secure settlements limited only by the laws of physics – and even that can be gotten around with some Information Technology smarts.
  • Cryptocurrencies can operate cheaply and quickly in economic environments that banks, PayPal and Western Union charge high fees to serve or won’t touch.
  • Cryptocurrencies make use of the Blockchain ledger, which stores and secures transaction data in ways that could make attempts to tamper more expensive than it’s worth.
  • Cryptocurrencies are uniquely designed to reward the production and deployment of resources.
  • Cryptocurrencies and Blockchain apps can provide common financial system standards that any space colony can use with a low barrier to entry.

Cryptocurrencies shouldn’t be seen as a solution looking for a problem. Rather, they should be seen as something that showed up at a time when we can still resolve any technical issues that might limit cryptocurrencies and Blockchain-based apps before getting serious about interplanetary trade.

I might frequently speak as if these issues have already been resolved and they’re actually being used for trade between colonies in Crypto Space. This is for the sake of visualizing what trade could look like in an environment where two or more partners in a trading coalition might not particularly trust one another and nobody trusts a centralized authority. They’re not going to want a financial system that is overly centralized for the same reasons that they won’t want a powerful “federal” government that refuses to comprehend their needs. Who needs a system that might forbid a transaction without making an attempt to understand that they’re just buying an oxygen generator?

However, they may like the idea of decentralized currencies that they can use at the cost of providing their share of the computing resources needed to maintain the system. It’s technical enough that a group of trading partners may hire some Blockchain experts to keep a general eye on things, but users won’t particularly have to know what a Blockchain is to make use of systems based on it. This is not just a pipe dream: writers for are already writing articles with titles like , “Do You Think They’ll Use U.S. Dollars On Mars?”[i] (Short answer: not likely.)

Cryptocurrency and Blockchain insiders are starting to notice that the 21st-century version of the Space Race is starting to heat up, and aerospace professionals are starting to notice that Bitcoin exists. Even PayPal co-founder and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk admitted after ignoring Bitcoin for a while, “Bitcoin is a good thing.”

A partnership between Blockchain entrepreneurs and aerospace professionals could be the start of an era in which future space colonies use cryptocurrencies and the Blockchain to facilitate future trade.

And that’s what I’ll be exploring in my Crypto Space series.

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