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Author Topic: Does lack of coin recovery mean bitcoins fate is sealed?  (Read 6813 times)
kjj
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June 12, 2011, 04:09:59 PM
 #21

The difference is that lost gold is almost always recoverable.  Lost bitcoins are, generally speaking, not.

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June 12, 2011, 04:35:12 PM
 #22

The difference is that lost gold is almost always recoverable.  Lost bitcoins are, generally speaking, not.

Very little of the cargo lost at sea is ever recovered:
http://www.oldandsold.com/articles02/article1070.shtml

The fact that the gold still exists is no different from the fact that the Bitcoins still exist.  They're both just very, very difficult to actually recover.

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kjj
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June 12, 2011, 04:40:42 PM
 #23

Very little of the gold lost at sea has been recovered, so far.  Except for portions that may have fallen into subduction zones, all of it is at least in theory recoverable with more or less current technology.  And whatever actually did fall into subduction zones is recoverable with technology that is possible.

Lost bitcoins are not recoverable with any potential future technology, according to our current understanding of the universe.

For what it is worth, I don't see lost bitcoins or deflation as a problem.  The losses are tiny relative to the size of the market, and always will be.

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June 12, 2011, 05:03:28 PM
 #24

Lost Bitcoins make all other Bitcoin owners a tiny bit richer.

If you like think of it as a fine on the loser for being so careless.

The number of coins in circulation is an entirely arbitrarily chosen 21 million.  With losses, let's say that it will be 20 million.  So just pretend no one ever loses coins and the arbitrarily chosen number was 20 million.  It really makes no difference to the economy.

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June 12, 2011, 05:11:54 PM
 #25

Isn't cash the same way? If you accidentally burn your house down with a buck-fitty inside, that's lost to every too, right?
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June 12, 2011, 05:21:41 PM
 #26

Isn't cash the same way? If you accidentally burn your house down with a buck-fitty inside, that's lost to every too, right?

And yes, I realize the government can just print more money. And that the Fed will take partially-destroyed bills, and give you new ones. Work with me here!  Grin
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June 12, 2011, 05:33:31 PM
 #27

Very little of the gold lost at sea has been recovered, so far.  Except for portions that may have fallen into subduction zones, all of it is at least in theory recoverable with more or less current technology.  And whatever actually did fall into subduction zones is recoverable with technology that is possible.

Subduction zones aren't the issue (http://www.platetectonics.com/book/page_12.asp).  Finding the wreck is the issue.  Oh, then there's the fact that while the gold doesn't "decompose" it does get covered with sediment and other forms of "crust" making it even more difficult to find.

I agree, if you know where the gold is, there's a good chance of recovery.  But you can compare the problem of finding a single, known, piece of gold lost at sea to the problem of finding a single private key from a wallet.dat.  They are both very, very, hard problems to solve and while the problem becomes easier with new technology, it doesn't become easily solvable.

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Lost bitcoins are not recoverable with any potential future technology, according to our current understanding of the universe.

How do you figure?  Finding a private key for a given public key is a known cryptographic function.  As processors become faster and faster, it will become easier to perform.  With today's processor it is a brute-force task requiring an unreasonable (possibly impossible) amount of computing power.  That won't be true 100 years from now.

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For what it is worth, I don't see lost bitcoins or deflation as a problem.  The losses are tiny relative to the size of the market, and always will be.

Completely agree.  It's a non-issue.

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Ryland R. Taylor-Almanza
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June 12, 2011, 05:38:15 PM
 #28

It is settled that there will only be 21 million bitcoins in existence, yes. But if it really did get to the point where there was only like .00000001 bitcoins left or something, I'm pretty sure we'd have enough common sense to just start another block chain to mine some more coins.
kjj
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June 12, 2011, 05:46:32 PM
 #29

Keys are 160 bits, if I recall correctly.  Brute force would require a computer somewhere between the size of the solar system and the galaxy working for a very long time to find a lost key.  By the time we can build a computer capable of finding a key, the issue will be moot.  Compared to that, searching the entire volume of the earth for lost gold, say a cubic millimeter at a time would be trivial.  And searching the entire ocean floor at this level of detail, through the top couple meters of crud, is totally possible right now, just not economically feasible.

Advances in mathematics might make it possible, or even easy, to find in the future coins that were lost today, but presumably the same (or similar) advances would make the coins of the future relatively just as difficult to recover.  So, even if we can find today's lost coins tomorrow, tomorrow's lost coins will be just as far out of reach (more or less).  And thus there will always be some lost coins.

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June 12, 2011, 06:12:40 PM
 #30

Ah, ok. It's starting to make sense now. So do bitcoins have to be recognized as legal tendar in order to sue someone over them?

No. If someone signs a contract to pay you an ounce of gold for 10 barrels of oil, and you give them the oil and they don't give you the gold, you can sue, probably successfully. If the person doesn't have any gold to hold up their end of the bargain, I believe a court can find that the other person is indebted to you and that they repay in the value of the contract in USD. So while the US government doesn't recognize bitcoins or gold or Euros, or chickens as legal tender, if you're in a contract with someone that involves exchanging these things, you can definitely sue and demand either repayment in whatever you were owed or legal tender, USDs. So you can definitely take grievances over contracts which involve bitcoins to court and they should settle them, but you'd have to make a case to the judge for the value of the bitcoins in the contract in USDs should the other person be unable to pay in bitcoins. I'm not a lawyer, but that's my understanding.
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June 12, 2011, 07:07:43 PM
 #31

The Bitcoin client represents bitcoins as base-10 integers (not floats) denominated in Satoshis. Since there are 100 000 000 Satoshis in a Bitcoin, there are eight 'decimal points' worth of precision in a 'Bitcoin.'

1 satoshi is the smallest possible value that the client can use. Dealing in smaller values would require a new blockchain.
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June 12, 2011, 07:40:41 PM
 #32

But you can't destroy gold, you can hide it, melt it, make stuff out of it but gold is delete key proof. If some old lady didn't backup her hard drive and looses 5 bitcoins in a crash she's screwed. So lets say bitcoin went super huge and millions of people are accepting it world wide. But every day, some where in the world, an old ladies hard drive crashes, a students hard drive got 1 too many bad sectors, someones computer got hacked and there harddrive was formated and in the process, 100 bitcoins are destroyed every day around the world due to pure stupidity. That would mean every year the bitcoin economy shrinks by 36,600 coins. With no way to "reprint" those coins back into the economy, eventually the remaining bitcoins would get hyper inflated and die due to not enough money to go around.

If there is no way to reprint dead bitcoins then it just can't be done. But is there a smart way around it so stupid people don't hurt the bitcoin economy yet prevent inflation past the 21M? I know there are bitbanks, bitbucks, escrows and insurance (coming soon) but all of those are for smart people, not little old ladies who use the recycle bin to store there important documents.

You do realize that using your own math scenario, it would take 287 YEARS to lose half of the total number of bitcoins right? Even taking into account the fact that USD is not a limited resource, do you know how much difference there is between a USD today and 200 years ago? (which is only 2/3 of the time we're talking about). And that is ignoring the idea that we'd be seeing lots of backup/encryption services for peoples wallets (you can infinitely replicate your wallet if you wish) if the service did take off.

Seriously. Bitcoin loss just isn't that big a concern. I'd be far more worried about an early adopter who's sitting on 100k bitcoins suddenly having a heart attack, and having relatives inherit his files but being unable to tell what they are because all the copies of his wallet were stored in TrueCrypt files....

Even then, I wouldn't exactly lose sleep over the possibility.

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The idea that deflation causes hoarding (to any problematic degree) is a lie used to justify theft of value from your savings.
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June 12, 2011, 07:41:14 PM
 #33

Quote
Lost bitcoins are not recoverable with any potential future technology, according to our current understanding of the universe.

How do you figure?  Finding a private key for a given public key is a known cryptographic function.  As processors become faster and faster, it will become easier to perform.  With today's processor it is a brute-force task requiring an unreasonable (possibly impossible) amount of computing power.  That won't be true 100 years from now.


My Google-fu is failing me at the moment. I recall reading an article on the Internet explaining that it is not even possible to count to 3.402823669×10³⁸ (2128). Even if the counting device uses one quanta of energy (smallest unit of energy available) to increment the count, there is not enough energy in the known universe to count that high.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cryptographic_hash_function

Of course, over the next 150 years, non-brute-force methods may be found to crack bitcoin addresses.

James' OpenPGP public key fingerprint: EB14 9E5B F80C 1F2D 3EBE  0A2F B3DE 81FF 7B9D 5160
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June 12, 2011, 07:45:37 PM
 #34

1 satoshi is the smallest possible value that the client can use. Dealing in smaller values would require a new blockchain.


Would dealing in smaller quantities require a new blockchain or just a new client? My understanding is that a new client could use smaller values and keep building on the current blockchain. I could be wrong?

According to Nanotube,
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12:12 < nanotube> plato: not necessarily a new blockchain... but definitely a change in the client that affects blockchain format starting from some block x

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June 12, 2011, 08:03:26 PM
 #35

Even if we were unable to add any decimal places to bitcoins to be read by the client later on, could we not just  invent a new division of bitcoins - call them microcoins - and just SAY they are worth some obscene fraction of an original bitcoin?
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June 12, 2011, 08:24:49 PM
 #36

Keys are 160 bits, if I recall correctly.  Brute force would require a computer somewhere between the size of the solar system and the galaxy working for a very long time to find a lost key.  By the time we can build a computer capable of finding a key, the issue will be moot. 

Now you're just plain making stuff up... "between the size of the solar system and the galaxy":

From:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Key_size

Quote
Effect of quantum computing attacks on key strength

The two best known quantum computing attacks are based on Shor's algorithm and Grover's algorithm. Of the two Shor's offers the greater risk to current security systems.
Derivatives of Shor's algorithm are widely conjectured to be effective against all mainstream public-key algorithms including RSA, Diffie-Hellman and elliptic curve cryptography. According to Professor Gilles Brassard, an expert in quantum computing: "The time needed to factor an RSA integer is the same order as the time needed to use that same integer as modulus for a single RSA encryption. In other words, it takes no more time to break RSA on a quantum computer (up to a multiplicative constant) than to use it legitimately on a classical computer." The general consensus is that these public key algorithms are insecure at any key size if sufficiently large quantum computers capable of running Shor's algorithm become available. The implication of this attack is that all data encrypted using current standards based security systems such as the ubiquitous SSL used to protect e-commerce and Internet banking and SSH used to protect access to sensitive computing systems is at risk. Encrypted data protected using public-key algorithms can be archived and may be broken at a later time.
Mainstream symmetric ciphers (such as AES or Twofish) and collision resistant hash functions (such as SHA) are widely conjectured to offer greater security against known quantum computing attacks. They are widely conjectured to be most vulnerable to Grover's algorithm. Bennett, Bernstein, Brassard, and Vazirani proved in 1996 that a brute-force key search on a quantum computer cannot be faster than roughly 2n/2 invocations of the underlying cryptographic algorithm, compared with roughly 2n in the classical case.[8] Thus in the presence of large quantum computers an n-bit key can provide at most n/2 bits of security. Quantum brute force is easily defeated by doubling the key length, which has little extra computational cost in ordinary use. This implies that at least a 160-bit symmetric key is required to achieve 80-bit security rating against a quantum computer.

160-bit hash key, providing n/2 (80) bits of security.  So, once available (and quantum computers are already becoming available), you'll have to double the key length just to get an actual 160 bits of security.

Compared to that, searching the entire volume of the earth for lost gold, say a cubic millimeter at a time would be trivial.  And searching the entire ocean floor at this level of detail, through the top couple meters of crud, is totally possible right now, just not economically feasible.

From:  http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_is_the_total_surface_area_of_Earth
The surface area of the Earth is 510,065,600 km2. 
1 km is 1,000,000,000,000 mm2
So the surface area of the Earth is 510,065,600,000,000,000,000 mm2
I'll give you the benefit of the doubt in this discussion and say we're only searching water, which is roughly 70% of the Earth
So, that's 357,045,920,000,000,000,000 mm2 you have to search.

An 80-bit number (remember 160 bits only gives you 80 bits of security against a quantum computer) represents
2^80 =  1,208, 925,820,000,000,000,000,000

That's only 2 orders of magnitude harder.

Said another way.  If searching the water covered portion of the Earth is "totally possible right now", then I would think something only 2400 times harder would be FAR from requiring a computer "between the size of the solar system and the galaxy".

Especially with the computing power of CPUs doubling every 6 months.




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