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Author Topic: Bitcoins in meatspace  (Read 1805 times)
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May 25, 2011, 08:53:01 AM
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Bitcoins are tied to electronics aren't they?  You are stuck needing a smartphone to be able to spend your coins out in the world, right?

Wrong.

I make the following observation because it struck me as being a powerful demonstration of what makes bitcoin so good.

Imagine you funnel all your bitcoins to one master address.  Your entire wealth is now represented by the private key associated with that address.

With a little bit of effort one could memorise that key.  I know it's a long number, but humans regularly accomplish far more impressive feats of memory.  The general consensus is that it does not require special intelligence, nor special memory skills.  All humans have excellent memory's if they just choose work at it.  Once you have memorised that key, it can be deleted from your wallet.

That then is the power of bitcoin: all your wealth can, in principle, be stored in your head.  There is no more secure location.  I'm not suggesting that we all do this, it would not be practical -- what is important is that it is possible.

Perhaps everyone else has already realised this; if so, my apologies for wasting your time.

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May 25, 2011, 09:00:43 AM
 #2

Bitcoins are tied to electronics aren't they?  You are stuck needing a smartphone to be able to spend your coins out in the world, right?

Wrong.

I make the following observation because it struck me as being a powerful demonstration of what makes bitcoin so good.

Imagine you funnel all your bitcoins to one master address.  Your entire wealth is now represented by the private key associated with that address.

With a little bit of effort one could memorise that key.  I know it's a long number, but humans regularly accomplish far more impressive feats of memory.  The general consensus is that it does not require special intelligence, nor special memory skills.  All humans have excellent memory's if they just choose work at it.  Once you have memorised that key, it can be deleted from your wallet.

That then is the power of bitcoin: all your wealth can, in principle, be stored in your head.  There is no more secure location.  I'm not suggesting that we all do this, it would not be practical -- what is important is that it is possible.

Perhaps everyone else has already realised this; if so, my apologies for wasting your time.

For a variety of reasons, it will be much more practical to encrypt your wallet.dat file and memorize the password.

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May 25, 2011, 09:03:28 AM
 #3

Bitcoins are tied to electronics aren't they?  You are stuck needing a smartphone to be able to spend your coins out in the world, right?

Wrong.

I make the following observation because it struck me as being a powerful demonstration of what makes bitcoin so good.

Imagine you funnel all your bitcoins to one master address.  Your entire wealth is now represented by the private key associated with that address.

With a little bit of effort one could memorise that key.  I know it's a long number, but humans regularly accomplish far more impressive feats of memory.  The general consensus is that it does not require special intelligence, nor special memory skills.  All humans have excellent memory's if they just choose work at it.  Once you have memorised that key, it can be deleted from your wallet.

That then is the power of bitcoin: all your wealth can, in principle, be stored in your head.  There is no more secure location.  I'm not suggesting that we all do this, it would not be practical -- what is important is that it is possible.

Perhaps everyone else has already realised this; if so, my apologies for wasting your time.

For a variety of reasons, it will be much more practical to encrypt your wallet.dat file and memorize the password.

This still requires new-fangled electro-technology to be hauled around with you. Here's the plan: All funds to one address, tattoo most of the private key down your arm, memorize the rest. Bam, money on your skin, money in your head.

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May 25, 2011, 09:04:21 AM
 #4

I like the idea that there's no physical presence of the master key! It could be part of a movie plot!

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May 25, 2011, 09:13:09 AM
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That then is the power of bitcoin: all your wealth can, in principle, be stored in your head.  There is no more secure location.  I'm not suggesting that we all do this, it would not be practical -- what is important is that it is possible.
For a variety of reasons, it will be much more practical to encrypt your wallet.dat file and memorize the password.

Quite right; if only I'd thought of saying that in my post.

I am making a philosophical observation about the nature of bitcoins, not suggesting we all calculate SHA256 in our heads.

With a blank computer and my memorised private key, I could restore my wealth, with no external storage needed.  Your encrypted wallet.dat still needs storing somewhere, and brute forcing the wallet is possible.

I posted because I find the idea of wealth stored in my head an incredible one.  Could I store gold in my head?  Can I store dollars in my head?  No.  They are all stored by other's on my behalf, or stuffed under my matress -- none of which makes my wealth really mine.

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realnowhereman
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May 25, 2011, 09:16:17 AM
 #6

For a variety of reasons, it will be much more practical to encrypt your wallet.dat file and memorize the password.

This still requires new-fangled electro-technology to be hauled around with you. Here's the plan: All funds to one address, tattoo most of the private key down your arm, memorize the rest. Bam, money on your skin, money in your head.

Perfect!  I love it.

Has anyone seen the Bulletproof Monk?

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May 25, 2011, 09:17:26 AM
 #7

Yeah it could work, but good luck making a backup  Grin


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May 25, 2011, 10:05:55 AM
 #8

That then is the power of bitcoin: all your wealth can, in principle, be stored in your head.  There is no more secure location.  I'm not suggesting that we all do this, it would not be practical -- what is important is that it is possible.
For a variety of reasons, it will be much more practical to encrypt your wallet.dat file and memorize the password.

Quite right; if only I'd thought of saying that in my post.

I am making a philosophical observation about the nature of bitcoins, not suggesting we all calculate SHA256 in our heads.

With a blank computer and my memorised private key, I could restore my wealth, with no external storage needed.  Your encrypted wallet.dat still needs storing somewhere, and brute forcing the wallet is possible.

I posted because I find the idea of wealth stored in my head an incredible one.  Could I store gold in my head?  Can I store dollars in my head?  No.  They are all stored by other's on my behalf, or stuffed under my matress -- none of which makes my wealth really mine.
You do need external storage, namely the block chain stored on the network nodes. If you consider it as given since it's replicated on thousands of nodes, you should give the same treatment to a wallet.dat file if it's stored in a decentralized storage system (though I don't know of any currently existing system that fits the bill).

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realnowhereman
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May 25, 2011, 10:55:25 AM
 #9

You do need external storage, namely the block chain stored on the network nodes. If you consider it as given since it's replicated on thousands of nodes, you should give the same treatment to a wallet.dat file if it's stored in a decentralized storage system (though I don't know of any currently existing system that fits the bill).

No.  I personally do not.  The bitcoin system requires a block chain to function, but any copy of that block chain will do for me.  Only my copy of the wallet.dat will do. 

You have neatly avoided my observation that distributing an encrypted wallet is not actually that secure, it is only as safe as the password chosen, rather than the strength of the encryption method  used, so you really shouldn't be broadcasting your wallet anyway.

I really think you're taking this far too literally.  I specifically said I wasn't suggesting anyone do this.  For practical purposes it is obviously (so obvious that I can't believe I've been sucked into this) easier to encrypt your wallet and store it in the cloud.  I'm also assuming that computers exist and that the Internet still works; but really these are just nit picking what was not ever a practical suggestion.  You miss the point though, which others seem to have got: Bitcoin wealth can (note: can, not should) be stored with no physical presence whatsoever.  To me, that is magical.  If it's not to you: fine, let's agree to disagree and say no more.

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May 25, 2011, 11:16:18 AM
 #10

You do need external storage, namely the block chain stored on the network nodes. If you consider it as given since it's replicated on thousands of nodes, you should give the same treatment to a wallet.dat file if it's stored in a decentralized storage system (though I don't know of any currently existing system that fits the bill).

No.  I personally do not.  The bitcoin system requires a block chain to function, but any copy of that block chain will do for me.  Only my copy of the wallet.dat will do. 

You have neatly avoided my observation that distributing an encrypted wallet is not actually that secure, it is only as safe as the password chosen, rather than the strength of the encryption method  used, so you really shouldn't be broadcasting your wallet anyway.

I really think you're taking this far too literally.  I specifically said I wasn't suggesting anyone do this.  For practical purposes it is obviously (so obvious that I can't believe I've been sucked into this) easier to encrypt your wallet and store it in the cloud.  I'm also assuming that computers exist and that the Internet still works; but really these are just nit picking what was not ever a practical suggestion.  You miss the point though, which others seem to have got: Bitcoin wealth can (note: can, not should) be stored with no physical presence whatsoever.  To me, that is magical.  If it's not to you: fine, let's agree to disagree and say no more.


+1 for the magic.

It's almost my 1 year anniversary with Bitcoin and I'm still amazed every day.

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May 25, 2011, 11:19:05 AM
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I really think you're taking this far too literally.  I specifically said I wasn't suggesting anyone do this.  For practical purposes it is obviously (so obvious that I can't believe I've been sucked into this) easier to encrypt your wallet and store it in the cloud.  I'm also assuming that computers exist and that the Internet still works; but really these are just nit picking what was not ever a practical suggestion.  You miss the point though, which others seem to have got: Bitcoin wealth can (note: can, not should) be stored with no physical presence whatsoever.  To me, that is magical.  If it's not to you: fine, let's agree to disagree and say no more.
I certainly do get your point, though I don't feel about it as strongly as you are. For me the magic of Bitcoin is more about the practical ways one can secure his own wealth.

On retrospect, I agree my original comment was not relevant, especially given that its premise originated in insufficient research on my part about ECDSA.

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May 25, 2011, 12:33:38 PM
 #12

You have neatly avoided my observation that distributing an encrypted wallet is not actually that secure, it is only as safe as the password chosen, rather than the strength of the encryption method  used, so you really shouldn't be broadcasting your wallet anyway.

A 100 character password is uncrackable for all practical purposes.  A 100 character password isn't that difficult to remember. Even if it's completely random it can be done in an afternoon of reciting. 

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May 25, 2011, 12:43:33 PM
 #13

If you have any loved ones (or charities) whom you want to have your bitwealth after you die or become incapacitated, you may want some way for them to get your private keys eventually. If the knowledge of how to get to your coins is only in your head, it's likely that a bunch of bitcoins will leave circulation.
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May 26, 2011, 07:41:24 AM
 #14

If you have any loved ones (or charities) whom you want to have your bitwealth after you die or become incapacitated, you may want some way for them to get your private keys eventually. If the knowledge of how to get to your coins is only in your head, it's likely that a bunch of bitcoins will leave circulation.

"dead man switch transactions" have been suggested to solve this problem.

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May 26, 2011, 08:38:43 AM
 #15

If you have any loved ones (or charities) whom you want to have your bitwealth after you die or become incapacitated, you may want some way for them to get your private keys eventually. If the knowledge of how to get to your coins is only in your head, it's likely that a bunch of bitcoins will leave circulation.

tattoo it in chiral-symmetric spiral patterns on the left and right buttocks ... if your corpse gets unrecognisably, disintegrated in some unholy manner, well that's just fate.

NB: the information about reading codes off your frozen butt will have to be left in a safe, retrievable location, like a will or some such.

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May 26, 2011, 08:47:40 AM
 #16

Actually, letting the bitcoins just evaporate when you die has a certain appeal too.

Assuming you've made no specific provisions in your will, then those lost coins are removed from the overall money supply, deflating the currency and making everybody else richer.  Is there a fairer way to distribute my hoarded wealth upon death?

Obviously if I have strong feelings for a charity, I would give to them.  If I don't, well it's not a problem to let that wealth spread on its own.

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May 26, 2011, 08:52:41 AM
 #17

Beautiful.

Actually, letting the bitcoins just evaporate when you die has a certain appeal too.

Assuming you've made no specific provisions in your will, then those lost coins are removed from the overall money supply, deflating the currency and making everybody else richer.  Is there a fairer way to distribute my hoarded wealth upon death?

Obviously if I have strong feelings for a charity, I would give to them.  If I don't, well it's not a problem to let that wealth spread on its own.

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May 27, 2011, 02:14:32 AM
 #18

With a little bit of effort one could memorise that key.  I know it's a long number, but humans regularly accomplish far more impressive feats of memory.  The general consensus is that it does not require special intelligence, nor special memory skills.  All humans have excellent memory's if they just choose work at it.  Once you have memorised that key, it can be deleted from your wallet.

That then is the power of bitcoin: all your wealth can, in principle, be stored in your head.  There is no more secure location.  I'm not suggesting that we all do this, it would not be practical -- what is important is that it is possible.
I am now determined to memorize as much as I can of the private key for my current bitcoin address, even though it has no bitcoins in it at the moment. How can I get a human readable version of it?
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May 27, 2011, 02:23:57 AM
 #19

That then is the power of bitcoin: all your wealth can, in principle, be stored in your head.  There is no more secure location.  I'm not suggesting that we all do this, it would not be practical -- what is important is that it is possible.
For a variety of reasons, it will be much more practical to encrypt your wallet.dat file and memorize the password.

Quite right; if only I'd thought of saying that in my post.

I am making a philosophical observation about the nature of bitcoins, not suggesting we all calculate SHA256 in our heads.

With a blank computer and my memorised private key, I could restore my wealth, with no external storage needed.  Your encrypted wallet.dat still needs storing somewhere, and brute forcing the wallet is possible.

I posted because I find the idea of wealth stored in my head an incredible one.  Could I store gold in my head?  Can I store dollars in my head?  No.  They are all stored by other's on my behalf, or stuffed under my matress -- none of which makes my wealth really mine.


I bet it's a hell of a lot easier to brute force the key in your head :p

Anyway, that amusement aside, I too like the concept if not the execution of this idea. Gives snoop doggs lyrics -- Got my mind on my money and my money on my mind -- fresh new meaning.
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