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In a world where civilization has collapsed, how would decentralized networks like blockchain continue to operate? Would they still be able to provide services such as currency, contracts, and record keeping?

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    $\begingroup$ (1) Blockchain is a general approach to record keeping, not a specific implementation. You can implement blockchain record keeping with pen and paper. (2) There are no applications where blockchain-style record keeping is preferable to classic record keeping, so that I don't see why in a world in crisis anybody would implement an inferior resource-hungry method. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Commented Jul 21, 2023 at 1:01
  • $\begingroup$ Just how post-apocalypse is this? Cryptocurrency's claim to fame is using a substantial technological infrastructure to avoid government scrutiny. @AlexP is correct that you could implement blockchain on paper, but what would be the point if your post-apocalypse society only has localized agrarian societies? Why do you need cryptocurrency when you're bartering with chickens? Just how far has civilization collapsed? $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Jul 21, 2023 at 2:51

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Poorly

The strength of blockchain-related services is in consensus. If a record is in one (or a small number of) place(s), so the logic goes, then it's pretty easy for a bad actor to change the record. So if a bank wants to make your account go away, poof, it's gone. (This is a bit facile; there are certain factors keeping many banks honest.)

Meanwhile, a reasonably popular cryptocurrency might have its ledger on tens or hundreds of thousands of computers. In order to make a change to the history of the ledger, you need to control 50% + 1 of those computers. Surprisingly possible even today by leveraging botnets, but much easier if the number of computers involved becomes small.

In addition to this, attacks on the integrity of the blockchain are prevented by the various proof systems employed in modification of the chain. Proof of work is computationally expensive (by design) and for large blockchains requires a lot of computational power. Proof of stake makes spoofing the actual blockchain history much easier, as people who have the most money can effectively make the rules (much like in real life).

So in a post-apocalyptic setting, you're unlikely to have a huge, massively-redundant network of computers to give cryptocurrency/other blockchain applications the volume it needs to actually be secure, and a few bad actors could very easily seize control. You're likewise unlikely to have the resources to waste fulfilling the energy or hardware demands of a proof-of-work or proof-of-storage system.

Further, you're unlikely to have a consistent, reliable network connection between the computers performing this task, unless it's a very specific type of apocalypse that leaves self-maintaining telecommunications nodes intact.

Proof-of-authority requires none of these things... but requires an inviolate source of authority, in which case, what purpose is served by distributing the process?

In a post-apocalyptic setting, it is far more likely that people will fall back on the system that is straightforward and works reliably even with very basic technology: a person or entity in authority maintains a ledger.

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    $\begingroup$ The intrinsic authority of the person maintaining the ledger, historically, is provided either directly or by the power of the state via threat of violence. If someone spoofs the blockchain, and they have a contract with supporting hashes that says you owe them 1000 zombie ears, and your blockchain copy says you don't, it is very much a "he said, she said" situation. Whereas if the person in authority says you owe them 1000 zombie ears, they are already in a position to demand that whether or not you signed up for it. $\endgroup$
    – jdunlop
    Commented Jul 21, 2023 at 0:33
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Would they still be able to provide services such as currency, contracts, and record keeping?

Sure they could if they had the infrastructure, but it's unlikely normal people would be interested in using them.

Classic Post-Apocalyptic scenarios don't have far ranging trade networks, or a need for them. Transport breaks down, currency is worthless, you either live where your resources exist and gather them yourself. Or you raid those who do.

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  • $\begingroup$ +1 for pointing out the infrastructure problems, but +1 again for pointing out that it's unlikely for the average person to be interested in cryptocurrency. The average person today isn't interested in it. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Jul 21, 2023 at 3:21

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