This is one of the criticisms that crypto skeptics have: If an Electro-Magnetic Pulse (EMP) or nuclear war destroyed our electrical grid, all these cryptocurrencies would be instantly worthless because there would be no way to access them.
The Doomsday Scenario. Given that the Domesday Clock is as close to the Midnight Apocalypse as it has been since 1953 (when the U.S. and the USSR began testing hydrogen bombs), this is actually a non-trivial concern. An EMP attack is relatively easy for a nuclear state to execute (including at least 9 countries today, with more coming); and it’s even within the capabilities of well-funded terrorist groups like ISIS and Al-Qaeda. It only requires a relatively low-yield warhead (~10 kilotons) launched from a barge in relatively unguarded international waters (12 nautical miles off any coastline) to effectively destroy the entire U.S. electrical grid.
Cardano Without an Electrical Grid? Theoretically, it would be possible to use solar-powered electricity generators to power some Cardano full nodes to keep the blockchain running at some degraded level of performance, mobile devices running Daedalus for lightweight nodes, and USB-based hardware wallets to preserve some minimum accessibility to our ADA and the blockchain. However, this scenario would only be possible for a tiny number of people who have the foresight to obtain a solar powered electricity generator, which means only a minuscule fraction of any large population would have access to their ADA. Thus, this is not a realistic option to preserve the continuity of any large-scale crypto-based monetary system during a catastrophic electrical grid failure.
What About Paper-Based Wallets? Even though paper doesn’t depend on electricity directly, the scarcity of paper would rise rapidly without electricity to power the paper supply chain. And paper wallets still depend on electricity to verify transactions; thus, paper wallets would not be a realistic option, either.
Many Cascading Systemic Failures. The consequences of an EMP attack or other type of long-term grid outage are catastrophic on many levels (nuclear power plants melt down, food and water supply chains break down, chaos and anarchy proliferates, etc.); so, a collapsed crypto (and fiat) monetary system will be only one of many cascading systemic failures. (The ultimate “cascading disruption.”)
Is There Any Way to Mitigate These Risks? Aside from the obvious “get your guns, gold coins, and 1 million calories of MREs and hunker down!!!” how can we mitigate these risks? Is it even possible to have a cryptocurrency without a functional electrical grid? If so, what level of minimum system performance would enable a blockchain to continue operating within the context of a degraded electrical grid? Is there a way to realistically represent ADA as physical tokens in the physical world to preserve the continuity of Cardano when grid-based electricity is gone?
I assume a “Nuclear Holocaust-Proof Blockchain” feature is already on the Cardano roadmap (jk), but until that feature is turned on, I still have to explain Cardano to many smart people in my network who will ask challenging questions like these. So, I’m looking forward to your comments and ideas.