In a recent Space on X (formerly Twitter) titled “ARK 21Shares Bitcoin ETF (ARKB) Approved,” Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, engaged in a thought-provoking conversation with Cathie Wood, CEO of ARK Invest, about the use of money on Mars.

Wood’s Query on Martian Currency

The discussion began with Cathie Wood posing a question about the type of currency that would be practical for use on Mars. This inquiry set the stage for a deeper exploration of the subject.

Musk’s Initial Response

Musk initially expressed skepticism about the feasibility of using Bitcoin on Mars, citing the significant time it takes for transaction settlements.

He stated:

It would make sense to use some kind of cryptocurrency on Mars; you couldn’t use Bitcoin because the reconciliation time is too long. Mars can be like 20 light minutes away. So, you know, there has to be some localized thing on Mars.

Elaborating on Distance Challenges

Musk further elaborated on the logistical challenges posed by the distance between Mars and the sun:

Mars is on the other side of the sun. I mean, a sort of rough way to think about it is Earth is eight light minutes from the sun. Mars is roughly one and a half times as far away from the sun as the, you know, as the Earth. And so, at times, you’re on the order of 20 minutes. But sometimes even… You can’t go right through the sun. So, you have to be, you know, bank shot at past the sun. It might be like 23, 24 minutes at max speed of light.

Considering Bitcoin with Limitations

Despite these challenges, Musk did not completely rule out the use of Bitcoin:

So, anyway, I think you could perhaps use Bitcoin to some degree, but, you know, it’d be really difficult to use it a lot, I think, on Mars.

Musk’s Vision for Mars Colonization

This conversation is particularly significant in light of Musk’s vision of building a colony on Mars by 2050. He advocates for humans to become a multi-planet species as a means of survival, and the choice of currency is a crucial aspect of this vision.

Localized Lightning Network as a Solution

In the discussion, Bitcoin core developer Matt Corallo proposed that Bitcoin’s slow transaction speed could be addressed through a localized Lightning Network on Mars. The Lightning Network is a layer on top of Bitcoin’s blockchain designed to enable faster transactions. Bitcoin’s blockchain typically assembles transactions into 10-minute blocks, requiring six blocks to confirm a transaction, which can take up to an hour.

Adam Back’s Optimism

Adam Back, CEO of Blockstream, contributed a more optimistic view in a couple of posts on X. He stated that the 12-22 light minutes distance to Mars poses no significant issue for Bitcoin’s 10-minute block structure. Back then expanded the conversation to a more ambitious vision, suggesting that a Kardashev Type 2 civilization would involve constructing a Dyson sphere around the sun, where Bitcoin miners could also be located, effectively solving any potential problems.

Back further speculated on the concept of solar system-wide mining. He mentioned that to accommodate such an expansive operation, it might be necessary to increase Bitcoin’s block time. He explained that some of these adjustments, such as rolling the reward forward for a daily reward block, could be implemented through soft forks or as a policy among miners. In this scenario, miners would, by convention, forward their coinbase transactions (the first transaction in a block, used to distribute mining rewards) to a future block’s miner, effectively adapting Bitcoin’s protocol to the vast distances of space mining.

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