George Friedman said in an interview on CNBC that he believes Bitcoin and blockchain will eventually become obsolete in the near future, saying “I’ve never known any encryption technology not to be broken” and “I doubt between Russia, China, and US intelligence services that blockchain can’t be decrypted”.

Friedman is a well-known geopolitical forecaster and strategist. Founder and chairman of Geopolitical Futures which attempts to forecast global events,  he published ‘The Next 100 Years: A Forecast For The 21st Century‘.

There is some truth to his statement, in the sense that all cryptographic methods made before the advent of computers ended up getting cracked, since computers can do so many calculations per second that all old forms of encryption done by hand can be decrypted with brute force computer code.

However, the National Security Association (NSA) produced the SHA-2 protocols with military grade security in mind, and SHA-256 is the backbone of Bitcoin and part of SHA-2. SHA-256 is incredibly secure. In order to crack a Bitcoin public key and obtain the private key to steal money, it would require calculating every combination of a 256 bit number. Therefore, to reverse a hash a person would have to create a random data set, convert it into a hash, and then compare the hashes an unfathomable 2^256 times.

The fastest computer in the world on record is China’s Sunway TaihuLight with a peak performance of 125,000 trillion FLOPS per second, where FLOPS stands for floating point operations per second. FLOPS does not directly equal hashes per second, it takes many FLOPS to calculate a hash from a set of data. Regardless, it would take longer than the age of the universe to crack Bitcoin’s code even with the fastest supercomputer on Earth. Even if there was a powerful enough computer to crack open Bitcoin’s encryption in a timely fashion, according to a physicist the entire Sun doesn’t even have enough energy to power such a computer, not even harnessing the energy of an entire supernova would be sufficient.

Quantum computers may change this, and some experts think that quantum computers will be able to crack through Bitcoin’s encryption by 2030-2040. However, researchers are working on quantum cryptography, and there should be plenty of time for Bitcoin to move to a quantum blockchain by the time this becomes a problem. The move to a quantum blockchain could be done in the same way EOS and TRON are moving from the Ethereum blockchain to their own native blockchains, or something like the technology underlying the new cryptocurrency Metronome could be used. Metronome can easily be transported between different blockchains and is meant to survive as long as blockchains exist.

George Friedman may be right that all encryption schemes eventually get hacked, but Bitcoin is open source and can evolve as the technology evolves and won’t become obsolete just because any particular cryptographic algorithm becomes obsolete. For the time being his statement that an intelligence agency could decrypt Bitcoin is also wrong, as no one on Earth has anything remotely capable of hacking Bitcoin.

 

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