Few people know that a quadrillion comes after a trillion.
Even fewer know that a quintillion comes after a quadrillion.
That’s partly because the human brain can’t understand a number so large. It’s also because there aren’t many topics of conversation where these large numbers are relevant.
A trillion is an enormous, almost incomprehensible number.
For example, a trillion seconds ago was about 30,000 BC.
It’s common knowledge that the astronomical US government spending, deficit, and debt figures all reach into the trillions. But other than that, finding something that runs into the trillions is not something most people are familiar with.
What about a quadrillion?
A quadrillion seconds ago was about 32 million years ago.
It’s hard to think of anything so large that people measure it in a quadrillion (a thousand trillions). As far as I know, the only thing that reaches a quadrillion are some estimates of the total notional value of all derivatives in the world.
What about a quintillion?
A quintillion is one with 18 zeros behind it.
A quintillion seconds ago was about 32 billion years ago. For perspective, scientists believe the Big Bang, and thus the universe’s age, to be 13.8 billion years.
What topic of everyday conversation could possibly be so large that people measure it in quintillions?
I know of only one thing: Bitcoin’s hash rate of 209 quintillion calculations per second which helps to make it the most secure computer network in the world.
The cumulative computing power of all Bitcoin miners is the overall network’s hash rate.
It refers to the number of hashes—or calculations—per second that Bitcoin miners dedicate to solving the Proof of Work math problems.
The chances of a miner solving the Proof of Work problem—and thus earning the rewards—is proportionate to its hashing power relative to the overall network.
A miner contributing 1% of the overall hash rate should earn 1% of the overall rewards, consisting of new Bitcoins created and the transaction fees.
The hash rate of the overall Bitcoin network recently exceeded 209 quintillion calculations per second, which is expressed in exahash per second (EH/s).
209 quintillion calculations per second is an astonishing and mind-bending amount of computing power.
Remember, one quintillion seconds ago was about 32 billion years ago. For perspective, scientists believe the Big Bang, and thus the universe’s age, to be 13.8 billion years.
That’s what makes the Bitcoin network the world’s most powerful collection of processing power by orders of magnitude—and the most secure.
To even think of attacking Bitcoin, a potential attacker would need to obtain an improbable amount of electricity and computer hardware—over 51% of the network’s aggregate computing power (hash rate). And even then, they would still need to overcome several daunting hurdles.
But let’s assume that happened. The most the attacker could do is double spend their transactions in some of the most recent blocks. They would not be able to create new Bitcoins or modify old transactions. This is what is known as a 51% Attack.
For practical purposes, a 51% Attack would be improbable because it would require compiling more computing power than any entity is capable of doing or conceivably could in the future.
According to some estimates, it would require an attacker to spend scores of billions on computer hardware—and that’s with the unrealistic assumption they could even source the equipment if they had the money—and tens of millions per day on electricity to even have a slight chance at tampering with Bitcoin’s recent transaction history.
Also, the cost to perform a 51% Attack is likely to grow significantly higher as the Difficult Adjustment increases the difficulty of solving the Proof of Work problems and thus the computing power and electricity required to attack the network.
But let’s say someone attempted to make a 51% Attack on Bitcoin.
The return on investment for the attacker would not be attractive. Even if the attack were successful, it would crash the value of Bitcoin.
In short, it would be extremely expensive and challenging to execute with little or no monetary reward.
That’s how powerful economic incentives protect Bitcoin and make attacking it improbable and uneconomic.
Ultimately, anyone who wants to attack Bitcoin will realize that it will be more profitable to buy Bitcoin or mine it honestly than to try to attack it. In other words, if you can’t beat them, join them.
It’s also important that the hash rate is geographically dispersed. Below is a chart that estimates the countries where Bitcoin’s computing power is located.
We can see that China previously held a dominant position, but now the Hash Rate is much more diversified, which makes Bitcoin even more resilient.
It’s also worth noting that just because a particular country is responsible for a certain percentage of the hash rate does not mean all miners within that country are controlled by a single entity.
Here’s the bottom line.
The amount of electricity required to run the Bitcoin network makes it the most secure computer network in the world.
It’s all part of Bitcoin’s ingenious economic incentives, which creates a virtuous cycle.
Step #1: The higher the hash rate, the more difficult it is to attack Bitcoin and the more secure it becomes.
Step #2: The more secure Bitcoin becomes, the more attractive it is as a reliable store of value.
Step #3: The more attractive it is as a store of value, the more people will demand and hold it.
Step #4: As more people hold and demand it, the higher the price goes.
Step #5: The higher the price goes, the more people are incentivized to get into mining Bitcoin.
Step #6: The more computing power dedicated to Bitcoin mining, the higher the hash rate and the more secure it becomes. Go back to step 1.
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