- Buy a Bitcoin.
In the spirit of Open Source, I'm going to share with you the secret that wealthy men have been literally dying to learn since at least the age of pharaohs. How to take it all with you after you're gone. In the interest of disclosure, first let me tell you that I am, as you likely already know, fast on my way myself, having been diagnosed with ALS some nearly three years ago, which has the pleasant side effect of leaving me trapped in a body that has progressively forgotten how to move, before my diaphragms collapse entirely, leaving me in respiratory failure. And ALS could care less that I have two young daughters that I am responsible for raising.
But I'm not here today to tell you about that. I'm going to lay out my two step plan to have glorious wealth, and take it with you at the end. Another disclaimer: I am not a professional financial advisor, and you can take what I offer with a grain of salt.
Okay, on to the nitty gritty. Step one, get a bitcoin or three. Yes, this plan depends on large part on that shadowy currency of Silk Road fame, but we're going to play it safe. Only tie up a small few of these bitcoins, for several good reasons: first, because you don't really want to risk too much wealth in some hair-brained scheme you heard about on the Internet, do you? Secondly, possibly you would like to leave a legacy? I mean, I know that like any good information, once the cat's out of the bag, there's nothing stopping someone from using it for nefarious reasons, but I would hope that you're not seriously considering taking it all with you? I expect you have kids, or plan to someday, or at least have a charity that you would like to leave a bequest to or something? I would change the title of this post, except it's too catchy, and besides, it's too damn hard to make Dasher, the Open Source eye gaze typer that I use, to back up to the top of the page.
The last reason that it's not a good idea to tie up too much wealth is more philosophical than anything, and understanding it requires knowing step two of my plan. You have to die. And by that, I mean you have to die in every current legal and medical definition of death, and then you have your body frozen. And you thought the bitcoin was a long shot? Well, it's nothing compared to what I have in mind.
But let's say for the sake of argument that I'm right, and there is someday a technology capable of reviving the dead, assuming a proper cryopreservation. Hello, everyone's going to want to "die," and let their wealth accumulate a little interest, and be revived a lot wealthier. The living will grow to resent their earnings going to the dead, and the next thing you know, stagnation or revolution, either of which could prove disastrous to our hopeful revivals.
Now that we've read the warning label, let's find out how to take this bitter pill.
I just realized that some of you might not actually know what a bitcoin is, so I'll briefly do it an injustice and mangle a quick explanation. At its core, a bitcoin is a string of seemingly random characters, which many geeks and libertarians have decided to give value to. It's obviously slightly more complicated than that, involving a ledger that is held in the public commons, complex equations that are solved by prospectors digging for this virtual cryptogold, and millions, billions, or potentially quintillions of wallets to store all this cash on your hard drives. But that's just the beginning; look up bitcoins on your favorite search engine if you want a more vigorous definition. For the purposes of our demonstration, we only need to know that a bitcoin is currently trading for several hundred dollars, and that the potential growth on the timescales we're imagining could exponentially rise to levels that might make today's millionaires seem like paupers.
We also need to understand a little bit about computer security. As in, there ain't no such thing.
Let's say, for argument's sake, that you've created a bitcoin wallet, and have purchased a shiny new coin to store in it. Or to be conservative, let's say you've only bought $20 of it, since you don't have to buy a full coin to get in with the bitcoin crowd; this is part of the beauty of the system: each bitcoin can be divided to eight decimal points.
Just what do you do with it? Well, if you're like most people, you leave it on your laptop or smartphone and forget about it, which is fine for a small amount that you might use to buy a pizza or tip a starving blogger. But what happens when a virus hits your laptop, stealing your precious bitcoin for some Russian syndicate? Or you accidentally sit on your phone? Don't say I didn't warn you.
Okay, so the first disaster can be averted by keeping your anti-virus software up to date, and by encrypting your wallet. That's jargon for use a password.The second case is admittedly more difficult to protect against.Bitcoins are irreplaceable if lost, whether by damaging the device it's stored on, by theft, or by forgetting the password.
Unless you have some fancy insurance policy, you're better off forgetting about bitcoins, right? Wrong! I'm happy to report that there is a way to keep your bitcoins safe from nearly any calamity. Keep them in your brain!
What? I hear you cry. Have you gone off the deep end? How do we store a currency in our brains? I'm glad you asked.
I'm not going to go to the details of how to make a brain wallet. There are some good tutorials out there already. But, it is important that I reiterate what I said about there being no such thing as computer security. This truism extends to brain wallets. When choosing your passphrase to store it, you can forget what your grandma taught you about choosing a password.
You basically have the following two choices: memorize a string of fifty random characters, or a sufficiently randomized but easy to remember passphrase with enough entropy to throw off the quantum computers of the future.
What I mean to say is that it will do no good to have a password of only eight characters, or even sixteen, for there are squatters sitting on those already, waiting to snatch up any stray bits that anyone foolish enough to use might leave. Because, there's money to be made in bitcoin, and like the wild west, there are claims and prospectors jumping those claims.
So what kind of password are we talking about? I would suggest at least fifty characters. But don't fret, that's only ten words. And before you pack it up and leave in frustration, because who can remember even ten words, I'll pass on a few tricks. First, let's use a lyric from a well-known song. Say, Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.
Before you go and throw away your hard earned cash on a song, another word of warning: don't use any phrase from a popular song or from literature. There are criminals out there just waiting for some easy money.
But that's okay, we're going to mix it up a little. We'll just add a change of phrase, a few random punctuation marks, and the first hundred digits of pi. That should throw them off our trail!
But I can't possibly remember the first hundred digits of pi! Well, yes, you can, but you don't need to. I guarantee that a future that honors bitcoin will also have search engines.
So we end up with the following memorable and uncrackable little ditty: Twinkle, twinkle, Aaron's b!tco!n, you are my 3.1415926535897932384626433832795028841971693993751058209749445923078164062862089986280348253421170679 in the sky.
And that takes care of step one! I hope that it's a long, healthy time before you have to tackle step two, but if you do, there's always cryonics. And if you choose that route, don't be an idiot. It can be quite affordable to fund it with a life insurance policy.
For the record, although I do have a small few bitcoins, I'm not planning to take more than a couple with me on my minute a million year sleep. The bulk I intend to leave for my daughters on their twenty-first birthdays. If you want to donate towards that end, you can send your bits of bitcoin to this address: 1GZtyFybnMSvNo19Acqi4WmrEWzP69c6Zo.