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U.S. Space Force Major Pushes Proof-of-Work as a Defense Initiative

A Major in the U.S. Space Force has urged the Department of Defence to study Proof-of-work technologies and their potential use for national security purposes.

Major Jason Lowery, a member of the United States Space Force, has sent an open letter to the U.S. Defense Innovation Board, claiming that proof-of-work networks such as Bitcoin might be used to protect the country from cyber-inflicted warfare. He states that the network can easily secure “all forms of data, messages or command signals,” and thus can be used for national security purposes. According to the letter, the Department of Defence might have “already lost valuable opportunities by not fully appreciating this technology's potential.”

The U.S. Defense Innovation Board is an independent advisory board set up in 2016 to bring Silicon Valley’s technological innovation and best practices to the U.S. Military. Currently, it is working on building a Department of Defence Data Economy.

Lowery believes that the concept of proof-of-work represents "nothing more than computer scientists discovering how to deter and prohibit malicious actions in cyberspace by rendering those actions too physically costly to carry out." In his opinion, it has the same core function as military deterrence but in a different form. While the comparison of PoW and military strategies is not entirely absurd, the letter does come across as a little too simplistic. 

“Proof-of-work mirrors the physical security and deterrence strategies utilized in other domains like land, sea, air, and space… It's effectively the same game, but in the fifth domain,” - the letter says.

The letter is full of 'impressive' language but doesn’t provide any technical details of the suggested Bitcoin implementation. It is not exactly clear how the suggested conversion of the global electric power grid into a massive-scale computer with blockchain technology can help, for example, to protect data. However, this is an open letter urging the study of new possibilities and not a technical proposal, so it should be considered and viewed accordingly.

Although blockchain can be used in many different areas, the PoW concept was initially designed to prevent double-spending and ensure the integrity of the blockchain, rather than to protect data or network infrastructure from cyber attacks. Other proven use cases include the confirmation of product quality and authenticity, the digitization of securities and tokenised real estate solutions. Recently, Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong has also suggested that crypto could become a remedy against inflation, working in “tandem with the U.S. dollar.” 

In a world striving for simplicity and elegance in technical solutions, it is perhaps not surprising for a military force to suggest using a PoW blockchain to create “an extraordinarily large, resource-heavy computing device with enormous operational costs.” Indeed, blockchain could represent “an offset strategy” for the 21st century, but hopefully in a more intelligent way. In the meantime, the Lowery initiative might have positive sides if the U.S. government starts studying, using and thus promoting the technology and its further development rather than fighting against crypto companies