What would happen if Bitcoin mining difficulty would be reduced to nothing/very easy? I can only think of the benefits such as exceptionally lower enery waste and much faster transaction processing. The rewarded Bitcoins would, of course, be distributed at a much slower, reasonable pace.

Sure the bitcoin miners would lose a ton but in my personal opinion the mining industry shouldn't have grown to such extremes in the first place.

  • "The rewarded Bitcoins would, of course, be distributed at a much slower, reasonable pace." How? if you lower the amount of work needed, more blocks get mined = more bitcoins mined. All you would do is generate a lot of inflation.
    – Polygnome
    Mar 23 at 14:04
  • I suppose someone has control over the rate bitcoins are created per blocks mined. They would just change the ratio to not cause inflation. Even if it is not possible, for the sake of the question let's assume it can be done.
    – Ants Aus
    Mar 23 at 16:23
  • The consensus rules of the network define a fixed amount for each block height.
    – Murch
    Apr 23 at 10:52

The mining difficulty adjusts according to a specific algorithm. The difficulty adjusts such that, regardless the hashrate, the average time between blocks is approximately 10 minutes. The difficulty also only adjusts when there are changes to hashrate. As miners go offline, it will adjust down to become easier to mine. As miners come online, it will adjust up to become harder.

So in this scenario, a lot of miners will have gone offline and the difficulty adjusted down. This has no effect on the rate that blocks are produced, so this has no effect on the issuance of Bitcoin nor the time it takes for transactions to become confirmed.

What it does have an effect on is the security of Bitcoin. The immutability of the blockchain comes from the fact that it is hard to rewrite the blockchain. It comes from the fact that in order to change blocks in the blockchain, the same amount of work must be done. With a lower difficulty, the amount of work done on each block is lower, so the amount of work required to change that block is lower. Thus with a lower difficulty, it becomes easier for an attacker to change the blockchain and perform 51% attacks.

In a scenario where someone can snap their fingers and magically cause the difficulty to change, the effects would of such a change would be extremely bad. It wouldn't magically cause hashrate to go offline, rather they would stay online at a lower difficulty. This would mean that blocks are found way faster which greatly increases the risk and likelihood of stale blocks. This would, in general, not be good for Bitcoin. Since the difficulty is magically lower, more people would probably start mining because it is easier for them to make money when the difficulty is low. Additionally, the difficulty would just eventually adjust back up to where it is.

It is important to keep in mind that the difficulty has an effect on miners, and that miners have an effect on difficulty. When the difficulty is low, more miners will come online because it is easier and thus more profitable to mine. As more miners come online, the difficulty will increase. Eventually, the difficulty will reach a point where miners go offline because it is now harder to mine so mining is less profitable. So then the difficulty will drop. This will form an equilibrium.

  • You could easily change the difficulty so that one block is generated each minute. But as you say, the effect is not that miners would go offline - just that 10 times more coins are mined and thus inflation sets in, as each coin is worth less.
    – Polygnome
    Mar 23 at 17:04
  • I might have to rewrite my question to emphasize the condition that "The rewarded Bitcoins would, of course, be distributed at a much slower, reasonable pace." I guess the answer that I'm looking for is similar, if not the same for the question "What would happen if mining bitcoin did not reward any coins". About security of blockchain in lower difficulty: Does this mean, that 5 years ago bitcoin was super easy to hack?
    – Ants Aus
    Mar 23 at 17:58
  • @AntsAus Exactly five years ago the hashing rate was 1.166m TH/s. Now its 156m TH/s. Yes, the amount of work required per block was way lower back then. If a miner magically had the same hashing power as they have today and could take it back to 2016, they could easily mount a 51% attack on the network. Difficulty back then was 165b, today its 21.68t.
    – Polygnome
    Mar 24 at 11:00
  • @Polygnome So the only reason bitcoins blockchain wastes countries equivalent of energy is for security? Sounds like a terrible design. Hopefully, proof-of-stake or tangle will come sooner than later.
    – Ants Aus
    Mar 24 at 13:52

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