The current human lifespan at its longest length reaches around 100 years, a century. From now until the start of the A.D. calendar is loosely 20 of those longest-lasting lifetimes, 20 centuries, 2000 years, 2 millennia. Thirteen thousand of those 2 millennia ago, 2.6 million years ago, was a period marked by glaciers covering large parts of the word, for over 10 thousand years, in what we today call the ice age.
Sheets of ice covered large parts of Europe, North America, and South America, and small areas in Asia. Remains of these glaciers can still be seen today. This was the most recent ice age. Four other major ice ages have been discovered and documented throughout the life of our planet.
Today we are not in an ice age. But within software, a new ice age is forming, one inside of the leading smart contract platform Ethereum. The Ice Age is a term in Ethereum to describe when the network starts to freeze to a halt. It’s a result of something programmed into Ethereum called the difficulty bomb.
How does this work?
Ethereum’s active main network, Ethereum 1, confirms transactions by Proof of Work, or mining. This means computing power is used to confirm transactions. The process involves solving problems that consume this computing power to validate transactions.
After a series of transactions are validated, after some time, a collection of transactions called a block is published to the network. “Block time” is how long it takes to publish a block. The difficulty determines how fast these problems are solved, and how fast these blocks are published. If there is an increase in miners/mining power, the difficulty adjusts intending to reach a specific block time, currently around 13 to 15 seconds.
With the Difficulty Bomb, every 100,000 blocks the difficulty is artificially “bumped.” Since the mechanism for targeting a specific block time still exists, the mechanism fig...