Home Money Sarcophagus is the dead man’s switch for your crypto wallet

Sarcophagus is the dead man’s switch for your crypto wallet

0 comment
Illustration of a hand-polished clay tablet with engraved cryptographic logos

The system, Hamilton says, is designed to be “antifragile,” meaning it does not depend on the good will of any party to achieve its end. No one but the creator and recipient has access to the content of the file, all other parties receive financial incentives to cooperate, and redundancies ensure that the payload is always available. “Small threads of data control our lives,” says Hamilton. Because humans are “sticky” (i.e., unreliable and error-prone), the only sensible protection for those chains is cryptography, she adds.

There are several other ways, Hamilton says, that Sarcophagus could be applied outside of a crypto environment. The digital dead man’s switch could be used by a whistleblower to publish incriminating material or by a dissident or journalist who suspects a threat to his life, as a kind of SOS. In a more mundane context, it could be used to pass account credentials from one generation of employees to the next.


Sarcophagus has received $6 million in funding to date from investors including Placeholder, Blockchange, and Hinge Capital. The project is managed by a decentralized autonomous organization, or DAO, a collective that governs the treasury and development process of the Sarcophagus through a community voting system. In its current state, Sarcófago is best described as an “early beta,” says Hamilton. The service is operational but not widely used and does not generate significant revenue: only a small portion of each payment.

One barrier to broader adoption is that recipients must already have access to a crypto wallet, whose credentials are used to decrypt the data upload. There is an option to create a new wallet for someone, along with a PDF that walks you through the process of accessing it, but a level of crypto knowledge would certainly help.

As the generation of people comfortable with crypto ages and begins to take their mortality more seriously, Hamilton believes a larger subset will begin to understand the need for a service like Sarcophagus. “Millennials are just starting to think about this problem,” he says. Hamilton imagines that more accessible services will also be built on top of Sarcophagus technology. These “boom products,” as Hamilton calls them, one of which his own team is developing, will abstract away some of the technical complexity, so people won’t realize they’re using cryptographic infrastructure. (Although there is an inevitable balance between security and convenience.)

In any case, Hamilton says, the current system, whereby high-value crypto wallet credentials could be stored in bank vaults protected by armed guards, approaches absurdity. The “billion-dollar filing cabinet” has to go, Hamilton says. “We still rely on heavy metal doors and armed guys when crypto itself can act like an incredibly thick steel wall.”

This article originally appeared in the May/June 2024 issue of WIRED UK.

You may also like