The cypherpunks of the past along with whistleblowers and abolitionists have increased freedom drastically in the last 20 years with technology. The introduction of computer networking, the Internet, computational cryptography, and cryptocurrency have ushered in a new era of thought. One where the very concepts of governance, borders, laws, and sovereign currencies are being increasingly questioned. Like it or not the seeds of decentralization, true peer-to-peer networking, open source technology, and encryption methods are growing exponentially.
Also read: Mainstream Media Fails Again at Bitcoin
Cypherpunks & Encryption vs. Authority
Questioning authority and the very nature of centralization is growing stronger every day. This is because a dominating influence from the surveillance state has also become extravagant. People may not realize that certain technologies has changed how society views rulers by giving us what some would say a better way to govern ourselves. Ideological behavior like patriotism, nationalism, protectionism, are ideas that are becoming less popular throughout small pockets of society. However, some would argue that the entities who govern us has increased the majority’s support of protectionism and nationalism. As surveillance increases, the public slowly become inured, accepting these circumstances as the new norm. Meanwhile, cypherpunks and activists are the tiny enclaves of resistance that are fighting against this over protective nature.
One evolutionary period of time was the dawn of computer networking. This technological change has surely altered some people’s political ideologies. Micro-computers in the home have brought to our world a new way of communicating as digital networking came to life. The Internet we have designed has grown into a vast global community that’s challenging the belief in borders that divide us.
A woman from America could communicate with another woman from Spain for instance and create a business. Now with smartphones and nanotechnology, a person can connect with anyone in the globe in the palm of their hand. In many ways, this had enabled us to learn how people do things throughout the world. The Internet has established a global commons where all individuals matter, and this has sparked people to question the way we do things in the real world.
Privacy is necessary for an open society in the electronic age. Privacy is not secrecy. A private matter is something one doesn’t want the whole world to know, but a secret matter is something one doesn’t want anybody to know. Privacy is the power to selectively reveal oneself to the world.
— Eric Hughes, A Cypherpunk’s Manifesto, March 1993
Encryption has brought a new level of privacy to our world where we as individuals and organizations can keep our conversations, messages, and data private. The revelation of asymmetric-key cryptography and other forms of encryption has become widely popular on the web. From the initial stages of Pretty Good Privacy email to the many ways people could exchange subject material and also keep it out of public view.
Now encryption is entrenched in our lives providing a solution for almost every equation in our lives, including emails, peer-to-peer messaging, file sharing, and now tokenized assets. Our websites are encrypted, our topics of discussion, our phones, and quite a bit of our online experiences. All of which is secured by mathematical difficulties and factors. However, not everything is encrypted, and some say officials have access to most people’s devices through possible back-doors or by intimidating the hardware or software creators.
Even though this type of thought to keep things privacy-centric has become popular throughout the world, it is not favored by government. One reason is because it lessens our dependency on the authorities as a protector and allows us to operate sovereignly. In essence, it gives one full autonomy over their conversations, information, and ideas. However, the United States NSA and Britains GCHQ are aware of this dissent. Edward Snowden has revealed that the NSA may have access to our devices and can possibly break current encryption methods. Snowden outlined how many mobile phone lines were “sweeped,” fiber optic cables are tapped, and certain software like XKeyscore that monitors users on the net.
The NSA has detailed certain methods of encryption that are deemed unsafe to trust in the organization’s opinion. This includes encryption standards such as RSA, Diffie-Hellman, ECDH, ECDSA, SHA-384, AES-256, and more. Governments, of course, have been against this since day one and have always wanted access to this type of data. Since the 911 attacks and the recent massacre in Paris, governments worldwide have been increasingly begging tech companies to allow them backdoor access.
Cryptocurrency is Born
In January of 2009, Satoshi Nakamoto offered people a new alternative. The innovative nature of Bitcoin has already manifested itself in its short existence. It has brought people to question money and, most importantly, the sovereign fiat currency we use every day. For instance, the creation of the Liberty Dollar brought to the world by Bernard von NotHaus led to his arrest. In 2009, a federal grand jury brought an indictment against von NotHaus and three others for counterfeiting. The creator of the Liberty Dollar was not able to promote his currency freely and was sentenced six months house arrest, with three years probation. In fact, there have been many online currencies that have failed before Satoshi’s creation. A peer-reviewed Bitcoin textbook from Princeton University reveals that 98 digital forms of money came and went prior to the advent of Bitcoin, due to their centralized nature. In other words, there was always a central figure to attack and arrest.
Now there are hundreds of cryptocurrencies, and anyone can create an altcoin. There are currently 673 cryptocurrencies in existence according to coinmarketcap.com. Now anyone has the freedom to create a form of digital currency without permission. Not only has Bitcoin created a new way of thinking about money, it is also making us question borders, passports, and everything else from record-keeping to voting.
Keep Calm & Write Code
We are now thinking beyond borders with Governance 2.0 concepts on the blockchain. Distributed ledgers can eradicate the need for intermediary central bankers, bureaucrats, and lawyers. This is very much like breaking the mold in the days when the printing press was invented. The printing of books became the first step towards the information age by eliminated the state’s monopoly. Books on how to blacksmith, work with leather, machinery instructions, and engineering, for example, became increasingly accessible to any citizen. From the printing press, technology has continued to evolve breaking the mold of traditional class warfare, authority, and how the economy operates.
Cypherpunks write code. We know that someone has to write software to defend privacy, and since we can’t get privacy unless we all do, we’re going to write it. […] Our code is free for all to use, worldwide. We don’t much care if you don’t approve of the software we write. We know that software can’t be destroyed and that a widely dispersed system can’t be shut down.
— Eric Hughes, A Cypherpunk’s Manifesto, March 1993
Now with the latest tools of technology anyone can disrupt this world of corrupt governments and unethical corporate swine. With the internet, we’ve learned to connect the entire globe. Encryption has enabled us to send information through the web in a secure and protected manner. And cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin has redefined our previous concepts of money and has shown solutions to other significant societal issues. The past 20 years have been driving a new industrial revolution, and we are in the midst of its beginning stages. Global economies seem to be in a downward spiral due to the failures of centralization. But with technology, there is hope. It has the potential usher in a new age as activists promote its use and cypherpunks continue to write code.
What do you think about these Cypherpunk ideas and technologies disrupting traditional thought? Let us know in the comments below.
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