Bitcoin has foundations in the cypherpunk movement and the philosophy of cryptoanarchy. In 2014, a group of artists and hackers formed the nonprofit Cryptoanarchy Institute Paralelní Polis, in Prague. The organization operates from a multi-level building and caters to decentralized technologies like Bitcoin and 3D printing in a coworking atmosphere.
Also read: On Decentralization and Network Societies
Bitcoin.com recently chatted with Martin Šíp, project coordinator of Paralelní Polis, to discuss the Czech Republic government’s stance towards cryptocurrency. Šíp also gives our readers some insight into the anti-state principles Paralelní Polis adheres to and how the organization aims to achieve its goals through technology and the tools of decentralization.
Bitcoin.com (BC): Can you give our readers a brief description of Paralelní Polis Cryptoanarchy Institute?
Martin Šíp (MŠ): Paralelní Polis (PP) is a Prague-based, state-free nonprofit organization that brings together art, social sciences, and modern technologies in order to promote ideas of liberty and decentralization. We are known for running the first Bitcoin-only cafe and for organizing a yearly Hackers Congress. Besides the cafe, we have a 3D printing lab, hackerspace, coworking space and the Institute of Cryptoanarchy, which is responsible for most our daily the program and the Congress. We derive our strengths from a growing and diverse community of people passionately contributing to the project.
BC: The Czech Republic’s Ministry of Finance has decided to enforce stricter Bitcoin policies in the region. Can you explain what this entails?
MŠ: Until last year, the Czech Republic didn’t have any specific laws concerning Bitcoin. However, from January 1st, there is a new regulation which enforces AML/KYC procedures for virtual currency exchanges. Every customer has to be identified.
BC: Recently some reports claimed the Ministry of Finance had visited and fined Paralelní Polis. Is this true and if so what happened?
MŠ: Recently, Paralelní Polis has opposed a new Czech financial regulation, EET, which enforced real-time reporting of every business cash transaction to the Ministry of Finance. Paralelní Polis has refused to abide by this law by publicly denouncing it. Two weeks ago, our cafe ‘Bitcoin Coffee’ was visited by two financial officers checking on EET compliance. According to them, they found out that Bitcoin Coffee doesn’t adhere to the EET law. We are awaiting the official response.
BC: If Paralelní Polis was asked to abide by cryptocurrency KYC rules and regulations, would the organization follow these rules?
MŠ: No. The founding ideas of decentralization and personal privacy would force us to refuse it and to make a public case against it.
This is another part our mission of decentralization: to expose the immorality of the state system, and openly refusing to cooperate while creating a parallel one.
BC: Why did you get involved with Paralelní Polis?
MŠ: In 2014, I started to work for Satoshilabs, the creator of Trezor. People from Satoshilabs told me about the planned Paralelní Polis in October 2014. I visited the opening and the first Hackers Congress, and I was immediately captured by its interdisciplinary, communal and anti-system feeling. Shortly after, I became a voluntary organizer of weekly Bitcoin meetups which are now a core piece of the Institute of Cryptonanarchy program. In early 2016, I moved to Paralelní Polis full-time as the project coordinator and organizer of HCPP.
BC: Do you think the concepts of decentralization and the foundations of cryptoanarchy scare Czech bureaucrats?
MŠ: Firstly, they don’t grasp the concept of it all. It is something invisible, which is currently in the making. Currently, they are trying to get their heads around Bitcoin and create laws and regulation to be able to treat it. But, I don’t think they are scared. Bitcoin is too small, and its implications are hard to see for most people.
BC: Last year, members of the art collective Ztohoven cut the Czech Republic flag and attached Bitcoin to the flag’s pieces. Can you tell our readers about this event?
MŠ: Ztohoven is the original founder of Paralelní Polis. In August 2015, they captured the president’s flag from the roof of the Prague castle and replaced it with their big red underpants. The project was called “President’s Dirty Laundry.” It exposed our current president as a man “who is ashamed of nothing at all” and the role of president in today’s society in general. The flag was believed to be lost for a year. In June 2016, Ztohoven announced the “Decentralization of Power“ project in which they cut the captured flag into more than 1000 pieces and connected them with bitcoin private keys, thus creating paper wallets. These wallets were loaded with various amounts of bitcoin and randomly distributed among people of the Czech Republic. This act symbolically decentralized the political power and created an opportunity to publicly discuss its meaning.
BC: Do you think in the long run the nation-states will ultimately fail being faced with counter-economic tools like Bitcoin and other decentralized technologies?
MŠ: Yes. I think the nation states will be restructured under the forces of decentralization and they won’t play the same role as they do today.
I see it as an evolutionary process, somewhat similar to what happened to medieval cities. They became more open, their defense walls were deconstructed, and they are not viewed as power centers anymore. People are not thinking of themselves as the members of this or that city anymore.
BC: How did the recent hackers conference at Paralelní Polis go?
MŠ: This was our third Congress, and the best in my opinion, with the most attendance and public impact. Its topic was decentralization. We had more than 40 speakers from around the world, including Andreas Antonopoulos, Paul Rosenberg and Timothy C. May. We are currently rolling out one talk each Friday on our youtube channel.
We have already announced the date of HCPP17 which will happen the first weekend in October. Its topic will be the need for financial freedom put in contrast to the current global tendencies of tightening regulations, banning of cash and financial de-anonymization.
BC: What’s the overall goal of the Paralelní Polis Cryptoanarchy Institute?
MŠ: The overall goal of the Institute of Cryptoanarchy is to create an educational platform for the open discussion of important techno-social topics, such as decentralization, online privacy, and personal freedom in a world where technologies are becoming increasingly powerful in both good and bad senses.
This year we are going to focus on the communication of our topics with the public in a clear and understandable language. We hope to accelerate public discussion and growth of the community around Paralelní Polis.
What do you think about the hacker house, Paralelní Polis? Let us know in the comments below.
Images courtesy of Paralelní Polis, and Martin Šíp.
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