The Cypherpunk Bitstream podcast hosted by cryptoanarchists @thefrankbraun and @TheRealSmuggler has just released its second episode. The show compassionately reaches out to those listeners tired of the coercive “statist-quo” and explores how anyone can use cryptographic technology and philosophy to reclaim the vital and precious privacy hijacked by an ever-expanding surveillance state.
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Cypherpunk Bitstream 0x01: Cryptoanarchy
The second episode of the new Cypherpunk Bitstream podcast, Cypherpunk Bitstream 0x01: Cryptoanarchy, is where the hosts get down to brass tacks and begin discussing the nitty gritty of the cryptoanarchist philosophy, its technological background, and its uses in fighting invasions of privacy and avoiding the coercion of the state. Broadcasting from a self-made temporary autonomous zone in Berlin, the pair introduce the philosophy and movement with @TheRealSmuggler stating:
Anarchy is the absence of coercive rule for me. So it’s not the absence of rules and it’s not the absence of hierarchies or whatever. But it’s the absence of hierarchies and rules that you didn’t agree to. Anarchy is really about having a system of consent where every participant has agreed on how things should be going, and is at any time more or less able to leave and change his affiliations.
Contrasting what his grandmother’s view of anarchy likely would be, which is “everybody kills each other and there’s violence in the streets and blood running,” Smuggler points out that he is simply talking about non-coercion. He argues that while coercion and violence can never be totally eliminated from society, there are better systems for addressing these issues than governments’ current method of employing the exact same tactics of violence to force people to agree with them.
Episode 0x00 Introduction (3:06)
Episode 0x01 Cryptoanarchy (3:54:09)
— Frank Braun (@thefrankbraun) November 19, 2019
“You can disagree, but you shouldn’t act on the disagreement,” Smuggler notes, “and if you break the rules that the other people made for you … they will fine you, take your property or put you into jail or worse, and that is the fundamental thing that is simply not right.” He clarifies that real violence should be stopped, but that “people tell you what to do without you being able to opt out,” and that:
They make this basic assumption that they are more moral, wiser, enlightened whatever, than you are. And anybody who has listened to any politician on this planet speak so far should know that politicians are in general, as dumb as [expletive], as everybody else.
Creating ‘Hidden Anarchy’ With Cryptography
From the Greek root “kruptos,” meaning “hidden,” cryptography and cryptoanarchy go hand in hand. Braun and Smuggler discuss these linguistic origins and then point to the early cypherpunk movement as the seed crystal from which phenomena like modern encrypted communications and cryptocurrencies emerged. The early anonymous remailers and discussions about creating censorship-resistant digital cash paved the way for the privacy protocols and decentralized, permissionless assets of today. When Braun asks Smuggler “What does crypto mean to you, in that context [anarchy],” he replies:
The word ‘cryptoanarchy’ I think was coined on the cypherpunk mailing list in the 90’s and it’s actually a little bit of a play of words … crypto anarchy is basically the ‘hidden anarchy.’ That is one of the meanings. And the other meaning could be using cryptography for implementing anarchy.
Smuggler notes that the system or movement itself isn’t hidden, but its individual participants can be. “If you have an issue with coercive rule then, at least for me, that’s not just an individual thing. If I’m able to hide from the oppressors, that’s nice, but in the end you kinda have this urge to help your fellow man hide himself as well.”
Into the Future
Braun and Smuggler eventually make their way to current tech and social conditions, discussing the implications of privacy-enhancing protocols and software becoming more real-time in nature and function, for better and for worse (instant encrypted chat apps being used, for example, instead of generally higher-info-quality, but slower, email via remailer), and the need for action in cryptoanarchy before it’s too late.
In the latter half of the episode Braun points out that if nothing is done to halt the mass surveillance being implemented now worldwide via biometrics, cryptocurrency exchange KYC/AML regulations, and more, there may come a point where it is too late for much of anything to be done. Smuggler affirms this and points to the ever-increasing necessity of risk, and greater potential for unavoidable bloodshed if individuals refuse to peacefully disobey violent mandates as soon as they can.
Smuggler further points out that anonymity is often associated with dark or evil deeds in modern culture, but that the ostensibly pro-safety hyper-regulation of government makes doing good impossible as well. If, for example, one sends crypto to a friend in need, this can be monitored and met with threats of taxation and coercion in a surveillance state. Sliding an envelope of cash under a struggling single mother’s door can get them kicked off of welfare support. Smuggler notes that dropping out of current systems does not have to mean creating more victims:
You can decide to say, okay, 30% of my taxes go into welfare. I’m changing the system so I don’t pay taxes anymore, but I don’t want people to starve. Then you can still say, I take my 30% … and give it to homeless people and do something good … All the money lost by bureaucracy, etc., will not be lost.
Speaking of forced reform or revolution he maintains that “you are almost unable to prevent victims in reform and revolution … but in a parallel system approach with individuals switching sides, individuals can make the decision to, number one not be victims themselves anymore, and number two, not create victims on the other side.”
The hosts of the show emphasize the importance of varying degrees of privacy and anonymity via cryptographic methods for protection against coercion, citing the military OODA loop (Observe, Orient, Decide, Act) strategy as a means by which to view the world. Instead of a reactionary fight against the state, nip things in the bud. Stop them at the first “O” and don’t even give the coercers in government any behavior to observe and react to in the first place. Smuggler amusingly points out that the simple bathroom stall is really one of the last bastions of cryptoanarchy. There are no cameras, and nobody knows what you’re doing, and that’s exactly how it should be.
What are your thoughts on cryptoanarchy? Let us know in the comments section below.
Images credits: Shutterstock, fair use.
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