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The Crypto Anarchist Manifesto (1988) (mit.edu)
330 points by SunbroSupreme on June 15, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 134 comments

I don't understand the barbed wire metaphor. Couldn't crypto have the effect of putting content that would otherwise be freely available in the current internet behind monetary barriers? Couldn't cryptocurrencies enable further control by monopolizing media industries? The technology is powerful, whether or not it will be liberating is to be determined.

Edit: didn't realize this was from 1993! Amazing to read that perspective!

It was very interesting! They nailed a number of points there in terms of the prominence of certain techs.

They missed a big one, though. Today it was announced in the New York Times that Goldman Sachs is backing a payment fintech startup that operates on a public blockchain. JP Morgan, BNY Mellon, Credit Suisse, ING, are all involved in the EEA. Big money is making its way into cryptocurrencies presently. Groups like GS are fairly responsible for a lot of those barbed wire fences, and usually for their own gain.

No crypto-currency back then and openly available strong cryptography was a new thing. It was a different time.

Oh no doubt. It was just a comment, not a criticism.

Yes, cryptocurrencies could be used by media distributors. But anything that's popular and too expensive will get pirated, and distributed via darknets.

Crypto would enable inbuilt content use payment system if the user wants to pay, and reap additional benefits - freemium model

Industries wont be monopolized cause forking and launching decentralised code would be free and instant.

Tell that to email.

Don't get me wrong, I'm a huge cryptonerd. But open source is not a panacea against monopolization.

Tell what to email? I'm deep into the process of telling it to shut up and forward the anonymous, encrypted data here: https://github.com/andreas-gone-wild/snackis. It's still an excellent transport for async messaging.

As the saying goes: information wants to be free. In a world where everyone can interact with each other completely anonymously that becomes even more true, since governments cannot effectively penalize people for distributing said information.

For example, imagine a version of The Pirate Bay hosted as a Tor hidden service, combined with a completely anonymous torrent-like P2P file sharing system.

The full quote is:

"On the one hand information wants to be expensive, because it's so valuable. The right information in the right place just changes your life. On the other hand, information wants to be free, because the cost of getting it out is getting lower and lower all the time. So you have these two fighting against each other."

- Stewart Brand, Whole Earth Review, May 1985

> As the saying goes: information wants to be free.

Don't anthropomorphize abstractions; they hate that.

Sure. He should have said "tends to be" or "gets driven toward being" or whatever. But the key point is the tension, not his languaging.

The problem with both the original form and yours is it obscures the active agent and real interests driving the real effect, which is important because not obscuring that makes the generality limitations of the statement a lot easier to see.

I agree. It gets used in contradictory ways. But he was going for a soundbite. So two sentences was probably the maximum. And most of the time, only one gets quoted.


Look, everyone knows that concepts have no intentionality. It was a figure of speech.

You're missing the joke. "Don't anthropomorphize abstractions; _they hate that_." He's saying not to anthropomorphize abstractions, then doing so himself in the same sentence. ;-)

Yes, I got the irony. But I was responding to the criticism of Brand for anthropomorphizing abstractions. And if it was just a joke, with no criticism of Brand, then it was arguably off-topic, no?

Ok, an xkcd fan. Apparently a bunch of these commenters don't get it.

Information "wants" to be gratis only in the sense that water "wants" to flow downhill. It turns out that devices that impede that flow (like a cup) are useful.

The corollary then to your particular analogy is that since anonymity on the internet was the default, it turned out that much of the commercial value eventually accrued to companies that correlated online activities with each other (searches, clicks, posts, likes, etc.) and tied the bundle to an identity.

The Internet was never anonymous. Especially not at the start, when every computer had its own IP address.

First, IP address assignment for dial-up users was generally random from a pool, and ISPs usually only kept logs long enough to be useful for troubleshooting purposes.

But ignoring the IP address assignment issues, do you remember what website log analysis tools (eg. http://www.webalizer.org/) were like back then? Most encouraged dumping the raw logs and just keeping the summarizing reports.

As a result, for most intents and purposes the data on nearly all user information consumption and interaction was ephemeral.

These New Yorker cartoons sum up the situation then and now:



Ah, you're talking about the start of the web. The person you responded to was talking about the start of the Internet -- ARPANet or one of its later incarnations. When the traffic started exploding, yes, it became possible to be pseudonymous on the internet, but before then IP addresses were pretty much known and assigned in large blocks to particular universities/agencies/companies.

It sounds like there may be some history you missed out on. I recommend reading 'The Cuckoo's Egg' by Cliff Stoll if you've not already done so.

At the start, there were no ISPs. Assuming that logs are transient is dangerous. Remember how Kevin Mitnick got pwned?

Well: http://uj3wazyk5u4hnvtk.onion/

It's hard to get "completely anonymous" for large video files. It's the snake-eating-a-pig problem. Torrents anonymize much better than streaming, because users are sharing many small pieces. Torrenting is very popular on I2P. With Tor, it's best to use only onion services, because exit resources are limited.

There's potential to multipath transfers among onion services. MPTCP works, right out of the box. That would enable high-bandwidth torrenting. It'd also provide chaff for normal Tor users. And there's currently oversupply of entry guard and middle relay resources.

Free as in beer, not as in freedom. That already happened decades ago.

Ugh, I hate that "information wants to be free" nonsense. Information doesn't want anything, it isn't a thing that can want. People want information and very rarely do people actually want it to be free.

People generslly want information they don't currently have but want to be free for then to acquire. People often also want information they do currently have to be expensive to other people to acquire.

> People often also want information they do currently have to be expensive to other people to acquire.

I don't think that's necessarily true. For example, pirated copies of media are typically created when someone legally purchases a copy of the work and then publishes it for others to use entirely for free. I find it very hard to believe that the people posting these pirated works want those works to be expensive for others to acquire.

> > People often also want information they do currently have to be expensive to other people to acquire.

> I don't think that's necessarily true.

You seem to have mistaken “often” for “always”.

It's the original publishers of the information that want to set a high premium, in this case movie studios.

> Information doesn't want anything

It's obviously a metaphor.

Actually, it was 1988.

Bitcoin can enforce property rights, like barbed wire.

Exactly. They article compared crypto to the wire cutters, but it can just as easily be used to make barbed wire.

Relevant: https://www.reddit.com/r/Bitcoin/comments/6hbis7/us_congress...

TLDR; There's currently a bill to make cryptocurrencies illegal. (and other stuff that the government can't control)

Alright, I waded through the salient sections. It doesn't appear to be making it illegal, at least not outright prohibiting it. It also includes some verbiage for some research to be done - basically a feasibility study.

It looks like they're going to treat cryptocurrencies like cash. Somehow, it looks like they think they are going to be able to detect it at the border. I have no idea how they think they are going to do that. If you want to get around it, just don't leave evidence of it on your devices when you cross the border. Dropbox exists.

Other than that, they've already made it so that it is illegal to do certain transactions, over $10,000, without notifying the government. My understanding is that exchanges already follow this rule, but I bet there are some .onion sites that beg to differ, just a hunch.

But, it doesn't look like they are making them illegal. It almost looks like they are recognizing it as legitimate. If you read the proposal, treat it like a find/replace. It is modifying existing laws.

Honestly, this seems like a reasonably sane bill. IANAL but it does not seem to make cryptocurrencies illegal, more the opposite: it recognizes them as cash and places the same requirements that other financial instruments have on them...with a review period of 18 months. That seems good for crypto more than anything else.

If anyone knows more about this and wants to explain why I'm misunderstanding this I'd be thankful :-)

Don't know what the HN abbreviation, IANAL, means but in my ignorance it just looks quite distasteful. :\

It isn't really specific to HN, It's been in use since the days of Usenet, as I recall.

I am not a Lawyer.

I first saw it on Reddit, I presume that isn't its starting point though.

Not quite illegal, but not quite legal (in the current relatively unregulated sense) either. I did a writeup of the Senate bill in the HN thread on it: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14567005

> The State will of course try to slow or halt the spread of this technology, citing national security concerns, use of the technology by drug dealers and tax evaders...



The crypto wars

The crypto wars 2: The empire strikes back

and that's just one poignant sentence in the fairly small but very accurate manifesto.

It's quite funny to see people promoting such conspiracy theories, considering they've already been proven wrong by reality.

Apart from some banana republics, governments around the world have been incredibly relaxed with regards to Bitcoin. The rules that have been established are as favourable as anyone could imagine (i. e. trading being exempt from VAT etc.).

Yes, they have insisted on existing rules, mostly of the know-your-customer variety. It's funny you're citing "national security concerns, use of the technology by drug dealers and tax evaders", as if those were just talking points to hide the real reasons. Because for the life of me I can't think of any other, legal, activity governments are trying to suppress by regulating bitcoin. What exactly is that killer app of bitcoin that so frightens the establishment?

"What exactly is that killer app of bitcoin that so frightens the establishment?"

Right now in order to spend ones bitcoins (with a few exceptions) one has to change them into fiat currency and that's where the establishment can monitor and control the money flow.

What will happen when a critical mass of service providers and product sellers will gladly accept crypto coins? That's when one can hide his cash reserves from the prying eyes of the state. And they'll be able to pay smaller and smaller taxes.

And I doubt that the establishment will be happy to have smaller and smaller budgets at their disposal.

Yes, probably. It's just slightly insane to think you can opt-out of paying taxes via technology, or that taxes are somehow for the benefit of some nebulous "establishment".

That's empirically true, for only a tiny sliver of very strange people still fantasise about some Randian utopia of every-man-for-himself. And it's logically inescapable, since there's no way to sustain today's societies without the cooperation established by taxes.

>since there's no way to sustain today's societies without the cooperation established by taxes.

To the degree one can differentiate societies sustained by taxes from sustained by lines of credit extended to societies in promise of future taxes of which are now under question…

New "establishments"[0] will form that better serve those who reap the benefits of engaging in crypto-economic behaviors, Old ones will die/become obsoleted/increasingly ineffective at enforcing their diktats, some overlap of functionalities may exist/remain between such. Same as it ever was.

10k software engineers effectively dodging/avoiding taxes on 100k/y of income, who can organize/allocate resources to some other ends seems like a plausible block of people to put up some effective asymmetrical resistance against taxes to governments of various sizes over the world. Yet still a drop in the bucket in terms of population size.

Do a few engineers who are unable to imagine such, really pose a threat agaisnt people are/trying to create something new?

[0] I use this very loosely, could be traditional meat spaces ones, or decentralized digital networks with active and passive mechanisms for ensuring survival.

Why do you consider it to be (just?) slightly insane to think that one could opt-out of paying taxes with technology?

Also this bit:

> An anonymous computerized market will even make possible abhorrent markets for assassinations and extortion. Various criminal and foreign elements will be active users of CryptoNet. But this will not halt the spread of crypto anarchy.

See Silk Road, Bitcoin, Monero

Some IC3 people at Cornell have been looking at this in the context of smart contracts: http://www.initc3.org/files/Gyges.pdf

Silkroad was indeed primarily used by drug dealers.

Bitcoin was not shut down because of it. Bitcoin is, however, frequently used to launder stolen bitcoin.

> Bitcoin is, however, frequently used to launder stolen bitcoin.

Bikes are frequently used to launder stolen bikes.

And the follow-up: The Cyphernomicon (1994) http://www.cypherpunks.to/faq/cyphernomicron/cyphernomicon.t...

Ah memories...

Reminds me of the title my favorite book: cryotonomicon. Highly recommend it.

If you haven't read it, there are some great bits in Cryptonimicon that kind of captures the spirit of some of that crowd. Great book in any event.

What gets me is that I read that book before I discovered bitcoin. So when bitcoin was brand new and worth only cents I looked at it like sci-fi and doubted it would ever take off.

I'm still kicking myself over that.

Maybe there's something to learning about the tech itself, but actual bitcoins seem like tulip bulbs to me.

its not too late. 3k per coin is nothing. expect 10k or more in the coming years. Not necessarily in BTC though (Hint: August 1)

Seconded. Great book set both in the present and in WW2.

I couldn't tell when this was written. It appears to be from 1993:


Edit: See comments below. Turns out it's from 1988.

Yep. I remember when it was published. I was on the Cypherpunks list back then, and it was a fascinating group for a while.

Tim May was a vocal, eloquent proponent of anarcho-capitalism[1], and believed that crypto and the net were crucial tools that would tip the balance of power between the individual and the state, cause an erosion of tax-collection powers, and eventually tip the world into a mode of 'voluntary' interaction that others, myself included, argued is indistinguishable from feudalism.

[1] For those of you who are aware of the various minute distinctions made around these schools of thought, May proposed a very "hard" form, arguing that 'voluntary' agreement to slavery and whatnot were perfectly acceptable.

> a mode of 'voluntary' interaction that others, myself included, argued is indistinguishable from feudalism

Good thing you've got The State extorting and enslaving you then, to protect you from that "feudalism".

I'd rather a democratically elected state than a cabal of wealthy warlords.

What about a democratically elected state that creates wealthy warlords with tax dollars and then wages war on their behalf?

Interesting that you see a difference. Who do you think the democratically elected are? "Wealthy ..."

Its telling that you don't see a difference.

And An-Caps never seem to understand why nobody takes them seriously.

I'm not an anarchist myself. But what exactly do you think we have now, in many Western countries? There is more than one way to end up with a Rumsfeld or Cheney in power.

I'm actually sympathetic to your viewpoint, but there is a very real difference between hereditary despots-for-life and imperfectly-constitutionally constrained, term-limited assholes-in-chief.

Indeed. I fear though that one is a stepping stone to the other.

1988, actually: The Crypto Anarchist Manifesto by Timothy C. May - http://nakamotoinstitute.org/crypto-anarchist-manifesto/

Yeah, the mention of 'ISDN' kinda threw me off at first; I was wondering if there was some new ISDN acronym that I was unaware of. Nope, they mean the old school ISDN.

It's an ongoing battle, even if eventual victory is inevitable. Plenty of work remains to put convenient, strong encryption; not to mention anonymity; in the hands of everyone all the time.


I clicked thinking "I bet that's Tim May." I was not disappointed.

Some of his posts in the '90s were tough to read, but they were interesting without fail. Anyone know if/where he posts nowadays?

An entertaining exploration of this was recently written in "A Lodging of Wayfaring Men" by Paul Rosenberg.

Those who fear the loss of the freedom that the Internet once represented (in relation to recent battles of net neutrality, tor monitoring/capturing, fear of brutal regimes' scrutiny and persecution, etc.) have yet another avenue of hope.

I have a basic inspiration and hope in humans growing and learning, increasing our ethics to begin to catch up to our technology.

And still, the rich get richer, the powerful even more so... cutting barbed wire hasn't changed anything. Casts some serious shade on the power of crypto-anarchy to change anything. Anarchy, like libertarianism, are lovely notions with no direct roots in reality. Here's hoping blockchain democratizes and makes more transparent at least part of the puzzle.

It's not that there's anything wrong with the technology. It's just that people can be exploited. And they get exploited. So the hierarchical power structures remain in place.

Seriously, what better dream to plant in the slaves' minds but the idea that "a simple little computer program" can set you free? And what better way to control them and stifle their rising-up than by the constant deception that they have more power than they do? Fools. They're all god-damned fools.

People talk about VR being 10 years away. We've already been living in it for ages. The Matrix. Democratic Theatre. We've all been living in a dream world. I think we like it here. Because, IMHO, most people would rather blame a higher power for their sh*t than take responsibility to control their own lives.

And whether that higher power's the state or some religion, doesn't matter. It still sets up the same power dynamic that makes most people, IMHO, slaves.

Living in a dream world is what being human is about. Objective reality doesn't exist for us, and even if we could somehow perceive it, it would have no use to us. We assign value to things but that value only exists in our own minds. It's impossible to not be a slave. If not some organization, it will be to your own biology.

> what better dream to plant in the slaves' minds but the idea that "a simple little computer program" can set you free?

Yet when people overthrow tyrannical governments to then establish democracy the planning is done secretly.

And when tyrannical governments come to power the first thing they do is monitor and restrict communication.

This has been true many times in history in the last hundreds years.

I don't believe in encryption as a tool that can give any real asymmetry to an individual or conspiracy against the State. I get that you do believe it can.

Another point is -- all governments monitor communications and we don't call them tyrannical. Take the Germans. They're notorious. But people consider the Germany government quite liberal.

Restricting communications does not have to be a tool of "cruel, unreasonable, oppressive or arbitrary use of power or control." It can be deliberate, reasoned and helpful. China restricts their communications and they enjoy a lot of civil harmony, and a huge amount of national pride.

The media in the US practice a form of "information restriction and control" by tightly directing the narratives, and editorial perspective ( and sometimes even the facts ) that people are consuming. That's been the case for a long time. No one's calling it a tyranny, even tho plenty of Americans distrust authority.

I think your model of tyranny and your belief in crypto are unrealistic.

The reason I don't believe in crypto is because I consider everything as "security theatre." IMHO, every single cryptosystem that exists has already been broken. The pretense that it hasn't is just a charade.

Note: I believe in the strong version of the above statement. That RSA / EC / AES / DES and so on are broken. But the weak version, that protocols, physical monitoring, side channel attacks, and other vectors make every practical cryptosystem broken is kind of born out by the events of the last few years.

Whether you believe in the strong or the weak version of that statement the net result is the same, no? I think so, anyway.

Few loose marbles for your jigsaw, use as you please.

Lucky unhappy creature, you nailed it (at least if you ask me). Twice.

Circles of dreamers, merrily dancing around technodgod of their choice. Hail Crypto!

"Optimism is cowardice", Spengler.

I am afraid that most people only care about just one thing, and dreaming does not stand in a way of it, maybe even helps.

Feels terrible, to be shaken out of the dream, eh? OTOH, a real porridge, poor smell but what an honor!

Universe goes towards maximum entropy, so reason is, in fact, against the odds. Squared, if it happens on top of life.

It might be good nobody takes words too seriously. Blaming the messenger is not nice on the receiving end. The species is going to harvest all that it saws, both short and long term.

I believe it is changing things but far away from western society.

I believe that instead of using force on nations in the middle east for example you only need to use information. The people will seek out information and this will cause them to question the status quo simply by comparing their lifestyle and culture to someone elses.

Deep down most people all want the same things.

Bombing them into oblivion only hurts this because they distrust any information coming from the aggressors.

Looking at western, developed societies - what I like to refer to as e-nations instead of i-nations - I don't believe it has changed much. You can look back before the information age in Europe and still find the same basic elements in society. People with so much freedom that they can travel the world or volunteer in other parts of the world to make a difference. Altruism in other words.

But in many other parts a larger portion of the population are still living hand to mouth and without any safety nets. Simply spreading information about the world to them will cause them to question their situation.

This is likely what caused the arab spring. People in those nations were connected to the rest of the world and refused to accept what previous generations had taken for granted.

Another prescient text about how the internet and cryptography will change the logic behind the existence of nation states as we know them today is: The Sovereign Individual (James Dale Davidson & William Rees-Mogg) - highly recommend it, I felt like I was pulling back the curtain on the true workings of the world.

Anyone starting a discussion about libertarianism and anarchism or Bitcoin in general in this thread is probably trolling and not interested in a serious discussion, so don't waste your time.

(Maybe HN should have 1 Mega-Thread for all this stuff, like many subreddits have?)

The comments here mention crypto currencies. However, currency is anathema to anarchist societies and isn't mentioned in the manifesto. Anarchists recognize that currencies and markets are products of the state and using this tool in a stateless society makes no sense. A currency and markets primary purpose is to provision the state. What would a crypto currency without a state provision? Who does it serve? Bitcoin makes it clear it is the FPGA and ASIC operators consuming vasts amount of energy.

> A currency and markets primary purpose is to provision the state.

Not at all. "State" is a political constructions while currencies are a value transport mechanism and markets are a network of those, both of which, as "pure" concepts, arises pretty quickly when one starts to ponder how to model "actors in need to exchange and use scarce resources which have alternative uses".

In that sense, saying that "currencies and markets" have any particular purpose (political at that) is like saying that someone invented the concept/idea of "hash functions" for the purpose of serving P2P piracy, which isn't the case: "hash functions" just are a thing that arises in the universe. Same with currencies and markets, they're just pretty arbitrary, easy to come up with, concepts.

You are wrong, they are inventions used for a political purpose. Try making your own currency and markets if you want proof. Bitcoin is a perfect example. Required millions of dollars to get off the ground, provisioned early adopters like a ponzi scheme. Likely has state backing though I have no proof it's a honey pot. Just gut feeling.

> they are inventions used for a political purpose

I think you are conflating "fiat currencies" with "currencies". US Dollars are a currency. Gold is a "currency". Bitcoin is a currency. Calling card credits are a currency. Cigarettes in prison are a currency. Any store of value is a currency -- whether created / authorized by a state or not.

If anarchists go back to a barter system, there will always be asymmetric transactions that will require some sort of value store (basically an IOU for a transaction that already happened) or cause inefficiencies in the market (the buyer or seller would have to take a hit in order to complete a transaction). Currency always has been to fill this purpose.

> Required millions of dollars to get off the ground

I would argue that if you chose to try and replace the old Gold System with your Widgets System, you would also need lots of resources to convince others to buy into your new currency. It's not about state power as much as other people having faith in your currency keeping value, which is the only purpose of a currency.

> Any store of value is a currency

No, any medium of exchange is a currency. (That and the unit of account function of money are deeply tied; while store of value is often cited as a function of money, it's not deeply tied to the other two, and lots of things that aren't money/currency fill it; the essential feature of currency is being a medium of exchange.)

Honeypot for what?

Crypto currency was created to be decentralized, requiring no state to back it.

bitcoin is not decentralized because all transactions are on a single public ledger. How the ledger is computed and verified is distributed however the product is a single central source of truth. There is nothing centralized about having a single objective "reality". Decentralized systems do not have a single source of truth and by their very nature are inconsistent.

In other words, whether the blockchain was computed by one central bank or individual miners doesn't change the nature of bitcoin in it's use. Which is a centralized public ledger.

I wouldn't be surprised if bitcoin was an attempt to shine a light on the black market. Similar to how Tor was created to hide the activities of state spooks.

Technically, there is not one ledger. This post is being pedantic, but the parent is wrong, technically, on the central point of its post.

Every node keeps a copy of the blockchain and occasionally one node adds a block to the blockchain (upon successful mining), then notifies other networked nodes of the new block. As soon as a block is mined, the lucky miner has a different ledger than the rest of the network. It's not until that new block propagates across the entire Bitcoin network that the ledger is updated.

Because of differences in protocol implementations, not all nodes accept the new block (this happened at least once). With the new BTC fork, it will be obvious that any stragglers on the old fork (or the new fork, if the protocol change brings insufficient consensus) will have their own fork of the blockchain, which will mean the ledger is forked.

>bitcoin is not decentralized because all transactions are on a single public ledger.

Immediately not following you here. The singular ledger you refer to is in fact stored (and modified) by many different actors and agreed to on a majority basis. There are absolutely different versions of the ledger in existence, but the majority chooses to move forward temporally on the basis of majority consensus. That version of the ledger becomes the basis for future records, and so on.

It is an agreement between parties, in the same way that having other people refer to you by your chosen name is 'a single truth' which is actually just majority agreement.

>the product is a single central source of truth.

I can't see this aspect of your argument panning out to anything other than complete absurdity, to be honest.

>There is nothing centralized about having a single objective "reality".

Was this a typo? It appears to contradict the rest of your post. If it wasn't, I agree with this point.

Yes,the last one was a typo. Phone input. My argument is bitcoin relies on a consistent ledger to function. It relies on a distributed system to compute the ledger, but it depends on consistency to function. This makes it ACT like a centralized system and therefore it functionally IS one. A real decentalized system functions with inconsistency.

So then to track that argument down to an absurdity - The objections you raise could equally be applied to language, or mathematics.

Language does not have to be consistent and mathematics are a game we play. Bitcoin is a single global public ledger created in a distributed system. To call it decentralized is strange since all transactions must go into the central ledger to be valid. In other words, decentralized systems function perfectly fine with inconsistency. Bitcoin does not pass that test.

>Language does not have to be consistent

Parties have to agree on terms for language to be of any use.

>mathematics are a game we play

Ok? So is money.

Rest of your comment is a nonsense since it follows a declaration that 'maths is just a game', then gets incredibly specific on a bunch of stuff which, if we're being consistent, is just maths.

Regardless of how you define anarchy, it isn't how the author of the Crypto Anarchist Manifesto defined it.

Taxation of private income is anathema to privacy. You can only eliminate, prohibit or tax income if you eliminate privacy.

That's why in the manifesto it says:

>The State will of course try to slow or halt the spread of this technology, citing national security concerns, use of the technology by drug dealers and tax evaders, and fears of societal disintegration.

All of the major figures in the cryptocurrency field, like Nick Szabo and Wei Dai, were part of the cypherpunks mailing list. The author of the Crypto Anarchist Manifesto, Timothy May, wrote about uncensorable digital currency in Cyphernomicon, in 1994.

>A currency and markets primary purpose is to provision the state. What would a crypto currency without a state provision?

Markets and currency provision people.. Trade is a basic form of human interaction that benefits participants.

Incorrect on both counts.

There are, and have been, both currencies and markets without (or outside) state purview. Though having a state helps standardise much about both.

See the content of the Code of Hammurabi, much of which concerned both commerce and tort.

Got any good literature on this because I haven't found any supporting what you said. Code of Hammurabi didn't standardize an existing practice in my understanding.

The persistence in the use of Roman currency throughout Europe after the fall of Rome, the use of various currencies in pre-Columbian America, including the continued use of same by post-Columbian Americans, as well as other commodity monies: beaver pelts, cowhides, etc. These were frequently (though not exclusively) used in frontier regions, where the notion of a government regulating trade was all but absent, or between tribes with whom there was no single overarching regulatory body or legal code.

Wampum is the source of "clams" as a synonym for money.



The use of cowhides as money is also discussed in Richard Henry Dana's Two Years Before the Mast, a travellogue/history of early California in the 1830s. (Also mentioned at the URL above).


The code of Hammurabi: "Nearly one-half of the code deals with matters of contract, establishing, for example, the wages to be paid to an ox driver or a surgeon."


Citing: http://www.commonlaw.com/home/legal-history-and-philosophy/c...

William Stanley Jevons wrote at length on money in the 1880s, and discusses early forms of currency, including several mentioned above: https://archive.org/stream/moneyandmechani01jevogoog#page/n4...

I'll leave you free to conduct further research on your own.

Nothing here disagrees with what I said. Example, Wampum only used it as a currency with Europeans , but among themselves it was gift giving. Things have always been traded with external groups. But this is different from markets users by a society to distribute goods. Wampum didn't use shells as currency except with Europeans who later introduced the idea.

Also native Americans had societies and government that rivalled European societies. Example the mound builders along the Mississippi. The 'primitive' tribes are survivors of greater failed states which developed currencies. They lived the way they did to prevent the horrors of 'civilization' from happening again.

> FPGA and ASIC operators consuming vasts amount of energy

Not vast at all when you compare it with the amount of energy used in traditional banking to move around the same amount of money.

Yes, vast when you calculate cost per transaction. Mindbuggeringly inefficient.

The author was a senior scientist at Intel.


It's lovely to think that our abilities allow us to have this comfort that no matter what the dumb slow paced governments will do, we will run circles around them, and as an anarchist that's never really found my self at peace with the authorities that be, it's comforting to read some vague prose that harps on about the things we can do because we're comfortably many steps ahead, but I think there is a) I don't think we're beyond social responsibility. We can't leave people behind, even if they are dumb and ignorant, if we are escaping this horror that is a moronic attempt to dictate our actions, we should at least try to drag our friends out of the path of their ridiculous flamethrower. b) Complacency. I've always figured as long as I can SSH, set up an OpenVPN, get to a server...I can do anything I like. This isn't always certain, nothing is certain. Just going onto a guest network at some shit company you are interviewing for and not getting shit past anything that doesn't pass DPI is like whoa dude, given enough time we could crack it but it isn't quite so easy. c) Inclusion...we make code, we do cool shit, there are lots of people who have so many important things to do without the technological upbringing we have that are so much easier for governments to extinguish.

"To truth only a brief celebration of victory is allowed between the two long periods during which it is condemned as paradoxical, or disparaged as trivial."

- Arthur Schopenhauer, 1819

I wonder which truths he's referring to there, considering how every truth that was already known in that time seems even more trivial today. In other words: Which truths were just passing the threshold from paradoxical to trivial?

(Or maybe he's just referring to political truths which are coming to light at about the same pace at all times.)

Information isn't sapient. People want information, which gives information value.

People want information. But the people who want the information want it to be free, so that they can get it for free. The people who create that information usually want it to be expensive, and also to be controlled (so that they can get paid). But all it takes is one person who paid for the information to decide to redistribute it for free, and the game is over for that bit of information.

Thus "freeing" is a one-way function for information. It's easy for information to go from non-free to free, but it's almost impossible for information to go from free to non-free. In that sense, information, by its nature, "wants" (if we can anthropomorphize a bit) to be free, in the same sense that matter "wants" to move to a lower energy state.

> But the people who want the information want it to be free, so that they can get it for free.

Yes, and I also want every economic transaction in which I am demand side to be priced at zero. That doesn't mean that because I deign to buy something that I am unwilling to pay for it. Quite the opposite! I will pay for it up to what I value it.

> But all it takes is one person who paid for the information to decide to redistribute it for free, and the game is over for that bit of information.

Yes, and that is a problem with non-exhaustive consumption of a resource. This duplicatible nature of data is why data firms have contracts when they sell information. The information existing in their databases has no anthropomorphic yearning for liberty.

Is this the new Neal Stephenson?

At the time this manifesto was written, Stephenson was just publishing his first serious novel, Zodiac. He wasn't yet a well-known writer.

oh shit you're right 0_0

While I do agree with this article's identification of the primary utility of crytpocurrencies, we should consider the optimizations that it can provide through a more effective use of resources. I'll go ahead and TL;DR here before the succeeding wall of text:

Crypto currency will result in a net gain of useful resources by using pulses of electrical current. Silver and gold are more useful for their elemental properties rather than their primitive use as trading mediums.

The Physical and Socioeconomic Properties of Elements and Compounds

Gold, silver, platinum, and diamond. For the past ~6000 years, these three elements and one carbon structure have been sought after mostly as mediums of trade. “Various forms of livestock, in particular cattle, and grains were the earliest forms used to settle trades and payment for good goods and services. Cattle are hard to carry in your pocket and grains spoil so an alternative currency was needed”. The value of these elements during the early economic development is attributed to their scarcity, resistance to corrosion/oxidization, tensile strength (except Au/Ag, which are very malleable), structural integrity under extreme conditions (a diamond is forever, just like the love between two people). These can thus be relied upon to transfer value between two parties.

Advancements of the past 100 years have suggested new uses for these materials. Certainly diamond will continue to be sought after for its utility in drilling and abrasives, but the electrification of civilization has suggested new uses for these materials. Silver has the highest electrical conductivity of any element, but tarnishes easily when exposed to oxygen. It replaced copper as a conductor during early 20th century war-time resource rationing. Platinum has an extraordinary resistance to corrosion, and can be used to coat electrodes to split water for hydrogen and oxygen extraction (though extracting hydrogen from methane is more economical, but carbon monoxide is a byproduct).

These materials are too expensive to replace copper, but why are they expensive? Thousands of years of economics.

Silver dining utensils aren’t valued for their superior electrical conductivity. A host/hostess sets out the “good silverware” for special occasions when it would be advantageous to advertise wealth to others, or because it comforting to hold value while eating a meal.

“Solid state electronic devices use very low voltages and currents which are easily interrupted by corrosion or tarnish at the contact points.” The gold stored in sovereign vaults guarded by pensioned government employees 24/7 is not secured under these conditions because of its capacity to increase the durability of electrical contacts. It is valuable because of it, but expensive only because we are delaying the retirement of traditional mediums of resource exchange.

The abrupt arrival of the digital age has produced technologies that continue to eliminate the middlemen and inefficiencies that are parasitic to the process of transferring value. Web payment services do much to reduce physical transportation of metal and paper currencies, which saves energy and time and therefore creates more value because it directly contests systems that were already in place (though the modern currency thief is going to exploit network vulnerabilities, in the same way train robbers would exploit vast, unsecured distances between towns during the westward expansion of early America). The blockchain is an even newer technology that is continuing to be refined, and is expected to be immune to counterfeit and centralized control. Bitcoin and Ethereum are the most widely used cryptocurrencies that use the blockchain, and their value remains constant across all currencies. These concepts (especially Ethereum) are the digital manifestations of the theory of democracy - unhindered by loopholes, corruption, indecision, and private-interests.

A re-evaluation of value transfer mediums is necessary because of things like supercapacitor technology. Energy storage is the primary bottleneck in the implementation of energy harvesting mechanisms, as the sun only gives usable energy to a region for ~8 hours a day, and the rate at which the wind blows is inconsistent, albeit predictable. Silver is a useful material, not because of its electrical conductivity (which is on par with copper), but because its unmatched ionic conductivity. The Lithium-ion battery functions because of the exchange of ions between two conductive materials, and the energy density of a cell relies on the composition of the anode, cathode, and electrolyte. The primary determinant of this composition is the balance of value versus performance. Prohibitive value only exists when there is competition for the uses of a resource. Reduce this competition, and gain new utility.

This problem is also solved by fiat currency.

Certainly, but crypto has the advantage of being counterfeit-proof.

I have never in my life been concerned about counterfeit dollars. While I may have unknowingly handled one at some point it's never come up or negatively impacted me making that benefit marginal at best.

The government printing more money can also be considered counterfeit. Rather,an irresponsible patch job rather than isolating the underlying cause of economic woes.

It's not individual law abiding citizens that are worried about counterfeits. It's a state level concern. Which seems odd to me that crypto's uncounterfitability would be a selling point for said LACs.

Yawn Nobody cares about counterfeit cash. The technological gap b/w counterfeiters and national mints has continuously expanded. Today, even most countries have given up trying to update their technology, and have started buying their bills from a small number of printers (i.e. Giesecke & Devrient).

More importantly, only a tiny fraction of money in circulation is actually held in cash. Today, most countries could declare all cash worthless overnight and it wouldn't have a major effect on the economy. All the infrastructure to move to electronic payments is already in place, and trade could continue unharmed.

> These concepts (especially Ethereum) are the digital manifestations of the theory of democracy - unhindered by loopholes, corruption, indecision, and private-interests.



>These concepts (especially Ethereum) are the digital manifestations of the theory of democracy - unhindered by loopholes, corruption, indecision, and private-interests.

The kind of democracy where having more money means you get more votes, which is the kind of democracy almost nobody would want to live in lest someone has more money than them. I don't know the word for such a thing, but it sounds barbaric, yet I've seen it seriously proposed.

Taking "vote with your wallet" to the extreme.

If you concede that PACs, lobbyists, bribes, or simply paying to make yourself a politician are overwhelmingly more effective than form letters to congressmen, ethereum-distribution of power looks downright egalitarian.

ether whales have nothing on USD whales. 8 people control 50% of wealth[0]. There is also income disparity and monetary controls making that dilution of individual power inescapable.

And that's just personal wealth. There is also corporate wealth and government reserve currency.

I don't think it's taking "vote with your wallet" to the extreme. It's already there. On the contrary, I think it's making it tenable.

[0] https://www.oxfam.org/en/research/economy-99

Why not just abolish voting altogether?


One of the many advantages of selecting representatives randomly from the citizenry is that it eliminates the position of professional politician.

Can you explain to me how this works, please? If it's just selecting a random person, this seems as though it would be liable to all sorts of problems such as the person not even having to demonstrate to anyone that he is capable of holding such a position. If it's selecting a random person from a smaller group of people, how is it decided who gets to be in the group? You're pushing the problem of professional politician one step back, so the solution has no explanatory power.

The standard is I think the same as the standard for voting; if you're enfranchised, you would be eligible for selection by sortition.

If you're arguing that this may lead to the selection of unqualified representatives, yes, that's certainly a risk.

But the very same people are already voting in the current system. They may not become representatives themselves, but they're certainly choosing them.

If your society can't safely select their representatives at random from the voting population, you already have a civic problem, regardless of which approach you take.

There is a profound amount of stuff in our political system which is necessary to the everyday running of the country, and yet is profoundly boring. There are a huge number of people for which having to participate in reading and debating law is untenable for one or more reasons. Hell, the politicians PAID to do this don't read all the things they are supposed to.

Hell, half of Americans can't be bothered to vote. How are they going to contribute to the political process in any meaningful way when harboring that much apathy?

I think it would be fine to just replace the elected stuff with sortition. I mean, all the administrative staff doing the actual work, the necessary and boring work, are unelected staff anyway.

Yes, that's the intent.

Also worth noting is just how much power the unelected bureaucracy has in a democracy. It's yet another reason to keep the scope of Government strongly constrained.

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