Bitcoin, Tor, Anonymous, Wikileaks: the monumental rise of the the crypto-anarchist movement seemed far-fetched even for it’s most ardent supporters just 10 years ago.
For the founding father of the cypherpunk philosophy, however – the author of the seminal Cypherpunks Electronic Mailing List in the late 80s and early 90s, Timothy C.May – the rise of blockchain, private browsers, messengers, and anonymous publishing was set in stone and articulated in remarkably clairvoyant detail in his Crypto Anarchist Manifesto as early as 1988.
May sadly retired in 2003, long before his predictions came to pass. In a year where Bitcoin saw a 15,000% rise, it’s worth reflecting on the man’s manifesto, penned 30 years ago.
The Crypto Anarchist Manifesto
Timothy C. May
A specter is haunting the modern world, the specter of crypto
Computer technology is on the verge of providing the ability for
individuals and groups to communicate and interact with each other
in a totally anonymous manner. Two persons may exchange
messages, conduct business, and negotiate electronic contracts
without ever knowing the True Name, or legal identity, of the other.
Interactions over networks will be untraceable, via extensive re-
routing of encrypted packets and tamper-proof boxes which
implement cryptographic protocols with nearly perfect assurance
against any tampering. Reputations will be of central importance, far
more important in dealings than even the credit ratings of today.
These developments will alter completely the nature of government
regulation, the ability to tax and control economic interactions, the
ability to keep information secret, and will even alter the nature of
trust and reputation.
The technology for this revolution–and it surely will be both a social
and economic revolution–has existed in theory for the past decade.
The methods are based upon public-key encryption, zero-knowledge
interactive proof systems, and various software protocols for
interaction, authentication, and verification. The focus has until now
been on academic conferences in Europe and the U.S., conferences
monitored closely by the National Security Agency. But only recently
have computer networks and personal computers attained sufficient
speed to make the ideas practically realizable. And the next ten
years will bring enough additional speed to make the ideas
economically feasible and essentially unstoppable. High-speed
networks, ISDN, tamper-proof boxes, smart cards, satellites, Ku-band
transmitters, multi-MIPS personal computers, and encryption chips
now under development will be some of the enabling technologies.
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.
Many of these concerns will be valid; crypto anarchy will allow
national secrets to be trade freely and will allow illicit and stolen
materials to be traded. 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.
Just as the technology of printing altered and reduced the power of
medieval guilds and the social power structure, so too will
cryptologic methods fundamentally alter the nature of corporations
and of government interference in economic transactions. Combined
with emerging information markets, crypto anarchy will create a
liquid market for any and all material which can be put into words
and pictures. And just as a seemingly minor invention like barbed
wire made possible the fencing-off of vast ranches and farms, thus
altering forever the concepts of land and property rights in the
frontier West, so too will the seemingly minor discovery out of an
arcane branch of mathematics come to be the wire clippers which
dismantle the barbed wire around intellectual property.
Arise, you have nothing to lose but your barbed wire fences!
Amity Underground | Crypto-Anarchism