[ExI] reason on tim may
spike at rainier66.com
spike at rainier66.com
Mon Dec 17 22:17:20 UTC 2018
I never realized Tm May was such a big deal. Through making his online
acquaintance, I knew he was a really smart guy, very insightful. This is
Reason's write up. I see a lot of the old time ExI crowd in there, such as
Wei Dei. What the heck ever happened to him? Anyone here friends with Dei?
Please have him drop us a note and say hello to old friends.
> Tim May, Father of 'Crypto Anarchy,' Is Dead at 67
The Cypherpunk co-founder was a major influence on both bitcoin and
<https://reason.com/people/jim-epstein/all> Jim Epstein|Dec. 16, 2018 11:31
* Jim EpsteinTim May, co-founder of the influential Cypherpunks mailing
list and a significant influence on both bitcoin and WikiLeaks, passed away
last week at his home in Corralitos, California. The news was announced
Saturday on a
post written by his friend Lucky Green.
In his influential 1988 essay, "
may-crypto-manifesto.html> The Crypto Anarchist Manifesto," May predicted
that advances in computer technology would eventually allow "individuals and
groups to communicate and interact with each other" anonymously and without
government intrusion. "These developments will alter completely the nature
of government regulation [and] the ability to tax and control economic
interactions," he wrote.
A deeply private person, May's aversion to outside intrusions defined his
philosophical outlook. "'Leave me alone,'" he wrote, is "at the root of
libertarianism more so than formal theories about the nature of man."
"My political philosophy is keep your hands off my stuff....Out of my files,
out of my office, off what I eat, drink, and smoke," he once
journalist Andy Greenberg.
Born in 1951, May grew up in in a suburb of San Diego before his family
moved to Washington, D.C., when his father, a naval officer, was transferred
there. At the age of 12, he joined a local gun club at the urging of his
father and would become a lifelong collector. May was a loner, a science
prodigy, and a voracious consumer of science fiction. In the summer of 1967,
when entering his junior year in high school, he picked up a copy of Ayn
Shrugged. "It just spoke to me," he said in a 2017 unpublished video
interview with Reason, which is being incorporated into a documentary. "I
read it nonstop for three days, and to the disdain of my teachers in school,
I would write articles about the Anti-Trust Act and the evils of the Sherman
May went to college at U.C.-Santa Barbara, took graduate physics classes,
and got a job at Intel. He solved a crucial issue plaguing the functioning
of memory chips, publishing his findings in a
<https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/1479948> 1979 paper, and then retired
in 1986 at the age of 34, cashing in his stock options. He would never have
to work again.
In 1987, May's friend Chip Morningstar introduced him to the economist and
entrepreneur Phil Salin-a meeting that would lead May to formulate the
concept of crypto anarchy.
Salin was building the American Information Exchange, or AMiX, the first
online marketplace for buying and selling information. "It was clear he was
a strong libertarian of the Hayek sort," May recalled. "We all shared the
same views." But Salin's vision of an e-commerce platform that would reduce
transaction costs, facilitate cross-border trade, and make localized
expertise more widely available didn't resonate with May's anarchism.
"People aren't going to be selling meaningless stuff like surfboard
recommendations," he told Salin. May recalled suggesting that instead it
could serve as "a high-tech version of Bradley Manning or Edward Snowden,"
paraphrasing himself.* "Or someone who can exfiltrate bomber plans for that
B-1 Bomber." May later <http://www.ussrback.com/crypto/misc/blacknet.html>
fleshed out his idea, calling "BlackNet," where "nation-states, export laws,
patent laws, national security considerations and the like [are considered]
relics of the pre-cyberspace era."
He also perceived a crucial flaw: BlackNet couldn't function without a
non-governmental digital currency. "I admitted to Phil the big problem was
untraceable payments," he recalled. "They can be tracked when they send
their Visa information." The next day, May dug up a copy of the October 1985
copy of Communications of the ACM featuring a cover story by cryptographer
David Chaum, titled "
Without Identification: Transaction Systems to Make Big Brother Obsolete."
"It was an epiphany," May recalled. "It was like standing on top of the
mountain and seeing that this is out there."
Chaum's work applied the tools of cryptography-mathematical techniques for
sending secret messages-to real-world problems. His 1985 article sketched
out a new digital currency system that used cryptography to hide a
purchaser's identity. May saw Chaum's scheme as deeply flawed, but came away
convinced that a decentralized, non-governmental digital money system was
possible. Chaum's work also led him to focus on the political implications
of public-key cryptography, a system first described in a
<https://ee.stanford.edu/~hellman/publications/24.pdf> 1976 paper that
allowed perfect strangers to exchange secret messages and establish
provable, pseudonymous identities.
May became convinced that public-key cryptography combined with networked
computing would break apart social power structures. It would create a
virtual space that May compared to "Galt's Gulch," the fictional Colorado
community in Atlas Shrugged where Rand's heroes go to escape government
intrusion and establish a capitalist paradise.
In September of 1988, May sat down at his Macintosh Plus "for an hour and a
half" to bang out an essay loosely patterned after The Communist Manifesto.
He titled it "
may-crypto-manifesto.html> The Crypto Anarchist Manifesto." Running 497
words, it was his most influential piece of writing.
"Just as the technology of printing altered and reduced the power of
medieval guilds and the social power structure," he wrote, "so too will
cryptologic methods fundamentally alter the nature of corporations and of
government interference in economic transactions."
In September 1992, May and his friends Eric Hughes and Hugh Daniel came up
with the idea of setting up an online mailing list to discuss their ideas.
Within a few days of its launch, a hundred people had signed up for the
Cypherpunks mailing list. (The group's name was coined by Hughes' girlfriend
as a play on the "cyberpunk" genre of fiction.) By 1997, it
<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cypherpunk#cite_note-:0-2> averaged 30
messages daily with about 2,000 subscribers. May was its
May and Hughes, along with free speech activist John Gilmore, wore masks on
the cover of the second issue of Wiredmagazine accompanying a profile by
journalist <https://www.wired.com/1993/02/crypto-rebels/> Steven Levy, who
described the Cypherpunks as "more a gathering of those who share a
predilection for codes, a passion for privacy, and the gumption to do
something about it."
WiredThe Cypherpunks list, which dissolved shortly after September 11, 2001
("a lot of people got cold feet about talking about this stuff"), was deeply
influential at a time when the U.S. government was fighting to keep
public-key cryptography out of the hands of the public. WikiLeaks founder
Julian Assange was an active reader and participant on the list,
contributing his first posts in 1995 under the name "Proff."
Assange's 2012 book
Cypherpunks: Freedom and the Future of the Internet restated May's theory in
grandiose terms, describing how "a strange property of the physical universe
that we live in" (cryptography) made it possible to create "new lands barred
to those who control physical reality."
Did bitcoin's pseudonymous creator, Satoshi Nakamoto, contribute to the
Cypherpunks list under a different name? There's no way of knowing, but the
core components of his invention incubated in its voluminous, technical
correspondence. From the outset of their project, May and his fellow
travelers were focused on creating an internet-based cryptographic currency
shielded from government interference-completing the technical challenge
Chaum had only begun to solve.
The British cryptographer Adam Back
<http://www.hashcash.org/papers/announce.txt> first proposed HashCash on the
list, a system for creating digital scarcity (known as "proof of work") that
was later cited in Nakamoto's white paper. Nick Szabo-the creator of "Bit
Gold," who coined the phrase "smart contracts"-discussed his ideas on the
list. Wei Dai, who Nakamoto contacted while formulating bitcoin,
5d6d68797c6a3b94a25e355e561a2b8636b6b1f53bd577802fb4/> proposed his digital
cash system, "b-money," on the list, citing May as a major influence.
Another major contributor was computer scientist Hal Finney, who died in
2014. Finney came up with the idea of using Back's technology to create an
e-money; along with, Nakamoto he was the most important figure in bitcoin's
May himself brought the attention of his fellow cypherpunks to a
<https://www.anf.es/pdf/Haber_Stornetta.pdf> digital timestamping system
developed by Stuart Haber and W. Scott Stornetta, a primitive version of
what would become known as a blockchain. "I can see these connections that
are not fully formed," May recalled. "I can just tell something is going to
After the Cypherpunks list dissolved, May's influence faded-until Nakamoto's
2008 bombshell. Bitcoin and cryptocurrency spawned a new generation of
techno-libertarians self-identifying as Cypherpunks. May's writings started
recirculating, and the movement found a new home: Parallel Polis, a
three-story building in Prague, home to the
<https://paralelnapolis.sk/institute-of-cryptoanarchy/> Institute of
Cryptoanarchy, which puts on an annual <https://neworder.hcpp.cz/#about>
Hacker's Conference to advance the ideas of May and his fellow travelers.
May recently expressed disgust with the current state of the cryptocurrency
community, citing its overpriced conferences and the advent of "bitcoin
exchanges that have draconian rules about KYC, AML, passports, freezes on
accounts and laws about reporting 'suspicious activity' to the local secret
"I think Satoshi would barf," he told
bo-crypto> CoinDesk in his last published interview. In my last exchange
with May in November, he told me that he was done granting interviews with
reporters, feeling burned out on the space. He preferred to spend his time
playing with his new MIDI keyboard.
Did May's prediction of crypto anarchy turn out wrong, or is it too early to
tell? In 2017, he was optimistic that many of the changes he foresaw in the
late 1980s were beginning to take shape, speaking of a fork in the road-the
world was moving toward either Leviathan or an "anarchic-type system." There
would be no in-between.
More recently, he quoted the epitaph found on Ancient Roman gravestones: "I
was not. I was. I am not. I don't care."
Rest in peace, Tim May.
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