[extropy-chat] Cypherpunk Dreams, was Re: Rapid prototyping makes police state more likely

Eugen Leitl eugen at leitl.org
Thu Sep 28 16:50:40 UTC 2006

On Tue, Sep 26, 2006 at 06:43:49PM +0000, Jay Dugger wrote:

> > I don't think this is going to happen. Our cypherpunk dreams never
> > materialized. Anything involving threats at the physical layer will
> > cause societies to go into armadillo mode. Kiss your residual freedoms
> > good-bye then.
> Why do you suppose our "cypherpunk dreams never materialized," and

There are many reasons, some more important than the others.
It takes a critical mass for interoperability, and most users
never cared (in fact, most even never knew and are still naive).
Alternatively, the activists never realized how weird they
really were. The infrastructure itself was never developed. 
Some designs appeared close (MojoNation, MNet, a few others) but 
nothing with all the required facets emerged. On the political 
side the IP lobby and professional manipulators managed to pass 
a number of laws and influence the public opinion using the
usual apocalyptic riders (in some cases, such as the AP 
crackdown, even statuated harsh examples for deterrence). 
Also, anonymity (reasonably simple to implement) invites abuse. 
I was on the phone with a police officer just today actually, 
who was investigating a case of online fraud involving Tor, and
you might or might not have heard about the recent Tor server
seizure in Germany (mine was spared), and actually abuse and 
borderline illegal acitivities dominate the current network. 
I'm hoping the current privacy witch hunt will encourage more 
people to protect themselves, but of course the situation could 
result just as well with activists ending up impaled on the stake 
themselves. CCC claimed we lost the war, but not quite yet. 
It will be certainly not worthwhile to stay on fascist networks 
legally, that's for certain. Otoh, intelligence is not 
corellated with risk-taking, so the new networks won't be
anything like the old. A really disruptive approach would
be a completely unregulated low-cost Iridium launched by
a rogue billionaire, but of course you can still penalize
end-user devices, unless fabbing is low-threshold that
black market is impossible to eradicate. See, we're weird.
Never going to happen.

> exactly what hopes does that phrase express? I have my own answers for

The original idea involved a lightweight digital currency infrastructure,
which was supposed to obsolete national currencies, the network becoming
the global, unregulated, realtime marketplace. Another facet was a distributed
cryptographic filestore allowing uncensorable communication and publishing,
allowing both one-time and persistent nyms and supporting prestige accounting.
This has turned out far more challenging than anticipated, even 
ignoring the issues of user base criticality (bootstrap). I'm still hoping
we'll be getting a case of severe abuse and subsequent backlash, but 
these chances are arguably thin. The metal chutes of the slaughterhouse
are steep, and slickened in blood.

The hope was that the network would become the last unregulated
frontier (lacking access to space), which humanity so desperately
needs in order to progress. It was so highly frustrating to
talk to scientific publishing professionals in mid-90s about
the fundamental change in scientific publishing that cheap
computers and networks where about to unleash. Of course it was
precisely the establishment that had the least interest in
novelty, and the most to lose from the lumpenscientist threat.
As budgets plummet, and the old fogeys (literally) die out,
this is slowly starting to change. At least open source still 
has got a reasonably good press, for time being, so we're
not completely screwed. But, this is a fight for somebody

> this, but yours interest me. I also think they'd generally interest
> the list.

I'm not sure. Tim May is just a troll on the Usenet.

Eugen* Leitl <a href="http://leitl.org">leitl</a> http://leitl.org
ICBM: 48.07100, 11.36820            http://www.ativel.com
8B29F6BE: 099D 78BA 2FD3 B014 B08A  7779 75B0 2443 8B29 F6BE
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