Anarchy Legacy

A Crypto Anarchist’s Legacy

Airfoil Dec 20, 2018

Timothy May on the cover of the second issue of Wired magazine with 2 fellow cypherpunks

Sadly, this past week we lost an icon that helped to spur the cypherpunk movement. Timothy May, who wrote The Crypto Anarchist Manifesto in 1988, lauched a movement that is still very prominent today.

For the uninitiated, a Crypto-Anarchist focuses on subverting the current laws and using new technologies to the benefit of the common man.

In the original manifesto, May says crypto-anarchy focuses on “encryption, digital money, anonymous networks, digital pseudonyms, zero-knowledge, reputations, information markets, black markets, collapse of governments”.

The manifesto was written just before the first crypto wars began during the early 1990’s.

The governments of the world fiercely opposed the general public using cryptographic encryption protocols.

The idea that a normal citizen could completely hide what they say in an electronic message was their biggest concern.

The governments cited national security as a concern (We’ve heard this excuse used many times before).

Tim May was embroiled in the center of this alongside his group of fellow cypherpunks.

RSA Security, a leading computer securty company founded by world-renowned cryptologists, created this poster against a hardware chip that used a US-government supplied encryption standard

The legislation of the anti-encryption laws would also affect payment processing technology. There was a large push back from tech companies that would have to deal with these issues first-hand.

The crypto wars of the 1990’s ended with the concession from the government that encryption was readily available around the world.

The public had won their first bout against the government surveillance state. Alongside the public, you had the cypherpunks and large tech companies that were all fighting a common threat.

There was not much of an issue in terms of encryption for quite a few more years.

Every few years afterward, the idea of backdoors into encryption schemes were brought up but nothing ever came about these new ideations.

The Crypto Wars Redux

The expansion of computational power and development of more efficient processing equipment closed the gap as to who can gain access to encryption software.

The widespread availabilty of software/hardware that can perform these cryptographic calculations involved in encryption and the ease of use has made it possible for the layman to encrypt their own personal messages, video calls,emails, and notes.

Encrypting an email with someone who has never imported a key to their keyring, or generated their own PGP public/private key pair is a thing of the past.

Many of the services that exist today offer these solutions out of the box. The process has become much easier for all parties involved.

Anyone that is now using this technology benefits from this on a privacy and security level.

With all parties benefitting, the leviathan rears its head once more. Australia has passed an anti-encryption bill that will force large tech companies to allow the Australian government to obtain hardware access(citing national security as a major reason).

Outrage has spilled out of the larger tech companies. The end-to-end zero knowledge messaging/calling app, Signal, has taken a stand against this bill.

This sounds very similar to the issues Tim May was battling with during the early days of the First Crypto War.

The cypherpunks came out on top and I’m sure this legislation will face a similar fate.

May’s Impact on the World

The imprint that Timothy May left on the world is profound. The mass adoption of encryption as well as cryptocurrencies shows just how far ahead of the times he was.

May urged the importance of privacy.

He insisted on the use of encryption to keep your communications private.

Currently on a majority of mobile phones there are applications that provide encrypted communications. Whatsapp uses the Signal protocol which was developed by cypherpunk Moxie Marlinspike.

The rise of cryptocurrencies is an ideal that May was very hopeful for.

May did come out against the anti-privacy issues of bitcoin.

There are projects that offer solutions for this privacy debate.

Much of the developer-base of these certain cryptocurrencies have their foundation based in the cypherpunk tradition.

The Cryptocurrencies that aim for a privacy by default mechanism are monero and the soon to launch GRIN which uses the Mimblewimble Protocol (To see an extremely entertaining introduction to the GRIN project via talk-to-text chat for privacy preservation, listen to the creator of Grin).

Zcash is moving in the direction of private by default and the superior cryptography of the ZK range proofs will help to create a very private cryptocurrency.

Cody WIlson and Amir Taaki who worked on projects focused on the crypto-anarchic tradition including Dark Wallet and Defense Distributed

The impact Tim May made on the world by helping to create a social movement shows the importance and strength of his ideals.

He has impacted a generation of people that are growing up in the digital age.

He influenced builders in the 21st century.

You have people creating new currencies, exposing government surveillance on a national scale, circumventing the broken bueracratic system by creating their own markets, anonymous internet protocols, as well as making encryption applicable to the common man (You can find a list of prominent cypherpunks here and also here).

There isn’t enough that can be said about the applications in which he believed could positively affect us.

May was cognizant of the encroaching all-seeing eye of the state but I believe we are in much better shape now than we’ve ever been.

There may be negative news about what we currently face as individuals, from the unprecedented surveillance of the Snowden leaks to the aforementioned Australian anti-encryption bill, but looking at the grand scheme of our daily lives, these tools and their functions have helped to create a much better day than May could have imagined in 1988.

He was a proponent for the industriousness of human nature to outpace the slow moving regulation that would try to bog down any progress.

You can listen here to what he thought people/creators should do when they develop ground breaking technology.

Arise, you have nothing to lose but your barbed wire fences!

Timothy C. May – “The Crypto Anarchist Manifesto”

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Cypherpunk’s Manifesto

A Cypherpunk’s Manifesto

by Eric Hughes

” Privacy is necessary for an open society in the electronic age.

Privacy is not secrecy.

A private matter is something one doesn’t want the whole world to know, but a secret matter is something one doesn’t want anybody to know.

Privacy is the power to selectively reveal oneself to the world.

If two parties have some sort of dealings, then each has a memory of their interaction.

Each party can speak about their own memory of this; how could anyone prevent it?

One could pass laws against it, but the freedom of speech, even more than privacy, is fundamental to an open society; we seek not to restrict any speech at all.

If many parties speak together in the same forum, each can speak to all the others and aggregate together knowledge about individuals and other parties.

The power of electronic communications has enabled such group speech, and it will not go away merely because we might want it to.

Since we desire privacy, we must ensure that each party to a transaction have knowledge only of that which is directly necessary for that transaction.

Since any information can be spoken of, we must ensure that we reveal as little as possible.

In most cases personal identity is not salient. When I purchase a magazine at a store and hand cash to the clerk, there is no need to know who I am.

When I ask my electronic mail provider to send and receive messages, my provider need not know to whom I am speaking or what I am saying or what others are saying to me; my provider only need know how to get the message there and how much I owe them in fees.

When my identity is revealed by the underlying mechanism of the transaction, I have no privacy. I cannot here selectively reveal myself; I must always reveal myself.

Therefore, privacy in an open society requires anonymous transaction systems.

Until now, cash has been the primary such system.

An anonymous transaction system is not a secret transaction system.

An anonymous system empowers individuals to reveal their identity when desired and only when desired; this is the essence of privacy.

Privacy in an open society also requires cryptography.

If I say something, I want it heard only by those for whom I intend it.

If the content of my speech is available to the world, I have no privacy.

To encrypt is to indicate the desire for privacy, and to encrypt with weak cryptography is to indicate not too much desire for privacy.

Furthermore, to reveal one’s identity with assurance when the default is anonymity requires the cryptographic signature.

We cannot expect governments, corporations, or other large, faceless organizations to grant us privacy out of their beneficence.

It is to their advantage to speak of us, and we should expect that they will speak.

To try to prevent their speech is to fight against the realities of information.

Information does not just want to be free, it longs to be free.

Information expands to fill the available storage space.

Information is Rumor’s younger, stronger cousin;

Information is fleeter of foot, has more eyes, knows more, and understands less than Rumor.

We must defend our own privacy if we expect to have any.

We must come together and create systems which allow anonymous transactions to take place.

People have been defending their own privacy for centuries with whispers, darkness, envelopes, closed doors, secret handshakes, and couriers.

The technologies of the past did not allow for strong privacy, but electronic technologies do.

We the Cypherpunks are dedicated to building anonymous systems.

We are defending our privacy with cryptography, with anonymous mail forwarding systems, with digital signatures, and with electronic money.

Cypherpunks write code.

We know that someone has to write software to defend privacy, and since we can’t get privacy unless we all do, we’re going to write it.

We publish our code so that our fellow Cypherpunks may practice and play with it. Our code is free for all to use, worldwide.

We don’t much care if you don’t approve of the software we write.

We know that software can’t be destroyed and that a widely dispersed system can’t be shut down.

Cypherpunks deplore regulations on cryptography, for encryption is fundamentally a private act.

The act of encryption, in fact, removes information from the public realm.

Even laws against cryptography reach only so far as a nation’s border and the arm of its violence.

Cryptography will ineluctably spread over the whole globe, and with it the anonymous transactions systems that it makes possible.

For privacy to be widespread it must be part of a social contract.

People must come and together deploy these systems for the common good. Privacy only extends so far as the cooperation of one’s fellows in society.

We the Cypherpunks seek your questions and your concerns and hope we may engage you so that we do not deceive ourselves.

We will not, however, be moved out of our course because some may disagree with our goals.

The Cypherpunks are actively engaged in making the networks safer for privacy. Let us proceed together apace.

Onward.

Eric Hughes

 <hughes@soda.berkeley.edu>

9 March 1993

☆ Long Live the CypherPunks ☆

The world is in debt for your bright minds, even if it doesn’t know…

It’s minds like yours that always have changed the face of the earth for a better brighter future !

KUDOS TO YOU ALL !!!

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