Crypto anarchy? It’s a phrase I sometimes come across, but what actually does it mean? And why should we care? On a simple level, it’s a potential future of the human race. And that’s an interesting idea that I thought should be unpacked on my blog: given some digital air to breathe.
Defining crypto anarchy
If this is a new term to you, you may think that the idea behind crypto-anarchy is similar to political anarchy.
This conflation is not accurate. Political anarchy has a basis in aggression whereas crypto anarchy has no hint of aggression. It aims for peaceful application of certain principles in the blockchain and crypto realms.
Crypto anarchy has nothing to do with politics and nothing to do with the overthrowing of the current world order.
The main idea rests on the belief that blockchain technology offers advanced cryptographic options: the only solution available to date that can protect individual freedom and privacy on the Web.
The origins of crypto anarchy
The creator of the idea of crypto anarchy is Tim May. He was an American writer, electronic engineer and senior scientist at Intel in its early days.
Tim’s “Crypto Anarchist Manifesto” dates back to mid-1988 and was distributed to like-minded techno-anarchists at the “Crypto ’88”. Then again at the “Hackers Conference” that year.
It’s a prophetic speech that illuminates the very early growth of the crypto world we are seeing. It goes like this:
A specter is haunting the modern world, the specter of crypto anarchy.
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 full Crypto Anarchist Manifesto can be read here and is well worth five minutes out of your day.
For me, the crypto future is an exhilarating landscape one in which the state and crypto anarchy co-exist. Crypto anarchy is non-aggressive, but that doesn’t mean the state and global actors will allow the transition to be a smooth one. But in those great words, ‘arise, you have nothing to lose but your barbed wire fences!’
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