The things that actually change the world are very often kept out of view. The stronger the mainline culture, the more the things that will change it are portrayed as weird, stupid, naive, and even dangerous. And so it has certainly been with cryptoanarchy.
But however much ignored, cryptoanarchy has already changed the world and will continue to change it. It is, in fact, the future taking root.
For those who are not familiar, cryptoanarchy is the process of applying cryptography to create free space beyond the reach of those wishing to forcibly control others. (And of course, the belief that this is a good thing.) The first clear statement of cryptoanarchy was Timothy C. May’s “Crypto Anarchist Manifesto,” first written and distributed in 1988.
One of the most powerful impulses of cryptoanarchy was the same sentiment articulated by Thomas Paine during the American Revolution:
We have it in our power to begin the world over again.
That is precisely what cryptography has given to us. And my deep thanks go to those who have applied it in the world.
What Cryptoanarchy Has Done
If cryptoanarchy is really about creating the world anew using cryptography as a primary tool, then we’d expect to see improvements from it, 30 years on from its first mention… even if it did begin in an isolated and disregarded corner of the world. And it so happens that we do see such improvements. Cryptoanarchy, to be blunt about it, has kept the world out of a deep and dark abyss.
Cryptoanarchy brought encryption to the world in a time when the darkest dreams of both Orwell and Huxley were given an open door to their full expression. 24/7 fear delivery systems (aka news channels and Facebook), unimaginable surveillance technology, and a perfect storm of authority and obedience((See FMP #40 for an explanation.)) gave violence-and-control freaks a once-in-several-millennia opportunity.
And so, let’s consider a modern world without cryptoanarchy:
There would be no effective encryption. It was cryptoanarchists who broke the US embargo on encryption (at grave risk) and gave it to the world.
There would be no VPNs. Virtual private networks (VPNs) use encryption to create private space insulated from the view of others. That is cryptoanarchy. And I can tell you that the first commercial VPN was operated by one of Cryptohippie’s predecessor companies, and it was definitely a cryptoanarchy-directed operation.
There would have been no WikiLeaks, and we’d have remained entirely ignorant of all the abuses of power it’s exposed.
Edward Snowden couldn’t have revealed anything without strong encryption to protect his work. And he’d likely not have survived if he had tried.
A large number of journalists would have never run meaningful stories. At best, they would have been stopped or imprisoned before they did.
There would be no darknet: No Tor or I2P or Freenet. There would be no free internet markets or chat rooms.
There would be no safe communication for dissidents. At any time.
There would be no Bitcoin and no cryptocurrencies of any kind. There would be no distributed ledgers or blockchains and no base for decentralized organization.
In short, without cryptoanarchy, the controller class of the world would be running wild, doing things that no Caesar, no emperor, and no pharaoh ever dreamed. Imagine a sole superpower fully unchained, with all the power of the NSA, DHS, CIA, and FBI and all the cameras of London at their disposal. That’s the world without cryptoanarchy.
We’re still swimming upstream, but cryptocurrencies seem to have carried us through some kind of barrier to where cryptoanarchy is visible. And that’s a very promising thing. In fact, those young people who are a bit healthier than their fellows have been steadily gravitating toward it. Already, there are perhaps a hundred thousand people who wake up every day wanting to do something magnificent with crypto.
And as before, we have three primary factors in our favor:
The universe favors encryption. I’ll leave off the explanation today, but this will remain true for as long as math exists.
We hold the moral high ground. Cryptoanarchists believe in the Golden Rule… as in actually believe in it. We believe in “live and let live.” We are evangelists for “all that is peaceful and voluntary.” Contrast that with a mainline culture that survives only upon never-ending fear and mindless obedience.
What we need now is simply to continue. We need to follow each new innovation with two more, building piece upon piece, helping each other, encouraging each other, and loving each other. By doing this, we build a better world.
That is cryptoanarchy.
And, I hasten to add, it’s also the life of high adventure.
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The novel that helped put the crypto revolution into high gear.
Comments from readers:
“Of the twenty five or so people I worked with last fall, all of them revered A Lodging of Wayfaring Men as a bible. They referred to the house and their community effort as a Lodge. We all felt it was modeled on the Free Souls.”
“Actually, I am somewhat at a loss as to how I might explain how I feel about this book other than to say what a great mind to write such an awesome story!”
“I’m an Old guy and find that Rosenberg has captured many Real-World truths in this novel. I wish the Millennial Generation would read this novel and consider the concepts and rationale presented here.”
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