Why We’ll Win

winA free, post-scarcity world will not be prevented by archaic systems scratching and clawing to retain their domination. We will evolve freely, unburdened by an unfortunate past. This will happen, and today I’m going to tell you why.

But more than that, I want you to understand that we deserve to win, and that the future – the world of our children, grandchildren, and so on – very much needs us to win. Our culture stands for – and supports in action – the things that make life thrive on Earth.

Let me make this point very clear:

We believe in the Golden Rule… as in actually believe in it, all the time. Our culture takes it seriously and acts like it’s the only healthy way to live.

The easiest and most gutless life is to follow the crowd. What makes the world better, on the other hand, is to live by what’s right. Making unpopular choices – developing and trading crypto, homeschooling your children, ignoring brain-locked regulators, pursuing unapproved cures, changing religions where it’s forbidden, pursuing what is disliked by the powers that be – these things require strength of character and dedication to real principles.

Regardless of our occasional stupidities and errors, our way of life clearly deserves to win.

How We’ll Win

“To change something,” said Buckminster Fuller, “build a new model and make the old obsolete.” And we’ve been building a new model considerably more than we may realize.

A new model is precisely how the personal computer came to be and how the Internet came to be. Regardless that computers and the Internet have been recaptured by the status quo, the model remains and has also spawned encryption and Bitcoin, technologies that are ephemeral and a lot harder to conquer.

Moreover, the cryptosphere is growing tremendously. When I started pursuing such things back in the 1990s, there were very few of us, and far between. Now I run into crypto advocates in grocery stores, not to mention in general business circles.

Likewise there are dozens of VPN providers these days. When we started Cryptohippie, few people outside of technical circles had any idea of what we were selling.

Furthermore, there are tens of thousands of people working to develop, improve, and spread cryptocurrencies every day, often at their own expense and with considerable uncertainty. Because they believe in them. Because they believe they’re building a better world.

Homeschooling makes another fine example. When I started my involvement, parents had recently been arrested for homeschooling in the US. We had to get busy supporting a legal defense fund. Now there are a few million homeschooled kids in the US alone, and everyone knows that homeschooling produces excellent results.

We’ll win by doing these things, followed by others like them. Little by little, step by step, planting seed after seed, we’re moving toward our goal faster than we’ve appreciated.

Once human action of these types account for enough of our activities, it’ll be almost unstoppable, and the legacy system will begin shrinking. We can expect screaming, threats, and even bloodshed from the obsolete system, but over time it will give up its operations piece by piece.

This isn’t to say that our new systems will be immaculate, but they’ll be far better than the Bronze Age relics that currently dominate mankind.

And if Not…

If, for whatever reason, we fail to continue what we’ve begun, our new civilization still wins in the end. For one thing, human evolution continues. We are notably better than we were a few thousand years ago – qualitatively better – and we’ll be still better in the future.

More immediately than that, however, the next cycling of rulership will finish the job for us. As we covered back in FMP #18, civilizations always cycle. They always have and almost certainly always will, until violence-backed hierarchy ends. When the next cycle comes along, it will do so in a rich technological environment. Because technology does not cycle. Rather, it accretes… it builds up.

So, once the present hierarchies break up and vanish for a few hundred years, tech will be free to come out and play. We’ll be free to reorganize in innovative new ways. Things simply will not be rebuilt according to the same old model. That’s how history works.

But while it’s nice to know that the insanity will pass one way or another, I think all of us would like it to be sooner rather than later. For our own sakes and certainly for those of our offspring, time is important. And so we need to believe in what we’re doing and to do it with vigor.

“The fashion of the present world,” says the Bible, “is passing away.” Let’s help it along.


Paul Rosenberg

The Discovery of Terra Nova by the Cypherpunks


Ten years ago the cypherpunks were almost entirely forgotten. But now – and quite shockingly to those of us who were involved – cypherpunks are cool again. More than that, the discoveries of the cypherpunks are starting to change the world in a serious way.

That being so, I’d like to briefly recap what the cypherpunks discovered, because what these people found was a new world… a “terra nova.”

Land Ho

Our new territory was created by a combination of the internet and encryption. The internet gave us unlimited community, and encryption became our “city walls,” allowing us to separate ourselves from the rest of the world.

The first cypherpunks, being clever lads, began using the internet and encryption because they were interesting and fun. Shortly, however, they realized that they were actually building a terra nova and were instantly confronted with a huge question: How should we arrange our new world? That cranked everything into high gear.

I didn’t know this passage from Tom Paine’s Common Sense (1776) at the time, but it captures the astonishing thought that sprang from the discovery of terra nova:

We have it in our power to begin the world over again.

The First Crypto War

Not all was sweetness and light, however. Encryption was considered a munition, and exporting it was highly illegal. But it was easy to see that public key encryption (actually key exchange, published by Diffie and Hellman in 1976) was the perfect technology for the internet… and the internet was not limited to the USA.

So, a group of the clever lads hatched a plan in 1991: They’d write a nice little encryption program and send it around the world. An anti-nuke advocate named Philip Zimmerman drove the project but everyone involved wanted to avoid the jail sentence that would come from exporting their new program. They did have one trick available to them, however: the First Amendment.

So, they took the program, called Pretty Good Privacy, or PGP, and printed it as a book. And since books are protected speech, they pushed copies of the book into envelopes and mailed them to friends in Europe. Once on the far side of the Atlantic, the books were keyed back into computers and turned back into a program… and then distributed everywhere.

Zimmerman very nearly went to jail (based upon an upload to a BBS system), but the world received strong encryption.

Encryption Plus Commerce = “Oh My…”

Once you begin exchanging encrypted messages with friends, one of the next ideas to cross your mind is, Gee, some kind of electronic currency would be really nice to go with this. (David Chaum, for example, began working on digital cash after he invented cryptographic mixes back in 1981.) And once you start imagining encrypted commerce, you quickly realize just how radical this technology can be.

One by one this thought dawned upon us all. I wasn’t among the very first to grasp it, but by the mid-1990s I was struck by it as well. In a continuing education course I conducted for Iowa State University, I wrote this:

Another huge thing in years ahead will be electronic cash for Internet commerce. Electronic cash can be transferred on-line instantly, inexpensively (almost free), and, if encrypted, privately. Think about this for a minute – it will change the world.

“The Universe Favors Encryption”

The awesome power of encryption is not something that is instantly grasped.

The quote above is from Julian Assange (also a cypherpunk), and it’s quite true. Encryption, after all, is merely applied math, and math is built into the structure of the universe.

Now, to illustrate just how strongly the universe favors encryption, please consider this:

It is roughly 2100 (2 to the 100th power) times harder to decrypt a message than it is to encrypt it (unless you have the key).

Engineers debate this number of course, but it’s clearly in that range.  Here it is precisely:


So, when people like Satoshi Nakamoto, creator of Bitcoin, talk about an arms race between cypherpunks and old-world power, don’t simply assume that the old way will win((You should also know that post-quantum encryption already exists and is being incorporated into leading edge systems.)).

Many Other Pieces

But while the cypherpunks dropped off the radar for a couple of decades, they still produced things like BitTorrent, The Onion Router network (aka Tor, or the darknet), I2P (an even better darknet), a variety of digital cash systems, privacy systems (including the first commercial VPNs), and even commercial tools like digital escrows and dispute resolution.

The big, new cypherpunk creations, however, everyone knows: WikiLeaks and Bitcoin. I’ve explained WikiLeaks before and we have a report on Bitcoin, so I’ll leave those aside for today. But suffice it to say that a cypherpunk world has been building for some time and may form much further in the years ahead.

Is That a Good Thing?

A Planet Cypherpunk would be a radically different place from our current Planet Status Quo, and that scares some people very badly.

That fear isn’t rational of course. The ancient world is very happily long gone. We live better and behave better. The rational choice, then, is to keep that progress going, and that necessarily includes change, including radical new adaptations.

Status quo systems, however, major on fear. That’s the secret ingredient that keeps their game together. And so “right-thinking” moderns have been trained to fear anything new. That’s not rational, but it makes people feel safe.

But rather than conducting a further discourse on why Planet Cypherpunk would be better than Planet Status Quo, I’ll simply leave you with the conclusion of one of the very first cypherpunk documents: Timothy C. May’s Crypto Anarchist Manifesto, published in November 1992:

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

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Paul Rosenberg