The Age of the Cypherpunks has Finally Come

Let’s start with an admission, I’m older than I look. Back when I was in high school there was an online group called the Cypherpunks. From Wikipedia:


Cypherpunks originated as an informal online group of people interested in privacy and cryptography who originally communicated through the cypherpunks mailing list, although there were also cypherpunk meetings and parties in real life.


The cypherpunks mailing list had extensive discussions of the public policy issues related to cryptography and on the politics and philosophy of concepts such as anonymity, pseudonyms, reputation, and privacy.

Apparently there is still an active node, but usage really peaked around 1997 or 1998; and I followed those discussions religiously. People were talking about really cool ideas around digital commerce and anything seemed possible.

Well, it looks like at least a few of those ideas have finally become a reality: Digital Cash and the Ransom Publishing Model.

Digital cash is pretty obvious, and it looks like Bitcoin is getting enough traction that we’ll at least get to see an interesting experiment play itself out. I’ve seen the potential in truly anonymous digital cash since I was in high school and I’m psyched to see people using Bitcoins.

Back in the day I worked on the Mnet Project, a distributed file share that used crypto and had come out of a micropayments file share called MojoNation.

Mojo was a digital cash currency that aimed to provide attack resistance and load balancing in a fully distributed and incentive-compatible way (see Agoric computing).

Long story short, I really wanted Mnet to become the basis for an online digital currency, but it never gained traction. But now we have Bitcoins, and I’m pretty excited to see what awesome ideas people come up with using true digital cash.

The second Cypherpunk’ish idea to gain traction is the Ransom Publishing Model, also known as the Street Performer Protocol. John Kelsey and Bruce Schneir released  a paper on this back in 1998, but people had been talking about it for a long time before that.

ABSTRACT: We introduce the Street Performer Protocol, an electronic-commerce mechanism to facilitate the private financing of public works. Using this protocol, people would place donations in escrow, to be released to an author in the event that the promised work is put in the public domain. This protocol has the potential to fund alternative or “marginal” works.

Sound familiar? Yeah, it’s Kickstarter.

I’m going to go back and revisit some of the other Cypherpunk ideas that had me really excited back then; I believe the world is finally ready for them.

If you have a Cypherpunk’ish idea whose time has come let me know, I’d love to chat about it.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *