Cypherpunks 101, Ep.2
Encryption As A Way To Re-Establish Privacy and Autonomy
In our previous entry we introduced the cypherpunk movement, its vision, mission, and underlying principles. In this post we are going to delve into the central role that encryption plays in the cypherpunks’ philosophy as well as how realizing a truly open Web will fundamentally lead to a greater individual freedom and sovereignty.
Encryption And The Financial System
Crypto-anarchism is a movement that uses encryption to allow users to exist online anonymously. It strives to free private data from institutional surveillance. “Encryption” is the method of storing and transmitting data in a particular form so that only those for whom it is intended can read and process it. While encryption can be highly beneficial for individual users, it is often interpreted as a threat to governments and related agencies, who have a vested interest in monitoring communications as well as economic transactions.
At root, the value proposition of encryption is closely related to the structure of the modern financial system and the relationship between governments and financial service providers. While this relationship has evolved over time, the financial crisis of 2007–2008 illustrated the excessive confidence in existing markets’ efficiency by a number of centralized and ‘too-big-to-fail’ institutions. In the context of the crisis, major banks lent huge volumes of money to one another, while average citizens remained at the mercy of these institutions for accessing, handling and transaction value. As a result of this system, many countries continue to experience the consequences of the — 14 years and running — monetary policy failure.
Austerity, huge debts, increased unemployment and overall political instability beg the question: What can we learn about the role of the State from this? To save the economy from failure, governments around the globe have (and continue to) pump billions of dollars into the financial system to rescue national banks. This expansive fiscal policy does not offer a long-term solution to the fundamentally degraded fiscal policy of Central Banks. That is not to say that the government interventions were completely useless, but rather that our (economic) reality today is too complex to be controlled by money alone.
Crypto-anarchism highlights the weaknesses of the current economies when it comes to absorbing shocks and the inability of the states to come up with effective and sustainable solutions. Crypto-anarchism seeks to build an alternative reality where citizens can redefine their economical interactions, strive towards socio-egalitarianism and potentially achieve greater agency.
Realizing The Open Web For A Freer Society
For years cypherpunks and crypto-anarchists have warned us about the dangers of an overtly centralised state apparatus. They have opposed the status quo by developing the technological means to escape surveillance and engaged in overt resistance to state oppression. Their work has been impactful, while, nevertheless, surveillance capitalism continues to thrive at the expense of people’s freedom and agency. In this context, the adoption of a technology that prevents tech giants and the state alike from holding a disproportionate amount of power and information over people becomes crucial in order to safeguard fundamental freedoms, rights and human dignity.
The Open Web, and its core underlying technology, have the capacity to ground a pathway towards a society where privacy, freedom, and transparency are provided to its citizens. It is therefore crucial that its development is followed, and encouraged.
The development of privacy enhancing technologies, however, should go hand in hand with raising awareness of the importance of privacy. The implications of corporate and government access to personal data is still not fully understood, as the mainstream narrative surrounding privacy belittles the importance of user’s control over their information.
The fight for privacy and freedom is not only fought at a technological level but also at an intellectual level. Combatting mainstream narratives that portray privacy as a danger to society need to be resisted and dismantled with the help of logic and common sense. If technology will enable us to create new possibilities it is only words and reason that will allow us to use it for human and freedom enhancing purposes.
About Cypherpunk Guild
The Cypherpunk Guild is a group of privacy-minded developers, marketers, and entrepreneurs, jointly collaborating to pioneer a future built around private transactions on NEAR Protocol and the larger crypto-verse. Led by two second-generation Cypherpunks, the Cypherpunk Guild supports the development of private applications on the Open Web, as a means of safeguarding user privacy and freedom.
Written by La Devochka