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Re: Virtual assasins and lethal remailers

Rishab Aiyer Ghosh writes:

>You mean the assasin will actually have to use a {gun/knife/CIA anti-beard
>poison} and be _physically_ near the victim?
>Ah well, then the police just got to find the fingerprints and all the usual
>things, right? What's cyberspace got to do with it?

The point, of course, is that there is no risk to the person *placing* the
contract.  The assassin, as you say, has all the usual risks.

>I believe that if you try to criminalize conspiracy, than you risk mass
>invasions of privacy. Conspiring is just exercising freedom of opinion and
>expression - the crime, as always even in the days of Caesar, is in the act,
>not the preparation.  And the act is always quite physical, well out of the
>bounds of cyberspace and the Thought Police.

This is oversimplistic.  Paying someone else to commit a crime for you is a
crime.  It is in fact possible to pay someone to commit a crime for you in
a completely "non-physical" sense, using anonymous remailers, public key
encryption, public bulletin boards, and untraceable digital cash.

In the past, it has always been a principle of social dynamics that actions
can be eventually traced back to some kind of "source", or responsible
parties.  Throughout history, the people committing "crimes" have tried to
make this connection harder and harder to trace, so that they cannot be
tied to the physical agents they use to commit those "crimes".  They have
been successful to varying degrees, but the assumption of law enforcement
and the mechanisms of social justice have been that ultimately these
connections are traceable.  The responsible parties can be located.  This
is at the heart of the notion of "criminal investigation".

Strong crypto *fundamentally* changes this.  If all the tools of crypto
anarchy are in place, the causal link between person instigating a social
action, and the agent completing the social action, becomes *absolutely*
untraceable.  The notion of criminal investigation cannot apply in any
sense.  The "arms and legs" that perform specific physical actions can of
course still be located, but the critical component which organizes and
directs such actions can in fact be completely secure.

Thus strong crypto introduces the potential for a new kind of "social
organism".  The arms and legs, or physical processes of this organism are
visible to society and can be targeted for social or interpersonal
reprisal.  However, the central control for these physical processes can be
absolutely anonymous and untraceable, inviolable -- while the physical
processes associated with this central control can come and go with
complete fluidity.

By the way, let me emphasize once again that I am NOT advocating that we
criminalize any of the tools of strong crypto.  I AM advocating that people
carefully consider the social dynamics of the use of strong crypto.  I
believe that a society with access to strong crypto may fall into any one
of a number of various long-term stable patterns.  It is not a matter of
simply discussing and developing the tools themselves... we should consider
how to achieve desirable long-term stable social dynamics in the presence
of strong crypto.  This requires carefully considering sequences of
introduction of various strong crypto tools into society, and predicting
the reactions of society as these tools are introduced.


Doug Cutrell                    General Partner
[email protected]               Open Mind, Santa Cruz