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Thoughts on Posting to the List
The topic of secrecy in development of various cypherpunk pet projects
has been raised peripherally before by G. Toal and [email protected]
(Nick Szabo) brings it up explicitly:
>There are several business proposals floating around the cypherpunks
>community that would require commercial licenses. I encourage the
>various crypto-entrepreneurs elaborate if they wish.
>Some of the proposals are quite interesting and illuminating.
>There's a strong habit of keeping business ideas "trade secret",
>which can be a bad idea, [...]
I'd like to motivate anyone developing various projects to be candid in
describing their development. After all, there is enough room in areas
such as Digital Cash for the entire population. In publicizing your
efforts, you can unite with others who are developing similar ideas and
can point out weaknesses in approaches that may cost you dearly to
In fact, to be secretive about the development of critical projects is
extremely counterproductive from the point of view of the overall
movement. Only the NSA believes that it can (1) keep important
technology under wraps, (2) gain the upper hand in doing so.
To a large degree, this petty secrecy is probably inherent to the
Cypherpunk personality, one of those nagging glitches in the group
psyche that is continually tripping up true progress and prompting the
recent introspective meanderings about Cypherpunks Stalled.
However, in volunteering information about projects, I also recommend
that the author develop a thick skin and not be dissuaded by any
negative comments that attack the whole foundation of the proposal as
misguided. It is better to have written a program and toss it aside
than to have never written one at all.
Now, along totally opposite lines of *discouraging* postings to anyone
proposing digital cash ideas (or cryptographic ones in general) --
please, read at least *one* article on the subject in a magazine before
coming up with your own Digital Cash Scheme Supreme, which may look
rather naive and simpleminded in retrospect of further focused, serious
consideration. Minor criticisms aside, over almost a decade Chaum has
done an *excellent* job of putting together very solid and ingenious
systems, and in both articulating and accomplishing the critical goals
at stake. In fact, in reading his descriptions, one often has that
inescapable satisfaction that goes along with all great research and
discoveries, the vague feeling along the lines of `I wouldn't have
thought of that, but now that you point it out, it's obviously critical
In particular, the two survey articles mentioned by H. Finney bear
repeating: Scientific American, Aug 1992 p. 96, and Communications of
the ACM, October 1985, p.1030. The first is a rather `user friendly'
introduction that goes some detail on the `representative-observer'
relationship and the basics of blinding. The latter describes in much
more detail his three-tiered system for what might be called `social
privacy' (hinting at but still lacking most of the mathematics): dining
cryptographers protocol creating totally secure anonymity in
communication, the digital cash transaction that guarantees total
anonymity, and the idea of institutions granting `credentials' to allow
a person to develop and maintain reputations completely pseudonymously.
This is all very epochal work, perhaps only exceeded in importance by
public key cryptography in influencing vast new social and