[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]


                         SANDY SANDFORT
 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


Doug Cutrell offered some well thought out speculations on the
social consequences of "crypto anarchy" in an essay he just
posted to the list.  I would like to respond to a few of his
comments.  Doug wrote:

    ... it is imperative that cypherpunks,... consider
    carefully what social impact these changes may have....
    cypherpunks should examine ways to influence the
    deployment and patterns of use of strong crypto tools in
    society, and not merely consider the construction of the
    tools alone....

With all due respect, I think this has already been done by most
Cypherpunks.  We have looked at societal trends, seen problems,
posited strong crypto as the solution to some of those problems
and examined the consequences of strong crypto solutions.  No one
is writing code just to write code.  The Cypherpunks list has
always been ideologically driven.  Though Cypherpunks cover the
political spectrum, they have put aside sectarian differences to
work towards the narrow ideology of personal privacy.  At the
same time, we have always thought about crypto "side effects."

    ... man is a social animal.  We are evolved to survive
    through cooperative interactions with each other....
    There are universal properties of interaction which
    create the social body in these species, and in all
    human societies throughout history.  These properties
    depend fundamentally on the publicly visible nature of
    most social interactions....

Well, here I must disagree.  While there is no disputing that man
is a social animal, I find the last claim untenable.  There are
numerous historical forms of cooperative interaction that do not
depend--"fundamentally" or otherwise--on a "publicly visible"
interaction (e.g., postal mediated relationships, private clubs
and other private relationships and most aspects of the market).

    Individual social animals exist in a relationship to the
    social body deriving from the visibility of their
    actions to others. This *defines* individuality....

While this is an interesting concept of individuality, it doesn't
jive with any definition I've ever heard.  If you were the only
person on the planet, you would be just as much an "individual"
(perhaps MORE so) than you are with 5.5 billion other folks
blocking your view of the parade.

    ... Strong crypto -- the tools of crypto anarchy --
    represents a break in these primal functions upon which
    the social body is based.... it is not only a first for
    human societies, but a first for all of biological
    evolution.... nodes -- "individuals" --  may appear and
    disappear over extremely short time periods, as
    anonymous identities come and go.  All nodes may have
    any number of unknowable links, or links which are
    unknowable by arbitrarily large sections of the net.
    Links may have new properties, such as asymmetry of
    identity.  Individual nodes may "unknowably" represent
    (equate with) entire collections of other nodes.  The
    point is that the social structure is altered along
    dimensions that have been constant since the dawn of the
    evolution of social animals.

Here is the crux of the matter.  Doug obviously believes that
crypto anarchy represents a paradigm shift or quantum leap in
human interaction.  I don't think so.  every one of the "unique"
properties Doug claimed existed for crypto anarchy already exists
in the non-crypto society.  I won't (unless asked) enumerate such
analogs, but I will give two "clues" as an exercise for the
student:  John Paul Jones and Delaware corporations.

    [1] This picture implies the development of something
    radically different than what we now think of as a
    social body.
    [2] It is far more complex, with new types of basic
    components and operations.
    [3] There is no reason to expect it to resemble any
    society in the history of man, or to bear any
    resemblance to any social body which has evolved to

[1] Only if the picture is correct, which has not been shown.
[2] Granted, it is more complex, but really "new components" has
yet to be demonstrated.
[3] I most heartily disagree.  Humans are conservative; when they
make progress, it usually looks like an extension of what went
before.  (Ever notice how the first autos looked like buggies?
Why do computer graphic interfaces use "desk" and "folder"
metaphors?)  There is *every* reason to expect crypto anarchy
will resemble historical social models.

    ... For my purposes, desirable changes would include an
    increased standard of living for all humans, increased
    communications ... undesirable changes would include ...

Crypto anarchy is coming whether we like it or not.  With it,
your hopes and fears are much more in your hands then they have
ever been before.  I hope we all use our super powers for good
rather than evil.  In any event, the cat is out of the bag.

    ... it seems that a reasonable approach would be to
    conduct computer simulations of the spontaneous forms of
    self organization that occur in populations
    participating under various game-theoretic and economic
    models, when these populations have access to strong

In my opinion (offered without a shred of proof), (1) it ain't
gonna happen, (2) wouldn't work even if it did happen.

In closing, I want to thank Doug for refocusing discussion of
social implications in such organized and thoughtful way.  I want
to reiterate, this is not something that Cypherpunks have not
thought about and discussed before.  Nevertheless, it is always
good to go over old ground if it can be done in a reasoned and
comprehensive manner.

 S a n d y