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(fwd) Markus Kuhn on eternity

Markus Kuhn (on ukcrypto) discussing his PhD project: the design of an
eternity file system with a distributed administration function system
controlled via a cryptographically enforced digital constitution.

Comments to follow.


To: [email protected]
Subject: Re: intangible definitions are hard to pin down 
Date: Thu, 19 Nov 1998 16:28:21 +0000
From: Markus Kuhn <[email protected]>

Ben Laurie wrote on 1998-11-19 12:22 UTC:
> Ross Anderson wrote:
> > It will get worse. One of my students is developing a file system that
> > can be spread over a WAN, so that for example you can force all file
> > modifications in directory foo to be backed up automatially using a
> > kind of RCS at a server in America. Useful stuff - real businesses are
> > much more interested in backup and disaster recovery than they are in
> > crypto (and spend a couple of orders of magnitude more money). But how
> > does this sort of system interact with export control?
> Cool - is this going to be open source?

Of course.

> Presumably, even though, as you
> say, businesses are less interested in crypto, it will, nevertheless,
> use crypto for data protection and user authentication?

Of course.

The main research aspect of this project is the joint administration of
such distributed archives. For spam protection, you still need people
who decide, which files are allowed on the distributed server
infrastructure, and which are not. This administration is so far the
weak link in the Eternity Service concept, because whoever decides that
something is not spam takes over some responsibility for the content,
and is therefore subject to legal power of national powers.

The distributed administration in my system will be controlled via a
sort of cryptographically enforced digital constitution (written in a
tiny special purpose functional programming language) that determines
administrative rights in a freely configurable way for a distributed
server architecture (allowing elections, votes, vetoes, impeachment,
updates to the constitution, etc.). This way, no single person will be
responsible for the maintenance of such international software
repositories, but a (usually international) group of democratically
controlled volunteers does this. This way, US people can easily
contribute to the administration of such distributed archives without
having to share any legal responsibility for the fact that the archive
also contains export controlled software, because the majority of
administrators and not some single citizen alone has decided which files
are allowed to use server space.

The goal of this project is of course not primarily to by-pass export
controls. It will hopefully advance the state-of-the-art of how we use
the Internet to distribute information to a point where classical export
control laws and national control of Internet content in general are led
completely ad absurdum, without enabling at the same time the wide
distribution and robust long-term storage of commonly considered
despicable material such as child pornography, instructions for building
weapons of mass destruction, or unwanted commercial advertising. In
fact, by providing easy to configure governmental mechanisms comparable
to those national governments are based on for software repositories, we
distribute the responsibility in a cryptographically enforced way over
the thousands or millions of users of such archives, effectively
bypassing any control of national governments, without the negative
aspects of complete anarchy (spam).

To avoid misunderstandings: the ultimate idea is not to just by-pass
national laws, but to offer a productive and democratic alternative
technical means for controlling online resources, because the classical
options of either national legislation and complete anarchy both have
serious problems.

(Ross' student, who tries to get a PhD for developing a theoretical
foundation and practical implementation of global-scale jointly
administrated file spaces)

Markus G. Kuhn, Computer Laboratory, University of Cambridge, UK
Email: mkuhn at acm.org,  WWW: <http://www.cl.cam.ac.uk/~mgk25/>