Peer to Peer Government: Guarding the Guardians

Ideas come and ideas go. And some ideas, you just can’t shake. For about a year, I’ve been working on sketching out a framework for how to use contracts based on Bitcoin (capital B is the protocol). I call them bitcerts. Unfortunately, I have only rudimentary coding ability, and the bitcert remains a theoretical construct. I came across this article on twitter (HT Jon Waller) about Ethereum. This appears to have the attributes needed to create contracts. The uses they have (stocks and derivatives and such) are only really the tip of the iceberg. The big Kahuna is actually the ability to make contracts… It is the non financial contracts that are perhaps the most important, and this will be the bulk of the discussion here.

A week ago I was on vacation with my family and was rather depressed about the extent of the NSA spying, as revealed by Der Spiegel and discussed by Jacob Applebaum (@ioerror) in his To Protect and Infect, Part 2 presentation at the 30c3 conference. If you have not seen it watch it! Stop reading this post and watch it. You will not feel sufficiently violated until you do and my perspective will seem like that of a clueless crank. While I may be both, on this issue I am and as you will be sufficiently justified in our anger.

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My Response to Bitcoin: The Sexiest Non-Solution of All Time?

Alt-Market posted a critique about Bitcoin that I thought was myopic and missed the key attributes of the protocol and currency and the movement that surrounds it. Please read the original here.

My comments,

Bitcoin’s Origin and More

I want to address a key point in your critique of bitcoin, our lack of knowledge of who Satoshi Nakamoto is. You are right to assert that this individual or group of individuals could be a member of the establishment. This is not important. There are two things that are important. First is that participation is voluntary, second is that Bitcoin’s constitution (source code) is publicly available. If one were so inclined, you could sit down, read, and understand how the code operates. The rules are patent. If the rules change, then there is a risk that not all members will stay with bitcoin and it will fork into multiple branches.

This brings up another point that you discussed, that of non exclusive nature of crypto currencies. Yes any Joe Schmo (whomever that is) off the street can sit down and implement their own version of a cryptographic currency.  The cat is afterall out of the bag. This is a tremendous advantage. This means that there is and will always be competition to find which protocol is the best. This allows each new and existing currency to copy features from one another. This includes Bitcoin, as development has not stopped. There is a part of Bitcoin that cannot be duplicated and that is the established network. This is the part that takes the most time to grow and develop. What is beautiful about this is that this process is entirely emergent and is what makes Bitcoin robust.

As for me, I am an engineer and Navy vet. I own many firearms. I reload my own ammunition. I own gold, silver, and bitcoin. I have a stash of cash too. I am not afraid to defend my rights or the rights of those around me from others. I also abhor violence. None of these attributes makes me ideal. I am a product of my own experience. There is no one way to exemplify Liberty. Liberty is about plurality. It is about having many different views with some ideas being coincident and others not. Liberty is about respecting and allowing another’s viewpoint to exist and allowing my own. Liberty is more about acceptance.  For those kids who have not been scared by violence, having to fight and kill, I hope they never have to experience the pain it takes to get those scars. I remember very distinctly the moment I accepted my need to kill another human being and acted accordingly. Demanding that as a prerequisite for defining a liberty movement is overly narrow and misses the purpose of Liberty. Liberty is not about violence, nor does it exclude violence.

As for what happens if the world goes to hell, how do you know that the network at some level will not be maintained? One of the most important aspects of warfare is to maintain as much infrastructure as possible. While it enables the enemy, it also enables you. This saved many bridges in countless wars. It is where we get the saying about burning bridges. The internet is such a network, but only more so.

Many of the cypherpunks that you readily deride are engaged in active warfare on the internet. In case you weren’t aware the NSA overran our camp while we were asleep. These few vigilant sentries are trying to reorganize our efforts and take back our camp. War is fought on many levels. As we speak there are partisans fighting statism on the web. They are in a fight that by your statements here, you do not understand as a fight.

In Liberty,

Cal Abel

Measuring Privacy

Edward Snowden’s revelations about the scope of government surveillance made me think about how we can quantify privacy between each other and our government.  Here statistical economics can provide the framework needed to do so, through the use of measuring the index of probability of human action, and specifying that government knowledge of an individual cannot be less than some minimum index, without the use of a warrant to obtain specific information delineated in the warrant. Continue reading

NSA Monitoring: The Beat Cop Pandemic

NSA Monitoring: The Beat Cop Pandemic

In all that is the “Meh” of the revelations of the extent of NSA monitoring domestic communications, here is an analogy to help better understand what it is that we are dismissing.

The NSA is not engaging in direct action, where active monitoring and interception of communications is done.  Whew! But what is it that they are doing? Our understanding of the space that is cyber space is giving society a bit of a conceptual block.  To resolve this understanding of the problem we will use analogy.  We are going to transform cyberspace into the real world of three dimensions. Here, the geeks running the NSA data centers are the beat cops, the sort we see driving around town. Continue reading