RE: the power of cryptography

From: Matthew Gream (
Date: Fri Feb 11 2000 - 17:30:21 MST

Hash: SHA1

> This whole "until we reach perfection" line of reasoning is pernicious.
> As David Honig noted in his response, even in "ideal" societies
> people want
> privacy.
> In particular, an ideal society will still involve competition, both
> personal and commercial. I don't want my rivals reading my plans,
> no matter
> how ideal the society is.
> You seem to be thinking of the Eloi as being the ideal society. Feh.


If you were to read the sentence that follows the one you quoted, you would
find that I say "however, until such time" to acknowledge two things.
Firstly, that an ideal society takes time to reach (if at all reachable),
and secondly, that when an ideal society is reached, it needs to prevent
itself from slipping back to a non-ideal society. These principles apply
regardless of whether cryptography is available.

So Tim, in fact, I agree with you in principle. However, I am not sure about
your assertion that an ideal society will involve competition.

In any case, the two important things are: a) there is still a need for
cryptography in either case, and b) cryptography can be considered a pivot
for the power relationship between individuals and society. Which, really,
comes back to cryptography as an "armament" (cf. continual scaling of
constructive [cryptographic] and destructive [cryptobreaking] technologies,
which itself is a generalisable aspect of not only society, but the aspect
of escalating power irrespective of the media in which it is manifested).

The more generalisable conclusion is that in a purely digital environment,
cryptographic mechanisms are the codification of rules and ethics. A most
interesting study would be to codify well established ideas of ethics and
morality (as they have evolved over history), and try to make a direct
comparison with theoretical and realisable cryptographic constructs (as they
are a recent construction!). Then, there'd be an interesting side by side
comparison between "real" and "digital" worlds, and some general
understandings about the translations between the two.

(the next cool study is to construct an analysis of "systems of
negotiation" -- i.e. speech, humans, transport protocols, cryptographic
protocols, military strategy, dialetic, etc -- as a means of understanding
parallels between the generalisable aspects of negotiation and
cryptography -- which is really just a negotiation, but in another
mathematical domain, etc: the cool thing then of course to unify some of the
work in provable transformations between theory and implementation in
cyptography, and work in other domains)

Good to know that I provoked a reaction in any case ;-). That is my creative
madness over for the week.

Best regards,

- --

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