Brin on Privacy

John K Clark (
Wed, 18 Dec 1996 08:56:10 -0800 (PST)


On Wed, 18 Dec 1996 Sean Hastings <> Wrote:

>A world of Brins is certainly not impossible. Mr. Brin made
>an attempt at describing an Environmentally Stable Strategy
>(ESS) which would continue to suppress the privacy meme when
>he talked about a culture in which chicks didn't dig
>paranoid guys.

But again, Brin is making 2 fundamental errors.

1) He's assuming that everyone, including chicks, will be just like him and
equate privacy with paranoia.

2) He's assuming that by some black magic everyone, including chicks, can
tell if I'm using cryptography, but in actuality, the fact that I have a
secret is a secret.

>I would further predict that where such an ESS holds, no one
>will buy your products if they don't know what future
>corporate strategies their money might be financing.

Suppose I run the best small painting company in silicon valley, we can do a
better job at a lower price than anyone else, but through black magic it is
known that I have a secret.
Do you really think INTEL wouldn't hire my company to paint the outside of
their new chip manufacturing plant?
And if they did hire me, do you really think IBM would not buy INTEL chips?
And if they did buy INTEL chips do you really think COMP USA would not sell
IBM computers in their stores?
And if they did sell IBM computers would you really stop going to COMP USA?
And if you did go to COMP USA should I really start shunning you?

>The increased tolerance of the society I described would
>apply to everything except your privacy. In your above
>example you would at best be shunned and at worst killed
>out of fear

Sounds like a splendid place to live, I can hardly wait.

>I am not sure what you mean by Crypto Anarchy working. In
>fact, I am a little shaky on the whole Crypto Anarchy thing.
>Please point me to some info.

A VERY big subject, I've written quite a lot about it, I'm not sure if it's
in the archives or not, lots about it on Cypherpunks too. Although written
20 years before the term was coined, "The Machinery Of Freedom" by David
Friedman is required reading. Wonderful book!!! To give you a flavor of what
I'm talking about I'll show you The Crypto Anarchist Manifesto by former
Extropian list member Tim May.


The Crypto Anarchist Manifesto


Timothy C. May

A specter is haunting the modern world, the specter of crypto anarchy.

Computer technology is on the verge of providing the ability for
individuals and groups to communicate and interact with each
other in a totally anonymous manner. Two persons may exchange
messages, conduct business, and negotiate electronic contracts
without ever knowing the True Name, or legal identity, of the
other. Interactions over networks will be untraceable, via
extensive rerouting of encrypted packets and tamper-proof boxes
which implement cryptographic protocols with nearly perfect
assurance against any tampering. Reputations will be of central
importance, far more important in dealings than even the credit
ratings of today. These developments will alter completely the
nature of government regulation, the ability to tax and control
economic interactions, the ability to keep information secret,
and will even alter the nature of trust and reputation.

The technology for this revolution--and it surely will be both a
social and economic revolution--has existed in theory for the
past decade. The methods are based upon public-key encryption,
zero-knowledge interactive proof systems, and various software
protocols for interaction, authentication, and verification. The
focus has until now been on academic conferences in Europe and
the U.S., conferences monitored closely by the National Security
Agency. But only recently have computer networks and personal
computers attained sufficient speed to make the ideas
practically realizable. And the next ten years will bring enough
additional speed to make the ideas economically feasible and
essentially unstoppable. High-speed networks, ISDN, tamper-proof
boxes, smart cards, satellites, Ku-band transmitters,
multi-MIPS personal computers, and encryption chips now under
development will be some of the enabling technologies.

The State will of course try to slow or halt the spread of this
technology, citing national security concerns, use of the
technology by drug dealers and tax evaders, and fears of
societal disintegration. Many of these concerns will be valid;
crypto anarchy will allow national secrets to be trade freely
and will allow illicit and stolen materials to be traded. An
anonymous computerized market will even make possible abhorrent
markets for assassinations and extortion. Various criminal and
foreign elements will be active users of CryptoNet. But this
will not halt the spread of crypto anarchy.

Just as the technology of printing altered and reduced the power
of medieval guilds and the social power structure, so too will
cryptologic methods fundamentally alter the nature of
corporations and of government interference in economic
transactions. Combined with emerging information markets, crypto
anarchy will create a liquid market for any and all material
which can be put into words and pictures. And just as a
seemingly minor invention like barbed wire made possible the
fencing-off of vast ranches and farms, thus altering forever the
concepts of land and property rights in the frontier West, so
too will the seemingly minor discovery out of an arcane branch
of mathematics come to be the wire clippers which dismantle the
barbed wire around intellectual property. Arise, you have
nothing to lose but your barbed wire fences!


>We would have a pure democracy.

What a nightmare!

>I suspect he's listening in. (Hi Mr. Brin!) If not he's
>missing out on some good source material for his book

Brin wants to write his book in an intellectual cocoon, isolated from any
disturbing ideas that might chalange his own. This may work for an adventure
novel but not for a work of non fiction, as a result, I predict he will end
up writing something with all the profundity of your average pop up book.

John K Clark

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