In the early nineties, a group of cryptography experts called ‘cypherpunks’ gave life to ideas like digital currency and promoting freedom through the use of technology. Timothy C. May was one of these visionaries, and he predicted the rise of encrypted messaging, cryptocurrencies, and electronic contracts.
Timothy May Explains the Origins of the Cypherpunk Movement
Just recently the hacker house Paralelní Polis in Prague released a keynote talk by May. His speech, called “Thirty Years of Crypto Anarchy”, saw the former Intel engineer describe the early days of the cypherpunk movement. The group of privacy advocates and May started organizing in Silicon Valley, as well as online, using the cypherpunk electronic mailing list. Cypherpunks from San Francisco include Eric Hughes, John Gilmore, St. Jude and others.
May, being one of the most vocal of this crew, wrote many crypto-anarchy themed pieces throughout the 1990s and into the early 2000s. Many of May’s essays foretold the coming of technologies that would undermine perceived tyranny and surveillance of nation-states. One of these essays, written in 1988, was called the “Crypto-Anarchist Manifesto”. It envisioned the use of decentralized technologies like Bitcoin to ultimately disrupt the operations of corporations and governments.
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.
Noticing Satoshi’s White Paper on the Cryptography Mailing List
Following May’s recollection of the origins of the cypherpunk movement, the former engineer spoke about Bitcoin, Ethereum, and the infamous DAO debacle last summer. After distancing himself from the cypherpunk mailing list, May discovered an online character calling himself Satoshi who was distributing information on a new digital currency.
“In the mid-2000s, around 2006-2007, a lot of people began revisiting digital currency,” May explains to the crowd at Paralelní Polis. “In 2008-2009 through the ‘cryptography mailing list’, the successor to the ‘cypherpunk’s mailing list,’ a person going by the name of Satoshi issued a white paper proposing a system which solved the Byzantine consensus problem in a novel way using Proof-of-Work.”
Concerning Ethereum and the DAO
May details throughout his story how Bitcoin was a technology that did not ask for permission from government agencies. “[Bitcoin] is yet another example of something thrust out there into the world and was in widespread use before there was any time to stop it,” May states.
The cypherpunk movement’s founder then goes on to explain his opinion of Ethereum and the recent DAO incident. May explains that the hacker legitimately got away with the theft of Ether because of the way the code was written.
May explains that the “killer app for Ethereum has not yet appeared.” Ethereum is more general purpose than Bitcoin, but it is not yet clear what the killer app for that is going to be. May follows cryptocurrency news on Reddit and believes the many blockchains, announced daily, will most likely fall by the wayside.
May wrote about cryptocurrencies many years before bitcoin was conceived. During the end of May’s discussion, he detailed that the prospects of the original cypherpunk movement are still bright.
Watch Timothy May’s entire discussion on Bitcoin and the cypherpunk movement here.
Images via Shutterstock, Pixabay, and Hackers Congress Paralelní Polis.