Unot from the most extensive published manifests where the philosophy, original thought and anarchic spirit of the cypherpunks, is he "The Cyphernomicon".
This document, written by the scientist Timothy May, collected the main ideas exposed in the famous mail list of the cypherpunks. The document expressed the need to create an anonymous transaction system. One that will guarantee the privacy of its users when they carry out transactions. Also, the fact that users should reveal their identity only if they wanted to. Leaving aside that it was a mandatory fact and imposed by governments.
Find the model you want in Cyphernomicon defends itself the essence of privacy as a privilege that everyone should enjoy. Without this coming to mean a fraudulent, mysterious and hidden transaction system.
The Cyphernomicon: Cypherpunks FAQs and more
As the name implies, The Cyphernomicon it is a compilation of questions and answers and annotations of the author. A compilation that brings together the most interesting topics discussed by cypherpunks on their mailing list. And although for the writing of this document, its author did not consult the rest of the group members, it was accepted by the majority of them. This does not mean that all cypherpunks fully share their point of view and ideals. An aspect that May made very clear in the introduction of this manifesto, stating that:
“Not all members of the list share all points of view. This is not “The Official Cypherpunks FAQ”, there is no such thing. It may exist, but these are the FAQ I wanted to write about. The points of view expressed are my own,… ”(1.2. Preface)
By writing and publishing The Cyphernomicon, May wanted the community at large to better understand the essence of cypherpunks. Make known your objectives, ideals, motivations, goals set and the way to go.
The Cyphernomicon Overview: MFAQ and More
The technological age of that time, was giving way to a complete transformation based on crypto. More specifically, in the asymmetric cryptography or public key. Thanks to this, it is possible that 2 or more people can carry out exchanges, operations and transactions anonymously and safely. All this without the need to know the legal identity of the parties. With this begins an era in which technology would be at the service of the freedom, security and privacy of its users.
With the introduction of asymmetric crypto the doors were opened to a world full of possibilities. One that was to completely revolutionize everything known. It is now possible to guarantee the security and integrity of the information shared on the network through encrypted emails. Or surf the web enjoying a secure connection. Furthermore, thanks to asymmetric cryptography, the creation of cryptocurrencies and the tecnología blockchain. Technology that today allows us to carry out exchanges and transactions in a decentralized, private and secure way.
At the time, referring to the use of strong crypto as a public good accessible to all, May expressed that:
"What emerges from this is not clear, but I think it will be a form of anarcho-capitalist market system that I call 'anarchic cryptography' (where there will only be voluntary communications, without a third party)" (2.3.4 Overview)
Hinting at his vision of a decentralized transaction system such as cryptocurrencies today. Where users can carry out transactions without the need for a trusted third party to validate the operations they perform.
The movement known as cypherpunks It was founded in 1992, and consisted of a group of between 500 to 700 cryptographers, developers, scientists, and hobbyists from around the world. Whose objective was to defend the right to privacy of users on the network. Revealing against the measures imposed by governments to regularize encryption.
The foundations and roots of this movement are given by the ideas of David Chaum in their attempts to create digital money. Subsequently, in the early 90s, cryptographers Eric Hughes, Timothy May y John gilmore They brought all those ideas together and formed the group of cypherpunks. Initially, this movement held its monthly meetings at the Gilmore company offices. Who also provided their website to host the mailing list. (3.3.3 the group and the list of cypherpunks).
Shortly after its founding, this movement gained great popularity among the community. And this was due to the launch of the solution Pretty Good Privacy (PGP), which guarantees the safety and protection of online communications.
Importance of crypto in the world
Since the 90s, when asymmetric crypto was opened to the public, cypherpunks have focused on defending such important aspects as Privacy & Security. Since, according to his vision, all people who use technological tools should be able to enjoy these privileges when they communicate with each other or when they exchange important information and data.
Cryptography is a necessary and indispensable tool for everyone, regardless of the reason why it is needed. Whether to keep protected documents, texts, financial records or others. Likewise, there are many people who need privacy in their lives, for personal, financial, psychological and social reasons.
Today, through cryptography, a user can send and receive encrypted information safely and reliably through any means. Since only the owner of the private key will be able to decrypt the message and see its content. Likewise, the implementation of digital signatures and the tecnología blockchain, which is used to carry out fund transactions without intermediaries, is also possible thanks to this technological tool.
Similarly, The Cyphernomicon also exposes the problems associated with the use of cryptography and the strong impact that these can have on society.
For example, the ease of transferring funds within BlackNet for money laundering or to finance illegal activities. The improvement of the tools used by the spy agencies to intercept telephone calls and carry out surveillance and counterintelligence activities. As well as the feasibility of some to carry out acts of corruption and bribery. (16.10.2 The Negative Side of Cryptography)
Importance of the PGP tool
In The Cyphernomicon PGP stands out as one of the most important tools in the crypto world. That allows its users to be able to encrypt messages and any type of data, in order to prevent a third party from accessing or intercepting information.
For the sending of messages and data, PGP uses digital signatures, to ensure that only the receiver can decrypt and view the message. Without the risk of having been intercepted or modified by a third party during the shipment. So, for cypherpunks, it is a very practical tool, and also very easy to use for any hobbyist.
PGP in version 2.0 was released almost simultaneously with the creation of the cypherpunks movement. So May noted in The Cyphernomicon that:
"PGP 2.0 came at an important time, in September 1992, in the same week that the Cypherpunks had their first meeting ... PGP has been the catalyst for major changes of opinion. It has educated tens of thousands of users in the nature of strong crypto and has revolutionized other tools, including encrypted remailers, digital money projects, etc. ” (7.5.1 and 7.5.2 Importance of PGP)
Digital Cash and cryptocurrencies
Through asymmetric cryptography, the creation of digital money was possible, and as we mentioned earlier, the birth of cryptocurrencies. The pioneer of this development was David Chaum, who formulated the support bases for the advancement of this technology.
In this context, the project DigiCashIntroduced by Chaum in the 80s, it was the first crypto-based digital money protocol that guaranteed the privacy and anonymity of its users. And although it was not successful, it did establish the foundations of digital money and what we now know as cryptocurrencies.
On the other hand, in section 12.12 of The Cyphernomicon, the project is discussed Magic money; an experiment of cypherpunks to operate with digital money through emails. Which allowed users to carry out online operations in an untraceable way. But perhaps, for the time, this project came too soon, so it was not a great success either. And it was not until 2009, when Bitcoin was unveiled, that society began to accept this new form of digital money.
The failure of pre-Bitcoin digital money attempts such as Magic Money and DigiCash was perhaps due to the fact that when these emerged, the society was content with banks and governments. And the risks of invasion of these actors on privacy, the possible freezing and retention of funds, and many other conflicts had not been taken into account. Furthermore, the financial recessions that occurred during those times were not as severe nor caused as much discomfort and anger as the 2008 Global Financial Crisis. Which undoubtedly made Bitcoin see itself as a viable solution alternative to the financial disaster caused by the big banks.