1994-05-31 - Re: IMP (was Re: ecash-info (fwd))

Header Data

From: tcmay@netcom.com (Timothy C. May)
To: rah@shipwright.com (Robert Hettinga)
Message Hash: 343594e5da208f45cd66dbc01b5ec3d496e6b70eb86c13ba49b19369dca7bb6b
Message ID: <199405310150.SAA28702@netcom.com>
Reply To: <199405310022.UAA12781@zork.tiac.net>
UTC Datetime: 1994-05-31 01:50:46 UTC
Raw Date: Mon, 30 May 94 18:50:46 PDT

Raw message

From: tcmay@netcom.com (Timothy C. May)
Date: Mon, 30 May 94 18:50:46 PDT
To: rah@shipwright.com (Robert Hettinga)
Subject: Re: IMP (was Re: ecash-info (fwd))
In-Reply-To: <199405310022.UAA12781@zork.tiac.net>
Message-ID: <199405310150.SAA28702@netcom.com>
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/plain

In the interests of brevity, I'll make my points without quoting
Robert Hettinga's article.

1. Like I said a couple of times, no flaming was intended. I was only
urging what I ordinarily urge, that super-enthusiastic newcomers get
some idea of context, the better to see how ideas fit together and the
better to avoid making "Cypherpunks are doing enough" types of
comments in any form.

2. Many newcomers seem to arrive on the List
excited about the Glowing Digital Future and then learn that things
are not on the verge of Happening....some of them urge us to "Do
something!" or aver that we are not really "writing code." I think
it's important that Cypherpunks understand that Changing the World is
exciting, and likely, but will not happen easily or casually, and that
most Cypherpunks are not able to work on things full-time, with
budgets, assistants, etc.

3. Enthusiasm is good. In fact, it is necessary. But too many
newcomers arrrive on the list, rail against the lack of progress in
some area they favor, and then either leave the list or become
dormant. A few become coders of important new capabilities, or
analysts of events and directions. 

4. I urge all those interested in digital cash, Chaumnian anonymity,
etc., to read the many articles. These have been cited many times, and
are referenced at the soda site. "Scientific American" had an article
in July 1992 on this, for example. 

And as we have said so many times, the "Crypto" Conference Proceedings
(and Eurocrypt, Auscrypt) carry the key research articles.

5. Robert mentioned "egging Chaum on" with his comments. Let me assure
you all, Chaum does not need egging on by cheerleaders...he does not
even read this List, and the stakes in digital cash are so enormously
high that our comments are as nothing. I'm just being realistic here.

6. What we can do is to continue to prepare for this, to look for
technial or political weaknesses in proposed protocols, lobby others
we may talk to, and so on. Just as with other aspects of crypto.

It is also remotely possible that a Zimmermann-like person (or group)
may develop a PGDC scheme. Maybe. But PGP took PRZ a lot of time, and
that of the v 2.0 crew that helped (many of them on this List!), and
hence it may not be too likely for a while. (Also, absent banks that
will honor PGDC--though some efforts may change this--the challenge
will be enormous. And straight encryption is vastly more
understandable, conceptually and practically, than digital cash

7. The "voice encryption" is probably more important right now, and
much "easier" to implement. It also can be done by independent groups
without as much need for "buy-ins" by institutions. 

In any case, the "occupational disease" of Cypherpunks is to become
convinced that some facet of crypto is so important that all other
efforts should be abandoned. In the past, we have had folks
strenuously argue that random number generators were crucial, others
that "stealth PGP" was by far the number one priority. And so on.

8. We're an anarchic band. Lots of advantages here (nobody to arrest
and charge with the crimes of the group, strenth in diversity, etc.).
Some disadvantages, of course.

In any case, no budget, no staff, no formal goals, no group projects.
Only what sufficiently-motivated individuals or small groups will
choose to work on.

Thus, most of the "we all ought to work on X" posts are flawed. We may
slip into this language as shorthand for saying we think something is
especially important, but is seriously in error to ever think that we
can make something a "group" goal. 

This came up in a different, non-technical context several weeks ago
when one bunch wanted Cypherpunks to become a "spokesperson" group
(like EFF), with a database of "resumes" of oppononents of Clipper
("to show that not all Clipper opponents are hippie hackers" or
somesuch) and when another bunch (or one or two people) wanted
Cypherpunks to become a lobbying group. In both cases, failure of the
others to rally behind these proposals produced apparent anger or
frustration on the part of the proponents. Which was too bad, but
typical of an anarchy.

("Herding cats" is the usual metaphor.)

Robert Hettinga writes:

> I figure that somebody acted. Somebody wrote code. Is it shipping? I have a
> product I'm dying to sell this way right now.

It will likely be at least a few years, in my estimation, before
enought peopole are using this so as to create a market. Meanwhile,
sell your product the normal way...unless the privacy/anonymity issues
are critical, why wait?

> Maybe I should wait a day before I post when I get excited about
> something... As it is, I feel like Garth and/or Wayne.  "I'm not worthy!,
> I'm not worthy!" I really didn't want get into it with Tim May of all
> people...
> How many lawns do I have to mow to pay for the window, mister? ;-).

Just read the articles. You don't have to be a number theory expert,
debating birthday paradoxes with Eli Brandt, Hal Finney, Jay PP, Eric
Hughes, and the other number theory savvy folks, but some overall
sense of where things are going (and where they have been, etc.) is
best gotten from the literature.


--Tim May

Timothy C. May         | Crypto Anarchy: encryption, digital money,  
tcmay@netcom.com       | anonymous networks, digital pseudonyms, zero
408-688-5409           | knowledge, reputations, information markets, 
W.A.S.T.E.: Aptos, CA  | black markets, collapse of governments.
Higher Power: 2^859433 | Public Key: PGP and MailSafe available.
"National borders are just speed bumps on the information superhighway."