1994-05-06 - “cypherpunks write code”

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From: greg@ideath.goldenbear.com (Greg Broiles)
To: albright@chaph.usc.edu (Julietta)
Message Hash: 49ed7ba0a62bf2763362bb3b6fa910a3ce64581fd810ebd87f58410ed6dae509
Message ID: <m0pzViP-0001XEC@ideath.goldenbear.com>
Reply To: <199405061020.DAA12320@nunki.usc.edu>
UTC Datetime: 1994-05-06 19:47:55 UTC
Raw Date: Fri, 6 May 94 12:47:55 PDT

Raw message

From: greg@ideath.goldenbear.com (Greg Broiles)
Date: Fri, 6 May 94 12:47:55 PDT
To: albright@chaph.usc.edu (Julietta)
Subject: "cypherpunks write code"
In-Reply-To: <199405061020.DAA12320@nunki.usc.edu>
Message-ID: <m0pzViP-0001XEC@ideath.goldenbear.com>
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text


> Michael Brandt Handler writes:

> > goal). As it has been said more and more often, 'Cypherpunks write CODE!'.

> >

> 	You know, I keep hearing this- why is it that you all seem to think
> that writing code is mutually exclusive from talking the politics of
> cryptography? Is it so hard to do two things at one time??? I'm sorry, I
> just don't get it..

There are folks on the list who would disagree with me, but I'm inclined
to liken the "cypherpunks write code" phrase to the older "the personal
is the political" phrase (which I've heard most in connection with feminism)
and the "direct action" movements, principally in environmentalist and
animal-rights causes. I think of it as a reminder to focus on the practical
needs for crypto; and as a warning away from pure theory. It's also a way
to let knowledge from the sphere of practical application inform theoretical

I see it as roughly parallel to the distinction between academics who talk
about revolution, and revolutionaries. :) Sometimes there's some crossover,
but frequently not. "Cypherpunks write code" encourages a crypto revolution
from the bottom up, not from the top down. (I'd say though, the Cypherpunks
list seems to function more as a Leninist avant-garde than a true "people's
uprising", as per Mr. Nalbandian's recent comments.) Public-key encryption
has been documented in open literature since 1978; but it wasn't until 1991
and the release of PGP that it was easily available to folks not relatively
fluent in both programming and math. "Cypherpunks write code" reminds us
that it shouldn't take 13 years to turn new developments into user-accessible

In any event, I don't think it should be interpreted as a slam against
non-programmers, but an exhortation to take some sort of practical action
to protect privacy; I mentally include the distribution of disks at PC Expo
and John Gilmore's FOIA requests within "writing code", for instance. To
me, it really means "don't just sit there! do something!", which can apply
to all of us, no matter what our expertise.

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