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17. The Future

THE CYPHERNOMICON: Cypherpunks FAQ and More, Version 0.666, 1994-09-10, Copyright Timothy C. May. All rights reserved. See the detailed disclaimer. Use short sections under "fair use" provisions, with appropriate credit, but don't put your name on my words.

17.2. SUMMARY: The Future

17.2.1. Main Points

  • where things are probably going

17.2.2. Connections to Other Sections

17.2.3. Where to Find Additional Information

17.2.4. Miscellaneous Comments

17.3. Progress Needed

17.3.1. "Why have most of the things Cypherpunks talk about not happened?"

  • Except for remailers and basic crypto, few of the main ideas talked about for so long have actually seen any kind of realization. There are many reasons: A. Difficult to achieve. Both Karl Kleinpaste and Eric Hughes implemented simple first-generation remailers in a matter of days, but "digital cash" and "aptical foddering," for example, are not quite so straightforward. (I am of course not taking anything away from Kleinpaste, Hughes, Helsingius, Finney, etc., just noting that redirecting mail messages--and even implementing PGP and things like delay, batching, etc., into remailers--is a lot easier conceptually than DC-Nets and the like. B. Protocols are confusing, tough to implement. Only a tiny fraction of the "crypto primitives" discussed at Crypto Conferences, or in the various crypto books, have been realized as runnable code. Building blocks like "bit commitment" have not even--to my knowledge--been adequately realized as reusable code. (Certainly various groups, such as Chaum's, have cobbled-together things like bit commitment...I just don't think there's a consensus as to the form, and this has limited the ability of nonspecialists to use these "objects.") C. Semantic confusion as well. While it's fairly clear what "encrypting" or "remailing" means, just what is a "digital bank"? Or a "reputation server"? D. Interoperablity is problematic. Many platforms, many operating systems, many languages. Again, remailers and encryption work because there is a de facto lowest common denominator for them: the simple text block, used in email, editors, input and output from programs, etc. That is, we all mostly know exactly what an ASCII text block is, and crypto programs are expected to know how to access and manipulate such blocks. This largely explains the success of PGP across many platforms--text blocks are the basic element. Ditto for Cypherpunks remialers, which operate on the text blocks found in most mail systems. The situation becomes much murkier for things like digital money, which are not standalone objects and are often multi-party protocols involving time delays, offline processing, etc. E. Lack of an economic motive. We on this list are not being paid to develop anything, are not assisted by anyone, and don't have the financial backing of corporations to assist us. Since much of today's "software development" is actually deal-making and standards negotiation, we are left out of lots of things.

17.4. Future Directions

17.4.1. "What are some future directions?"

17.4.2. The Future of the List

  • "What can be done about these situations?" the Cypherpunks list often contains (see above), and given that the list can be accessed by... what can
    • Move central server to non-U.S. locale
  • Or to "cyberspace" (distributed network, with no central FidoNet)
    • subscribers can use pseudonyms, cutouts, remailers

17.4.3. What if encryption is outlawed?

  • can uuencode (and similar), to at least slow down the filter programs a bit (this is barely security through obscurity, but...)
    • underground movements?
    • will Cypherpunks be rounded up?

17.4.4. "Should Cypherpunks be more organized, more like the CPSR, EFF, and EPIC?"

  • Those groups largely are lobbying groups, with a staff in Washington supported by the membership donations of thousands or tens of thousands of dues-paying members. They perform a valuable service, of course.
  • But that is not our model, nor can it plausibly be. We were formed as an ad hoc group to explore crypto, were dubbed "Cypherpunks," and have since acted as a techno-grasssroots anarchy. No staff, no dues, no elections, no official rules and regulations, and no leadership beyond what is provided by the power of speech (and a slight amount of "final say" provided by the list maintainer Eric Hughes and the machine owner, John Gilmore, with support from Hugh Daniel).
  • If folks want a lobbying group, with lawyers in Washington, they should join the EFF and/or CPSR.
    • And we fill a niche they don't try to fill.

17.4.5. Difficult to Set Directions

  • an centralized control
  • emergent interests
  • everyone has some axe to grind, some temporary set of priorities
    • little economic motivation (and most have other jobs)

17.4.6. The Heart and Soul of Cypherpunks?

  • Competing Goals:
    • Personal Privacy
      • PGP, integration with mailers
      • education
    • Reducing the Power of Institutions
      • whistelblowers group
    • Crypto Anarchy
  • Common Purposes
    • Spreading strong crypto tools and knowledge
      • PGP
    • Fighting government restrictions and regulations
      • Clipper/Skipjack fight was a unifying experience
    • Exploring new directions in cryptology
      • digital mixes, digital cash, voting

17.4.7. Possible Directions

  • Crypto Tools...make them ubiquitous "enough" so that the genie cannot be put back in the bottle
  • can worry about the politics later (socialists vs. anarchocapitalists, etc.) (Although socialists would do well to carefully think about the implications of untraceable communications, digital cash, and world-wide networks of consultants and workers--and what this does to tax collection and social spending programs--before they work with the libertarians and anarchocapitalists to bring on the Crypto Millenium.)
    • Education
      • educating the masses about crypto
      • public forums
  • this was picked by the Cambridge/MIT group as their special interest
    • Lobbying
  • talking to Congressional aides and committee staffers, attending hearings, submitting briefs on proposed legislation
    • coordinating with EFF, CPSR, ACLU, etc.
  • this was picked by the Washington group as their special interest, which is compellingly appropriate (Calif. group is simply too far away)
    • Legal Challenges
    • mixture of legal and illegal
      • use legal tools, and illegal tools
      • fallback positions
  • enlist illegal users as it spread in these channels (shown to be almost uncontrollable)

17.4.8. Goals (as I see them)

  • Get strong crypto deployed in such a way as to be unstoppable, unrecallable
    • "fire and forget" crypto
    • genie out of the bottle
  • Note that this does not necessarily that crypto be widely deployed, though that's generally a good idea. It may mean seeding key sites outside the U.S. with strong crypto tools, with remailers, and with the other acouterments.
    • Monkeywrench threats to crypto freedom.
  • economic sabotage of those who use statist contracts to thwart freedom (e.g., parts of AT&T)
    • direct sabotage
      • someday, viruses, HERF, etc.

17.4.9. A Vision of the Future

  • encrypted, secure, untraceable communications
  • hundreds of remailers, in many countries
  • interwoven with ordinary traffic, ensuring that any attempt to quash crypto would also have a dramatic effect on business
    • data havens, credit, renters, etc.
    • information markets
    • ability to fight wars is hindered
  • U.S. is frantic, as its grip on the world loosens...Pax Americana dies

17.4.10. Key concepts are the way to handle the complexity of crypto

  • The morass of protocols, systems, and results is best analyzed, I think, by not losing sight of the basic "primitives," the things about identity, security, authentication, etc. that make crypto systems work the way they do.
  • Axiom systems, with theorems and lemmas derivable from the axioms
  • with alternate axioms giving the equivalent of "non- Euclidean geometries" (in a sense, removing the physical identity postulate and replacing it with the "the key is the identity" postulate gives a new landscape of interactions, implications, and structures).
    • (Markets, local references, voluntary transactions, etc.)
    • (ecologies, predators, defenders, etc.)
    • (game theory, economics, etc..)

17.5. Net of the Future

17.5.1. "What role, if any, will MUDs, MOOs, and Virtual Realities play?"

  • "True Names," "Snow Crash," "Shockwave Rider"
  • Habitat, online services
  • the interaction is far beyond just the canonical "text messages" that systems like Digital Telephony are designed to cope with
    • where is the nexus of the message?
  • what about conferences scattered around the world, in multiple jurisdictions?
    • crypto = glue, mortar, building blocks
    • "rooms" = private places; issues of access control
  • Unless cops are put into these various "rooms," via a technology we can barely imagine today (agents?), it will be essentially impossible to control what happens in these rooms and places. Too many degrees of freedom, too many avenues for exchange.
    • cyberspaces, MUDs, virtual communities, private law, untouchable by physical governments

17.5.2. keyword-based

  • can be spoofed by including dictionaries

17.5.3. dig sig based (reputation-based)

17.5.4. pools and anonymous areas may be explicitly supported

17.5.5. better newsreaders, screens, filters

17.5.6. Switches

  • "switching fabrics"
  • ATM
  • Intel's flexible mesh interconnects, iWARP, etc.
  • all of these will make for an exponential increase in degrees of freedom for remailer networks (labyrinths). On- chip remailing is esentially what is needed for Chaum's mixes. ATM quanta (packets) are the next likely target for remailers.

17.5.7. "What limits on the Net are being proposed?"

  • NII
  • Holding carriers liable for content
    • e.g., suing Compuserve or Netcom
    • often done with bulletin boards
  • "We have to do something!"
  • Newspapers are complaining about the Four Horsemen of the Infocalypse:
  • terrorists, pedophiles, drug dealers, and money launderers
    • The "L.A. Times" opines:
  • "Designers of the new Information Age were inspired by noble dreams of free-flowing data as a global liberating force, a true democratizing agent. Sadly, the crooks and creeps have also climbed aboard. The time has come for much tighter computer security. After all, banks learned to put locks on their vaults." ["L.A. Times," editorial, 1994-07-13]

17.6. The Effects of Strong Crypto on Society

17.6.1. "What will be the effects of strong crypto, ultimately, on the social fabric?"

  • It's hard to know for sure.
  • These effects seem likely:
  • Starvation of government tax revenues, with concommitant effects on welfare, spending, etc.
    • increases in espioage
    • trust issues

17.6.2. The revelations of surveillance and monitoring of citizens and corporations will serve to increase the use of encryption, at first by people with something to hide, and then by others. Cypherpunks are already helping by spreading the word of these situations.

  • a snowballing effect
  • and various government agencies will themselves use encryption to protect their files and their privacy

17.6.3. People making individual moral choices

  • people will make their own choices as to what to reveal, what they think will help world peace, or the future, or the dolphins, or whatever
  • and this will be a liquid market, not just souls shouting in the desert
  • of course, not everything will be revealed, but the "mosaic effect" ensures that mostly the truth will emerge
  • every government's worst fear, that it's subjects will decide for themselves what is secret, what is not, what can be told to foreigners, etc.

17.7. New Software Tools and Programming Frameworks

17.7.1. Needed software

  • Drop-in crypto modules are a needed development. As V. Bontchev says, "it would be nice if disk encryption software allowed the user to plug in their own modules. This way everybody could use whatever they trust - MDC/SHA, MDC/MD5, DES, IDEA, whatever." [V.B., sci.crypt, 1994-0701]
    • Robustness
      • Security and robustness are often at odds
  • Files that are wiped at the first hint of intrusion (digital flash paper), remailer sites that go down at the first signs of trouble, and file transmission systems that split files into multiple pieces--any one of which can be lost, thus destroying the whole transmission--are not exactly models of robustness.
  • Error correction usually works by decreasing entropy through redundancy, which is bad for crypto.
  • The military uses elaborate (and expensive) systems to ensure that systems do not go down, keys are not lost, etc. Most casual users of crypto are unwilling to take these steps.
  • And so keys are lost, passphrases are forgotten (or are written down on Post-It Notes and taped to terminals), and remailers are taken down when operators go on vacation. All very flaky and non-robust.
    • Look at how flaky mail delivery is!
    • A challenge is to create systems which are:
      • robust
      • not too complicated and labor-intensive to use
      • where redundancy does not compromise security
    • Crypto workbench
  • An overused term, perhaps, but one that captures the metaphor of a large set of tools, templates, programming aids, etc.
    • QKS and "Agents Construction Kit" (under development)
  • along with Dylan, DylanAgents, Telescript, and probably several other attempts to develop agent toolkits
  • Henry Strickland is using "tcl" (sort of a scripting language, like "perl") as a basis.
    • Software crisis
  • tools, languages, frameworks, environments, objects, class libraries, methods, agents, correctness, robustness, evolution, prototyping
    • Connections between the software crisis and cryptography
  • complex systems, complicated protocols
  • price of being "wrong" can be very high, whether it's an airport that can't open on time (Denver) or a digital bank that has its assets drained in seconds - agents, objects are hoped to be the "silver bullets"
    • The need for better software methodologies
  • "silver bullets"
  • failures, errors, flaws, methods
  • provably correct designs? (a la Viper)
  • It is often said that much better methodologies are needed for real time programming, due to the timecriticality and (probably) the difficulty of doing realistic testing. But surely the same should be said of financial programming, a la the banking and digicash schemes that interest us so much.
  • "the one aspect of software that most makes it the flaky industry it is is that it is unusual for practitioners to study the work of others. Programmers don't read great programs. Designers don't study outstanding designs. The consequences ... no, just look for yourself. [Cameron Laird,, 199408-30]
    • Large Software Constructs
  • The software crisis becomes particularly acute when large systems are built, such as--to apply this to Cypherpunks issues--when digital money systems and economies are built.

17.7.2. Object-oriented tools

  • While tres trendy, some very real gains are being reported; more than just a buzzword, especially when combined with other tools:
    • frameworks, toolkits
    • dynamic languages
  • greater flexibility than with static, strongly-typed langueages (but also less safety, usually)
  • OpenStep, Visual Age, Visual Basic, Dylan, Telescript (more agent-oriented), Lisp, Smalltalk, etc

17.7.3. Protocol Ecologies

  • Behavioral simulations of agents, digital money, spoofing, etc.
  • the world in which Alice and Bob and their crypto friends live
    • defense, attack, spoofing, impersonation, theft
  • elements that are cryptographically strong (like D-H key exchanges), but combined in complex ways that almost have to be simulated to find weaknesses
  • "middle-out" instead of "top-down" (conventional, formal) or "bottom-up" (emergent, A-LIFE)
  • like Eurisko (Lenat), except oriented toward the domain of financial agents

17.7.4. Use of autonomous agents (slaves?)

  • "An advanced telecommunications environment offers a number of ways to protect yourself against the problems involved in dealing with anonymous entities in a situation in which there is no monopoly Government...When one's PBX finds that one's call is not going through via a particular long distance carrier, it automatically switches to another one. It is easy to imagine one's intelligent agents testing various sorts of transaction completions and switching vendors when one fails. Professional checkers can supply information on vendor status for a fee. After all, we don't care if a company we are dealing with changes if its service is unaffected." [Duncan Frissell, 1994-08-30]

17.7.5. Tools

  • "Languages within languages" is a standard way to go to implement abstractions
    • "Intermediate Design Languages" (IDLs)
    • abstract concepts: such as "engines" and "futures"
    • Lisp and Scheme have been favored languages for this
    • other languages as well: Smalltalk, Dylan
    • For crypto, this seems to be the case: abstractions represented as classes or objects
      • with programming then the selective subclassing
      • and sometimes gener
    • "type checking" of crypto objects is needed
  • to ensure compliance with protocols, with forms expected, etc.
  • check messages for form, removal of sigs, etc. (analogous to checking a letter before mailing for proper addressing, for stamp, sealing, etc.)
  • much of the nonrobustness of mail and crypto comes from the problems with exception handling--things that a human involved might be able to resolve, in conventional mail systems
    • "dead letter department"?
  • Note: In the "Crypto Anarchy Game" we played in September, 1992, many sealed messages were discarded for being in the wrong form, lacking the remailer fee that the remailer required, etc. Granted, human beings make fairly poor maintainers of complex constraints...a lot of people just kept forgetting to do what was needed. A great time was had by all.

17.7.6. "What programming framework features are needed?"

  • What follows are definitely my opnions, even more my own opinions than most of what I've written. Many people will disagree.
    • Needed:
      • Flexibility over speed
      • Rapid prototyping, to add new features
      • Evolutionary approaches
      • Robustness (provably correct would be nice, but...)

17.7.7. Frameworks, Tools, Capabilities

  • Nearly all the cutting-edge work in operating systems, from "mutually suspicious cooperating processes" to "deadlock" to "persistence," show up in the crypto areas we are considering.
    • Software of the Net vs. Software to Access the Net
      • The Net--is current form adequate?
      • Software for Accessing the Net
    • OpenDoc and OLE
  • components working together, on top of various operating systems, on top of various hardware platforms
    • Persistent Object Stores
      • likely to be needed for the systems we envision
  • robust, so that one's "money" doesn't evaporate when a system is rebooted!
    • interesting issues here...
    • CORBA. OpenDoc, OLE II, SOM, DOE, Gemstone, etc.
    • Programming Frameworks
  • Dynamic languages may be very useful when details are fuzzy, when the ideas need exploration (this is not a call for nondeterminism, for random futzing around, but a recognition that the precise, strongly-typed approach of some languages may be less useful than a rich, exploratory environment. This fits with the "ecology" point of view.
    • Connectivity
  • needs to be more robust, not flaky the way current e-mail is
    • handshakes, agents, robust connections
    • ATM, SONET, agents, etc...the "Net of the Future"

17.8. Complexity

17.8.1. The shifting sands of modern, complex systems

  • lots of cruft, detail...changing..related to the "software crisis"...the very flexibilty of modern software systems promotes the frequent changing of features and behaviors, thus playing hob with attempts of others to understand the structure...evolution in action
  • humans who use these systems forget how the commands work, where things are stored, how to unsubscribe from lists, etc. (This is just one reason the various sub-lists of our list have seldom gotten much traffic: people use what they are most used to using, and forget the rest.)
  • computer agents (scripts, programs) which use these systems often "break" when the underlying system changes. A good example of this are the remailer sites, and scripts to use them. As remailer sites go up and down, as keys change, as other things change, the scripts must change to keep pace.
  • This very document is another example. Scattered throughout are references to sites, programs, sources, etc. As time goes by, more and more of them will (inevitably) become obsolete. (My hope is that enough of the pointers will point to still-extant things so as to make the pointers remain useful. And I'll try to update/correct the bad pointers.)

17.8.2. "Out of Control"

  • Kevin Kelly's book
  • inability to have precise control, and how this is consistent with evolution, emergent properties, limits of formal models
    • crypto, degrees of freedom
    • imagine nets of the near future
      • ten-fold increase in sites, users, domains
      • ATM switching fabrics..granularity of transactions changes...convergence of computing and communications... + distributed computation ( which, by the way, surely needs crypto security!)
        • Joule, Digital Silk Road
      • agents, etc.
    • can't control the distribution of information
  • As with the Amateur Action BBS case, access can't be controlled.
  • "The existance of gateways and proxy servers means that there is no effective way to determine where any information you make accessible will eventually end up. Somebody in, say, Tennessee can easily get at an FTP site in California through a proxy in Switzerland. Even detailed information about what kind of information is considered contraband in every jurisdiction in the world won't help, unless every gateway in the world has it and uses it as well." [Stephen R. Savitzky,, 1994-08-08]

17.8.3. A fertile union of cryptology, game theory, economics, and ecology

  • crypto has long ignored economics, except peripherally, as an engineering issue (how long encryption takes, etc.)
  • in particular, areas of reputation, risk, etc. have not been treated as central idea...perhaps proper for mathematical algorithm work
  • but economics is clearly central to the systems being cash, data havens, remailers, etc.
  • why cash works so well...locality of reference, immediate clearing of transactions, forces computations down to relevant units
    • reduces complaints, "he made me do it" arguments...that is, increases self-responsibility...caveat emptor
    • game theory
  • ripe for treatment of "Alice and Bob" sorts of situations, in which agents with different agendas are interacting and competing - "defecting" as in Prisoner's Dilemma - payoff matrices for various behaviors
    • evolutionary game theory
    • evolutionary learning, genetic algorithms/programmming
    • protocol ecologies

17.9. Crypto Standards

17.9.1. The importance of standards

  • a critical role
  • Part of standards is validation, test suites, etc.
  • validating the features and security of a remailer, through pings, tests, performance tests, reliability, etc.
    • thus imposing a negative hit on those who fail
    • There are many ways to do this standards testing
      • market reports (as with commercial chips, software)
  • "seals of approval" (especially convenient with digital sigs)

17.10. Crypto Research

17.10.1. Academic research continues to increase

17.10.2. "What's the future of crypto?"

  • Predicting the future is notoriously difficult. IBM didn't think many computers would ever be sold, Western Union passed on the chance to buy Bell's telephone patents. And so on. The future is always cloudy, the past is always clear and obvious.
  • We'll know in 30 years which of our cypherpunkish and cryptoanarchist predictions came to pass--and which didn't.

17.10.3. Ciphers are somewhat like knots...the right sequence of moves unties them, the wrong sequence only makes them more tangled. ("Knot theory" is becoming a hot topic in math and physics (work of Vaughn Jones, string theory, etc.) and I suspect there are some links between knot theory and crypto.)

17.10.4. Game theory, reputations, crypto -- a lot to be done here

  • a missing link, an area not covered in academic cryptology research
  • distributed trust models, collusion, cooperation, evolutionary game theory, ecologies, systems

17.10.5. More advanced areas, newer approaches

  • some have suggested quasigroups, Latin squares, finite automata, etc. Quasigroups are important in the IDEA cipher, and in some DES work. (I won't speculate furher about an area I no almost nothing about...I'd heard of semigroups, but not quasigroups.)
  • "The "Block Mixing Transform" technology which I have been promoting on sci.crypt for much of this spring and summer is a Latin square technology. (This was part of my "Large Block DES" project, which eventually produced the "Fenced DES" cipher as a possible DES upgrade.)...Each of the equations in a Block Mixing Transform is the equation for a Latin square. The multiple equations in such a transform together represent orthogonal Latin squares. [Terry Ritter, sci.crypt, 199408-15]
  • But what about for public key uses? Here's something Perry Metzger ran across:
  • ""Finte Automata, Latin arrays, and Cryptography" by Tao Renji, Institute of Software, Academia Sinica, Beijing. This (as yet unpublished) paper covers several fascinating topics, including some very fast public key methods -- unfortunately in too little detail. Hopefully a published version will appear soon..." [P.M., sci.crypt, 1994-08-14]

17.10.6. Comments on crypto state of the art today vs. what is likely to be coming

  • Perry Metzger comments on today's practical difficulties: "...can the difference between "crypto can be transforming when the technology matures" and "crypto is mature now" be that unobvious?...One of the reasons I'm involved with the IETF IPSP effort is because the crypto stuff has to be transparent and ubiquitous before it is going to be truly useful -- in its current form its just junk. Hopefully, later versions of PGP will also interface well with the new standards being developed for an integrated secure message body type in MIME. (PGP also requires some sort of scalable and reverse mapable keyid system -- the current keyids are not going to allow key servers to scale in a distributed manner.) Yes, I've seen the shell scripts and the rest, and they really require too much effort for most people -- and at best, once you have things set up, you can now securely read some email at some sites. I know that for myself, given that I read a large fraction of my mail while working at clients, where I emphatically do not trust the hardware, every encrypted message means great inconvenience, regardless." [Perry Metzger, 1994-08-25]

17.11. Crypto Armageddon? Cryptageddon?

17.11.1. "Will there be a "Waco in cyberspace"?"

  • while some of us are very vocal here, and are probably known to the authorities, this is not generally the case. Many of the users of strong crypto will be discreet and will not give outward appearances of being code-using crypto anarchist cultists.

17.11.2. Attacks to come

  • "You'll see these folks attacking anonymous remailers, cryptography, psuedonymous accounts, and other tools of coercion-free expression and information interchange on the net, ironically often in the name of promoting "commerce". You'll hear them rant and rave about "criminals" and "terrorists", as if they even had a good clue about the laws of the thousands of jurisdictions criss-crossed by the Internet, and as if their own attempts to enable coercion bear no resemblance to the practice of terrorism. The scary thing is, they really think they have a good idea about what all those laws should be, and they're perfectly willing to shove it down our throats, regardless of the vast diversity of culture, intellectual, political, and legal opinion on the planet." [ (Nobody),, 1994-06-08]
    • why I'm not sanguine about Feds
  • killing Randy Weaver's wife and son from a distance, after trumped-up weapons charges
  • burning alive the Koresh compound, on trumped-up charges of Satanism, child abuse, and wife-insulting
  • seizures of boats, cars, etc., on "suspicion" of involvement with drugs

17.12. "The Future's So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades"

17.12.1. Despite the occasionally gloomy predictions, things look pretty good.No guarantees, of course, but trends that are

favorable. No reason for us to rest, though.

17.12.2. Duncan Frissell puts it this way:

  • "Trade is way up. Wealth is way up. International travel is way up. Migration is way up. Resource prices are the lowest in human history. Communications costs are way down. Electronics costs are way down. We are in a zero or negative inflation environment. The quantity and quality of goods and services offered on the markets is at an alltime high. The percentage of the world's countries headed by dictators is the lowest it's ever been. "What all this means is that political philosophies that depend on force of arms to push people into line, will increasingly fail to work. Rich people with choices will, when coerced, tend to change their investments and business affairs into a friendlier form or to move to a friendlier environment. Choice is real. If choices exist, they will be made. An ever higher proportion of the world's people will be "rich" in wealth and choice as the years go on. "Only a political philosophy that depends on the uncoerced cooperation of very different people has a chance of functioning in the future." [Duncan Frissell, 1994-09-09]

17.13. "Will cryptography really bring on the Millenium?"

17.13.1. Yes. And cats will move in with dogs, Snapple will rain from the sky, and P will be shown unequal to NP.

17.13.2. Seriously, the implications of strong privacy, of cyberspatial economies, and of borders becoming transparent are enormous. The way governments do business is already changing, and this will change things even more dramatically. The precise form may be unpredictable, but certain end states are fairly easy to predict in broad brush strokes.

17.13.3. "How do we know the implications of crypto are what I've claimed?"

  • We can't know the future.
  • Printing, railroads, electrification

17.13.4. "When will it all happen? When will strong crypto really begin to have a major effect on the economy?"

  • Stages:
  • The Prehistoric Era. Prior to 1975. NSA and other intelligence agencies controlled most crypto work. Cryptography seen as a hobby. DES just starting to be deployed by banks and financial institutions.
  • The Research Era. 1975-1992. Intense interest in public key discovery, in various protocols. Start of several "Crypto" conferences. Work on digital money, DC-Nets, timestamping, etc.
  • The Activism Era. 1992--?? (probably 1998). PGP 2.0 released. Cypherpunks formed. Clipper announced--meets firestorm of protest. EFF, CPSR, EPIC, other groups. "Wired" starts publication. Digital Telelphony, other bills. Several attempts to start crypto businesses are made...most founder.
  • The Transition Era. After about 1999. Businesses start. Digital cash needed for Net transactions. Networks and computers fast enough to allow more robust protocols. Tax havens flourish. "New Underworld Order" (credit to Claire Sterling) flourishes.
  • It is premature to expect that the current environment-technological and regulatory--will be beneficial to the type of strong crypto we favor. Too many pieces are missing. Several more advances are needed. A few more failures are also needed (gulp!) to show better how not to proceed.

17.13.5. "But will crypto anarchy actually happen?"

  • To a growing extent, it already is happening. Look at the so-called illegal markets, the flows of drug money around the world, the transfer of billions of dollars a day on mere "chop marks," and the thriving trade in banned items.
  • "Grey and black capitalism is already a major component of international cash flows...Once adequate user friendly software is available, the internet will accellerate this already existing trend...Crypto anarchy is merely the application of modern tools to assist covert capitalism." [James Donald, 1994-08-29]
  • There are arguments that a Great Crackdown is coming, that governments will shut down illegal markets, will stop strong crypto, will force underground economies aboveground. This is doubtful--it's been tried for the past several decades (or more). Prohibition merely made crime more organized; ditto for the War on (Some) Drugs.

17.13.6. "Has the point of no return been passed on strong crypto?"

  • Actually, I think that in the U.S. at least, the point was passed decades ago, possibly a century or more ago, and that any hope of controlling strong crypto and private communication evaporated long ago. Abuses by the FBI in wiretapping Americans, and reports of NSA monitoring of domestic communications notwithstanding, it is essentially...

17.14. Loose Ends

17.14.1. firewalls, virtual perimeters, swIPe-type encrypted tunnels, an end to break-ins,

17.14.2. "What kind of encryption will be used with ATM?"

  • (ATM = Asynchronous Transfer Mode, not Automated Teller Machine)
    • some reports that NSA is developing standards for ATM

17.14.3. Shapes of things to come, maybe...(laws of other countries)

  • India has a fee schedule for BBS operators, e.g., they have to pay $50,000 a year to operate a bulletin board! (This sounds like the urban legend about the FCC planning a modem tax, but maybe it's true.)
  • "The Forum for Rights to Electronic Expression (FREE) has been formed in India as a body dedicated to extending fundamental rights to the electronic domain...FREE owes its creation to an attack on Indian datacom by the Indian government, in the form of exorbitant licence fees (a minimum Rs. 1.5 million = US$50,000 each year for a BBS, much higher for e-mail)." [ (Dr. Arun Mehta), forwarded by Phil Agre,, 199408-31]
  • for more info: /pub/EFF/Policy/World/India/FREE

17.14.4. Cyberspace will need better protection

  • to ensure spoofing and counterfeiting is reduced (recall Habitat's problems with people figuring out the loopholes)