Print the page
Increase font size

The Cold War’s Crypto Moment

Chris Campbell

Posted May 02, 2022

Chris Campbell

Spend any time in crypto and you’ll hear this foundational buzzword: decentralization.

Contrary to popular thought, all of this talk about decentralization in telecommunications and software is nothing new.

The groundwork for nearly all of the innovation happening in crypto was laid out decades ago.

Understanding this simple fact can help you separate the wheat from the chaff. It reveals that, while crypto seems to be moving at breakneck speed, most of it is just noise.

In our Big Book of Crypto, for example, we talked about the theoretical origins of the cypherpunk movement. Though important and revealing, crypto’s historical underpinnings go back even further than that.

In 1964, Polish-American engineer Paul Baran was the first to articulate the case for decentralization in a paper called “On Distributed Communications.”

At the time, Baran was working for the RAND Corporation, a military think-tank focused on building telecommunications for post-nuclear attack scenarios.

At the peak of the Cold War, while tensions were sky high, Baran criticized the prevailing military communications protocols. He said they were too vulnerable, advocating for a move to a more decentralized design.

This iconic picture, familiar to all who work in crypto, is the first visual expression of centralized, decentralized, and distributed software architecture.

IMG 1

Though his proposal was deemed far-fetched, it eventually laid the groundwork for the World Wide Web and now crypto.

The Importance of Privacy

Baran was also a huge privacy advocate, stating that: “The issue of preserving privacy is not that of keeping alive a quaint custom. Rather, it may be a necessity in maintaining a form of society as we know it.”

In May 1968, he wrote a paper called “On the Engineer’s Responsibility in Protecting Privacy.”

At the very least, this paper reveals that the discussion over privacy hasn’t changed much since the 1960’s.

“There are many among us,” he wrote, “who feel no need for personal privacy. ‘Only the guilty need fear. I have never done anything wrong.’ In fully selfish terms, privacy may be important both to we saints and to all others if we are to preserve the value structures and the stability of our society.”

What he said next proved that he was well ahead of his time: Baran wrote that software engineers have an opportunity and a responsibility to integrate privacy into all digital communications systems.

He said:

“What a wonderful opportunity awaits the computer engineer to exercise a new form of social responsibility. The advent of the new computer-communications technology need not be feared with trepidation as we approach 1984. Rather, we have in our power a force which, if properly tamed, can aid, not hinder, raising our personal right of privacy.”

Adding that:

“It may seem a paradox, but an open society dictates a right-to-privacy among its members, and we will have thrust upon us much of the responsibility of preserving this right.”

Although the crypto markets right now don’t seem to care much about privacy, with the rise of DeFi, we suspect that will change.

Bigly.

By design, blockchains are radically transparent.

At some point, we suspect there will be a rise in demand for more privacy.

Chris Campbell
For Altucher Confidential

Dark Brandon’s Digital Currency

Posted August 18, 2022

By Chris Campbell

Some are calling this new currency “Bitcoin’s evil cousin.” Here’s why…

Energy, Money, and World Peace

Posted August 17, 2022

By Chris Campbell

The idea that energy can be used as a fundamental currency for the human race — and that it can be a force for world peace and prosperity — is an incredibly intriguing one. And perhaps it’s not as far-fetched as it sounds.

2050: The Network

Posted August 16, 2022

By Chris Campbell

The Network began to slip fully into the mainstream when nations capitulated on trying to restore the past — by either Building Back Better or Making XYZ Great Again — paving the way for something new and unexpected to emerge.

A Planet Without Problems

Posted August 15, 2022

By Chris Campbell

In 2009, I almost became a Scientologist.

Bitcoin, the Soho Effect, and the Breitbart Doctrine

Posted August 12, 2022

By Chris Campbell

Crypto has cultural staying power, too. Unlike Wall Street, crypto is cool. And, if politics is indeed downstream from culture, perhaps crypto isn’t too far behind.

Satoshi Nation

Posted August 11, 2022

By Chris Campbell

Crypto cannot and will not win by fighting the existing system on its own playing field. BUT, it can win through a cultural war of attrition. Same as it always was. Ask Martin Luther.