Some of us believe various forms of strong cryptography will cause the power of the state to decline, perhaps even collapse fairly abruptly. We believe the expansion into cyberspace, with secure communications, digital money, anonymity and pseudonymity, and other crypto-mediated interactions, will profoundly change the nature of economies and social interactions.
Those words were written by crypto-anarchist Timothy May a quarter century ago. At the time, in a world which was barely discovering the newly emerging potential of the internet, they appeared to many to have a wishful charm about them. Today they are beginning to appear prophetic.
Blockchain-based Social Organisation
May was an accomplished software engineer. He was also a committed anarchist, author of the Crypto Anarchist Manifesto, and believed in the ability of technology to bypass existing models of social organisation. Whilst that belief was shared by many others, what set him apart from many of his peers was his belief in the power of cryptography-based technology to also supplant those existing models.
At the time, the idea of a technologically-inspired anarchism appeared far-fetched, including to many committed cypherpunks from within his own circle. Today, with the advent of blockchain technologies, new platforms are now emerging, such as BitNation, which offer individuals the ability to enter voluntarily into new social arrangements with a wider community whose philosophy and values they both share and help to define. It is the very definition of anarchism.
Those platforms will soon offer up the ability for individuals with a shared vision to interact with others of similar outlook in a myriad of ways, be it through commercial trade, co-operatives, discussion groups or as political lobbies.
Whist this has been happening up to an extent with traditional internet-based community organisation, with blockchain technology which now provides trust and transparency in a system and its laws, May’s prophecy looks set more than ever to come true.
The caveat is that, for the time being, these new communities are likely going to have to exist in parallel with existing methods of social organisation that they may otherwise resent or mistrust.
What will be interesting to observe, however, is whether these new blockchain-inspired anarchistic communities now serve as models of alternative organisation for social relations in the real world.
Whilst no-one may be able to make that call, however things pan out, the blockchain revolution does nonetheless look set to be something more than a technical one.