personal manifesto (comments appreciated)

Timothy C. May tcmay at
Mon Mar 28 00:47:04 PST 1994

John Blair says he welcomes comments and criticism, so here goes:

> 1)	My vision of the Net is utopian, or I would not spell it as I do, 
> with a capitol N.  While the most likely possibility is that the Net 
> will simply mirror current society, a Net of this structure would fail 
> to realize its potential as an agent of social change.

I often use the term "the Net" as well, but perhaps this usage is
skewing our thinking in the very direction we mostly despise: the
creation of a monolithic entity,  as epitomized in "the" National
Information Infrastructure. Perhaps we should be thinking in terms of
"many nets," "many communcations channels." Come to think of it,
"cyberspace," though sometimes hackneyed (hackerneyed?), captures it
best, at least for me.

> 3)	Current arguments for regulation of cryptography by government 
> agencies depend on the argument they are maintaining their current 
> abilities in the brave new world of cyberspace.  I argue that even if 
> this were the case, we have a responsibility to do more than simply 
> maintain the status quo.  This argument can be mapped to possible future 
> objections by authorities.

Not the best one-paragraph argument for crypto I've ever seen. But I
don't disagree.

> 4)	It is the responsibility of the information haves to spread their 
> knowledge to the information have-nots.  A Net which allows the economic 
> exploitation of information have-nots by those with the information is, 
> while perhaps profitable, immoral.  Information wants to be free.  
> Knowledge which is not of a personal nature should be freely accessible.

I disagree with nearly everything here! If I know how to design
circuits, and some "have-not" does not, what is wrong with that? Is
knowledge to be made illegal? Are consultants, writers, designers,
etc. to be told they cannot use "the Net"?

Arghh! Words fail me. Perhaps our ideologies are just too far apart.

> 5)	Along with these positive potentials, it is possible for the Net 
> to be constructed in such a way as to allow the formation of the most 
> powerful authoritarian societies the world has ever seen.  The potential 
> for the death of the Individual, just as for the empowerment of the 
> Individual, is very real.  We must work to prevent totalitarianism.

And part of preventing totalitarianism means not interfering with
economic transactions made by folks. See how this applies to your
point above.

> 6)	The Net is no better than its users.  Current crises of economic 
> inequality, of homelessness and hunger, will not be affected by the Net 
> unless we work to change them in pre-Net society.  People cannot 
> participate in a democratic society if they are not educated to a minimal 
> level required for functioning in that society.  This is the crux of our 
> societal problems, as well as the crux of possible problems with the Net.

A platitude. Ditto for "End Hunger Now" and "Save the Dolphins."

> 7)	It is better to help oneUs fellow human than to hurt.  It is 
> better to give than to receive.  Equally, one human has an enormous 
> capacity to injure and exploit another human.  We must decide which 
> ability we wish to empower, and judge which we actually do.

It's OK that you believe this, of course, but I fail to see any real
links with what it is we're doing, what crypto and digital privacy is
all about, etc. My fear is that these nice thoughts will be used by
others, especially politicians, to their own ends.

> 8)	There are fundamental problems with the structure of society.  
> Realizing the democratic vision of the Net is a way to re-structure 
> society.  My hope is that this restructuring will create a better 
> society than the one I know.  I recognize it can be worse-- much worse.  
> With vigilance, it will not be.

Be sure you read up on the problems with "democracies." (For the most
part, I'm opposed to democracies. Too many issues to go into right
now, but I can if there's interest.)

> 9)	My beliefs are hopelessly utopian.  I have faith in democratic 
> principles to shape society into a more just social hierarchy.  This 

Instead of so much talk of democracy, think of _free choice_. Is
"deomcratic input" needed in determining what books get published,
what magazines are created and sold, what CDs get produced? No, the
"market" decides. Not perfectly, not to everyone's liking, and
"injustices" do occur. But far better that the success of a book or a
CD depend on customer willingness to buy than that some committee or
democratic vote has decreed that 2 Live Crew is not needed.

The extension of this notion to cyberspace is both obvious and

--Tim May

Timothy C. May         | Crypto Anarchy: encryption, digital money,  
tcmay at       | 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."

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