What is a cypherpunk?

Steve Thompson steve49152 at yahoo.ca
Sun Feb 6 15:13:57 PST 2005

Anonymous wrote:
>I challenge anyone here to answer the question of what it means to be
>a cypherpunk.  What are your goals?  What is your philosophy?  Do you

In this day and age, do you realy expect anyone to answer questions like
that openly and honestly?   Really.  There's a similar and simple label
that gets used and abused by people who might either be technically
competent engineers, or merely script kiddies: hacker.

These days, being a hacker is nearly enough the moral equivalent of being
a Communist in California during the Fifties.  Or a leper.  Note how the
term 'hacker' is normally used, as a perjorative, in writings and speech
found in the mainstream media.  If a journalist for Time Magazine uses the
label 'hacker' in a perjorative context, chances are that a letter-writing
campaign launched in earnest for the purpose of reclaiming the defintion
preferred by engineers, will at best produce a tiny correction buried in a
corner of a subsequent issue.  And then some other writer will make the
same mistake later.  

The same applies to the term `cyperhpunk', only the term is rarely used
outside of the Internet.  Quite frankly, I couldn't care less what label
applies to me.  I'm somewhat knowledgeable on issues that are said to be
characteristic of the focus of 'cypherpunks', but I don't pray every day
with a reading from the Cypherpunk Manifesto.

>even recognize the notion of right and wrong?  Or is it all simply a
>matter of doing whatever you can get away with, of grabbing what you can
>while you can, of looting your betters for your own short term benefit?

Depends on the person, I guess.  

>Is that what it means to be a cypherpunk today?  Because that's how it
>looks from here.

Perhaps a comprehensive survey should be done.  A comprehensive
questionaire in the form of a purity test might do it, as might something
like a geek code for 'cypherpunks'...

Do you read Applied Cryptography?
Have you ever generated a 16 kbit RSA key?
Do you have a picture of Ralph Merkle hanging on the wall in your bedroom?

Face it.  You aren't going to get straight answers to questions from
highly technical internet sophisticates, even if you ask politely.  They
have better things to do than to justify and explain their ideologies when
in fact such is easily read from the body of their work, and implicit to
their writings.



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