Cryptocurrency: Lunarpunks, Privacy, and the New Encryption Guerillas... CryptoAnarchy, Agorism, Black Markets, DarkFi
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Sun Feb 26 16:16:16 PST 2023
Lunarpunks, Privacy, and the New Encryption Guerillas
By Rachel-Rose O'Leary, Coindesk
This article is part of Road to Consensus.
Rachel-Rose O'Leary will speak at Layer 2's "Big Ideas" stage at Consensus.
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Crypto Anarchists Are Building Tools to Resist the State in Eastern Europe
By Rachel-Rose O'Leary, Coindesk, Jun 8, 2022
A growing group of cryptography experts are using tools to carve "dark" spaces
out of the surveilled web. This article is a preview of Rachel-Rose O'Leary's
talk on the 'Big Ideas' stage at Consensus.
In 1916, a few hundred revolutionaries declared Ireland to be an
autonomous nation and occupied strategic locations around Dublin. In the
days that followed, the British Army encircled the uprising and suffocated
One by one, the leaders of the uprising were lined up and shot. A young
fighter named Michael Collins evaded death by chance. He vowed never to
enter into direct clashes with the British Empire again, and began a war
that would change the shape of resistance forever.
Units were split into small groups that operated in secrecy. Fighters
lacked weapons, but the people and rugged landscape protected them. The
new warfare favored hit-and-run tactics and disrupting enemy intelligence.
It was the dawn of modern guerrilla tactics – and it won Ireland its
These guerilla tactics are no longer feasible today. Modern surveillance
technologies and automated weaponry have turned the world that we inhabit
into a desert with no protective cover. Resistance fighters are easy
Since the 1990s, a movement of privacy advocates and coders called
cypherpunks have been fighting back the encroachment of surveillance. In
some sense, they draw inspiration from the guerilla fighters before them.
Guerilla warfare is fundamentally asymmetric: It is the tactic of a
smaller, disadvantaged people against a vastly superior enemy. They fight
high-tech with low-tech, complexity with simplicity, fire with water.
Coders and guerillas alike define the front lines and change them
constantly. For cyphers, it's with ever-advancing encryption and for
fighters like the Irish, it's the ability to melt back into the community
before the enemy can even give chase.
As governments build all-encompassing surveillance machines, cypherpunks
use simple encryption tools to render them futile. Cypherpunks argue that
without privacy, personal liberty is impossible. Cryptography is a
defensive tool to live free from coercion and force.
The new guerillas
Lunarpunk is descended from cypherpunk but takes its logic a step further.
It’s a guerrilla movement committed to establishing a digital forest in
cypherspace using tools like encryption that its fighters can recede into.
The current internet is a desert rather than a forest due to surveillance.
Lunarpunks defend and define new territories – dark, fertile zones that
have been claimed back using private, anonymous decentralized autonomous
organizations (DAO) and peer-to-peer (P2P) organizational tooling. Another
word for this would be an agora, or non-state system.
In an interesting twist of history, a science-fiction subculture called
solarpunk was one of the principal inspirations for Ether Both lunarpunk
and solarpunk are utopian. Unlike solarpunk, lunarpunk is armed. It runs
Currently in the devnet phase, DarkFi (the word is a combination of "dark"
and "DeFi") is a layer 1 blockchain that supports these private and
anonymous applications. Lunarpunks, so far a small movement of hackers,
are already creating tools using DarkFi that allow communities to
coordinate in the dark.
The DarkFi community has been working on an initial design for a private
and anonymous DAO. Right now, DarkFi coders are testing a P2P Internet
Relay Chat (IRC) client and task manager to ensure DAOs on DarkFi do not
become dependent on centralized and proprietary software. Although crypto
aims for decentralization, so much of the industry’s activity happens
over for-profit tools like the messaging app Discord and digital notebook
Until now, blockchain applications have been built on a desert landscape.
Killer apps like automated market makers (AMM) compute the price of assets
in token pools and require the app to know everything that happens in real
time. The dominant engineering paradigm requires total surveillance.
To engineer anonymous applications, we must generate new concepts. It is
necessary to evolve what the DarkFi community calls "anonymous
engineering" – a new kind of engineering based on hidden information.
For example, zero-knowledge cryptography unlocks a new set of techniques
– you can make encrypted commitments to data and trustlessly prove
whether or not something has happened. You can compose hidden data
structures that can hold references to one another. You can combine these
techniques with other primitives, such as homomorphic encryption and
multiparty computation, to design fully anonymous and featured
Lunarpunks perceive lightness as terror, and are fighting against
surveillance capitalism. In DarkFi, darkness is structured as an inversion
of contemporary power dynamics and a way to empower communities. Darkness
is the legacy of surveillance turned upside down.
The inversion of hierarchies has been central to many crypto-anarchist
movements. Think of the parallel, inverted world that crypto-anarchists
call the Parallel Polis, or the tactic of counter-economics, a black
market economy that exists parallel to, but distinct from, the statist
You can trace this political symbol to the philosopher Friedrich
Nietzsche, who wrote about what he called active and reactive forces.
Forces are energies that drive human behavior. For him, active forces were
positive – and are seen when people affirm and assert their power.
Further, active forces lead to differentiation – a multiplicity of
cults, factions and communities expressing power in different ways.
Reactive forces suppress power and deny difference.
In the lunarpunk's language, forests are active and deserts are reactive.
Resistance is active; oppression is reactive.
According to Nietzsche, active forces should dominate reactive forces. He
called this “hierarchy.” But he argues that in reality, perhaps
contrary to what you might expect, hierarchies are often inverted.
Reactive forces, though lethargic and without any original ideas, are
often the most powerful. State power persists by repressing resistance.
The desert dominates.
Lunarpunk does not negate the current order: It inverts the false
hierarchy that places reactive forces on high and suppresses active
forces. Lunarpunk proclaims the victory of affirmation against negation,
the victory of the active against the reactive, and the victory of the
forests against the desert.
Like flowers bursting from concrete, a new design space is emerging from
dead-end surveillance optimization. It is effortless and spontaneous, like
a miracle of healing breaking out across a scarred and broken landscape.
Encryption is asymmetric: It favors the smaller player over the monopoly.
Cypherpunk hero Julian Assange said that "the universe smiles on
encryption" because it is easier to encrypt information than to decrypt
it. Lunarpunks are wielding this mystical quality of the universe in open
conflict with surveillance.
Thanks to Armor and Paul-Dylan Ennis.
More information about the cypherpunks