Resilience as 'Political Decentralization': An Alternate History of the Cypherpunks Origins of Decentralised Technology

13 Pages Posted: 18 Nov 2021

See all articles by Kelsie Nabben

Kelsie Nabben

European University Institute - Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies (RSCAS); RMIT University School of Media and Communication

Date Written: October 7, 2021

Abstract

The origins of decentralised technologies are often attributed to the Cypherpunks who pursued the development of privacy preserving tools against government surveillance. The Cypherpunk story is often portrayed as a “David versus Goliath” battle between counterculture rebels who wanted to subvert state surveillance with cryptographic tools, and the government who tried and failed to regulate public access to strong cryptography (Levy, 2002). That narrative - of the Cypherpunks versus The State in developing decentralized technology - is somewhat inaccurate. Historical documentation reveals that the idea of decentralization as a means to resilience evolved through non-linear developments by government sponsored, and independent, researchers in relation to policy questions of the day. The real contribution of Cypherpunk ideology is the idea that resilience can be achieved via technology that enables political decentralization, and that this leads to the distribution of control or influence over the systems that govern society for any given community to enable self-governance.

Keywords: decentralization, Cypherpunk, cryptocurrency, resilience, politics

JEL Classification: Z1, Z13

Suggested Citation

Nabben, Kelsie, Resilience as 'Political Decentralization': An Alternate History of the Cypherpunks Origins of Decentralised Technology (October 7, 2021). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3938626 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3938626

Kelsie Nabben (Contact Author)

European University Institute - Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies (RSCAS) ( email )

Villa La Fonte, via delle Fontanelle 18
50016 San Domenico di Fiesole
Florence, Florence 50014
Italy

RMIT University School of Media and Communication ( email )

Melbourne
Australia

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