[Brmlab] Fwd: DARK WALLET: A RADICAL WAY TO BITCOIN
Tomas Overdrive Petru
tpetru at gmail.com
Wed Sep 25 15:26:17 CEST 2013
Mam dojem, ze jeden z tech lidi, o kterych se tady pise psal, ze se
stavi v BRMLAbu a nikdo mu neodpovedel [mozna jsem moh ja, no].
Kazdopadne preposilam, treba nekoho zaujme, pripadne nejaka klicova
slova tam jsou.
S pozdravem a omluvou, ze ted nejsem moc brmactive,
kdyz by mi nekdo neco chtel, tak prosim email, jedina forma komunikace
na kterou ted reaguju jakestakes.
-------- Původní zpráva --------
Předmět: DARK WALLET: A RADICAL WAY TO BITCOIN
Datum: Wed, 25 Sep 2013 09:56:29 +0200
Od: Eugen Leitl <eugen at leitl.org>
Komu: tt at postbiota.org, cypherpunks at al-qaeda.net, info at postbiota.org,
zs-p2p at zerostate.is
DARK WALLET: A RADICAL WAY TO BITCOIN
POSTED BY MICHAEL DEL CASTILLO
Cody Wilson is a twenty-five-year-old former law student at the University of
Texas at Austin. He is also the inventor of the Liberator, a gun made almost
entirely from plastic pieces created with a 3-D printer; he also uploaded to
the Internet a blueprint that anyone could use to print such a gun.
Wilson, who espouses libertarian views, created the blueprint to make a
point: information should be free. Not everyone agreed with him. In May,
after Wilson successfully fired the gun at a range near Austin and posted the
design online, the State Department requested that those files be removed
from the Web site of his nonprofit, Defense Distributed.
Wilson complied—but not before the files had been downloaded two hundred
thousand times, igniting a debate about whether there should be limits to the
free flow of information over the Internet, and over the role of the
government in enforcing those restrictions.
Wilson lives in “a utopian world in which contraband will be only a notional
concept, because enforcement will require policing ideas and blueprints, not
simply goods,” Jacob Silverman wrote in a piece about Wilson and the
Liberator in May.
A native of Cabot, Arkansas—a small suburb of Little Rock—Wilson said that
the State Department’s action persuaded him to drop out of law school and
pursue revolutionary activities full-time. In fact, he had been planning his
next endeavor for a while. When Indiegogo, a crowdfunding site, booted
Defense Distributed’s campaign in August, 2012, for violating its terms of
service—Indiegogo said the project related to the sale of firearms; Wilson
said it was for the creation of information—Wilson began to raise money by
asking people to support him using a currency called Bitcoin: encrypted,
difficult-to-trace bits of code that function like cash and can be exchanged
over the Internet without a bank or a PayPal account.
Wilson said that he eventually raised two hundred bitcoins for the
Liberator—the equivalent of twenty-seven thousand dollars, according to the
current exchange rate. His efforts attracted the attention of a
twenty-five-year-old Brit named Amir Taaki, who e-mailed him with an
invitation to speak at the Bitcoin 2012 Conference, in London. He accepted.
Wilson and Taaki met in person for the first time in January of 2013, when
Taaki took Wilson to visit a workspace for hackers is Bratislava, Slovakia,
and to anarchist squats in London. They reconnected in Berlin that July and
began hashing out a plan to use the as of yet unregulated, untaxed, nearly
untraceable currency in a way that would, like the Liberator, undermine the
ability of governments to regulate the activities of their citizens.
In the Bitcoin world, where banks no longer serve as intermediaries between
people and their money, bank accounts have been replaced by online “wallets”
that people can use to virtually store and send bitcoins.
Wilson and Taaki’s project, tentatively known as Dark Wallet, is a simple
wallet designed to be easier to use for people who aren’t tech-savvy; they
hope that in turn accelerates the currency’s rate of adoption around the
world. The wallet will be open-source and free to use. Eventually, Wilson and
Taaki hope to create a vast stable of Bitcoin-related tools.
The goal, for Wilson, is similar to what he tried to do with the Liberator:
use technology to remove government intervention from his life, and from the
lives of like-minded people.
Unlike many current Bitcoin wallets, which can be difficult to download and
cumbersome to use, Wilson and Taaki are designing Dark Wallet, they told me,
as an easy-to-install plug-in that sits discreetly on users’ Chrome or
Firefox browsers. Made for Windows, Mac, and Linux computers, Dark Wallet
would move most of the energy-sucking process of insuring there’s only one of
each bitcoin in circulation, and that they aren’t spent in two places at the
same time, to separate servers.
Wilson still lives in Austin, working remotely on Dark Wallet with Taaki, who
lives in an anarchist compound called Calafou, outside of Barcelona, and
writes most of the code behind the wallet. Taaki and Vitalik Buterin, the
co-founder of Bitcoin Magazine, a periodical covering the currency, are part
of a Calafou-based organization called unSystem, which came up with the idea
for the wallet; they’re working with a team of developers from around the
world. Wilson, who will manage the development team behind Dark Wallet,
making sure they meet their targets on time, is also producing a video and
other material for a crowdfunding campaign to raise money for the project.
Dark Wallet should be ready sometime in January or February of 2014, Taaki
said, though he’s not committing to anything. “It’ll launch when it’s ready,”
he said. And the details of an upcoming crowdfunding campaign have still yet
to be solidified, though Taaki and Wilson expect it to launch sometime in
The person or group that, in 2008, created Bitcoin—that is, released the
protocol that defined what Bitcoin would be—called itself Satoshi Nakamoto.
The online comments that Satoshi Nakamoto made before disappearing
completely, in 2012, indicate that the creator of Bitcoin, like Wilson, was
deeply mistrustful of economic institutions and designed the currency to be
Bitcoin is created, or “mined,” as it’s called, by powerful computers that
race to solve complex math problems and are rewarded for their work with the
encrypted code that is a bitcoin. Today there are 11.7 million of the coins
in existence, worth an estimated $1.6 billion, though their value fluctuates
dramatically. Nakamoto set the number of coins entering circulation to halve
every four years until 2140, when they will plateau at twenty-one million
coins and never be produced again.
Because no one can arbitrarily decide to print more bitcoins, and because no
banks intermediate the storage and spending of the currency, the value of a
bitcoin is determined by market demand. Wilson finds this very attractive.
But where a currency exists, capitalism will inevitably find it. In recent
months, Bitcoin has caught the attention of entrepreneurs, many funded by
venture-capital firms, who have begun building Bitcoin-related start-ups. The
companies include exchanges where people can trade bitcoins, along with
services that let people store and spend the currency in places ranging from
Amazon-style online markets to brick-and-mortar bars and restaurants.
The mainstream entrepreneurs who are interested in Bitcoin have found a haven
in a nonprofit called the Bitcoin Foundation. Writing about Bitcoin in April,
Maria Bustillos described its executives as a “rational and sober group of
adult administrators” who stand in contrast with the image of Bitcoin users
as “wild-eyed kids camping out in half-deserted lofts.” Members of the
foundation met in August with several federal agencies, including the Federal
Reserve, the F.B.I., and the Secret Service. On the surface, the meeting was
an educational exercise, meant to explain how Bitcoin works, but many
observers assume it was a step toward regulating the currency.
The foundation, which celebrates its first anniversary this month, calls
itself an advocacy group “dedicated to serving the business, technology,
government relations, and public affairs needs of the Bitcoin community.” One
goal, according to Jon Matonis, its executive director of the Bitcoin
Foundation, is to educate both public and private interests—including the
government—about how the currency operates. (“The Foundation is not
pro-regulation as some have claimed, but it is pro-education,” Matonis has
written, adding that he supports “bitcoin education for legislative and
regulatory entities” and that “lobbying on behalf of Bitcoin is not
Wilson, not surprisingly, sees working with the government as a betrayal of
Bitcoin’s fundamental purpose. “The public faces of Bitcoin are acting as
counter-revolutionaries,” he told me. “They’re actively working to try to
diffuse it, and to pollute it.” He was referring, he said, not only to the
Bitcoin Foundation but to venture capitalists and entrepreneurs in New York
and Silicon Valley who increasingly embrace the currency as a way to profit,
but don’t share his revolutionary aims. (Matonis said he is aware of Wilson’s
concerns. “I don’t see my role as advancing crony capitalism,” he said.)
Wilson believes Bitcoin should remain the backbone of a separate economy that
undermines the government’s ability to collect taxes and to control the value
of currency—not be subsumed into the mainstream economy.
“The state is basically allowed because we have all chosen to use these
certain institutions to channel our activity and commerce,” he told me. “But
when we are enabled, through alternative means and technologies, to channel
our commerce as we will, channel our production as we will, the state simply
Not everyone agrees, of course, that society would benefit from the
disappearance of governments. Wilson used the Liberator to make the point
that the government shouldn’t regulate the flow of information; he wants to
use Bitcoin to help build an economy outside of the government’s reach.
But his ideology, taken to its logical conclusion, would also leave services
like roads, libraries, fire fighting, and policing in the hands of the
private sector—whose interests may not be aligned, Wilson’s critics argue,
with those of the public at large.
Wilson knows that he could see blowback for his stance against the
foundation: as a self-described “crypto-anarchist,” perhaps he shouldn’t be
so concerned with who is or isn’t determining the currency’s future. And if
the U.S. government attempts to regulate the currency, which seems likely,
Wilson will also find himself once again in direct opposition to the
Wilson and the suit-and-tie-wearing people at the Bitcoin Foundation share a
common interest in bringing Bitcoin to as many people as possible. The
foundation seems willing to play nicely with the establishment, and has been
open to hearing about the interests of old-school players like venture
capitalists and government regulators. Wilson, however, who was only recently
firing an illicit gun into the desert, isn’t looking only for a new currency
but for another way to liberate himself—and others—from government oversight.
Michael del Castillo is the technology and innovation reporter at Upstart
Business Journal, a member of American City Business Journals, which is a
sister publication to Condé Nast. A graduate of Columbia University, he is
also the cofounder of Literary Manhattan, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting
Manhattan’s literary community and creating new ways to appreciate
Illustration by Grafilu.
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