Location: New York
Date: Tuesday 7th December
Company: Former CEO of Blockstream
Role: Entrepreneur, VC & Cypherpunk
Many are still ignorant of the cypherpunk movement. Yet, it is arguably one of the most consequential enterprises in the history of man.
The rise of civilization has been marked by a slow shift from centralized control to increasing levels of individual sovereignty. This was accelerated by the industrial revolution, with political institutions adapting to facilitate increasing levels of democracy.
Democracy peaked in 1990’s: Francis Fukuyama predicted in 1992 universalization of liberal democracy would lead to ‘The End of History’. But in only a generation, this certainty of the future has been lost. We are now at a critical junction, where many fear technology could allow for a permanent totalitarian structuring of society.
Cypherpunks seek to ensure the balance of power is in the hands of the individual. Foreseeing the inherent danger to maintaining an open society in the electronic age, they have and continue to devise privacy-enhancing technologies. “We know that someone has to write software to defend privacy, and… we’re going to write it.” A Cypherpunk’s Manifesto (Eric Hughes, 1993).
The future role of the individual, and the essence of civilization, is in the hands of an informal, diligent, dispersed, and largely unheralded cohort of computer and cryptography experts.
I sat down with Austin Hill, one of the original converts to the cypherpunk movement, and more lately, a pivotal safeguarding figure for Bitcoin. In the first of two successive interviews to be released, we discuss how he discovered the cypherpunks, his challenging early endeavours, a reawakening through Bitcoin, and the risks and opportunities for the future.