On Friday, March 22, 2002, at 10:37 PM, dmolnar wrote:
> Digression aside, Hakim Bey asks in _TAZ_ the question "where are my
> turnips?" By this he means "when are computers going to deliver on the
> revolutionary promise?" When will we be able to use computer networks to
> exchange goods that people *actually care about* ? When will I be able 
> to
> trade something I have (knowledge about esoteric aspects of relativised
> cryptography, say) for some concrete strange *physical* goods I want
> (Cuban hallucenogenic fruits, controlled substances, organic turnips)?
> (See, the information-only goods don't count. they're not REAL ENOUGH.
> Besides, what kind of revolution is it when the only benefit is free
> Britney Spears songs?)

Hakim (whom I've never met, but, IIRC, Eric H. met him at some "Reality 
Hackers"/"Mondo 2000" party...Hakim is not his real name, IIRC) is too 

First, as you allude to, information-theoretic goods are in fact _very_ 
real. Some examples:

-- the $400 I just paid this morning for a Mathematica license upgrade 
(so they say warez versions are floating around...I have neither the 
time nor the knowledge to search)

-- the incredibly expensive math books out there ($160 for just one slim 
volume!)...can't wait to find them in downloadable form...until then, I 
surf the free sites, the pages (The topics I've been surfing the Net for 
the past few days are connected with category and topos theory...plenty 
of free sites...John Baez (yes, related) has great resources. The Web is 
not the garbage heap it's sometimes portrayed as.

-- speaking of downloadable books, check out the e-books newsgroup, 
including the "flood" one (not near my newsreader right now, so don't 
have exact name). Not too long ago someone posted every novel by 
Heinlein, Asimov, Niven, King, Clarke, etc. in .txt form. Someone else 
posted them in .pdf form and/or the .lit form MS favors. NOTE that every 
one of these books is still under copyright...and these books sell for 
$5-20 each in official e-book form (supposedly meant to be read on 
Palm-type devices, etc). A great way to get a very complete science 
fiction library for free. Oh, and these floods include vast numbers of 
other authors....I've seen a few thousand full, modern novels posted in 
the past couple of months.

(Now tell me these are not "turnips.")

Continuing on with examples:

-- all the usual credit rating info, background info, etc. These are 
being mined, exchanged, traded on the Net (by professionals, companies, 
others.) These are very valuable turnips.

-- information useful in making money, real money...the bubbles and 
busts of the past several years have been fun times to be on the Net 
most of the day, reading and watching and then buying and selling.

-- and tell me that Ebay and Amazon are not places where turnips are 
bought, sold, and traded.

And so on. More and more things of interest...in my world...are going 
over the Net. Hakim can be forgiven for writing in 1989 that the Net was 
not delivering.

(Some of us wrote more optimistically back then. We weren't writing 
books, just shorter pieces. We knew Ted Nelson, Eric Drexler, all those 
familiar names. And we could project natural trends. Hakim drifted into 
his drug/hermeneutics/deconstruction reality even as engineers were 
actually building the future.)

> He's asking this in _1989_. WHERE ARE THE TURNIPS IN 2002?

All around. And not just in Brittny Spears junk.

Surfing the Net yesterday, I realized Pat Metheny was about to perform 
in Santa Cruz that very night. So I went. Great. Some months back, I 
recollected that a test launch out of Vandenburg was coming up. I did 
some quick searches, found the launch was scheduled for 10 minutes away, 
stood out on my deck and watched the rocket arc up over Big Sur and head 
out over the Pacific.

These are trivial examples of how the Web is delivering real turnips.

And then there are 30 Heinlein novels sitting on my hard disk (whoops, 
what I meant to say is "Which I downloaded as part of my research on how 
severe the copyright violation problem has become.").

And more good stuff is coming. Forget about MP3s as the end-all and 

> Recently we saw this question echoed by Morlock Elloi -- are there
> compelling reasons to ask for privacy and anonymity, besides the fact 
> that
> a bunch of (unemployed) cypherpunks are True Believers? A more pointed 
> way
> to put it would be "have the technologies we've argued about for the 
> past
> ten years *actually* changed **anyone's** lives?"

A more flippant answer would be: those who don't want these technologies 
for privacy and untraceability obviously are not being forced to use 
them. The fact that "Morlock Eloi" is using that nym is telling, 
however. Clearly _he_ decided to use these technologies.

And, though I have said it many times, the tradeoffs are economic: value 
of thing or act being hidden vs. cost of being caught. (I wrote about 
this in detail several months ago, and a few years ago. "The millicent 
ghetto" and why all of crypto and untraceability needs to take this into 

Fact is, some people spend thousands of dollars flying to the Caymans or 
Switzerland or wherever to establish relatively private bank accounts. 
Most people don't. Most people, the stereotypical Joe Sixpacks who have 
"nothing to hide," are content to keep their money in passbook savings 
accounts that their neighbor the teller can see anytime she wishes, and 
to have no real passwords on files or computers, and to tell friends 
passwords so they can share accounts. The fact that _most_ people don't 
use offshore banks means nothing for whether such services are desired 
by _some_.

(It's one of my main theses that for way too long the focus of crypto 
proselytizing (yuck) has been on convincing T.C. Mits that he needs to 
use crypto. B-o-r-i-n-g! The "high value" uses bring users who will be 
receptive to exotic and interesting new approaches. Again, plot "value 
of secrecy" against "price of secrecy.")

> Well Tim's already partially answered this in the word "Napster!" Some 
> 19
> year old went and changed the world, created something even nontech
> friends of mine not only *could* use, but *did* use. **all the time**.
> Never mind that Eric Hughes had a design for something similar with his
> Universal Piracy Network; this guy actually did it and the world is
> fucking CHANGED because of it.

Black Net did this, and actually worked. Real keys, too. In 1993. I'm 
not declaring the implementation was optimum, but publishing into a pool 
(e.g., Usenet, e.g, alt.anonymous.messages) has many advantages over 
trying for a low-latency Web-centric solution, pace ZKS. Again, 
tradeoffs in value and cost. A pool approach for short messages and 
relatively small items is a lot cheaper and more secure (because of some 
tradeoffs) than being able to send DIVX movies untraceably. If you want 
the bandwidth to untraceably send gigabytes, it's going to cost. Not a 
lot of users want to pay the overhead...nor should they (in terms of 
PipeNet models).

> We can point to anon remailers as well; if it gets the Church of
> Scientology gets hot and bothered and causes them to ruin the lives of
> random people and Cypherpunk tech can stop that, well ain't that a good

Ironically, the original NOTS publications which triggered the 1995 
escalation were done through Cypherpunks remailers.  (I wrote about the 
use of remailers for publishing Scientology secrets in my paper "Crypto 
Anarchy and Virtual Communities," for a conference in Monte Carlo in 
Feb. '95.)

CP technology doesn't "stop that," in the obvious senses.

> Now we have a vision from Adam Back, the vision of a privacy
> protecting independent media enhancing "storage surface" which will 
> allow
> niche REAL REPORTING to survive in a censorship resistant fashion. I 
> think
> it's a **beautiful** vision.

Not to take anything away from Adam Back, but Ross Anderson has been 
publishing results in this area for a long, long time. So have others.

I applaud all the various napstering efforts. We now seem to be in 
roughly Phase 3 or 4.

(Phase 1 was Napster. Phase 2 were the Sons of Napster, including 
Freenet, Gnutella, Morpheus, and perhaps MojoNation. Maybe MN was Phase 
3. Phase 3 or 4 is BitTorrent and all of the other various nascent 

The metapoint of my last article was that people must accept that an 
untraceable system of this kind of power pretty much necessitates their 
_own_ untraceability in developing and releasing the system.

> What I get from Hakim Bey in TAZ at this point is a skepticism about the
> idea of computers as enabling the Temporary Autonomous Zone. In their
> place, he has the usual bullshit about how it's all about "becoming" and
> all about presence, spontaneity, self-defintion, and so on.

Because he's not an engineer or designer...he caught glimpses of the 
future, couldn't see how they would actually unfold, and so drifted into 
the usual mumbo jumbo and magical thinking about these ideas being 
metaphors for internal self-becoming.

The value of Heinlein, of John McCarthy, of Vinge,... is to say "OK, 
cool ideas. Now, how might we build such a thing?"

(A note on Neal Stephenson. Obviously another builder, with real 
computer experience. And yet even he got some important things utterly 
wrong. How could he have missed the point that if Hiro Protagonist is 
immensely wealthy and powerful in the Metaverse, he certainly won't be 
living in a shipping crate at LAX in meatspace. Any Columbian 
infotrafficante worth his bytes could figure a hundred ways to "launder" 
information out of cypherspace and into meatspace. I tagged Neal on this 
at a Hackers Conference...and he agreed.)

> So what is missing from the computer networks of today that gets in the
> way of this real social change that people have been proclaiming 
> forever?
> or did the amazing change happen and I just missed it? Is there 
> something
> about our current networks that actively HINDERS the TAZ?
> hell, is the temporary autonomous zone still what "cypherpunks is 
> about"?

There's a reason TAZ was on the earliest reading lists in '92. It's a 
facet, like True Names, like Ender's Game, like Snow Crash, like 
Shockwave Rider, like a bunch of other books. A way to expand horizons.

I think we went off the rails way  back, as people got interested in 
crypto but never grasped the consequences of being able to "bobble" 
private spaces, of a world in which cyberspace is "reified" by the act 
of creation and ownership, where the "walls are held up" by the strength 
of mathematics.

This is NOT some handwaving bit of jive. This is real.

Cypherpunks was not about Choatian gibberish about fighting 
corporations. It was not about getting Marge Sixpack to use PGP to 
protect her privacy. It was about applying the rich collection of crypto 
concepts and protocols (a LOT more than simple encryption) to 
incorporate or reify into constructed realities that will form the 
future for many of us.

My vision hasn't changed. It didn't change through the "t-shirt phase" 
(when several Cypherpunks t-shirts were produced and sold). It didn't 
change through the Vulis and Detweiler phases (precursors of Jim Bell, 
CJ Parker, Mattd, and other nutcases). It didn't change through the 
  phase (a dozen variants of digital money, including Cybercash, 
Digicash, forgotten e-wallet companies, ad nauseum,....and a dozen 
variants of encryption companies, signature companies, etc.).

And so on. There were lots of phases, each mutating the directions 
slightly. Each of these phases has siphoned people off the list...as 
they went off to found and work at their startups, or other people's 
startups. And most of these companies failed. (I'm not knocking failing 
at a startup, as a general point.)

The outlook for a few decades off remains one dominated by the 
inescapable conclusions of the early days: crypto is very inexpensive 
and we can build systems which laws are powerless to block. (Insert 
usual points and metaphors here about forks in the road, genie out of 
the bottle, bobbling of data, creation of private space and virtual 
communities, the role of discretionary communties, private law, etc.)

Despite crackdowns and setbacks after events like 911, despite waning 
interest as the "coolness factor" of crypto wore off years ago (when PRZ 
wasn't prosecuted, for example), and despite the dot com implosion which 
took a lot of flaky business plans into oblivion, the fundamentals are 
better now than they were 10 years ago. Then we were hoping that the 
primitive GOPHER and ARCHIE tools would someday morph into something 
more closely resembling Nelsonian hypertext...and then we got the Web in 
mid-decade, and it was in many ways better than what systems like Xanadu 
could have plausibly delivered.

I know what interests me. And if I'm the only person interested in it, 
that's not necessarily a bad thing. Anthrocryptology rules!

The future's so bright, I gotta wear mirrorshades!

--Tim May (and no, despite the sometimes fragmented prose, I haven't had 
a drop to drink. Just trying to type fast...so much of this has been 
said, but folks still keep missing the good stuff.)

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