Cypherpunks: articulates and challenges Internet freedom


Cypherpunks -- a quick, stirring, scary read -- transcribes a wide-ranging conversation between Wikileaks co-founder Julian Assange, Jacob Appelbaum (Wikileaks/Tor Project), Andy Müller-Maguhn (Chaos Computer Club) and Jérémie Zimmermann (La Quadrature Du Net).

Edited together in thematic chapters (The Militarization of Cyberspace, Fighting Total Surveillance With the Laws of Physics, Private Sector Spying), Cypherpunks exceeded my expectations. I know some of the book's protagonists personally and know how smart and principled they are. But I was afraid, going into this, that what would emerge would be a kind of preaching-to-the-choir consensus, because all four of the participants are on the same side.

Instead, I found Cypherpunks to be a genuine debate, where each speaker's best arguments -- well-polished, well-spoken, and convincing -- were mercilessly tested by the others, who subjected them to hard questions and rigorous inspection. Most of our discussions about Wikileaks lack nuance, and they're often hijacked by personal questions about Assange. Whatever you feel about Assange, he is not Wikileaks -- Wikileaks is an activity, not an organization, and its participants, including Bradley Manning, are engaged in something important and difficult and fraught, and there is a place for a debate about whether the tactics of Wikileaks best serve a the strategic end of a free and open Internet in a just and humane society.

The debate recorded in Cypherpunks -- though leavened with humor and easy to follow -- covers a lot of nuance of the sort that has been missing from the discussion. The wider points -- that the universe's in-built mathematics favor the keeping of secrets because it is easier to encrypt a message than decrypt it, say -- may dazzle, but the getting down to cases afterward, the chewing the point over and challenging it, that's where the book shines.

There aren't many titles that pack as much argument, ambiguity and theory into as small a package as Cypherpunks. It's a book you can read in an hour or two, but you'll be thinking about it for years.

Cypherpunks

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  1. I can’t believe an author managed to pack 4 spelling errors into two of the authors’ names in this one post! That’s efficient ;-)
    But it does sound like an interesting read.

  2. The “Any” typo made me think for a moment that it was “Amy” and that they’d included a women in their conversations. Hahahaha! Silly me.

  3. Most of our discussions about Wikileaks lack nuance, and they’re often hijacked by personal questions about Assange. Whatever you feel about Assange, he is not Wikileaks — Wikileaks is an activity, not an organization, and its participants, including Bradley Manning, are engaged in something important and difficult and fraught, and there is a place for a debate about whether the tactics of Wikileaks best serve a the strategic end of a free and open Internet in a just and humane society.

    Finally…  an actual discussion of importance instead of trite bickering!  Loving it!

  4. and despite that rushed link, finally a book that you can not get from mr. bezos, just get it from the source, a wonderful publisher called OR Books: http://www.orbooks.com/catalog/cypherpunks/

  5. I sat and watched the entire video interview online that this book is a transcript of.  I can say I was very surprised and captivated that Julian was letting people know the harder things to describe, of greater scope, and that the things he is saying, as he is, are extremely important and true, despite how to some they might seem fantastic.  It was the first time I ever heard Julian speak in a manner that sum’s up all he is now witness to, on a larger scale.

    I highly recommend either watching the video, or reading the transcript, to everyone, not just those attending to or ignoring things about Julian and Wiki-leaks, but everyone, for here he is speaking very lucidly and eloquently about the full scope of very big things being done in these times, (now that they -can- be done, some ensure they are those who do them), and the time you spend attending to these words would be enlightening, and well spent.

  6. “…and they’re often hijacked by personal questions about Assange.”

    Wow, it’s almost like somebody set Assange up in order to make that happen.

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