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What Would The Cypherpunks Say About Crypto Today?

In 1992, three computer scientists in the Bay Area created a new mailing list designed to discuss cryptography, mathematics, politics, and philosophy. They called it “The Cypherpunks.” Q4 2021 hedge...

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This story originally appeared on ValueWalk

In 1992, three computer scientists in the Bay Area created a new mailing list designed to discuss cryptography, mathematics, politics, and philosophy. They called it "The Cypherpunks."

Pexels / Pixabay - Valuewalk

Q4 2021 hedge fund letters, conferences and more

Then, as the popularity of the internet continued to grow, the cypherpunks knew that it was only a matter of time before the government got involved and began to monitor and censor the web.

They aslo knew that the only possible way to prevent this was through cryptography.

So, since the world wide web grew and surveillance and monitoring of users became widespread, an interesting question emerges: Longing for much needed privacy —and almost predicting the lack thereof— what would cypherpunks say about the crypto world of today?

A Privacy Sacrifice

Currently, our online activity is completely dominated by a handful of global websites that allow us to connect with everyone we've ever met —but it wasn't always like this.

At the beginning of the 1990s, the internet was still ruled by hobbyists and hackers. The web felt absolutely endless, full of new and exciting nooks and crannies just waiting to be explored —you never quite knew what you were about to click on, for better or for worse.

Over the past few years, we've slowly watched the cypherpunks' predictions come true. If you don't quite believe this, just take a look at the stories about The Great Firewall of China, Amazon monitoring its employees with AI cameras, and Facebook monitoring its users through its apps.

Given the upcoming rise of Web3 —which is essentially an idea for a new iteration of the World Wide Web-based on blockchain technology— privacy is at the forefront of many of our minds.

For many people, Web3 is so exciting because it is an opportunity to move away from using huge free tech platforms in exchange for our private data. Anyone will be able to participate, without having to give away their personal data.

But it's becoming increasingly clear that there are still some big questions that need answering.

The Big Question

However, in a recent Binance Live panel, Nym Technologies' chief strategy officer Jaya Klara Brekke, asked: "What should be private, and what actually needs to be transparent in order to protect the privacy of the rest of us?"

We've come a long way since the cypherpunks' mailing list. And yet, in many ways, we are still facing many of the same problems. In spite of all the time that has passed, cypherpunks would be unimpressed with where we are today.

As Brekke points out, Web3 is presenting us with many of the same centralized, controlled business models that we have seen over and over again.

In this line —if we are not careful— we will end up compromising our privacy all over again. If we don't want to repeat the same mistakes and be stuck in the same position in 30 years' time, we need to start thinking right now about the privacy issues that will inevitably come up as we move forward towards Web3, and how we can begin to address them.

As the famous quote attributed to Mark Twain goes, "history doesn't repeat itself, but it rhymes."

Web3 Explained

The idea of Web3 has gained traction but it's still largely unknown to the general public and its potential users. This evolution of the internet is set to offer various innovations based on the paradigm of decentralization.

If we go back to 90s web, the HTML language that was a novelty back then didn't allow for much interaction.

Fastforward to today, and Web3 encompasses different technologies that operate in tandem, such as artificial intelligence or machine learning to build a new ecosystem, which represents a welcomed data empowerment for internet users.

In the ecosystem, each person doesn't have to give away their data to every supplier and can also control who they give it to. In this line, Web3 proposes protocols so that users themselves are the ones who keep the data and relinquish it as seldom as possible.

Can Web3 Actually Happen?

One main criticism is that DApps —decentralized applications— are entrenched in the blockchain and driven by crypto adoption, but it was actual people who created the blockchain and launched digital assets.

In this respect, a significant chunk of the blockchain business is controlled by capitalists and silicon valley entrepreneurs. So, Web3 apps could be taken down anytime at the whim of a narrow group of people who dominate the crypto market.

Also, it was not so long ago when the Bank of International Settlements defined DeFi's decentralization as unreal by asserting that "some form of centralization is inevitable." The bank went further and said it has "few real-world applications" at present.

Developer and blogger Stephen Diehl also wrote in a widely successful post that Web3 is "a vapid marketing campaign that attempts to reframe the public's negative associations of crypto assets into a false narrative about disruption of legacy tech company hegemony."

Web3 supporters argue the new version of the web will increase user privacy by allowing people to have full agency on their data, through personal data stores.

However, detractors assert that the "transparent nature of public distributed ledgers, which make transactions visible to all participants, is antithetical to privacy."

Tor Bair, co-founder of private blockchain The Secrecy Network, tweeted; "Right now, web3 requires you to give up privacy entirely. NFTs and blockchains are all public-by-default and terrible for ownership and security."

Apparently, the cypherpunks would not be much convinced by the privacy Web3 is touted to offer.

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