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Cryptohippie co-founder Paul Rosenberg: decentralized cryptosystems are the key to our future



Paul Rosenberg, co-founder of the Cryptohippie VPN service and creator of the Freeman's Perspective website, where he writes about economic freedom, personal independence and online privacy, is also known as the author of A Lodging of Wayfaring Men – a book often referred to as the "Crypto Anarchists Bible."

As one of the opinion leaders in the cipherpunk environment and an entrepreneur with a wide range of interests and a high level of expertise in various fields, Paul Rosenberg predicted the emergence of decentralized cryptocurrency and crypto banking markets many years ago.

His interests include philosophy, theology, history, psychology and physics, which is reflected in the extensive list of written works – in addition to A Lodging of Wayfaring Men , Breaking Dawn, another recommended reading book for free-thinking people, The New Age of Intelligence , a work created in collaboration with Jonathan Logan, as well as more than 50 books on design and construction.

During his successful career as an engineer, Paul Rosenberg was repeatedly invited to court sessions as an expert, and also acted as an adviser to NASA and the US Department of Defense. He designed and taught 19 different courses at the College of Engineering at the University of Iowa, is one of the founders of the Fiber Optic Association and the author of the world's first standard for installing fiber-optic cable.

In the past few years, Paul Rosenberg was a regular guest at Paralelni Polis, the famous crypto-anarchist center in Prague, and during his last visit to Hackers Congress 2018 BlockchainJournal spoke with him, discussing the problems that today's society faces and how new technologies can solve them.

Photo: Paralelni Polis / Pavel Sinagl

BlockchainJournal: This is not the first time you are performing at Paralelni Polis. What is your report on this time?

Paul Rosenberg: This time I will speak on a very specific topic. We all gathered here were always interested in cryptography, blockchain and other innovative technologies. At first it was a small community, but it grew every day, and finally the question arose: what happens when everything is as we want it? The system changes, quickly or slowly, but it changes. But if everything in life will be the way we want it? How will we solve certain problems when we win? What happens to many people around us?

We do not force anyone to follow us, but if 50% of the world's population lives as we like, the rest will also have to join it. But then what will happen to the elderly or, for example, with the sick? We should now think about what will happen to these people.

The truth is that for them everything will be very good. But they need to explain this, tell them what problems we solve and how exactly we do it. In short, this is the essence of my presentation.

BlockchainJournal: What are the main flaws, in your opinion, does society have in its current form, which cryptotechnologies can fix?

Paul Rosenberg: The current world system, and we are talking about almost every part of it, is built on a very outdated and archaic model. This is a model in which there is one person or group of people who make up the rules by which the rest will live, and who punish those who do not do what they are told. They forcibly take away money from others, often it is more than half of your money, and by force send young people to fight and die in wars.

This model works from the Bronze Age, and it is hopelessly outdated. And although this is not said out loud, but the whole essence of this basic model of our civilization boils down to the following postulate: “Do what we say, or we will hurt you”. This is in everything – from road signs and police to government statements. This is the reality in which we live. And from the point of view of the cooperation of people, this model is terrible. It is the complete opposite of cooperation. The slogan “Do what we say or we will hurt you” cannot be a co-operation.

We need a different way of cooperation, because today we grow more than enough food for everyone, we know how to build enough housing for everyone, we know how to make cars, roads, refrigerators and everything else. Let not everyone will have a Ferrari, but almost anyone can have a car for the right price. All that is needed is cooperation. But the existing system can not cope with the cooperation of this magnitude. This has been proven repeatedly, confirming its extreme inefficiency.

For this reason, we need a system that would ensure free cooperation. And decentralized systems provide a tool that allows you to do this. Today, everything is built on the principle of hierarchy: order and control. Everything is implanted, and, worst of all, even interaction between people is implanted.

Decentralized systems are also not perfect, but they allow us to cooperate more effectively, much better than is happening now. And these are the systems that will accelerate the arrival of a new future. The current system is incapable of this. She cannot and will not do this, and therefore we no longer need her.

The people who gathered here [in Paralelni Polis] are morally much better than politicians, at least some of them. And we are told that these people should not be listened to, that they should not be given power, including over their own lives, and that power should be given to people who are corrupt through and through. This is what the existing system imposes on us. We say that everyone should bear responsibility for himself.

Will there be mistakes? Of course they will! We are talking about living people, and some of us do stupid things. We do them all sometimes. But an individual who makes his own decisions can correct his mistakes. If we assembled here make a mistake, we can fix it next year. If the error is inscribed in the hierarchy, it is no longer possible to change it. This is a good model for computers, but not for living people.

BlockchainJournal: This year, the Hacker Congress at Paralelni Polis coincided with the local elections in the Czech Republic. Representatives of the center have already declared their refusal to participate in them, since they do not want to legitimize a corrupt political system. At the same time, the Pirate Party, partly practicing similar crypto-anarchist views, participates in them. We also know the example of Iceland, where the "pirates" received representation in the local parliament and, accordingly, the opportunity to promote their ideas. Perhaps participation in the elections can still be one of the ways to change the system you are talking about, an alternative to the “insubordination and dissent” way?

Paul Rosenberg: I don't think so. I understand what they [the Pirate Party] do, but they only make things "less worse." I can understand their arguments, but in the end it does not help much. Even if you take control of a system that uses a bad model and strength in relation to people, in the end it all comes down to “do what we say, or we will hurt you.” Everything remains the same.

For many of us, change happens too slowly, this process continues for years, but it happens between people, and as a result, the old system can no longer hold back these people. This is what happened between the Roman Empire and the first Christians. At first, Rome did not know what to do with them, then they were persecuted. But during the 100s, 200s and 300s, these Christians talked with their neighbors and friends, their ideas spread, until one day some of the Romans began to say: “Wait, why should we kill this guy? I know him, I buy milk from him, and he is a good man. Yes, he has a different faith, but you should not kill him. ” As a result, the mighty Roman Empire lost the support of its own people and lost the struggle to Christianity.

I also do not like the fact that changes are slow, but everything happens as it happens. We need to make these changes and spread good ideas. It is impossible to be in the space age with the rules of the Bronze Age. We know the barbaric essence of today's system, we know that politicians are lying and stealing, everyone knows that. This is no longer a minority opinion. And are these really people who will tell us what to do and how to live? They don't live right themselves, how can they say something to us? Do they want to impose something on us? It is simply unwise. But people are still afraid to think about such things. When you start talking about how the government lives by the rules of the Stone Age, people around are slowing down their voices.

BlockchainJournal: Is there a practical technical solution that can accelerate change in society?

Paul Rosenberg: First of all, these are cryptocurrencies. What a wonderful invention! Of course, they have their own problems, they have to work, they need improvements and new products for people who are not technically well-versed. But this is the system that is meant to be liberated by nature. Whatever you use, Bitcoin, Zcash or some other cryptocurrency, you use it as an equal, no one holds a knife at your throat and doesn’t say: “Do what I say, or I will hurt you”. This is a new world, this is the future, right here, right now on this Earth. It is not perfect, but that is why there are all these people who are trying to make it better and expand. Chief in such systems can not be.

Sometimes people do stupid things, but if you go out, you can see that most of the time they drive cars well. Also, most people behave well most of the time. When I go to work, I drive past thousands of people, and I can remember one bad guy, and 999 good people will go unnoticed. We need to notice these 999 people, pay more attention to them.

Most people in the world are good. They may have a bad day, they may have their own problems, but most of the time they are all right. Why we do not take as a model of these people? Instead, we hear that “all around are terrorists, there is a threat from everyone, we must defend ourselves from everyone, we must hire a big guy with a big gun to protect us”. This is a bad model.

Photo: Paralelni Polis / Pavel Sinagl

BlockchainJournal: Tell us about your Cryptohippie VPN service. How is it different from dozens of other similar offers?

Paul Rosenberg : In fact, Cryptohippie is an anonymous network. Our servers are scattered in different places, and on the outgoing nodes we aggregate traffic into clusters. This can be compared to bitcoin mixing services. Our VPN always has two or three hubs that redirect signals from one place to another. We also use ephemeral keys that disappear after the end of the session, as if they never existed. We have multiple layers of security and several companies. For example, one company owns and operates the network, another company in another jurisdiction and with other owners works with customers. Thus, we never have a single point of failure.

Let's say I sell and I don’t know what is happening with the network. No, sometimes, of course, they tell me about certain plans, and I help with some things, but I don’t know anything about user information on the network side. I know who buys our services if they give me information. If the payment is made using Bitcoin, I do not know the name of the buyer. This I can find out only when paying by card. We plan to add other payment methods, but for now this is only Bitcoin and cards. I know that this is not ideal, but our security measures are very large.

BlockchainJournal: Where did the hippie part of the service name come from? The sixties, it seems, are over.

Paul Rosenberg: But not for me (laughs). The meaning of the word "hippie" in the name of this concept is that, yes, we make money and we like the free market, but not everything comes down only to money. Even before starting, we made a decision for ourselves that if we ever find ourselves in a situation in which we will have a good opportunity to raise prices, because we offer something unique, then we will not do it. We want fair prices, but we will not squeeze the last penny from a person. And customer care is very important to us. In the end, we want to do business that we could be proud of. We want money, but we do it not only for their sake.

Before Cryptohippie, we all had different careers, we were doing completely different things. I can tell a story how it all began. I wrote the book A Lodging of Wayfaring Men , and it came out anonymous, I decided not to mention my name as an author first. Then I met Jonathan, who today is dealing with networking issues. It happened in one of the earliest chats for shipropankov. We talked a lot, got to know each other better and really became friends.

Then one day he says to me: "I know, it is you who is the guy who wrote this book." I asked him why he came to this conclusion, and he gave a very detailed analysis, adding that his wife said that I could be trusted. I was forced to admit that I actually wrote the book, but I asked him not to tell anyone about it. After that, he said that we need to meet and continue the conversation in person.

At that time, we both lived in Northern Europe, and in the end we met on a cold morning at the old cathedral somewhere in Holland, after which we traveled by car for five days and talked about different things. On the last day, he invited me to a bar, where he suddenly became very serious and said: “Freedom must exist somewhere, and right now the Internet is the best way to achieve this.”

Of course, the Internet had a lot of problems, and we already knew about the NSA. We did not have all the details that are known today, but we already knew a great deal. I agreed with Jonathan that while attempts to achieve freedom on the Internet were not very successful. At that time, there were anonymous proxies that could fit in the 1990s, but today they are no longer suitable for total surveillance. He said that he knew how to do it all right and that he knew very well about it, but he also said that he could not do it alone, and therefore suggested that I join forces. I said yes, and it was then that the story of Cryptohippie began. Our main motivation was that freedom must exist somewhere.

BlockchainJournal: Unfortunately, today's young people often do not attach much importance to privacy in the network. What advice would you give to those representatives of a crypto community who are well aware of the importance of this aspect, and also raise their own children? How to bring all these ideas about new technologies and their capabilities to the next generation and pass on to a chance for dramatic changes in society?

Paul Rosenberg: It seems to me very important, especially if the children are already big enough so that the parents do not force them to do anything. Teenagers need to develop their own view of things and form as individuals, they cannot be a copy of their parents. Therefore, it is important that parents can set a good example and have the patience to wait for the day when children ask, “Why are you doing this or that?” Then parents should explain that this is because everything you do or say is used to to manipulate you. Someone can make a lot of money selling a picture of your life to others. How much does Google make each month? They get money from people who want to manipulate us, and they do it very well. All this is done under the slogan "It is free," but it is far from free. They take your life and sell it to other people. You will not feel pain instantly, but it changes the world in which you live.

Today, security services are also actively working, which receive information about all of us and periodically arrest people for saying something stupid on the net. In China, if you say something wrong about the government, you will not be able to buy a plane ticket or rent accommodation. This is the model that is getting closer, and it happens very quickly. And precisely because I consider this a bad model for humanity, I take measures to protect myself. But being a teenager is hard. Therefore, in communicating with them, softness is needed; they must go their own way.

Interviewed by Andrew Asmakov

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