Enjoy interviews with builders, projects, artists, authors and entrepreneurs that coincide with the lunarpunk movement. Get to know who is helping spearhead the future of privacy.
Cypherpunk Visions and Trends 2023-2025 by Juraj Bednár
The term "cypherpunk" was first coined in the 1980s and refers to a group of individuals who advocate for the use of strong cryptography as a means of achieving political and social change. The idea behind cypherpunk is that cryptographic tools can be used to protect privacy, ensure freedom of speech, and promote decentralization.
Lunarpunk lives within this sphere of Cypherpunk influence. Lunarpunk becomes the end-state of Cypherpunk — a completely anti-fragile society living parallel to the status-quo, building its own world. Lunarpunk is the transformation while Cypherpunk is the a process of metamorphosis. A flow state of Cypherpunk creates Lunarpunk.
To better understand the relationship of Cypherpunk and Lunarpunk, and also the ways in which our world is changing for the better in terms of technological privacy movements, we've decided to interview Juraj Bednár, an accoladed author of a new book titled, Cypherpunk Visions and Trends 2023-2025.
Juraj is an entrepreneur, hacker, and explorer who is passionate about increasing people's liberty. He has a background in programming and technology and works with crypto technologies and cryptocurrencies. As a firm believer in entrepreneurship, Juraj has founded several companies, including Hacktrophy, focused on IT security. He also advocates for financial sovereignty through Bitcoin.
Juraj is also a life hacker and traveler, constantly seeking new experiences to expand his knowledge and understanding of the world. Join us as we delve into his unique perspective of the cypherpunk and lunarpunk future.
What inspired you to write Cypherpunk visions and trends 2023-2025 ?
I wrote another book called, Cryptocurrencies — Hack Your Way to a Better Life. It is a look at how people can improve their lives using today’s technologies that are available, in a very practical matter. I did not want to go too much into the visions of possibilities and from the future, I only looked at forces at play.
Then as 2022 was coming to an end, I did my year-end reflection. I played with AI, planned my solar panel expansion, thought about what cypherpunk technologies could we have in the following years and how we could use them. I wanted Cryptocurrencies to be a timeless book, but I also like to have a three year vision and see what I can do myself to help. 2022 was about many things, but one of the main things was proliferation of “crazily smart” AI technologies - GPT-3 and ChatGPT for text interaction and Stable Diffusion / MidJourney / DALL-E for image generation. I realized that in order to use these technologies I had to send my data to some third party server - with the exception of Stable Diffusion, which is an open model that you can run and modify locally.
This is an example of a theme that I mention - we have these amazing technologies, but we want to be able to use and change them on our own terms. So cypherpunk vision has to be to push further the open-source models (thankfully, there are some) and not give away privacy.
This was just an example of a topic and the reasoning behind it. Other topics include Bitcoin, the Lightning Network, Monero, no-code app development, decentralized energy, new social networks, anonymity engineering, and more. The book also delves into emerging lifestyles such as van nomadism, digital nomads, and perpetual travel. Ultimately, the book aims to provide a path forward in a chaotic and volatile world, asking how we can thrive in such an environment.
Can you explain the concept of cypherpunk and its significance in the current digital age?
Cypherpunk is a punk philosophy of using technologies to provide personal privacy and anonymity. It includes anonymization technologies, encryption, digital signatures, plausible deniability, electronic cash, zero knowledge proofs, etcetera.
This technological vision leads to a cryptoanarchistic subsest of society, which uses these technologies to improve their liberty by creating their own societal structures in “cyphersphere” - a subset of internet that features privacy, anonymity, digital cash and encryption. The vision ensures a parallel set of rules, economic interactions and opt-out from centrally planned aspects of society.
What are the key trends and developments in the cypherpunk movement that you highlight in your book?
Part of it is technological improvements of cypherpunk software, which leads from the lunarpunk vision. It states that states will increasingly attack these technologies, because they allow productive people to withdraw from the mainstream economic and social interactions. They cannot be surveilled, controlled, monitored, censored, if they do it in cyphersphere. Lunarpunk philosophy states that this conflict is inevitable and projects that cannot resist these attacks of the elite wanting more control will be cancelled. We have seen this with Tornado Cash. Many states are being increasingly hostile. When this happens to a project, its users will move to projects that provide the same service, but were resilient to this attack.
On the market, only projects with somehow positive “profit and loss statement” survive. It does not have to be monetary, there are many free projects that do not need income, but you cannot constantly burn more energy than what you create. At least not if you want a sustainable project. Lunarpunk just adds one condition - you will never have a positive PnL if you won’t survive the attack.
So the technological aspect focuses on this - anonymity, privacy, open-source / free software, home nodes, decentralized production of energy, …
The other aspects are societal changes. Again, I am talking about a subset of people who want to use these cypherpunk principles to increase their liberty, not about a mainstream society. We see a spread of alternative lifestyles such as van nomadism, digital nomads, people are thinking about safe communication, alternative types of money, and so on.
How do you see the intersection of cypherpunk and decentralized technologies evolving in the next few years?
Decentralized technologies means constant discovery - if there are technologies, that means demand and energy to create them. And constant discovery means expansion of this cypherspace.
So if there is demand and interest from both the users and the developer community, there will be many experiments and some of these experiments will be successful and useful, which will fully expand cypherspace.
What is interesting about technologies is that they cannot be uninvented. After Bitcoin, we cannot forget its invention. Same with asymmetric encryption and internet. So cyphersphere technology will improve.
I hope that its usage and usefulness will also improve.
Can you discuss the challenges and opportunities presented by cypherpunk ideals and practices for privacy, security, and freedom?
I see two main challenges. First is the interplay between network effects and energy invested into these projects. People get excited for projects like Bitcoin as more people use them and that in turn provides more energy into the development. Sparking this interplay is incredibly difficult. I remember PGP as one of the first challenges - it was almost impossible to bootstrap. You had to use command-line utilities, know what you were doing. The key signing parties were supposed to be fun, but rarely anyone verified other peoples’ identities and just signed the keys at random. That compromised the security model. And yet, only the geekiest of the geekiest were using the tech.
Second challenge is a more or less binary crash of these technologies. As they are developed and used, everyone thinks all is and shall be well. Until it crashes completely. There is rarely a gradient. With Tornado Cash, it was “we just want more privacy” to “you are money laundering of North Korean hacker groups” in an instant. No warning. It was useful until it wasn't. It is a famous turkey problem when the turkey feels good and well-fed, until finding itself on a thanksgiving dinner table.
Opportunities are well described in Sovereign Individual, a visionary book from the end of 1990s. The possibility of people being able to go outside and try to live on their own terms actually helps the mainstream society as well. It is like any other form of competition. The political way is “I will vote better and then they fix my problems”. Cypherpunk is “we will leave and will not come back until they fix their problems”. Notice how “my problems” changed to “their problems”?
The usual way how nationstates try to capture the value created by productive people is by threats and tightening the ropes. Cypherpunk gives a non-violent out for them, to sort-of go on strike like the heroes of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged left for Galt’s Gulch. I couldn’t stop thinking while reading the passages happening in the Gulch, what a waste of human potential. Amazing entrepreneurs working on their small garden, not being able to thrive to the fullest. Cyphersphere gives these people an opportunity to thrive, on their own terms, away from threats of the nation-states. And if they want their creative energy back, they cannot just go and take it - they need to offer them a better deal than the one they had when they left. A much better deal.
And soon, as many more people are leaving (although still maybe less than 20% of the society), everyone will either get a better deal, or they will experience poverty. Sadly, productivity is distributed according to the power law - without the extraordinary individuals, the society atrophies.
But this is not the whole of the real opportunity there. Because this is probably cyclical - if productive people get what they want, the society thrives again and then the socialist tendencies wake up again. The real opportunity is - can we escape this cycle? And can it be something other than not coming back to mainstream society?
How do you envision the role of government and corporations in shaping the future of cypherpunk and its impact on society?
The lunarpunk cycle thrives on regulation. If you want the best cypherpunk tools, certain conditions must be met. One is the demand for opt-out as I mentioned before, the other is the attack on these technologies and societies. It is not that they would thrive under attack, no one does, it is that those projects and parallel societies that are already built in a resistant way will thrive and will grow, bringing more users.
So governments and their friendly corporations actually ensure that cypherpunk projects win in the competition with all other projects.
How do you view lunarpunk relative to cypherpunk and can they co-exist? If so, how do you see the future developing between the two?
Lunarpunk describes this nation-state surveillance vs privacy/anonymity dynamics. Cypherpunk technologies are the building blocks of successful projects. Not all cypherpunk projects will survive the filter, but I perceive cypherpunk as a nursery and lunarpunk a graduation party for those that survived. So for me, the question is analogous to “can humankind survive without children?”. Maybe, in some future hyper-conserved way, but not if it wants to grow.
What message do you hope readers take away from Cypherpunk visions and trends 2023-2025?
I’ll leave you with two. One of the first cypherpunk communication tools were chat rooms - first based on pure IRC, then slowly encrypted, with increasing privacy. We almost never knew our “government registered full names,” but chatrooms were places of socialization and cooperation. We knew our friends there better than our real-world friends, because we shared passion for new things. We were talking regardless of boundaries. No one had any “followers” on IRC, only their nickname and their bare output - the words they wrote to others, and their content. I write in the book about the development of new social networks, that kick out the censors and woke political correctness, cancel the cancel culture and often bring back anonymity. Merit and relationship over status. Come over to these new social networks. They are signal groups, matrix/element, darkfi’s p2p irc, mastodon and maybe nostr, with the latter two mostly outward oriented.
And last, I will leave you with an illustration from the book:
Cypherpunk visions and trends 2023-2025 offers a peek into the future of a rapidly changing world. One that is geared toward protecting privacy and increasing the net freedom of societies around the world.
Ultimately, we must look forward towards the future we want to build, and with that vision, comes the responsiblity of planting the seeds for the future now. Bednár brings an optimistic, realist view to the challenges of the world at large. Bednár's book makes you want to jump up and get working towards building the ideal world we dream of as privacy advocates — determined to maximize our freedom in life.