Building Galt’s Gulch

Astonished. That was the overwhelming thought I was left with after listening to a 73 minute podcast between the brash, sexually liberated, libertarian American, ‘King of the Nerds’, Brian Sovryn and a mild mannered, boat loving, free thinking futurist and software engineer from Scotland named David Irvine.

The latter has spent the last 8 years designing and coding nothing less than a solution for a decentralised internet named Maidsafe. Users of the open source system share resources from their computer, such as hard drive space and processing power, and in return for this ‘work’ can use the combined resources of the network for data storage, website hosting and computing power. The system backs up data into encrypted ‘shards’ that are duplicated and stored on multiple computers in the system, such that only those with the keys to decrypt the data will be able to reassemble and interpret these shards. The network adjusts dynamically so that if resources are being used more frequently they become more accessible to all participants. Data can be shared and websites or web assets can be hosted on the system, without the need to store any data in corporate data centres or servers.

Maidsafe promotional video

Maidsafe promotional video

The power of this technology is phenomenal, particularly when combined with the ability to transfer value over the internet via cryptocurrencies. For the first time in human history we now have a true extra-national alternative venue for the expression and trade of the work of the mind. Individuals can interact and trade value regardless free of interference from national governments and established transnational corporations.

‘But not all work is done on the internet – factories still exist!’ one might say. This is true, but consider the lever of competition on governments and markets if a proportion of the productive population embrace an alternative economy. The wealth and value incentives created would surely move the bricks and mortar world towards individual liberty and away from central control. For having tasted the benefits of liberty, or seen it in the success of one’s neighbour, why would anyone chose the state?

Silent Circle

“We feel that every citizen has a right to communicate,” Janke says, “the right to send data without the fear of it being grabbed out of the air and used by criminals, stored by governments, and aggregated by companies that sell it.”

– Slate

Bravo to Janke for standing up for users – i.e citizens – rights to freedom of speech. This is certainly an interesting product from a usability perspective and the fact that Slate and Engadget are both excited about speaks well of it.

© dbking

© dbking

Someone else who speaks well of it is the slightly strange fellow on the train a few days ago.  This chap was showing off about his knowledge of train ettiquette and asking if the train had Wifi (main line trains in London do not have Wifi) and then took the opportunity to proselytise about his “favourite application” (which relies on Wifi, or so I hear) while I politely studied my phone. That kind of marketing, where fans throw away the train etiquette rule book to not only speak but sell your product for you, that is worth a fortune.

There is a downside hidden in all the hype. The applications is hosted under the direct jurisdiction of the US Federal Government in Washington DC.

Slate writes:

The company, which is headquartered in Washington, D.C., doesn’t retain metadata (such as times and dates calls are made using Silent Circle), and IP server logs showing who is visiting the Silent Circle website are currently held for only seven days. The same privacy-by-design approach will be adopted to protect the security of users’ encrypted files. When a user sends a picture or document, it will be encrypted, digitally “shredded” into thousands of pieces, and temporarily stored in a “Secure Cloud Broker” until it is transmitted to the recipient. Silent Circle, which charges $20 a month for its service, has no way of accessing the encrypted files because the “key” to open them is held on the users’ devices and then deleted after it has been used to open the files.

Two problems there, the company is right under the nose of Uncle Sam and the “cloud broker” shouts “single point of failure”.

According to Engadget:

the company’s also pledged to not cooperate with surveillance requests from law enforcement, nor will it compromise the service’s integrity by introducing a “backdoor” for the FBI

Not much use when you are shut down, but it’s very encouraging that people are seeing profit in secure communications. Now all we need is an inventor with an idea that the Government cannot attack. If you feel you might one day be that inventor then you may like to come to the Libertarian Home meetup in April where Adrianna Lukas will be talking on the properties of resilient heterogenous systems.

Bitcoin 2012

One further detail courtesy of Frank Braun. The 2012 Bitcoin conference is coming to London, the world’s premier finance hub (for the time being):

We plan this conference to be the hub for bitcoiners wishing to learn, meet, do business and expand their minds. This will bring bitcoin to a global financial centre, and be a turning point bringing bitcoin to the fore of the mainstream. It is here that bitcoin will leave its perilous infancy, as the new world briefly meets the old before displacing it.

Ticket’s cost 70 euros, payable in Bitcoin, and for your money you get acces to talks by Richard Stallman, Max Keiser and others.

The conference takes place on the 15th and 16th of September at the Imperial, Russell Square.