Twenty First Century Terrorism

2010 December 1
by Dave

Anarchist. Terrorist. Hero. These three views of Julian Assange differ in their interpretations of the goal of Wikileaks but they share an admission of it’s ability to harm the state. The thing that every one seems to be missing is that it is the technology behind Wikileaks that constitutes an existential threat to government rather than the current use to which it is being put.

Wikileaks is an application for releasing secret information in such a way that it cannot be quashed. The hardware that it runs on is a data haven. A data haven is basically a server that government cannot shut down, block or gain access to. Wikileaks runs on an elegant data haven that is distributed across multiple jurisdictions providing robust legal and cyber defenses.

Leaking documents is not the only use to which data havens can be put, nor is it the most destructive to governments. They make a good forum for free speech which is dangerous to authoritarian governments. They are also good for secret speech which is dangerous to governments of all kinds. Most devastatingly though they are good for holding and exchanging money.

Imagine that PayPal ran out of a data haven. Imagine if the gas station took  PayPal and your employer paid you with PayPal. Imagine that the federal government had no visibility into any transactions. Income tax and sales tax would become impossible to assess. The federal reserve and the treasury would be of no relevance because PayPal would be in effect issuing its own fiat currency. Property taxes and tariffs would be equally hard to assess since assigning value would be hard if all transactions took place in secret. It would be very difficult to maintain a liberal democracy in such a situation.

Data havens are good for pretty much anything that you want to do that a government might not want you to do as long as it can be reduced to an information processing task. The future of anti government resistance is good IT, not DDOS attacks and worms. What the future of government is I’m not so sure.

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