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A Cypherpunk’s Manifesto Calls for an Anonymous Transaction System 16 Years Before the Launch of Bitcoin

The Cypherpunk movement, founded by Eric Hughes, Timothy C. May, and John Gilmore in 1992, ended up playing a crucial role in the origin and development of Bitcoin. A Cypherpunk’s Manifesto written by Eric Hughes in 1993, 16 years before the launch of Bitcoin, calls for an anonymous transaction system.

Specifically, within the manifesto, it says: “Since we desire privacy, we must ensure that each party to a transaction have knowledge only of that which is directly necessary for that transaction. Since any information can be spoken of, we must ensure that we reveal as little as possible.

Privacy in an open society requires anonymous transaction systems. Until now, cash has been such primary system. An anonymous transaction system is not a secret transaction system. An anonymous system empowers individuals to reveal their identity when desired and only when desired; this is the essence of privacy. Privacy in an open society also requires cryptography. If I say something, I want it heard only by those for whom I intend it. If the content of my speech is available to the world, I have no privacy. To encrypt is to indicate the desire for privacy, and to encrypt with weak cryptography is to indicate not too much desire for privacy. Furthermore, to reveal one’s identity with assurance when the default is anonymity requires the cryptographic signature.

We must defend our own privacy if we expect to have any. We must come together and create systems which allow anonymous transactions to take place. People have been defending their own privacy for centuries with whispers, darkness, envelopes, closed doors, secret handshakes, and couriers. The technologies of the past did not allow for strong privacy, but electronic technologies do”.

These are the principles upon which Bitcoin is built. Bitcoin is designed so that only a cryptographic address is necessary to send a transaction, with no unnecessary identifying information. Further, Bitcoin uses strong cryptography, indicating that the creator of Bitcoin, Satoshi Nakamoto, had a strong desire for privacy. Indeed, Satoshi was an active member of the Cypherpunk mailing list and collaborated with various Cypherpunks to develop Bitcoin. Satoshi built on top of the ideas behind several electronic cash systems developed by Cypherpunks including Hashcash, Bit Gold, and b-money.

A Cypherpunk’s Manifesto then defines the principles of Cypherpunks and what defines a Cypherpunk, saying “We the Cypherpunks are dedicated to building anonymous systems. We are defending our privacy with cryptography, with anonymous mail forwarding systems, with digital signatures, and with electronic money.

Cypherpunks write code. We know that someone has to write software to defend privacy, and since we can’t get privacy unless we all do, we’re going to write it. We publish our code so that our fellow Cypherpunks may practice and play with it. Our code is free for all to use, worldwide. We don’t much care if you don’t approve of the software we write. We know that software can’t be destroyed and that a widely dispersed system can’t be shut down.

Cypherpunks deplore regulations on cryptography, for encryption is fundamentally a private act. The act of encryption, in fact, removes information from the public realm. Even laws against cryptography reach only so far as a nation’s border and the arm of its violence. Cryptography will ineluctably spread over the whole globe, and with it the anonymous transactions systems that it makes possible”.

Clearly, Satoshi was a true Cypherpunk, and Bitcoin likely would not exist without the research conducted by Cypherpunks on cryptography and electronic money for the 16 years between the time A Cypherpunk’s Manifesto was written and the launch of Bitcoin. Further, Cypherpunks such as Hal Finney were the original users of Bitcoin and played an essential role in keeping Bitcoin alive during the weeks and months after the genesis block.

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