Previously on the Deep End, we’ve featured the gun that can be downloaded from the internet using a 3D printer. We’ve also looked at Bitcoin, the private electronic currency that’s got governments worried around the world.
These are potentially disruptive technologies which come together in the person of Cody Wilson, a self-described “crypto-anarchist”, profiled in the New Yorker by Michael Del Castillio:
“Cody Wilson is a twenty-five-year-old former law student at the University of Texas at Austin. He is also the inventor of the Liberator, a gun made almost entirely from plastic pieces created with a 3-D printer; he uploaded to the Internet a blueprint that anyone could use to print such a gun.
“Wilson, who espouses libertarian views, created the blueprint to make a point: information should be free.”
Unsurprisingly the US authorities put a stop to the Liberator project, “but not before the files had been downloaded two hundred thousand times.”
Mr Wilson, though, is not done with challenging authority. Collaborating with some of the more radical members of the Bitcoin community, he has a plan:
“…to use the as of yet unregulated, untaxed, nearly untraceable currency in a way that would, like the Liberator, undermine the ability of governments to regulate the activities of their citizens.”
Bitcoin is different from the electronic transactions that most of us rely on everyday, because the money literally exists as strings of electronic data on the user’s computer. Each Bitcoin is not information about your money it is your money:
“In the Bitcoin world, where banks no longer serve as intermediaries between people and their money, bank accounts have been replaced by online ‘wallets’ that people can use to virtually store and send bitcoins.”
Because regulated financial institutions are not involved and because the data is encrypted, Bitcoin offers its users an unprecedented opportunity to make financial transactions that are invisible to the state. More than just an experiment, millions of pounds’ worth of Bitcoins are traded everyday. However, among the many barriers to the currency’s continued growth is that using it requires a degree of technical expertise.
Cody Wilson’s immediate goal is make Bitcoin more user-friendly:
“[The] project, tentatively known as Dark Wallet, is a simple wallet designed to be easier to use for people who aren’t tech-savvy; they hope that in turn accelerates the currency’s rate of adoption around the world. The wallet will be open-source and free to use.
His ultimate goal, however, is grander in scope:
“Wilson believes Bitcoin should remain the backbone of a separate economy that undermines the government’s ability to collect taxes and to control the value of currency—not be subsumed into the mainstream economy.
“‘The state is basically allowed because we have all chosen to use these certain institutions to channel our activity and commerce,’ he told me. ‘But when we are enabled, through alternative means and technologies, to channel our commerce as we will, channel our production as we will, the state simply disappears.’”
In all of human history, there has never been a nation that has organised itself along libertarian lines – not even America. Furthermore, libertarian parties show very little sign that they will ever win power at the ballot box. Perhaps this is fitting – after all, the idea of implementing libertarianism from the top-down seems rather inconsistent.
However, it may be that technology will give individuals increasing scope to opt out of statism, building a libertarian society one-by-one, from the bottom-up.