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Finally, Anonymous E-Cash?

from the can-I-pay-my-Foresight-dues-this-way? dept.
Paul Hughes brings to our attention a new startup (founded by Senior Associate Jim McCoy): "A new file-sharing system could best rivals like Napster and Gnutella through more anonymous and efficient transfers. The new open-source software is called Mojo Nation. The service has an innovative feature that rewards users for uploading and distributing files: payment in a form of digital currency called "Mojo." See also the Wired article on Mojo Nation.

9 Responses to “Finally, Anonymous E-Cash?”

  1. redbird Says:

    Making e-cash work

    Well, this is fine so long as people continue to think that something that cost nothing to reproduce has value. Even the most novel creation of IP has no scarcity, so therefore can't be charged for (or at least according to free market economics).

    But that's not what this post is really about. I've just about finished ready Neal Stephenson's _Cryptonomicon_ and must say that the idea of anonymous e-cash certainly has me interested. While at the moment mojo can just be used for peer-to-peer IP eBay, just imagine the future if mojo could be used to buy real world goods. Which brings up an interesting question: since mojo is being used to pay for things that in meatspace (or even in other parts of cyberspace) are payed for with an established currency, will assests in mojo be taxed? Will it even be possible (considering the anonyminity)?

    Personally, I would like to see a world where this is a reality; where I can put my funds out of the range of taxation so that it can no longer be stolen by the government. Some of you may aggree with me, many of you do not. Despite these differences, let's try to put ourselves in a more objective position in considering the two aforementioned questions so that maybe we can reach conclusions closer to how reality might turn out rather than how we *want* reality to turn out.

  2. BryanBruns Says:

    A few problems?

    The micropayments market part looks interesting. I don't share their assumption about the scarcity of bandwidth (vs. dark fiber), CPU cycles (vs. Moore's Law) or storage (vs. hard disks, a tech declared doomed a decade ago), but that will get tested empirically by this and the other groups trying to set up markets.

    More serious is the issue of defamation, libel, posting information someone else thinks is wrong or violates privacy. Maybe this is an inherent problem with anonymous publishing. At least with CritSuite you could post a rebuttal, but the Mojo Nation architecture seems to pay no attention to that aspect of reputations. If they want to play at anarcho-capitalism, then rather than just doing the easy, irresponsible kind of stuff that gives anarchism a bad name, they ought to also work on incorporating mechanisms for accountability and conflict resolution.

    Personally, I also have a problem with names like "Evil Geniuses for a Better Tomorrow." They may be fun for an in-group of cypherpunks, but imply an arrogant assumption that they are entitled to impose their view of the future on us, without discussion or debate.

  3. adipocere Says:

    Anonymous cash is only one part of the solution

    People like their privacy. More importantly, as long as people are capable of feeling shame over anything at all, they'll fight to keep their privacy.

    A great deal of this is sexual in nature. Most of us don't want people to know we are purchasing herpes medications or sex toys. Sometimes people might want information about problems that could cause them embarassment, like alcoholism or abuse as a child. Others could involve body issues: corsets for men, toenail fungus. Some people just don't want others to know, which should be okay. Another time I'll get into the discussion of why a Transparent Society is probably unfeasible and most definitely not that much fun.

    Some of this involves the transfer of money in exchange for goods and services. Most, though not all, services can be rendered over the Net. Exceptions would be things like sexual surrogates for someone who was experiencing difficulties. The hardest part, however, comes when you want to get those goods to your door. I can use postal money orders under an assumed name and without leaving fingerprints if I wish to be relatively secure in sending the cash, but the goods have to arrive at my door. Post Office boxes require you to show ID. Mailboxes, Etc., and other public mail services require the same. I cannot open a bank account from any of those addresses, for example.

    The real question is not anonymous E-cash, it's getting the good or service to me anonymously. Until someone tackles this little problem. don't expect E-cash to be that useful.

  4. redbird Says:

    Home Nanofabs

    The solution to this seems simple: home nanofabs. I could certainly see a future where, in the average kitchen, instead of having a dish washer, pantry, and refridgerator/freezer, we have a nanofab. Want something to eat: punch it into the nanofab. Want something to drink: get it from the nanofab. Want to move gold accross the country: deconstruct it in one place into basic elements and then make it out of basic elements in another. Of course, at this point no one will much be interested in any kind of cash, since everything will just cost time to make (unless there are problems like in Neal Stephenson's _Diamond Age_ were some nanofabs rely on the Feed of raw materials to build stuff from and other the Seed where ambient elements are converted into the desired output). In the event of the Feed, we are still going to need cash, because it will cost money to run it to our homes and send raw matter over it, but the Seed has a one time cost that deminishes with time since the Seed should be able to replicate itself.

    In a future with the Seed, about all we'll need money for is buying hand made goods from natural materials. And then, we'll probably have to barter considering that those will be the only things that have any scarcity.

  5. vik Says:

    Re:A few problems?

    >> Personally, I also have a problem with names like "Evil Geniuses for a Better Tomorrow." They may be fun for an in-group of cypherpunks, but imply an arrogant assumption that they are entitled to impose their view of the future on us, without discussion or debate. A bit like groups called "Republican", "Democrat", "Conservative", "Labour" and so forth then? I don't see this as a monetary market per se, but I do believe that it has a role in running networks. Without some way of stopping people hogging a network, freeloaders will stifle any attempt to create a network run by people for people. We are within a stone's throw of aquiring the technology for widespread wireless LAN technology, starting with Bluetooth. This will provide us with a way of passing data among ourselves without corporate involvement, but it needs coordination and regulation without a central control. Mojo Nation is the best example to date of how this can be achieved. Think about it: You can't hog bandwidth without providing the resources the net needs. You don't need to know where the data is kept. You don't know what the private data is that you are handling. You don't know or care who the recipients are. It fits the criteria for administering a network that spans the internet and the WLAN. Vik :v)

  6. BryanBruns Says:

    Publishing, the DVD lawsuit and free speech online

    Here's a long story in the Washington Post on the lawsuit the Motion Picture Association of America (the guys who crippled DAT) made against those who published the software code for decrypting DVDs. The story starts with defendant CopyLeft who put part of the code on a t-shirt and then goes into lots more depth.

    The Electronic Frontier Foundation provided legal support for defendants.

    Yesterday, Slashdot had a post on AT&T's Publius system for anonymous publishing and preventing censorship. Searching Slashdot shows a lot of stories on DeCSS, with Slashdot's usual multitude of comments, most recently on July 31.

    Since I live in Asia, I have some personal interest in opposing the way the motion picture industry wants to ghettoize DVD, excuse me, I should have said "to suitably segment regional markets." And since I travel a lot, I really like being able to copy my (legitimately bought) music CDs to MP3 and take them with me, which I think the reasoning behind the DeCSS suit would eventually try to outlaw.

    Maybe there's something I don't understand, but most of these free speech discussions seem to ignore the point that while the U.S. First Amendment forbids prior restraint on publication, privileges political speech, and protects limited "fair use," it doesn't prevent being held responsible afterwards, for example for libel.

    "Freedom of speech is the right to shout theatre in a crowded fire." – Abbie Hoffman

  7. adipocere Says:

    Re:Home Nanofabs

    I don't think that was really the point of the article.

    I'm talking about a now solution to the problem, not a "Fifty years down the line when we have all of this worked out" solution.

  8. redbird Says:

    FreePost network

    Well, I hope we don't have to wait 50 years, but 20 might seem more reasonable to me. Of course, this is just speculative and depends on what you personally think.

    Now solutions are much harder. One idea might be a bit time consuming, but would ensure privacy. That would be to use a FreeNet like system for distributing goods. People join the FreePost network and send packages to each other. Each person knows only a few others, and no one will know what will happen with the package after it has left them. This is not perfect, though, since it would require lots of time to do and people might become curious ("hmm, I wonder if person X on my list is the one who's going to receive this package").

  9. toner Says:

    Re:Publishing, the DVD lawsuit and free speech onl

    Being off topic, i'll try to be brief.

    The american justice system has grown in the last x decades to become something not any one person can understand anymore. Therefor these cases need a judge which has to decide which of the laws that all say something about this fits best.
    Its like these really bad multiple choice questions; the ones that say:

    Which fits best:
    Digital versions of artists work are:

    • Owned by the copyright holder, and he/she is the only one who can decide what to do with it.
    • Completely free since a copy doesn't reduce the net-worth of the origional
    • Owned by the people who distribute copies
    • Free because they belong in the marketplace of ideas.

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