Felix Stalder on Thu, 5 Dec 2013 14:54:52 +0100 (CET)

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Re: <nettime> Fwd: Stephen Foley: Bitcoin needs to learn from past e-currency

On 12/05/2013 01:41 PM, Florian Cramer wrote:

> (I also have my doubts that shifting identities really solves the
> problem of reverse identification through computational analytics
> as it only adds one layer of obfuscation. Live in a small remote
> village, for example, and these means won't help because the one
> person buying The New York Times in the local market will always be
> identifiable no matter what Bitcoin address s/he'll use for payment.
> You could argue that there's no anonymity of transactions in a
> village anyway, but it becomes quite a different story if all those
> transactions become world-readable on the Internet.)

I totally agree here. One should not confuse technical with social
characteristics. Big Data makes de-anonymization is easier than ever.
There is a really fascinating write-up of the unmasking of Dread
Pirate Robert, the persona behind silk road. It wasn't that codes were
broken, or secrets stolen, but Ulbricht, the guy running the site, was
unable to consistently separate the different social personas, so in
the end they could correlate them and connect them to a physical body.

Besides, one has to wonder where the utopia of anonymous transactions
comes from. In a way, this is exactly what any market promises:
exchanges that are cleared on the spot and leave no social obligation
behind because accounts have been settled through the exchange of
equivalents. A good is precisely as much worth as the price that is
being paid for it, and after than, buyer and seller can part ways,
never to meet again. Karl Polyani, a long time ago, talked about his
as the dis-embedding of the economy from society and pointed out how
destructive this tends to be.

David Graeber and Keith Hart have a lot to say about this, and about
a vision of a "human economy" were social and economic relationships
are intrinsically mixed and cannot, and should not, separated. For me,
this is a much more appealing perspective than one based on anonymous

But as Jaromil keeps pointing out, the lasting value of bitcoin,
besides making some people rich, might be to have started a social
experiment on a global scale from which we all can learn.




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