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The Influence of Cypherpunks on Bitcoin

Understanding the history of Bitcoin begins with examining the philosophies of the Cypherpunks and Crypto Anarchy

Understanding Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies can be difficult at the best of times. Especially if you lack a certain amount of computing literacy. I know this all too well. In my younger years I attempted to learn how to program in Java. After one year of practice I had managed to make a very poor version of noughts and crosses.

So, what can one do to try and grasp the complex Bitcoin world? Luckily, Bitcoin has a long history – even before the release of Nakamoto’s Whitepaper. The basis to understanding what Bitcoin is attempting to achieve lies within the philosophies of the Cypherpunks and their ideology of Crypto Anarchy.

The Cypherpunks arose when Timothy May, Eric Hughes and John Gilmore began meeting on a monthly basis in the early 1990s. The meetings consisted of discussions regarding various aspects of cryptography.  The ideas of the group culminated in “A Cypherpunk’s Manifesto” written by founding member Eric Hughes. A must read for anyone attempting to understand the Cypherpunk’s philosophies. Timothy May also penned his own manifesto. The “Crypto Anarchist Manifesto” is a call to arms and a fascinating insight especially when viewed 26 years after it was originally published.

The meetings of the Cypherpunks eventually resulted in a mailing list. The mailing list incorporated the early internet and email. This allowed the group to spread worldwide.

The mailing list grew in numbers. Well-known figures such as Julian Assange, Hal Finney and Adam Beck all joined. Discussions between the group varied. Privacy worries were par for the course with the possibilities of a Big Brother state being the greatest fear of many a Cypherpunk. Alongside were further philosophical debates, flaming (an early form of what is now known as trolling) and of course, ideas of a decentralised currency through the internet.

If you find your computer literacy skills lacking, then researching the forbearers of the movement can help you understand what many in the Bitcoin space are trying to achieve. Although many of the early Cypherpunks are not involved in Bitcoin anymore (or never were for that matter), their philosophies remain a key tenant of Bitcoin thought.

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