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LINKS FOR ADDITIONAL READING FOR THIS VIDEO & ALL INFO IN TEXT DOWN BELOW
“Hashcash a Denial of Service Counter-Measure” by Adam Back: http://www.hashcash.org/papers/hashcash.pdf
5-Part Interview with Trace Mayer: https://www.weusecoins.com/adam-back-cypherpunks/
Join the Cypherpunks Email list: http://www.cypherspace.org/adam/cp.html
As we continue our journey of learning about the individuals who were influential in the time leading up to the creation of Bitcoin, we have now come to learn about Dr. Adam Back. He is another one of those cypherpunks who developed systems that are now being used in the Bitcoin network. He was mentioned in the Bitcoin white paper and also the Tor white paper for the work he did on a similar, prior network called Freedom Network.
Dr. Back contributed a big one for Bitcoin, hashcash. If that name doesn’t ring a bell, I bet proof-of-work does, in fact, Satoshi Nakamoto gave him credit for his contributions in the Bitcoin white paper.
Dr. Back developed hashcash back in 1997, about 11 years before bitcoin. It was initially used to prevent email spam. The hashcash system for email use would create stamps that would be attached to emails and establish a micropayment type of system which would help to deter spam.
I will be going into greater detail about hashcash, defining what a hash is and how proof-of-work actually works in my next video so if that’s something you’ve been curious to learn more about be sure to hit subscribe and click on that bell thing to get notified when that video comes out in the next couple days.
In the meantime, there is a really interesting 5-part interview series that Trace Mayer hosted with Dr. Back I’ll include links down below so you can check them out for yourself, but in it he describes his time spent in college and how it was around the time that PGP, or “Pretty Good Privacy” had been released by Phil Zimmerman. This is was when the cypherpunks really started to kick things into gear. The realization that they can bring about social change in a much more direct way must have been a powerful moment.
As Dr. Back explains in this interview, the Constitution was written to protect many rights, the first of which is the freedom of speech. Back in the day, the modes for speaking and communicating with one another were much more intimate, and perhaps easier to protect in this way. Now, in this new era of technology, speech and communication is more commonly done in a remote way. This in turn requires new methods of protecting our freedom.
Dr. Back recalls how many different countries were attempting to control or even prohibit the use of encryption by individuals. Which of course is a great way to ensure your ability to speak freely across these new types of channels of communication.
The old way of doing things, the political way, means you lobby to those in power and hope that you’ve paid enough to satisfy them. You hope that the political system will work in your favor. The cypherpunks way removed all of that B.S.
They write code. They don’t ask for permission, they release it to the public and let society realize that there are human rights that need to be protected. In this way there is at least a chance for real social change. He says, “…what ultimately changes the game is the deployment of technology.”
And boy do they ever deploy technology.
The amount of work and collaboration that had taken place, and still takes place on these anonymous email lists is enough to renew your hope for the future. Again, this interview series is a great way to get a better feel for what it was like in the early days with these innovators like Dr. Adam Back, Wei Dai, Satoshi Nakamoto, Hal Finney, Nick Szabo and a number of others.