Bitcoin Before Bitcoin
Monica Castro, language teacher and editor of ebooks, takes us to recall several of the facts and arguments that gave rise to the birth of Bitcoin. A journey through history that can help us better understand the objective pursued by the original cryptocurrency technology.
Like any great discovery in the history of humanity, which comes as a result of a combination of events that precede them, Bitcoin is the milestone that crowned the previous events that led to its appearance. These events are articulated around the cypherpunk movement – born in the late 80s – where the foundations of many of the concepts that are linked to the conceptual definitions behind Bitcoin were laid.
With the arrival of the Internet era, this movement could see before anyone the imminent danger of loss of privacy that this new technology would bring. Long before the appearance of Facebook and its data commerce (which we gave away to the network believing that they invited us to be part of a great meeting of camaraderie), a group of people -linked mainly to computer development, to cryptography, to the Mathematics and law – were part of a permanent meeting, first face-to-face and then virtual, where they discussed profusely and passionately about aspects related to freedom, privacy and anonymity.
It should be mentioned that these concepts had been developed technically a few years before by the cryptographer David Chaum, who is considered to be the inventor of anonymous trace digital money (ecash). Chaum also proposed a system based on anonymous communication networks that disconnects the message from its sender until it reaches its addressee and a voting system that verifies through cryptography that a vote has not been modified, among other contributions.
Although the cypherpunk movement distanced itself from Chaum after he chose to grow his projects linked to official financial institutions, his work is considered the root of the subsequent developments – which, like those of Chaum, would lay the necessary foundations for the appearance of Bitcoin.
All Paths Lead to Bitcoin
One of the key points of the cypherpunk expressed in his manifesto was the need to “be able to reveal itself selectively to the world”. It was not about implementing a secret society, but one where people had the opportunity to choose who, when and where they wanted to share information about themselves, whatever the nature of it. And for privacy is not just another component of the libertarian discourse, it is essential to implement systems that ensure that the shared information, when any type of interaction takes place, is strictly necessary and linked to it:
We have to defend our privacy if we want to have it. We have to come together and create systems that allow anonymous transactions. People have been defending their privacy for centuries through whispers, darkness, envelopes, closed doors, coded handshakes and messengers. The technologies of the past did not allow a “strong” encryption, but the current ones.
In the midst of this exchange of ideas, discussions, dissent and proposals regarding the scope and implications of anonymity and privacy, the projects were happening in the eagerness to express in a concrete way an answer to these concerns. Some of the most important developments arising in this context were:
Adam Back Hash Cash: Born in 1997 as a proposal to combat spam. It consisted of implementing a system where each mailing involved a cost of CPU time, measured in the electricity used when having to solve a mathematical problem for each shipment. The expense of this “Work Test” (PoW) would be minimal with a few emails, but it would discourage the use of mass junk mail.
B-Money From Wei Dai: A year later, B-Money would appear, defined as a “distributed and anonymous electronic cash system”. This considered 2 types of protocol: one where each participant of the network has a copy of the database that does not include the amount of money that each one possesses and another where the records are maintained by a specific group of users. In the second case, these users have had to deposit a part of their money in a special account, which is known as participation test (PoS). In case of processing a fraudulent operation, they would lose their funds.
Hal Finney’s Reusable Job Test (Rpow)
Based on the precepts of Hascash, it is in this case to create cryptographic tokens from a working test. These unique tokens could only be used once, thus avoiding double spending through a non-automated mechanism.
Nick Szabo’s Bitgold
Based on Finney’s proposal, it is considered the work most directly linked to what Bitcoin would be. He was the first to mention security risks from trusted third parties. With Bitgold, Szabo proposes to assign computing power to the resolution of cryptographic problems and the use of public keys. (Due to these similarities with Bitcoin, it has been thought that Nick Szabo would be behind the alter ego of Satoshi Nakamoto).
Some Relevant Aspects At Closing
It is important to note that so far only a small part of the projects that led to Satoshi Nakamoto, in 2008, publishing for the first time the Bitcoin technical document (whitepaper or White Paper), whose references include Hashcash and B, have been mentioned. -money (and where Nick Szabo curiously does not appear). But it is a long road where developers and cryptographers from all over the world worked – and continue to work – so that the technology consolidated by Satoshi continues to evolve, correcting and posing new challenges.
Those who sooner or later became part of the “virtual party” that brought the Bitcoin network, are often surprised or even exasperated by the resistance that is in a part, still majority, of our society. However, the cypherpunk themselves initially resisted the idea, with Hal Finney being one of the few enthusiasts who responded positively to Nakamoto’s document. Finney was the first person, after Satoshi, to run the Bitcoin client and the first recipient of a bitcoin transaction, through which he received 10 coins.
Satoshi Nakamoto, in one of his best-known post, expresses ideas apparently a bit removed from the cypherpunk ideology. Nakamoto says: “We do not want to promote it as the” anonymous currency … “(or)” the currency beyond the reach of governments. I’m definitely not making such an assertion. ” (July 5, 2010).
Undoubtedly, the interesting thing about navigating in the waters of this new technology are the many small and large tides, which emerge with aspects, some mentioned until weary, others barely addressed, which configure a universe that seems not to end up in the colorless landscape from the top of an iceberg, but in the depths of a sweet, seductive and vast abyss
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