The internet, which is the network we currently use for our Bitcoin needs, was supposed to be decentralized, verifiable and private. But after decades of choosing comfort, ease and speed, the internet today is actually quite centralized, with millions of websites and services’ information stored in a few data centers, all of them served by a very limited number of regulated, or even state-owned providers.
All users’ data travels through a reduced number of cables and cell towers and all of it is being identified, analyzed and allowed to go through most of the time, until now. Even the tools that are meant to liberate us from part of this global surveillance have to rely on this over-controlled infrastructure that is susceptible to attacks, seizures and censorship due to their (as desired by these tools themselves) centralized nature.
Some people believe that they can communicate and transact safely, privately and even anonymously on top of this vicious architecture because they are making use of tools that supposedly effectively hide or protect them from being easily identified — they defend the idea that they won’t be individually targeted or attacked, and that shutting down the internet in a whole region only to specifically disconnect them is too much; that neither the government nor other entities will go that far just to silence them.
Not only has this happened already — it is happening more regularly. And the situation will only get worse because if the media we use to connect with each other are in reach of those wanting to censor or stop whatever could undermine their power, they’ll do it, no doubt.
2021 has only just begun and we are already seeing a glimpse of what lies ahead. From the targeted silencing of individuals, to the blockade of communities, the deplatforming of apps and services, the breaching and leaking of centrally-stored personally-identifiable information (PII), the levying of fines for accessing the internet through other means beyond those scrutinized by governments, and even the full shutting down of the internet in whole countries.
Filling Bitcoin’s Infrastructure Gaps
All this just adds to what 2020 showed us. But, Bitcoin users are not affected, right? Well, that’s unfortunately not true.
To be completely clear, we are all just being allowed to use Bitcoin today. They know we are accessing exchanges and hosted wallets from our homes’ and our phones’ IP addresses; they know we are seeding the full Bitcoin blockchain to others, they know we own a hardware wallet and that we check its balance daily (not only the price); they even know what we are running behind that VPN or that impenetrable anonymity tool we use to buy prohibited items like flags and plastic straws online. We’ll only continue being permitted to do what we do until they don’t want us to.
Luckily Bitcoin has a way to fix its own lack of a resilient infrastructure by continuing to do what it has been doing for the last decade: voluntarily coordinating the funding, development and implementation of solutions that fix each defective piece of the internet that might be undermining Bitcoin’s potential of becoming the censorship-resistant and private electronic cash that we all need.
It all started with the creation of the hardest form of money ever made, solving problems that we thought were impossible before in a genius way.
Before Bitcoin itself falls into the pit of laziness and low time-preference in the search for swift, effortless (insecure and censorable) transactions by choosing to use IOUs instead of real, proof-of-work-backed bitcoin — mere digits stored in databases of custodial services whose stack runs on top of the infrastructure of the few, already-mentioned authorized service providers — the reborn cypherpunks have reminded us through their ideas that if we really wish to have permissionless freedom, we should not only encrypt our conversations and wait for enough confirmations, but also run our own hardware.
Thanks to them, we now have hardware wallets, because switching from centralized exchanges and hosted wallets services to lightweight wallets wasn’t enough. They even now lead the efforts to bring open-source secret elements to eliminate trusted parties completely from the equation. After it seemed that we were losing the fight against pools, miners are now updating toward a more individual and sovereign way of pooling. The few thousands of full nodes could easily be at the tens- or even hundreds of thousands in no time thanks to all of the amazing tools being built to make it as easy as possible to run the numbers, to run your own node, to run hardware.
But, what good can all of these innovations and tools be for amplifying the individual’s freedom when it all runs on top of the currently prone to be easily shut down, surveilled, targeted and seized centralized internet infrastructure? What solution do Bitcoiners have for such a crucial part of the stack needed for Bitcoin to exist? To thrive?
The answer is hardware; Bitcoiners run hardware.
Bitcoiners Run Hardware
The part of the internet that currently poses a risk to our path to a truly unconfiscatable, permissionless, censorship-resistant Bitcoin are the internet providers (state owned and private), their cables, their towers and their desire to keep each and every one of their users identified and located at all times, tracked and surveilled.
The solution to this Orwellian apparatus can be summarized as “own the cables,” or, even better, own the wireless radio frequencies by contributing to a self-sustained sovereign mesh network of hardware devices to build and provide access to the Bitcoin network, communications and data in a decentralized way, with no central servers and enough resilience to overcome any attempt at stopping us from exercising our rights to freedom of speech, of assembly and of trade.
Only open-source software and open-source hardware projects like Locha Mesh, with the goal of developing mesh networking hardware made specifically with all of this in mind, could potentially propel Bitcoin toward achieving its original plans.
For the creation of sustainable, resilient and authoritarianism-resistant mesh networks, each user will need to be their own means of accessing the network for transmitting Bitcoin block data, transactions, messages, using apps and accessing services. They will need a mobile-first, battery-based device, small enough to be carried around in a concealed manner, so low in energy consumption that it can last for days on one charge or run on solar energy using small panels, versatile enough that can be customized for specific needs (longer range, stationary, attached to other hardware…) and open enough that it can be replicated by anyone anywhere, in case its production, distribution or even its use are also deemed to be a risk to the establishment.
This way, each person can become a node inside the peer-to-peer Locha Mesh network, routing messages that find paths through hops to reach their destinations; offering services; and connecting, transacting and getting paid in bitcoin for enabling others to exercise their rights in this crypto-anarchist, capitalist free market.
We Bitcoiners don’t only need to learn the basics of economics. Let’s open our eyes to the lies that keep the wheel moving toward the abduction of everyone’s liberties, learn the differences between custodial and non-custodial services, run the numbers, run the hardware, teach our children how to use a hardware wallet and teach our parents how to protect their wealth from state-induced inflation and expropriation.
Let’s join the cypherpunks or become phreakers; if that’s what it takes to be able to have a truly permissionless Bitcoin, so be it.
This is a guest post by Randy Brito. Opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc or Bitcoin Magazine.