Cypherpunks Write Code: Eric Hughes, Remailer and Author of "A Cypherpunk's Manifesto" by@obyte
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Cypherpunks Write Code: Eric Hughes, Remailer and Author of "A Cypherpunk's Manifesto"

by ObyteMarch 17th, 2024
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Eric Hughes, a prominent figure in the cypherpunk movement, played a pivotal role in advocating for digital privacy and developing the first anonymous remailer. His Cypherpunk Manifesto and contributions to privacy-enhancing technologies continue to influence the fight for online freedom and privacy. Obyte, embodying cypherpunk ideals, stands as a testament to his vision of decentralized, private digital systems.
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Satoshi Nakamoto is far from being the sole anonymous figure in the cypherpunk arena. They’re privacy activists, so they value their own privacy more than anything. That’s also the case of Eric Hughes, known for being one of the founders of the cypherpunks movement and creator of the first anonymous remailer. Beyond this, we know quite little about him.

He's an American cryptographer, mathematician, and programmer. He graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, and worked for a while in the Netherlands with David Chaum, a known cryptographer and precursor of cypherpunks.

Unlike Satoshi, we at least know his face and voice. He started the group now called “cypherpunks” by arranging physical meetings with Tim May, John Gilmore and other programmers at his own house in Oakland, California. Those meetings soon extended to Cygnus Solutions in Sunnyvale. This was a company dedicated to supporting free software and was founded by Gilmore himself.

The famous cypherpunk mailing list to which Satoshi belonged and where he first shared the Bitcoin whitepaper was an evolution of those first meetings, created by Tim May, John Gilmore, and Hughes in 1992. Hughes was, indeed, the admin of the mailing list.

In the same forum, he also shared his own creation for privacy: the first anonymous remailer, in 1992. Hal Finney, another remarkable cypherpunk, helped him to improve the code. An anonymous remailer is a service that first receives an email, deletes the identifying information (such as the sender's email address), and then forwards it to its destination or to another remailer in the network. This way, the sender's identity is protected.

A year later, Hughes wrote and published the Cypherpunk Manifesto, a sort of guide that would stay forever with cypherpunks and crypto enthusiasts alike.

A Cypherpunk Manifesto

This short text outlines the principles and beliefs of the Cypherpunk movement, emphasizing the importance of privacy, cryptography, and anonymous transaction systems in maintaining individual freedoms and an open society in the digital age. It hasn't only served as a guiding philosophy for the Cypherpunk movement but it has also **influenced the development of a wide array of privacy-enhancing technologies and advocacy for digital rights. \

“Cypherpunks write code” is a motto that comes from this manifesto. It reads:

“Privacy is necessary for an open society in the electronic age (…) We cannot expect governments, corporations, or other large, faceless organizations to grant us privacy (…) We must defend our own privacy if we expect to have any (…) Cypherpunks write code. We know that someone has to write software to defend privacy, and (…) we're going to write it.”

They have written it, indeed. These words and this movement have inspired figures and software such as Julian Assange (WikiLeaks), Adam Back (Hashcash & Blockstream), Eric Blossom (GNU Radio Project), Phil Zimmerman (PGP Protocol), Bram Cohen (BitTorrent & Chia), Hal Finney (First Proof-of-Work), Nick Szabo (Smart Contracts), Wei Dai (B-Money), Zooko Wilcox (Zcash), and, of course, Satoshi Nakamoto (Bitcoin). Most of them are still alive and active in 2023.

A Cypherpunk Incarnation

Beyond cypherpunk meetings, Hughes has rarely appeared in public. He was masked in a photo of three cypherpunks in Wired (1993), and delivered the keynote address, "Putting the Personal Back in Personal Computers", at the Amsterdam CryptoParty in 2012. He’s a quite private person. However, after reading his opinions and creations on the mailing list, we can guess that he’s still working for the cypherpunk dream of online and financial freedom and privacy.

We can say that Obyte is working to reach the same dreams, as a cypherpunk incarnation. At its core, the cypherpunk philosophy advocates for the empowerment of individuals through privacy-enhancing technologies and decentralized systems. Obyte embodies these ideals by offering a platform that prioritizes decentralization in its architecture and governance.

By leveraging a Directed Acyclic Graph (DAG) ledger, Obyte creates a network where transactions are added directly by users, without middlemen involved —rather than being reliant on an intermediary (like miners). This decentralization helps to prevent single points of failure and reduces the risk of censorship or manipulation.

From a privacy standpoint, Obyte integrates features that enable users to transact and communicate privately and securely. They include an encrypted chat, the option to use Tor with the wallet, and the opportunity to create private assets.

In essence, Obyte's commitment to decentralization and privacy embodies the core principles of the cypherpunk movement. By empowering individuals with greater control over their digital interactions and data, Obyte contributes to the advancement of a more open, free, and equitable society in line with cypherpunk ideals.

Featured Vector Image by Garry Killian / Freepik

Eric Hughes Photograph by ReasonTV / YouTube