Last Thursday I talked about cipherspace and resistance, and the last few months we have talked about tunnels, darknets and worlds gone underground. Also, a bureau has been commissioned by Cameron at the Department of Defense, called the Telecomix Crypto Munitions Bureau. Since they needed workers, I signed up, and as a bureaucrat, I wish to tell a story from the cipherspace world, ventriloquized by the one hundred year old novel by Gabriel de Tarde, Underground Man (written in quotations).
Creating the fractal cipherspace is more than an innovation. It cannot simply be created, but must be enforced. Cipherspace is a territory constituted by two facts. The first one is, that there can be no identities in cipherspace. The second is, that there can be no authorites in cipherspace. According to Cameron, the laws of mathematics overrule human laws.
Historically, cipherspace emerged as is a side-effect of two military innovations, where one was impossible to ordinary humans. During the late 1970:s the Data Encryption Standard (DES) was released upon the earth. It was weaker than the crypto munitions of the NSA, most likely an intended effect for the military to still be able to decode the civilian transmissions. It was meant to be a golden standard for the commercial sector in securing industrial facts, and sensitive transactions. It was needed on the emerging internets because the TCP/IP protocol actually contains a default error – it prefers plain text over ciphertext, and can easily be put under surveillance.
The military, however, never trusted encryption alone. The MILNET separated early from the ARPANET, because it could not be trusted for security reasons.
The DES encryption produced a side effect; cryptoanalysis in civilian networks. Before DES, cryptoanalysis was a hidden science, deep withing the signals intelligence agencies it lived a very secret life. The world had learned from deciphering the Enigma during WW2, that cryptography was indeed a strategic science, just like ballistics or nuclear engineering.
During the late eighties, a few internauts, not very keen on appearing in the open daylight, started to envision a new space – the cipherspace. However, activists and the civil societies around the world could never do it the military way. Building a separate infrastructure outside the emerging internets was not possible in economical terms. Cables cost money, and states usually don’t permit building autonomous infrastructures.
But, the packet switched computer networks were by now all over. And these networks were built for survival. During the 1990s cryptography slowly became ready-at-hand for internauts. The possiblity of another space, beyond the laws of nation states, but still inside an existing infrastructure, started to take shape.
We must say no more: ‘up there!’ but ‘below!’. There, below, far below, lies the promised Eden, the abode of deliverance and of bliss: there and there alone, there are still innumerable conquests and discoveries to be made!
Computers can make two very important things. The can convert plain text to ciphertext, which is almost imperceptible by anyone intercepting the transmission. They can, moreover, make tunnels. A multiplicity of tunnels, tunnels inside tunnels. The two performances combined, creates the fractal cipherspace, which is a spatiality that essentially stands in opposition to the borders of the old world.
Let us descend into these depths; let us make these abysses our sure retreat. /…/ In short, after a more or less long period of settling in, civilised life could unfold anew in all its intellectual, artistic, and fashionable splendour, as freely as it did in the capricious and intermittent light or natural day, and even perhaps more surely.
How come cipherspace emerged in the first place? Nobody knows for sure, but maybe because of a disaster in the history of the internets.
During the 1990:s the so called cyberspace became not only a fiction, but it swept humanity onto the worlds largest network of nodes, which could transmit and receive information. People abandoned television and radio, and started to make their own cultures flourish. It was in the beginning just like another one hundred year old innovation – the telegraph – which by now had moved into every home. After a radical increase in bandwidth the internet changed lives; people became internet dwellers. Simultaneously, the societies based on territories, legal nation states, started to intervene in this new emerging space. Cyberspace was a vast field of information. The populations, still imagined as a human population of raw material of labour and social functions, had volunteered to collect their lives in plain text data. Data that could be exploited in order to rule and govern.
Secluded thus from every influence of the natural milieu into which it was hitherto plunged and confined, the social milieu was for the first time able to reveal and display its true virtues, and the real social bond appeared in all its vigour and purity.
Hubris had poisoned both corporations and States. It seemed to them that Data Retention could be passed as a law, it seemed that Military Signals Intelligence could be deployed to harvest the data. Corporations such as Google or Wal Mart based their whole business models on this prosperous business of gathering all the information that could be stored in databases.
However, the possibility of a fractal cipherspace exists. It is a reality, and it cannot be stopped with nothing less than a complete computer network blackout. It is not a place, but many places. I have only briefly started to dwell in the i2p darknet. I set up a blog there, and it seems like me and my friends are slowly making a new world inside a space where the laws of Mr. Shedstream no longer apply. I like it. There is no longer a need for the old plaintext world.
Patriotism is dead, since there is no longer any native land, but only a native grot.
I will see you in cipherspace!
(to find my new blog, you will need to leave cyberspace and enter cipherspace. It is a bit complicated for humans, but worth the effort, I will assure you.)