Burning Man’s First Technology Guru Fighting #fakenews

The blockchain offers a new world of possibility, not just for crypto-currency or providing disaster relief, but also for truth – something I am extremely interested in.

It seems I’m not the only one. Burning Man’s first Chief Technology Guru, Brian Behlendorf, is one of the whales of the tech industry.

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Image: LinkedIn

BB went on from Burning Man to Davos and the World Economic Forum, and is on the board of the EFF and popular “secure” communications app Wickr. He also used to run the SFRaves mailing list. Oh, and half of the entire World Wide Web runs on his Apache web server – which is open source.

old skool raver

Old skool raver

His plan to fight fake news? Put Snopes on the blockchain. Get the list of “what’s fake news” and record that on the blockchain so everyone can rely on it as absolute fact.

The title of the video is “what if the Internet could not tell a lie”, but in fact what he is describing is a single source on the Internet telling us what is a lie and what isn’t – driven by Snopes.

There has been a massive purge of “alternative news” channels and videos on YouTube since the Progressives were defeated in the election by a huge margin. Facebook, GoogleYouTube, Twitter, Snopes and Reddit were all caught trying to silence conservative voices and stories, while promoting all sorts of things from cultural marxism to communism to child abuse to cannibalism.

Meanwhile, the Snopes founder spent all the company’s money on hookers and blow – and then hired the hookers to be fact-checkers and married one of them. You couldn’t make this shit up. Not only that but he just easily crowdsourced nearly a million bucks more, despite this abysmal track record of fraud allegations over the use of company funds for personal pleasures.

This is who Brian Behlendorf thinks we should use on the blockchain to determine “truth” once and for all? Yes, seriously, it is. Watch the video.

In other bizarro alt-media news, Alex Jones of InfoWars also married an escort…allegedly.

Who says any of these organizations should just be assigned the role of determining complex arguments, such as the JFK Assassination – where the CIA just “lost” an entire volume of their files on Lee Harvey Oswald, after years of stonewalling their release. Are we to believe the official conspiracy theory of 9/11, 19 hijackers with box cutter knives? The University of Alaska just completely debunked the official story about the collapse of Building 7, which was not hit by any plane – so what is true? The official government story, or the scientific conclusions? Why not record the case for and against any topic under debate, present the evidence for both sides, and let the people decide what they find most compelling.

Snopes, Google and Facebook do not deserve to become the arbiters of truth. What ever happened to Objective Truth, “truth is truth”?

There is only one truth, everything else is just opinion. Let the truth speak for itself, and if there are questions over truth or arguments of “alternative facts”, let’s get them ON THE RECORD too. Get all the evidence out, record the Grammar and the Rhetoric, let the people use Logic and decide for themselves. We need the pertinent facts and documents out there in the public domain. And then debate their existence, authenticity, or relevance.

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What we actually need is to use the blockchain to record truth and facts. Record all the stories around a topic – even the rumors – and let people expand on them or deny them with opinions and evidence. Like WikiPedia, but one that can’t be censored for political or other, more shadowy reasons. Bitcoin is not really suitable for something like this, Ethereum is better with its smart contracts capability, but both these blockchains are busy doing financial transactions. What is needed is links to an immutable data store like the Internet Archive. In some cases the amount of data around a topic (such as JFK, or Burning Man) will be very large. Other topics, such as disaster relief using the blockchain, are newer and easier to get one’s head around with less controversial content.

The point I agree with BB on is that decentralized, distributed ledger technology is the best hope we have to fight against censorship. Will the solution come from those deep within the Deep State? Or from We The People?

 

Decommodification, Decentralization and Direct Democracy

EndAllDisease has a lot of very interesting content, including this article about how Bitcoin is going to revolutionize all forms of electronic interaction. It is a societal change potentially as big as the Internet itself, one that contains the hope for a new type of transparent dialog between the rulers of our civilization and We the Burners. Whoever those rulers may be…

If all the mechanisms of a transaction are gone, so that it appears invisible, is it Decommodified? Did it happen on-Playa, or in cyberspace – a different place entirely?

Burning Man now accepts donations in Bitcoins and in 2014 sold its first ticket with Bitcoin.

CEO Marian Goodell said:

“Accepting Bitcoin for donations is an experimental first step. We plan to explore other possibilities in the future, including expanding Bitcoin to the ticket-buying process.”

There is a Camp Bitcoin, which was profiled as part of Re/Code’s excellent on-Playa coverage by Nellie Bowles. Peter Hirshberg, who was part of The Founders Speak event in New York, recently wrote a chapter on Burning Man in the book From Bitcoin to Burning Man and Beyond: The Quest for Autonomy and Identity in a Digital Society.

 

 


 

re-blogged from: Endalldisease.com (emphasis ours):

Blockchain Technology’s Annihilation of Social Networks, Banks, Governments and The Coming Digital Anarchy

Bitcoin is giving banks a run for their money. Now the same technology threatens to eradicate social networks, stock markets, even national governments. Are we heading towards an anarchic future where centralized power of any kind will dissolve?

The rise and rise of Bitcoin has grabbed the world’s attention, yet its devastating potential still isn’t widely understood. Yes, we all know it’s a digital currency. But the developers who worked on Bitcoin believe that it represents a technological breakthrough that could sweep into obsolescence everything from social networks to stock markets… and even governments.

blockchain technology - endalldisease

In short, Bitcoin could be the gateway to a coming digital anarchy – “a catalyst for change that creates a new and different world,” to quote Jeff Garzik, one of Bitcoin’s most prolific developers.

It’s already beginning. We used to need banks to keep track of who owned what. Not any more. Bitcoin and its rivals have proved that banks can be replaced with software and clever mathematics.

And now programmers of a libertarian bent are starting to ask what else we don’t need.

Imagine driverless taxis roaming from city to city in search of the most lucrative fares; a sky dark with hovering drones delivering your shopping or illicit drugs. Digital anarchy could fill your lives and your nightmares with machines that answer to you, your employers, crime syndicates… or no one at all. Nearly every aspect of our lives will be uprooted.

To understand how, we need to grasp the power of the “blockchain” – a peer-to-peer ledger which creates and records agreement on contentious issues with the aid of cryptography.

A blockchain forms the beating heart of Bitcoin. In time, blockchains will power many radical, disruptive technologies that smart people are working on right now.

Until recently, we’ve needed central bodies – banks, stock markets, governments, police forces – to settle vital questions. Who owns this money? Who controls this company? Who has the right to vote in this election?

Now we have a small piece of pure, incorruptible mathematics enshrined in computer code that will allow people to solve the thorniest problems without reference to “the authorities”.

The benefits of decentralised systems will be huge: slashed overheads, improved security and (in many circumstances) the removal of the weakest link of all – greedy, corruptible, fallible humans.

But how far will disruptive effects reach? Are we rapidly approaching a singularity where, thanks to Bitcoin-like tools, centralised power of any kind will seem as archaic as the feudal system?

If the internet revolution has taught us anything, it’s that when change comes, it comes fast.

…Here’s an illustration. The University of Abertay in Dundee now offers a four-year BSc in “Ethical Hacking”. Abertay is a minor university and some of its other courses – eg, a BSc in “Performance Golf” – invite ridicule. So, on the face of it, does “Ethical Hacking”, which could mean anything.

Click through to details of the course, however, and you realise that it’s cleverly designed to address the growing anxieties of large organisations that live in fear of digital sabotage.

According to the prospectus, “the business world is seeing a rapid increase in the demand for ethical or white hat, hackers, employed by companies to find security holes before criminal, black hat, hackers do … Hackers are innately curious and want to pull things apart. They experiment and research. A hacker wants to learn and investigate. The aim is for you to arrive on this programme as a student and leave as an ethical hacker.”

Whether these ethical hackers will stay ethical is another question, however.

Social networks, search engines and online retailers have grown rich by soaking up our personal data and distilling it into valuable databases used to surgically target advertising.

As the adage goes: “If you’re not paying, then you’re the product”. You don’t pay a penny for Google’s search engine, email or calendar products. What you do provide, though, is data on every aspect of your life: who you know; where you go; what you enjoy eating, wearing, watching…

Behind the laid-back, let’s-play-table-football facade of Silicon Valley firms lies a sneakiness and paranoia that, critics say, verges on the sociopathic. This is hardly surprising. The giant dotcoms stand to lose billions of dollars and even kick-start a US recession if the internet becomes too unstable for them to manage. But, in addition, they need to take advantage of digital instability in order to shaft their rivals.

“These guys are control freaks who see themselves as ‘disruptive’, to quote one of their favourite words,” says a California-based analyst. “It’s a very combustible mixture particularly when you consider the endless, endless uncertainty they face every day.”…

Now we need to put our finger on a really important paradox that lies at the heart of the coming digital anarchy.

The hidden power of the Facebooks, Twitters and Googles of this world is inspiring digital anarchists to destroy the smug, jargon-infested giants of Silicon Valley. But who are these hackers? They’re unlikely to be career criminals who identify themselves by their black hats. On the contrary, they may well have picked up their techniques while working in Palo Alto.

In some cases, the very same people who helped create these mega-corporations are now working on “disruptive technologies” to replace them.

We think of Silicon Valley as peopled by “liberals”. But that’s misleading. They may be socially liberal, but their “libertarianism” is often predicated on very low taxes funding a very small government. They have a soft spot for the anti-tax Republican Rand Paul and the kill-or-be-killed ethos of the paranoid libertarian capitalist Ayn Rand (whom Mr Paul was not named after, though he’s had to spend his whole life denying it).

The digital utopias at the back of these people’s minds are often startlingly weird.

Consider, for example, Peter Thiel, the founder of PayPal – ironically, one of the companies Bitcoin aims to blow out of the water. He has donated $1.25m to the SeaSteading Institute, a group which aims to create an autonomous nation in the ocean, away from existing sovereign laws and free of regulation.

At a conference in 2009 he said: “There are quite a lot of people who think it’s not possible. That’s a good thing. We don’t need to really worry about those people very much, because since they don’t think it’s possible they won’t take us very seriously. And they will not actually try to stop us until it’s too late.”

It’s difficult to generalise about motives when the membranes separating control and anarchy, creativity and disruption, greed and philanthropy have become so alarmingly thin. Remember that the entrepreneurs of Silicon Valley and its many global franchises are usually young enough to be impressionable and excitable. Yes, some of them they may qualify as utopians – but, like utopians throughout history, they are ready to use destructive tactics to reach their goal…

The new digital anarchists – who are as likely to wear Gant chinos as hoodies, and wouldn’t be seen dead in an Anonymous mask – are in the mood to punish Facebook, Google, Twitter, PayPal, eBay, you name it, for their arrogance. Indeed, they may have encountered this arrogance close up by working for them. That’s enough of a motive for the great digital unravelling.

As for means and opportunity – well, they now have their weapon of choice: the blockchain.

…Bitcoin is a decentralised network designed to replace the financial system. Ethereum is a decentralised network designed to replace absolutely anything that can be described in code: business contracts, the legal system or, as some of Ethereum’s more evangelical backers believe, entire states.

Primavera De Filippi, a postdoctoral resreacher at CERSA/CNRS/Université Paris II, is one of Europe’s most intellectually dazzling experts on digital and civil rights in cyberspace. She’s currently at Harvard, exploring the legal challenges of decentralised digital architectures.

Ethereum, she says, is “really sophisticated, and if any of these platforms are going to take off, I believe it’s the one.

“It becomes a completely self-sufficient system, impossible to corrupt. It’s a disruptive technology, and society will adapt to it, but it will be a slow process.”

Liquid democracy

If you are looking to undermine centralised power, the biggest, most tempting target is government itself…

Denmark has decided to take a very liberal policy with crypto-currencies, declaring that all trades will be tax-free; profits will be untouched, but losses will be non-deductible. It’s no surprise, then, that this is one of the places it is being experimented with as an election tool.

The Liberal Alliance party, just seven years old, was founded on an ethos of economic liberalism – it supports a flat rate income tax of 40 per cent, for example – and has begun to use technology built on Ethereum for internal votes.

Party spokesman Mikkel Freltoft Krogsholm argued that it was an obvious choice for e-elections because it allows transparency and security and gives people the chance to “look under the hood” of the voting process. “From a liberal ideological point of view, it was an opportunity we just had to take,” he said.

The blockchain makes perfect sense for this application because all transactions (they can be thought of as votes in this scenario) are recorded in perpetuity for reference. It also provides transparency so that a person can check that his or her vote was actually counted. Otherwise, how can you ever really be sure that your paper ballot made it to the final count?

Eduardo Robles Elvira is working on a similar but larger-scale system which he calls Agora Voting. It was developed as a tool for the Internet Party in Spain, which has a policy that all citizens should be able to vote on all matters in constant referenda. Rather than keep the code private he works with any party that wants to apply it to e-elections.

It has already been successfully used in election primaries, with over 33,000 votes being cast.

The ultimate aim is “liquid democracy”: not to just elect representatives and let them get on with it, and not necessarily to have direct referenda on each tiny issue, but to offer a system so flexible that a happy medium can be struck for every citizen.

It can be best thought of as a social network designed not to help you share photographs, play games or communicate with your friends, but to run and manage your country.

If you want to cast your vote on every issue, fine, that’s possible. Or you can place your voting power in the hands of a career politician, as in the current system, or a knowledgeable friend or colleague.

And control could be infinitely fine: say you’re a cyclist, you could hand over voting power on all road safety matters to a cycling charity that pushes for better infrastructure, but retain votes on economic matters and leave everything else in the hands of your local Liberal Democrat office.

“The idea behind liquid democracy is not to remove representative democracy with direct democracy, but to let you choose your means of democracy. You don’t use an airplane to get to the street corner, and you don’t walk from London to Tokyo: depending on what you want to do, you choose the means of transport,” Robles told me.

“We might see in the future a shift from trusting a single entity to trusting a computerised democratic and verifiable system, the same way that we saw a shift from trusting our healers and priests in the Middle Ages to trusting the scientific method.

“It’s just a glimpse into the future. It’s like the first website: it doesn’t have animations, it’s not responsive, it may look now really basic, but still, it’s the base of what we use now everyday, twenty years later. Maybe we will have a system more similar to ancient Athens, but scalable, where elected leaders are not so important.”…

Andreas Antonopoulos is chief security officer at UK-based Blockchain.info, the world’s largest Bitcoin wallet provider with over 1.1m registered users…People think Bitcoin is just a better way to do PayPal, and it’s not. Just like the internet, it’s a platform, and on that platform you can now build an incredible variety of things.

“We can’t even imagine what things people are going to build. But just in the last year, from watching the startups in the space, I’ve been amazed at the range of innovation that occurs when you combine internet, the sharing economy and crypto-currencies.

“This allows forms of self-organisation that don’t depend on parties or representative government at all. Representative democracy was a solution to a scaling problem. The fact that you couldn’t get a message across Europe in anything less than a couple of weeks.

“Well, that issue of scale has now been solved. So the question is, why do you need representatives? If you ask people who were born with the internet they can’t understand why we need them. To a whole generation of people [the phasing out of represnetative democracy] this is already a normal and natural progression. And now we have the tools to do that.

“In my view, and this is probably why I call myself a ‘disruptarian’, centralised systems have one inevitable trajectory that has been validated throughout history, which is that as the people in the centre accumulate power and control they eventually corrupt the system entirely to serve their own needs, whether that’s a currency, a corporation, a nation.

“Decentralised institutions are far more resilient to that: there is no centre, they do not afford opportunities for corruption. I think that’s a natural progression of humanity.

“It’s an idea that has existed for centuries and has progressively become more and more prevalent. The essential basics of going from monarchies to democracies, from distributing information, knowledge, education and wealth to the middle class, and power to simple people, has been a trend that has lasted now for millennia.

“This is not some kind of libertarian manifesto, or anarchist manifesto, saying that we don’t need mechanisms for achieving social cohesion. It’s simply recognising that we can create better mechanisms as we solve problems of scale. That’s all. It’s not some kind of crazy ‘we don’t need governments’ manifesto. It’s simply that we can make better governments when we don’t concentrate power as much in the hands of a few people.

“As my ancestors in Greece figured out more than three thousand years ago, power corrupts. You can read about that in the writings of the ancient greek philosophers, and nothing really has changed – only that scale of power, and the scale of misery that can be created when that power is wielded to do bad things.”

Daniel Larimer, who is working on a tool called Bitshares to apply blockchain technology to banking, insurance and company shareholding, believes that this new breed of technologies will ultimately render government entirely obsolete.

“I envisage a situation where governments aren’t necessary. That the free market will be able to provide all the goods and services to secure your life, liberty and property without having to rely on coercion. That’s where this all ultimately leads,” he told me.

“The end result is that governments will have less power than free markets. Essentially, the free market will be able to provide justice more effectively and more efficiently than the government can. So, I see governments shrinking.

“If you think about it, what is the reason for government? It’s a way of reaching global consensus over the theory of right and wrong, global consensus over who’s guilty and who’s innocent, over who owns what.

“They’re going to be losing legitimacy as more open, transparent systems are able to provide that function without having to rely on force. That’s my mission in life.”

In his version of the future, identity and reputation will be the new currency. Laws and contracts will be laid down in code and, if broken, reparations will be sought mathematically rather than through law enforcement agencies, courts and prisons.

Those who cannot make good will be victim to “coordinated shunning” by the rest of the network – the whole of society. They will not be able to interact financially or in any other system running on the blockchain. They will be in an “economic prison”. This will extend beyond being unable to make money transfers, because the blockchain will be in control of voting, commerce and communications. Being banished from this system would make life all but impossible.

“There are ways that you can structure society to achieve justice and encourage people to settle their debts,” says Larimer. “There’s a way to give small-town reputation on a global scale. It is ultimate libertarianism.

Or anarchy, depending on your point of view.


Burnersxxx:

The whole article is very thought-provoking and worth reading in its entirety.

You can find out more about Ethereum at their web site and in this White Paper.

Silk Road Move Over, a New Bazaar Is In Town

WIRED magazine has a report on Agora, the new online drug bazaar “marketplace of anything”. It is based on Agorism, a philosophy that a free, stateless society can be achieved via disruptive market means. Forget counter-culture, that meme jumped the shark. It’s time to move on to counter-economics.

From Wikipedia:

Agorism is a libertarian social philosophy that advocates creating a society in which all relations between people are voluntary exchanges by means of counter-economics, thus engaging in a manner with aspects of peaceful revolution. It was first proposed by libertarian philosopher Samuel Edward Konkin III in 1975, with contributions partly by J. Neil Schulman.[1]

Agorists consider themselves market anarchists. While many characterize it as a form of left-libertarianism,[2] others consider it a branch of, or a transition strategy for achieving, anarcho-capitalism. Agorists generally oppose voting for political candidates and political reform. Instead, agorists stress the importance of alternative strategies rather than politics to achieve a free society. Agorists claim that we can achieve a free society more easily and sooner by employing such alternative methods as education, direct action, alternative currencies, entrepreneurship, self sufficiency, and most importantly “counter-economics“.[1] Agorists consider their message to be scientific because science is an appeal to reason, which they believe is only possible in the Agora or free market; they also argue that State backed, regulated and funded science is illegitimate.[3]

From WIRED.com:

For two and a half years, the Dread Pirate Roberts and his Silk Road black market ruled the Dark Web. But last year’s FBI’s takedown of that narcotics smorgasbord opened the underground trade to competitors. Now those sites have a new leader, one that’s bigger than the Silk Road ever was and continues to grow explosively.

camel moneyThe online bazaar for contraband known as “Agora” now has more product listings than any other online black market, according to a report released last week by the Digital Citizens Alliance, a nonprofit focused on internet safety. The analysis counts 16,137 products for sale on the site, which is protected by the anonymity software Tor and accepts only bitcoin. That’s about 200 more listings than Silk Road 2.0, a reincarnation of the original Silk Road launched earlier this year by several of the same administrators. It’s also several thousand more than were offered on the first Silk Road before its seizure in October of last year.

“Just as on the rest of the internet, users on the dark net are very quick to move on to new things and move away from those products and websites that seem stale and old,” says Adam Benson, communications director at Digital Citizens Alliance. “Maybe that time has come for Silk Road.”

…unlike Silk Road, it allows users to sell several categories of weapons, including powerful semi-automatic firearms. The site is still less permissive, however, than markets such as Evolution, which also allows the sale of hacked credit card information and other stolen goods. Agora’s “market rules” ban not only stolen property but also “assassinations or any other services which constitute doing harm to another,” “weapons of mass destruction,” “poisons,” “child pornography” and “live action snuff/hurt/murder audio/video/images.”

Despite those restrictions, Agora’s administrators haven’t displayed any of the political bravado of Dread Pirate Roberts, who frequently posted libertarian manifestos in Silk Road’s user forums and even hosted an online book club around topics in free market economic theory. Silk Road 2.0 similarly proclaims those radical principles; “You are writing history with every item purchased here,” reads a message on the site’s homepage. “Silk Road is not a marketplace. Silk Road is a global revolt. The idea of freedom is immortal.” 

…Instead of political rhetoric, the tactic that set Agora above the rest of the dark web when it launched earlier this year may have been its sense of exclusivity: Users can sign up only with invite codes, although those codes are freely distributed on other market forums and Reddit and can be reused. “It might build some allegiance,” says Digital Citizen’s Alliance’s Benson, “It gives users a sense that they’ve been vetted and that some people have been weeded out” such as law enforcement, fraudsters or less in-the-know users.

Read the full article here.

It’s an interesting counter-balance to Re-code’s report from Burning Man, about finding Camp Bitcoin next to the Orgy Dome [update – it wasn’t anywhere near orgy dome, according to Burner Debra]:

Flipping through my 160-page official Burning Man book of events, I noticed something strange: Camp Bitcoin was hosting a “worthless currency exchange.”

Bitcoin Camp?! Worthless currency exchange? I had some candies in my backpack that could certainly count as currency here.

It was about 4 pm when I left the Burning Man Reddit meetup, where I had been listening to two dozen guys talk “Star Wars” trivia, and had been misted by someone with a pesticide sprayer full of water. The Redditers told me that the bitcoin guys were just a few streets away, in the Anahasana Village, and that they were a bunch of nerds, real geeks.

The Anahasana Village (Burning Man villages are collections of smaller camps that share resources, like a kitchen) is famous for its contact-improv sessions (standing cuddle puddles) and its Orgy Dome (what it sounds like).

It’s not where one might expect to find Camp Bitcoin.

Looking for Camp Bitcoin at the Anahasana Village gate

Cryptocurrency campers lounging around in Camp Bitcoin, which is really Camp Dogecoin

There, about a dozen bitcoin dudes were sitting cross-legged in a circle under some scaffolding, an old orange parachute draped over it for shade. They were talking about all the money they could have made if they had bought various cryptocurrencies at various points..

One bitcoin camper, lean and shirtless Josh Katen, explained to me that this isn’t really the bitcoin camp anymore.

“The Bitcoin leader was arrested right before Burning Man ’cause he was maybe helping the FBI, and … Anyway, we’re the Dogecoin Camp now,” he said.

Another shirtless fellow…said he had a vision, based on Burning Man’s gifting economy. In his vision, cryptocurrency is just the first step toward making a large-scale gift economy.

“Once we learn to monetize everything, we take this gifting economy out to the world,” Keim said. “We can take the Illuminati’s cyber gold and silver, and distribute it evenly. Once we have this, we can live in abundance, rather than scarcity.”

… came to Burning Man to see what a gifting- and abundance-based economy could look like. Money and branding aren’t allowed at Burning Man. Everyone brings or prepares gifts (alcohol, snacks such as pancakes, or little necklaces that say “Burning Man 2014”) that they exchange.

“One of the biggest barriers to the gift economy is debt, the usury. With cryptocurrency we can reengineer abundance rather than scarcity,”

…someone riding past their camp earlier that day had yelled at them — “F—ing bitcoin’s not allowed on the playa,” or something to that effect. The campers had been surprised but not terribly offended…

“I’m the messiah, and money grows on trees,” Keim said.

No, but seriously, what’s the gist?

“I am the messiah,” he repeated, getting on his dust-and-EL-wire-covered bicycle.

Before I could reenter the tent, an extremely attractive couple stopped me and eyed me up and down.

“This is it, right?” asked the man, who was wearing a top hat and genie pants, which for some reason wasn’t even a turn-off anymore. (I’ve been here too long.)

It?

“Tantra tent?” he asked, cocking his head.

No. Not tantra. Bitcoin.

Sounds like Mr Bitcoin messiah might have been tooting his own horn, if you know what I mean. Scarface, if you don’t.

Full story here.

Kudos to Nellie Bowles and Re/Code, your Burning Man coverage this year has been superb.

Control-of-Bitcoin

Money is technically not banned at Burning Man, and Bitcoins certainly aren’t…yet. The principle of “DeCommodification” conveniently stretches to include a lot of things. If you read the fine print of the Principles, they never actually use the word money. They do, however, place a ban on “consumption” – if you want to partake, you must participate.

Everything’s free but nothing’s for sale. Gifting is encouraged, but barter is verboten.  Volunteering (ie free labor) is encouraged, as long as it is on projects that are for the benefit of BMOrg. The systems they’ve built to facilitate all of this are rudimentary, and don’t seem to be much of an Organizational priority. The priorities are more like new ticketing schemes and revenue streams, corporate tax structure, self-promotion, and Big Data: “Burner Profiles” and Census results. The information collected about us continues to become more detailed, as the ticket prices head skywards.

BMOrg claim to be pioneers in the “sharing economy”, yet it’s hard to pinpoint what exactly they do that relates to it. “We don’t sell drinks” is not quite the same as “we’ve figured out new economic models for people to peacefully co-exist”. Rather than being counter-economics, the economics of Burning Man are not dissimilar to those of the Pharaohs. Pharaoh gets the gold while the sherpas do the labor.

Is this all that could ever be? Do we create a radical experiment, year after year, by doing the same old shit in the same old way – just add Virgins?

This is what cellphones looked like in 1986

This is what cellphones looked like in 1986

Burning Man started in the mid-80’s, when Madonna’s new album was “Like a Virgin” and the first gangsta rap song had just been released. Now we are well into the 21st century. In the 90’s we got the Web, in the Naughties we got smart phones and social media, in the Teenies we got Twitter and Uber and NSA spying and Google buying military robot companies.

Larry Harvey was asked about Bitcoin in New York in 2013.

I’m in Dr Kittay’s class at Columbia University called Technology, Religion, and Future. Today, we had an event on Burning Man, where the Burning Man committee including Larry Harvey (Founder of Burning Man) came in to talk about the event with our class. The link is below

http://blog.burningman.com/2013/10/eventshappenings/event-the-founders-speak-burning-man-technology-religion-the-future/

I asked if they would consider accepting Bitcoin as a form of payment. They unanimously said yes! At first Larry was like, hmm never thought about that. Then one guy said, well its not really that stable yet but hell, if it makes people happy lets do it! They all nodded in agreement. Woot! Now they just have to follow up on it by adding the ‘Pay in BTC’ button to the ticket purchase section of their site.

Of course, fast forward a year later and there is not so much as a hint of Bitcoin entering the Burning Man universe, yet alone experimenting with new ideas of liberty like Agorism. Quite what is the vision for this social engineering petri dish over the next century remains to be seen: it’s “coming soon”, like the video of the Founders talk at Columbia. BMOrg are still struggling to mail tickets to people in San Francisco, and are completely unable to mail them to other countries. Meanwhile we have Burnier-Than-Thous bemoaning smart phones, drones, sherpas, dubstep DJs, even the postal service. Will technology innovation in the Default world have to stay there, while Burning Man stagnates, just so that Burnier-Than-Thous can feel they’re doing it better?

Burning-Man-2009-Sphinx-Statue-Pink-girls-woman-women-Desert-Art-Festival-Dust-To-Ashes-photos-pictures-pics-Gerlach-Nevada-NVIs this the future we choose for the experiment of Black Rock City: no more innovation, just more complaining and more douchebags? Rude Man, as I saw it called on Facebook today.

Their Plan for the Playa, it seems, is to force us to accept an ever-increasing range of Default world transactions (all done solely via BMOrg, with the Feds getting a cut too), and an ever-decreasing amount of Gifting. Commerce is banned, so’s barter. Citizens don’t get a say in the city, so there is no political discourse in this civilization – except for the guest speakers the Founders invite in. Burning Man doesn’t care what you believe, as long as it’s the Ten Principles.

Perhaps it is significant that BMOrg are strengthening their ties to the two major political parties, while at the same time trying to dismiss the streak of libertarianism and anarchy that Burning Man originally sprung forth from.

When innovation and creativity are regulated out of existence by bureaucracy, the subversive dissenters, the anarcho-crypto-punks, start looking for remote wildernesses where they can go and create the New New Thing.

“Good riddance!”, cry the Townspeople, when the Sheriffs chase the Cowboys out of town. It matters not to them that the Cowboys started the town, hired the Sheriffs, and invited all the Townspeople in. “Cowboys are bad”, say the Townspeople. “Everyone knows that”.

Guns, Booze, and Bitcoin

The Washington Post, recently acquired by Billionaire Burner Jeff Bezos, brings us a story by Ben Terris about Porcupine Festival, or “Porcfest”, dubbed “The Libertarian Burning Man”. If you think all the rules and cops are getting too much at Burning Man, perhaps this festival will resonate with you. We covered it last year.

Re-blogged from the Washington Post, Lifestyle section:

Inside the libertarian version of Burning Man: Guns, booze and bitcoin

 Like any good bonfire, the evening ritual at the Porcupine Festival deep in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, includes a drum circle, plumes of marijuana smoke, shared bottles of whiskey and spirited debate.

There are also guns. Lots of guns.

Colt .45s, Smith & Wessons, and Rugers hang on hips. A bearded man clings to an AK-47; a guy with a Mohawk has a shotgun with flowers coming out of the barrel strapped to his back. For this isn’t your typical bacchanal in the woods. This is the libertarian version of Burning Man, where a kumbaya discussion around the campfire goes something like this:

“It’s great to be around people who understand. I don’t get how the left won’t just admit that income tax is theft. Who cares if it’s for a good cause? If I held you at gunpoint to pay for my mother’s cancer treatment, wouldn’t that still be theft?”

Once a year for the past 11 years, this campground in the northern part of the Granite State turns into a libertarian utopia. And this year, roughly 2,000 people — mostly white men — have paid between $45 and $100 to experience for one week what life would be like without the onerous mechanisms of laws, if the market ruled to the exclusion of all else. Want to wear a loincloth and sell moonshine, shop at an unregulated market that accepts Bitcoin and silver, or listen to a seminar called “How the Collapse of the State is Inevitable”? Then this is the place for you.

It certainly is the place for Pete Eyre, a jacked guy with an enormous beard, standing off to the side of the fire. At one point he wanted to be a cop, interning at the St. Paul, Minn., police department, enforcing many of the rules people have come here to disregard. He found the system too reactionary, he says, and now helps run an organization that films police misconduct. He shows off one of his many tattoos in the flickering light of the fire. It’s an anarchist symbol tattoo covering an old American flag tat he got in his past life. “It’s my journey,” he says.

Then someone taps him on the shoulder. There’s a kid having a bad trip in the bathroom, and in this hectic, anti-hierarchical festival, Eyre is the closest thing to an authority figure around.

“I am God,” a longhaired 20-something repeats to the people babysitting him in a bathroom hallway. “I am a perfect logical machine.”

Two girls huffing nitrous oxide from a balloon and a guy holding a needle come by. The guy with the needle says he has a chemical mixture that if injected will lessen the effects of hallucinogens. “I have the solution right in my hands,” he says. Eyre decides it’s a bad idea to inject the longhaired guy with a mystery drug — even if it could work in theory — and says he won’t allow it to happen.

“Can anyone refute that it will work?” the guy with the needle asks.

It might as well have been the slogan for the whole glorious epic of the Porcupine Freedom Festival.


Pete Eyre once wanted to be a police officer, but found the system too “reactionary” and now helps run CopBlock.org, which films police misdoings. He provided some Porcfest muscle — and found time at the festival to work out. (Matthew Cavanaugh/For The Washington Post)

 

Porcfest — as it’s known here — is put on by the Free State Project, a group dedicated to recruiting at least 20,000 libertarians to move to New Hampshire. The idea — that a group of this size can make a difference in a state with a low population — came from an essay in 2001 by then-Yale doctoral student and current Dartmouth lecturer Jason Sorens. Thirteen years later, the FSP has had nearly 16,000 people sign a “statement of intent” to move. The plan is that when 20,000 people sign the list, it will “trigger” a large migration. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,500 people have moved already.

This is a way to build a community. Even isolationists don’t like to feel alone.

“In most places, if you try to go to a libertarian event, you’re probably going to get three people,” says Kamil Markowicz, an attendee from Indiana. “And one is going to be a tea party guy and the other a conspiracy theorist.” Case in point: There’s a guy here with a libertarian baseball team back home in Chicago, but he says he needed a few constitutional conservatives to fill out his roster.

The ideological motivations, which Free Staters discuss over homemade mead and beers, are relatively easy to understand. The U.S. government suffers from low approval ratings, we have been fighting wars for years without a satisfying result in sight, and privacy is slipping away. Why not just dissolve it all — or most of it— and live as individuals? In other words, live like the porcupine: Let your lifestyle not encroach on others, but if someone comes at you, don’t hesitate to protect yourself with quills. Or your AR-15.

Gun enthusiast Matt Fox leads a workshop on how to build an AR-15 rifle. (Matthew Cavanaugh/For The Washington Post)

Even the dogs at Porcfest are on message. (Matthew Cavanaugh/For The Washington Post)

“If we concentrate together, we can effect change,” says Carla Gericke, president of the Free State Project. But what exactly that change would be, who even knows? For some, it means living outside the system; for others, changing the system from within.

By most counts, more than 20 Free Staters have been elected to the state House of Representatives (about 10 of whom currently serve), with many others serving in municipal government. In 2012, state Rep. Cynthia Chase(D) called them “the single biggest threat the state is facing today.”

It’s certainly an overstatement, but the Free Staters have been active in the political arena. They have helped repeal New Hampshire’s knife laws, blocked implementation of a national ID system in the state and helped allow jurors to acquit defendants not because they think they are innocent but because they believe the law at issue is unjust.

And just as Free Staters have started to trickle into politics, some more-traditional types have found themselves drawn to Porcfest. Former senator Robert C. Smith is here trying to pick up votes for his campaign against Scott Brown in the Republican primary to be held in September, and Saul Anuzis, former chairman of the Michigan Republican Party, is here, despite drawing the ire of libertarians in 2007 when he said that Ron Paul should drop out of the presidential debates. (“People here probably wouldn’t be too happy,” he says at the campfire one night after a 20-something came up and started rambling about “brain drugs.” “But fortunately no one knows who I am here.”)

“We can’t achieve anything by one method alone,” says Mike Sylvia, a state representative and the 589th person to move to New Hampshire for the cause. By his count, the FSP has its eyes on about 47 people it might try to recruit to run in the coming years. A lot of people at Porcfest are software engineers, Web developers, IT support team members and telecommunications workers. Their jobs are relatively mobile, and uprooting to rural New Hampshire isn’t outside the realm of possibility.

And the best way to convince people to move, well, that’s Porcfest.

 

Colby Keddington of Hancock, Md., carries a Remington shotgun with artificial flowers in its barrel during the festival. (Matthew Cavanaugh/For The Washington Post)

Buzz Webb of Provincetown, Mass., builds a dance stage in preparation for her annual Big Gay Dance Party, known as the biggest party of the festival. (Matthew Cavanaugh/For The Washington Post)

 

The morning after the campfire, I check in with the security tent to see whether the longhaired, drug-addled kid from the night before is doing okay.

Anyone can act as a de facto security guard here, but members of the “Church of the Sword” — a group from Manchester that doesn’t focus much on worship but does start its meetings with a “ritual of combat” involving foam swords — constitute the only organized group.

I’m told by a big, bearded man with a walking stick that the kid is fine (later I see him giving a very complicated presentation about cryptocurrency), but that I should move along because there is a possible security situation. A former member of the Free State Project who has advocated violence against the police may be trying to get into the campground, where he is no longer welcome. There aren’t many rules here, but violence and bigotry can get you banned.

I leave to check out Agora Valley, the unregulated market in the middle of the campground.

At the entrance, a group sells silver that its members minted. Across from its stand, a food vendor (sans permit, sans safety inspection) sells hamburgers and hot dogs for Bitcoin, Dogecoin, precious metals, or, if you must, dollars (or “Federal Reserve Notes”). Cellphone service is bad out in the woods, so sometimes people have to buy a sausage here, and walk down the hill, over by the Bitcoin ATM, where reception is better, so they can pay.

At the entrance to Agora Alley, the festival market, a group sells silver that its members minted. (Matthew Cavanaugh/For The Washington Post)

Food vendors accept silver, Bitcoin and other alternative currencies. (Matthew Cavanaugh/For The Washington Post)

 

Puns are everywhere. One popular T-shirt: “Kill the Precedent.” One popular ice cream flavor: Open-Carry Cherry. (Or, playing on the big in-joke here, that without government nothing can get done: “Who Will Build the Rocky Roads?”). A tractor rumbles by, spilling brown sludge out of a bucket.

“It’s okay, it’s Agora Valley, it should be covered in sewage,” says an onlooker eating breakfast across from an outdoor tattooing station. “It’s unregulated and we have no infrastructure.”

It had been raining, so the sludge mixed well into the muddy path; the smell blended with the heady fumes of armpits, pot, and brewing beer. Tents had flooded the night before, the mosquitoes were out, and a festival radio station pumped its broadcast about whether the topless woman at the campground should have been asked to put her shirt back on. (She did cover up after a group of parents complained on behalf of the several dozen small children wandering the festival grounds.)

Just past the booth where a man sells make-your-own-firearms blueprints (his wife would rather him stick to his day job of running a cabinet-making magazine), there is a series of tents hosting seminars all day. A former Army officer named Bill Buppert is talking about how “we shouldn’t think of secession as a four-letter word.”

At an adjacent tent, a guy discusses the benefits of a paleo diet. If you stay healthy enough, he says, perhaps you can live long enough to make it to the “singularity” where you can live forever by tapping into artificial intelligence. Eat like a caveman, he says, so you can live long enough to become a robot.

“The thing about a lot of libertarians,” James O’Beirne, a software engineer living in New York City, says coming out of the paleo seminar, “is that we are often analytical to an irrational extent.”

 

Porcfest attendees didn’t lack for chances to party. Here, festival-goers dance at the Big Goth Dance Party. (Matthew Cavanaugh/For The Washington Post)

Chelsea Henry of Brighton, Mich., top, and Justin Holmes of New Paltz, N.Y., practice yoga moves at the Porcupine Freedom Festival. (Matthew Cavanaugh/For The Washington Post)

 

There’s a geodesic dome nicknamed the “orgy tent,” but the biggest party at Porcfest takes place near the end of the week-long gathering. It’s Buzz’s Big Gay Dance Party, put on by Buzz Webb, 47, who goes by the “Duchess of Dykedom,” wears combat boots and has close-cropped, dyed-white hair.

Webb says that when she came to Porcfest for the first time in 2009, she couldn’t find another gay person.

“I thought we were completely underrepresented,” she says between dance-related carpentry projects. “I was like, ‘Have I made a huge mistake coming?’ ”

Instead of high-tailing it out, she decided to throw her own party, one that both celebrated and poked fun at gay culture. Yes, 90 percent of the people who show up are straight, and yes, some people show up in pink speedos and wigs purely as a joke, but Buzz feels good about it.

“What makes all this so great is that it’s a real community, and one open to you doing what you want to do,” she says. In 2009, Buzz moved from Provincetown, Mass., to New Hampshire as part of the Free State Project. But three years later she had to move back because of money issues.

“I miss it here,” she says. “People here really believe in live and let live.”

Most of the time, anyway.

In 2012, according to Free State Project president Gericke, a group from Connecticut set up a tent serving Polish food. To attract customers, the vendors would rev up a chain saw. The combination of the chain saw and some rowdy evenings bothered enough people in Agora Valley that a few other vendors went into town to print fliers urging Porcfest attendees to boycott their food.

That was fine with the restaurateurs, who offered a 50 percent discount to any customer who brought in one of the fliers. It was the perfect example of the free market at work.

Until the next year, when Porcupine Festival organizers let them know the chainsaw antics wouldn’t be welcomed back. There had been too many complaints.

It’s a free society here unless you break the rules. There are no cops, unless you get on the wrong side of the Church of the Sword. The griddles may be unregulated, but the eggs are USDA-approved.

A true libertarian utopia will always remain a hypothetical, even on a small scale. But perhaps for the true believers, it’s better that way. For as long as it remains the mystery solution for our country’s ills, who can ever refute that it would work?

2014: Year of the Silk Road

American Museum of National History's Camel Caravan creation

American Museum of National History’s Camel Caravan creation

This year’s theme is “Caravansary“. It’s meant to evoke traditions of the Middle East, silk pillows and teeming marketplaces in caravan oases on the great Silk Road of Asia Minor. The original Silk Road ran from new Burner regional location Israel to new Burner regional location Shanghai.

Burning Man’s Silk Road homage is envisioned as a “bazaar of the bizarre”.

This year we will create a caravansary that occupies the crossroads of a dreamland: a bazaar of the bizarre wherein treasures of every sort, from every land and age, flow in and out to be flaunted, lost, exploited and discovered. This is not a tourist destination, but a home for travelers who come here bearing gifts. Amid the twisting and the turnings of its souk, participants will come upon an inexhaustible array of teeming goods and unexpected services. Anyone may pose as ‘merchant’ here, and anyone may play a ‘customer’, but nothing in this strange emporium shall have a purchase price — no quid, no pro, no quo — no trade at all will be allowed in this ambiguous arcade. According to a rule of desert hospitality, the only thing of value in this ‘marketplace’ will be one’s interaction with a fellow human being.

Is it just another coincidence that, at around the same time this theme is picked, and in the very same neighborhood – literally two miles away – a different “Silk Road” bazaar from San Francisco is the biggest news of the day? Or is this another case of BMOrg trying to attach themselves to the latest Silicon Valley trends? Recent examples of this are “the sharing economy”, the “Bundy Standoff“, and, arguably, Mike Judge’s hilarious new show Silicon Valley.

What Silk Road are we talking about, if not Caravansary? The “Amazon of vice” one, created (allegedly) by “crime kingpin” Ross Ulbricht, a 29-year old San Francisco resident who was busted in the science fiction section of a public library in Glen Park. Glen Park is at the edge of the Mission District, a 2.6 mile walk from where Burning Man just moved its headquarters.

They might have got the front man, but they couldn’t shut the Road down.

The Huffington Post headline reads “New Silk Road Selling Even More Drugs Than Old Silk Road”:

Silk Road is back, and it’s busier than before.

Six months after the FBI shut down the notorious black market website known as “the eBay for drugs,” a new version of Silk Road is offering even more illegal narcotics than its predecessor, according to a report released Wednesday by the Digital Citizens Alliance, a group that advocates against online crime.

The report found nearly 14,000 listings for drugs on the new Silk Road, compared to 13,000 listings found on the site at the time it was shut down last fall.

Ross and Pussy

Ross and Pussy

“What we see on Silk Road today is more drugs, increasing vendors and an even greater commitment by this community to keeping their ‘movement’ alive,” said Garth Bruen, a senior fellow for the Digital Citizens Alliance, in a statement.

In October, the FBI shut down Silk Road and arrested its alleged mastermind, Ross William Ulbricht, a 29-year-old self-professed libertarian and San Francisco resident. Authorities alleged that Ulbricht ran the booming marketplace for illegal drugs, computer hacking tools and other illicit goods and services.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports that there was a flow effect to the Burner community from the Feds cracking down on Bitcoins:

Cornelis Jan “SuperTrips” Slomp had more than $20,000 in cash and hopes of making a splash on the South Beach party scene when he landed at Miami International Airport in August.

But before he could pick up the Lamborghini sports car he’d hired, the young Dutchman was arrested by customs agents working with Chicago prosecutors.

Supertrips: a "very modern" Internet drug dealer

Supertrips: a “very modern” Internet drug dealer

Just 22, Slomp was a very modern millionaire, the feds allege: an international Internet drug dealer who accepted payment in bitcoins for ecstasy, cocaine, LSD and other drugs.

Now, in one of the biggest cyber drug cases ever brought, his lawyer says he’s agreed to plead guilty to selling huge quantities of dope through the underground website, Silk Road.

Equipped with only a laptop, an iPhone and a backpack — he planned to buy clothes in Miami, the feds say — Slomp amassed more than $3 million in bitcoins shipping 104 kilos of MDMA, 566,000 ecstasy pills and 4 kilos of cocaine and other drugs through the mail, court papers state.

Some drugs ended up in Chicago, but Slomp shipped to almost every continent, boasting he had “big stockpiles of product, you literally cannot empty me out.”

On Silk Road, where anonymous traders sold illegal drugs and other illicit products, he developed a reputation for ecstasy pills marked with his logo, a green question mark. He was planning to hand off his U.S. business to an unnamed associate when he was arrested, the feds say.

According to a new release from the U.S. Attorney’s office, he has agreed to plead guilty and faces between five and 40 years in prison and a $5 million fine, plus the forfeiture of approximately $3,030,000 in alleged drug proceeds. The government says it seized the equivalent of that amount in bitcoins, a digital currency, and exchanged it for cash.

U.S. Attorney Zach Fardon — who formed a new cybercrime unit last month — said, “Illegal drug-trafficking is not new but drug-trafficking using a sophisticated underground computer network designed to protect anonymity of buyers and sellers presents new challenges to law enforcement that we are prepared to meet.”

Slomp’s attorney, Paul Petruzzi, agreed that “the Internet is the future of drug dealing.”

Asked about the huge sums Slomp was able to quickly make, Petruzzi added: “Young people are much more adept on the Internet.”

Petruzzi refused to comment on whether Slomp, facing up to 40 years in prison, is cooperating with authorities. But just two months after Slomp was quietly arrested and brought to Chicago, Silk Road was shut down by the feds.

Chicago’s Homeland Security boss Gary Hartwig described Slomp as “a prolific vendor on Silk Road.”

Silk Road’s collapse in October 2013 followed the arrest in San Francisco of its alleged founder Ross William Ulbricht — who allegedly went by “Dread Pirate Roberts” — and is accused in a New York federal court case of drug trafficking, soliciting murder, facilitating computer hacking and money laundering.

The feds say that during an 18 month undercover investigation of Slomp, they seized more than 100 packages he sent, including a large shipment of ecstasy seized at O’Hare Airport in April 2012.

The government seizures may be to blame for Internet chatroom rumors about Slomp being a scam artist who did not deliver the drugs he’d been paid for.

One Silk Road user complained two weeks before Slomp’s arrest in August that “I ordered a huge order from (SuperTrips)… it has yet to come.”

“Now the problem is I’m leaving for Burning Man in a few days… Can anyone give me some useful advice as to what I should do?”

Supertrips ratted out his partner, “Underground Syndicate”. As a consequence they arrested “the world’s biggest drug dealer” [yeah right!].  Angel Quinones faces a maximum of 20 years, which commenters suggest may indicate he is co-operating with authorities. Sundayworld reports via the Chicago Sun-times:

LamboCARS photographyThe 34 year old who went by the name ‘Underground Syndicate” worked with the Dutch drug dealer Jan “SuperTrips” Slomp to create the biggest illegal market for drugs, on the dark web’s Silk Road.

Angel William Quinones, was taken into custody after ‘SuperTrips’, his partner, turned state’s evidence and admitted all, before a Chicago Court.

Quinones was the U.S. arm of the ecstasy business and helped launder the funds through bitcoins, helping to convert them into cash.

However, one his partner was arrested at Miami airport Quinones’s days were numbered and he now too has decided to co-operate with the authorities.

His house was raided and agents reported finding €157,000 in cash and keys to several postal boxes used for the delivery of drugs, according to the Chicago Sun Times.

It looks like the Anonymous Burner and Silk Road user didn’t spend too long worrying. “Silk Road 2.0”, aka Dark Net, is back, and bigger than ever. From ExtremeTech:

The Silk Road 2.0 is now bigger and better than ever before: What’s the FBI to do?

You have to give it to shadowy, corporate-funded lobby groups: You can get some seriously cool data when there’s big money on the line. This week saw the release of the newest report from a DC-based activist group called the Digital Citizens Alliance, an anti-piracy organization that is often accused of astroturfing for large media conglomerates. The report focuses on the current state of the Deep Web drug market and how, despite the shut down of the Silk Road last year, Silk Road 2.0 is already bigger than its predecessor. If the FBI or other law enforcement agencies want to put a real dent in the Deep Web, it will have to try a lot harder.

The overall aim of the Digital Citizens Alliance is to create panic among those less informed about the internet… its latest report on the state of Deep Web drug markets …The core insight is that, following the Silk Road shutdown last year, the Silk Road 2.0 has risen to attract more drug listings than we’ve ever seen before.

silk road chart 1

It’s not just the Silk Road that’s grown, either. In the wake of the Silk Road’s temporary demise users naturally ran to alternatives, and though most of those quickly fell under the weight of scams and thievery, the basic diversification of the user base remains. Though SR2.0 is by far the largest dark market, it still only accounts for about 41% of all listings — down from more than 70% last year. Competitors like Agora and Pandora collectively hold the majority now, and that’s as assessed by a report which openly admits that it excluded a further 25 small dark markets of which its authors were aware.

TOR talk on Netflix's House of Cards

TOR talk on Netflix’s House of Cards

While it’s true that the Silk Road is bigger than ever before, that’s mostly a result of the fact that the Deep Web is bigger than ever before, as well. The Silk Road bust was the single best thing to ever happen to the Deep Web — a criminal Streisand effect seems to be at work here, as the Deep Web makes its way into everything from political speeches to House of Cards. After the bust several new high-profile markets sprang up to sell drugs, hacking, assassination — though of course we have no way of knowing how legitimate most of it really is.

People seem to have forgotten that immediately after the raid, conventional wisdom warned against ever again buying from any vendor who was active at that time; anyone selling during the bust could now very easily be an FBI plant. (Read: How to use Tor and get on the Deep Web.)And that’s the problem. For every user exalting the rise of a new Silk Road, there’s another addressing the rampant scamming and theft it now hosts. Many users on the official Silk Road 2.0 forums are worried that drug vendors are being added regularly despite vendor registration having been closed for months — a sign many take to mean the site’s mods are instating fake vendors. Are they cops? Bots? Russians?

Ross Ulbricht’s arrest sparked interest in super-security, but that rush has ended. Now, popular Silk Road vendors like “weedgirlz” start Twitter accounts and clearnet” websites advertising their illegal businesses. There’s simply no institutional or individual memory here — a fact that makes individual busts very easy for police, but overall victory almost unimaginable. Just as in “real life” crime, Deep Web rings are intractable, dynamic populations that resist the kind of social engineering these arrests aspire to be. As long as the technology to do illegal things online even might exist, people will use it.

The Deep Web’s true strength is not in encryption or anonymity, but in confidence. The FBI needs to imbue this community not with fear of prison, but with fear of their friends. If it can’t, then law enforcement will simply never get a handle on Deep Web criminals, and the markets will keep growing as they have been for years now. The occasional, aimless bust won’t change that.The best chance to really hurt the dark markets has already passed. If the Silk Road 2.0 has in fact been a honeypot all along (and many still suspect that to be the case), that would be a major and above all long lastingblow to the Deep Web. Not because of the arrests or the convictions, but because of the method by which they were acquired.

“We have no way of knowing how legitimate most of it really is”…ummm, newsflash, people. Drugs, murders, fake passports? This is clearly NOT legitimate!

Social engineering on the Silk Road? Hmmm, where have I heard that before…[32:50]

Ulbricht claims he is not “the Dread Pirate Roberts” that facilitated the online transactions and is wanted in relation to at least 6 murders. Reddit brings us an eyewitness report from the bail hearing:

We arrived at 11:15am, near the beginning of Turner’s remarks on why Ross Ulbricht should be denied bail. We got seats, although it was standing room only by the end. Two of six rows were filled with Ulbricht’s family.

The first thing we heard Turner mention is Ulbricht’s stash of Bitcoin; Turner argued that given the “sophistication” of the defendant and the rules of the Bitcoin protocol, it is plausible that he could retrieve and/or instruct someone to retrieve the stash from a remote location if he is released on bail.

Much to the dismay and annoyance of Judge Fox, Turner proceeded to repeat the complaints we have already read; after multiple attempts to steer Turner away from regurgitating content from the complaints, Turner began to outline some of the content found on Ulbricht’s computer. This included: a journal of Silk Road’s creation, extensive spreadsheets with costs of maintaing the site (murder-for-hires included), “emergency” to-do lists, general to-do lists (again, murder-for-hires present on list), among many other incriminating documents not directly mentioned.

Turner then segued into the redandwhite/FriendlyChemist story, and how redandwhite “reported” to Ulbricht that FriendlyChemist had implicated another individual (tony76) in the blackmail plot before he was “killed.”

Ulbricht instructed redandwhite to kill him, but redandwhite responded that he lived with three individuals and it wouldn’t have been possible to kill him while he was in the house; redandwhite said they could wait for him to leave the house and kill him, but they would then be unable to retrieve drugs/money located in the residence. Redandwhite offered to kill all of them. Ulbricht responded that ‘[he] would refer to their judgment on the matter.’ He ended up paying $500K USD in Bitcoin for all four hits. Turner mentions the blockchain here and says the transactions are visible there.

Finally Turner discussed Ulbricht’s attempt to secure dual citizenship in Dominica and used that to argue the flight risk Ulbricht posed. Turner painted Ulbricht as having “two sides” and given his alleged tendency towards violence, the stash of Bitcoin and flight risk potential they moved for him to be denied bail…

Turner mentions that there is evidence that Ulbricht solicited was planning to grow “magic mushrooms” to be listed on SR as its first product, there is also evidence that he has helped facilitate the movement of drugs and finally he loaned someone 500KUSD (not sure in what form) to start a joint drug operation. As such they believe Dratel’s argument to that effect is null and void.

Turner also states that Ulbricht’s family and friends do not know this “other side” of Ross and in no way could attest to his true character. On the subject of flight risk, they point out that he was living under a false name and ordered over 10 fake IDs, a sort of sophistication that would make it easy for him to disappear.

Despite the crime links, and his claim to lack of any connection to them, he insists the $34 $87 million of Bitcoins belongs to him and the Feds need to give it back so he can pay his lawyers:

After his arrest in October, 29-year-old Ross Ulbricht maintains that he is not the Dread Pirate Roberts, mastermind of the online drugs marketplace Silk Road. But he also says the Bitcoins the authorities seized from Silk Road belong to him, and the government should give them back.

Since shutting down the secretive online shop, the FBI claims to have confiscated electronic wallets containing more than 173,000 Bitcoins from Silk Road – an amount worth about $33.6m in real-world currency.

colombia cartel seizureThe authorities claim these funds are the proceeds of a criminal conspiracy involving drugs trafficking and money laundering. Ulbricht, on the other hand, says that’s got nothing to do with him – yet the New York Post reports that he has also filed papers with a federal court in New York City demanding that the seized Bitcoins be returned to him.

In a notarized statement dated December 11, Ulbricht reportedly says he “has an interest as owner” in the seized funds and argues that as a virtual currency, Bitcoins are “not subject to seizure” under federal forfeiture laws.

It’s a neat argument. Since the Silk Road raid was the largest Bitcoin forfeiture in US history, the courts literally have never heard a case quite like it. It’s possible that a judge could rule that Bitcoins don’t count as the kind of property that can be seized in a criminal prosecution.

It’s unlikely, though. In past cases, courts have seen fit for authorities to seize everything from cash to cars, boats, houses, artwork, and even intellectual property such as internet domain names. Just the fact that Ulbricht wants the Bitcoins back would seem to establish that they have value and are therefore fair game for forfeiture.

Still, Ulbricht could certainly use the money. Although he was represented by a public defender in his first few court appearances, he has since retained the services of New York attorney Joshua Dratel, and his case looks like it could be a long one. Among other offenses, he is charged with commissioning the contract killings of as many as six people (although there is no evidence that anyone was actually killed).

In November, Ulbricht’s family, friends, and supporters chipped in $1m to secure his release from the New York jail where he now resides, but Magistrate Judge Ronald Ellis ultimately denied him bail.

It remains to be seen whether those same well-wishers will be willing to put those funds towards Ulbricht’s legal fees now that he has admitted to owning more than $30m worth of Bitcoin at the time of his arrest

His mom also swears he’s not “the” Dread Pirate. Because you always tell you’re Mom you’re a drug dealer! From Ars Technica:

fbi-bitcoin-address-500x312Lyn Ulbricht says that she and her husband have no doubt in their minds that their son is not Dread Pirate Roberts, the accused mastermind behind the original Silk Road website.

The underground drug website, which was shut down as part of a federal raid late last year, was only accessible through the anonymizing tool Tor. The government alleges that Ross Ulbricht, as Dread Pirate Roberts, “reaped commissions worth tens of millions of dollars” through his role as the site’s leader and also attempted to orchestrate six murders-for-hire.

Since Ross Ulbricht was arrested in October 2013, a new site also calling itself Silk Road has taken the original site’s place and boasts a leader calling him or herself Dread Pirate Roberts—a handful of others have attempted to fill the void left by the first Silk Road. Dread Pirate Roberts is a reference to a character from the movie The Princess Bride. In the film, Roberts’ persona is passed down among various people.

Business Insider has quite a remarkable photo gallery provided by the family, attesting to Ulbricht’s innocence with kittens and skipping. Seriously – it’s worth a look! This may not go over well in jail – and it doesn’t look like the judge is buying it either, in the face of tough prosecution.

Larry Harvey was asked if Burning Man would accept Bitcoins during the mysterious “The Founders Speak” presentation at Columbia University last year. This footage was promised to be shared with the public, but has embarrassingly gone missing. The Burning Man Project seems to prefer talking, to sharing…

I’m in Dr Kittay’s class at Columbia University called Technology, Religion, and Future. Today, we had an event on Burning Man, where the Burning Man committee including Larry Harvey (Founder of Burning Man) came in to talk about the event with our class. The link is below

http://blog.burningman.com/2013/10/eventshappenings/event-the-founders-speak-burning-man-technology-religion-the-future/

I asked if they would consider accepting Bitcoin as a form of payment. They unanimously said yes! At first Larry was like, hmm never thought about that. Then one guy said, well its not really that stable yet but hell, if it makes people happy lets do it! They all nodded in agreement. Woot! Now they just have to follow up on it by adding the ‘Pay in BTC’ button to the ticket purchase section of their site.

barlow and friendEFF Founder John Perry Barlow was up there on stage with Larry in New York, as one of The Founders of the Burning Man Project. The EFF have been strangely silent on this particular civil liberties case, which has huge bearing on the future of cyberspace and even the nature of our society. This is literally the frontier of civilization – but before you rush out to the markteplace kiddies, remember – we’re hearing about these guys because they caught them. They were arrested for a crime, they’re probably guilty and they’re probably going to do time for what they did. So don’t do it. Drugs are bad, mmmkay! Whether related to Burning Man or not, this is also a tale of our times, and an interesting one to observe. The criminals seem to be several steps ahead of the legal system and the cops, even if it’s harder for them to outwit the FBI and NSA.

Bitcoins won’t get you tickets to Burning Man, yet. Maybe on Craigslist. This year there is a Camp Bitcoin, for all you crypto-enthusiasts. One of their crew is named “Candose”:

candose

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