by Jerry Brito

Crypto’s return to cypherpunk

Alex Danco predicts that at some point in the 2020s, the following headline will get printed: “Crypto Finds its Killer App: Guns”. He observes that the broad crypto space is in disarray since it has very little to show for itself, but that Bitcoin has continued to hold up and a retrenchment is in the offing:

The crypto scene we’ve come to know over the last few years has been a bit all over the place, but the theme in common to most of it has been “new finance” / “stack sats, get rich”. Over the next ten years, after our current hangover gets truly washed out, a new one is going to emerge that’s a lot stronger, a lot darker, and a lot more true to the original vision than many people would like to admit: crypto as a part of “Dissident Tech”.

Expect the crypto community to retrench and double down on a core value proposition: crypto as a tool for political and societal dissenters. This means people who don’t really care what the price of Bitcoin is; they actually care about it being uncensorable. That means people who are doing illegal things, it means people on the wrong side of governments, or it could simply mean freedom-oriented people. But the narrative will turn really sharply once the core value proposition embraced genuinely becomes “be un-censorable”, as opposed to “get rich”.

Expect to see Bitcoin, and cryptocurrency generally, start to show up in a lot of thematically adjacent products, businesses and brands. Guns are going to be one of them. As more countries crack down on gun ownership, and as flashpoints like Hong Kong become internet-fluent conflicts, guns and crypto will get a lot closer together, as will efforts to crack down on both.

I don’t know if guns in particular will be the killer dissident app, but it’s clear that Bitcoin’s and cryptocurrency’s core value proposition is permissionlessness, so yes future probably lies in dissidence. As Danco implies this is a return to form, or simply folks paying attention again. Indeed Bitcoin has already had its first killer app: Silk Road.

This trend will be hastened by another one articulated by Matthew Da Silva in his predictions for 2020:

The quiet collapse of the blockchain industry hasn’t made headlines. But projects are absolutely running out of money—and patience. How long are programmers and community managers willing to work on something that doesn’t ship? Or just doesn’t make sense?

In 2020, I think lots of blockchain developers—and especially researchers—will return to academia. Likewise, the hangers-on in the marketing machine will move on to the next hot thing. Perhaps cannabis or 5G?

The “crypto” community that will remain, one imagines, will be the cypherpunk core that has been working on essentially the same project since the 1990s.