Timothy C. May, widely recognised as the progenitor of modern cryptocurrency and blockchain technology, has passed away at his home in Corralitos, California, at the age of 67. The renowned cryptography expert and former Intel engineer was a founding member of the Cypherpunk Mailing List and the author of the Crypto Anarchist Manifesto. He is credited with the invention of cryptographic technology that eventually led to the development of Bitcoin.
May, alongside Eric Hughes, John Gilmore and Hugh Daniel founded the Cypherpunks, a quasi-political pro-cryptography, pro-privacy, anti-surveillance grassroots organization in 1992. The work of May and other cypherpunks is widely credited with creating most of the cryptographic technology employed within the crypto and blockchain space today.
Impact of May’s Cypherpunk Manifesto
In his revolutionary manifesto, May inspired a new thought paradigm regarding resistance to government surveillance. The cryptographic protocols, software and encryption he developed would later go on to play a key role in supporting private interaction, authentication, and verification over early versions of cryptographically secured networks.
Some notable mailing list participants who were influenced by May’s work include Adam Back, Wei Dai, Nick Szabo, Hal Finney, John Perry Barlow, and Julian Assange among others.
#Bitcoin needs to be both Sound Money and Digital cash. Sound Money without being bearer is financially useful, but unlikely to be permissionless, bearer, censor-resistant or unseizable/unfreezable. and to my mind the unique properties of Bitcoin that give it value. so…
— Adam Back (@adam3us) November 22, 2018
John Perry Barlow, cyberlibertarian political activist, poet and essayist drew heavily n May’s manifesto in his Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace, which was released in 1996. Wei Dai, creator of Bitcoin predecessor B-Money has specifically named May as a major influence on his work, expressing deep interest in the anarchist/libertarian ideas that underpinned May’s work and ultimately led to a new generation of cryptographic technology led by Satoshi Nakamoto’s Bitcoin in 2009.
Writing in a post on his website, he said:
I am fascinated by Tim May’s crypto-anarchy. Unlike the communities traditionally associated with the word “anarchy”, in a crypto-anarchy the government is not temporarily destroyed but permanently forbidden and permanently unnecessary. It’s a community where the threat of violence is impotent because violence is impossible, and violence is impossible because its participants cannot be linked to their true names or physical locations.
Despite the runaway success of bitcoin and the modern cryptocurrency industry compared to its relatively humble beginnings in the early 90s, May was no fan of the scene in its current iteration, expressing dissatisfaction with the industry’s focus on fundraising and conspicuous consumption alongside visible and increasing government intervention via AML and KYC requirements.
Speaking to Coindesk earlier in the year, he said:
Sure, bitcoin and its variants – a couple of forks and many altcoin variants – more or less work the way it was originally intended…But this tsunami that swept the financial world has also left a lot of confusion and carnage behind. What I see is losses of hundred of millions in some programming screw-ups, thefts, frauds, initial coin offerings (ICOs) based on flaky ideas, flaky programming and too few talented people to pull off ambitious plans. Sorry if this ruins the narrative, but I think the narrative is fucked. Satoshi did a brilliant thing, but the story is far from over.
Featured image from Shutterstock. Timothy May picture from Bitcoinwiki.org.
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