The Legacy of ‘Crypto Godfather’ Tim May (1951 – December 2018), Cypherpunks Co-founder and Author of ‘The Crypto Anarchist Manifesto’
The Crypto Anarchist Manifesto was an essay penned by Timothy C. May, co-founder of the Cypherpunks mailing list. May, who is regarded as a ‘crypto godfather’ for his influence, passed away last week at his home in Corralitos, California.
A look back at the profound influence he had on the cryptography community, and ultimately Bitcoin, begins with his seminal manifesto.
Also known as the ‘father of crypto anarchy’, May, who was 67, published The Crypto Anarchist Manifesto on November 22, 1992 following his appearance at a gathering of the Cypherpunks in September 1992 where he read the manifesto aloud.
But its origins are from mid-1988, when it was first written and distributed at techno-anarchist summits, including the “Crypto ’88” conference.
“Computer technology is on the verge of providing the ability for individuals and groups to communicate and interact with each other in a totally anonymous manner. Two persons may exchange messages, conduct business, and negotiate electronic contracts without ever knowing the True Name, or legal identity, of the other. Interactions over networks will be untraceable, via extensive re-routing of encrypted packets and tamper-proof boxes which implement cryptographic protocols with nearly perfect assurance against any tampering. “
The discussions and manifesto predated Bitcoin by nearly 20 years, stemming from the Cypherpunks mailing list community comprised of cryptographers, mathematicians and computer scientists who advocate for privacy-enhancing technologies and engage in political and philosophical discussions through an online list launched by May in 1992.
A former electronic engineer and senior scientist at Intel, May reportedly wrote the famed 497-word essay on a Macintosh Plus computer, comparing the rise of cryptographic systems to the printing press.
“Just as the technology of printing altered and reduced the power of medieval guilds and the social power structure, so too will cryptologic methods fundamentally alter the nature of corporations and of government interference in economic transactions.”
As the current crypto community grew more fractious and competitive, with centralized exchanges and corporate exteriors, May took a step back.
In the wake of his passing, the crypto community still grapples with many of May’s criticisms.
You can read several of May’s essays at the Nakamoto Institute here.
Timothy C. May was a co-founder of the Cypherpunks and an influential crypto-anarchist, whose writings helped shape the vision of the "Libertarian in Cyberspace" being built upon every day.
Rest in Peace.
— Nakamoto Institute (@NakamotoInst) December 15, 2018