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Off Grid and Anonymity

It used to be that living off grid meant that you paid and earned everything in cash. You provided to fixed address, maybe you had an alias, and there wasn’t an easy way for someone to track you down without canvassing dive bars with an old photo of you.

With the speed, accuracy, and ubiquity of video surveillance, it’s more difficult to be off grid in a police state (or one where intelligence agencies have a back door into these systems) in a populated area. Like in Enemy of the State, some people can resort to disguises and faraday cages to protect themselves from detection.

Today, off grid is through online anonymity. However, if we’re realistic, the tools to link us to our transaction and to uncover our steps are going to become more sophisticated, driving to a higher cost for anonymity. Throwaway devices (computers and modems), VPNs, Tor browsers, and costly highly anonymous cryptocurrencies are going to be the way to transact for anonymity.

The issue is that those seeking these levels of anonymity are making high enough margins that the cost of business is worth it… usually because they’re highly illicit products or services. While creators of these coins might have noble motivations to protect against oppressive regimes and oversight, users are attracted for other reasons.

It’s like saying that the prime reason for Chrome Incognito mode is to shop for surprise birthday gifts.

The promise of true anonymity might come from more distributed networks using blockchains with tumblers that make it difficult to track to the individual. These networks, to be successful, would need to:

  • Provide comparable end user tools (email, search, AI assistant, etc) as Google Assistant, Alexa, Siri or others
  • Be free
  • Be supported through on device mining
  • Be not-for-profit
  • Have a distributed team (and a community elected one)

If companies are the new colonial state, then this service would be the next version of a free democracy.

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