Cypherpunk Bitstream 0x08: Pandemic II — Police State

   |   36 minute read   |   Using 7464 words

We talk with Arto Bendiken about the political reactions to the ongoing pandemic and their long term effects on: Economy, free speech, mass gatherings, biodefense, cash, infection control, and identity.

The is also a higher quality version of the MP3.


Show Notes


  • 00:01:05 Two show participients verified they are either asymptomatic, or not infected.
  • 00:02:55 Increase of pandemics in the future.
    • SOURCE: Three seconds until midnight.
    • Zoonotic transmissions.
    • Avian flu pandemic (30% death rate).
    • Increased air travel, population density.
  • 00:06:14 MERS, SARS, swine flu, Ebola in the last 15-20 years. (It’s not the “once in a 100 years” frequency, or “three pandemics a century”)
  • 00:07:32 Death Rates will increase because of age of poulation.
    • immune system gets faster with age, but overreaction is also more likely (cytokine storm)
    • exporsure rates are higher (travel)

Political Reactions

  • 00:09:14 Don’t test, don’t tell
    • “The disaster that befell the citizens of Wuhan and so many other cities throughout China is not primarily a virus. The disaster is having a political regime that cares more about short-term public and economic concerns than it cares about saving the lives of its citizens.”
    • smuggler: matches most reactions in the West.
    • Frank: in politics, it means that any candidate cannot win against the pandemic, and their opponents can always say afterwards “we could have done better”. So, the US solution for Trump might be to let it burn as quick as possible through the population, and be over and done with it before the elections. Maximizing Re-Election is key.
    • smuggler: “Politicians don’t get elected by being really smart people when it comes to dealing with complex problems.” More important: Ability to backstab, put on good face, and select experts. “All of our systems, especially in the West, are not meant to deal with crisis, they are meant to deal with normalcy.”
    • Arto: Some Asian countries have dealt with it pretty well.
  • 00:14:55 Finance minister of Hesse, Germany committed suicide, probably because of COVID19-crisis: (Thomas Schäfer)

Fear And Economics

  • 00:15:25 Fear & Economic bailouts
    • smuggler: “Every response is better than no response, even if it’s just about dealing with your fear […] what you can see is, that the first responses that are taken are the ones easiest to implement for a state.”
    • Distributing free money! German states are handing out €9-15k for small businesses, with a total volume of €50 Billion. BMWI: Soforthilfe für Solo-Selbstständige und Kleinstbetriebe; IBB: Liquiditätsengpässe wegen Coronavirus- Unterstützung für Berliner Unternehmen
    • This takes fear out of the system. A lot of people are still primarilary concerned about the economic effects.
    • Frank: economic effects are already secondary effects.
    • smuggler: pressing the red panic button, to buy time (lockdown).
  • 00:18:21 Recap this week’s events (Mar 23-29)
  • 00:19:55 Orthogonal narratives: “Masks don’t work”
    • smuggler: You cannot tell people to wear masks, if your own hospital staff has not enough masks…
    • Balaji S. Srinivasan’s Twitter Thread: Collection of weekly narratives
  • 00:22:20 Similarities to history (1918 pandemic): - don’t panic, nothing to fear but fear itself, everything is under control, we are taking care of it, you don’t need to do anything, everything will be fine - erodes trust in authorities with progression of pandemic - lying breeds the fear - why repeating? Politicians cannot deal with crisis - polulation with crisis experience tend to respond better
  • 00:26:28 “The Great Influenza”, Twitter Thread - “In 1918 fear moved ahead of the virus like the bow wave before a ship. Fear drove the people, and the government and the press could not control it. They could not control it because every true report had been diluted with lies. And the more the officials and newspapers reassured, the more they said, There is no cause for alarm if proper precautions are taken, or Influenza is nothing more or less than old-fashioned grippe, the more people believed themselves cast adrift, adrift with no one to trust, adrift on an ocean of death.” p.340 - smuggler: a lot of people mistrust the media in general. General assumption: “Whatever is said publicly, is false.” Search for alternative truths. - Slate Star Codex: Face Masks: Much More Than You Wanted To Know
  • 00:29:23 False treatments. smuggler: “There’s this general inability to even think about remedies, and how things actually work, people buy stuff because it comes from alternative sources, not because it is actually well researched.”
    • that’s why medical research is based on quantification
  • 00:30:17 Conspiracy theories. Frank: “Turning the story they hear into either totally denying it, or making it worse, in this super highly coordinated conspiracy.”
    • Frank: “It’s a bioweapon but it doesn’t kill anyone because the numbers are false”
  • 00:31:28 Arto: “In the future, it will be clear that masks are a good idea.”
    • “Seriously people- STOP BUYING MASKS! They are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching #Coronavirus, but if healthcare providers can’t get them to care for sick patients, it puts them and our communities at risk!” Feb 29, 2020, @Surgeon_General
  • 00:33:16 Today’s numbers (Mar 29th): 10,000 Spain; 6,000+ Italy - NYPD: 600 infected, 3000 missing from work (10% work force)


Renationalization Of Industries And Trade

  • 00:41:44 Capitalization of companies.
    • Most have been overleveraged.
    • Ability to produce is going down.
    • Bail-out money from state in exchange of stock.
    • CEOs not being able to draw bonuses in the future.
    • Re-nationalization of companies?
    • State will become a big shareholder, and board member.
  • 00:45:15 Supply chain fragility.
    • Management ideas since the 80s (stock on the road, just in time).
    • Increasing strategic stockpile: Government has taken over complete trade in medical goods & pharmaceuticals (Germany).
    • Future: Stock is held more closely to production?
    • Competition: who keeps the workers?
    • Shutdown on parcels.
  • 00:48:00 smuggler: “Global trade is re-spun into something that is tightly controlled by the states.”
    • “The economic topology now becomes the political topology.”
  • 00:48:32 Centralization of production.
    • Restriction of worker’s movement: implication to food production.
    • Harvest hands are missing.
    • Frank: Impossible to replace them with domestic workers.
    • smuggler: Unskilled seasonal workers need to have experience to be productive. And Fitness.
    • Bloomberg report on food production

Free Speech

  • 00:51:36 Arto: “Free Speech was already on its last legs, anyway.”
    • Hate Speech.
    • Platform level enforcement (Facebook, etc).
  • 00:53:00 smuggler: “Policing on the net has taken a boost with coronavirus.”
    • “This idea that the state has to control the information flow is becoming much more dominant, even in countries that allegedly had some free speech tradition.”
    • Combination of algorythmic and human filtering.
    • Targeted to anything related to pandemic, and political speech (keyword analysis, topic analysis).
    • Human side of filtering is currently off-work, so currently there’s a lot of automated, imprecise flagging and deleting.
    • Also happening on cloud-servers (Google Documents, GMail).
    • Trying to rebuilt the Great Firewall of China (防火长城 fanghuo changcheng).
  • 00:56:27 Twitter was essential in understanding what was happening in China.
    • Leaked Videos, Photos, etc.
    • Many sources are removed already!
    • New Twitter “safety guidelines”: - Now, we will require people to remove Tweets that include the following: - Content that increases the chance that someone contracts or transmits the virus, including: - Denial of expert guidance - Encouragement to use fake or ineffective treatments, preventions, and diagnostic techniques - Misleading content purporting to be from experts or authorities
  • 00:57:53 Frank: “They’re putting out false information themselves (like … with the masks), and it’s also the case that we don’t know the truth. I mean, that’s the whole problem of a developing pandemic, that a lot of the truth about the virus, and the disease, is actually not known at this point, not even by experts, they’re all trying to figure it out.” - Twitter is becoming an Epistemic Arbitrage. - No possibility to openly discuss. - Undermining process to come up with the least wrong data in the future. - Situation is highly dynamic.
  • 00:59:41 Twitter was used for collaboration between scientists, publishing pre-prints, distributed peer-review (quickly debunking, too). - Preprint: Uncanny similarity of unique inserts in the 2019-nCoV spike protein to HIV-1 gp120 and Gag - Debunked: Trevor Bedford’s Twitter Thread

Political Symbolism

  • 01:00:50 Traffic shaping as political symbolism.
    • smuggler: “Information control becomes a political symbol.”
    • EU calls to reduce video quality on Netflix, etc.
    • Politican making demands based on not understanding how these services work.
    • Companies can gain reputation by responding quickly to these political demands.

Identity Verification For Platforms

Prevention Of Political Turmoil, Coups, Etc.

  • 01:06:06 smuggler: “a crisis like that is a crisis of all systems.”
    • “There are quite a a few people who are afraid that the situation will be exploited to force changes in the political system by non-legal means, we’re talking coup d'êtats, revolutions, etc.”
    • Current examples: at least two states
    • Revolutions don’t bring better people into power.
    • Political stablization by surveillance.
  • 01:08:15 China’s political situation
    • Precarious for presidency (习近平 Xi Jinping, since 2013)
    • Perceived mismanagement at beginning of crisis.
    • Competence is prerequiste of staying in power.
  • 01:09:15 Frank: “To me it seems like again, we have this conflict between free market and basically a centralized economy.”
    • Cutting streaming: people need the bandwidth to do work.
    • Identity verification and certificates.
    • Arto: “Credentials serve as a proxy for you being an expert.”
    • Every conspiracy theory comes with a doctor (or other degree).

Disappointments In Libertarian Ideals And Voluntaryist Communities

  • 01:11:00 smuggler: “The vast majority of people, seen individually, are unable to deal with the unknown and with actual crisis events. And it doesn’t make it better or less good to introduce the state, or control the markets, or whatever […] in a way, if the majority of your population is idiots, it almost seems that having somebody with a slightly higher IQ telling them what to do, being the right approach. I’m not saying it’s ethically correct…”

    • Markets are not rational.
    • “What we’re really seeing is that there’s a problem that in crisis, mass atomic individualism breaks down to the collective of idiots. […] It’s something people have always told me, but I’ve never believed that.”
    • “When it comes to the vast majority, I’m seriously disappointed.”
    • “A lot of people I would consider freedom-lovers […] are now demonstrating that all they were about was they want to be contrarians.”
    • Atomic Individualism approach showed that it’s failing, like the nation-state.
    • Most important right now to work on voluntary, resilient groups.
  • 01:15:50 Arto quoting: “There’s a silver lining to this crisis: now you know which of your friends are idiots.”

  • 01:17:45 Frank: “I was hoping that every libertarian understands that, and stays the fuck at home […] voluntarily. I don’t understand why people didn’t do it, especially the libertarians, […] if the state mandates a lockdown, they throw a corona party at home to protest.”

    • Personality differences.
  • 01:19:50 Frank’s Addict Theory.

    • Most people act like addicts. Their drug, comfort, is threatened through crisis.
    • Reaction of addicts: total denial (“There is no problem”), or justifications to keep up repeating old behavior (nobody wants to change behavoir)
    • Also addict like: Ego-centricity (Doesn’t matter if granny dies!)
  • 01:21:33 Responsible individual action fails.

    • Bigger complexity. smuggler: “Externalizing the whole crisis management, and crisis preperation to the state, has been a real disaster. But the alternative - which is, atomic libertarians - they’re failing as well.”
    • Arto quoting: “I wonder how libertarians are dealing with the fact that the current crisis is annihilating their entire ideology”
    • How to make peace between individual liberty and being forced to take collective action against certain external threat?
    • The right response for problems like these: many people coordinating their activity towards the problem, and is has to happen fast, but doesn’t have to happen perfect.
    • Problem: Large parts of the population not cooperating (if 20% do not cooperate, it doesn’t matter what the leftover 80% do, especially in pandemic scenario).
    • The 80% is not the issue, the 20% is.
    • Level of Enforcement?
  • 01:26:45 Failed to build communities that are able to respond (only Twitter crowd, and a few conferences). - Arto: “The atomized individual is nothing but plankton for Leviathan”, paraphrase of Jack Donovan (“In a sea of billions, a man alone is plankton”, Chapter: Belonging is Becoming, in: Becoming a Barbarian, 2016)

  • 01:28:00 Arto: Doesn’t consider himself libertarian anymore. - Arto’s Talk at HCPP 2018: Post-Libertarian Realpolitik, Slides

  • 01:28:18 smuggler: Implementation is failing. - “When it comes to the group, we’re failing.” - “We’re all holed up individually.”

Communities And Pandemics

  • 01:30:04 Frank: Communities that live together in one place (TAZ, no one is living there as of now).

  • 01:30:40 Arto: Villages in Carpathians. - Remote and defenseable. - “Often solutions are so old-fashioned and boring, that they even escape notice in our focus on the cypherpunk future.”

  • 01:31:48 smuggler: Community in the rocky mountains. - Dailymail: ‘You’re not welcome!': Worried residents tell rich ‘virus refugees’ flocking to the Hamptons, Martha’s Vineyard and Aspen to stay away to stop the spread of coronavirus in their communities - How do resilient structures look like, and where they should be positioned? - Build resilient structure long before the crisis hits.

  • 01:32:48 Arto: “Even though we started preparing early, there wasn’t enough time to do a good job of it.”

  • 01:33:11 Frank: Cannot compare these communities. - Community would relatively early cut off outside contact. - Units that are interfacing with outside world, but that are mostly seperated. That’s what you need for pandemics.

  • 01:34:15 Arto: Housing together with weaker and more risky people. - Arto is living currently with 11 people in the house. - Not everyone has the same level of risk awareness. - Frank: “The chain is only as strong as the weakest link.”

  • 01:35:18 “The Great Influenza”: Historic examples of communities where communities isolated themselves early. - Australia is shining example, only succumbed in 3rd wave: “Australia had escaped. It had escaped because of a stringent quarantine of incoming ships. Some ships arrived there with attack rates as high as 43 percent and fatality rates among all passengers as high as 7 percent. But the quarantine kept the virus out, kept the continent safe, until late December 1918 when, with influenza having receded around the world, a troopship carrying ninety ill soldiers arrived.” (p.375)

  • 01:37:39 Threats with spreading behavior. - Foxes and Henhouse. - Rippling effects. - Proctecting everybody requires cohersive regime, so some deaths must be taken as toll. - Isolation can only be short-term remedy, later: controlled exposure, requires discipline of community. - Atomic anarchist thought.

  • 01:38:33 Cohersive state = single point of failure. - Arto: Epidemiologists make same mistake as central planners, they assume what they propose can be done. Projections based on these assumptions. - Failures: Political will (half-assed implementation), population is not complying, information asymmetry. - Some states seem to handle it well, but story is not over yet (Resurgence): Singapore, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan and China. - “People think of Wuhan as the worst case, actually, it’s be the best case.” - Hubei province, less than 1% of population was infected. Western numbers will be way higher. - Lockdown happened with about 500 cases, US is still not locked down.

Positive Things

  • 01:42:05 Positive things! - Open-Source Ventilators, bottom-up. - Arto: Most deaths will be in third-world countries, these things might make a big difference there. - Future: no idea what that will look like, just no cohersive state. - smuggler: Not re-create central command, lack of information isn’t removed by distribution. - Quick responses, quick recovers. - smuggler: “When it comes to the ventilators, for example, a year ago that was more or less illegal behavior […] and now, we’re basically relying on that. Same is true for mass production, same is true for people volunteering for illegal drug trials, and stuff like that.” - Future where positive actions can be amplified, and negative actions can be pertailed. - Frank: “How can we self-organize into communities where we bubble up truth quicker? […] Sometimes you have to kick the noise out. […] It’s also not true that there’s no problem with false information and noise, there is a problem with that. […] I just believe that censorship is not a solution to the problem.” - smuggler: knowing reputation, knowledge is also pretty localized to specific topic. “Social media is not a replacement for human relationship.”

  • 01:48:10 smuggler: “You learn by having a relationship with the person. When I listen to you, Frank, or you, Arto, I kinda know how you think, where your weaknesses in thinking and where your strengths in thinking are, so when I listen to you I can make my own conclusions from what you say, […] so your information is really valueable.” - The vast majority of senders are people where you don’t have this background information. - Arto: There’s no shortcut to get that information. - Transitive trust. - In current situation, these things become more visible.

Ventilators And Taking Action

  • 01:49:30 smuggler: “We really have to embrace those problems […] in the past, there have been a lot of ‘Oh, it’s not really a problem’, you know we can put it away and the market will solve it. What is really important to learn from this whole sitution, I think, is that, we know that the problems exist and it’s up to us to create solutions, because if we don’t create solutions, the solutions that will come are shit. I’m not talking about the three of us, I’m talking about the community of people who actually want to have more liberty. We have to embrace the problems and we have to solve them, and we cannot just externalize them to another mythical entity, you know, not the state in this case, but the market in which apparently no one is participating from our communities.”

  • 01:50:29 Arto: Lviv is particularly bad with medical supplies. - Lviv infectious diseases hospital (Львівська інфекційна лікарня) had a total of 4 ventilators. - Grassroots effort to tackle COVID19: (Lviv IT Cluster)[], about 100 members, they import test kits and will provide mobile testing stations, they purchase PPE and ventilators as donations for hospitals.

  • 01:53:18 smuggler: “The market works great, if the value system and the direction of solution is clear. And then, it’s amazing, then people say: I can copy this, I can copy this…” - If values / solutions are unclear, people will rather create more problems, than solve problems.

  • 01:54:15 Distributed mass production of open-source ventilator designs. - Intubation is complicated procedure, not easily learned, special requirements on equipment. - What is possible? - Limits: man-power


  • 01:55:08 Mass-Gatherings and COVID19. - Protests have been outruled, mass-gatherings, conferences have been cancelled. - smuggler: Crypto-Travelling-Circus is completely dead at the moment. Effects? - Frank: maybe there’s more code written now. ;) - smuggler: After lockdown, they might stil want to have lists with legal names for gatherings and events. Permits are likely. - Restart by checking Immunization of participients (Certificate of Immunity?). - smuggler: Protests and demonstrations are a building block of democracy. - This has been taken away: “If you don’t know there’s currently a pandemic going on, it could also be confused with being a coup d'êtat, where basically nobody is allowed on the streets anymore, you cannot have protests anymore, you can’t meet people, you can’t go to the government office and demand your rights to be honored…” - Democracy incompatible with pandemics?

Electronic Voting, Remote Elections

  • 02:00:15 Electronic Voting - US: push for electronic voting (easy manipulation possible).

  • 02:00:52 Secrecy of Vote: voting by email - EU Parliament mistakenly sent mail to all members, instead of counting party. - Remote working doesn’t work so well for parliament work. - Impact on system.

  • 02:02:05 Frank: “We’re not prepared for a pandemic in terms of processes.” - The Law is not in place to be done in a remote way. - There’s no way to not go to the notary in person (even for authorizing someone else). - Hire someone who is immune?

Antibody Gophers And Plasma Farms

  • 02:03:18 Arto: People who have anti-bodies and can prove it, will be in high demand. - For serum (blood), and as gophers. - Blood plasma trade from Wuhan survivors (plasma farms). - China influencing geopolitical alliances through plasma trade? - Dark Markets add blood category?

Burning Through Population

  • 02:06:02 More reckless people have more influence now. - Frank: “States who let it burn quickest through their population, are the ones who will be first in line when the economy restarts.” - Arto: Overwhelmed hospitals will give them reason to rethink. - Brazil uses the burning through. - smuggler: might fix the pension system.

  • 02:07:58 Three models: - complete lockdown (Wuhan approach, Examples: Singapore, South Korea). - complete burn-through scenario (mass casualties, Examples maybe Sweden and Brazil?). - those who cannot decide between either (Western countries, Examples: Germany, USA).

Lessons From SARS


  • 02:13:00 smuggler: Cash= Regulartory reactive control; Everything Else= Future Bio Defense - Assumption: Spreading of cash= spreading of contaminants. - Immedeate move by some states: restrictions, move to electronic payment systems. - Restrictions on cash before social distancing, limitation of how many people can be in the shop at the same time, disinfection of cards, queues, no PPE… etc. - Contactless payments by card. Problem: PIN number, but: allowed amounts without PIN have been upped. - You do not control the money on your card, you just have a claim for this amount to your bank.

  • 02:17:10 Assets with direct control, without third party. - Cash (might be difficult to spend, tho). - Gold (Coins!), or Silver Coins. - Executive Order 6102, 1933: USA might confiscate Gold again in 2020. - Cryptocurrencies. Problem: Not widely accepted (at your local supermarket?), and strong dependecy on working exchange, communication, and energy infrastructure. - smuggler: “Our Value Transfer Systems are not as resilient as we would like them to be, and not at all trustworthy.” - “Perfect opportunity” to push cashless. - Arto quoting: “All the Fiat currencies are sinking, just at different rates.”

  • 02:20:05 Possible solutions - Move to crypto, scan QR codes? See problems above. - Frank& smuggler’s SCRIT: cheap, super fast, offline capable, untraceable ecash. Backable system with gold, Bitcoin, etc. - Buying physical gold is really hard at Berlin at the moment, gold-backed SCRIT might be a very good solution.


  • 02:23:00 Long-term implementations, strategic security response. - Temperature checks. Not so effective for COVID19. - Rapid testing. Might become mandatory at border crossing. - Arto: Some Chinese hacked this screening by taking drugs to lower temperature. False Positives. - Actively circumventing the measures: first case in France was Chinese woman fleeing China. - smuggler: “It’s fascinating how people are either not believing that they might be a risk, or really not giving a shit and then breaking sensible rules…” - Arto: SARS lesson, doctors showing symptoms rationalized it away (human denial). - “Coronavirus gives you the urge to travel” memes - Setting up border camps for mandatory quarantine plus rapid testing, three times negative and you can go in (Hongkong, Singapore, China, some Balkan countries). - India: internal ID plus health checkpoints.

  • 02:29:15 Freedom of travel. - Germany: restricting travel to certain states. - Italy and Spain: restrict leaving house! - Spain: Dog-walking is a legit reason to leave house, renting dog business.

Face Recognition And Masks.

Shifting Old And New Behaviors

  • 02:34:48 smuggler: “If masks become standard attire […] it would undermine a lot of biometric data to social networks.” - Standard cell camera won’t pick up on your ID (random snapshots). - Arto: Hongkong forbid wearing of masks because of the protests, now masks are mandatory. Things change! - Why is it psychological hurdle for Westeners? - Influencer and celebrity campaigns.

  • 02:37:12 Handshakes, a thing of the past. - It’s a dirty habit.

  • 02:37:30 Guided by mainstream behavior. - Frank: At one point it will be weird, when you don’t wear a mask. - Arto: Tipping point should be low, 20-30%: Social tipping points - Frank: Might be temporary, masks are uncomfortable, habit might not stick. - Arto: Community responsibility in Asian countries is higher. - smuggler: Designs are old and for special purposes, maybe something new will emerge. - Positive side of the Pandemic. :)

Infection control and identity, physical privacy

  • 02:40:42 Testing, and contact tracing, enforced quarantine, isolation. - Larry Brilliant’s TED talk: “Early detection, rapid response.” - As soon as you have positive tested people: - First measure: Isolation. - Second measure: Test them in isolation until release. - Call people on person’s contact list and put into isolation as well. - Contact Chain: Contacts of infected person or also contacts of contacts? Depends on how fast testing is, and symptomatics and spread of disease. - SARS-CoV-2 contact tracing should be 2 hops (including contacts of contacts). - Introverts might have an advantage here. - Cellphone or wearable with contract tracing app: Device exchange

  • 02:46:00 First Option: Broadcasting System on Phone or Wearable. - South Korea Contact Tracing App: Bluetrace. - Register with phone number, connected with key of health authority. Broadcast via Bluetooth. - Gives health authorities list of contacts and means to contact them. - South Korea is watching quarantined citizens with a smartphone app. Thousands in coronavirus lockdown will be monitored for symptoms—and tracked to make sure they stay at home and don’t become “super spreaders.”

  • 02:48:00 German Contact Tracing App: Still in application rounds.

  • 02:48:20 Second Option: Cellphone Location Tracking.

    • Example: Israel.
    • Data is always available to cellphone provider, this data is used.
    • 2-10m radius for COVID19, and indoor/ outdoor problem - cellphone data is not precise enough.
  • 02:49:46 Third option: GPS logging.

    • either directly broadcast to health authority, or store it for a day.
  • 02:50:35 Privacy risks:

    • enormous networks of social interactions, with recording.
    • Records of location data, either centralized or hard to control.
    • A lot of countried where people are immedeately findable by state.
    • Arto: Pre-requisite is connection between legal person and the device. In Ukraine, SIM cards are still anonymous.
    • smuggler: “The reason it is done is because it simulates actionism.”
    • Cellphone location weakness: doesn’t work for contact tracing. Goal might be to enforce social distancing and dissolve large groups.
    • Contact tracing weakness: catching too many people.
    • Frank: “It would be a total privacy nightmare, but […] it a good solution to a pandemic problem, which means every epidemilogist is asking for it, and […] it only really works if basically all people use it.”
    • Likely to end with a global soliution?

Enforcing Isolation

  • 02:54:50 Quarantine, and enforcing isolation.

    • Hongkong quarantine bracelet solution: wearing bracelet plus app, bluetooth signals, user has to send selfies wearing it.
    • might be all into one app: Testing, and contact tracing, enforced quarantine.
  • 02:57:00 Isolation method: Cordon sanitaire.

    • Make sure person has less contacts.
    • Enforcement by: binding device to body of person (bracelet, wearable), cannot be removed withour destroying it (tamper detection).
    • Device is connected with phone, which knows location. Person with device cannot walk away from phone: Geofencing. (GPS location, cellphone network location, tracking bluetooth beacons and WiFi hotspots; all of these can be verified).
    • Circumvent the system: demanding video of user (biometric recognition and background analysis with lightning).
    • Using fitness trackers, some can already do biometric binding (heartbeat), example Apple iWatch.
    • Rollout for future prison system.
    • Don’t forget to drop your cellphone if you drop the wearable.
    • Location history and social graph becomes available to authorities.
    • Also incorporating sound environment.
    • Using ultrasound beacons instead of bluetooth beacons.

Future: Global Scale, Cybercrime

  • 03:03:30 Global Standardization.

    • smuggler: “There’s an enormous amount of work and competition right there, because […] the smart people in the field know, that if their technology works the best, they will become the recommended standard for […] the WHO.”
    • South Korea makes it Open Source, and wants their app to become standard.
    • Theirs is pretty bad on beacon tracing, but it’s not the worst system.
  • 03:04:54 Cybercrime and cyber-warfare.

    • smuggler: “Right now, there’s this rush to roll it out, and there’s almost o consideration spent on things like the privacy of the user, centralization of data, or the possible effects those systems have for a cyberattack. Just imagine you’re able to attack the contact tracing system of another country and create a shit-load of false alarms- or, if you’re able to surpress the working of such a contact tracing system, so that the authorities cannot quickly contain pandemics. So, there’s a huge cybercrime and cyber-warfare aspect, in addition to the privacy aspect.”
    • Can it be prevented? Are there better solutions?
    • Overall method is correct.
    • Network effects are important, you want an integrated global system.

Future: Population control, Personal Life, Law

  • 03:08:10 Crowd suppression and population control.

    • Can be used by police to find suspects or crime rings.
    • If it becomes mandatory, these systems will be easily combineable with CCTV.
    • People without beacon can be detected.
    • Enforcement will be easy.
    • Internal checkpoints in places where people gather.
    • Combine with access to apartment buildings (as already done in China): keyless entry. Which is conveniant, and convenience is the ultimate drug.
  • 03:11:02 Effects for personal life.

    • Knowing secret meetings, churches.
    • Dating possibilities: matching infection status.
    • Blackmail for cheating and going to brothels will be easy.
  • 03:11:42 Law and juristic scope.

    • Most countries already have infectious control laws set in place.
    • In theory you can already be arrested, sent to prison, etc., but it’s not enforced yet.
    • Frank: “There’s a lot of laws in the books which seem benign, but when you can 100% enforce them with modern technology, then it becomes a total nightmare.”
    • smuggler: “For me, really, the future as it looks right now is everybody will have contact tracing and isolation enforcing apps, and/or wearables, and if nothing dramatic happens, these systems will be bad for privacy and freedom, globally.”
    • 100.000 people in Italy violating lockdown
    • Italy is increasing fines up to €4.000, and if you break the curfew and are infected, then you can face up to multiple years in prison.

Future: Escaping devices, Building Alternatives

-03:14:30 Escaping your devices. - Dumb phones/ burner phones, won’t be acceptable anymore. - Arto: “If you plan to go to any civilized area, there will be- automated or not- checkpoints, to see that you are tracked. So, it won’t be that easy, except in the countryside, to actually escape your devices. And that’s a big change from today.”

-03:15:20 Prevention and Alternatives. - Big question: can the technology rollout somehow be prevented? Can we build something without the privacy downsides? - smuggler: Even countryside might not be excluded. Voice recognition. - Companies already focussing on third-world country solutions. Tracking beacons are available around US$10, managed by signup stations, no cell needed.

  • 03:20:22 New Tech Acceptance Campaigns.

    • Similar to vaccination campaigns.
    • Countries just need to invite organizations, and create legal enforcement rules.
    • Regional variations possible.
  • 03:21:12 Third world countries.

    • Escape of enforcement might be possible temporarily in third world countryside.
    • Third world countries will take heaviest death toll.
    • Death toll Spanish flu- India: 2 Million; USA: 670.000
    • Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation helped rolling out for COVID19 already, maybe more charities will follow.

Bugs, IoT, LoRa, Specialized Wearables

  • 03:23:26 Implementation problems in first world countries, and bluetooth bugs.

    • More privacy friendly options are bluetooth-based.
    • Secondary option in Hongkong, because of technical troubles: Let WhatsApp broadcast location.
    • Arto: Android and Bluetooth is extremely buggy: Recently discovered bluetooth flaw, unpatchable in Android <8.
    • Critical Bug: Bluetooth Android RCE (remote code execution)
    • smuggler: It’s a huge attack target with bad attack vectors.
    • Cellphone location tracking is not precise enough.
    • GPS tracking system have too many requirements for cooperation of the phone, and require a lot of bandwidth (when moving).
    • Reliability issue is not high on agenda.
  • 03:27:54 New attempts: IoT, LoRa, specialized wearables.

    • smuggler: “I’m pretty certain, that for this specific thing we will get a new technology, that will not be bluetooth.”
    • New attempts using IoT sensor network technologies, LoRa (short for long range) broadcasting.
    • Cheaper than bluetooth, fast, not built into cellphone.
    • Long-term outcome: specialized wearables.
    • Arto: “It at some point will make sense [to deploy wearables], after people are frustrated with the limitations of cellphone tracking, on both sides of the aisle. Both the state being frustrated with the technical limitations, and the people with the privacy restrictions, and spyware.”
  • 03:31:00 Hardware: Artos experience with tracking equipment.

    • Live-Action wargame requires tracking.
    • smuggler: If we get wearables, distance with less than 30m reach for contact tracing is ok, specialized beacon broadcasting can be cheap, charging by body movement possible.
    • Hardware side will be solved easily, what matters is software.
  • 03:33:30 The Liberty Test, and smuggler’s work.

    • smuggler is currently working as a consultant for wearables.
    • smuggler’s privacy preserving contact tracer design for COVID-19
    • smuggler: “A lot of the precursors you have to do to prevent cyberattacks and security issues with such a system are actually mitigated by simply taking a privacy friendly approach. You can mitigate a lot of these issues much cheaper than on the other systems. This field is actually one of the big battles. If you’re bored in isolation, and don’t know what to do, fight for your liberty!”
  • 03:35:36 Reach out!

  • 03:36:09 Building from scratch vs. using existing solutions.

  • 03:40:33 Positive Things.

    • Military and public good coincide in pandemics.
    • Pandemic protection: Competition between states will reshuffle.
    • Influence of Russia vs. China in buffer states is increasing.
    • Influence of US in EU is breaking down.
    • China tried to cover up SARS, this time they wanted to cover up, maybe they will think about a different approach.
    • Countries with smaller organizational units seem more effective (Singapore).
    • smuggler: City State Idea might get more support.
    • Arto: EU doesn’t exist anymore, in a meaningful form.
  • 03:43:33 City States, Small Organization Units, and Local Enforcement.

  • 03:45:00 A difficult year to get through.

    • Frank: “The war is gonna be over before most people realize there was one.”
    • Listeners: Please send us your stories and positive effects of the pandemic you observed! Or, prove us wrong :)

Donation Report

  • 03:47:30 Donation Report.
    • We have enough toilet paper for now. :)
    • Fanmail! Yay! Thank you so much!
    • Donations give us market feedback. Over 3000 active listeners, but this time 2 donated. They get to decide the direction of the podcast.
    • More donations mean we can work more on stuff that matters, like doing the podcast, but also projects like Scrit and a privacy preserving contact tracer, otherwise we have to spend time to do “work work” (which is ultimately not that important).
    • Without interesting projects there will be no interesting podcast.

Arto, Frank, and smuggler answer your questions.

  • 03:51:10 Question: We take internet for granted, but in the current situation it could be taken down, or even more controlled by the State. What do you think of ‘parallel networks’ like mesh networks, disaster radio, etc. as an empowering alternative?

  • 04:01:53 Question: Do you see the your cypherpunk fashion (face mask, etc) being mandatory by the state, even in Europe? (the irony) - Mandatory face masks in Czech Republic - Frank and smuggler’s historic first public mask-wearing talk “Bitcoin in the Counter-Economy” in London 2012, slides: “What’s up with the masks?"

  • 04:04:04 Question: With the world economy now collapsing, either we stay complacent and watch our freedom getting taken away, or we unite and take the opportunity to build something better. Bitcoin gives us this chance, and only possibility to beat the government. Fear: fight once with Bitcoin, and if this fight is lost, it’s over for most people. Bigger vision is missing. Doubts about coinjoin.

  • 04:20:00 Question: Why are you no Austrian Economy friends? Maybe too left-leaning?

  • 04:43:06 Discussion: Bitcoin vs. US$, the € is about to collapse. Bitcoin has interesting stock-to-flow ratio. Bitcoin is sound money in the Austrian sense.

  • Coronavirus: The Hammer and the Dance. What the Next 18 Months Can Look Like, if Leaders Buy Us Time

Reading Recommendations

What’s next? Points of Actions For The Active Listener!

  • Reach out to us if you’re a company working in that field! We have code :)
  • Listeners: Please send us your stories and positive effects of the pandemic you observed! Or, prove us wrong :)
  • Donate, you can directly influence what we discuss, and give us time to work on interesting projects to talk about.
  • As per usual: Send us interesting Articles, Books, Questions, Masks.
  • Discuss on BBS.


We’re on with our own board to discuss!




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