A spectre is haunting the world – the spectre of peer-to-peer.
All the powers of the old-world have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise this spectre: liberal States and dictators, banks and FANG, regulators and speculators.
Where is the State that hasn’t attempted to muzzle freedom of communication and information, or to expand surveillance of its own citizens? Which major online service hasn’t monetized their users’ data without their knowledge or closed user accounts without possible recourse? Which banker hasn’t publicly opposed the right of everyone to have personal and absolute ownership of one’s assets through cryptocurrencies?
Two things result from this fact:
1- Peer-to-peer is already acknowledged by all world powers to itself be a power.
2- It is high time that peer-to-peer supporters should openly, in the face of the whole world, publish their views, their aims, their tendencies; that they counter oppressive forces with their diverse and energetic initiatives. To this end, peer-to-peer contributors will assemble in Paris from the 8th to the 12th of January 2020 at the Paris P2P Festival, the first event dedicated to all forms of free interplay between peers: technical, political, cultural, social, and economic.
If we indulge in allusion to a much more famous Manifesto, it is because we believe that p2p technology projects (Bitcoin, blockchains and Web3, distributed Web and Solid, self-sovereign identities, decentralized protocols…) need to be put in perspective.
In 2019, people’s protests and social demonstrations have flooded the streets of every continent: Sudan, Chile, Hong Kong, Catalonia, Algeria, Iran, India, and of course, in France, our Gilets Jaunes. In many cases, governments reacted not only through police or military crackdown but also with censorship of electronic communication: the internet shutdown in Iran, the censorship of social networks in Hong Kong, the prohibition of decentralized identity systems in Spain… Unfortunately, it is now well-established that internet censorship effectively protects the police states that use it.
Therefore, it is no surprise that we’re seeing an increase in infringements of freedom of the press and physical attacks against those who spread information. Antoine Champagne, journalist and co-founder of reflets.info, will come to the festival to talk about the current state of the protection of journalists and whistleblowers.
Along with the cypherpunk tradition, we believe that cryptography and decentralization are essential means to protect individual and collective civil liberties. We hope that talks on the history of the cypherpunk movement and on the history of decentralization will spark conversations about this point of view among the festival participants.
Peer-to-peer technology is a concrete way to arm the resistance against oppressive powers by providing the resilient and confidential communication channels needed to coordinate social movements in hostile environments. Multiple initiatives in this domain will be presented, from the research work of the LIRIS-DRIM team (CNRS) on streaming and Web request anonymization, to Berty‘s decentralized messaging protocol, to talks and workshops on libtorrent and ZeroNet, Ethereum’s network protocol, cjdns, ZKP and identity, and homomorphic encryption.
For the general public less comfortable with the nuts and bolts of p2p cryptography, the documentary Nothing to Hide will give evidence of how mass surveillance impacts everyone and why we have come to accept it so easily. The festival will also host a show on mentalism and social engineering and a serious game which aims to help everyone learn about effective cybersecurity practices.
Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies are another branch that stems from the cypherpunk movement. Over the last few years, the importance of having a form of money that is independent from political powers and financial institutions became obvious. At first it was ignored, then it prompted only laughs and sarcasm, and finally, open hostility. Now states and mega-corporations try to compete with their own digital and centralized currencies.
Hence the necessity of articulating and educating the public about what makes decentralized currencies so special! We will tackle this challenge in many ways: a talk on Bitcoin by the founders of Cercle du Coin, a screening of the documentary Protocole with its director in attendance, workshops introducing how to use wallets and cryptocurrencies, presentations and workshops on Libre Money (Monnaie Libre), Dash, Ark…
Since the inception of Ethereum, the scope of the blockchain, this decentralized ledger which stores cryptocurrency transactions has exceeded its monetary applications. Blockchain-based Dapps, DeFi and DAOs refer to new ways to perform peer-to-peer interactions and new approaches for managing common resources in more open and less inegalitarian ways. The audience will be introduced to several programmable blockchains such as Ethereum, Holochain, Tezos, or Aeternity.
DAOs, or Decentralized Autonomous Organizations, are a way to introduce self-governed and transparent rules in place of the arbitrary exercise of centralized power in organizations. We will review the most interesting DAO initiatives such as Aragon, DAOstack and MetaCartel, with a panel, talks and two workshops: co-designing a DAO using DAOcanvas and participating in a decentralized jurisdiction with Kleros. Lessons learned with iExec and Paymium will shed light on decentralized marketplaces and exchanges, another form of decentralized and programmable entities.
But blockchains are not the only way to decentralize the internet. The Solid standard, created by Tim Berners-Lee, aims to re-decentralize the Web, which today lies under the control of a small number of global mega-firms such as Google and Facebook. In France, this standard is actively supported and extended by several teams gathered in the Digital Commons Consortium, present at the festival. They will give talks and workshops covering the Virtual Assembly and Startin’Blox.
Blockchains and distributed Web are closely associated with open source and free software, considered a type of digital commons. More generally, the question of the commons, is defined as a shared resource that is co-governed by its user community according to the community’s rules and norms and is an essential aspect of peer-to-peer networks.
The P2P Foundation, which will give one of the opening talks of the festival, claims the autonomy of the commons with respect to both the private and public sectors. An event within the festival, the Public Domain Day, organized by Wikimedia France and Creative Commons France, will invite open conversations about multiple aspects of intellectual property in the age of the commons: open science and open education, free licences and development aid, and the implications of IA and blockchain on art production. We will also screen a documentary telling the tragic story of Aaron Swartz, the freedom activist behind Creative Commons, and Hacking for the Commons, a brand new documentary about the clash between supporters of intellectual property and those who stand for open and free knowledge. Several members of the Coop des Communs will also participate, such as the Digital Commons Consortium and Open Food Network. Finally, a talk by The Commons Stack will show how blockchain, DAOs and commons can be tightly coupled.
The last major theme of the festival will be shared governance and peer collaboration, as these are critical to all the other topics mentioned above, from blockchain upgrades to management of the commons to the ability of people to act as free citizens and economic agents. We will open the festival with the Citizens’ Convention for the Climate, the first experiment of direct democracy embedded in the institutions of the French republic, as a response to the demand for real democracy expressed the Gilets Jaunes, in the context of climate emergency. The association between climate and collective intelligence will also be discussed during a talk and workshops on the Climate Collage. Tools, practices, and ideas for distributed governance and collective sense-making will be discussed and experienced with Jean-François Noubel, Open Source Politics, the Open Opale collective, and a Warm Data Lab by Matthew Schutte.
In short, peers and commoners everywhere support every revolutionary movement against the existing social and political order of things.
In all these movements, they bring to the front, as a leading question in each, the intellectual and physical property question, no matter its degree of development at the time.
Finally, they labour everywhere for a unanimous agreement on initiatives supportive of civil liberties and the construction of the commons.
Peers and commoners disdain the concealment their views and aims. They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the overthrow of the prevalent logic of concentration of power, wealth, and information.
Free Peers of All Countries, Unite!
Lead image: Close view of Hong Kong Lennon Wall by Ceeseven under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license. Special thanks to Kirstin Maulding.
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