Cypher Punk YKTTW Discussion
Punk meets strong cryptography
Very similar to (and often a subgenre of) Cyber Punk, Cypher Punk is a genre devoted to the rising importance of strong cryptography (the opposite of Hollywood Encryption). People use strong cryptography for much of their everyday communications, and it's not unusual to see entire plots hinge on whether a communication channel is safe. The term gained currency out of the cypherpunks mailing list, and many of the goals of the cypherpunks (such as privacy, anonymity and/or pseudonymity, and information freedom) are in the genre fiction. Cryptography is ubiquitous and usually used to free the public (although it may also be used to oppress them), it provides the backbone for a network of communication, and there can be incredible money in keeping a good reputation for honest trading of strong crypto. Unlike other punk settings, Cypher Punk is often set much closer to today, often simply Next Sunday A.D.. And while it's often not able to provide cybernetic enhancement or destroy the environment, it can easily be paired with Cyber Punk to provide those aspects to any story. Cryptography isn't just used to provide a private channel for communications in these stories, either. Cryptography can be used for purposes ranging from indentification and authentication to verifying integrity to obfuscating salient details to anonymizing people or business transactions. Examples:
- Some of Neal Stephenson's writing is this, but most especially Cryptonomicon, which is cited by many as a leading candidate for Most Triumphant Example.
- Vernor Vinge has written several books that hinge on cryptography in a post singularity world.
- Cryptic Seduction is a porn movie based on Cypherpunk ethos.
- Sneakers, though largely devoid of any punk, may deserve an honorable mention for its extremely good depiction of cryptography.
- In the 1977 novel The Adolescence of P-1, the A.I. P-1 discovers that the U.S. army has a secret cryptographic protocol that also has data compression. It is so secret that the Army won't let the Navy or other organizations use it or know how it works. P-1 starts to use it to keep his communications secret and compressed, and the very fact that such a secret encryption is being used by someone else tips off the government about P-1's activities.