Julian Assange added a bit more to his history-making today by being the first known person to use bitcoin’s public blockchain as proof of life. Responding to calls for evidence that the Wikileaks founder is safe and sound in a Reddit Ask Me Anything sessions with answers provided in a live twitch.tv feed, Assange stated:
“I have to say it is a little bit silly, not in relation to us being under pressure, we have been under pressure, but we’re very good at resisting pressure, but, in relation to whether I’m alive, or kidnapped, actually, it is a bit silly. If you look at people like John Pilger, for example, long-term friend of mine, runs my defence fund, is a famously brave investigative reporter, my lawyers, close friends, people like Murray Love, the Ecuadorian government, if you think about the number of people who actually have to conspire and the amount of work that would have to be done to produce these false images, it’s too many. That’s a social proof.”
Assange then went on to provide a slightly more concrete proof by reading out block number #447506, mined by Bitmain, and its hash, produced today, on the 10th of January 2017, at 15:50:25 London time. He misread it at first, thus had to re-do it, joking this will send people crazy before adding that the mistake itself is evidence that the proof of life is genuine as it’s natural for people to make mistakes.
The blockchain based proof of life is in response to widespread speculation that he may be in danger because Ecuador’s Embassy, where Assange currently resides, cut off his internet and all connections to the outside world on the 19th of October 2016, just weeks before the most important presidential election in living memory.
Speculation gradually accelerated as some took the stance of assumed dead until proven otherwise, reaching frenzy levels after some began suggesting videos and voice can be edited, raising awareness of a difficult epistemological question for our generation’s philosophers, just how exactly can you prove something for certain?
The worries, however, were not without cause. Assange’s Wikileaks provided more information than all media outlet combined in the run-up to the election. He revealed collusion between the media and Hillary Clinton’s campaign, private and public stances, as well as the most striking revelation:
“[W]e’ve all been quite content to demean government, drop civics and in general conspire to produce an unaware and compliant citizenry. The unawareness remains strong but compliance is obviously fading rapidly. This problem demands some serious, serious thinking – and not just poll-driven, demographically-inspired messaging.”
The revelations galvanized Trump supporters which began metaphorically chanting 24/7 with pepe memes, persuading independents to default to Trump, giving our generation and history the only surprise presidential victory we can recall.
They now call him the white wizard, but even when his hair was grey he was aware of bitcoin. In fact, he is as much part of bitcoin’s history as the then Chancellor of Britain, Alistair Darling. As Wikileaks revealed utterly damaging footages of US soldiers mistakenly shooting a Reuters journalist, the entire might of USA’s government came down, cutting off any payments to the organization. PC World, in a now historical article, suggested bitcoin, then a tiny network with price barely worth more than a dollar, as an alternative, but Nakamoto feared the “hornet’s nest” was headed towards the barely born digital currency because of the Wikileaks related publicity. He left and has never been heard since, as far as anyone knows in any event.
Assange, on the other hand, might have taken bitcoin to heart at that point. He introduced Eric Schmidt, then Google’s CEO, to the digital currency in 2013, with Wikileaks being one of the first to accept bitcoins. Overall, he has generally refrained from being involved in this space, perhaps because of Nakamoto’s last statement, but his latest use of bitcoin’s blockchain in such a highly public fashion continues a seemingly new trend developed last year.
John McAfee, a former programmer for NASA who developed the first anti-virus, has invested a million dollars or more in a bitcoin mining business partnership. Meanwhile Kim DotCom has tweeted a number of times about bitcoin. In combination, they seemingly give rise to a patronizing of bitcoin by the internet culture, continuing to provide evidence that bitcoin has one of the most interesting dichotomy, it appeals to the richest and poorest in equal measure, to the wall street financiers just as much as to the financially blockaded.
Image from Wikimedia.