Hiring Crypto-Anarchists to Work on a Blockchain Project

This is part of a series digging into some stereotypical "Bitcoiner" temperaments with an eye toward advising middle and senior management as to pitfalls employing these people. You can read the introduction here


In very brief, I would recommend engaging Crypto-Anarchists on a Blockchain project if they are put into the gadfly role, ideally on contract. I would not generally put them in charge of private keys or finance matters in a project.

What follows is some background about crypto anarchists, why they exist, and what makes them tick (to a first approximation). Unless you have your own highly technical staff in-house and working well with HR, I would steer clear of one if they turn up in a recruiting process, internal or external.

Some Motivations

Crypto Anarchists are, on average, smarter than the libertarian Bitcoiners. They are convinced, rightly, that nearly all communication is monitored by our governments and large technology companies, and see the erosion of privacy inherent as one of the great evils in the world.

They spend much of their time worrying about email security, operating system security, security or cryptography conferences and are often fundamentally paranoid. The anarchist part usually goes with the 'crypto' part -- there is a strong mistrust of government intervention or anything related to large organized groups.

Unlike Bitcoin Libertarians, Crypto Anarchists often strike me as less ideology motivated, and more practical. They believe anarchy generally works, and they think they have a much better shot at freedom if all their communications are encrypted.

Paranoid People Know What To Look For

I have a soft spot for crypto-anarchists: they are so very, very good at thinking in paranoid, out-of-the-box ways, thinking about breaking rules, or better how to follow rules and subvert them. They're an invaluable addition to any team that's going to be building technology which might be attacked. You'll know them by a variety of clues, not least their insistence on bringing their own sticker-encrusted laptop running a secure linux variant everywhere, even if corporate IT requires some other operating system.

Crypto anarchists like Bitcoin because it's the first try at creating a digital currency not controlled by a government that offers some reasonable privacy promises. As Bitcoin's ability to stay private has shown itself to be rather less than originally understood, they may have migrated to other Alt-coins or technologies, like Dash and Zcash.

Most crypto-anarchists I have met are good people. But, they are prone to hang out with unsavory ones, and this poses a number of risks. They likely frequent darknet markets out of interest, they probably purchase their recreational drugs using these systems, and are much more comfortable at a rave than most members of your management team would be.

Nevertheless, I would encourage engaging with them if you have access to them. They make fantastic gadflies in a protocol specification phase. They will tirelessly work to break whatever system has been put in front of them. And, they are easier to find and recruit than high nerds, but can provide some of the same benefits to a project by keeping your team honest and realistic in their specifications and implementation.

What You'll Get

A crypto anarchist on your blockchain team is going to think a lot about privacy, what should be encrypted and what shouldn't, and push for better privacy protection in your blockchain spec. I think this is often a worthy goal. Because blockchains store and transmit all historical data, there is never a question as to whether the information in them will be read. This adds an incredible amount of discipline to the specification process, one that I think is good for society.