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The Eternity Service Essay

4624 words - 18 pages

Abstract. The Internet was designed to provide a communications chan-nel that is as resistant to denial of service attacks as human ingenuity canmake it. In this note, we propose the construction of a storage mediumwith similar properties. The basic idea is to use redundancy and scat-tering techniques to replicate data across a large set of machines (suchas the Internet), and add anonymity mechanisms to drive up the costof selective service denial attacks. The detailed design of this service isan interesting scienti c problem, and is not merely academic: the servicemay be vital in safeguarding individual rights against new threats posedby the spread of electronic publishing.1 The Gutenberg InheritanceIn medieval times, knowledge was guarded for the power it gave. The Bible wascontrolled by the church: as well as being encoded in Latin, bibles were often keptchained up. Secular knowledge was also guarded jealously, with medieval craftguilds using oaths of secrecy to restrict competition. Even when informationleaked, it usually did not spread far enough to have a signi cant e ect. Forexample, Wycli e translated the Bible into English in 1380{1, but the Lollardmovement he started was suppressed along with the Peasants' Revolt.But the development of moveable type printing by Johannes Gensfleisch zurLaden zum Gutenberg during the latter half of the fteenth century changedthe game completely. When Tyndale translated the New Testament in 1524{5,the means were now available to spread the word so quickly that the princesand bishops could not suppress it. They had him executed, but too late; by thensome 50,000 copies had been printed. These books were one of the sparks thatled to the Reformation.Just as publication of the Bible challenged the abuses that had accreted overcenturies of religious monopoly, so the spread of technical know-how destroyedthe guilds. Reformation and a growing competitive artisan class led to the scien-ti c and industrial revolutions, which have given us a better standard of livingthan even princes and bishops enjoyed in earlier centuries. Conversely, the soci-eties that managed to control information to some extent became uncompetitive;and with the collapse of the Soviet empire, democratic liberal capitalism seemsnally to have won the argument.But what has this got to do with a cryptology conference?Quite simply, the advance of electronic publishing has placed at risk ourinheritance from Gutenberg.Just as advancing technology in the fteenth century made it very muchharder to control information, so the advances of the late twentieth are makingit very much easier. This was made clear by recent court action involving the`Church of Scientology', one of whose former adherents had published some ma-terial which the organisation would prefer to have kept secret. This apparentlyincluded some of the organisation's `scripture' that is only made available tomembers who have advanced to a certain level in the organisation.Since Gutenberg,...

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