I basically favor end-to-end encryption. I worry that the government could intervene in a way even more hostile than they are today. This will be a very important part of the bitcoin conversation – what minimum level of oversight would the government want to allow this to exist? Can we build it into technology in a way that allows governments to look at certain things while still protecting privacy? If not, they can either ban it or, secretly, go in and try to mess it up. Can we create some kind of limited identity, something cryptographically secure, so that the government can track certain things but allow everything else to be private? Those are the tough conversations technologists will have with regulators. Most people are quite religious about this.
You don’t recommend some sort of Clipper Chip, do you?
I don’t want to propose a solution, and I’m also very conscious of saying anything that will start a flame war, but —-
For example, Zcash people are proposing secure, cryptographically identifiable information stored inside a transaction so that when needed, the customer can unlock that information. No, I don’t think we should provide the main key or the back door or anything else that weakens security. But I think if we make everything look completely anonymous and completely locked out, we’d be rejected or out of business in some way. Starting next year, I will try to participate [intelligence and law enforcement] people in public forums.
As long as I know you, you’ve always had these relationships with a wide variety of people, from street enthusiasts to company executives. Do you find yourself the digital age ambassador for those kinds of foundations?
Yes, that’s my role. I remember receiving murder threats on the internet mailing list when I was on the committee of the Japanese national police station because they thought I was a spy. I’ve always had this problem stuck in the middle, so that’s why I’m careful about it. For example, the military artificial intelligence strategy is called the third offset.
What is this?
The first offsets are nuclear deterrents. The second offset is battlefield control and communication. Now, we’ve lost that advantage, so we need to use AI as an advantage for the military, who are calling it a third offset. They asked for 18 billion dollars. I really think we need to do AI work openly. We cannot enter an AI arms race with China. I have directly urged both the president and the military to do this. I hope to give them convincing arguments as to why it should be done academically and outdoors.
I really feel like I’m somewhere between an activist and an ambassador, because of the position at MIT and the fact that we have 90 major corporations involved and Lockheed-Martin and the Air Force and others. Interaction with us is quite close. They listen to us, so I think that’s an important role. Curiously, eccentric people are people who are harder to talk with. Over the years, many of them became even more convinced of these conspiracies. Compared to the day before, I am closer to the facility. I need to be careful not to appear as the spokesperson for the military industrial complex.
I started living between America and Japan. Just two cultures is always one thing. Now, there’s also this weird third, Silicon Valley. Silicon Valley has an exotic culture of its own. I feel it is also in danger of drifting away, into this strange space. Maybe it’s already there; I feel like part of my job is to connect the east coast to the west coast and make sure we keep Silicon Valley somehow held and engaged and not fly into wonderland. weird.