Julian Assange, Eric Schmidt Discuss Censorship, Bitcoin And The Internet In Recently Published ConversationBy: Zach Walton - April 19, 2013
It’s been a while since we’ve heard anything about Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder that’s still hiding out in the Ecuadorian embassy in London after the UK approved his extradition to Sweden. During that time, he has entertained a number of guests, including Google CEO Eric Schmidt.
WikiLeaks shared a verbatim transcript of a five-hour conversation between Google CEO Eric Schmidt, Julian Assange, Jared Cohen, former Secretary of State advisor to Hillary Clinton, and Lisa Shields, a member of the Council for Foreign Relations. The meeting was arranged so Schmidt and Cohen could speak with Assange about their new book – The New Digital Age.
A lot of the conversation comes from Assange as he discusses his motivations for starting WikiLeaks. Many people may already know his motivation – to make information free – but his conversation with Schmidt provided a few more details. Assange thinks that the current system of sharing information is broken because it has to go through three or four different channels before it reaches the average citizen. He said that WikiLeaks is “an attempt… at a total system” that collects, curates and disseminates primary sources without any of the self or government mandated censorship that crops up in traditional news publishing.
Much of the conversation after that is Assange continuing to discuss state and economic censorship, which the latter he claims is the more prevalent of the two. After a bit of that, however, Assange starts to discuss Bitcoin. He voices full support for the digital currency and advises people to jump in early because he assume that its value is going to skyrocket:
The Bitcoin actually has the balance and incentives right, and that is why it is starting to take off. The different combination of these things. No central nodes. It is all point to point. One does not need to trust any central mint. … The problems with traditional digital currencies on the internet is that you have to trust the mint not to print too much of it. And the incentives for the mint to keep printing are pretty high actually, because you can print free money. That means you need some kind of regulation. … Bitcoin instead has an algorithm where the anyone can create, anyone can be their own mint. They’re basically just searching for collisions with hashes.. A simple way is… they are searching for a sequence of zero bits on the beginning of the thing. And you have to randomly search for, in order to do this. So there is a lot of computational work in order to do this. And each Bitcoin software that is distributed.. That work algorithmically increases as time goes by. So the difficulty in producing Bitcoins becomes harder and harder and harder as time goes by and it is built into the system.
Assange also touched upon how the Internet is inspiring revolution today, particularly in countries with oppressive governments:
The radicalization of internet educated youth. People who are receiving their values from the internet… and then as they find them to be compatible echoing them back. The echo back is now so strong that it drowns the original statements. Completely. The people I’ve dealt with from the 1960s radicals who helped liberate Greece and.. Salazar. They are saying that this moment in time is the most similar to what happened in this period of liberation movements in the 1960s, that they have seen.
He also says that the Internet is turning the youth of the Western world, who are typically a-political, into political activists thanks to the information they are able to receive on events that they would have otherwise not been exposed to in traditional media.
You can check out the rest of the transcript here. It’s incredibly fascinating and definitely worth your time.