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zk-Proof of Work

The Zero-Knowledge Society

After control society, the zero-knowledge society.

Why does any other person need to know who you are?

It's not obvious. In fact, there is no particularly good reason.

In fact, it is possible to be born, receive a legal name and Social Security number, and otherwise remain unknown to everybody in the world—excepting your parents—for the rest of your life.

You are only forced to be known if you want to participate in socially and economically rewarding activities.

Because most people want to do things, most of us happily and naturally submit to a regime that knows who we are. It knows where we are, what we earn, how we vote, what we think, and what we feel. We willingly broadcast all of these things to anyone who asks because it is the price of participation in society.

Attitudes and behaviors are nudged toward system stability, using this data. What Deleuze called control society is a diffuse web of sticks and carrots. It works because it knows us.

What if it was possible to do everything you wanted to do without being known? If this came to pass, say by a magic wand, how would you choose to build your life? You would probably reveal the truths of your soul—linkable to your one physical and spiritual person—only to select others. Some would share themselves more widely, and others less, but if given the choice, few people would broadcast everything to everyone. Every time you interface with social institutions of any kind, you would generally default to telling them as little as required.

The zero-knowledge proof is that magic wand. A ZK computer program lets you prove that you meet certain conditions without revealing anything else about yourself, including even the underlying data that meets the specified condition.

Say I'm interviewing you for a job. I want to check you earned a 4.0 GPA at a top 10 university, have strong referrals from three Fortune 500 companies, and enjoy a +700 credit score. You can prove you meet these conditions without ever requesting transcripts from your university, or giving away the phone number of your previous managers, or giving away your Social Security number and entire financial history in a credit report. I don't even need to know your name or address, so long as you give me ZK proofs of the conditions that matter for our particular relationship.

This is just one example where individuals are forced to broadcast more information about themselves than is necessary. The current regime creates a vast surface area for cybercrime, black data markets, and run-of-the-mill government-corporate data mining. Not to mention the time wasted running silly errands like asking your alma mater to forward transcripts (for $19.99, of course).

As zero-knowledge computation becomes ubiquitous, social and economic participation will be decoupled from who you are. People will need to know about you, but they won't need to know who you are.

You'll be left to shape yourself with the sticks and carrots you choose to apply to yourself, not the sticks and carrots applied by control society.

In the zero-knowledge society, cryptographic truth will be more valuable than social perception. If you doubt us, when was the last time you checked in on social perception?

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