A Quandary


(photo: Mike Cauldwell, Creative Commons)

Can I escape this post with my First Amendment advocacy credentials intact? Doubtful.

Talking to so many accomplished writers trying mightily to get published, I’ve about decided blind luck is the key ingredient in the publication lottery. Then, in the midst of a long Wired story by Andy Greenberg on crypto-anarchy, one sentence snags my attention: Simon & Schuster has paid Cody Wilson $250,000—a figure a vanishingly small number of authors see these days—to write his memoir.

Who is Cody Wilson you ask? And why does he move to the head of the line, the top of the heap? You may recognize his name as the 26-year-old creator of the world’s first fully 3-D printable gun, which I wrote about here in May. Blueprints of his useable firearm were downloaded more than 100,000 times in two days.

Wilson is also co-creator of Dark Wallet, software intended to enable fully anonymous, untraceable online payments using bitcoins. The software’s purpose is to let people anonymously trade in weapons, drugs, pornography, and general mayhem, and Wilson drapes his creation in the flag of the First Amendment. Untraceable and untouchable, he and his lawyers hope.

Since bitcoins are an international phenomenon, it’s no surprise that Iraq’s newest crop of super-violent, decapitation-loving jihadi fighters, ISIS, selectively aware of the 21st century, touts Dark Wallet as a way to fund their activities.

Wilson takes his anarchic role in stride. “Well, yes, bad things are going to happen on these marketplaces,” he says. “To quote the old civil libertarians, liberty is a dangerous thing.”

More questions for Simon & Schuster: Can he write? Does it even matter?

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