- 1,514 views
- 25 Feb 2021
Last November, journalist Morgen Peck showed up at her friend Molly Webster's apartment in Brooklyn, told her to take her battery out of her phone, and began to tell her about The Ceremony, a moment last fall when a group of, well, let's just call them wizards, came together in an undisclosed location to launch a new currency. It's an undertaking that involves some of the most elaborate security and cryptography ever done (so we've been told). And math. Lots of math. It was all going great until, in the middle of it, something started to behave a little...strangely.
Reported by Molly Webster. Produced by Matt Kielty and Molly Webster. Denver Ceremony station recordings were created by media maker Nathaniel Kramer, with help from Daniel Cooper.
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Listener supported WNYC Studios. Wait, you're OK? I. You're listening to Radiolab Radio from WNYC. Hey, I'm Jad Abumrad. I'm Molly Webster. This is Radiolab. Robert Krulwich will be back with us very soon. But today, a story from you.
Well, I guess I was just thinking I should probably tell you just the Morgan and I back story of how I heard about the story. So Morgan and I went to grad school together at NYU, so I guess I've known her for almost 11 years.
OK, and we're were we're holed up in my apartment. I don't know. This is like no. Last November, something she comes over sitting on the giant big floor pillow like a Turkish floor pillow.
Of course, you do sit sitting on the floor below.
And then she is like, are you ready to hear the story? And I said, yes. And she's like, OK, I need you to take the battery out of your phone.
Really? Yeah. And I she really said and I was like, what? I have an iPhone.
I can't take the battery out of it. And she goes, OK, I need you to power it down and put it in another room under a pillow. What was like what is going on?
And then by this point, she's digging the battery out of her phone. So I, I do it I put it in the in my bedroom and I put it under pillows. I turned it off. I came back, I sat down and then she starts telling me essentially about the ceremony.
About going to the launch of this new currency, which involved her flying across the country to live in a hotel room for a number of days with a bunch of strangers, and then something happened because she came back seemingly paranoid, at least in so much as she was hiding phones under pillows. What was it that happened? It takes a few steps. So start with step one, which is I, which is Morgan. I'm Morgan.
How would you identify yourself professionally? Professionally.
I'm a freelance journalist, and in my eyes, Morgan has become like the historian of the world of digital money.
I started writing about neuroscience but quickly found out about Bitcoin about a year into my writing 2011 and have pretty much been writing about it ever since.
Now, yes, a lot of people, when they hear about digital money, they think ransomware.
The hijackers held the files. Ransom demanded roughly 650 euros paid in Bitcoin, Bitcoin, the virtual currency.
Obviously, it has become associated with cybercrime. But for Morgan. No, no, no, no.
What attracted her to this whole world? What made her go, oh, my God, this thing is amazing. She was like pulled in by the idealism of it.
There was an extremely active community of people who were talking about, you know, completely subverting the financial system at a time when the financial system was not trusted and was collapsing.
Because Morgan says the birth of Bitcoin goes back to, well, remember, 2008 boom here working the phones.
They a lot of their customers are freaked out. 2008 was the big implosion. What in the world was happening on Wall Street in September? The stock market crashed. The banks failed.
The Dow traders are standing there watching in amazement. I don't blame them. There was the bailout.
You know, this shakes your core. This shakes your trust in American institutions.
And then just a few months later, 2009, January. It's a hot topic on Wall Street right now.
It's very interesting. Digital money called Bitcoin, Bitcoin, Bitcoin. I can't bitcoin showed up.
Oh, so Bitcoin was after the big collapse.
It was after. And it was very much a response to that, definitely, because here was this currency that was decentralized, which means it's run and monitored by all the people who use it, which means you don't need a Federal Reserve.
So at the beginning, a lot of people saw Bitcoin as a way to sort of take the power back from the big banks that had just everybody over.
Libertarians were really into it. They thought that it was going to crash, it was going to crumble the columns of of every power structure in the world.
Obviously, that didn't happen. It did not take down the world. But Bitcoin has not gone away. It's been a decade. It's still around. But if you talk to people on the inside, they'll tell you one of the things that has dogged Bitcoin from the beginning is this issue of privacy.
The way that the technology works is that it tracks every single transaction that's ever made on the network. Anytime anyone with a Bitcoin buys coffee or a pound of heroin, that transaction is kept in something called the public ledger.
Bitcoin is a ledger public ledger. And is that something that each person has? It's out there for anyone to see, really.
So every single transaction that's ever been done, transaction ever is right. But that's not private at all.
No, but people thought it was private at the beginning because, oh, we're using these pseudonyms. In other words, in the ledger, you never see anyone's actual name. There are no names on in Bitcoin. Like, I wouldn't be smiling, I'd be nine, five, seven.
The problem is that while there are no names attached, the behavior is out there for anyone to see.
Turns out it's really not that hard to match this like string of characters with the person that it represents out in the real world. You could just kind of Google it on the Internet, see if it pops up anywhere else, what is associated with, and then you kind of figure out who the person is.
And then you can go back into the Bitcoin ledger and search their entire history, can figure out all their business dealings, all their personal dealings, who they know, who they don't know possibly who their bank is.
And, you know, people have tried to solve this problem with Bitcoin, but there are companies now that actually specialize in doing the network analysis of the Bitcoin block chain. And they do it for companies who want to make sure that they're not transacting with, you know, criminals, people who have had with their companies that are actively trying to anonymize people.
Oh, yeah. Well. And so one of the puzzles that all the Internet people think about is, is there a way to get the best of both worlds? Can you have the decentralization that comes with digital money? But can you also get privacy? Almost like cash? I take a dollar bill out of my pocket. I walk down the street, I give it to someone, they give it to someone. No one can trace that money. Can you get the decentralization that comes with digital money?
And can you wrap that up with the privacy that you get with paper money? And that question, testing, testing brings us to this guy. Oh, we go here to somebody named Zucco Wilcox of Zucco and I'm in a different room, OK?
He is our master of the ceremony.
I have to say, you do. Everyone's like pretty excited. I'm talking to a guy named Zucco, like, it's just a good name, Zuko. Thanks. Gay Zucco, so anyhow, Zucco is he's been working on digital currencies for a long time and he's extremely trusted. Is he a charismatic leader type of thing? Yeah, he is. When he first encountered Bitcoin, he was like, cool. Yes.
But I was concerned about the privacy implications because he's a pretty hardcore cypherpunk.
My God, it's like worlds upon worlds are opening for us. Cypherpunks. Yeah. She said this.
It is a group of people that care deeply about how to make the Internet more private, think privacy is a human right and that it's a necessary condition for the exercise of a free choice of morality and of political participation and of everything that's of intimacy, everything that's most important as humans.
So this whole thing with Bitcoin and the privacy problem. Right up his alley, so I went out of my way, studied the Bitcoin source code, and yes, I immediately started fantasizing about what could be better.
So then he being like the privacy security cypherpunk guru, becomes the leader of something called cash, cash and easy cash.
Really, its main contribution to this ecosystem is privacy.
So there's this thing called a zero knowledge proof, OK? And it's a mathematical invention that mathematicians had come up with.
It requires something called the Zusak snark parameters to be baked into the protocol.
Like I asked hours of questions and it got me into a conversation about circles and graphs in the shape of numbers.
The shape of what I mean is the shape of what's of possibility of what I came away with was that it allows you to prove that something is true without revealing anything about the thing you're trying to prove is true.
Wow. You just I just need to it's why you now take that and run.
This is where computer science and mathematics start to overlap into wizardry here.
All you need to know is that Z Cash promises to give you decentralization with the like buffet of privacy.
But zie cash has its own floor, an unfortunate vulnerability in the math, in order to create the currency of easy cash, you have to first create a number, a certain enormous number, and then you use that number to do a bunch of math and then like, boom.
You have the currency, but it all starts with this number, this key problem with that is in this system, in this system, if somebody got a hold of the private key, they could counterfeit cash coins, they could counterfeit money, just make new coins, millions and millions and millions of new coins out of thin air. You could cheat. That's a really big problem when you have a anonymous currency because no one would ever know. Now, Bitcoin, since it's a public ledger, you can actually see if there's any funny business going on.
That's actually why they keep it open. Right. The lack of privacy in Bitcoin is a security measure, but here no one would ever know.
So the challenge is how do you get people to buy into a system that has this, like, major vulnerability, albeit just right at the very beginning?
There's this one moment where, you know, you have to trust people in a way that's completely existentially defining of the currency.
So this is what Tsoukas up against. How do I if I want super privacy, which he does, how do I generate this number in such a way that no one steals it? Not me, not anyone else.
And how do I prove to all of the people that might want to use cash later, but in this tiny little window of of creation, nothing untoward has happened that that the number has never been tampered with, that human eyes have never been laid upon it. You know that the entire creation of this system remains pure.
This is very much like an immaculate conception. Like no humans can have sex to make this baby, but there needs to be a baby.
But we almost have to examine the act of sex to make sure that there was no physical contact. Is it like that? That's so good. OK, so here we are.
Zuko decides we'll have a ceremony. The most secure, most sophisticated cryptographic ceremony that's ever been performed. OK. Here's the thing, while it's trivial to make your own currency, it is not trivial to inspire trust.
That's what money is, is the agreement between people to use it and to honor that sort of social contract and the creation of value, to me that's like alchemy and it's a moment of creation. I think I'm walking down the street near you, Molly Greenpoint, and I get a text message on signal, a private messenger app from Zucco that's like, hey, we want you to we want you to be there.
And, yeah, you know, that later were chosen, was chosen and but did you even know what you were being invited to?
No, I had no idea.
But I was like, I have to do this. I mean, I cannot miss this even if Vikash doesn't make it, even if, you know, it collapses. It seems like a historical moment. Sazuka basically said, just wait for our call.
So about two weeks later, the back call come to this coffee store in Boulder. So Morgan gets on a flight to Denver, rents a car to Boulder and goes to the coffee shop. TSOUKAS They're standing next to the barista counter and actually he has a huge paper map with him spread out all over like the barista's area. He's like up in their grill. And then this other guy, Nat'l, showed up. Friend Tsoukas, who was going to film it all.
Was that was that for you? You wanted everything recorded. Yeah. And it was to serve as a security mechanism and documentation for the public.
More on that in a second and then.
OK, ok, OK. They leave the coffee shop, go over to Nate's van, he makes us both up.
I told them they could pick me up and we're going to now we're going to turn off all of our cell phones so that if there were any hackers, they would be able to track where we were physically.
I'm trying to think if I have to say goodbye to anyone. We were like, OK, now we've got the van, we've got our cell phones turned off. The next thing we needed to do, we're next.
Yeah, we're going to the computer store was to acquire a computer because like, if there was some hacker who was planning to steal the key, they could have, you know, already planted some malware or tracking device on Tsoukas personal laptop before we even started.
So we all piled into the van, set off. You started heading north to get a clean computer. He's decided to go to Denver for this. Yeah, but he doesn't want to use his phone. No, I could even use my paper because what if somebody is, like, tracking what he's looking at? Let's go straight. Nat is doing much of his recording while he's driving.
This is where we think it is. Do you have, like, a black hoodie over you like Hezbollah style?
So they're driving for a little bit when all of a sudden they make this pit stop.
We were like, hey, there's a costume store. Right.
Perfect way to go yet. OK, next stop, looking for a wizard hat. Wizard hat. Go see your wizard hat section. So they walk through this big costume store, pass witches, hats, tiaras. What is the wizard hat? You settle down.
Oh, it was a Gandalf hat. Get off hat. I love the Gandalf hat.
I think it's good. That is appropriate. The greatest wizard of all. Yeah, it's definitely a winner.
Thanks first. And then back to the mission at hand. Sam Denver computer. We drove down using our paper map with our cell phones off to the computer store. They get their walk in. Oh, yeah, this is the place. Do a little computer shopping, do a side by side comparison of two different ones. Two minutes later, I want this one. Zuko gets his computer and at that point the computer is sacred.
It's called it is seven sixty seven hundred, which henceforth is given a new name.
It's called the compute node.
And why is it sacred? Well, because this is the computer that will hold the secret number, the number that will give birth to an entirely new currency. So. All right, thank you very much. You know, got back in the van, got back to Boulder and drove to an area that had hotels that we knew of. But where is this hotel? And we're going around to like the hotels in Boulder this way and they're all full if they have Ethan in their hotel room or they don't have an Internet connection.
So then we go to another hotel like that and another. She wasn't clear on the notion of Ethan.
It's like seven o'clock at night. What's the plan?
Guess the idea was if you don't know what you're going to do and they don't know what they're going to do.
So this is actually a security measure, like if you're totally in the dark about what you're doing, then some hackers, they can't they can't mount an attack.
Yeah, but OK, eventually, many of them, it has rooms and it has you know, they find a hotel and she even went and double checked. Zucco actually has not booked the hotel room for two nights.
You want me to come with you? Yep. Do you have a key?
We all check into one room, ground floor. It's not particularly fancy. A couple tables. You know, you got your two beds.
Then they set up with a well organized machine.
They totally transformed the place in general. I'm not going to help out. They gave me a bed to chill out on.
You can concentrate on on careful observing. So what we did was we stripped the room of all of the lamps and the telephone and everything on all counters gets shoved somewhere.
All of that stuff cleared it away into the closet or the bathtub. What are you doing?
In addition, we oh, I'm unplugging the TV. Didn't want like the television, for example, which could be remotely controlled by an adversary.
So they unplug it, slide it under one of the beds. Goodbye, TV.
You know what another reason is? I hate TVs. Television is the worst.
Then they grab the table where they're going to set up the computer code and explain again why your wife will pull that out of ways.
Oh, there's a teeny tiny chance that a team of spies rented the room next door and set up a giant antenna on the other side of this wall.
This is like the dopiest attack that Zucco is planning against called side channel attacks.
And that's a method by which you could use an antenna or like a really high tech microphone to figure out what a computer is doing.
For example, with some crazy microphone, you could listen into the computer's processor if you heard something like, oh, that's a Diffee Helmond key exchange or. Oh, yeah, this is obviously figuring out the full four thousand ninety six. But RSA Key or oh hey, that's the new Beeb's video or whatever. So.
All right, so please don't put anything on this disk from here on out.
It's pulled away from the wall about, I don't know, five feet just in case there somebody set up next door and then started loading in all the cameras and equipment, battery packs, junk food.
But then there was also a whole security camera set up.
One cool one really cool thing about these security cameras is that they don't have a radio for security cameras, which were from the eighties before security cameras came with Wi-Fi, which means we had to buy antique security cameras and their night vision security cameras.
And they set those up so that you could see the other cameras from the first camera so you could sell that new ninja, snuck in there like tampered with one of the cameras during the process either.
And this security camera setup was one of the key points in trying to create what Morgan was talking about earlier, this alchemy, faith, trust, whatever.
So the security mechanism this was this was going to catch any shenanigans.
And then Zucco was going to post this security footage to the Internet so experts, security experts could scan it and make up their minds. Could the ceremony be trusted? Hold on.
Where are you going to sleep tonight? I mean, I we could all can sleep anywhere. So we said all that stuff up.
It's like nine o'clock now. Ten o'clock. Yeah, it was late and I took the computer that we used so-called compute node.
And from that moment forward I kept that thing like within arm's reach for 48 hours or so.
Oh my God. It was a little bit exhausting trying to be paranoid and it was exhausting.
Trying to be paranoid. Yeah.
Like I slept with it that night in my bed. You kept my kept my arm around it.
Good night, sweet prince, and flights of angels sing me to the rest. A rude awakening. This is Andrea Carromero from the border town of Laredo, Texas, Radiolab is supported in part by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, enhancing public understanding of science and technology in the modern world.
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Chad, Mali, radio lab back to Boulder. Sorry, I can't open the door that would be helping you. So it's the next morning, Saturday morning, Zuka sits down at his personal computer and he starts dialing people up.
Hello. Someone video, some on signal go. He calls up a guy in D.C., a guy in Texas, I want to tell you sound like Tom Hardy also cool.
That's Florida. OK, I really appreciate your help.
Slovenia on line. Yes. Good job, pit boss. Another guy in California. And then there was this mysterious one for Reese is really that was only referred to as Fabrice and didn't know where he was. I didn't find out until afterwards that he was actually driving from Vancouver across British Columbia. What?
Who are all these guys? So for Zucco, it's very unacceptable. He wants to take as much of the trust. You got to trust me out of it as possible. And that's what he tried to do.
So even though Tsoukas is going to record all this footage, put it up online later, someone who's going to be watching that could be like this was a trick. It's all smoke and mirrors. It's like stage magic. Like, sure. You say you recorded everything, but maybe you manipulated the footage. Maybe you didn't even set the cameras up the way you said you did. And so so what Zuko decided to do is get in touch with all these guys all over the world and try and decentralize this trust.
So there were six stations each with their own computer code, security camera set up, ready to help Zucco make this big random number, the private key. So each of the six stations was actually creating one piece of this key. That way there'll be no one person that makes the entire key. It'll just be these little pieces that actually won't ever come in contact with one another. The idea was nobody will actually have the key itself.
OK, this works.
So everyone's got their compute node powered on and then I guess it's complete.
Prusiner When you're ready to begin the ceremony, the ceremony begins. OK, now, this is the top secret part.
This is the special box. You have to make sure that nobody can guess or leave this secret.
Zucco closes the blinds.
And so I'm going to cover my keyboard with this special box.
I took a cardboard box that one of the computers had come in and sort it in half so that it was a half of a cardboard box. He put it over the keyboard of the computer node.
They're ready. And then I slid my hands under the cardboard box and then.
He starts punching in all these random letters and numbers into the computer code, just like pounding like shit cat walking across the computer.
OK, and once he's done, I think we're done with the cardboard box that served its purpose and now we can auction it on eBay.
What the computer code does is it takes all those random characters and it combines it with more random characters that are generated like inside the computer, until finally it creates a part of the key.
And each of the other five participants had to do the same thing. DC made their piece of the key, Florida, Texas, Slovenia, Canada. OK, so you've got one key broken into six pieces. And the next step is to get all of those pieces to work together to create one thing, which is cache. And you want to do this in such a way that those pieces never touch each other, that they remain hidden so that no person could ever get their hands on the power of the whole key.
Whoo! Yeah, so thank God there's convoluted math to save the day. I think it's a good time to just say what was happening. OK, three, two, one.
So first things first, OK?
You're like the guy in California gets on the horn section and he gives everyone basically like the batting order.
And then he sends a message called the go message to station one. We bring my station one guy and his computer.
So do some math on his piece of the key on his computer code, spits out a number and then it burns it on to DVD y DVD because all the guys at these stations have ripped out the Wi-Fi in their computer code because we don't want the hacker to be able to hack into the computer code.
This, by the way, has a pretty cool name. This is called Air Gapped.
You have a protective shield basically around the computer that holds the secret field of anyway, once the computer is done burning to this DVD, the guy at Station one takes and walks it to another computer that is uploaded to the Internet.
OK, great. And then the guy on station to station, this guy, Peter Van Valkenburg.
So what happens is the software I run on my connected computer downloads, that little answer puts it on to DVD. I take the DVD out of the connected computer, walk across the AACAP, if you will, and then the computer alone takes that little answer, combines it with Keita's piece of a key and then.
Math so knows that computing again, the computer code keeps Peter's piece of the key, a secret spits out a new answer, a bigger answer, and then I write on a different DVD.
That new answer takes it out of the computer, noticed it over the garage, brings it back across the air gap. The networked computer uploads his answer, then station three grabs it combines it with their key, gets a little bit more of an answer than Station four. It gets to do. It's the same thing. DVD across the air combined with their piece, the key math, like serious math. And then you get a little bit more of the answer and just rinse, wash, repeat.
Station five, six, back to the top of the order.
And throughout this entire process, the individual shards of the key are kept separate and secret. Yet together they're doing the math. It's getting closer and closer and closer to the final key that will launch cache.
Was there like a ATM in the air? Oh, no.
I mean, it really it's de de de de de de de de de Vere.
Bring a deck of cards approach. Juggling was cool. I can juggle three balls. That's what I brought.
Because the thing is, every one of those mass steps took about an hour who's next on the list?
And they had to do like three full rotations through disorder. Oh, hey. So would you tell Moses? So most of the weekend was just kind of sitting around waiting, Peter and waiting.
Anyone told Moses? Yeah.
So, yeah, we're hanging out.
My computer just finished. Oh, good to know.
Zucco has brought along some pork rinds and sour cream, but he's dipping. He's dipping pork rinds and the sour cream.
I'm going to get our coffee also. Knapping, which is the only sleeping that's happened, like there's like, you know, an hour here, hour there. And as the hours roll by, things are going really well, people are getting their math done, they're passing along these answers, they're getting closer to having their key when maybe halfway into the process. Things get strange.
They're each lying in their beds, just kind of chilling out, Morgan was just waking, Zuko is playing on a tablet and then, oh, well, I groaned and said, oh, there's work to do back to work.
So Zuko gets up and he starts talking wind, which is my voice echoing going back feedback.
A feedback loop started echoing, you know, like going beep, beep, beep, beep, beep, beep, beep, beep. Well, it's like incongruous noise.
Make it stop commuting all my legs. I don't know where it's feeding back from. What was this one?
He turns off the mic and so I was like, OK, he sits down at the Google Hangout computer.
Hook me up with a testor. This echo comes back, and if you look at the video, you see he like just freezes over.
And then just turns his head to the left looking off camera. Why do we have playout over there now? At this point, everyone in the room just sort of falls silent and is looking around. Yeah, I start like pinpointing it to like the the part of the room that has the security cameras monitor, test, test.
Where is this coming from? Test, test, test.
I start listening to that and I think it's coming from over here. But again, so I stopped and I said, uh, wait wait a minute. What what is playing out over there? Test, test, test. And I looked in the direction of Morgan's bat and then I turn around, I pick up my phone, it's my phone.
And the echoes coming out of my speaker is coming out of your phone. It's coming out of my phone.
Why is your phone playing out so you don't mess with it? I want to see what's going on. It's playing out in this way.
He zeroes in on this Mike. That's on the corner of the computer that's doing the Google Hangouts.
Did you connect your phone to his hang up? He leans over to that one, starts fiddling with it.
No, it's coming from this, right? Yeah.
Yeah. So is there a way he stands.
He sits. I don't know. It's not coming from the way it's coming. It's not coming from this, Mike. It's coming from the Google Hangout because I just muted it in software.
Now it's gone.
So my voice, Google Hangout. OK, let's hear Peter's voice here. I want to test audio coming from you say some stuff that's happening, testing. Oh, goodness. OK, good.
And then I think Suko says something like, why is your phone playing the audio from our Google Hangout? Why is our chat coming through your phone away? So the audio coming out of her phone is not originating from in the room. It's it's somehow the Google Hangout chat that's coming through her phone. Yes. That's so very weird.
It was like your cat had just turned into a monster or had just started talking to you or like just turned on you.
So I'm kneeling on the bed with it and I look at it and I think that's when I just, like, threw it, threw it on the bed.
Revulsion, so can you turn on the screen? He picks up the phone from the end of her bed and hands it to her and is like, can you pull up the screen?
Well, what all apps are running on this phone? I don't run any apps.
Is that doing video? Yeah, I'm recording at this point, the cameras have like swiveled, so they're focused on the phone.
OK, um, I don't want to throw it in the river. No. Can you is this Andrew? You know what? How do you can you get a list of apps running by swiping them from the top or something?
I think I don't know. I'm sorry, I don't. How about that, I don't use this if you swipe down, there's that thing that's next to the thing here about that thing. Well, wait, yes, but just give me a second. I don't see a health app running I. Well, I didn't just run a hangout, I think it stopped here. Listen to it test test this up, hasn't it?
Suddenly, the phone stopped doing the weird thing. It was doing the freaky audio play out. Then it went away. It went away, which feels hackery. Uh, yeah. Like the hackers have been had and they just realized it.
Yeah. That's what I think, that there was an attacker and they screwed up and accidently turned on the speaker.
I feel paranoid. Yeah, it's weird. Is it creepy. No, this isn't just like I don't know. I mean, what do you mean hacked. What kind of hack? Taliban.
You find out the private messages someone's been had access to them or that people have been sending messages spoofed to be from you to your friends or colleagues.
I've never had that happen. Call. Horrible. So eventually they just decide to turn off her phone.
Now it becomes a more civilized conversation of what are we going to do? And then Zuko said to me, would you like to donate your phone to science?
Oh, that's like I decided to donate my body.
Uh, no. Well, what would it take for you to donate your phone to science?
Oh, like in the current state of it right now. Without without like. Yeah, that's a saving my.
No way like that has so much of my work on it and my life.
I just think that, uh. Well, I don't think I have to justify why. That's right. You don't have to justify it. But I mean. Do you have your pictures and some pictures, but not much? I put myself in your position, I would have been like, I feel OK, take it.
I don't know, I start I but you were very immediately, like, the opposite.
Yeah, that's a no to me y to me, my responsibility is not just to myself. You know, privacy is a shared resource. So it's a share. It's something we share with each other.
The responsibility I will say this is one of the first stories where I get what privacy and data protection like means like I remember when Morgan was telling me the story, thinking if someone had hacked into Morgan's phone, how long had they been hacked in for?
And I talked to Morgan all the time, like, oh, weird. I was kind of hacked, you know, and then it's like, well, who else did you talk to? We should tell you, dad was kind of hacked. Oh. Oh, crap. You exchange those text messages that weren't on signal. That person was kind of hacked. And then suddenly it just dawned on me like her privacy isn't just hers.
The things that are on my phone that are private are not only private for me, they're private for for anyone I was talking to. And and I almost feel like I don't even have a right to give over that phone if I haven't talked to the people that that that would be exposing. Like, that's not fair. Like sometimes when people insist on privacy, it can feel selfish. Yeah. But then you realize like.
No, like if one person doesn't insist on privacy, kind of like a chink in the armor and like suddenly we're all vulnerable.
For about an hour, Morgan and Zucco go back and forth about what to do with her phone, but they don't really reach a conclusion.
I feel I need to walk. Is anything going to happen if I go take a little walk? Yeah. You're not going to miss much.
It's as planned or scheduled. I'm hesitating for no good reason. I can't think of any reason for you not to take a walk. I'm just kind of freaked out, OK? Yeah, OK. I hear what I said. Be safe out there. Enjoy.
Do you think. Do you think I'm a secret agent? No, I wasn't thinking that, OK? I was thinking I was afraid for you. Oh, I'm not afraid for me. Yeah, I'm not either. I was just feeling that way.
OK, I'm going to take a walk because I feel really claustrophobic.
Good. Enjoy. Then I had to decide, what shall we do? Shall we abort the ceremony? Shall we focus our attention on some sort of investigation of Morgan's phone, what shall we do? OK, here's the decision, here's what we're going to do, get get Morganson out of here and otherwise. Change, he figured if these people have hacked into Morgan's phone, we have so many security measures in place that we can keep going and we'll figure this out later.
So basically what happens is like Morgan comes back from her walk, OK, we're weary, they still have another full day of the ceremony left.
We've been sort of blank DVD to burn this even presenter. OK, and then it gets to a point where they finally have the final key. OK, I'm pairing off the computer code, everybody. It's a big step.
And is there a high five? OK, it's unplugged. No, we're done.
Oh, and then.
To sort of cap it off, the last step is so I mean, if you want to use the angle grinder, everybody takes their computer code and ceremonially destroyed it, because in the case that the computer holds like a ghosty fingerprint of that, like original piece of the key, they just want it gone.
We saw the computer into pieces and missed smashed the pieces with a hammer and dropped the crushed pieces into a giant bonfire.
And that was that. And now they were sort of at the moment where they're like, OK, well, we we actually did the technological thing, which was we created the system. And now the bigger question was, did they create the alchemy that they needed to inspire trust, like were all of the protocols and the video footage and all that stuff? Was it all enough, especially now that they had this phone thing happen, especially now that they have the phone thing looking like did we do what we needed to do to show the world that they want to buy into this thing?
So five days after the ceremony ended, the currency began. To an insane fanfare, really, it was crazy cash is a cryptocurrency built on Bitcoins code base that is dedicated to protecting your privacy till oh gosh, you're going to a lot.
But I think it went up to like four thousand dollars. Easy going Z cash coin. It is the first digital currency to combine and that is the bitcoin high at the time is like around fourteen hundred. So that's insane.
Well so if the goal on some level at the very beginning of this conversation was to inspire the community to then use it, it seems like it has. It has done that. Yeah. Yes. Do people continue to point back at this phone moment and wonder and speculate? Oh, some yeah. People of people want me to they want to know, like how it resolves and how does it resolve.
I mean, did you give him your phone?
So what actually happened was we went to this bonfire and then by the end of it, everybody was sort of rushing off. I was rushing to the to the airport and just, like, gave my phone to go. And was like, we'll talk about it. I trust you don't do anything that I haven't agreed to.
So you ended up in the in the spirit of the whole endeavor in some way now.
Molly Webster, I didn't get to tell you that we have to do it again. Well, you have to go through all of this again, so we have to do it again because we're upgrading the cryptography and ze cash.
Good God, man, what have you started? We're going to do a new ceremony, deploy new approved cryptography. We keep thinking of improvements.
We want to make de de de de de de de de de de de de de de de de de de de de de de de de de de de de de de de de de de de de de de de de de de de de de de de de de de de de de de de de de de de de de de de de de de de de de de de de de de de de de de de de de.
This piece was produced by Molly Webster and Matt Kielty. The Denver ceremony station recordings were created by media maker Nathaniel Kramer. Thanks, Matt. And also thanks to his assistant, Daniel Cooper. And lastly, very special thanks to Morgan PAC. Her reporting on the ceremony obviously was sort of the anchor for our piece, and you can find her article at, I believe, Spectrum. We will link you to it from radio laberge. OK, we will be back in.
Robert will be back with me in a couple of weeks. I'm Jad Abumrad. I'm Molly Webster.
Thanks for listening.
Hi, this is well, Zogbaum. I'm calling from sunny Seattle, Washington. Radiolab is produced by Jad Abumrad. Dylan Keith is our director of Sound Design. Soren Wheeler, a senior at our staff includes Simon Adler, David Campbell, Tracy Hunt, not guilty, Robert Krulwich and Ian McEwan, Lateef Nasser, Melissa O'Donnell, Erin Black and Molly Webster. Help from some power. Rebecca say something unique, a fatality. Phoebe Wang and Katie Ferguson, our fact checker is Michelle Harris.
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