In 2003, a group of Czech guerilla artists called Ztohoven began leaving their marks on government-claimed property in Prague. They turned a neon heart on a castle into a question mark. They published the cell phone numbers of government employees in an art exhibition. They even hacked a government news station and began to broadcast footage of an atomic explosion during the weather forecast.
After gaining notoriety for these acts and more for over a decade, the group has recently changed course. Earlier this month, Ztohoven’s artists joined forces with some of the hackers they’d worked with previously to form the Cryptoanarchy Institute. They’ve settled in a former factory building in a suburb of Prague called Holešovice. The name of their new haunt? “Paralelní Polis,” which is Czech for “parallel city.”The crypto hub’s pseudonymous spokesperson, Petr Žílka, told Hello Czech Republic:
“We want to create a living organism, a parallel structure that would allow people to step out from the system we are living in as much as possible. That’s why we also established a café, and a library and a co-working space where you can hire a table and can do your business.”
The concept of a parallel city was written about by Czech writer Vaclav Bendan in 1978. It’s described as “an independent society—a society that is not oppressed by laws and the decisions of the representatives of the public authorities. A society that is based on its own values, values which are not forced by the central authorities.”
“Nowadays many technologies that originally came from hackers are part of life and we use it,” said Žílka. “We want to show that there are ways how to get rid of all the regulations and enjoy your virtual freedoms [with] encryption and anonymization programs.”
Paralelní Polis will only accept cryptocurrency for payment. When asked if someone with only fiat would be welcome at the Cryptoanarchy Institute, Žílka replied that that’s exactly who the hub is for: people who want to learn about technologies with which they’re unfamiliar. He said:
“The house is an example of how it could work. . . This way we want to show that you can really start living like that and minimalize the influence of state and laws.”
A current offering at the new Paralelní Polis is called “Maker’s Lab.” The class takes place every Monday evening, and anyone is invited to come learn how to 3D print.
The Institute’s homepage makes clear its mission: “The aim of the Institute Cryptoanarchy is to make available tools for unlimited dissemination of information on the Internet and encouraging a parallel decentralised economy, crypto currencies and other conditions for the development of a free society in the 21st century.”
There are some people (yours truly included) who’ve begun to suspect the most complete form of anarchy in my lifetime will in fact take place in the cloud. The digital protection of identity and property—that is, cryptoanarchy—may not be physical, but does that make it any less desirable? Should cryptoanarchy perhaps become the new focus of freedom-seekers everywhere, as it arguably offers more tools and opportunities than can be found in the meat space?