I am not the only one like me out there. There are plenty of us pure folks around. We care to study the things that exist whether we humans are here or not; whether the universe exists or not. Theory excites us, and the thought of doing math strictly to engineer a bridge is incredibly dull...That is work for the boring, unimaginative applied folks. Us purists are excited by concepts and things being generalized to infinite dimensions, fascinating ideas that are philosophical, things that may never find any real use in the visceral world around us, things that may never make money, or help people out in any real fashion other than stimulate the intellect. I have always been a part of this camp, and it is why I chose to study pure mathetics as opposed to applied in undergrad. Ideas about the origins of mathematics excite me. Did we create it? Did it exist before us? What's the deal there? And from that, I have always liked to subscribe to the idea that mathematics is some ephemeral thing, out there in the ether that we are slowly wrangling and coming to understand. I think this is the sentiment all people in the "pure" realm share, no matter the subject. We care about those things that tease the mind, require deep and sometimes philosophical thought, and are more "important" than the strictly human things, like being a delivery driver or a doctor. I mean, there would be no medical field if there were no people...But there WOULD be logic and mathematics whether we inhabit this realm or not (I mean...maybe? Possibly?). A lot of times, I refer to things that are studied purely for the betterment of the self as things studied "academically". Maybe they are mental masturbation and nothing more, but still fascinating to us purists nonetheless.
In many ways, when you consider cryptography, even though it utilizes ideas developed by us pure folk in academia, it is pretty much a stricly applied area of computing and mathematics. The idea behind it, of course, being allowing for privacy and secure communication such that parties can communicate and share things with each other without the risk of bad actors intercepting it, modifying it, et cetera. So why would a someone interested in pure subjects give a shit? I mean, in terms of actual academic study, we are not really interested in things that "require us existing"...There is no need for privacy or worrying about bad actors or any such thing if we weren't here to begin with, or if in some crazy alternate reality, people were purely good to each other and there were no concerns whatsoever between people. Cryptography does not appear to be, on the surface, a universal secret to unravel - that's why we purists choose to study the math underlying it in academia instead.
However, there is an important thing I like to consider when it comes to things like privacy and security and cryptography, and that is that you are studying things academically for you, yourself. So, any time you are bored because you think, "Who gives a shit whether this bridge can sustain a car or not? Bridges and cars wouldn't exist without us anyway, they aren't some universal thing worth studying", you must remember that for there to be any conceptualization of anything at all, YOU at least must exist. There must be a "you" there to even think about things to begin with, to care at all. And, in general, that's all fine and good. I mean, that simply is what it is, right? So now, let's shift the setting such that YOU are the only thing that exists in all of the universe in the physical realm, and you are here studying the mathematics, learning the secrets of the universe, and basking in it. You naturally have autonomy, don't you? you are the owner of your thoughts, you are the inherent owner of all qualities and properties about you yourself on the inside, wouldn't you say? You are the only thing that exists, there is no one else to own you, anyway. At this level, you are the most important thing in the universe; you are the all powerful being who is unravelings the secrets of the cosmos for your own intellectual gratification. We purists cherish this feeling, and the studying of things academically is a deeply personal thing, since it might not ever really help anyone in reality anyway.
Let's shift the setting once more. Now consider we are in the real world. Someone has given birth to you, and you have grown into an adult. You didn't choose to be born, it just happened, and since you were a child, you have not only been the sole owner of the thoughts in your head and things that are publicly visible to others like your eye color or the length of your hair, but the sole owner of all of the attributes and qualities of who you are as a person, just like when you were the only person to exist in the previous layer. Say you like math, and you spend your entire life sitting in your room doing math. People of course would assume that you like math, but if you never share that information with anyone, it could just as easily be that you HATE math, and you simply feel the need to constantly punish yourself. It is your choice whether or not to share that information because you are the sole owner of said information, even if there are other people around. If you choose to share it with one person, if you choose to share it with many people, if you choose to share it with no one - it is entirely your choice, because you own this information about yourself. That is your prerogative, and the world is none the wiser, and us purists care deeply for our autonomy, because having autonomy mimics the state in which we like to exist - just us and the big secrets of the universe we must uncover.
Now let's say that, in some crazy alternate universe, you do NOT have that ability...That you are, by some force of nature, immediately required to dispel every piece of information about yourself to the world, that there is no privacy. If that were the case, would you really own yourself? There are no attributes or qualities that you are allowed to keep to yourself, and even if there were just ONE quality that you were FORCED to disclose, you essentially no longer have total self-ownership or total autonomy. To me, this is horrifying. After all, every little quality of yourself is simply a piece of thought, and in terms of owning your own thoughts and hence having autonomy, it is all or nothing. We purists WANT to be autonomous, because in our perfect headspace, we ARE autonomous, we are the sole proprietors of every secret the universe holds, on an endless quest for knowledge.
So how do we manage and preserve this in meatspace? We pick and we choose who we share information with. Do we have a friend, and want to tell that friend that we deeply enjoy mathematics? Sure! It's our information to share! But herein lies the problem. To do this, we would have to pull them aside in a private place, just the two of us, and make sure that our conversation is private and that only the two of us are speaking and divulging this information. Tt is your information, that you own, and it is your prerogative how you want to share it. The internet does not warrant us that freedom. People in America have friends in Iceland online. The Swedish have friends in South Africa. It is simply the nature of the game, because the Internet allows such things. In reality, I am far too poor to go to Iceland, how would I ever make a friend there? There is no good, easy way to communicate in real time, it isn't like the mail system is particularly reliable anyway. in meatspace. Luckily, the Internet is a tool that makes all of this possible.
Now we are reaching the title of the article. Why should pure folk care about this seemingly boring applied area known as cryptography? Because cryptography (and privacy) allow you to maintain your self-ownership in the online world, and us purists care deeply about autonomy. We care about autonomy because if we were the only person here to interpret these big concepts and ideas out there in the ether, we are stricly autonomous - and we would HAVE to be, because it is just us. For us to care about these things out there, we have to be there to study and interpret them, after all. And in the real world, if we HAVE to be surrounded by other people, and we HAVE to have stupid fields of study that are "human and fleshy", wouldn't we still deeply want to own ourselves? Is this not an inherent personality trait of us pure folk? To exist in our fantasy world, where we are comfortable?
Of course we would. Hence, even if cryptography is a boring, applied thing on paper, even if "sharing secret messages during war time" is a boring, meatbag concept - we live in a modern networked world. We all exist online, and there is nothing wrong with that. It is an amazing thing. The Internet has essentially moved the goalposts and taken something that would traditionally be applied, and made it something pure...Something that is sort of an inherent aspect of the Internet realm, something that would exist whether or not we are on the internet or not...Because if we were, we would still require that autonomy that we purists seek so intensely, even in our absense from that space. The Internet is its own realm. It is not meatspace. It is governed by a different rulebook in many ways, because it allows us to do things that we CANNOT do in meatspace. As such, something that might be an "applied area" in meatspace might NOT be one in cyberspace. This is the situation with cryptography. If us purists require total autonomy by our own nature, and we wish to exist in cyberspace - our own existence is innately tied to cryptography, because cryptography and privacy preserves our autonomy.
Tldr; People who like studying fields that are considered pure desire autonomy. Even if we care about the things that exist external to us, at least one of us must exist here to study it - and if only one of us is here, we are inherently autonomous, because we are the only one here (in our philosophical fantasy). Cryptography seems like an applied subject, and in meatspace, it is. But in the cyberspace realm, cryptography is a requirement for us to maintain our autonomy; there is essentially a new layer of complexity over autonomy. Hence, people who like pure things should care about cryptography, because people like pure things care about autonomy, and for there to be autonomy online, there must be cryptography, similarly to how for there to be any purists at all, there must be at least one of us here to give a shit about these secrets of the universe. And, of course, if this is not selling other purists on the idea of demeaning themselves by studying something traditionally considered applied, at least give me that you appreciate the idea that privacy is important, and that cryptography is important for that, even if it makes you groan. And if you have to learn cryptography, there is plenty of pure mathematics under the hood that you can study or work on that will fascinate you...Trust me.
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