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First Go “Gray”

If You Want to Be a Nuisance

by Toby Esterhase

This is not a treatise on hair coloring.

This is a discussion about hiding in plain sight.

Protest movements had success prior to the technology-enabled surveillance state; less so now. The color revolutions of a decade ago did much more than change government policy: they replaced governments entirely. In the past 10 years, however, activists who challenge government policy have either been ignored or “canceled.”

A sort of neo-Communism has taken over. This century, instead of total government control of the means of production, there is total government control over the means of communication. The deep state is a merger of corrupt, globalist business, sociopathic pressure groups, and the state.

Making the point once again that there is no practical distinction between Communism and fascism.

“Gray” Is Not Just for Preppers

While most preppers lean towards the survivalist culture, and think mostly in cataclysmic terms, spending lavishly on their “go bags” for a TEOTWAWKI collapse (look it up on DuckDuckGo), they do recognize the value of being the “gray person.” That means a person who does not stand out in any way, physically, politically, or culturally. A “gray person” dresses like a poor college student and wears the obligatory hoodie.

Call somebody by the wrong pronoun and you will be lucky to only lose your job. In Canada and Michigan you could go to prison for five years.

North Korea and Canada treat unintentional disobedience in a similar way, only differing in the degree of punishment.

Dialing down the fear factor several notches so that you can live a reasonable life means being exceptionally controlled in every facial expression and word that you use. This won’t work, of course, but the alternative, which is presenting an anonymous face to others, might become practical soon.

Making “Grayishness” Available to Everyone

Remember the anonymous, numbered Swiss bank accounts that every bad guy owned in the movies of the 1960s? Well, maybe you aren’t old enough. But the beauty of the numbered Swiss bank account was that the bank didn’t actually know the identify of the account holder. Anyone with the account number could access it.

Modern surveillance, forensics and Know-Your-Customer (KYC) laws put an end to all that.

Privacy technologists are working hard to bring back the ability to live and conduct business anonymously by creating an immutable digital ID that would be accepted by counter parties in transactions, yet be unconnected to the physical you (as defined by facial recognition or DNA).

Better yet, you could create a practically-unlimited number of different anonymous digital IDs — a different one for each business transaction for example. Yet, each one of these would inherit your trustworthiness, credit worthiness and reputation. And, if you aren’t a social media author, you don’t even need to worry about those things as long as you are using an anonymous digital currency to pay for things you need in your life.

Combine anonymous digital currencies with anonymous digital IDs, and you can pretty much restore the kinds of freedom we had before the technological surveillance state arose.

The essential pieces of these technologies all exist today, but they need to be integrated into a package that the average person can use and, even more important, software rules are needed to prevent the user from inadvertently giving away their anonymity. It is this last part — the anonymity preservation rules — that are creating problems. For example, if you want to order something from Amazon, pay in Bitcoin, and have it shipped to your home address, the digital ID you use must not be the same or related in any way to the digital ID that you use to send a donation to a political dissident. If you re-use the same digital ID for both, you have revealed your address and therefore your anonymity is lost. Humans are poor at maintaining this kind of discipline. Hence the need for software-enforced rules.

Even so, anonymous digital ID looks to be less than two years time away.

One aggregator of policy (non-technical) discussion on this topic is the Twitter thread (sadly, the corresponding web site was taken down) hosted by the Beckman Klein Center at Harvard University. #GoodID. This Twitter account accumulates studies and formalized research descriptions of efforts to counter government-forced global digital ID efforts by, for example, the World Bank.

For technological progress summaries, the Electronic Frontier Foundation ( is the most-reliable.

(Toby Esterhase is the pseudonym of a Silicon Valley technology investor now living in rural Washoe County.)

((The views expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the Nevada Signal.)