The dominance of Big Tech is coming to a close. So long as we can ensure that it doesn’t enslave us all first. Many people are beginning to wake up to their dependencies on large internet companies and are starting the process of migrating to free and open platforms that don’t rely on Amazon Web Services. Internet infrastructure was not designed for the end user to be a systems administrator, but the tools are being built out as the necessity for sovereign technology networks grows by the day. There is a surge of software being programmed and released for individuals to be more autonomous in how they interact with the world wide web. From operating systems to messaging protocols to data hosting to money, the “sovereign stack” (h/t LaserHodl) is growing exponentially.
Decentralization, privacy, and censorship-resistance are central themes of these tools as well as this article. Bitcoin teaches us the importance of being sovereign individuals and the actualization of decentralization and privacy through pseudonymity as a core principle in antifragility. This goes beyond the family finances and into the entire structure of our existence in society. When we decentralize our lives, communities, and governments, we prevent single points of failure. Decentralization is more than just a buzzword. It is a requisite for building resilient systems. Done poorly, it can lead to inefficiencies, but done well, individuals strengthen and the collective reaps the benefits. Privacy is a right in any free society and our current lack thereof is one reason I question how free we are. Reclaiming our privacy is one imperative goal on which we must act.
Since the Civil War the power of the American government has been trending towards centralization. In addition to centralization, the more recent creation of a Department of Homeland Security and the passing (and extension) of the Patriot Act, Americans’ right to privacy has been continuously eroding. The infamous whistleblower, Edward Snowden, shed light on the extent of the National Security Agency’s monitoring of the communications and internet history of every person in the U.S. and many outside. The sheer amount of information that is being warrantlessly collected by the American government from its own citizens is downright unconstitutional.
There has been a noticeable contingent of people expressing unease about the current censorship climate on Twitter after the announcement of Parag Agrawal’s promotion to CEO, with many people sharing a quote of his from MIT Technology Review stating that Twitter’s “role is not to be bound by the first amendment, but to serve a healthy public conversation.” Since Agrawal took over for Jack Dorsey, numerous accounts with substantial followers have been suspended, many of them sharing publicly available (though seemingly suppressed) facts. RIP to the Maxwell Trial Tracker and the Nancy Pelosi Portfolio Tracker. This purging has revived the censorship debate brought about earlier this year from President Donald Trump’s permanent account suspension in January 2021. No matter your thoughts about Trump as an individual or as a president, the fact that a company can shut off access to a sitting United States president is cause for concern.
I know I am not alone in the awareness of deteriorating civil liberties. Other people can feel something bubbling under the surface. Many people who may not have been aware of this trend are beginning to wake up thanks to the CEO of Pfizer recommending a fourth booster for a variant that is even less deadly than the last. People in many countries around the world have been protesting draconian restrictions for weeks and there’s not a peep on the news. Whether we are experiencing controlled demolition, monetary reset, sheer incompetence, or all of the above, it is a good idea to be prepared for any potential circumstances that may be out of our immediate control. This preparation takes different forms for different people, but there are tangible action steps that everyone can take to control more of their data, health, wealth, and sovereignty beyond buying bitcoin and holding the private keys. Many of these steps involve disconnecting from centralized technology. The network effects and familiarity of established platforms are a difficult comfort zone to leave. Now is the time for some needed discomfort that will have a meaningful impact on privacy and control over the exterior world. Below are a handful of ways to start the process of living as a sovereign individual.
(Disclaimer: I recently wrote an article contending that the adoption of Bitcoin in El Salvador and the lack of a global response could be a warning sign for a nefarious, clandestine attack. It may be useful to peruse that article, but it’s not a prerequisite for getting the most out of this one. There is a spectrum of how sovereign each individual chooses to be in regards to Bitcoin, technology, sustenance, and community. I do not claim to be an expert at any of the following and am doing my best to move further along the spectrum, while being aware that I am in the early phases of this journey. Some of the following examples are ones that I am not even doing yet! The examples listed below are not directly related to Bitcoin because the sovereignty related to being your own bank is complex enough to write about on its own. This list is meant to provide a framework for those who may be “post-woke” and/or may not know where to begin, but are ready to take the next step.)
Take Back Our Tech And Host Our Own Data
This is an overarching tech goal and has the most wide-ranging spectrum of personal preference for privacy. The goal to be completely private with online presence is a noble one, and I have found it to be extremely challenging. One step at a time … The most simple step for gaining some privacy online is to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN). VPNs can work on both phones and computers to hide IP addresses, which can be tied to a physical address. I’ve noticed some VPNs slow my connection down, but have recently been using ProtonVPN and haven’t noticed a change in speed. Mullvad is also a recommended option.
Parting ways with Google is another way to separate from data sharing. De-Googling a Pixel phone to install CalyxOS or GrapheneOS can significantly improve privacy. Even without a more private phone, people can use encrypted communications to further protect their data. Signal messenger and Element are two encrypted messaging services. My CalyxOS phone defaults to Signal, which is great when someone who has the Signal app sends an SMS text, my reply is automatically sent back through Signal. I am beginning to experiment with Element and hosting on my own Matrix server. For online document editing, Skiff is a great word processor similar to Google Docs. It’s not perfect, but it’s a great alternative. LibreOffice is another “free and open-source software” (FOSS) offline option. I’m looking forward to trying out the impervious.ai release, which is built on top of the Lightning Network as a Bitcoin Layer 3 protocol.
Hosting my own data on a personal server is my current learning curve as I am working to get all of my documents, photos, and other personal/professional things off of “the cloud.” A good rule to remember is that the cloud is just someone else’s computer. We can take back our technology and improve our lives by becoming more autonomous to free ourselves from dependencies. As Matt Hill said at The Atlanta Bitcoin Conference, “Every dependency in your life is an unactualized vulnerability.” One simple way for hosting data is with a Start9 Embassy. It’s a personal server that runs on a Raspberry Pi. The company will be releasing an update to the software any day now, which will allow users to add hard drives for extra storage to store all of their documents, videos, pictures, all while running a Bitcoin node. And at some point, I will set up pfSense router software to protect all devices on my network.
Grow Food And/Or Get To Know Local Farmers
This is a non-technological action step, but also the most important component of sovereignty: security of your food and water supply. It’s not a ton of work to grow a little food in pots or in a small garden, but if someone is unable to garden, it is imperative to go to local farmers’ markets and get to know farmers in the area. Sign up for a local community supported agriculture (CSA) box to get a weekly box of food and directly support those that are growing food. A local connection on sustenance can come in handy if the shelves in the supermarket are bare.
This is only one step of the solution to possible food shortages. In my area, farmers have plenty of animals on hand ready for harvest, but are unable to get dates for processing at USDA-approved sites. Some cattle ranchers in Nebraska, Iowa, Idaho, and Wisconsin are taking matters into their own hands to raise funds and build their own slaughterhouses. Just knowing farmers doesn’t guarantee food security, so getting a large chest freezer can provide space for stocking up.
Pro tip: Orange-pill the farmers to get them to accept Bitcoin payments!
Live A Healthy Lifestyle And Decentralize Health Care
This is another nontechnologal step, but one that can hopefully keep us out of the medical industrial complex. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Being conscious of physical health by regularly doing a well-rounded exercise routine is extremely beneficial to the immune system, mood, and mental health. In addition to physical exercise such as weight lifting, cardio, yoga, and stretching, doing a mental destimulation practice through meditation can clear the mind and bring awareness to subtle physical sensations in the body. Don’t forget the self care after workouts! Massage, acupuncture, and sauna plus cold plunge are my favorite ways to treat myself when my body needs some extra attention.
There are some wonderful prophylactics to support healthy immune systems. I’m no herbalist, but I like to take shots of fire cider, drink elderberry syrup, and supplement with vitamin C. Contrary to the current narrative, it’s completely normal to get sick. When I get sick, I often look to these herbal remedies first. Decentralizing health care means seeking alternative means of prevention and recuperation. If herbal remedies don’t work, I contact my acupuncturist for an eastern medical perspective.
Move Out Of Cities
Moving into the country where there’s lower population density to get away from cities can set people up for growing their own food and creating a homestead. Being in an area with lower cost of living and people who know how to take care of things themselves is a big advantage. Following stories of societal unrest, it is clear to see the major demonstrations are happening in and around city centers.
Homeschool Or Find A Co-Op
The school system is in dire straits. The climate for public schools with the restrictions for kids and mandatory masks, teaching of controversial curriculum, and standardized testing of skills not needed for success in the “real world” is an article unto itself (coming soon …). Private schools are more adaptable, but also costly and not necessarily free of these issues. Homeschooling or creating a small co-op is one of the only ways that parents can be in charge of what their kids are learning.
Each family has individual preferences for what their children need and homeschooling is not an easy task for families with two working parents. Until school choice becomes ubiquitous by vouchers, tax breaks, or other means, parents are limited by what they can afford. My family has chosen a small homeschool co-op as our preferred method of education for the time being. Our child is extremely social and needs to be around other kids as much as possible. There are many families who moved to our area to enroll in another specific homeschool co-op that took a stand by refusing to mask children and teachers. In my previous career as a teacher at a private school, it was apparent that many families want their children to have a unique, individualized experience that they would not get in a public school setting. Homeschooling or a co-op experience is one form of education that provides that individualized support where parents have a significant say in the curriculum.
Additional Resources: (DM me on Twitter for more educational resources)
Be Ready To Protect Yourself And Your Family
There are many ways one can protect themself and their family. If you are a United States citizen (and not a convicted felon) firearms are an option. Being raised as a gun-fearing, liberal Democrat, I had no idea where to start. The folks at the local gun range were incredibly kind and helpful to a newbie like me. They were excited to support someone who was curious about something they are passionate about. Now, I am capable and responsible with firearms, thanks to those kind folks.
Having a plan for different scenarios can also be an effective way of mitigating risk. As a child, I remember having a family meeting to make a plan in case there was a fire in our house. Considering the world seems to be on fire, my family is working out plans for what to do if we need to hunker in place or if we need to leave quickly. It’s a work in progress, but it’s a start. There are also ways that citizens can get a second passport (usually through investment in the region you wish to move to). Katie The Russian of Plan B Passport can support you with this option to be ready to relocate if things get dicey.
Build Community/Grow Your Network
We can’t do this alone. These past 22 months of “two weeks to flatten the curve” have demonstrated that we cannot survive on our own. Many people in younger generations are not a part of a religious community. Whatever your religious beliefs, community is a major need that was being fulfilled by churches, synagogues, or mosques. Because many people are not participating in these organizations anymore, we need to find other ways to build community, both physically and digitally. As I mentioned earlier, there are great Telegram groups with helpful and friendly Bitcoiners, homesteaders, and more, but these people aren’t there if the power goes out. Connecting with neighbors and people in the community can be tremendously helpful in difficult situations. The freedom-minded friends we’ve made in the last two years have even started discussing contingency plans for communal well-being, just in case.
The intention for writing this article was to organize both technological and natural ways to move towards sovereignty in various aspects of life. There are countless strategies and numerous levels of independence from the state. Each person/family will have their own idea of what’s best for themself/themselves. The goal was for some of these tools to be helpful for those of us who want to further our journeys to be less dependent on Big Tech and more self-reliant in order to preserve privacy, censorship-resistance, and free speech. For additional ideas, check out LaserHODL’s most recent appearance on Tales From The Crypt with Marty Bent. Laser shared his own list (starting at 1:25:55) which has different, though overlapping concepts. Matt Odell clarifies the purpose of this article with his tweet below.. I hope this piece was empowering rather than prescriptive.
Pleb together strong, independently. And remember: you’re not alone.
This is a guest post by Craig Deutsch. Opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc or Bitcoin Magazine.