David Chaum, world renown cryptographer and the founder of DigiCash, gave a keynote presentation on Deconomy 2018. He shared his personal experience on how and why he got into cryptography and provided a brief history of digital currency.
It started 35 years ago when he was a graduate student in University of California Berkeley, studying alongside with people like Eric Schmidt (Ex Google CEO) and Bill Joy (Co-founder of Sun Microsystems). David had a keen interest in cryptography as he saw the potential of cryptography, allowing people to protect their own privacy in the cyber space.
One day, he read an article on Science Magazine that the NSA was attempting to put a halt on all public research in cryptography. The NSA at the time was also pressuring large science organizations to cancel sessions or conferences in cryptography. In response to this, David Chaum, as a graduate student, organized a conference on cryptography that took place in UC Santa Barbara where about 100 scientists gathered.
David Chaum presented a paper in the conference. Titled, “Blind Signatures for Untraceable Payments” it introduced the concept of blind signatures which was later to become the basis of DigiCash. The paper first introduced the radical new idea of “number that is worth money”
Fast forward to 1994, the first World Wide Web conference took place in Geneva. David Chaum gave a keynote speech where he demonstrated the first international ecash payment from Geneva to Amsterdam live on stage. The demonstration that captured massive media attention was the beginning of DigiCash. Later, he and his team would further developed DigiCash and licensed the software to banks like Duetsche bank and Credit Suisse. David Chaum explained why he pushed e-cash out to the world. He had one goal in mind: He hoped the public would understand and expect to protect their own privacy using cryptography.
He made his closing remarks by sharing what he has been working on recently. He shared his ongoing work on the area of allowing individuals to have more control of their own cryptocurrency as well as in governance and distribution of digital assets.