Hacker News Re-Imagined

Cryptographers are not happy with how you’re using the word ‘crypto’

  • 119 points
  • 11 hours ago

  • @furcyd
  • Created a post
  • • 125 comments

Cryptographers are not happy with how you’re using the word ‘crypto’


@elipsey 7 hours

Replying to @furcyd 🎙

If you think "crypto" is short for cryptocurrency, you're probably exactly the kind of person who should stay away from cryptocurrency.

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@jgrahamc 10 hours

Replying to @furcyd 🎙

See also hackers not happy about hackers being called hackers.

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@Grimm1 10 hours

Replying to @furcyd 🎙

Unfortunately language isn't a static thing and is somewhat defined by the dominant usage of something over time (unless you're in the rare country that has fully prescriptive language). I had been using crypto as shorthand for cryptography for a long time but cryptocurrency quickly subsumed that. If I talk to any of my non technical friends, and even technical friends who don't touch cryptography, crypto = cryptocurrency. I think the war is lost here.

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@323 10 hours

Replying to @furcyd 🎙

Language is what's used.

Words can change meaning, like "drone", "literally" and so many others.

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@SilasX 9 hours

Replying to @furcyd 🎙

I’m not, either — it makes it harder to search for articles on each of those topics!

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@bdcravens 9 hours

Replying to @furcyd 🎙

From the industry where most of the participants have a degree in computer "science"

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@rektide 10 hours

Replying to @furcyd 🎙

Since there's no other such comments, I'm just going to chime in & say I'm extremely sympathetic.

This is a classic case of confusion, of two things being mixed together & fused, in terminology, when they are distinct areas. Our languages are, as many commenters point out, flexible & changing. But when that flexibility leads to the distinct & clear becoming mixed & hazy, that is usually a loss.

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@defgeneric 6 hours

Replying to @furcyd 🎙

The crypto- prefix has been used in all sorts of contexts.

In politics, for example, terms like crypto-fascist/crypto-marxist/crypto-Royalist are used in texts from at least the 19th century where the meaning adheres to the original sense of intentionally hidden or obscured.

Edit: a quick look at occurrences of crypto-* from the 19th century shows varied usage from medicine, architecture, and especially religion (crypto-Jesuit, crypto-Protestant, etc).

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@nicwolff 7 hours

Replying to @furcyd 🎙

If you want to see "not happy", ask a licensed architect how they feel about people like me calling ourselves Systems Architects.

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@lordnacho 10 hours

Replying to @furcyd 🎙

Spiders aren't happy with what you call "Web Design".

Languages change over time. Even words like "nice" don't mean what they used to mean.

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@hanoz 8 hours

Replying to @furcyd 🎙

So now the true meaning of crypto is hidden?

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@rhacker 9 hours

Replying to @furcyd 🎙

Meanwhile docusign is still advertising "Digital Signatures" lol!

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@dpryden 8 hours

Replying to @furcyd 🎙

I am finding this article and the comments here very surprising. Do a large number of people actually believe that the word "crypto" means exclusively "cryptocurrency"? Does anyone believe it means exclusively that?

To me it seems similar to how "auto" as a noun is generally short for "automobile", but most people are aware that other things can also be called "auto". When a camera says it is "auto focus" I cannot imagine that any normal person would assume that phrase has anything to do with automobiles.

It is incredibly common for the same word to have different meanings in different contexts. I personally have literally never had a conversation about cryptocurrency in which any person used the word "crypto" to mean "cryptocurrency", so I am clearly out of this loop. But if people decide to use it that way as slang in a certain context it certainly doesn't change the meaning of related words, or even mean it's impossible to use a different slang meaning in different contexts.

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@vmception 8 hours

Replying to @furcyd 🎙

Cryptography shortform had 100 years to bubble up higher in the lexicon and didnt.

This fight is over. Just accept a second context, the second being the more obscure cryptography definition

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@hugocbp 10 hours

Replying to @furcyd 🎙

Totally understandable, but that has ship has probably sailed a while back.

Trying to fight this now is very likely a losing battle.

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@nnoitra 10 hours

Replying to @furcyd 🎙

One way to fix that is to tell them you rolled your own crypto

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@beej71 4 hours

Replying to @furcyd 🎙

Once when I was giving a presentation about cryptography just as this whole cryptocurrency thing was kicking off, I titled the talk "Crypto!" without thinking twice about it. I was shocked at the extensive turnout. Who knew so many people liked cryptography? But most people left disappointed. :)

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@temptemptemp111 10 hours

Replying to @furcyd 🎙

Like 99% of "cryptographers" are just shills these days. They go around calling all FOSS absolutely insecure, and promote Microsoft/Google/Apple as best authorities to trust (root of trust). It is pathetic. Meanwhile they forget the goal of not having to trust other parties to create secrets; they forget what their entire profession was about.

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@dboreham 9 hours

Replying to @furcyd 🎙

Ship. Sailed.

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@astoor 9 hours

Replying to @furcyd 🎙

The underlying issue is hinted at towards the end: "cryptocurrency, on the other hand, is a relatively recent development ... that may or may not survive". It is not just that it is being confused with something else, but that it is being confused with something else which (in the eyes of most people in tech, excluding cryptobros) has exceedingly negative connotations. It would be like having the same personal name as a mass murderer.

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@thrill 10 hours

Replying to @furcyd 🎙

(laughs in cryptocalvinism)

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@jollybean 9 hours

Replying to @furcyd 🎙

That ship has sailed, and cryptographers will not regain use of that word at least for some time (maybe forever), best to find a new thing and move on.

I'll bet using the long form 'cryptography' would be ideal.

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@dr-detroit 6 hours

Replying to @furcyd 🎙

I beg to differ. We are using it as a synonym for what it is: anonymous global shadowstate figures human traffics drug pushers etc. Everything shady and hidden from view hence crypto you have "encrypted" your evil intentions.

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@KKKKkkkk1 10 hours

Replying to @furcyd 🎙

Not true. At this point, some of them have jumped in and are cashing out. See, e.g., Silvio Micali [0].

[0] https://www.algorand.com/about/from-our-founder

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@MiguelX413 8 hours

Replying to @furcyd 🎙

Semantic shift happens, prescriptivism is dumb.

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@meh2frdf 6 hours

Replying to @furcyd 🎙

The cyberneticians aren’t happy how cyber means infosec these days!

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@nice_byte 8 hours

Replying to @furcyd 🎙

I hate that the name of a well-respected technical discipline has been appropriated by a community full of scammers and con-men, but sadly I think this battle has been lost a long time ago.

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@jurassic 7 hours

Replying to @furcyd 🎙

If it makes you feel any better, numismatists and coin collectors are not happy about the coopting of the word “coin” either. For millennia a “coin” was a physical item (usually a metal disk) which served as a medium of exchange in commerce. Coins are typically accepted everywhere within the jurisdiction of the issuing authority, and sometimes even beyond if the coin is minted out of a metal with intrinsic value such as silver. (For example, Spanish silver coins were heavily used in the colonial US for more than two centuries. Europeans lived in North America since 1492 but we never minted our own coins until the 1790s.) Coins can also be used to pay taxes to the issuing government which helped maintain these physical coins as acceptable legal tender even when made from base metals carrying no inherent value.

I’m not a cryptocurrency expert, but from what I know it seems like cryptos don’t have any of these useful properties of money. Hoarding and manipulation by speculators coupled with limited opportunities to transact with them make cryptocoins a poor medium of exchange for most people most of the time. Proliferation of competing “coins” reminds me of the wild west early days of paper money where every local bank was printing their own paper but it probably wouldn’t buy you much in the next town over.

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@cblconfederate 10 hours

Replying to @furcyd 🎙

Let's call then Croins

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@echelon 10 hours

Replying to @furcyd 🎙

I'm not happy with "web3" trampling on the history of the semantic web, but what can we in the minority really do? Probably best to just shrug it off.

At the same time as crypto is in the limelight, I'd rather us not forget the lessons of RDF, triple stores, rich schemas, etc. Semantic models were well positioned just as the Facebook/Google platforms were taking off. The platforms just grew faster with VC and ad money.

If we'd have had a distributed/bittorrent moment for sharing our data outside of platforms, we'd have had messaging and news that worked like email. We were really close.

I'm sure the pendulum will swing back eventually.

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@nathias 10 hours

Replying to @furcyd 🎙

Philosophers are not happy how you're using all other words, so what.

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@vmception 7 hours

Replying to @furcyd 🎙

I was at a mixer recently and talking about digital assets with some other people at the table, I dont even think I said “crypto”, and this person from Amazon bee-lined into a holier than thou crypto[graphy] discussion as if there was ever any confusion. Followed by the distinctly corporate “enterprise blockchain has legs” before continuing their obscure irrelevant cryptography discussion. Of interest to them and not “big ole bad cryptocurrency” not noticing the relative morality of working for an exploitative corporation for decades.

This matches the level of socialization I’ve experienced with cryptographers my whole life.

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@hanoz 8 hours

Replying to @furcyd 🎙

This is what happens when you try and own a prefix, Facebook.

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@jacquesm 10 hours

Replying to @furcyd 🎙

We're all making a hash of it, apologies.

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@mig39 8 hours

Replying to @furcyd 🎙

To me, it's like the word "hacker."

I mean, we're on a site called "hacker news." If any non-technical person looks over my shoulder and sees the title of this site, they automatically think cyber criminal website. Because that's what "hacker" means to a majority of people. Heck, even to a lot of technical people.

"Crypto" is going down the same road. Sure, we know the difference. But most people think "Crypto" is Bitcoin. Period.

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@tptacek 8 hours

Replying to @furcyd 🎙

There are t-shirts, stickers, pins and mugs with "crypto means cryptography" printed on them. This linguistic squabble is so well established that it has merch. But I can't begrudge publications getting an easy bit of writing out.

This fight is over. You knew it was over the second time you were talking to someone you didn't know well, were about to use the term "crypto", and paused to check in your head how they'd interpret the word. "Crypto" means "cryptocurrency", not "cryptography".

We shouldn't be surprised: there's orders of magnitude more people interested in get-rich-quick schemes than in abstract algebra.

The cryptography engineers will be happier the sooner they let this go and find some new slang for themselves.

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@xiphias2 10 hours

Replying to @furcyd 🎙

Cryptographers should be happy about the importance cryptography plays in our world instead of being grumpy about how non-technical people use the word.

I personally significantly benefitted from understanding Bitcoin level cryptography, so I can't complain :)

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