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Radical Academy: Amir Taaki's New Hacker Team Is Spreading Bitcoin in Syria


Lugging an AK-47, fighting ISIS in Syria – Amir Taaki has seen some shit.

But, through it all, the hacker – best known for writing crypto code in abandoned London flats and creating one of the earliest dark markets powered by bitcoin – has kept the technology at the forefront of his mind. Now, emerging from his latest chaotic period, he's promoting the idea that the cryptocurrency needs to be taken back from central banks, governments and other powers that be.

In his first interview about a new unnamed project – which he simply calls "the academy" – Taaki laid out his plan to convert an entire region in northern Syria to a bitcoin-based economy.

While Taaki expects the project to take nearly 20 years to implement, he's completed the first step, recruiting a team of five "revolutionary hackers," who he describes as committed to ensuring bitcoin doesn't fall victim to the same fates as other once-revolutionary technology movements.

He told CoinDesk:

"Bitcoin is now in that crucial balance where it can either find itself, like the other technology movements that have come before it, confined to irrelevance, or people can start to gather together to try to really, truly think about, on a social level, what bitcoin is really about."

The idea for the academy came from Taaki's months on the front lines, fighting with a group of revolutionaries — the Rojava Kurds — who believe in direct democracy with little to no government. Financially cut off by embargoes against Syria and facing an inflating Syrian lira ($1 is worth over 500 lira), Taaki began to imagine how the cryptocurrency he had previously worked with could be used to connect the Rojava people in entirely new ways.

Following a period he described as being dedicated to study (after his time in the Middle East, he spent about 10 months in England on house arrest), Taaki drew up a two-year plan for an entity based in Greece that was part hacker collective, part social engineering experiment and part school.

Now with a small team assembled to work toward that vision, Taaki said his next step will be to expand it to as many as 20 individuals within the next eight months.

As part of the early stage work, the academy intends to organize a series of educational events to lay the foundation for a "large-scale payment network" powered not by central banks or even the internet, but with a combination of Wi-Fi-enabled ESP 12 modules and counterfeit-proof paper wallets, which he hopes the academy will be able to develop.

But while this might all sound radical, Taaki argues it's actually the normal, everyday people that are living a lie.

"What's happened in recent years is technology has lost that big vision that it had before, and it has just sunk into now a lot of people escaping into a kind of dreamworld," he said. "Bitcoin really comes at the end point, the tail end of that bigger political movement of the hackers, [but] even bitcoin is experiencing a lot of problems with a lack of vision."

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