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​Opting Out - A Review of the Hackers Congress in Prague

optout Photo Credit: Amin Rafiee

Another vibrant Hackers Congress in the cryptoanarchist hub of Paralelni Polis in Prague, advocating for personal liberty, innovative thinking and social development.

The sixth annual Hackers Congress was held in Prague over the weekend of 4th-6th October, bringing together crypto-anarchists, activists and innovators from around the world. The event delves into the themes of freedom, decentralized economy, science, technology, politics, media and system-hacking, providing people with a set of alternative views and possibilities.

The Congress is hosted in the cryptoanarchist safe haven of Paralaleni Polis, located in the Holešovice area in Prague. Inside the intriguing, black-painted building titled with "Institute of Cryptoanarchy", a Bitcoin café is revealed, along with a vibrant coworking space and communal education centre. More than a venue, Paralelni Polis is a strong community of like-minded individuals. During the Congress, the halls are filled with a great variety of people - old and young, local and from all across the globe. With bitcoin-bought coffees or beers in hand, people come together to build together a parallel reality for the dangers and injustices posed by the current social, economic and political state of the world.

The theme of this year was "Opt Out". Paralelni Polis writes to use "cryptographic technology to regain privacy, to save freedom, to step up from the first constrained realm and to build the second one. Achieve new freedom using globality and flexibility. Opt-out of the system!"

In line with this theme, many speakers focused on the reasons why one would opt out of the system, and provided the tools to do so.

The highlighted guests this year included the regular appearances as well as some new faces. Geographer Nick Middleton spoke about the unrecognised states existing on the borders of legitimacy that are deliberately made invisible in global politics. Independent journalist Reinaldo Escobar Casas described the difficult process of overcoming the restrictions by the Cuban government on media and free speech. Aragon One co-founder Luis Cuende explained the development of a fully decentralized court and legal system. The regular cyberpunks also made an appearance - Cryptohippie Paul Rosenberg explored the community structures of "opted-out" societies, while the masked privacy advocate, Smuggler, discussed his work on anonymous digital cash.

The protection of privacy in Paralelni Polis is taken most seriously. Photographing people is prohibited (unless explicitly asking for consent). You will also find people casually walking around with masks, hats and sunglasses, safeguarding their personal identity. Another unique feature of the venue is that only cryptocurrencies are accepted for payment - namely Bitcoin, Litecoin and Monero. A special conference badge was given to attendees, which served as a Bitcoin and Litecoin wallet for easy payments. For those less savvy with the cryptos, help is unconditionally offered, and people can make use of the Bitcoin ATM.

The Hackers Congress at Paralelni Polis remains a special time of year for many people. Amin Rafiee, a regular speaker at the conference, has developed a close relationship to the establishment:

"I am grateful to have been attending the Hackers Congress, hosted by Paralelni Polis, since 2015. Much has changed in those 5 years, though I am proud to say that the core values and vision have not shifted. It is the only place in the world operating purely on cryptocurrencies in its 6 years of operation. This is mostly due to the dedicated and well informed individuals who founded the concept, as well as all the people who keep on supporting and contributing to its growth, without sacrificing integrity. Paralelni Polis has become my home and the gold standard of cryptoanarchy and crypto-related events."

With a sold-out event of 500 people, with 45 speakers as well as a buzzing network of journalists and media representatives, the event is growing in popularity and international attention. Every year, the Congress sees more foreign speakers and a more international audience. However, the team is determined to remain in the building of the Institute of Cryptoanarchy, which means it would not be possible to scale the conference. Paralelni Polis founder, Pavol Luptak, expressed the importance of the building to the quality and authenticity of the event.

So to get your hands on a ticket for next year's congress, keep your eyes open for #HCPP20.


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Tuesday, 12 November 2019
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