Paralelní Polis: A Cryptoheaven in the Heart of Europe
For just over two years now, in the very heart of Prague, a conceptually and practically unique establishment called Paralelní Polis has been working to bring together the leading figures of cryptocommunity.
To have a better understanding of what Paralelní Polis is about some historical insight is needed, though.
Initially, “paralelní polis” (parallel polis) was a theoretical concept created by Czech political thinker dissident and philosopher Václav Benda in his 1977 essay that had defined the direction of protest philosophy in Czechoslovakia for years.
Inspired by both Benda’s ideas and development of cryptotechnologies, members of Ztohoven art-group have founded Paralelní Polis in a three-storied building of a former factory close to the Prague downtown.
Back then, the founders described their idea as follows:
“While absorbing cryptotechnologies, we have seen the practical implementability of those utopian theories, so we launched a unique “thinking hub” of freedom focused on expanding digital freedoms, cryptocurrency, anonymous network and free markets.”
The idea of creating the hub came about three or four years earlier, when Ztohoven, known for their frequent conflicts with authorities, joined forces with a group of hackers putting up various political performances. These fresh and tech-savvy minds have also brought new opportunities and aspirations to the group.
“Those past few years, they’ve been urging us to create a space for hackers in Prague that would focus on social and political issues. We searched for an appropriate space and eventually came across an amazing place. However, we also thought we could create something bigger than just a hackerspace, more of a social institution of a kind. It all resulted in Paralelní Polis,” Petr Žilka of Ztohoven told Radio Praha.
The Institute of Cryptoanarchy, a hackerspace complete with all tools required for unlimited distribution of information online and creating a parallel decentralized economy, is the cornerstone of Paralelní Polis’s infrastructure.
“By cryptoanarchy we mean a growing space of non-regulated internet, where unlimited data exchange and development of free market became possible thanks to anonymous tools, decentralized currencies like Bitcoin, and antispy encryption tools,” Paralelní Polis’s website reads.
The Institute’s concept also heeds the role of nation states and global corporations that own the data on economic behavior of the citizens, and, through the legislation they’ve imposed, have access to their financial transactions and consumer behavior patterns.
As folks at Paralelní Polis believe, new technologies give people with a choice: “thanks to fast internet, anonymity and decentralized cryptocurrencies we may retain the freedom that we’re losing as a society.”
In his recent interview with Bitcoin Magazine, Pavol Lupták, co-founder of Paralelní Polis, also cites some “dark” cryptoanarchists claiming that had cryptoanarchy been there a hundred years ago, the world wouldn’t see Hitler, Stalin and other mad dictators of the 20th century along with the world wars they had unleashed.
“We have to understand the main thing: regardless of all negative consequences of cryptoanarchy, it cannot stop, it’s here to stay, and people have to learn to live with it,” Lupták says.
Another important piece in the Paralelní Polis infrastructure is Bitcoin Coffee, the world’s first cafe to reject fiat currencies. The name speaks for itself: you can have a cup of coffee or something else here, have a snack or whatever, but you may only use cryptocurrency to pay for it.
If a visitor is not familiar with bitcoin, the cafe’s staff is ready to help out with its basic principles. In the cafe, they have a BTM and even a paper wallet printer.
“Even if you don’t have any device, this piece of paper would suffice. It doesn’t matter if you have bitcoins or not, are you experienced or not, we’ll show and tell you everything,” Petr Zilka says.
Recently Bitcoin Coffee has expanded the variety of offered goods by installing a vending machine that sells Red Bull, which also accepts bitcoins only.
And, certainly, the cafe’s baristas are probably the only ones in the world to get their wages in bitcoin.
Paralelní Polis would have been incomplete without a coworking space. Called Paper Hub, the space is open for freelancers, students, and startups, and offers a combination of arts, social sciences and technologies.
Paper Hub is critically important for the entire hub not just ideologically and aesthetically, but also financially. Attendees may have daily or monthly passes granting them access to office equipment, high-speed internet, individual lockers, a kitchen, and a conference hall for meetings.
Recently, a 3D printing workshop opened in the Paralelní Polis basement. Therein, one may both actualize their concept and attend workshop sessions to learn three-dimensional printing and creating of models.
While all the aforementioned activities are but a part of the hub’s daily routine, the annual Hackers Congress is probably the climax of all hub’s events.
A few weeks ago, the event seeking to go back to the bitcoin roots and its underlying philosophy, was held for the third time with cryptoanarchists and cyberpunks from all around the world attending.
Attending this year’s event were bitcoin evangelist Andreas Antonopulous and Timothy С. May, who coined the term “cryptoanarchy’ and whose predictions and visions are now coming true.
The list of speakers also included Paul Rosenberg of Cryptohippie; Vit Jedlicka, the president of Liberland; OpenBazaar lead developer Sam Patterson; founder and CEO of DECENT Mihaj Boda; and Manfred Karrer, the founder of BitSquare exchange. Attending this year’s congress was also Lasha Antadze, the project manager of Ukraine’s biggest blockchain project Auction 3.0.
Otherwise the congress agenda included three days of lectures, discussions and workshops featuring hundreds of technology enthusiasts and innovators. The attendees could also visit a fashion show where all the clothes were made with a 3D printer; witness the world premiere of Swarming Drones Show; and many more.
With active Bitcoin community in Czech Republic, local companies with global impact, like SatoshiLabs and Slush’s Pool, are part of Paralelní Polis activities as well. Put it all together, things look really great this cryptoanarchy hub with each events probably deserving an individual story.