Our Story: a Quest for Freedom within and through IT

The Trustless Computing Association and its spin-off startup TRUSTLESS.AI are the fruit of 17 years of the single-minded quest by Rufo Guerreschi to realize the potential of ICT to radically improve individual civil freedoms and democratic participation.

To this end, he founded and lead multiple NGOs and startups in the areas of e-participation, free software, and bleeding-edge privacy-enhancing technologies and standards. Such quest took him to cross path in 2013 with Roberto Gallo, who was on a similar quest and with similar determination, and with highly complementary skills, creating a steel bond that still lasts to this day.

It all started in 2001, when Rufo participated on the fields of Porto Alegre, Brazil, at the 1st World Social Forum, a historical event for progressive transnational political social movements, as deputy director of the World Citizen Foundation, an organization promoting radical democratization and empowerment of global institutions.

Together with many bright altruistic minds from all over the World, he envisioned how the Internet, booming at the time, could uniquely empower activists to democratically control and fuel powerful open transnational democratic movements, to promote the democratization of global and media governance.

After spending over one year in Seattle and around the World to acquire skills in advanced web and mobile app systems architecting at 4thpass.com (then Motorola), he then proceeded to enshrine such goals in 2003 in the mission and vision of a new non-profit Sammondano, (“those who share the some World” in Esperanto), which became the ultimate goal of every startup and non-profit Rufo founded and lead since.

In 2004, Rufo went on to found a privately-funded startup to develop open source e-participation platforms for political organization, Participatory Technologies, that worked with an organization in 3 continents and EU parties, considering EU-wide membership at the time.

In 2007, he moved on to pursue similar goals founding the Telematics Freedom Foundation, whose statute (doc in Italian) prescribed that the entire governance of the organization would mandatorily be transferred to the users of its open source e-participation platform one they reached the number of 10.000. Aimed to create the World 1st open and democratic self-determined cyber-social system. The concepts and web tools of “user-verifiable social telematics” and “transparent telematics”, digital “continuous democracy” were developed and promoted, laying the foundation for Trustless Computing.

In 2008, the CivicRoom – a crucial element of Trustless Computing, was conceived and demonstrated live in the center of Rome, whereby a jury of 5 citizens accountable to a non-profit guarantee extreme accountability of a server room. Such levels of assurance enabled end-users of security-critical open source web services, such web-based e-participation platforms of political parties, to radically be assured that the free software they downloaded according to the new GPLv3 Affero license – and the hardware stated by the provider – was the same as that running effectively inside the server room. The CivicRoom idea was first introduced by us in this 2007 blog post, constituted the core project of the Telematics Freedom Foundation, and has recently been validated further by the “2-man rule” for access to NSA server rooms proposed by the NSA Director in the wake of Snowden induced Datagate. In this video ­minute 33.21 till 36.00, Bruce Schneier, the most renowned IT security expert of the world, makes direct reference to the need to deploy in­person “secret sharing” schemes inspired to ballot box voting procedures. The CivicRoom was demonstrated with a physical installation in 2007, at major ICT event organized by the newly ­elected “IT Czar of Italy”, Alessandra Poggiani, in Ara Pacis in Rome.

In 2011, Rufo established the Trustless Computing Association (originally “Open Media Cluster”) as the core innovation catalyst for the Open Media Park, a 47,000 sq.mts. and 150M€ media/ICT technology Park, which is planned to start construction in Rome, Italy, in 2017. The Park project was launched through a 2012 event, Open Media Forum, coordinated by the Trustless Computing Association, with world-class partners and stakeholders of the Park and Cluster. By 2013, OMC gathered 13 world-leading R&D and industrial partners from the media/IT sectors to localize in a 5-6,000 sq.mts. innovation center, and initiate large-scale disruptive R&D projects proposal centered on next-generation open Web and cutting-edge IT privacy.

Then Snowden, in 2013, hugely raised the bar of the challenges to be tackled to turn IT from a means of societal control to one of citizen empowerment. Since 1983, the realization of such ICT potential to enhance freedom had been promised by Richard Stallman with the Free Software Movement, on one side, and by Steve Jobs’ Apple, with the famous “1984” Apple video ad, on the other. 30 years later with Snowden in 2013, it became evident that such promises had not only utterly failed, but the freedom and security of citizens and businesses had dramatically worsened. Ensuring the integrity of free software and good server-side process was not nearly enough to provide meaningful freedom. It became clear that everything was broken by design at birth, down to the CPU, random number generators, chip fabrication processes and even standards setting.

The bonds created at the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre lasted through the years, especially with the leaders of the local free and open source movement, with collaboration and joint of the young digital democracy activists of Porto Alegre become long-time co-founders, and other become leaders and minister of free and open source activist friends from the 2001 World Social Forum to help the Brazilian government turn IT – from a  tool for an Orwellian future, as Snowden had revealed – into a tool for democracy and civil rights, – to discuss ways in which constitutionally-meaningful levels of digital privacy could be achieved for citizens and institutions.

Since 2013, after years delays and bureaucratic problems of the Open Media Park, Rufo decided to steer the aims of the Open Media Park projects towards bleeding-edge cybersecurity solutions, conceiving the idea of a Trustless Computing Cluster and Campus, and we used the Trustless Computing Association to foster world-class large-scale project to create a cybersecurity ecosystem to locate in such Park.

Since 2014, we’ve built an expanding global community and consensus around our standards and ecosystems, through a tight-knit, resilient emerging consortium for Trustless Computing, made of globally-rare and unique technical partners, spanning the entire supply chain – including CPU, operating system, server room access management, fabrication processes, and standard-setting governance. These include: EU’s largest cybersecurity industry association, Italy, and Austria state secret standardization agencies, and in particular technical partners along the entire life-cycle stack, including: the world’s only maker of a fully inspectable microprocessor, KRYPTUS, the world’s largest AI R&D organization DFKI, and a leading open source microkernel maker, KernKonzept.

Since 2015, we’ve been fast expanding a consensus of top experts and EU institutions around our proposed Trustless Computing Paradigms and the Trustless Computing Certification Body as world leader in IT security through our Free and Safe in Cyberspace event series – held already in 4 editions over 2 years in Brussels, Brazil, New York, and again Brussels, next in Luxembourg and Rome. We partnered with Tecnalia and CapGemini to write new policy option for EU Parliament on cybersecurity standards.

In July 2016, as we expanded our technical designs, consortium and event series, we were selected and participated to the leading German hardware accelerator, the Berlin-based Hardware.co.

In April 2017, we signed a Letter of Intent for a Partnership for Trustless Computing with the fastest growing IT security R&D center in Europe, the Univ. Luxembourg SnT, which will expand our community to prospective private and public clients, global consultancies, and national state agencies, in addition to our Trustless Computing Consortium partners and the many industry partners of the University of Luxembourg SnT.

Since May 2017, we’ve been radically expanding our team, deepening the integration of blockchain and tokenization of the business model, and started working with 3 Luxembourg-based international banks – including Banque Internationale De Luxembourg and Unicredit – as well as with Transparency International global secretariat, and the EU party European Free Alliance, all interested in becoming paying pilot clients and/or channel partners for our CivicPod, and to join our newly launched Partnership for Trustless Computing.

On May 2018, as we are moving to Berlin our main office and hosting there an amazing new edition of Free and Safe in Cyberspace on May 4th in Berlin, we’ll launch several fundraising initiatives through equity investments in the startup, crypto tokens sales, Proof-of-concepts project for private and governmental institutions as well as research proposal.