“Bez penez do hospody nelez” is an old Czech proverb, literally meaning “don’t go to the pub without money” – but the proverb isn’t true at Paralelni Polis. That’s because Polis uses only the virtual currency Bitcoin, and no physical money. Bitcoin, invented in 2008 by Satoshi Nakamoto, enables Internet users to make decentralised peer-to-peer digital payments.
Nestled in the booming Holesovice district, Polis has an onsite Bitcoin ATM. Newcomers can pay either through digital wallets in smartphones or by QR-codes printed on paper cards, however, the staff is always ready to help with Bitcoin-payments. Bitcoins can be purchased on several website, like Bitcoin exchange, or received as payment for goods and services.
Polis gained attention after they organized the first group microchip implantation at the beginning of this year. The microchips implanted in wrists allow people to communicate wirelessly with electronic devices through Near Field Communication (NFC) technology. NFC chips are nowadays installed in smartphones as a replacement for credit cards or smart keys.
“I could pay just with my hand, and that’s kind of cool,” says Jan Hubík in an interview to Czech Radio. Hubík is one of the first Czech self-styled “cyborgs,” with a 700 CZK rice-grain size glass chip in his left hand.
Implantation caught his curiosity when he started coming regularly to Polis and found a practical use for the chip. Hubík organized a 10 plus person group implantation in January. “It’s supplied by a company from the United States (called Dangerous Things) and they supply it already preloaded in an injector. So you just have to sterilise the skin and then you can just inject it. Then it’s done. It’s really easy,” Hubík describes his implant experience.
“The idea was to create an absolutely independent space dedicated for people who search for another way to use and apply modern technologies, which is a strong tool for social change,” says Žílka.
The Hacker’s Congress in Oct. 2014 was not only the beginning of Polis itself, but also a fresh start for Martin Šíp. “Bitcoin is one of the tools for society to attain crypto-anarchy, a state where people can be independent of the government and genuinely free,” says Šíp. Noting that a highly developed organizational structure is a prerequisite for such a state.
The annual Fall Congress is a 3-day event with workshops and public lectures led by speakers ranging from Internet security experts and artists, to social activists. Its goal is to provide tools and guidance for the development of a civic society without state interference through emerging technologies centred around the Internet and crypto-currencies.
The brain and heart of Polis are on the third floor in the Institute of Cryptoanarchy, where regular events and meetups take place. Apart from public lectures, the Institute organizes panels and film screenings with the latter centred around death.
Criminologists, religion professors and sociologists discussed the meaning, acceptance and perception of the ending of life. Another, called Transhumanism, focuses on how humans transform in relation to technological developments.
“For me personally our 2 recent Bitcoin meetups have been a truly great experience,” Sip says, talking about recent visits by Andreas Antonopoulos, a Bitcoin expert and visionary, and Adam Back, a British cryptographer and crypto-hacker whose work has directly inspired the creation of Bitcoin.
Apart from virtual currency payments, the Bitcoin cafe on the ground floor offers premium quality coffee, homemade cakes and regular Thursday coffee and tea cuppings. Occasionally, they hold potluck freegan cooking events to raise awareness about the wasting of food.
Story & Photos by Martin Ranninger