"This is very fulfilling because when you thought the subject [of privacy and cryptography] must have run its course, it flares up again."
Those words, from cryptography legend Whitfield Diffie, perhaps captured the essence of the first day of CoinDesk's Consensus 2018 conference. Diffie famously co-authored a landmark paper in 1976 that laid the foundations for public key cryptography, a key element of modern internet security and of cryptocurrencies.
During a freewheeling, jovial fireside chat with zcash founder Zooko Wilcox, Diffie praised blockchains and cryptocurrencies, saying the technology represents a "resurgence" of the work he helped start in the 1970s to empower individuals and strengthen privacy.
The current era, he said, reminds him of the time around 1997, when attendance at cryptographers' conferences suddenly jumped from the hundreds to the thousands.
"These last few years have been another resurgence of cryptographic technology, and blockchain is now a huge refocus on the cryptographic aspects of these things."