Given a choice, which would you prefer: A world in which it is easier to encrypt information than to decrypt it? A world in which decryption is easier than encryption? A world in which the two stand in a cost/benefit equipoise?

When the question is put like that, the answer seems to depend on how we weigh certain core values. For example, if we prefer privacy over order, we might prefer the first world. If we value order more than privacy, perhaps the second world is more to our liking.

As it happens, we live in the first world. Modern encryption technology is cheap, widely available, and nearly unbreakable (when compared to its decryption counterparts). Yet we did not arrive at this state of affairs because we affirmatively decided as a society that we prefer the first world. We arrived here because encryption happens to be easier to achieve than decryption. That’s simply the way the technology works out. It’s a creature of happenstance. [...]

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