Not Before Time

From Dan Shearer CV

The practical design paper NotBeforeTime v2.6 explains how existing technologies can be assembled to create a universal way to time-lock information accessed by everyday software most people already use. Underpinned by tried-and-true mathematics, this is a pragmatic tool that anyone will be able to use.


The paper explains in mostly non-technical language how:

Not Before Time combines existing technology to give three strong guarantees that particular information:

  1. will not be readable before a certain future time
  2. was not created before a certain past date and time
  3. was not electronically signed before a certain past time

These support human rights, democracy, health and business.

Implemented with simple, decades-old technology, NBT means:

  • Time locking information is the opposite of the trend for all information to be available instantly, everywhere.
  • The three guarantees work for ordinary users using their everyday software on their existing devices.
  • The mechanism and its novel new applications as easily explained to non-technical people, which is essential for a system to be trusted.

The health aspect addresses the mental stressors explored in recent work such as Dr Mark Rego in his Frontal Fatigue.


If you want to contribute to our experiments and refinements of this work I'd be delighted to hear from you. I have discussed Not Before Time in detail with:

  • Well-known cryptographers, who concur that all of the techniques involved are understood and can be rapidly and reliably implemented
  • Existing maintainers of broadcast technologies, including the global Domain Name System, distributed network time systems, and a Magellan satellite ground station.
  • Likely early commercial adopters, including law firms, construction tender companies and auction houses
  • Human rights and whistleblower defence representatives