I started working on cryptography as a way to do something more practical than pure mathematics. Waaaaaaay back in 1985 I discovered the Crypto conference in Santa Barbara at UCSB, and I was enthralled because I could interact with computer scientists, electrical engineers, business people, and other mathematicians on a subject that seemed to make a difference in the world.
Over the years I think cryptography has become less interesting to me, in part because of the formulaic trends of the mathematics, and in part because there is very little integration with the needs of humans. In reality the demand for cryptography is much less than it would seem, and few people are willing to pay extra for it, or change any of their habits. If cryptography is going to have any greater impact in the world, it is going to have to be better integrated with how humans think about and interact with information.
I still make the annual pilgrimage to Santa Barbara, but this year it is vacation and it’s primarily a social visit. I still like the subject, but I fear that the impact of the field stopped growing at least ten years ago. Most of the papers that are presented are devoid of any discussion about real systems or human interaction with information, but there are still interesting ideas that emerge. I’m looking forward to it.