Cicada 3301 is a mysterious organization seeking "highly intelligent individuals"


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That reminds me of my youger days when Transmeta was all cool and mysterious for a while and it all evaporated as soon as they unveiled their product.

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I’m pretty sure this was just an ARG (Alternate Reality Game). The game I’m involved with revolves around all of the same concepts.

Look up The Black Watchmen kickstarter if you are interested in joining.

And if it’s not an ARG, I might suspect that the principal activities of this mysterious organization of highly intelligent individuals consist of getting sloshed at the pub twice a month.


Isn’t puzzle solving and brain game proficiency becoming pretty un-mysteriously mainstream in a lot of HR processes? e.g.:

Funny, because I thought the NSA was just getting clever.

There is a little more at FastCo Labs. Intriguing stuff. My own interpretation is that it’s a test for cybersecurity/cryptography group, due to the content and high-level math/coding skills required in certain parts. But who knows? Maybe it’s all a fancy ARG.

It’s obvious if you do well on this, Robert Preston will try to recruit you to fight space aliens along with a friendly reptilian navigator. But don’t worry about your friends and family – an android duplicate named Beta will fill your role on Earth while you are gone.


seems like scoop-interview-decide would be much more effective for a government or corporate-funded crypto group. i’d bet on it being an ARG, with a slim possibility of it being a legitimate group of amateurs.

still, anything that makes the world more interesting is fine by me. i ran into a 20s-ish drifter on the Harvard Bridge once who asked me if i really knew what symbols were. i reluctantly said “yes,” and he clarified that he meant “symbols” and not “cymbals.” i repeated myself with growing trepidation, and then he told me that he’d made a crypto breakthrough in the (paper) notebook he was carrying, but was afraid that the NSA would steal it again.

so i know that the odds are overwhelmingly on this guy just having a screw loose, but i still like to imagine that he had actually cracked RSA or whatever, possibly for the hundredth time, except that he keeps forgetting his notebooks at various cafes where they are thrown out.




Or at least sell you some marching band uniforms and instruments. Your town might even get a monorail out of the deal.

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The problem with these “open” online puzzles is that whenever you search for some clue, all you find is other people’s theories (or even solutions), which sort-of spoils the whole thing a bit.
If you are into this kind of thing, here are two sites with similar challenges (but which have a tight control over what kind of information will float out onto the Web): &

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The real question is which country or group “disappears” you when you solve it?

Hurray, you just won a life being forced to crack passwords for the Russian mafia in some dank basement, or even worse, a job at the NSA. :frowning: This seems like an area where anyone smart enough to have these skills would also be smart enough to not make them known…


uh, no. real life doesn’t work that way. generally, they are paid a small fortune instead, which makes it quite smart to make your “skills” known. also, these skills, while uncommon and valuable, are not nearly as rare or special as popular media would have you believe.

now, keeping one’s actions secret is another subject…

I was hoping this was a signal that somebody was recruiting to set up a lockstep civilization. If so, I’m in.

you must live in a very different real life! i wish we lived in a world of rainbows and unicorns and ponies and where everyone had large sums of money thrown at them for such skills. Who is paying small fortunes for cryptographic analysis?

Unfortunately, the two main groups that are recruiting and have use for such skills are clandestine government organizations (not just the US) and international criminal organizations, neither of which is know to pay well for such skills or take no for an answer.

despite most cases never coming to light, there are a number of documented cases of very talented people having been forced to work for such criminal organizations. The Russian mafia is well know internationally for force recruiting individuals for such work, and no they aren’t paid well nor can they leave.

yeah, all of my friends who are high-paid security consultants and semi-prestigious academics must be figments of my imagination. those ph.d. classes in computer science must have been taught by the complete idiots who just couldn’t hack it in a serious environment.

i know some black hats too, with a few really harrowing stories to tell, but none of them have ever involved being abducted by shadowy groups (well, apart from going to prison after a farcical trial, but that’s not what you meant…).

kidnapping and imprisonment is the best way to cut someone’s intellectual productivity to nearly zero. why bother? pay them instead, or use soft coercion (“we know you did X, so you should consider doing Y for us, or someone will find out.”).

cyberpunk novels are interesting and fun reads, but they’re still fiction.

do you have any recommendations? I’ve never read any, but they do sound fun and I’d love to read some good ones.

again, what company or school pays well for these skills? I know some non-imaginary people in both the academic and security circles, and despite being very smart they get paid horribly when compared to other similar related fields. I’m sure they’d appreciate knowing where these skills are getting paid so highly, so please do pass along the names of the universities or corporations that they could apply at!

Also, ask some of your many highly paid friends in crypto analysis if they are afraid to travel to any countries with their skill set, see what they say.

i dunno, man. as far as i can see, there are three possibilities. either you consider ~$100K/yr. starting pay to be “horrible”, or you haven’t even bothered to start looking, or these people aren’t actually very smart. i can’t help you in any case.

please let me know about a single person who has been abducted for his skills alone, not because he got in too deep with bad people, or such.

Don’t worry I get it now.

You have many totally real not at all made up highly paid crypto analysis friends and for undisclosed reasons cannot reveal where any of them work or teach for such high sums despite being asked twice. You have to protect those top secret wealthy professors, we wouldn’t want anyone finding out about them and attending their schools.

I also now realize that you have special insight into why the two organizations responsible for the most kidnappings in the world, and are also responsible for the most cyber crime in the world, would never ever use the one for the purpose of the other. Got it, my mistake.

I never meant to doubt your ph.d. or your true importance and elite circle of friends. I have since seen the error in my assumptions and you’ve convinced me to switch careers and become a millionaire crypto analyst. Maybe one day I’ll see you on one of our crypto analysis private yacht parties and can thank you in person over champagne and caviar for correcting me and pointing me to this new totally real carrier path of wealth. THANK YOU.