The pro-democracy Six/Four project from Hacktivismo is a potentially valuable step to protect political dissidents and other people who have the quaint idea that their access to information shouldn’t be thwarted by government-run firewalls in places like China and Saudi Arabia.The basic idea is to use the Internet’s decentralized nature in a way that lets people create anonymous, secure data tunnels from here to there and everywhere. If this works, governments will be harder-pressed to prevent their people from communicating freely and seeing online material that, for whatever reason, is considered objectionable.
The paper, which is currently available here, is particularly striking in that it argues its way persuasively through the history, present and future of file sharing, the success or otherwise of ‘attacks’ (academicspeak for ‘lawyers’) on it, and concludes that file sharing will triumph.
I just read another great article on open spectrum by David Weinberger; something I have hyped here often. I feel I cannot post enough about this, and this is another good piece describing both the short and long-term but also the deep-term effects open spectrum could have on society – primarily that of participatory democracy. Lets hope this time it comes to pass.
- Short term, we will see a sudden breaking free from wireless gridlock: New bandwidth available everywhere. New local radio stations. Wireless connectivity among appliances in the house. Innovations wherever action at a distance or ubiquitous access makes sense.
- Long term, Dewayne Hendricks (founder of The Dandin Group and a member of the FCC’s Technological Advisory Council) says that we’re in the position Marconi was in 100 years ago when wireless communications were first invented. We can’t begin to imagine what’s possible, including — and Hendricks is serious about this — Star Trek-style transporters before this century is out.
- Deep term, the unleashing of wireless connectivity will eat away at one of our last remaining social dependencies on broadcast media. Right now, if you want to broadcast you have to get permission from the Feds and you have to have lots of dough. We end up with a society that sits on a couch, facing forward, listening to what people with money have to say. Our freedom is defined by the channel changer nearby. With open spectrum, a bottom-up conversation can begin over the ether, helping to make participatory democracy real.
There are a lot of developments coming our way that could bring back the free wheeling days of the internet before it became completely commercialized and monitored by governments. Technologies like Mesh Networks and high-speed 802.11g wireless gear, now available from Linksys, which will speed up wireless access to 54Mps and still be compatible with existing 802.11b networks. Combine this with cheap wireless devices, anarchistic p2p networks like Freenet and even anonymous e-cash, and who knows what will happen next. But like the internet in 1994, I couldn’t see how it could ever be controlled, yet 8 years later we have a network that is becoming increasingly closed, censored, monitored and proprietary. Currently, I am unable to see how they could bring decentralized wireless networks under control either, so who is to say? This time, I’m really hoping the genie stays out of the bottle.
Thanks to developments in anonymous communication, such as Freenet and the invisible irc project, anonymous digital cash has become a reality. Yodel Bank is offering ‘yodels’ as a form of currency you can exchange with people who you’ve never met outside of anonymous means. For example, you could pay for some web design or a hosting service anonymously, play video poker with real anonymous money on IIP, or make a donation to a charity without disclosing who you are. Yodel Bank is relatively new, but now that you can transfer money over IIP and Freenet, a real vibrant anonymous economy is springing up, and it’s unclear how government will react to this ‘private’ banking.
As I have written on several occasions, the reasons we are seeing so much repression and the resultant terrorist response, is because those in power are getting scared. Read this article, on the dilemma facing George W. Bush for the best analysis I’ve read so far.
The real power struggle is between the elite and the growing power base and unrest of the general population. Up until now, the elite’s power base has been built around the control over the dominant energy source – oil. Not only are the world oil reserves running our, but cleaner and more efficient alternatives are becoming available. Don’t you find it at least somewhat of a coincidence that those countries that harbor and/or support terrorists, are the same countries that have the greatest supply of remaining oil? The connection is so obvious I am genuinely surprised more people haven’t figured it out. This ruse that “we are a nation at war” with “dangerous terrorist organizations” and “countries with weapons of mass destruction”, is really just a cover to secure more oil and protect the power-wealth base of the elite. They couldn’t or wouldn’t stop 9-11 and they are unlikely to stop another terrorist attack no matter how many security measures they supposedly implement. The reasons that we are seeing all of these repressive measures is not to stop terrorism, but another way to repress the American people, who will increasingly question a war whose sole purpose seems to be making the elite richer while the rest of us poor bastards try to remain alive in the crossfires. Like Vietnam before it, people will become increasingly restless and angry at what is happening. The difference this time is the war will be at home. And to make sure another anti-war movement doesn’t get to far out of hand, they have already begun constructing the scaffolding of a police state – surveillance, biometrics, national ids, checkpoints, and massive monitoring of Americans to prevent just such a thing from happening again. The FBI is already bugging public libraries! They already own and control what was once a free press, and so you can be certain you will never see alternative points of view that would make you question it in the first place. But of course there is the Internet. Its effect on people’s views is growing, which is why they want to control that too. In the meantime, we are likely to see more terrorist events, which will be used to justify even more elimination of our freedoms. And the saddest part of all, is the American people will gladly surrender them. It’s the oldest tactic in the book. America, once the land of the free and home of the brave, will become the land of the enslaved and home of the afraid. Wait, I think we are already there.
However there are reasons I remain hopeful. Oil is running out. It’s only a matter of time. If the situation weren’t so critical for the power elite’s they wouldn’t be risking global war and instability. Regardless of whatever you’ve heard – war is not good for business. War is for desperate people. And these guys are really desperate. The same can be said for all the repressive measures we are seeing and likely to see more of in the US. Add to all this massive corporate corruption and the failure of genuine global markets to materialize, and you have a recipe for disaster. Therefore these guys are grabbing as much money and power as they can before the whole damn global political economy collapses. And the reasons it’s going to collapse is because they have been quietly plundering it for years. After all where did all the money from Enron and Worldcom go? To offshore accounts of course. That money will never be recovered. You and I and every stockholder lost, while the guys stealing it get away with it. It has become increasingly obvious that this same type corruption and thievery is happening at all the high levels of corporations and government.
Of course all of this is likely to make life for most of us worse in the short-term, but ultimately these machinations of war, greed, corruption and repression cannot be sustained. Something has to give and it will. For a deeper analysis of why, read my Capital, Power and Ecology. In the long run, assuming the entire world is not destroyed a global economy of freedom and wealth will emerge. An economy that is not only ecologically sound, but that is consumer controlled rather than corporate controlled. Bottom-up as opposed to top-down. An economy that favors transparent and fluid capital over one that is tightly controlled and secretive. Ultimately investors vote with their pocket books, and only the most ethical, open and effective business enterprise will survive. I hope we all live to see that brighter day. In the meantime, hang on to your hats – because this desperate war and the all the terrorist fallout is going to be a bumpy ride.
So many headlines of the past few years have a common background theme: the dependence of modern economies on a steady, dependable supply of energy, and the consequences of our current fossil fuel dependency for global stability and climate. Clearly this cannot continue forever. Worse still, most of the people of the world do not even live under modern economic conditions as yet, and as China, India, and other similar nations continue to progress, world energy needs will almost inevitably double or triple from their current levels. So where is all that energy going to come from?
In the November 1, 2002 issue of Science, Marty Hoffert of NYU and 17 co-authors have published an analysis of the energy options that will be available to meet world demand a few decades from now, under the constraint of constant or reduced carbon dioxide emissions. While there are many short-term measures that could make a difference, the only long-term viable alternatives seem to be fusion and space-based solar power.
Fusion is still a gambit, and could take decades before it energizes. Space-based solar power relies on mostly existing technology. Nanotechnology will of course improve the efficiency of such power systems, but it and the economic drive to build solar power satellites will reduce the cost of escaping gravity. With the economic drive to increase our energy output and the feasible and affordable means to do it – we will go into space. This economic drive will encourage large investments of cash into long-term sustainable space technologies.
For me the greatest prospect of migrating into space is freedom. Not only political and sociological freedom, but also means freedom from living on a contrained flat gravity-fixed surface. Combine all of this and you gain the ability,to create and inhabit any environment your imagination can conceive with freedom that only utopian anarchists imagined. Of course, virtual realities will be extremely sophisticated offering compelling cyber-spaces t rich in knowledge and interactivity.
What this all means is that as space access becomes increasingly affordable, more people are likely to become highly motivated to go there – perhaps to escape the repressive regimes of earth that may inevitably form to “keep the world safe” Like the new world, space will offer a release valve, of an over-populated and stangled earth, for a species that has outgrown the womb.
Freenet does what people thought the internet was supposed to do – free information from censorship. But as we know, information flows through propietary pipes and exists openly on identifiable servers. This means that not only is our surfing activity and email exposed to prying eyes, but that if certain information is offensive to individuals, corporations or goverments it can be removed. More importantly, it has become increasingly difficult to post information on the internet anonymously. The ability to speek freely, openly, and anonymously assures that ther person can speak their mind without fear of reprisal or even imprisonment or death. Freenet changes all that. Freenet has been a work in progress for over 2 years, and until now it has been cumbersome to use for the average user. Now, with the release of Freenet 0.5 (download here) it has an intuitive and easy to use interface. Freenet works by storing information in an encrptyed, decentralized and distributed manner. Information resides on individual computers on the network. But not even the computer owner knows eactly what information is stored on their machine. What this means is that even if a goverment were to demand that information be removed from Freenet at gunpoint, no one would be able to comply. Once information is published on freenet, its is essentially impossible to remove.
Wow, Monday morning and already there are plenty of exciting tidbits in the news. The first community based wireless mesh-network is up and running near Devon, UK. You can read about it here. As you may already know, mesh-networks are a disruptive technology because each device acts as a router for all other devices, eliminating the need for a centralized network.
In a recent speech FCC Chairman Michael Powell questioned the FCC’s assumption that spectrum is always scarce, suggesting software-defined radio’s and other new technologies should be allowed to operate on frequencies that are currently un-used or under-used. The speech doesn’t represent any policy changes at the FCC, but these initiatives could open enormous amounts of frequency that could be used for all manner of wireless devices (read: massive mesh-networks!).
An article in the New York Times this morning talks about a startup company in CA that says it will announce WiFi antenna technology today that can give a 2000 ft. range indoors (and up to 4 mi. outdoors). This would be awesome if they really deliver – because with greater range means more robustness and coverage of ad-hoc wireless mesh-networks, further speeding free communications away from centralized power borkers into the common user.
UPDATE: As of March, 2012, almost 10 years later, none of these technologies have never made it the public. The internet is more monopolized, centralized and controlled than ever. To my knowledge there are are no long-range wireless “mesh” technologies available to the general public.