The Three Requirments for a Post Scarcity Economy

March 27th, 2012 | Posted by paul in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on The Three Requirments for a Post Scarcity Economy)

I have identified just three necessary ingredients for achieving a fully sustainable, post-scarcity economy – open information, open manufacturing and full regenerative use of local materials. All of these are proving to be unstoppable.

Lets look at each of them in a little detail:

1) Open Information  – The modern trend towards increasingly open information began with the Gutenberg printing press in 1436 and became unstoppable ever since.  There is not a single instance anywhere in history where information has been successfully censored indefinitely. The Internet is merely the most recent and dramatic example of this ongoing information explosion. Despite the best efforts of powerful interests everywhere to control and censor information, information wants to be free, and makes it so. The end result will be a totally decentralized and uncensored global network “brain” where everyone will be able to create, share and receive bits from anyone else. For example, the Pirate Bay, the biggest victim of censorship attacks, is now designing and building solar powered, high-altitude (70,000 feet) wireless servers that will be extraordinarily difficult to shut down. Open source hardware devices like the $50 Arduino and $25 Rasberry Pi, are only the beginning of cheap, widely available general purpose computing devices. With the rapid digitization of everything, including books, music, movies, money, recipes, formulas, designs, manufacturing processes, patents, copyrights, trade secrets, state secrets, solutions of every kind, and most importantly computation itself, the genie is out of the bottle for good on this one. No amount of laws or wars to stop it will succeed. Sadly, until the old order collapses, much of the progress in these domains will be done by outlaws.

2) Open Manufacturing – With the advent of open-source desktop manufacturing, the means to create physical goods locally will be made available to all. Open sourced manufacturing generates some dramatically positive outcomes:

  • Radically improved product design without planned obsolescence – think 50-100 year product lifetimes. Indefinite product lifetimes means no further expenditures on tools, and radically reduced requirements for new materials. This translates to far less consumption, waste and strain on the planet.
  • Modular construction methods for easy and rapid construction, repair and upgrading. Example: Wikispeed designed a totally modular car in less than 3 months that gets 100mpg, has 10 minute average repair times, and can be changed from a gasoline to an electric car (and back again!) in less than an hour. Currently automobiles are deliberately designed to fail within a few years, in which repairs and parts are both expensive and difficult to replace. This planned obsolescence is a deliberate design flaw for maximizing auto industry/auto mechanic profit margins. Open source automobiles totally eliminates this waste and expense.
  • Designed from the beginning to use local and biofriendly sources of raw materials – current business models favor the use of expensive or hard to obtain materials for maximizing profit margins. If the materials are cheap and readily available, prices can’t be fixed by resource hoarding. There are strong incentives withing the current closed-source system for incumbents to use materials and processes that are hard to duplicate elsewhere. Prices only drop when their is genuine competition in raw materials. By designing open-source products to use locally available and renewable resources, the price fixers, hoarders, renters and other middle-men are completely cut of of the equation.

3) 100% Regenerative Use of Local Materials – Currently many of the products of our civilization require precious materials from far away places. However the means to create advanced technologies like high capacity batteries and computer processors is becoming possible using everyday organic materials like carbon. A good example is graphene, a new and spectacular type of carbon molecule whose strength and electrical conductivity is greater than any material ever recorded. Already people have figured out to make graphene supercapacitors and do microlithography (the process used to make microchips) using nothing more than a $50 DVD burner! The continued work on creating new materials using readily available recyclable and biodegradable resources makes the possibility of having an fully regenerative, earth friendly, advanced technological, post-scarcity, thriving abundant civilization, a tangible possibility. See Spime.

 

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Open Source Cars

March 16th, 2012 | Posted by paul in DIY/Maker - (0 Comments)

 

 

WikisSpeedRoadster

Wikispeed Roadster

There’s a manufacturing revolution going on that is making it possible to produce most of what we currently buy from the global production system (multi-national companies, like Walmart, and China) locally, within our own communities.  That even includes products as larger and complex as cars.

Wikispeed is making an open source car.

Wikispeed is an online car company with a volunteer team of designers, engineers, and enthusiasts all over the world.  Recently, this team jointly designed a complete car in a stunningly quick three months that:

  • gets high performance,
  • achieves 100 miles per gallon mileage,
  • meets all US safety standards,
  • uses modular construction (so that all parts and subsystems can be easily replaced).

If you want to take on the challenge of building this car in your town, check out their technical videos.

I want to point out that modular construction means that the most difficult repairs could be fixed in less than 10 minutes. No more devastating $2000 mechanic bills.  You simply plop the part out, and put the new one in. This is exactly how airplanes are built – to be very easy and fast to repair. Cars on the other hand are made intentionally difficult to fix in order to maintain the Auto industry/auto mechanic money racket. No more planned obsolesence either. There open-sourced cars can be made to last indefinitely.  Imagine that, one and only car purchase, and should you get bored with it, upgrade it, or swap it out. What this means is a lot less stress on the planet, less materials consumed, and far less energy.

For our purposes, it’s important to understand that this design can be made in a relatively small, local “factory.”  A factory that employs craftspeople you know.  A factory that you can visit.  A factory where it may be possible to participate in the manufacturing process. Here’s a video of one Joe Justice, one of the team leaders, talking about how they did it:

 

So how it is possible to build an awesome 100mpg street legal and beautiful car in three months?  Scrum:

The Scrum Framework in 30 Seconds

  • product owner creates a prioritized wish list called a product backlog.
  • During sprint planning, the team pulls a small chunk from the top of that wishlist, a sprint backlog, and decides how to implement those pieces.
  • The team has a certain amount of time, a sprint, to complete its work – usually two to four weeks – but meets each day to assess its progress (daily scrum).
  • Along the way, the ScrumMaster keeps the team focused on its goal.
  • At the end of the sprint, the work should be potentially shippable, as in ready to hand to a customer, put on a store shelf, or show to a stakeholder.
  • The sprint ends with a sprint review and retrospective.
  • As the next sprint begins, the team chooses another chunk of the product backlog and begins working again.
Scrum_Sprint_Cycle
For more information see Wikipedia entry on Scrum, and the Scrum Alliance.

Wikispeed has recently inked an agreement with the people over at innovative Open Source Ecology.

Local Motors is also working on their own open-sourced, locally manufactured automobile.

[Source:  Resilient Communities]

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Bye Bye Apocalypse: 5 Hopeful Trends

February 16th, 2009 | Posted by paul in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on Bye Bye Apocalypse: 5 Hopeful Trends)

Ok, the future of doom and gloom is getting old fast. At this point, nobody can predict the future, not even Bruce Sterling, Dmitri Orlov or Warren Buffett. Even the billionaires are getting hosed by the economic downturn.  But what this really proves is we have entered a new era where the old rules no longer apply.  That prospect scares a lot of people, especially the ones who’ve gained the most money and power by maintaining the status quo.  The elite have become naive enough to think they can continue getting away with theft and cronyism without any consequences (i.e. mob revolt), but this time they’re wrong. Asynchronous power is getting stronger all the time, which is why the worlds most powerful military is loosing to a small number of decentralized insurgents. I predicted the current economic crisis back in 2002, in my post Capital, Power and Ecology, simply because business as usual is not sustainable.  It was destined to collapse, and my best guess at the time was that it would happen sometime within the next decade or so.

There is nothing like a crisis to spur rapid evolutionary growth. We are witnessing a level of creative destruction that is unprecedented both globally and historically. Yet solutions for every problem we face are already available right now. We have all the information we need. In fact we are drowning in it.

The current economic collapse, rather than being a indicator of worse things to come, is instead a wake-up call to re-engineer our society from the bottom-up to become more resilient, capable of withstanding unexpected change and upheaval. A resilient economy is also one that is more sustainable and integrated with the planetary ecology, and more responsive to the needs of all of its citizens. Economic growth can and will accelerate, but not by converting precious resources into cheap disposable products, but by making more intelligent use of the materials we already have! There is no reason why this intelligent growth (getting more from less) can’t increase indefinitely, or at least until we’re ready to leave the planet. This is what is called a regenerative economy, or what Bucky Fuller called, ephermalization, which is the idea of progressively doing more with less.

What most doomsayers like Dmitri Orlov don’t get is the process of ephermalization.  His prediction is that our only solution is to accept that we’re all going to be a lot poorer, and we should just get used to it. This is just nonsense, and he’s not helping the situation any. I suppose if wealth is defined as having tons of disposable material goods, then yes our wealth will diminish.  But is that what we really want?  Having an economy that depends on cheap imported products from China, using up more non-renewable resources powered by coal-fired plants polluting the atmosphere while inducing severe climate change, is just plain stupid.  So yes Dmitri is right, we are going to become a lot poorer in terms of Stupid Wealth, but a lot richer in terms of Smart Wealth (Please read the Smart Growth Manifesto for a great explanation of this idea).

The answers to future growth and wealth production are decentralization via localization, regeneration, remediation, renewables, and cybernation all of which results in greaterresiliency.  If we can achieve both local and global resiliency we can grow out of our technological adolescence and become a type 1 civilization.  This means the odds of our species surviving this century increases dramatically, and we can go on to become a space faring immortal civilization should that be our wish.

Here are details for the five trends I listed, and how each can change the world for the better:

Decentralization

This applies across the board.  Anytime critical needs are centralized the resources for those needs are subject to attack and failure.  If one power plant fails a domino effect can take place, knocking more power plants offline. The solution to creating a resilient energy supply that is resistant to overloads or sabotage is to localize power production through locally available renewable resources like solar, wind, and geothermal.  If every community had at least one power generator for every thousand people in combination with more renewable energy being generated on local rooftops, there is nothing short of a nuclear blast that could shut it all down. The more decentralized, localized and miniaturized the power generation, the more resilient and reliable it becomes.  In an ideal world all the power would be generated by the house or building itself.  This applies equally to food production, means of exchange (localized currency), manufacturing and defense. For an interesting read on localized defense, read John Barr’s Power To The People. The topics John covers are both frightening and reassuring. But here is a good excerpt:

A newly vigilant and networked public will push for much greater levels of transparency in government and corporate operations, using the Internet to expose, publish, and patch potential security flaws. Over time, this new transparency, and the wider participation it entails, will lead to radical improvements in government and corporate efficiency.

On the national level, we’ll see a withering of the security apparatus, but quite possibly a flowering in other areas. Energy independence and the obsolescence of conventional war with other countries will reduce tensions between the United States and the rest of the world. The end of oil will also force corrupt states, now propped up by energy income, to make the reforms they need to be accepted internationally, improving life for their people.

Perhaps the most important global shift will be the rise of grassroots action and cross-connected communities. Like the Internet, these new networks will develop slowly at first. After a period of exponential growth, however, they will quickly become all but ubiquitous–and astonishingly powerful, perhaps as powerful as the networks arrayed against us.

Localization

This is really the same thing as decentralization.  The localization movement is definitely picking up steam, as more people are beginning to realize that governments don’t work very well, and needs are best met locally.  The aftermath of Katrina is a classic case of government gone wrong. There is a great book called The Transition Handbook: From Oil Dependency to Local Resilience, which is a users manual for transitioning your community from one dependent on centralized sources of food, energy, and currency to a localized one.  A localized resilient community would be one that generates all of its own food, energy and many or most of its products. Desktop manufacturing will do a lot to bring the power of production down to the local level, reducing the current expensive and polluting means of transporting products from one corner of the globe to another. A product designed in Malaysia can then be sent online to you in Kansas, where it can be manufactured locally. A resilient community would also have a robust locally issued currency that is immune from government issued fiat currency that is fixed and manipulated by the most powerful for their benefit at the expense of everyone else.(See the video Money is Debt, for a fantastic explanation of the evils of corporate banking and government issued fiat currency). Localized currency is the way to go, and their many thriving examples, including the Totnes Pound in the UK, and the Berkshares in Western Massachusetts.  At last count there are over 1200 local currencies in the US alone. The Totnes Pound was the brainchild of the author who wrote The Transition Handbook.  He’s created a network of towns in the UK that are all making the transition to local resilience.

Another great idea is a Time Bank, where you deposit time by doing tasks for other members, who in turn get paid for your services with time they deposited. Time Banks are now operating in 22 countries and growing.  Here’s a good quote from a guy who has combined the two concepts of local currency and time into what he calls Ithaca hours, in Ithaca New York.

We printed our own money because we watched Federal dollars come to town, shake a few hands, then leave to buy rainforest lumber and fight wars. Ithaca’s HOURS, by contrast, stay in our region to help us hire each other. While dollars make us increasingly dependent on transnational corporations and bankers, HOURS reinforce community trading and expand commerce which is more accountable to our concerns for ecology and social justice.”

Regeneration

Regeneration is the ultimate endpoint of comprehensive recycling.  To accomplish this will require two primary fronts of advancement.  The first is new, efficient and cost-effective means to recycle materials we’ve already created, and the second is transitioning more of our products to using materials that can be recycled.  Advances on both fronts will result in a middle ground combination of materials that are biodegradable, low or negative carbon footprint specific, and/or easily recycled non-biodegradable stock.  Advances are happening on all these fronts, and those companies willing to spend money on research and development stand to reap huge financial rewards from innovation in recyclable materials and processes.

In the meantime, there are huge tracts of land that have been destroyed by pollution or non-sustainable agricultural processes.  The solution is to engage in aggressive bioremediation efforts to regenerate the soil, clean up the toxic waste and polluted water stores.  Solutions for this are already here, including nanofilters for cleaning water, microbes for cleaning and rendering harmless toxic waste, and advanced permaculture methods for bringing dead land back to life. John Todd developed what are called Living Machines, that can turn waste water back into drinkable water.  With Todd’s help the Tennessee Valley Authority has already done this with their water supply, and has cleaned up their polluted river in the process. There are many good sources for information on how to  do this for yourself. Some good starter books include Introduction to PermacultureFrom Eco-Cities To Living Machines,  Edible Forest Gardens, and Mycelium Runnng (which shows how to remediate dead soil using mushrooms).

Renewables

This is a no-brainer.  If your energy supply is produced locally from readily available sources such as wind, solar and geothermal, there is no dependence on outsiders, whether it be large energy corporations or foreign states for supple of your energy needs.  The added bonus is the energy is clean, green and non-polluting, which in turn eliminates the expenses added by pollution, including health costs and remediation of polluted lands.

Cybernation

This involves both the continuing transformation of more of our world into bits, which can be transported and replicated at next to no cost, and the increasing intelligent automation of more of what makes our world run.  If more of our services and products are conducted and generated online, it reduces the need for material and energy costs of doing the same thing in the analog world.  Just imagine how much energy costs will be reduced by reducing dramatically the need for transportation of goods, when they can be made locally by the advancement of desktop manufacturing technologies.

Then there is the continuing network effect ov more people get online, more high quality information becoming available, and connections to people and resources becoming more relevant through semantic intelligence, peer-to-peer knowledge exchange and better social networking services.  And with Moore’s Law of accelerating returns we’ll continue to get computer power for less and less money.  Advances in all the areas mentioned above will become accelerated too, as everyone can connect with the right people at the right time, spreading knowledge, know-how and creative solutions more rapidly than ever before.

Resiliency & Anti-Fragility and Thrivability

So what’s the result of all this?  Our quality of life will improve dramatically because we’ll all be wealthier, healthier, and safer from smart growth.  This will produce cost savings in the trillions per year, reductions in pollution and far greater resiliency for our world.  Imagine the incredible reduction in cost when all of the materials that are currently being chewed up by mining, the cutting down of rain forests, and the pollution of lands and waters, are no longer needed.  Imagine if you can get almost everything you need within 5 miles of your home.  Imagine the cost reductions when food, energy and materials are all available locally through permaculture, biointensive gardening, local aquaculture, living machines, abundant clean energy and desktop manufacturing.  It’s a future worth working on, and we can start building it today.

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The 2009 quest for Edge is “What will change everything?”. There are lots of great ideas, many of them transhumanist in flavor, including indefinite lifespans and superintelligence. Below are some of my favorites:

The Limits of Reductionism in an Open Universe from Stuart Kauffman:

The evolution of the biosphere, the economy, our human culture and perhaps aspects of the abiotic world, stand partially free of physical law and are not entailed by fundamental physics. The universe is open. Many physicists now doubt the adequacy of reductionism, including Philip Anderson, and Robert Laughlin. Laughlin argues for laws of organization that need not derive from the fundamental laws of physics.

I’ll give one example – autocatalytic sets. The central point about the autocatalytic set theory is that it is a mathematical theory, not reducible to the laws of physics, even if any specific instantiation of it requires actual physical “stuff”. It is a law of organization that may play a role in the origin of life. But then it is not true that the unfolding of the universe is entirely describable by natural law. This contradicts our views since Descartes, Galileo and Newton. The unfolding of the universe seems to be partially lawless. In its place is a radically creative becoming.
The Renaissance of Global Education:

Haim Harari has this to say:

First, a technology-driven globalization is forcing us to see, to recognize and to fear the enormous knowledge gaps between different parts of the world and between segments of society within our countries. It is a major threat to everything that the world has achieved in the last 100 years, including democracy itself. Today’s world, its economy, industry, environment, agriculture, energy, health, food, military power, communications, you name it, are all driven by knowledge. The only way to fight poverty, hunger, diseases, natural catastrophes, terrorism, war, and all other evil, is the creation and dissemination of knowledge, i.e. research and education.  The time is with cheap and ubiquitous communication technology to make all the worlds knowledge available to everyone.

As someone whose spent any years teaching young people, I found Chris Anderson‘s words inspiring.

Take this simple thought experiment. Pick your favorite scientist, mathematician or cultural hero. Now imagine that instead of being born when and where they were, they had instead been born with the same in-built-but-unlocked abilities in a typical poverty-stricken village in, say, Ethiopia of 1980. Would they have made the contribution they made? Of course not. They would never have received the education and encouragement it took to achieve what they did.  Conversely, an unknown but vast number of those grinding out a living today have the potential to be world-changers… if only we could find a way of unlocking that potential.

Two ingredients might be enough to do that. Knowledge and inspiration. If you learn of ideas that could transform your life, and you feel the inspiration necessary to act on that knowledge, there’s a real chance your life will indeed be transformed. Five years ago, an amazing teacher or professor with the ability to truly catalyze the lives of his or her students could realistically hope to impact maybe 100 people each year. Today that same teacher can have their words spread on video to millions of eager students.

The realization that today’s best teachers can become global celebrities is going to boost the caliber of those who teach. For the first time in many years it’s possible to imagine ambitious, brilliant 18-year-olds putting ‘teacher’ at the top of their career choice list. Indeed the very definition of “great teacher” will expand, as numerous others outside the profession with the ability to communicate important ideas find a new incentive to make that talent available to the world.

Achieving A Type I Civilization

A lot my thinking, especially recently, has centered around how we can become a Type 1 Civilization.  Doing so means we have grown up and matured out of our technological adolescence. We’ve achieved global peace and prosperity, created a total regenerative and environmentally sustainable economy, and abundant clean energy.  It means we have learned to live in peace with ourselves and our fragile planet, and our ready to move off-world and begin colonizing the galaxy.  (See my post Healing the Planet, on some ways we might achieve this).

From Michael Shermer:

This January, 2009, in particular, finds us at a crisis tipping point both economically and environmentally. If ever we needed to look to the past to save our future it is now. In particular, we need to do two things: (1) stop the implosion of the economy and enable markets to function once again both freely and fairly, and (2) make the transition from nonrenewable fossil fuels as the primary source of our energy to renewable energy sources that will allow us to flourish into the future. Failure to make these transformations will doom us to the endless tribal political machinations and economic conflicts that have plagued civilization for millennia. We need to make the transition to Civilization 1.0.

Let me explain. In a 1964 article on searching for extraterrestrial civilizations, the Soviet astronomer Nikolai Kardashev suggested using radio telescopes to detect energy signals from other solar systems in which there might be civilizations of three levels of advancement: Type 1 can harness all of the energy of its home planet; Type 2 can harvest all of the power of its sun; and Type 3 can master the energy from its entire galaxy.

We are close. Looking from this past toward the future, we can see that the forces at work that could prevent us from reaching Civilization 1.0 are primarily political and economic, not technological. The resistance by non democratic states to turning power over to the people is considerable, especially in theocracies whose leaders would prefer we all revert to Type 0.4 chiefdoms. The opposition toward a global economy is substantial, even in the industrialized West, where economic tribalism still dominates the thinking of most people. The game-changing scientific idea is the combination of energy and economics — the development of renewable energy sources made cheap and available to everyone everywhere on the planet by allowing anyone to trade in these game-changing technologies with anyone else. That will change everything.

The Transhuman Cambrian Explosion

I think the metaphors most futurists use limit the imagination of what’s possible.  Talk of “machines” or “robots” or “artificial intelligence” simply doesn’t do the post-human universejustice.  I do like Andy Clark‘a crack at it:

But what really matters is the way we are, as a result of this tidal wave of self- re-engineering opportunity, just starting to know ourselves: not as firmly bounded biological organisms but as delightfully reconfigurable nodes in a flux of information, communication, and action. As we learn to celebrate our own potential, we will embrace ever-more-dramatic variations in bodily form and in our effective cognitive profiles. The humans of the next century will be vastly more heterogeneous, more varied along physical and cognitive dimensions, than those of the past as we deliberately engineer a new Cambrian explosion of body and mind.

A Never-Ending Childhood Through Re-establishing Brain Plasticity in Adults

From Leo Chalupa:

Several laboratories have already discovered ways to manipulate the brain in ways to make mature neurons as plastic as during early development. Such studies have been done using genetically engineered mice with either a deletion or an over-expression of specific genes known to control plasticity during normal development. Moreover, drug treatments have now been found to mimic the changes observed in these mutant mice.

In essence this means that the high degree of brain plasticity normally evident only during early development can now be made to occur throughout the life span. Imagine being able to restore the plasticity of neurons in the language centers of your brain, enabling you to learn any and all languages effortlessly and at a rapid pace. This technology could provide a powerful means to combat loss of neuronal connections, including those resulting from brain injury as well as various disease states.

I am optimistic that these treatments will be forthcoming in my lifetime. Indeed a research group in Finland is about to begin the first clinical study to assess the ability of drug treatments to restore plasticity to the visual system of adult humans.

See Alison Gopnik for more implications of this.

Beyond Governments and Markets: Fluid Social Cooperatives

New social systems have been the hope of utopian and hippie thinkers, but maturing networked communications technology could make it practical and achievable.

From Yochai Benkler:

The Great Deflation of 2008 has shown the utter dependence of human society on the possibility of well-functioning government to assure some baseline stability in human welfare and capacity to plan for the future. On the other hand, a gradual rise in volunteerism and cooperation, online and offline, is leading to a reassessment of what motivates people, and how governments, markets, and social dynamics interoperate. I expect the binary State/Market conception of the way we organize our large systems to give way to a more fluid set of systems, with greater integration of the social and commercial; as well as of the state and the social. So much of life, in so many of our societies, was structured around either market mechanisms or state bureaucracies. The emergence of new systems of social interaction will affect what we do, and where we turn for things we want to do, have, and experience.

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Digital Lockdown: Ming’s Response

December 15th, 2003 | Posted by paul in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Ming has an excellent response to the Digital Imprimatur and my post. He mentioned that open source is gaining ground every day, and competition of chip manufacturing, especially in Asia should help keep competition alive that could ameliorate wide-spread adoption of DRM at the chip level. He agrees that the centralized traffic map of the net is a bad sign, as few pipes are much easier to control than p2p meshnetworks. But getting a meshnetwork across oceans without an expensive pipe or satellite is not possible as far as I can tell. There is still the emulation/encryption model I suggested, but I’m no expert and don’t know of its feasibility.

Ming concludes with the following:

So, is the answer to just implement these things whether it is legal or not?

Well, I’d say that the strategy ought to be to put technologies in place that are inherently controlled by their users or grassroots groups, rather than central control, and which can be easily configured for a variety of uses. Like that GNU Radio thing. Or mesh network protocols. Or like Linux. Or like file sharing. Or open media formats like OggVobis. Or open encryption standards. Nobody’s saying they will be used for anything illegal, but they could, if the climate turns too oppressive.

I think it is essential to share good information about what is going on, and what the alternative efforts are. Important to make the issues known, so that even non-techies know what they are. Anybody who buys a computer or a TV should know what DRM is and what the intention with it is, and what the alternatives are.

Here are a few informative sites from people who work on keeping technology open:

Freedom to Tinker 
Abusable Technologies Awareness Center
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Electronic Privacy Information Center
The Internet is for Everyone
CopyFight
Lawrence Lessig

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Nation States are Obsolete

March 4th, 2003 | Posted by paul in Uncategorized - (1 Comments)

I have felt for a long time now that the optimal functioning of nation states has passed. However, unlike globalists I do not believe in a one-world government as that would be the least common denominator of everything that is wrong with any concentration of power. Adam Greenfield has come up with what he calls The minimal compact: An open-source constitution for post-national states. Those who caught on to the potential of networks early on saw their disruptive potential to the existing power base. Networks are inherently decentralized and hierarchy flattening. They tend to level the playing field and enhance the democratic process. So far though, this promise has yet to be realized to its full potential, but I believe it is inevitable and ultimately necessary if we are to survive the accelerating rate of technological and societal change we are experiencing.

From Adams introduction:

In recognition of the apparent inability of nation states to adequately address and provide for human goals and desires in the twenty-first century, and anticipating that if anything this situation will only worsen, it is desirable to begin thinking about alternatives to this obsolescing structure.

Of interest are alternatives that are designed from the beginning to:

  • Ensure the greatest freedom for the greatest number, without simultaneously abridging the freedoms of others.
  • Permit individuals with common goals and beliefs to act in their own interest at the global level and with all the privileges afforded nation states, even when those individuals are separated by distance.
  • Provide robust resistance to attempts to concentrate power, and other abuses of same.

This paper is intended to sketch, however schematically, just such an alternative.

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Copyright Yourself

January 15th, 2003 | Posted by paul in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on Copyright Yourself)

Since copy and intellectual property rights (now reaching oxymoronic proportions) have been given the stamp of iron-clad permanence and near holy sanctity, I thought this might be the perfect solution to protect our individual identity and privacy:

Starting today, I hearby copyright my own unique creation – myself. My face, body, personal stats, biometric identifiers, speech, writing, and movement through space is hereby protected copyright to the fullest extent of the law. Everything I do both publicly and private is considered a performance. Anyone who copies my information in a database, shares my personal information with others, is guilty of piracy. My identity is mine, and mine alone, and falls under the purview of copyright protection. Anyone who has a copy of any of my unique identifying information, including fingerprints, iris scans, walking gates, and DNA, and possesses that information without permission is now elgible to be sued.

I admit this idea is absurd, but given the current intellectual enclosures, is it? I didn’t write the rules of the game, the IP cartels, Congress, WIPO, and now the US Supreme court did. On the other hand, perhaps this is a way to use their laws to protect ourselves from invasions of privacy and unwanted intrusiveness of surveillance, which in this context is “stealing” our copyrights, and then pirating that information by copying and sharing it across countless government and corporate databases.

Anyone who sees a flaw in this argument is welcome to contact me.

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Creative Commons

December 31st, 2002 | Posted by paul in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on Creative Commons)

This may be old news for some of you, but Lawerence Lessig and gang have started the Creative Commons whose aim is to give the creators of original works the power of open source with the protections of copyright using a fuzzy scale adjustable to each creators needs. And as I discovered today, they have a blog up and running.

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Promising Developments in Open Software/Radio

December 18th, 2002 | Posted by paul in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on Promising Developments in Open Software/Radio)

A story in Business 2.0, The Penguin Takes Flight, talks about a new project called Mo-no, that could revolutionize Linux software development and finally give Microsoft a run for their money.

Here’s why Mono is hot: First, it promises to make translating most new Windows programs into Linux fast and easy. That means someday soon anything from Quicken to your company’s supply-chain software could be ported over to Linux with the double click of a mouse. Second, Mono could speed up the development of new Linux applications by as much as a factor of three. “Those are two big battles,” Icaza says. “We are going to win at least one.”

And a story from Salon called Free Software Radio.

Call them hackers of the last computing frontier: The GNU Radio coders believe that any device with a chip should be able to do, well, anything. OK, now imagine the looks of terror on the faces of existing machine makers. Imagine if the only thing stopping your handheld PDA from simultaneously being a GPS receiver, phone, radio or miniature TV was your willingness to download and install some free software program.

Main Website: GNU Radio.

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Freenet Comes of Age

November 8th, 2002 | Posted by paul in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on Freenet Comes of Age)

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.

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