Jeff Vail’s Theory of Power

June 1st, 2012 | Posted by paul in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on Jeff Vail’s Theory of Power)

by Dave Pollard

Jeff Vail’s short, free online book A Theory of Power begins with a series of provocative theses:

  • The best representation of our world, of what ‘is’, is not matter, but the connections between matter.
  • These connections define ‘power-relationships’ — the ability of one entity to influence the action of another.
  • The ‘law’ of evolution can therefore be restated as: if new patterns of forces can survive their impacts with one another, if they tend to hold together rather than tear apart, they then represent a stable collection of power-relationships which survive, self-replicate, and mutate into further new patterns which are in turn subject to the same law.
  • This law applies to physical (matter), biological (gene) and cultural (meme) patterns; all matter and life and consciousness, and their evolution, are ‘creatures’ of their/our material, genetic and cultural constituents, created for the perpetuation of these patterns and sustained through their stable power-relationships.
  • Because of the evolutionary success of memes (due to their ability to adapt and change much more quickly and successfully than genes), culture has come to play an increasingly dominant role in our planet’s power-relationships.
  • Most significantly, the advent of agriculture, which was provoked by climate change (the ice ages) brought about a necessary power shift from the individual to the group in the interest of memes’ survival, to the point the individual became largely enslaved to the culture, and the survival of the civilization culture now outweighs in importance the survival of any of its members or communities.
  • A consequence of that has been the advent of the codependent cultural constructs of market and state, and, as agriculture has enabled exponential growth in population and created new scarcities, egalitarian societies of abundance have given way to hierarchical societies of managed scarcity.
  • This hierarchy has been further entrenched with the cultural evolution of technologies that enable even greater self-perpetuation of the memes that gave rise to it, and have led to the ‘efficient’ subjugation of the human individual to technology — that’s the power-relationship that most supports the survival and stasis of the culture, and under it even those at the top of the hierarchy become slave-hosts to the memes and culture.
  • These memes and culture can now self-perpetuate and thrive more effectively with technology and the artificial constructs of market and globalizations than they could with inefficient and unreliable human hosts, so technology growth is now even outstripping human growth, to the point that humans are becoming commodities and could even become redundant.
  • So: if we are now becoming slaves to the machine-powered perpetuation of memes that are outgrowing their need for us (to the point that although catastrophic global warming and human extinction now seem inevitable, this is not something our meme-culture ‘cares’ about) can we, the human slaves, thanks to the genetic and memetic evolution of self-awareness, ‘liberate’ ourselves and defeat the meme-culture before it destroys us? In other words, can we consciously, collectively take control for the first time over power-relationships, and establish new power-relationships that put the genetic survival of the human race (and, hopefully, the survival of all other life on Earth on which that genetic survival depends) ahead of the reckless survival of the Frankenstein ‘civilization’ culture we have created?

Vail’s answer to this final question is a qualified ‘yes’. He argues that the way to establish power-relationships that put our genes’ interest ahead of memes’ is to “confront hierarchy with its opposite — rhizome — a web-like structure of connected but independent nodes”, borrowing from successful models in nature of such structures. The working units (nodes) of this ‘revolutionary’ structure are self-sufficient, egalitarian communities, and the concept of ‘ownership’ in such communities is eliminated to prevent the reemergence of hierarchy.

Rhizome-based structures need to be developed and then institutionalized from the bottom up to replace hierarchical ones, Vail argues, in all areas of our society — social, political, economic, educational etc. to entrench the power and sustainability of self-sufficient communities and render them invulnerable to re-expropriation of that power by hierarchies. In practical terms, he says:

Power remains distributed to the level of the individual rhizome node through local, functional self-sufficiency—a modern equivalent to the Domestic Mode of Production. In other words, functional self-sufficiency means the ability to produce at the household level at least the minimum necessities for day-to-day existence without relying on outside agents or resources. Self-sufficiency removes the individual rhizome node from dependence on the standard set of outside suppliers. It does not eliminate exchange, but creates a situation where any exchange exists as a voluntary activity. The commodities that each node must provide for itself include staple foodstuffs, energy for heating, basic habitat and small group interaction.

Self-sufficient energy coops, and local permaculture-based food movements are examples of rhizome structures. Such networks are also the most effective means for the dissemination of information on how to make rhizome activities even more effective — they have much less signal loss than hierarchical methods that require information to flow up and then down controlled and constricted paths. Rhizomes are also, while less ‘efficient’, more effective and more resilient than hierarchies.

Next, Vail argues that, once established, to defend against attacks from vestiges of hierarchical systems, rhizome networks need to adopt asymmetrical methods — by reducing the desire of hierarchy to re-achieve power (e.g. by making it difficult or unrewarding to do so on its own terms) and by becoming ‘invisible’ to the hierarchy (e.g. dropping out quietly and not taking part in the hierarchy’s social, political and economic activities). Vail concludes:

A new vision, with individual freedom to pursue arts and spirituality, above the pettiness of bickering for power, may prove possible if we learn to control the powers that have dominated us throughout history. In the spirit of this vision, the message will ultimately fail if forced upon others. Only through personal example, by showing that a realistic and preferable alternative exists, will these concepts succeed on a large scale. We will act as pioneers, who will begin to create diverse rhizome nodes, each one representing an individual’s struggle to solve the problems of hierarchy and human ontogeny. The more we learn and break free from the control of genes and memes, the more success these pioneers will have. Effective tools and practices will spread, and the rhizome network will grow and strengthen. As this network evolves, it will provide a realistic, implementable alternative to hierarchy—an alternative that fulfills our genetic ontogeny and empowers us as individuals. Nature has shown us that the structure of the rhizome can compete with hierarchy and stratification. When combined with an understanding of reality and humanity that makes us our own masters, we may finally learn from the events of the past…and gain control of our future.

NaturalCommunity
This is entirely consistent with the approach I have been arguing for — the bottom-up creation of a combination of working models of (a) self-sufficient, sustainable (probably polyamory) egalitarian intentional communities operating under Gift Economy principles, (b) natural enterprises and (c) peer-to-peer information and organization networks.

The concern many have expressed about models like Vail’s and mine is how to scale them up — how to get them to the ‘tipping point’ at which, like viruses, they start spreading quickly and supplant the old hierarchical ones. One approach Vail mentions is Hakim Bey’s Temporary Autonomous Zones (TAZs, or ‘pirate utopias’). Bey’s zones are based on the principles of (a) 30-50 person ‘bands’ replacing families (Bey quotes Gide: “Families, how I hate them! The misers of love!”), (b) a continuous ‘festival’ culture of conviviality, abundance, sharing, celebration, and joy and (c) no private ownership.

I really like the idea of a festival culture. Bey sees the zones as temporary (nomadic, to prevent their being attacked by the prevailing hierarchical culture). Vail says they will only be needed “until the size of the rhizome network provides enough power” to sustain them.

But that’s not how viral models work in nature. They get a foothold and then replicate. Assuming we can create some successful working models without having them destroyed by fearful or envious corporatists (and though I’m perhaps naive, I don’t think the establishment would be bothered to try to destroy them when they’re below the radar screen, and after that it’s too late), how might they replicate virally?

Suppose we were to invite people to just begin. We could use Open Space invitations to find the people who are ready to create some working models of TAZs. We could facilitate Open Space sessions to let invitees form TAZ ‘tribes’, each tribe consisting of about fifteen contiguous intentional community ‘clans’ of about 100 people, with each clan having 2-3 natural enterprise ‘bands’ operating within them. Then, any clan that was so popular that it attracted new members to grow beyond the magic number of 150 people would ‘split’ into two new intentional communities (members would self-select which of the two clans to belong to), and any tribe that exceeded about 2000 people would ‘split’ into two new tribes the same way. This is the way viruses replicate, and the way that some groups of animals instinctively hive off when their membership exceeds a certain threshold. As our rhizome-culture working models became more and more popular, and the hierarchical civilization culture collapses, we would simply and organically take over. Bottom-up, a model that has evolved to work replacing one that has ceased to function. That’s life.

These sustainable, natural bands, clans and tribes would support each other through network connections, physical and technological. Each would be autonomous and self-sufficient, and evolve in its own self-determined, wonderfully diverse way.

The great challenge, of course, is finding arable land that can sustain these extraordinary experiments. One solution would be simply to wait until climate change, pandemic, economic collapse or other disasters depopulate an area to the point its land becomes free or nearly so. Another approach I’ve mentioned before is to find philanthropists willing to donate the land on a successful-efforts basis. Or, we they could start in Russia and other countries where serious depopulation has already begun.

Are you ready for this? Is the world?

 

Editorial Notes

Thanks to Dave Pollard for an excellent summary, as well as his thoughts on the book. We’ve run several of Jeff Vail’s articles and are interested in his theories. Although they are abstract and not easy to digest, the theories make explicit ideas that seem to be on the minds of many people.

Vail’s theory about “rhizome” structures has a lot of applications today: the permaculture movement, guerrilla warfare, the Web, the peak oil blogosphere…

The idea of rhizome social structures as an alternative to hierarchy has historical roots:

  • Communitarian anarchism, as in the works of Peter Kropotkin
  • Utopian socialism
  • A strain within libertarianism, voiced by Karl Hess.
  • Jeffersonian democracy and agrarianism (as in the works of Wendell Berry).
  • The self-sufficiency and commune movements of 60s and 70s, as well as the back-to-the-land movements of the 30s and 40s, and communal movements in the 19th century (e.g., Shakers).
  • Many traditional and peasant cultures have similar elements.

Jeff Vail’s blog is A Theory of Power.

 

Original Article: Energy Bulletin.

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You Want a Totally Unregulated Free-Market? Okay.

April 19th, 2012 | Posted by paul in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on You Want a Totally Unregulated Free-Market? Okay.)

Some thoughts on why I think the utopia of left-leaning libertarians is the most likely outcome of the current power struggle.

Imagine what would happen if right-wing libertarians actually got what they wanted – a totally free and unregulated marketplace (something I’m in favor of by the way). After all they keep telling us it’s the government that keeps getting in the way of free enterprise. Lets give it to them – lets have free enterprise without government. So what does that mean? For starters it means no more copyright laws. For without government or some other centralized monopolization of force, who would enforce copyrights? It also means no more patents. For without regulation (enforcement), who would enforce patents? It would also mean no more licensing restrictions, fees, permits or other artificial entry barriers  keeping the little guy from competing head on with the big guys. For without fees and permits, anybody can participate in the free market. It also mean no more monopolies. For without laws enforcing “intellectual property”, how could a company corner the market on anything? So no more big companies either. For without government backed market protection or fictional “corporate personhood” laws, how could big companies compete against thousands of little companies innovating faster and more diversely than any large company ever could? If you think patents and copyrights promote innovation rather than stifle it, think again.

Also, no more centralized currencies. For without government backed currencies and centralized banking laws, how could anyone corner the market on freely proliferating and competing currencies? So goodbye to Goldman Sachs and other vampire financial firms. No more patents stifling innovation, and thus no more restrictions keeping anyone from creating super amazing stuff and putting it out on the internet for free, and so fast that any kind of enforcement will be too little, too late. It means hand-held devices that do everything and operate on any frequency. This in turn means rapid decentralized global deployment of totally free and unregulated broadband communications for everyone. No more cell phone companies charging exorbitant fees – actually no more cell phone companies period. No more censorship or information control either. No more mainstream media, and other domineering propaganda channels. No more secrets. No more conspiracies. No more monopolization of power.

I suspect this is not what the current “deregulation crowd” had in mind. They want there to be some kind of centralized enforcement branch to protect their “intellectual property rights”. I think the best argument against this kind of right-wing libertarianism is this – if they insist that at least one centralized institution remain to enforce intellectual  property rights (through threat of incarceration or violence of course), what is to keep that central point of failure from being hijacked by the most rich and powerful to create protection rackets for themselves and thus eliminate their free market? I challenge them to tell me then how such a scenario won’t happen, and an how it is any different than what we have now. From where I’m sitting their “free” market is not really free, but an untenable fantasy. You can’t have it both ways. Either we have a free market and all that implies (above) or you’re back to some kind of oppressive system – in this case corporate feudalism. So here is the naked truth – any right-wing libertarian who says they want a free-market with enforced intellectual property rights, is either deluding themselves or damned liars who are the very tyrants they warn us against.

Of course some would call this anarchy, and what may seem like an inevitable bazaar of violence emerging to dominate it (predicted by people like Bruce Sterling and John Robb). However that problem, as troublesome as it is, is also not sustainable, as more and more of that kind of power flows into the hands of individuals. Because the truth is this – good intentions out number bad ones 20 to 1. The beauty of this logic is simple – the network magnifies good intentions exponentially faster than the bad ones. As the power of the network grows, individuals can create network collectives of transparency and prosperity that far out compete (and out number) any stupid, criminal, secret, malicious or parasitic conspiratorial system. This means that over time the good guys will out compete the bad guys at every turn. Until then expect more medium-size players taking on large incumbents, such as the Mexican cartels taking on the Mexican government. But that unfortunate trend is only temporary as power continues to shift to the edges. Already smaller towns in Mexico have made it nearly impossible for criminal elements to take over their communities. After all, if everything is unregulated, how could criminal/corporate/political cartels ever survive? They won’t.

I should add that the more enlightened right-wing libertarians feel property right contracts should be voluntary and never forced on anyone. They believe that those who choose such contracts will create an economic bloc that will be superior to other types of collectives. I’m fine with that, and their welcome to try. However, they’ll quickly discover they cannot compete when everyone else is not honoring those contracts and remixes and re-engineers any and all innovation to ever higher heights.

Meanwhile trends continue to nip away at “intellectual property” all over the world. China has gotten where it is in largely by ripping off everyone else’s intellectual property, particularly the West’s innovative capital. How’s that working out for the West? Not well. The genie is out of the bottle when it comes to information, so we’re going to see more innovation coming through open information channels, and less through the traditional copyright and patent system. Those who want to create a property rights nirvana are living in a dream world that can no longer exist in a world where anyone can remix and “steal” any electrons and duplicate that knowledge around the world in seconds.

Because of the new reality of free information, great efforts are now being expended to maintain the old system – SOPA, PIPA, CISPA (expect more nth derivatives), and new threats of violence and incarceration in things like the NDAA (which makes it “legal” to incarcerate or assassinate anyone without due process). The trend however is that monopolization of violence is rapidly vanishing as well. The transition to these new utopias I’m afraid will be quite rocky for a time as both the old power elites do whatever they must to maintain their power, while newer more nimble thugs make a go at at it. But that is a transitional trend not an endpoint, thankfully.

 

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The End of the Machine that Produces Fear?

September 11th, 2011 | Posted by paul in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on The End of the Machine that Produces Fear?)

via P2P Foundation:

Excerpted from David Graeber:

There is very good reason to believe that, in a generation or so, capitalism itself will no longer exist – most obviously, as ecologists keep reminding us, because it’s impossible to maintain an engine of perpetual growth forever on a finite planet, and the current form of capitalism doesn’t seem to be capable of generating the kind of vast technological breakthroughs and mobilizations that would be required for us to start finding and colonizing any other planets. Yet faced with the prospect of capitalism actually ending, the most common reaction – even from those who call themselves “progressives” – is simply fear. We cling to what exists because we can no longer imagine an alternative that wouldn’t be even worse.

How did we get here? My own suspicion is that we are looking at the final effects of the militarization of American capitalism itself. In fact, it could well be said that the last 30 years have seen the construction of a vast bureaucratic apparatus for the creation and maintenance of hopelessness, a giant machine designed, first and foremost, to destroy any sense of possible alternative futures. At its root is a veritable obsession on the part of the rulers of the world – in response to the upheavals of the 1960s and 1970s – with ensuring that social movements cannot be seen to grow, flourish or propose alternatives; that those who challenge existing power arrangements can never, under any circumstances, be perceived to win. To do so requires creating a vast apparatus of armies, prisons, police; various forms of private security firms and police and military intelligence apparatus, and propaganda engines of every conceivable variety, most of which do not attack alternatives directly so much as create a pervasive climate of fear, jingoistic conformity and simple despair that renders any thought of changing the world, an idle fantasy.

Maintaining this apparatus seems more important to exponents of the “free market” than maintaining any sort of viable market economy. How else can one explain what happened in the former Soviet Union? One would ordinarily have imagined that the end of the Cold War would have led to the dismantling of the army and the KGB and rebuilding the factories, but in fact what happened was precisely the other way around. This is just an extreme example of what has been happening everywhere. Economically, the apparatus is pure dead weight; all the guns, surveillance cameras and propaganda engines are extraordinarily expensive and really produce nothing, and no doubt it’s yet another element dragging the entire capitalist system down – along with producing the illusion of an endless capitalist future that laid the groundwork for the endless bubbles to begin with. Finance capital became the buying and selling of chunks of that future, and economic freedom, for most of us, was reduced to the right to buy a small piece of one’s own permanent subordination.

In other words, there seems to have been a profound contradiction between the political imperative of establishing capitalism as the only possible way to manage anything, and capitalism’s own unacknowledged need to limit its future horizons lest speculation, predictably, go haywire. When speculation did go berserk, and the whole machine imploded, we were left in the strange situation of not being able to even imagine any other way that things might be arranged. About the only thing we can imagine is catastrophe.

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Augmented/Participatory Freed Markets

April 23rd, 2003 | Posted by paul in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on Augmented/Participatory Freed Markets)

Augmented Markets

A new post over at Headmap makes some interesting insights:

the internet is doing some disturbing things it is creating currencies and ecoonomies with no money intermediary

link economies, peer two peer file sharing economies and software development and exchange economies
this seems to suggest that in the absence of friction money makes less and less sense

in fact in the current climate many things are starting to make less and less sense

and these network economic anomalies will soon slip into the real world

destroying huge industries based on friction difficulty seperateness and centralisation

as exchange without money becomes more efficient and reliable

money won’t disappear but will have to start living in parallel with vibrant, aggressive efficient parallel economic forces

the moves towards hardware level copyright controls and crippling copyright legislation

seem more and more like attempts to artificially introduce friction into a system that by its nature is able to remove it entirely

there seems to be the fear that money itself may be on the verge of collapse and that only a radical lockdown can save a civilisation with money at its heart

capitalism is being augmented at a frightening speed.

Indeed. It is my  strong feeling that the real war afoot has nothing to do with Iraq, Oil, WMD, etc. but is instead the beginning moves of a new war between the old guard and the new, powerful, democratic and participatory freed market forces emerging in the trenches of cyberspace. What is perhaps frightening and disturbing about it, is its immediate threat to the power elite, and more specifically the drastic and scary measures they may resort to maintain their power in the face of ever decentralizing forces. Things like the DMCA, the PATRIOT Act, etc are just the first salvos in this war of the ultra-rich against everyone else. Interesting that Alvin Toffler predicted just such a war in 1991 in his book Powershift: Knowledge, Wealth, and Violence at the Edge of the 21st Century.

Perhaps I’m just having one of my paranoid moments, but I suspect the ultra-rich’s real agenda is the creation of a slave-society where people are more easily controlled, subverted and eliminated as needed. I think our best chances lie in the emergence of wide-spread decentralized democracy and total transparency, rather than top-down surveillance and centralized state backed corporatism. As long as governments/corporations hold the upper hand on surveillance, secrecy and control, I’m not optimistic about humanities chances. Besides, if they’re truly serious about fighting terrorism, then decentralization and transparency are vastly more effective in dealing with it. No, all this secrecy and draconian legislation serves only to make the rich and powerful more so at the expense of everyone else.

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The Second Superpower

April 1st, 2003 | Posted by paul in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on The Second Superpower)

A new paper by James Moore talks about how emergent democracy empowered by the growing global decentralized network and ever increasingly powerful social tools (blogging only being the beginning), will give rise to the most powerful political force on the planet. I believe if we can survive the growing instability caused by large nations states – such as the expanding war in Iraq, this will come to pass.

In any case, what I most want to share with you is my paper The Second Superpower Rears its Beautiful Head (the title was suggested by Esme Bashwiner). The point of the paper is that the movement is now approaching the status of the second superpower,îafter the United States. This is due to (1) critical mass of people who identify with the world rather than the nation, with each other rather than just themselves, (2) the web and interactive media “neurology”of the movement including texting, email lists, and blogging which is giving it a kind of collective mind and ability to act, and (3) the advance of international institutions and international law, which provides a venue or a forum in which the second superpower can work with sympathetic nations to press its cause. The Bush administration is attacking the fabric of the international system, but it is unlikely to prevail.

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Cultural Decline or Rebirth?

March 7th, 2003 | Posted by paul in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Over at tech-report.com they are having their Friday night topic on whether we are witnessing the decline of western civilization or not. Here is my response:

I think we are witnessing both the decline of the old culture and the birth of a new one. We are seeing the old structures – the old art, literature, behaviors, all of these things succumbing to rapid social and technological change. We had modernism, post-modernism, and now the death of post-modernism. We’ve had music, re-mixed music, and now re-mixed re-mixes. We have people like Eminem who embody this creative deconstructionism. We are also seeing the western (corrupted) politic going thru its last, desperate moves for total world domination. In part, this is simply nature taking its course with the old power elite holding onto that power as long as possible. That’s why they are reacting with draconian legislation like the DMCA, PATRIOT 1 and possibly II, Total Information Awareness, etc. But they won’t be able to keep up in the end with the decentralized, ad-hoc network of “everyone else”. We are witnessing the birth of global network culture that will simultaneously be both highly unified and highly diverse.

This new emergent decentralized global brain is more cohesive, more intelligent than anything before it. Assuming the old structures don’t collapse catastrophically, we will live to see the birth of a full-fledged networked culture ushering in a new renaissance of creativity and innovation beyond everything that’s happened before it, combined.

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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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The P2P Endgame

January 7th, 2003 | Posted by paul in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on The P2P Endgame)

I just read this on Lessig’s Blog:

As cable companies continue to increase the cost of broadband service, and as telcom monopolies are strengthened by changes in FCC policy, it is now absolutely clear what the broadband endgame will be in the US: wireless. Think of a city where every single street light is a node in a mesh (for an example, see meshnetworks), and thus where the cloud of the internet sits on the street like the fog in San Francisco. For almost nothing, cities could provide IP light, as cities provide street lights. Neutral, end-to-end, fast, and cheap.

Lets hope Lessig is right. I’m dubious. The telecoms will use their power to prevent local governments from installing free wireless, claiming it’s unfair competition, socialism, etc. Ironic isn’t it? It’s OK when the government protects them, but “socialism” or “anti-competitive” when it protects us. It has become obvious to me that the telecoms, with their dying business model, are pulling out all the reguatory stops to maintain their monopolies, even if it means stopping the promise of an open wireless era from ever happening. Imagine if special interests in the early 20th century were successful in stopping the automobile. Lets hope FCC Chairman Michael Powell, in deregulating telecom to the monopolies advantage, applies the same philosophical de-licensing of more spectrum. That will be the day, no, seriously. If you believe the U.S. has ever had anything close to a free-market, I have some freedom fries to sell you. Just look at these telecom deals as collusion-as-usual between big government and big business. And its going to get worse before it gets better. Lets not forget, it was the crown-granted monopoly given to the East-Indian Dutch Trading Company that ultimately led to the American Revolution.

The Endgame (as I see it):

Until the ever evolving tinkering going on by smart people makes the world a better place, the corporations will work day and night to control the government and use it to keep the rest of us in line, through torture and violence if necessary. This means no due process, no checks and balances, death by decree. This may seem like bad news, but there is a silver lining to all of this. They are desperate. People do not take kindly to such brutal repression. Those in charge may think they are winning the game, but they are loosing the playing field. They are grabbing things from their last bag of tricks.

“The more you tighten your grip, the more star systems will slip through your fingers”, Princess Leia, Star Wars.

For a moment, imagine you were in their shoes. If you were truly secure in your power, would you resort to ever more desperate measures to hold onto it? Think about it. Since it is the system at large, the growing and evolving world that has become the threat, ever more desperate (and futile) means will be made by those in power to stop it. We are likely to see an acceleration of new draconian “laws” and measures passed against the will of the populace or passed in the darkness of night. You can forget about the Constitution. They will own the government, the airwaves and the press. They will lie with impunity. They will do absolutely everything in their power to maintain and grow that power at all cost. Witness the increasing number of “back room” deals already happening between big industry insiders and the government agencies charged with “regulating them”. This is called Regulatory Capture and it is in full swing. There will soon come a turning point, probably sometime in the next 10 years or so, when most people will see the jig is up, the game is rigged and the fix is in. They will realize they’ve been duped and they will either be really pissed off or see it as a tremendous opportunity to start turning things around.

Just to be clear, between now and then, this new corporate elite will use the strong arm of their illegitimate “laws” to maintain their ongoing theft of humanity. As long you depend on them you will feel the pain of this betrayal. The solution will require you to break free of them completely. The big question is this: will the P2P genie now out of the bottle, successful facilitate a global-wide shift in power away from centralized players to everyone else? I believe the answer is yes. I believe this is the question and struggle of our age and we will be remembered for the decisions we make today.

That is the reason why they are trying to stop P2P and other liberating technologies, not for any bullshit reasons like intellectual property, economic growth or national security. They want to stop p2p, because it’s the very thing that will end their monopoly on power forever. Since the transition to these new technologies is inevitable short of total species annihilation, the question is how to transition to this new era as peacefully and harmoniously as possible? Most of us discussing these issues know the answer – trust in the power of the common man, woman, and child. Know that overwhelmingly most people want to do good. Far more harm has come from “leaders” than from anyone else. Most people everywhere want peace, that is the future that beckons us. P2P brings the power to all the people, making it damn near impossible for there to be a monopolization of power ever again. From that time forward things like personal reputation and integrity will matter far more than money and power does today.

Feudalism, and in this case neofeudalism, which they are so desperately trying to impliment, is a dead-end for humanity, and I mean dead end. Without a free and open economy and culture, advances will stop, and we loose our adaptability in the fitness landscape, and thus our survival advantage in the face of the critical challenges that lie ahead. In my very strong opinion, this issue of centralized versus decentralized power is the existential issue of our time. That is why I blog about decentralization and P2P so much, and why it’s so critical we win this. I believe we can, because it is humanity itself, all of us that are fighting for our survival.

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Paticipatory Democracy in Korea

January 2nd, 2003 | Posted by paul in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on Paticipatory Democracy in Korea)

In South Korea, it’s the mouse that roars. Using the internet, Korea’s new president, Mr. Roh. was able to pull off a victory using the grass-roots support empowered by internet activism.

The Internet allowed Mr. Roh to liberate himself from “black money” — corporate donations that are South Korea’s traditional form of campaign financing. Largely through Internet-based campaign groups, Mr. Roh raised the equivalent of about $1-billion from more than 180,000 individual donors.

The newly elected Mr. Roh… is promising to use the Internet to make the government more open and transparent.

Meanwhile here in the good ol USA, petty fascism continues. Lawerence Lessig writes:

People on both the left and right  boil in this space about what’s happening outside. Yet outside blog space, there is just more of the same. The Times writes about Democratic hopefuls rallying to attack Bush for not making America safe enough. Wonderful. Who ever wins in 2004, we can be assured of more petty fascism to keep America safe.

Where is the candidate who asks: Must we sell our soul to win this war? Where is the political party that demands respect for principles that I thought were fundamental. If we must detain Arabs, must we do so inhumanely? If we must frisk every air traveler, can’t we at least build in checks to the system to assure that it is not abused? If we must fight to defend America, can it at least be America that we defend?

I’m all with Dave that this space will be the space for political action in the future. If only the future comes soon enough.

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Divided We Stand

December 18th, 2002 | Posted by paul in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on Divided We Stand)

Over a year ago this article appeared in Wired Magazine, and its even more relevant today. It talks about how the best way to minimize the damage caused by decentralized rogue terrorists is to decentralize our vunerabilities. It’s completely obvious. But predicitably the response to the 9-11 tragedy has been a further consolidation of power and control. I challenge anyone who doubts my claim that those who in control have no desire to stop terrorism, to demonstrate how a single one of their so-called “solutions to terrorism”, will actually do anything to stop highly motivated maniacs from doing something like this again. So next time we are attacked by terrorists, think about what this articles proposes, and then watch as the response is exactly the opposite. Then you will see who is really to blame for all the mess we’re in.

 

UPDATE:

12/20/02, 9:36am

What did I tell you, from Destroying the Net by trying to protect it.

The New York Times reports that the Bush Administration is planning to monitor all Net communications. The plan would require ISPs to build a centralized system for surveillance of data and users.This is sheer idiocy, because it will actually increase the risks to the national information infrastructure. From its inception, the Net was conceived as a distributed system that could reorganize around failures (in the case of the original designs, the Net was built to route around damage caused by nuclear weapons). Centralizing all network communications to facilitate surveillance will create a huge, ripe and easily attacked target, reducing the reliability and performance of the Internet on the whole and for each individual user. Likewise, the plan would invade the digital borders of other countries, creating many conflicts that don’t impede communication today.

This is foolishness, utter and complete. The benefits we got from the Net will be obliterated by human stupidity, which, if this plan is adopted, will create barriers between people and nations that are as impenetrable as a Prussian bureaucracy.

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