Innovating Our Way To A Peaceful and Liberating Anarchy

Stigmergy in action - a school of fish is a spontaneous and leaderless adaptation of routing around predators. Networked humans can do the same thing with sociopaths and tyrants.

Stigmergy in action – a school of fish is a spontaneous and leaderless adaptation of routing around predators. Networked humans can do the same thing with sociopaths and tyrants.

By Paul Hughes

January, 2013

Below is my attempt at a concrete and visionary proposal on how humanity can create a truly free and peaceful society without coercion of any kind – a decentralized, networked society of rising collective intelligence that transcends any need for laws, legal codes, lawyers, police, courts, prisons or military force. It presents the idea of how laws are not only becoming unenforceable, but eventually unnecessary given sufficient forkability, transparency, collective intelligence and radical material abundance. There are others who have talked about similar ideas like polycentric law, Jordan Greenhall’s “liquid jurisprudence”, and Roderick Long’s  post-punitive restitution system.

So how do we get there?

Below are  trends that could radically transform our society from one ruled by law or force to one that is free of all such constraints, while maximizing freedom and peaceful coexistence for all human beings. It won’t happen overnight, or all at once, but in fits and spurts as people adjust to the new structural reality.

  1. Radical Transparency. Everything is inexorably becoming more transparent. Nobody, not even governments or other secret organizations are immune. What we are witnessing today is an ongoing explosion of open and uncensorable information, and a radical democratization of intelligence where no one has the surveillance advantage. The tools of sousveillance are moving towards ubiquity – a sort of adhoc Wiki Intelligence Agency (WIA) where everyone has access. But it’s not centralized in any way, it is simply the open network itself. The tools of ubiquitous recording devices, nearly unlimited public/cloud storage, inability to contain leaks, and equal access to sun-mass computation encryption, will utterly level the playing field when it comes to the “intelligence” game. This transformation is already in full swing – ex: Mega, cell phone cameras, DIY drones, YouTube, Anonymous, Wikileaks. (UPDATE July, 2013 – We can add Edward Snowden’s NSA leaks to this list]. David Brin pioneered this idea in his 1989 book, The Transparent Society. Most importantly of all is that open information networks simply out-compete secret ones, because secrecy breeds suspicion, closed channels and subsequently, stupidity. Open is simply smarter than secret.
  2. Ubiquitous Reputation Metrics. Functionally speaking, this is the same as radical transparency. Examples, albeit primitive, are places like Amazon and Ebay. When you do business with another individual on Ebay, you can decide who to do business with based on their reputation. All things being equal, the rational choice is to interact with the person who has the highest reputation. But imagine instead that you have the tools yourself, with far more dimensionality and granularity, for maximizing harmonization and trusting relationships with others based on your own definitions of what that is. But unlike Ebay, no one controls or mediates this reputation. You do. It will be completely disintermediated. You make your own judgement based on the information that is available on an open/transparent decentralized ledger called a blockchain. Daniel Suarez in his book Freedom, the highly engaging sequel to Daemon, describes a type of society like this that could emerge in the medium term. What is interesting here is that Radical Transparency automatically equals Ubiquitous Reputation. For all intents and purposes they are the same thing. What is even more interesting about blockchain technology, is besides getting decentralized money like Bitcoin, it opens up tremendous possibilities for decentralized systems of all kinds, including smart contracts, multiparty transactions, and trusted disintermediated services where trust or identity between parties isn’t even required at all.
  3. Radical Decentralization. Despite what seems like a consolidation and further centralization of power, the opposite is actually occurring. The consolidation of centralized power is a defensive response to the radical decentralization that is already in full swing. Everything is becoming disintermediated. First it was music, movies and information through the internet and file sharing. Soon it’s going to be money through decentralized crytocurrencies like bitcoin. Following that is going to be a decentralization of most, if not all contract law using smart contracts on the same technology that power bitcoin – the distributed asset ledger called the blockchain.  And growing up fast we have 3d printing which is going to increasingly disintermediate the material world away from the control of corporations. The genie is now out of the bottle. The best the old guard can do at this point is slow it down – some. Any effort to crush it will have the opposite effect of accelerating the development of better moustraps. We saw this when they shut down Napster. Quickly alternatives popped up in it’s place, and now we have Bittorent, with no central point of failure to shut down. Soon we will see similar things happen with material objects using 3d printers, and communications using mesh-networks and software defined radios.
  4. Radical Abundance. This is a big one, save it to say that the technologies for uplifting the rest of humanity out of poverty are coming. See my Radical Abundance Principles for more details. There will be no basic want, and in fact it can be argued, that most everyone will have access to the highest technologies available at next to zero cost from abundant cheap solar energy, mature 3d printing from recycled materials, and a gargantuan library of 3d downloadable designs. Why steal when you can download and print whatever you need for free? The truth is that almost all crime and criminality comes from a place of scarcity. Eliminate scarcity and you eliminate most of the source causes of crime in the first place. But lets address the what if’s of how society might overcome bad actors and actions.

Collective Intelligence – Stigmergic Society – Spontaneous Order without Orderers

The best way to think of a how a highly peaceful and harmonious society could emerge without a legal code is the concept of Stigmergy. A school of fish is a good example. Each fish is acting in their own best interest and yet they spontaneously collaborate – creating a collectively intelligent order without orderers, an evolutionary adaptation that serves them well! When you try to punch or harm a school of fish, the school forms a hole immediately where your hand went, allowing the fish to escape your grasp. This is how networks route around damage. Networks allow human beings to do the same thing! Stigmergic cooperation enables networked humans to peacefully out-smart and out-maneuver predators and tyrants at every turn. Those who continue to act badly towards others will simply be wasting their energy punching holes in “schools of fish”. The worse a person’s reputation is the more transparent and obvious that will be to others and the easier it will be to out-maneuver them. There is no inherent negativity. Think of it as highly nimble social aikido.

Based on my analysis the longer this plays out, those who are unethical, corrupt, predatory, will become increasingly irrelevant. See The New Political Asymmetry. Bad actors will be seen as damage by the network, and routed around, just like censorship is. There is this idea that somehow criminals will be able to mount some kind of conspiracy, but how would such a conspiracy ever get past the planning stages, when it becomes impossible to hide their actions, especially when the people involved most likely have bad reputations, and thus more stigmergic eyes watching them? This isn’t oppressive, this is just stigmergic out-maneuvering. Stigmergic society won’t stop predators from being predators, that’s their prerogative. They will simply be irrelevant in the face of a more adaptive collectively intelligent human network. And that is exactly what p2p networks do – render bad actors and actions irrelevant. This is a fact of network life, of uncensorable information channels. Don’t believe me? Look at how thoroughly the music industry has failed to stop music sharing, or organizations keeping secrets, once those secrets are out on the internet.

Bad actors will be left with few choices, other than to better themselves for want of anything else. They can play nice and cooperate, form their own more isolated collectives, or be alone. The choice and freedom is theirs to make. They will have the same tools of abundance as everyone else, so there will be less reason for them to steal in the first place, and more opportunities to become better people through a growing open-source repository of self-improvement and mental health services and technologies.

This means that over time empathy-centered collective intelligences will out compete all other organizational forms, changing the social and political fabric of the human species forever.

What I think makes this hard for people to grasp, is right now there are so many pathways for intelligent sociopaths to make headway. Robert Shea referred to this as The Empire of The Rising ScumKevin Carson talks about it too. Fortunately this only remains true as long as you have hierarchical/centralized points of failure, in which co-opting it actually gives you some kind of advantage. But in a p2p world of radical abundance, such advantages simply won’t exist. And to whatever degree they do, radical transparency makes it difficult, if not impossible for anyone without sufficiently high reputations (e.g. empathy) to have any significant influence in the social order. This is my favorite part – those with the most empathy are at an advantage in a distributed transparent reputation based environment, because they have the the most ability to form cohesive social bonds, as well as perceiving most clearly the right kinds of people to connect with (who to trust and who not to). This means that over time empathy-centered collective intelligences will out compete all other organizational forms, changing the social and political fabric of the human species forever.

A Beautiful and Peaceful Anarchy?

So what about laws? Don’t people need rules in which they must obey in order for society to function properly? As can be seen above, the answer is looking increasingly like ‘no’. Mutual/consensual agreements, principles that emerge naturally and spontaneously, yes. Fluid agreements that everyone has full power over whether to participate in, change, revoke or fork. People who have similar ideas on how things should work will have higher matched metrics of compatibility and will contract with each other. The current lack of transparency, mobility and forkability is the reason there are so many otherwise incompatible people living on top of each other. Because of the nature of unique reputation metrics for each person, people will no longer be trapped within one tribe or community, but free to explore, grow and expand outwards into increasingly coherent networks of kindred spirits. Because of that level of mobility, permeability and coherency, human conflict will be reduced significantly. Radical forking will allow for a vast diversity of ever changing, participatory, evolutionary, revocable, consensual agreements/rule-sets.  Reputation will be the new currency. It will be your unique self, and help you find the most compatible connections with others. Panarchy with freedom to join, exit, fork, create your own rule-sets.

Crimes of Passion?

People have mentioned to me that crimes of passion could slip through the cracks of the above decentralized system. One example used was that of a drunk driver running over and killing another man’s daughter outside his house. In a fit of rage the father kills the drunk driver. So how could an open-sourced decentralized society solve this particular problem?

Well the honest truth is it sometimes takes tragedies like this for people to develop the necessary work-arounds. The brilliant part of an open-source peer produced society is it would respond *very* quickly with innovative solutions. Those solutions, regardless of where they were developed, would quickly spread throughout a network, and be adopted wherever they would be appropriate. Mark Pesce calls this hypermimesis.  So lets see how this would resolve the above drunk driving problem.

They are already working on open-source cars. Not only are people working on open-source cars, but cars that can drive themselves. Google has been given permission here in Nevada to begin test driving them. As those vehicles become available, the market and public pressure will steer the open-source community to include the “auto-drive” feature as a basic feature in cars going forward. Those people who don’t include that feature will have their reputation reduced and go out of business unless they include this new feature. Bartenders who allow their patrons to arrive without safe transportation home will also receive bad reputations scores once the bad publicity goes viral. Bartenders will quickly respond by making sure their patrons get home safe. Compare this solution to the current effectiveness of drunk driving laws. The solution above will do far far more to reduce it than any law ever could. Those bartenders who, because of their own negligence, did not make sure their patrons got home safe, when the open-source market makes it easy for them to do so, will go out of business.

My point is that if there is a solution, anywhere, allowed by the laws of physics, an open-source peer produced society will solve these problems far faster, better and more harmoniously without oppression, than any law ever could.

Addendum: Making Intoxicated Driving Safe and Fun

Here’s an interesting twist on the auto-drive feature. Given sufficient on-board intelligence, the drunk driver could actually go on a joy ride, with him steering the wheel, with the on-board IQ augmenting, and correcting when necessary any unsafe movements. It could be so seamless, that the drunk driver feels like he himself is driving, and going where he wants to go, but all the while, the car is behaving safer than the most expert sober driver ever could. This seamlessness would be achieved by actuators that auto-correct over 1000 times per second. Such technology already exists, and is used in airplanes like the F-22.



1. Coercion, as in forcible subjection, actual or threatened.