Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The increasing egalitarianism of everything

This is part of a listserv discussion.

If I may, I would like to propose yet another model for understanding
this. In line with what I understand to be a consensus among
international relations people (and in conjunction with yet another
Heinlien book, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress) you could call anarchy
the natural state of man: the set of all agents interacting on a small
scale. Governments are somewhat like protection rackets, in any given
form -- feudalism was more explicit about this, since after all, the
nobles swore to defend the serfs in return for their food and labour.
However, as communication gets better, the mobs are more capable of
defending themselves (which, of course, has been status q since before
the fall of feudalism), and furthermore, more capable of organizing
themselves than the ruling classes (the lords of feudalism, now
relegated merely to the status of glorified middle managers). So, an
active pure anarchy becomes progressively more practical and less
dangerous the better communication becomes, since the historical
situation of the lord/protector/wiseguy class having all the good
intel and all the good technology is getting progressively less true
(the intel business and the tech business are becoming more
egalitarian, certainly).

Problem is, of course, that whole industries are based around the idea
that the ruling class has all the intel and all the tech, and deigns
to give the outsiders access to snippets at whim. The current uses of
IP law are based around the idea that there are producers and
consumers, and that consumers can neither produce nor reproduce
without breaking things. However, the limitless perfect copying
capacity of computer networks means that consumers can make perfect
reproductions at much faster rates than any producers could distribute
them, and subverts the few-to-many producer/consumer population ratio
previously fundamental to the IP sale business model, while
simultaneously making it near impossible to use existing civil court
IP law to counter it. Likewise, the US military (and probably others)
are suffering major problems because of a few loose-lipped cannon
fodder types having access to things like twitter and facebook,
thereby ruining whole operations before they even begin. Even hardware
industries may fall, since the production of cheap 3d printers and
other advances by the hobbyist maker-culture makes possible a popular
means-of-production seizure of a kind more radical than any marxist
could imagine, and may do the same to the industrial and
military-industrial complexes that it has begun to do to the
media-memetic complex.

Is this bad? Depends on who you ask. It's a game-changer, for sure.
The basic feudal model (with minor variants) has been status q in
human societies for at least the past four thousand years, and
probably longer. Most people will feel unmoored, if not a bit
alienated. In the short run, it will also mean game over for most of
the people and organizations that fundamentally depend upon a
few-to-many ratio rather than depending upon skill or quality. It will
probably be great for skilled hobbyists, and it already is to some
extent. I think that, if played right, in the long run it could be
pretty nice for almost everyone. But, it's a different gameboard, with
different rules, and I think there will be some thrashing while the
former ruling classes adjust.
- Show quoted text -

On Thu, Apr 8, 2010 at 9:36 AM, wishnevsky wrote:
> A new word, if not a new idea.
> Wikiocracy
> Emerging ideas can only be comprehended by means of metaphor and allusion,
> as a rule. There is a wonderful array of happenings, most duly noted by
> those people who make their livings commenting on trends, emergent memes and
> concepts, but one of the most consequential changes to the global body
> politic is occurring unnoticed, in plain sight. A Marxist would call this
> the “withering away of the State,” but that is only part of the issue.
> Concepts such as “crowd sourcing,” wikipedia, “googleism,” free internet and
> many more are just a part of this emergence.
> Consider these points; The most rigid and monolithic state in history, the
> USSR, evaporated in a few months, with very little violence, an event
> predicted by no one, that has not been studied to any extent. Perhaps it was
> the political equivalent of a “rogue wave,” unforeseen and unique. But
> perhaps it was a harbinger.
> The fastest growing economy in the word, China, has a governmental system
> that defies classification, indeed description. There is a Marxist ruling
> class, a “People’s Army” morphed into a collection of industrial
> conglomerates and a middle class of unfettered capitalists unseen since the
> days of the Robber Barons. Underpinning it all is peasant based Feudalism.
> In 1950, China was the feeblest nation on earth, and now it bodes to become
> the leading superpower within a generation.
> India, also a basket case in 1950, is the type-case for unbridled diversity
> with 21 "scheduled languages," nine “major” religions, the entire range of
> human skin tones and uncounted ethnic groups. In spite of this prescription
> for confusion, they have achieved the largest democracy in the world,
> although the actual system of rule is largely undefined. Chaos and Discordia
> are not listed among the gods of India, perhaps they fled in horror. This
> multiplicity has not harmed their rate of growth, however.
> Brazil, by no means a monolithic state, is also in the running for the
> superpowers of the near future. It is easy to see that the monopolistic
> totalitarian gestalt of government has not survived the test of history.
> To return to Russia. Autocracy has moved through Anarchy to what?
> Unprincipled Oligarchy? Free Market Obscurity? Does anyone really know? No
> matter, their growth rate is healthy. Arthur C. Clarke had the most accurate
> prediction when he said that in 1984, the USA and the USSR would pass each
> other, going in opposite directions.
> The same indescribable process is easily visible as the hyper-democratic
> internet devours all types of monopolies. Wikipedia destroyed Encyclopedia
> Britannica without a whimper. Craigslist has removed the financial base of
> every newspaper in the country. The music industry killed Napster, crippling
> itself in the process. Now the “Industry” grows smaller every year while the
> amount of available “Indie” music passes any limits of calculation. No one
> can even keep up with the number of genres these days, they seem to have run
> out of hyphens.
> Robert Heinlein’s Science Fiction classic, “Double Star” plays with the
> concept of electronic democracy, where political parties are defined by
> occupation, not nationality and voting is instant. How far is that from
> implementation? The technology is available now, politicians are the
> laggards.
> SF writer Vernor Vinge postulated the Cyber Singularity, where computers
> recreate themselves past the point of human comprehension, another point we
> are approaching rapidly. All this ties into a real blue-sky concept, the
> “Global Brain” where the Internet becomes self-aware, an actual Deity. Pie
> in the sky? The first Global Brain was established by the Spanish Empire of
> Phillip the First, based on muscle power, sails and parchment.
> All this sheds light on the establishment of the first two “Instant
> Political Parties,” The Tea Party and the brand new Coffee Party. The
> reactionary Tea Parties, they are already suffering schism, were more
> collections of rump groups that received influxes of money from the Health
> Industry and support from Fox News.
> The Coffee Party appears genuine grass roots, started in January by
> filmmakers and activists Annabel Park and Eric Byler. The first real-world
> event was March 13, and there were nearly 400 events nationwide. There are
> well over 200,000 “fans” on Facebook, far more than the number of Tea Party
> fans.
> This is not an advertisement for the Coffee Party, rather an attempt to show
> that the process of “going viral” can apply to more weighty matters than LOL
> Catz. There have been un-programmed mass movements before, of course. It
> was a generation ago that many people decided to experiment with LSD, for no
> particular reason, with results that have not yet finished reverberating to
> this day.
> But this phenomenon is a new thing in the world, so it behooves us to
> recognize it as an emergent process, a process that is reshaping our lives
> at warp speed. Hang on.
> St. Wishnevsky

John Ohno