Friday, March 27, 2009
I learned a new term this week - "hacker capitalist". Reading an article, via the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies, by Edward Miller, 'Hackertopia and Piracy, Inc.' got me thinking on a more positive note for once.
Miller details the rise of the hacker / pirate ethic and the notion of freedom of information (including information based products of labour). He refers to the hope invested in the so-called 'Milennial' generation (of which I myself am part). There is despair on the other hand at the 'hipsters' - part of the Milennial generation - who appear to have developed serial ADD and enable cynical marketers to co-opt any new trend or idea, however anti-establishment, and sell it back to the 'youth'. I have known some activists (of various political persuasions) who have despaired at this masterstroke of the establishment - to commodify dissent, often very effectively.
However, Miller reminds us of the flipside to this, the adoption of certain technologies and lifestyle choices that fundamentally alter our relations not only with eachother, but the 'state' or establishment also. "[S]taggering amounts of time on the computer and mobile communication devices, surfing social networks and wikis, gaming, texting, filesharing, blogging, making youtube videos, and building the new participatory panopticon" has unleashed forces the state, and its snooper agents, simply will not be able to control.
My personal site, 'Upwingers', is inspired by Persian futurist F.M. Esfandiary. It's strapline is perhaps his most famous quote: "There is no government, no industrial-military complex, no economic system, no mass media that can ever reduce us to puppets and robots as thoroughly as the biological and environmental dictatorships have." I'm a big fan of working through the implications of Esfandiary's transhumanist/futurist philosopy in this regard: Many others like him and inspired by him (such as R.A. Wilson, Timothy Leary etc) pointed out systematically how centralised authorities can use basic knowledge of body and mind to trap, torture and brainwash us. What was sadly lost in the popular consciousness regarding Leary's drug focused philosophy and experiements was his claim that intelligent application of said drugs could undo any brainwashing. This was of course Leary's undoing, and probably the main motivation behind the establishment attempts to destroy him.
Leary, Wilson, Esfandiary and many others have pointed to a profound truth. Regaining control over "the biological and environmental dictatorships" might be our single best opportunity for wresting our lives back and fundamentally challenging the status quo. I recently said, in a discussion over at Anna Racoon's blog that the root of all evil is not money, or love thereof, or 'lax morals', but low self-esteem. Once you get past the most basic survival needs, (and *every* political philosophy, however noble, once reduced to talking about survival needs, becomes nothing more than lifeboat ethics and Hobbesian dilemmas*), the most crushing, most enervating, most life-destroying force is our own psychological and emotional binds. It's why the thought police are more powerful than the real police.
Back to the 'Millennials' - Miller makes a bold claim: "It is no wonder, then, why their entertainment choices include trolling, LOLcats, the Daily Show, South Park and ridulous sarcastic wikis [e.g. Encyclopedia Dramatica]. Yet, they are not nihilists. Beneath all this lies a belief in classical liberal ideals which is at least as sincere as that of previous generations, if not moreso."
I agree with Miller's assessment, even if for the large part this isn't a conscious adherence to classical liberal ideas; these values are rather embedded within the very technologies now spreading ineluctably like viruses, and in the new social relations they are forging. This also tends to be the point where I cross swords with social conservatives. The sign is often confused with the thing signified. The state is panicking in response. It can sense its impending doom, even if it is still a few generations away. People's behaviour is becoming increasingly chaotic - sometimes for the good, sometimes for ill. And while I welcome any restatement of the importance of personal responsibility, I'm suspicious of any that focus largely on the old hobbyhorses of sex, drugs and rock'n roll - sex in particular. While there is certainly an every growing, largely state supported, underclass - rightly lampooned by many social conservatives, there is also a corresponding - and in my assessment much larger - growth in increasingly aware, adaptive and responsible "youth". The curtain has started to rip and the man behind it is starting to slip into view:
For the 'Millennials', "[t]he problem is that for as long as they can remember, all the institutions which they were told to look up to have only given them reasons to be cynical. Instead of honest journalism, we have demagogues. Instead of corner grocers, we have sterile megastores. Elections aren't won, but stolen... not that it matters. Politics became a series of sex scandals. Religion too, only in a far more sinister sense. The economy is in crisis, but the Millenials are not surprised".
There is a new wave of classically liberal sentiment under the surface. The millenials are beginning to join their older fellows in rejection of the program. Look at almost every online outlet for public opinions, from the Guardians' Comment is Free through to LabourListing to Guido Fawkes' blog. Look at the failure of the MSM to adapt to the Daniel Hannan phenomenon. The consistent outpouring of sentiment is immense. The cracks are starting to show.
An idea I've frequently encountered at blogs such as Old Holborns' is that the state is increasingly seeking to put us in hock to it. The "bailout" having been its most spectacular recent success, saddling us all with an astronomical debt level (based on a completely fake economic system of valuation in the first place - the value of perception is now more important than actual supply and demand). Truly a masterstroke. Also a good reason to read the Wizard of Ozymandias if you have not done so already. The establishment is becoming increasingly brittle and vulnerable. It has to put us in hock to survive like this. And it is no coincidence that committed collectivists such as ZanuLab should be at the helm when such a bold attempt to ruin us is enacted. The "state", "society", and now "shared values" (in the horribly scary form of 'Contest 2') are bigger and more important than us individuals you see. They have a life of their own, they really do - thanks to our Lords and Masters. It's the fundamental aspect of collectivist thinking that is so inimical to human life - as Stirner put it, "because they serve Man, they cut off the heads of men."
We're starting - ineluctably - to reclaim our own spaces, bodies and minds. It is starting in the realm of information. The "cost" of information is dwindling to almost nothing. Our means of gathering and distributing it are being similarly demolished. This is where we get back to that new (or at least new to me) term -'Hacker Capitalist'. Miller refers to the likes of Mark Shuttleworth (creator of Ubuntu) and Jimmy Wales (creator of Wikipedia) as great examples of the new breed of successful capitalist - the 'Hacker Capitalist'. These gentlemen provided open source innovations that they were able to both share and profit from. This is an oxymoron to some.
Something I've always noted with amusement is the wholesale endorsement of Open Source technologies and philosophies by collectivist-leftists. I wonder what they make of the likes of Shuttleworth and Wales. I've found consistently that whenever individuals who are actual innovators in the Open Source community put pen to paper they are, almost always, of a Libertarian persuasion. And even those who are more left-leaning, tend to be in one of the groups not incompatible with libertarian or anarcho-capitalist sentiments (the mutualists for example).
The time of the authoritarian statists and the dogmatic collectivists is coming to an end - ineluctably. They will go down like mad dogs though and even if the wittering of the collectivists (especially the left-anarchists (as opposed to their innovative and steadily prospering brethren - the market or anarcho-capitalists)), seems pathetic, their ideology is still pervasive and infectious. They chomp and moan because, apart from many other things, one of their defining characteristics have been taken away from them. There were two invasions of parliament by activists in recent memory - one by Fathers for Justice and another by the Countryside Alliance. Not an anarchist in sight. And at the last Anarchist Bookfair I attended in London,(at which, incidentally, us Libertarians and Anarcho-Capitalists are NOT welcome) the most innovative idea they could come up with was to camp outside parliament until the Prime Minister resigns. Outstanding.
Our aims now should be to really - literally - capitalise on these opportunities and technologies. The great danger is that in their death throes they might take us with them. What they fear most is that we, individually, become more powerful, capable people. We don't need them anymore, but they need us. As Miller put it: "Now is a superb time for all you hackers, tinkerers, hobbyists, and DIYers to kick it into full gear. The political and economic cards are in our favor. Let's make the most of it!".
Indeed. There has never before been a time like this of such rapid technological change. So many new questions, dilemmas and possibilities open up before us now on a daily basis. States and collectivists are pathologically and literally unable to deal with this. Only individuals can respond and innovate in a timely fashion. It's a chaotic time, but it might yet prove to have been the best time and place to have been alive thus far. It's a time for heroes and heroines of all stripes to step forward. Get to it.
*A great shame this is not more commonly recognised. Many people - scholars among them - interpret Hobbes' nightmare scenario of the 'all against all' society as being the baseline for all political philosophy. It isn't. It is, instead its nullification. All political philosophy (except perhaps the most lunatic and misanthropic interpretations of collectivist-primitivist anarchism) is based upon some kind of surplus. As soon as a social configuration produces a surplus, multiple political philosophies are then on the table. Discussion of this surplus is what political philosophy is. Societies throughout recorded history have had a surplus, however meagre.
Sidenote: After a diasterous attempt to upgrade software, resulting in the loss of my database, I decided to rebuild my 'upwingers' site (again!) - and I think I've finally settled on a configuration to my liking, though it will take me some time to repopulate it with content (especially on my research into A.Q.Khan, Sibel Edmonds, MI5/6 etc). It's going well so far and I'm very pleased with the new collated news feeds - I'm finally making good on the site's philosophy; focusing on positive uplifting (and often - action orientated) aspects and subjects as much as negative. There's still plenty of work left to be done, however by all means, have a look.
Thursday, March 05, 2009
I'm re-reading Robert Anton Wilson's Illuminatus Triology for the third time. He never fails to both amuse and inform at the same time. He also admirably fulfils that role he often refers to in his writing: The poet as early warning radar. I thought I would share the occasional extended quote with you.
Despite (or perhaps because of) orginally being penned in the 70s, the trilogy has many passages that bear an uncanny and often disturbing resemblance to today's world.
I miss the old man terribly:
Caligula Bushman, known as the toughest judge on the Chicago bench, was trying six people who were charged with attacking a draft board, destroying all its furniture, ruining its files and dumping a wheel-barrow full of cow manure on the floor. Suddenly Busman interrupted the trial about halfway through the prosecution's presentation of its case with the announcement that he was going to hold a sanity hearing. To the bewilderment of all, he then asked State's Attorney Milo A. Flanagan a series of rather odd questions:
"What would you think of a man who not only kept an arsenal in his home, but was collecting at enormous financial sacrifice a second arsenal to protect the first one? What would you say if this man so frightened his neighbors that they in turn were collecting weapons to protect themselves from him? What if this man spent ten times as much money on his expensive weapons as he did on the education of his children? What if one of his children criticized his hobby and he called that child a traitor and a bum and disowned it? And he took another child who had obeyed him faithfully and armed that child and sent it out into the world to attack neighbors?
What would you say about a man who introduces poisons into the water he drinks and the air he breathes? What if this man not only is feuding with the people on his block but involves himself in the quarrels of others in distant parts of the city and even in the suburbs? Such a man would clearly be a paranoid schizophrenic, Mr. Flanagan, with homicidal tendencies. This is the man who should be on trial, though under our modern, enlightened system of jurisprudence we would attempt to cure and rehabilitate him rather than merely punish."
"Speaking as a judge," he continued, "I dismiss this case on several grounds. The State is clinically insane as a corporate entity and is absolutely unfit to arrest, try and incarcerate those who disagree with its policies. But I doubt that this judgment, though obvious to any man of common sense, quite fits into the rules of our American jurisprudential game. I also rule, therefore, that the right to destroy government property is protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and therefore the crime with which these people are charged is not a crime under the Constitution. Government property belongs to all of the people, and the right of any f the people to express displeasure with their government by destroying government property is precious and shall not be infringed."
Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea, The Illuminatus Trilogy, 1998 (originally published 1975), Robinson publishing. pp 366-368.