Utilizing the London Bridge terrorist attack (June 3rd, 2017) lead Theresa May to proposition for net regulation, a transparent scapegoat to push a regressive and potentially catastrophic call. The cracks are beginning to widen within archaic organizational forms, largely within democratic hierarchical institutions such as the UK government. Their eyes anxious in the face of political obsolescence, watching with fear as the – in their opinion – intolerable decentralized chimera that is the internet (cyberspace) exponentially grows and mutates within their supposedly air-tight system. Clawing at the last flecks of a systematic reverberation ready to break free. Unable to efficiently mould a tool they once thought would be a footnote in technological history into their antiquated party. Of course those who actually know understood May’s plan for regulation was absurd.
Even to the most amateurishly tech-literate May’s call was ludicrous and short-sighted. With a vast amount if not the majority of businesses, institutions (inclusive of State), educational facilities and personal computers using open source software, alongside a call to ban end-to-end encryption, that which keeps all manner of personal files safe would then be at the whim of any bored hacker. In short her call to make cyberspace cybersafe would in fact act in the opposite direction. The Conservatives currently bearing the 15th century Catholic torch only too awake one morning to find someone has hard-coded a theses into No 10’s door.
Something incomprehensibly large is at stake here, an event of which the only comparison resides with the invention and widespread utilization of the Gutenberg press, or printing press – the wide or wider assimilation and decentralization of the internet, cyberspace and networking (with a strong emphasis currently on the Blockchain) into society and general day-to-day life; pervasive technology at its most viral. This motion or acceleration in its entirety could come to a country-wide not worldwide halt if net-regulation was to pass, transforming the UK into a closed network, a form of network which is incompatible with the future. Net-regulation acting historically as the Pope not banning the printing press per-say, only restricting its usage to a central body. Though by their very nature both the printing press and the internet are destined for decentralization, it is either to destroy them entirely or let them: ‘Do what thou wilt’.
“In the age of information sciences the most valuable asset is knowledge, which is a creation of human imagination and creativity. We were among the last to comprehend this truth and we will be paying for this oversight for many years to come.” – Gorbachev, George Gilder, Economic Education Bulletin, 1991
Fortunately due to the ever-increasing concentration on popularity in politics the chances of UK based net-regulation are now slim (though we do already have the Snooper’s Charter). Ironically the drop in Tory favourability is in large part due to Labour’s understanding and utilization of social media and memery in the recent election.
In short net-regulation would allow the Government – via control of Internet Service Providers (ISPs) – to regulate/control/authorize what it is the population is allowed to see, learn, watch and use. Basically the call for a severing off from the internet into a state-controlled micro-net, away from one of the last truly free ‘spaces’. Away from an internet free of state jurisdiction, kept from an immediate personal freedom the likes of which haven’t been seen since the advent of the printing press.
“It cannot survive without a captive media and educational system, which the Internet will route around. Also, its financial system is a mess and could collapse at any minute. The whole thing will be lucky if it lasts another ten years.” – UR
EFFECTS OF GUTENBERG 1.0
“He who first shortened the labor of copyists by device of movable types was disbanding hired armies, and cashiering most kings and senates, and creating a whole new democratic world: he had invented the art of printing.” – Sartor Resartus, Thomas Carlyle.
The Gutenberg press invented in the 15th century by Johannes Gutenberg is the reason you have widely available books, the reason – to an extent – you know what you know: religious texts, school textbooks, political manifestos all owe their popularity to abundance, a feat only achievable via a printing press…in some ways it’s the reason you’re reading this – the ever growing need for literary mobilization and accessibility. (Of course a lot of what you know has its inherent footing in multiple factors: tradition, family, birthplace etc. yet one can clearly see that without the press widespread literacy and ideas wouldn’t hold anywhere near the kind of depth it currently does.). And in many ways the printing press was the second largest factor in the Protestant Reformation which effected your life in an unparalleled manner.
One must however look at the pre-Gutenberg dilemmas/restrictions to truly understand its impact. A time in which texts were written by hand by copyists and scribes, meaning only a few copies of singular texts were ever produced sky-rocketing their value and thus creating a clear divide between those who could afford to be literate (the elite) and those who could not (the serfs). The serfs thus becoming reliant on a travelling scholar or mere tradition for their education which in itself holds inherent restrictive factors.
The key problem with remaining reliant of a single source as a means for knowledge/education is – of course – that your world-view is entirely bias and somewhat controlled by what the elites entitle you to know. A claustrophobic system of knowledge in which what you ‘know’ is moulded by what you’re allowed to know – one can see clear parallels here with the proposed net-regulation. A distinct system of oppression via reduction of a means to understand one’s cage, or that one is even in a cage. In relation to free speech “It is not just the right of the person who speaks to be heard, it is the right of everyone in the audience to listen and hear” (Hitch). Yet with reference to our literary travelling scholars herein lies an inherent flaw, for if one is only given one person to listen to, or a single collective, or a centralized controlled mass of outlets, then the right to listen is merely an illusion of freedom. (Think the difference between BBC, ITV and C4.). This is exactly where your freedoms lie under net-regulation. One can imagine paying a monthly fee for a ‘News Package’ for the internet, or perhaps a higher monthly fee for the ‘Advanced News Package’ etc. etc., yet at their root each package is to go through a form of vetoing process anyway so what you receive need not matter. To receive only what another wants you to receive.
‘If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don’t have to worry about answers.’ – Thomas Pynchon
I digress. Prior to the printing press the production of a text was a laborious process. As such ‘events’ such as book-burnings could truly be held as a means to control the flow of specific information, or the movement of a society of religion. Generally speaking scribes and copyists were of religious affiliation and were already under a form of print-regulation themselves, with what it was they were copying/transcribing undergoing strict authorization from the Catholic church, and as such an echo-chamber is created in which only the smallest of leaps are to be made, more than likely via the most minor of alterations to the text. So to invent the printing press was to increase literacy amongst the general public, an entire system of knowledge no longer restricted by capital gain.
“Scholars have long recognized the essential role of the press in spreading Protestant doctrine. Luther himself, in fact, claimed that the invention of printing was a gift from God to reform His church. But Eisenstein argues that print did more than spread the Protestant Reformation: in an important sense, print caused the Reformation. Without access to the printed editions of biblical texts and church fathers, and the worrisome variants on crucial dogmatic issues they contain, Luther might never have been stimulated to develop his revolutionary new theology. And without accessibility to print, Luther might never have spread his ideas not only in the Latin of the scholarly community but also in the vernacular German of the lay community.” – Robert Kingdon, “Review of The Printing Press as an Agent of Change”, Library Quarterly (1980)
It is a mystery to me how my theses, more so than my other writings,. . . were spread to so many places. They were meant exclusively for our academic circle here. . . . They were written in such a language that the common people could hardly understand them.” – Luther addressing the Pope.
The single most drastic and everlasting effect of the advent of the printing press was its utilization by Protestant Reformers in the creation and dispersion of pamphlets (Theses) which in turn pushed towards the Reformation. Which in itself has far, far wider implications than those immediatly apparent in the 16th century.
“ Protestantism sealed a pact with historical destiny – to all appearances defining a specifically modern global teleology – by consistently winning. Individualization of conscience – atomization – was made fate.
When considered as rigid designations, Atomization, Protestantism, Capitalism, and Modernity name exactly the same thing.
Protestantism is a self-propelling machine for incomprehensibly prolonged social disintegration, and everyone knows it.” – Nick Land, The Atomization Trap
I’ve used Land’s piece quite crassly here I have to admit, but to understate the effect of the Reformation and in turn Protestantism on contemporary society would be a grave error. As Land states: “When considered as rigid designations, Atomization, Protestantism, Capitalism, and Modernity name exactly the same thing.” so the advent of the printing press has a lot to answer for, but quite bluntly the Gutenberg Press is the catalyst for modern Democracy as we know it. The vessel which unknowingly sailed swiftly away from any & all forms of socio-political hierarchy and centralization, hierarchal structures which the certain parties often find themselves stuck within. Yet the effects of the press were not seen until 100s of years after its implementation and as such one feels as if we’re still in the wake of Gutenberg’s mutation. There exist here – in terms of the press acting as catalyst – few parallels with the internet, at least those specifically related to inherent technology. For the internet is tech-in-itself, as opposed to the press which is reliant on that which it produces and isn’t inclusive of built-in networking capabilities. The press can only become a ‘faster-horse’, it cannot transform or innovate into an engine.
INTERNET AS GUTENBERG 2.0
In 2016, 85 % of European households had access to the internet from home, as for the world see here. To ignore the prevalence of the internet is to ignore that which will be at the forefront – or more than likely will be the forefront – of the next ‘era’ of human history – in whatever multiple changing forms it holds throughout. It has assimilated into every business, official body, Government program and economic counterpart, alongside its central role in popular society (social media, smartphones, smart-TVs, etc.) It is an accelerative force within itself, growing and evolving each day, at an uncontrollable rate. Therein lies a problem for retrograde forms of government, those who want the state to remain separate from the internet. For a state to say they want to remain separate, or create a separate centralized, nation-based internet is for that state to admit that they do not understand the internet, either you have none, or you have all (and free). One could argue here that North Korea have managed to control their internet output in relation to their public, I would reply by arguing that they’re finding it difficult to control their electricity and as such I can’t imagine the percentage of North Koreans on the internet is vast.
As we’ve seen from history, the single revolutionary theses isn’t the problem (one can burn a single theses in minutes), it is the Internet’s networking (we’ll get onto networks later) ability to spread a single piece of ‘dangerous’ information quickly and efficiently, and once it’s ‘out-there’ it is near uncontrollable. The State’s attempts beyond net-publication become fruitless, for to capture, segregate or ‘ban’ the publisher is only to acknowledge that there’s something ‘out-there’ they don’t like, which urges one all the more to read it.
ACCESSIBILITY AND COST
The statistics I’ve previously linked show the rate at which in the internet is growing/expanding…is accelerating. With access to the internet becoming close to a human right (see Web Junkies for the adverse effects of this). It’s in our homes, our libraries, our schools, our jobs, our pockets etc. there is no getting away from it. In fact those who are ‘away’ from the internet nowadays often do so in a moment of Walden or McCandless-esque romanticism, as if to be away from the net is in itself some feat, like climbing Everest, or running a marathon or…deleting Facebook. Not only this but in terms of affordability there is little competition when it comes to a course of pure knowledge/entertainment, one can buy a used PC for under £100 and subscribe to a monthly line rental for less than £10 per month. One could in fact go as far as to buy a Raspberry Pi, connecting them to the net for under £100. All of this is ignoring Smartphones of course, which are slowly becoming the vast majority’s primary means of networking and communication, allowing for the ability of instantaneous updates whilst mobile. This accessibility allows for the general population – those who’ve become largely disillusioned with their Government – to be at the forefront of not a revolution but a transition:
“Revolutions are relative; if you get mugged by change, it is a revolution. If you were prepared for, or ably adapted to, the change, you may be able to call it a transition.” – Is it a transition or a revolution? – Carl H Builder.
It is of course very unlikely that just by the vast amount of accessibility, smartphones etc. that the population are adapted for a full transition. There is always the possibility of a dark-transition, in which access becomes control, those locked into a pre-monitored social system – especially one under the already passed Snooper’s Charter – are submitting prior to any technological-Reformation, they are complicit with changes either way, whether that be the emancipation of the left, or the authoritative AI control of the right.
SHORT CRYPTO HISTORY & THE BLOCKCHAIN
Before beginning any extensive extrapolation into what networks are I feel the need to ‘briefly’ explain cryptocurrency and the Blockchain, as it will be of the utmost importance in the network section, those of you already familiar with the technology feel free to skip to ‘NETWORK’, seriously, it’s dry.
In late 2008 Satoshi Nakamoto, the unknown inventor of the now very well known currency Bitcoin, announced he had developed a “Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System”, the idea of ‘digital cash’ had been around for a while, but up until Nakamoto’s development, no on had been able to create such a thing, at least not a system which avoided the ‘double-spend problem; (I’ll get to that) The most important aspect of Nakamoto’s invention however is not it being ‘cash’ but the fact it is decentralized.
Centralized systems usually have something along the lines of a central server, team, ‘bank’ or middle man to take account of all transactions, accounts and transfers etc. which in turn prevents double-spending (A given set of coins is spent in more than one transaction). This server could then be referred to if disagreements amongst users or within payments came up, the task was to create a system in which this central entity – in this case a server – wasn’t/isn’t needed. If one is to take this idea further however they realise the drastic real-world implementation, a state, economy or world without banks or state affiliated third parties, an economy in which each Blockchain is entirely its own.
So how does this work? Well money, generally, is basically a system of verification: Data-entries, numbers on a screen, proof of transaction, digits within an account etc. So, how do the databases of a cryptocurrency work?
There is a network of peers (Peer-to-peer), every peer on that network has the entire history of every single transaction on that network, and as such, the balance of every account.
Meta gives X Bitcoin to Tim; transaction is signed by Meta’s private key; the transaction is broadcast network-wide; the transaction becomes confirmed. This confirmation is key, confirmation means the transaction is set-in-stone and becomes an irremovable part of the Blockchain (which I’ll get to). Miners confirm these transactions: Miners make it clear these transactions are legit, send them throughout the network, and help make them part of the Blockchain: for doing this ‘job’, the miners get rewarded with the currency in question.
Since the network is decentralized anyone can be a miner, there is no central authority to delegate jobs/tasks. Miners use their computers, or computer’s power to find a ‘hash’ which connects the newly mined block with its predecessor. The miner’s computers are in a certain way working out a puzzle, the difficulty of this puzzle increases with time and as such limits the amount of currency that can be created in a given amount of time. Once the puzzle is figured out the miner adds the block-mined to the blockchain and is rewarded.
Put simply: A shared collective history of all transactions on a digital network, a copy of said history is stored on each and every user’s computer (a node), the blockchain itself and all transactions are public and can be viewed by anyone.
Cryptocurrencies are cryptographically stored. They are not secured by humans, or matter, but by maths, which does-not break. I’ll add these descriptions of the Blockchain are very dry, as for their importance and potential for ‘transition’, that will be made apparent in the ‘network’ section.
To use conventional banking as an analogy, the blockchain is like a full history of banking transactions. Bitcoin transactions are entered chronologically in a blockchain just the way bank transactions are. Blocks, meanwhile, are like individual bank statements. Based on the Bitcoin protocol, the blockchain database is shared by all nodes participating in a system. The full copy of the blockchain has records of every Bitcoin transaction ever executed. It can thus provide insight about facts like how much value belonged a particular address at any point in the past. The ever-growing size of the blockchain is considered by some to be a problem due to issues like storage and synchronization. On an average, every 10 minutes, a new block is appended to the block chain through mining. – Investopedia
By design, the blockchain is a decentralized technology. Anything that happens on it is a function of the network as a whole. Some important implications stem from this. By creating a new way to verify transactions aspects of traditional commerce could become unnecessary. Stock market trades become almost simultaneous on the blockchain, for instance — or it could make types of record keeping, like a land registry, fully public. And decentralization is already a reality. A global network of computers uses blockchain technology to jointly manage the database that records Bitcoin transactions. That is, Bitcoin is managed by its network, and not any one central authority. Decentralization means the network operates on a user-to-user (or peer-to-peer) basis. The forms of mass collaboration this makes possible are just beginning to be investigated. – Blockgeeks
Note the decentralized structure below.
Let’s first take a look at the four basic forms of organizational structure:
“1. The kinship-based tribe, as denoted by the structure of extended families, clans, and
other lineage systems;
2. The hierarchical institution, as exemplified by the army, the (Catholic) church, and
ultimately the bureaucratic state;
3. The competitive-exchange market, as symbolized by merchants and traders
responding to forces of supply and demand;
4. And the collaborative network, as found today in the web-like ties among some
NGOs devoted to social advocacy.” – [link]
The four basic organizational structures T, I, M, N: “To do well in the twenty-first century, an information-age society must embrace all four forms.”
With a tribe acting as tribal or clan type structure: kinship, blood.
Institutions: classical management structures with leaders and hierarchies.
Market: Acting in this case not as capitalism but as pure ‘exchange’
Network: All-channel network where all member are connected and can communicate with each other.
“For democracy to occur, the framework requires not only the addition of the forms but also a feedback of the latest form, in this instance the market, into the realm of the earlier form, e.g., the state.”
Below the embedded tweet I’ve transcribed Naval Ravikant’s entire thread of the importance and innovation possibility of Blockchain’s with relation to markets and organizational structures in the coming future, it may seem a bit gratuitous to transcribe it in full, however, there was nothing I felt needed cutting.
1/ Blockchains will replace networks with markets.
— Naval Ravikant (@naval) June 21, 2017
“Blockchains will replace networks with markets. Humans are the networked species. The first species to network across genetic boundaries and thus seize the world. Networks allow us to cooperate when we would otherwise go it alone. And networks allocate the fruits of our cooperation. Overlapping networks create and organize our society. Physical, digital, and mental roads connecting us all. Money is a network. Religion is a network. A corporation is a network. Roads are a network. Electricity is a network…Networks must be organized according to rules. They require Rulers to enforce these rules. Against cheaters. Networks have “network effects.” Adding a new participant increases the value of the network for all existing participants. Network effects thus create a winner-take-all dynamic. The leading network tends towards becoming the only network. And the Rulers of these networks become the most powerful people in society. Some are run by kings and priests who choose what is money and law, sacred and profane. Rule is closed to outsiders and based on power. Many are run by corporations. The social network. The search network. The phone or cable network. Closed but initially meritocratic. Some are run by elites. The university network. The medical network. The banking network. Somewhat open and somewhat meritocratic. A few are run by the mob. Democracy. The Internet. The commons. Open, but not meritocratic. And very inefficient. Dictatorships are more efficient in war than democracies. The Internet and physical commons are overloaded with abuse and spam. The 20th century created a new kind of network – market networks. Open AND meritocratic. Merit in markets is determined by a commitment of resources. The resource is money, a form of frozen and trade-able time. The market networks are titans. The credit markets. The stock markets. The commodities markets. The money markets. They break nations. Market networks work where there is a commitment of money. Otherwise they are just mob networks. The applications are limited. Until now. Blockchains are a new invention that allows meritorious participants in an open network to govern without a ruler and without money. They are merit-based, tamper-proof, open, voting systems. The meritorious are those who work to advance the network. As society gives you money for giving society what it wants, blockchains give you coins for giving the network what it wants. It’s important to note that blockchains pay in their own coin, not the common (dollar) money of financial markets. Blockchains pay in coin, but the coin just tracks the work done. And different blockchains demand different work. Bitcoin pays for securing the ledger. Ethereum pays for (executing and verifying) computation. Blockchains combine the openness of democracy and the Internet with the merit of markets. To a blockchain, merit can mean security, computation, prediction, attention, bandwidth, power, storage, distribution, content… Blockchains port the market model into places where it couldn’t go before. Blockchains’ open and merit based markets can replace networks previously run by kings, corporations, aristocracies, and mobs. It’s nonsensical to have a blockchain without a coin just like it’s nonsensical to have a market without money. It’s nonsensical to have a blockchain controlled by a sovereign, a corporation, an elite, or a mob. Blockchains give us new ways to govern networks. For banking. For voting. For search. For social media. For phone and energy grids. Networks governed without kings, priests, elites, corporations and mobs. Networks governed by anyone with merit to the network. Blockchain-based market networks will replace existing networks. Slowly, then suddenly. In one thing, then in many things. Ultimately, the nation-state is just a network (of networks). FIN/ Thank you, Satoshi Nakomoto. And to all the shoulders that Satoshi stands upon.” – (originally split into multiple tweets), Naval Ravikant.
What begins now is my reading of Ravikant’s thread. To replace networks with markets is to begin the transition, to understand that with Blockchains as pure-replacements there begins a deconstruction of hierarchy, a complete removal of third party entities involved with business and transaction. Though it begins a deconstruction of hierarchy in the traditional sense it also allows for micro-states in which a single Blockchain is taken as the network. This is reminscent, but entirely opposite to Mencius Moldbug’s Patchwork:
“as the crappy governments we inherited from history are smashed, they should be replaced by a global spiderweb of tens, even hundreds, of thousands of sovereign and independent mini-countries, each governed by its own joint-stock corporation without regard to the residents’ opinions. If residents don’t like their government, they can and should move. The design is all “exit,” no “voice…A Patchwork realm is a business – a corporation. Its capital is the patch it is sovereign over.” – Patchwork1
DISCLAIMER w/regards to Patchwork: I understand, as many did not, Moldbug’s original Patchwork within the 4 parts rested completely on government control, there was ZERO room for individual constraint, so before someone comments saying I’ve bastardized Patchwork, yes, I have, but in full knowledge of what the original meant.
So, really, as the crappy regressive governments who failed – as Gorbachev stated – to understand that knowledge and data are the single most valuable currency begin to crumble, they will indeed be replaced/naturally split up (via a reversion to archaic organizational structures) by mini-states, micro-nations etc., yet each one of these would have it’s own Blockchain, it is not beyond the limits of technology (as we can clearly see) to alter rules, rights, permissions etc. therefore each countries network/market = Blockchain is their basis for government.
“First, security is a monotonic desideratum. There is no such thing as “too secure.” An encryption algorithm cannot be too strong, a fence cannot be too high, a bullet cannot be too lethal…No cop ever stole my bicycle. And this will be far more true in the Patchwork, in which realms actually compete for business on the basis of customer service.” – Patchwork1
More than likely beginning from the classic decentralized platform in which those who reside in said micro-nation are able to view each vote as it is counted – if that’s their chosen system -, they can view government expenditure, tax expenses, etc. Of course, one could just as easily ‘exit’ to a Zuckerberg fairy-tale UBI land wherein they’re controlled by a dictator-corp, or a fully communist Blockchain wherein equal payments are paid out regularly etc. etc. you get the picture. However, with this concept of micro-nations as underlying Blockchains comes the bringing of the past into the future, for the previous organization structure layout of T,I,M,N, becomes overwhelmed, one could if there was enough people who wanted it, begin a tribal state, or a hierarchal state with a trickle-down Blockchain, or a divine-right system wherein tokens are gifted to those with certain DNA strains…the world is your decentralized oyster after all.
One could (quite easily) argue that with the inclusion of various forms of organizational states security would become but an illusion, yet, in-keeping with the original Patchwork (I’m ready for hell on this one.) the emphasis on security as customer service alongside “exit” over voice allows for those who aren’t receiving the service they feel they deserve to leave, as a meritocracy one can in all transparency view those who have and more importantly have not worked towards the profitability (if that’s the states’ aim) of the Blockchain, one can by all rights move (exit) to a state in which their Blockchain is working, or distributed agreeably to their tastes whether that is an agenda based around: Commerce, tech-innovation, acceleration, monarchy, entertainment, energy etc. if they feel that their current states’ Blockchain isn’t distributing its resources effectively…they can leave, if its system of accumulation doesn’t meet their standards….they can leave. It allows those who feel a compulsion for ‘return’ to do so, and those who feel compelled to accelerate to do so, allowing T, I, M, N to all exist freely, together, or not at all atop a horizontal decentralized -at first – Blockchain.
I digressed…hard. The conclusion(?) will be somewhat of a ramble, I’m not sure I can piece this mess together. Though, in terms of the Gutenberg press, which is where started remember? The internet is its 2nd iteration, not physically of course, merely in terms of its accumlative effects, many of which – I hope – I’ve listed here. It’s world-wide pervasive assimilation can’t come fast enough, for it shall throw us far beyond where we ever thought we’d end up, much like in the 16th century. Those who attempt at net-regulation/control will be severing the artery of the future, with the potential for a full scale national fatality if they don’t heal the wound. Those adhering to hierarchal restrictions are free to do so – once it all comes down – yet it’s more applicable they do so within a micro-state. If you disagree with a top down hierarchal structure – the structures that work by the way- then you are free to exit, head off to grey-shirt Soylent-ville, you are free to do this. You’ll feel cheated when you’re stood in a (soylent) bread line, and the other’s stand out like a Jackson Pollock abstract hanging in Plato’s Academy.