29 July 2014

'Internet will destroy journalism'

.@ToHoldAQuill. @Wikileaks. @Contributoria. @ClubOfINFO. #4thEstate. #StopTheNSA.

This article is being printed here because it delivers a powerful point in the debate on whether today's radically advanced technology results in a form of unassailable tyranny when coupled with the state.


"Journalism is publishing something someone does not want published."

George Orwell

Without journalism, democracy could not exist. The Fourth Estate's ability to check abuses by those in power is the last line of defense between us and tyranny. But this ability is under threat, and may soon -- barring some innovative breakthrough in secure computing -- disappear entirely.

The printing press created journalism. We take the press for granted today, but 500 years ago, Gutenberg's invention was as novel as the Internet, and equally disruptive. For the first time, mass communication across great distances was possible. Revolutionaries like Martin Luther seized on this new power to report on -- yes, report on -- the extreme abuse of power by the imperial power of his day, the Catholic Church.

It is no coincidence that America's Founding Fathers -- themselves revolutionaries against an imperial power -- enshrined this technology in the First Amendment to their Constitution. Without the printing press (and the rifle; but that's another article) the American Revolution could never have happened.

Without the printing press, we would still be living in the Dark Ages.

Like all disruptive new technologies, the printing press redistributed power. By automating the work previously done by scribes, the press drastically lowered the cost of copying -- and thus spreading -- information. A small number of people with modest wealth (needed for the purchase and maintenance of a printing press) could trumpet a new idea far and wide. The press took the power concentrated in the hands of the few (clergy, nobility) and gave it to the people.

That power gave the people a voice -- and what's more, a voice resilient to censorship. A printing press is a physical, decentralized machine that can easily be hidden in a basement or a barn. If a tyrant wishes to prevent the spread of an idea, he must send soldiers to confiscate or destroy the printing presses. And then what about all the printed copies? He must also find a way to destroy all those books as well. This might involve, as it did under Hitler in 1930s Germany, whipping the public into a frenzy so that they throw their books onto bonfires in the street. But even then, a few printing presses will survive, and many readers will still keep their books.

It is not impossible to censor the press in a dictatorship. It can and has been done -- but at great expense and with much difficulty.

George Orwell once noted [1] (H/T to Jay Stanley at the ACLU [2]) that:
“ages in which the dominant weapon is expensive or difficult to make will tend to be ages of despotism, whereas when the dominant weapon is cheap and simple, the common people have a chance. Thus, for example, tanks, battleships and bombing planes are inherently tyrannical weapons, while rifles, muskets, long-bows and hand-grenades are inherently democratic weapons.”
 (One need only consider the Tiananmen Square massacre: What would have happened in the absence of tanks?)

Technology determines political and social organization. It has been frequently observed, for instance, that the invention of the stirrup made medieval feudalism posible. By giving cavalry the ability to stand up in the saddle, this startling, disruptive new technology created an entirely new class of warrior who required a great deal of expense to maintain. The reorganization of European society into a feudal system occurred, in part, because of the invention of the stirrup.

The printing press, we may conclude, is a democratic technology. But the printing press is now obsolete, replaced by the Internet.

At first glance, the Internet would appear to be the ultimate democractic technology -- even more so than the printing press. Indeed, when the Internet was first invented, journalists and activists hailed it as the greatest tool for freedom and democracy in the history of mankind. It has lowered the cost of copying and transmitting ideas to practically zero. One voice can trumpet a new idea far and wide. Marginalized voices dispersed around the world can come together in common cause. How can this possibly be a bad thing?

Because the cost of seeking out and destroying ideas has also sunk to practically zero.

Let's go back to our Orwell test. Is the Internet cheap and simple? Or complex and expensive?

Cheap and simple to use, yes. To publish. To copy. But from the Internet rises two columns of power out of reach of everyday man: The power of Big Data, and the power of the zero-day exploit.

The ACLU's Jay Stanley delves deep [3] into the Big Data issue, so I won't dwell on this point too much. Suffice it to say, Big Data -- and mass surveillance in general -- is not about protecting the people from outside threats (“terrorists,” “Communists,” “hackers”), but about protecting the state from the people. It's about identifying and suppressing dissent. It's about social control.

But even if, by some political method, we were able to destroy the data silos and end mass surveillance (an unlikely prospect), there remains no solution to the zero-day problem.

People who have never written code or dug into how the Internet works are often baffled by this. My computer got hacked because of buggy code. So fix your code! Programmers and computer scientists know better.

Forty years of computing have proven that imperfect humans create imperfect computers. Code without bugs does not exist. Programmers make mistakes. And those mistakes -- in the form of zero-day exploits -- scale at a global level. A nice little zero-day in Windows or Android gives you control over most of the world's computer users. Security experts today counsel "assume breach." You must assume your computer network or system has been breached by an attacker who means you harm: An enemy who wants to spy on you, sabotage your data, or even destroy your data completely.

Security is the Internet's Achilles heel.

One need only understand how email works -- unencrypted text copied dozens of times from point A to point B -- to see the potential for abuse. People like Richard Stallman have been complaining about NSA spying since the 1970s. Edward Snowden's revelations have finally brought to the public consciousness what programmers and sysadmins have known since the Carter administration.

If the Internet, and computers in general, were secure, unhackable, encrypted in a manner impossible to crack -- a perfect world, that is -- then the Internet would be that utopia of freedom and democracy.

But this is not the case, nor will it ever be the case.

Worse, the market for zero-days is brisk, as governments and corporations scramble to bid ever higher the cost of the latest expoit. This power remains out of reach of the common man, and centralizes power in the hands of those who mean us harm. And that power will be used to silence dissent, shut down leaks, harass journalists, and even prevent/disrupt the publication of unwanted information.

It has been a commonplace observation, in the wake of the Snowden revelations, that when journalists can no longer securely communicate with their sources, journalism suffers. So far as it goes, they are right. But the truth is far worse.

What the Internet gives us in ease of copying and sharing information takes away from us in the impermanence of that information. Information on the Internet can too easily be found, monitored, and destroyed. The ability to censor -- and, indeed, to rewrite history -- has never been more real and immediate.

Journalism isn't over just because we can no longer communicate with sources in a secure manner. Journalism is over because spies can -- in real-time and retroactively -- destroy our work and literally re-write history. The impermanence of information on the Internet makes this trivial -- and as writing and consumption of writing moves increasingly into the digital realm, the ability to expunge an idea becomes more and more complete.

Some will argue, at this point, that journalism is not dead. Look at the great work Glenn Greenwald is doing...with great difficulty and at high cost. The Internet may have lowered the cost of publication but has dramatically increased the cost of doing quality, Fourth Estate, national security journalism.

The Internet, like the printing press before it, has redistributed power. In this case, from the people to the security apparatus, who have the power to spy on and disrupt our communications. As a result, we now live in totalitarian dictatorships run by spies, with a thin veneer of vestigial democracy to keep society ticking along, worker bees humming to the hive every day. The only check on the power of the spies is the need to operate on the principle of plausible deniability -- they cannot act openly against their enemies.

Yet.

The time is coming when this pretense will no longer be required. A manufactured crisis, a false flag attack -- most likely a cyber-attack that damages the financial system; the people will rise up in alarm and demand to be “protected” from this threat -- and the spies will be able to impose martial law on the Internet. The Great Star-Spangled Firewall of America will protect us from both Chinese hackers and uncomfortable truths.

Remember, on the Internet, journalism is no different from spam or child pornography or cyberwar. It's all zeroes and ones. It's all data. And it can be filtered, blocked, and destroyed with ease.

Once this happens, once martial law on the Internet is complete, once no email, no blog post, no tweet traverses the Internet without the permission of the government, then the power of the security apparatus will be total, and they will be free to kidnap, interrogate, torture, imprison and murder at will. To think that such awesome power will not be misused -- that any human being can be trusted with such power -- is naive.

You could argue, this hasn't happened yet, why should we expect it to happen? What about our democratic principles? What about our long tradition of democracy?

In times of great technological disruption, predicting the future is hard. However, certain timeless rules of human nature remain constant.

Power corrupts. Always, eventually, power corrupts.

One need only ask, how can this power be misused? And then you will know the future. Could be next year, could be ten years from now, could be fifty. But possibility is necessity. In the absence of a real check on power, you should always assume that power will be misused.

Remember the stirrup. Technology redistributes power and alters the social and political fabric. And the Internet is a technology that has tyranny baked in from day one.

The unthinkable can and will happen, and in our lifetimes. Power always corrupts eventually, and the power the Internet affords is so awesome, so unbelievable, that it is naive in the extreme to think that it will not be used for evil.

The Internet is hurtling us into a new Dark Age, such as mankind has never before seen, and far worse than the one the printing press helped us escape. History, as Oswald Spengler reminds us, is a form of tragedy, and we, the last free generation, can do little more than gaze in horror as our fate approaches, powerless to stop it.

Footnotes


[1] http://georgeorwellnovels.com/essays/you-and-the-atom-bomb/
[2] https://www.aclu.org/blog/technology-and-liberty/big-data-george-orwell-and-tanks
[3] https://www.aclu.org/blog/technology-and-liberty/big-data-george-orwell-and-tanks

By J. M. Porup - More articles by J. M. Porup

Originally published at Contributoria on 1 February 2014

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LOrdre: US "new" Cold War is a farce

. @Beliefnet. #LOrdre. #AntiStatism. #NoMoreWAR. #ColdWar.


From the L'Ordre blog, hosted at the world's top multifaith religious website Beliefnet:

Amid the farce of what is being called a “new” Cold War with Russia by bitter old US politicians, I grow more and more convinced that the state is evil and it’s time for the West to understand this aspect of modernity, finally.
Read more: http://www.beliefnet.com/columnists/lordre#ixzz38bRxfk4P

Also from the Saturday post, titled "To know an evil institution":

We need a US that is up to date with modernity, like the UK. We need a US that can accept all humans as equals, rather than arbitrarily denying them on the basis of not being part of the fake “nation”. Such a development will be an accomplishment for the antistatism.
Read more: http://www.beliefnet.com/columnists/lordre#ixzz38bU8Ce2u

L'Ordre slams the idea of dying for one's country in any war, stating "It is folly, because there is no nation." The post says that while people in Britain understand this concept better, the US culture of "patriotism" is delaying the realization that the myth of the nation is a harmful lie.

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25 July 2014

Catalyst techno-liberation thesis is in print

. @HJBentham. #book. #thesis. #politicalscience. #transhumanism. #anarchism. #globalization.

From Catalyst: A Techno-Liberation Thesis, Harry J. Bentham:
Nothing could improve the lot of the world’s poorest people more than uncurbed advances in certain emerging technologies – the only things that could offer serious remunerations for the people struggling with scarcity at the feet of Western bully-states and corporations. Products from synthetic biology and other emerging technologies, uncontained and unsupervised, should be circulated as the greatest hope for people in the world’s poorest countries. In the future, this might mean democratically circulating biotech machinery for farmers to genetically modify their own crops, and circulating synthetic life-forms that can enhance industry in the poorest countries and make economic participation better than a zero sum game for the world’s poor. Nothing could be better for people in poor countries in the long-term than explosions in inherently democratic emerging technologies – developments that should be counted among the few things that can seriously overcome the dependency of poor countries on rich countries. 
It is completely misguided to predict emerging technologies to be jewels in the crown of the Western world, because these technologies more than anything else are destined to finally break the chains of the world’s poor and create the closest possible conditions to equality. These technologies have more potential than anything else to eradicate the division of labor that keeps the poor in servitude to powers that hold an undeserved level of monopoly over advanced technologies. The uncertainty surrounding today’s defining technological developments represents a threat only to oligopoly. Abandoning all prudence to place a secure confidence in the promise of technology-powered liberation will be the key to tackling the unfair conditions and privileges ever sustaining global inequality.

Radiant and glossy copies of Catalyst are now available in print for the first time.

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22 July 2014

'A struggle between humans and nature'

. @IEET. @HJBentham. @ClubOfINFO. #nature. #philosophy. #ebook.


There is often imagined to be a struggle between humans and nature. How does this struggle originate, and what is its resolution? Such a question is central to some religious traditions, and has much room to be explored in literature.

Nature is used to describe everything that lies outside of human agency. Disasters and disease often fall under this description, although there is usually some element of human blame in such problems. Some people try to live or eat according to preferences that they call “natural”. In my view, this is a fallacy. When we use the word natural with its only workable definition, to represent something distinct from human agency, it means that anything resulting from human agency is unnatural and so it cannot be natural (even if it imitates nature). When it applies to human choices, natural is only an arbitrary label used by people to refer to anything they approve of.

Why would humans battle against nature? Perhaps suffering can be described as the most imposing and constantly surfacing part of nature in our lives, because it is ultimately caused by the laws of biology rather than human wills. We humans have vulnerable bodies and we rely on vulnerable, easily destroyed brains to exist, although it is very apparent that we would prefer not to be exposed in this way. Because this is so, the struggle to overcome humanity’s physical and medical vulnerabilities can be depicted as a battle against natureour nature.

The assertion that seeking invulnerability against suffering is an escape from cruel inevitabilities biology is certainly reflected in some philosophers, such as Friedrich Nietzsche. Despite seeing the transformation of humanity into a higher creature as a noble task, Nietzsche saw this as necessarily involving suffering. As for the desire to end suffering, he deplored this as a product of weakness and the inability to accept the forces outside human control.

Nietzsche addressed the way in which religious traditions give moral assurances against suffering. Religions offer promises of justice that run contrary to the natural order in which the strong are favored over the weak. The Christian doctrines of the fall of man and eternal Heaven are alike in their view that the world we know is flawed and polluted, and humans are instead meant to endure in paradise. Such myths have been easy for people to buy into, because it is often easier to tolerate suffering in the world and move on if one believes in a supernatural alternativea cosmic safety net for the weak and the deadafter it.

The other manifestation of our weak human refusal to accept suffering, but which actually works, is the desire to use science and technology to thwart suffering. Once we remove the supernatural, the only remaining assurances against suffering can necessarily come from the modernity of technology. In this sense, the idea of a technological singularity, after which the very best technology permitted by the laws of physics will get within reach, represents the only “true” paradise that could ever be inherited.

But what if a paradise, an all-encompassing solution to suffering, is impossible? A universe with high suffering is inherently more likely than a universe without it, because the “anthropic principle” does not contain any guarantees against mortality and suffering. The anthropic principle says human life exists only because this is a requisite for us to notice our own existence. Therefore, the anthropic principle leads to a universe that merely tolerates conscious life for a limited time, rather than enriches it or sustains it. Contrary to religious claims, the universe in which we reside is not “designed” for us to inhabit, and we know this because it is mostly uninhabitable. The vacuum of space cannot be inhabited, and most locations in the universe have the wrong temperature or lack the elements needed for life to exist. What is conspicuous is that the universal constants allow us to exist, not in any kind of ideal state but just enough.

One can relate “extropy” (Kevin Kelly’s usage of the term) to the anthropic principle. Where the anthropic principle explains the human-friendly properties of the universe as existing simply because a human observer exists, extropy the guarantee of something even more complex and intelligent in the future. More than simply tolerating human life, then, a universe where humans exist includes the inevitability that human intelligence will evolve into or produce something far more enduring and glorious. After all, we are no pinnacle, and we are still witnessing an ongoing explosion of intelligence through such creations as the internet and the race to develop powerful AI.

Take a look at history and current cosmology, and we will see that extropy looks very valid. Humans have undeniably been improving their existence, and this is arguably due to the universe being filled with resources that are very friendly to our needs. There are seemingly infinite resources and tools in the universe for humans to exploit to improve their civilization, and the anthropic principle alone did not necessary contain any guarantee that such useful “equipment” would exist. Conceivably, there could be worlds where intelligent life exists but there can be no fire. There might also have been no sufficient quantities of ores or effective tools to build an advanced civilization. Certainly, humans have a lot more at their fingertips than the minimal equipment promised to them by the anthropic principle. Although there is not necessarily a God to thank for it, there is a lot to be thankful for.

What if there was a world where conditions were less favorable? Perhaps, if humans were too vulnerable, there would be less potential to develop civilization, and instead all thought would be dedicated to staying alive. A work of fiction I have dedicated to exploring this theme, The Traveller and Pandemonium, takes place in a more hostile universe than ours (as permitted in the “many-worlds hypothesis”), where a traveler is not convinced by the idea that humanity could have arisen in such unfavorable conditions. Determining that humanity belongs in another world, he searches vainly for the solution.

The traveler keeps his quest secret, aware that most people will condemn him as a religious nut searching for Heaven if he talks about it, but there is actually a rational basis for his view that humans belong elsewhere. The world in which he resides is genuinely toxic and inhospitable to humanity, humans are vulnerable to every creature in the world around them, and they are rapidly going extinct. It looks like a human colonization gone awry on a hostile alien world, although no-one knows how it got that way.

The two strategies against suffering in the world can be described as surgical and spiritual. Those who advocate “spiritual” solutions are only offering window-dressing to humanity while they greedily seek power. Those who advocate “surgical” solutions might not seem beautiful or perfect in what they promise, but they are the only ones promising something real, offering something tangible that could really fight away the uglier characteristics of the universe and save what can be saved.


By Harry J. Bentham - More articles by Harry J. Bentham

Originally published at the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies on 17 July 2014

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18 July 2014

Squalid Worlds and Afterlives

.@hjbentham .#Follow @ClubOfINFO .#scifi. #philosophy. #fantasy. #Kindle.


People were, historically, more prone to believe in a Heaven after death when their living standards and life expectancy were poorer. It is appropriate that in a speculated post-apocalyptic or dystopian world, characters should be very prone to such belief.

Also, the despair of living in a squalid and unfair world usually leads to strange theories about how things got that way, and some ideal alternative is often imagined to exist elsewhere or at some point in the future. Hardline, cultic and extremist behavior flourishes when humans are perceived to be facing an existential threat. Religious traditions positing an afterlife as certain and assured are inherently hardline, because the existential threat addressed by them is death itself – that ticking clock from which none of us will escape. When other existential threats surface, the number of hardline and fanatical ideas increases exponentially.

To consider this subject, I used it to shape themes in my first full-length novel The Traveller and Pandemonium, authored with great care from 2011-2014. In the fictional world of the book, humanity is under much more nightmarish pressure than it is on Earth, and this pressure results in a plague of unlimited conflict and fanaticism tearing civilization apart. Rather than humans controlling and threatening the natural world, the natural world is encroaching on humans and threatening them. Humans are forced to cage themselves away for protection from the hostile aliens inhabiting the world in which they have found themselves, producing the surreal image of cities contained in bird-cage-like domes to shield them from the roaming creatures outside.

In a sense, the world I created for this story does not abide by the anthropic principle – a principle of cosmology which states that the world must include coincidences that support the evolution and existence of the people observing it, or there would be no such observers. Due to this principle not functioning in the world of the story, the alien setting of the story is threatening the human inhabitants with extinction rather than supporting them.

Faced with such a deadly situation from the outset, the main character, nicknamed “the Traveler”, is searching for the answer. How could humans exist in a world that fundamentally does not support or give any illusions of meaning to their existence?

By Harry J. Bentham - More articles by Harry J. Bentham

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15 July 2014

Political futurism, ethics energized by sci-fi

.@hjbentham .@dissidentvoice_ .#scifi. #philosophy. #fantasy. #Kindle.

 

Literature has served an indispensable purpose in exploring ethical and political themes. This remains true of sci-fi and fantasy, even if there is such a thing as reading too much politics into fictional work or over-analyzing.

Since Maquis Books published The Traveller and Pandemonium, a novel authored by me from 2011-2014, I have been responding as insightfully as possible to reviews and also discussing the book’s political and philosophical themes wherever I can. Set in a fictional alien world, much of this book’s 24 chapters are politically themed on the all too real human weakness of infighting and resorting to hardline, extremist and even messianic plans when faced with a desperate situation.

The story tells about human cultures battling to survive in a deadly alien ecosystem. There the human race, rather than keeping animals in cages, must keep their own habitats in cages as protection from the world outside. The human characters of the story live out a primitive existence not typical of science-fiction, mainly aiming at their own survival. Technological progress is nonexistent, as all human efforts have been redirected to self-defense against the threat of the alien predators.

Even though The Traveller and Pandemonium depicts humanity facing a common alien foe, the various struggling human factions still fail to cooperate. In fact, they turn ever more hostilely on each other even as the alien planet’s predators continue to close in on the last remaining human states. At the time the story is set, the human civilization on the planet is facing imminent extinction from its own infighting and extremism, as well as the aggressive native plant and animal life of the planet.

The more sinister of the factions, known as the Cult, preaches the pseudo-religious doctrine that survival on the alien world will only be possible through infusions of alien hormones and the rehabilitation of humanity to coexist with the creatures of the planet at a biological level. However, there are censored side effects of the infusions that factor into the plot, and the Cult is known for its murderous opposition to anyone who opposes its vision.

The only alternative seems to be a second faction, but it is equally violent, and comes under the leadership of an organization who call themselves the Inquisitors. In their doctrine, humans must continue to isolate themselves from the alien life of the planet, but this should extend to exterminating the alien life and the aforementioned Cult that advocates humans transmuting themselves to live safely on the planet.

I believe that this aspect of the story, a battle between two militant philosophies, serves well to capture the kind of tension and violent irrationality that can engulf humanity in the face of existential risks. There is no reason to believe that hypothetical existential risks to humanity such as a deadly asteroid impact, an extraterrestrial threat, runaway global warming, alien contact or a devastating virus would unite the planet, and there is every reason to believe that it would divide the planet. It is often the case that the more argument there is for authority and submission to a grand plan in order to survive, the greater the differences of opinion and the greater the potential for divergence and conflict.

Social habits, politics, beliefs and even the cultural trappings of the different human cultures clinging to the alien planet are fully represented in the book. In all, the story has had significant time and care put into refining it to create a compelling and believable depiction of life in an inhospitable parallel world, and readers remarked in reviews that it is a “masterclass in world-building”.

The central character of the story, nicknamed the Traveler, together with his companion, do not really subscribe to either of the extremist philosophies battling over humanity’s fate on the alien planet, but their ideas may be equally strange. Instead, they reject the alien world in which they live. With an almost religious naïveté, they are searching for a “better place”. It is through this part of the plot that the concepts of religious faith and hope are visited. Of course, at all times the reader knows they are right – there is a “better place” only not the religious kind. Ultimately, the quest is for Earth, although the characters have never heard of such a place and have only inferred that it might somehow exist and represent an escape from the hostile planet where they were born.

Reviewers have acknowledged that by inverting the relationship of humanity and nature so that nature is on the advance and humans are receding and diminishing in the setting of this science-fiction novel, a unique and compelling setting is created. I believe the story offers my best exploration of a number of political and ethical themes, such as how people feel pressured to choose between hardline factions in times of extreme desperation and in the face of existential threats. Science fiction is a worthy medium in which to express and explore not only the future, but some of the most troubling political and philosophical scenarios that have plagued humanity’s past.

By Harry J. Bentham - More articles by Harry J. Bentham

Originally published at Dissident Voice on 9 July 2014

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11 July 2014

Making opinions matter: making headlines

.#democracy. #you. #indie. #webcontent. #contentmarketing. @HJBentham.


Ever wanted to be the subject of international news, or to be recognized as an expert in your field? In the age of the web, both are relatively easy for anyone to accomplish – and it really matters. Thanks to digital culture, equal opportunity is becoming an unstoppable reality rather than an empty promise from ultimately self-centered authorities and companies.

Everyone knows the internet transforms humanity. Well-known YouTubers such as TheAmazingAtheist have depended on this transformative power of the web for their fame and popularity. It takes geography out of the human equation, and makes it possible to share ideas with ever vaster and more diverse audiences. In many ways, such beautiful communication discredits the idea that humans have to reside in arbitrarily delineated areas of land called states. But did you know you can easily make headlines as a result of your internet influence, and within mere months?

What I have come to realize is that over a period of six months, between March and September 2013, I easily acquired the means to become the subject of international news through the internet. And I accomplished this purely with a robust personal online publishing strategy. Reflecting on how I got this far with nothing more than a cheap netbook resting on a table, I have divided the process for making headlines online into five distinct “phases”. These phases, which I am eager to share with everyone, can easily be imitated by anyone with the bare minimum of a computer and an internet connection.

Keep in mind that I already tried blogging and “vlogging” for two years on YouTube, before I ultimately went for the route of legitimate online publishing. The truth is that blogging is simply inefficient and slow to succeed. It is something of a trap, because it is so easy to get started, but the fact is that it is almost impossible to grow a good readership through blogging alone. Fortunately, there are countless online publications in desperate search of writers with nothing more than comments worthy to be added to the discussion. To really harness the power of the internet, you need to harness the reach of people and businesses already thriving on the internet.

Phase 1


The first phase I identified on the road to effective online publishing consisted of finding nascent or seldom-visited online publications and submitting work to them. There are plenty of them that will take almost any submissions, which really gives new authors the chance to prove themselves. Recently, my own webzine, ClubOfINFO, has opened up to take submissions ranging from sci-fi stories to any meaningful commentary on technology and society.

Phase 2


The second phase involves going to the publications designed to empower everyone through the web, like openDemocracy or Infoshop News. It is at this phase that all online writers discover how technology has given them a unique gift to prove they are a force to be reckoned with.

Phase 3


In the third phase, if you are seeking to become a respected source on your subject, it is wise to use your background gained in the previous phases to submit articles to the leading magazine on your subject. After some months writing reviews and articles at a leading subject source like BeliefNet (that would be the best choice if your area of interest is religious belief) it is possible to earn recognition as a respected source of commentary in even further-reaching online media.

Phase 4


In the fourth and hardest phase, you approach an international news source with an op-ed. This can be difficult for a person who has not completed the previous phases, or if you insist on being published immediately at one of the very top news sources in the world. However, if you have the evidence to prove you are an outspoken online personality after successfully following the above strategy, an op-ed is very likely to be accepted. The real reward from this step is that media often quote their own experts in headlines, so it is actually possible that you can make your first international headline within mere months of becoming a writer on the web.

Phase 5


The fifth phase is all yours. Adapt it carefully to whatever you have set out to accomplish through your online publishing campaign. Successful online publishing can be used to amass an audience ahead of some other effort, such as promoting your personal website, creating more media opportunities in the future, or gaining a flow of potential customers at your own online business.

I followed the steps described above successfully, which is why I feel it is time to share them in detail. Better, I have more recently put together a detailed guidebook to teach these phases in their full depth and guarantee success for anyone else hoping to make their opinion matter through the web. This is a proven strategy, which produces very real results when completed. What I would like to see is everyone else recognizing this opportunity to excel and express themselves, rather than for this strategy to remain mine alone.

By Harry J. Bentham - More articles by Harry J. Bentham

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Recommended author: Stephen Sweeney

. @stephenjsweeney. #bio. #scifi. #fantasy. #ebook. #kindle. #space.

Born in Brighton, UK in 1977 to Terry and Emma Sweeney, Stephen Sweeney lives in London, where he works in electronics. He is also an ambitious independent science fiction author, which is the main thing we at ClubOfINFO always want to talk about. Among his published titles are such exciting works as The Battle for the Solar System, perhaps his most notable novel series.

The background of an author is key to your entitlement as a reader to rely on them as a source of quality fiction. That's one area where Sweeney is surely not weak. He studied Environmental Biology at Oxford Brookes University, giving him a unique vantage point from which to create his compelling worlds of science fiction.

While Sweeney does admire the leading giants of British fiction such as J. K. Rowling, Stephen King is one of Sweeney's most important influences. He jokes that he "doesn't read too much King any more since he's too scared of finding an old decaying dead woman lying in his bathtub, grinning at him."

You can find Sweeney's works listed at Amazon. Also follow his Twitter feed or visit his personal website.

ClubOfINFO is always looking to raise the profiles of independent science fiction writers, because we view the exploration of science and technology through fiction as a key avatar of human imagination and progress. If you have anyone in mind, or you'd like to get favorable coverage of your own works here, contact us to get a page at ClubOfINFO!

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8 July 2014

Iraq's only crISIS... and Iran

.#ISIS. #Iraq. #IRN. @HJBentham. @PressTV. #geopolitics.


Western depictions of the violence in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq as sectarianism somehow aggravated by the US’s regional adversary, Iran, are based on ignorance and blindness.

An example of this depiction of Iran can be found in US Senator John McCain’s June 16 statement on Iraq, in which he alleged Iran is pursuing a “narrow sectarian agenda” in the ongoing conflict in Iraq. This, despite the fact that Iran has been supporting the forces maintaining Iraq’s territorial and social unity. This is the diametric opposite of a sectarian policy, and Iran has been calling for reconciliation in both Iraq and Syria.

Nothing the Islamic Republic of Iran has ever said or done has deliberately isolated and targeted Sunnis or any other religious group. It is just not consistent with Iranian politics and foreign policy. Iran is a pluralistic and tolerant state, perhaps meeting these descriptions better than any other state in the region at present. In fact, if Iran’s foreign policy can be described in any sectarian terms, it can only be described as pro-Muslim.

Speaking as a non-Muslim, I find Iran’s eagerness to support all Muslims in the world, regardless of their sect, very striking. It is this dedication to support all Muslims without discrimination over ethnicity or sect that has led the majority-Shia country into supporting the majority-Sunni Palestinians and thus provoking the Zionist hatred of Iran’s principles. This particular detail is worthy pointing out, because it means Iran’s support for Sunnis is the very factor drawing enmity from the West and Israel. How can a state so resolutely in favor of all Muslims be sectarian?

I would like other readers in the West to carefully consider what I have written, for a moment. Logically, we know a country cannot be simultaneously committed to supporting all Muslims around the world, and simultaneously be pursuing a violent sectarian agenda within Islam. Someone is obviously lying intensively on this issue.

The truth is, if Iran was truly sectarian, it would not currently have any dispute with the West and Israel, because it would not have any interest in the events in Palestine or the crimes of Zionism. It would have abandoned those issues entirely, because they do not directly concern Iranians or Shia themselves. Palestine, so far outside the geography of Iran, could be of no sectarian interest for Iran. Iran’s interest in that part of the word cannot be sectarianism or the cold expansion of Iranian power, because the fate of the Palestinians is irrelevant to any pure or realpolitik expansion of Iranian power in the region. Iran is compelled to support the Palestinians for the sake of defending the whole of Islam – there is no condition of compliance with Iranian interests or adherence to edicts from Iran attached.

To simultaneously claim that Iran’s support for the Palestinians and Iran’s supposed sectarianism are threats to the stability of the Middle East is not possible for anyone with any sense, because these two claims are mutually exclusive. It is impossible that Iran could be sectarian and motivated by narrow self-interest, and yet remain committed to supporting members of a distant group from another sect, at the cost of the immense Zionist hatred against Iran.

Iranian policy towards other Muslim countries and other Muslim sects is, if anything, based on altruism and a genuine desire for regional harmony. Unfortunately, many of those other Muslim countries’ policies are instead being determined by puppetry and servile obedience to the United States, which has involved itself in a crusade against Islam itself. These states export confusion, extremism, instability and self-destruction among Muslims, and they set Muslims against one another as part of a selfish game of geopolitical power that ignores Islam and human rights.

Even more obvious evidence shows that the idea of Iran being sectarian is false. Iran’s society is described in most university courses as unusually tolerant towards other cultures and religious groups. There are numerous communities from other faiths and other sects of Islam residing peacefully in Iran itself. Even the rabidly anti-Iranian press in the US and UK can find no significant examples of religious persecution occurring in Iran. No-one is persecuted or forced to adhere to Shia Islam. There are no Iranian Takfiris, excommunicating Muslims for not sharing their beliefs. Any competent analysis focused on Iranian culture, society and governance will reveal the same pluralistic and tolerant country.

Let us compare this with Saudi Arabia, a regional country which likes to accuse Iran of pursuing selfish sectarian goals. Saudi Arabia likes to see itself as a major power whose regional influence is being trodden on by Iran, but the contest exists only in Saudi Arabia’s fevered imagination. In reality, Saudi Arabia’s problem is not Iran, but its leaderless terrorist creations like the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) who exist to nurture the delusions of Saudi influence and power.

In Saudi Arabia, Shia are persecuted, Jews are loathed, and Christians are put to death. Further, Saudi Arabia supports an entirely sectarian “uprising” supposedly by the Sunni minority against the Shia majority in Iraq, motivated by the sectarian obsession with attacking the Shia. In Iraq and Syria, there is a Takfiri power ideology stemming from the Saudi-backed militants claiming to represent all Sunnis. This, despite the fact that the majority of Sunnis do not support them. Even if the majority of Sunnis did support them, all that these barbaric factions would be doing is waging a sectarian campaign of genocide against the majority and the pluralist apparatus of the Iraqi state.

Now let us consider who is really promoting sectarianism in the region. Saudi Arabia’s rhetoric is blatantly anti-Shia. There is no doubt in anyone’s minds that Saudi Arabia has no respect for Shia or any desire to coexist with them, so we can forego any deeper analysis of Saudi Arabia here. Let us look at Israel and the United States. Do they worry about the sectarianism in the region? Well, what do they do to break the sectarian narrative? Nothing.

Officially, the United States and Israel do worry about sectarianism, portraying it as a threat to the region. But when US senators like John Barrasso are calling for Iraq to be divided, and Israel has thrown in its own rhetoric to support Kurdish independence, the real vultures of sectarianism are exposed. The social rifts in Iraq have been deliberately inflamed by the West and its regional puppet states at every turn. There is no limit to their encouragement of sectarianism. In fact, sectarianism is their sole narrative in Iraq, and they use the language of sectarianism to inflame the conflict.

A divided country, or an ISIS takeover of Baghdad, would be the ultimate degeneration into sectarianism in Iraq. The fall of Bashar al Assad would be the ultimate degeneration into sectarianism in Syria. The only reliable institutions against sectarianism in Syria and Iraq are those of the state. The only possible outcome of Iraq’s division or Assad’s ouster would be the dark explosion of ungoverned spaces, chaos and deepening sectarianism unless an alternate Islamic order could be formed in the interests of harmony. Supporting the state in both Syria and Iraq is the only reliable defense against sectarianism at the moment, and anyone who values the peace should recognize this.

Once a regime has taken the step of abandoning a pluralistic state and has handed authority to sectarian entities, it has supported sectarianism. At no point has Iran done so. The US and its allies are actually considering such national disintegration as a way of fuelling their own violent and divisive vision for the region.

When we view the claim about Iran being sectarian within the larger context of Iran’s support for the Palestinians and its commitments to unity and peace in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, the claim is exposed as an intolerable lie. The only sectarianism in the region is unilateral, recklessly encouraged by the regional allies of the United States.

By Harry J. Bentham - More articles by Harry J. Bentham

Originally published at Press TV on 3 July 2014

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4 July 2014

'GMOs not the problem, per se'


.@hjbentham .@dissidentvoice_ .#tech .#gmo .#ethics .@ieet.

Since giving my support to the May 24 march against Monsanto, I have taken the time to review some of the more unusual opinions in the debate over genetically-modified organisms (GMOs). The enthusiasts for technological development as a means of eliminating scarcity and disparity view GMOs favorably. These enthusiasts include Ramez Naam, whose book The Infinite Resource (2013) argues for human ingenuity as a sufficient force to overcome all resources shortages.

On the other end of the spectrum, alarmists like Daniel Estulin and William Engdahl argue that GMOs are actually part of a deliberate plot to burden poor nations and reduce their populations by creating illness and infertility. Such fringe figures in the alter-globalization movement regard big pharmaceutical companies, chemical companies and agri-giants as involved in a conspiracy to create a docile and dependent population. Are the opinions of either Naam or Estulin well-informed, or are they both too sensational?

Most commentators on the GMO controversy, unfortunately, seem to lean towards either the enthusiast or alarmist categories as described. Reason is often lacking on both sides, as people either blindly leap onto the GMO bandwagon as something tantamount to human progress, or they reject all biotechnology as evil by renewing the fallacy that unnatural actions are necessarily bad. The only thing both sides seem to have in common is their resistance to the Malthusian Club of Rome’s insinuations that overpopulation has to be rolled back to save the Earth’s resources.

Ramez Naam persuades us that the fire of human intellect can overcome our limited resources and allow tens of billions of people to exist on our planet without consuming all natural resources. Estulin and Engdahl reject the Club of Rome on the basis that resource limitations do not really exist and the analysis of the Club of Rome is simply aimed at justifying control of the Earth’s resources by the cherished few “elites”.

The truth rests somewhere between what the alarmist fringe critics of GMOs and the techno-progressive enthusiasts are trying to tell us. To be truthful, there is a serious controversy involving GMOs, but it is no outlandish conspiracy in any sense. It is merely an extension of the problem of greed that has burdened mankind for as long as feudal lords or capitalists have been privileged to put their selfish interests above the common good. The problem with GMOs is neither the nature of GM technology, nor something mysterious that takes place in the process of genetic modification. It is the nature of the businesses tasked with running this industry.

Whether or not certain GMOs on the market today actually cause cancer and infertility is irrelevant to the real debate. The problem is that we can guarantee that the companies engineering these organisms do not care if they cause health problems. They are only interested in downplaying or blocking bad news, and putting out constant marketing and good news about themselves. Typical of any fiercely monopolistic firm, this is not an honest relationship with the public, and corresponds to the prevailing belief in profit as the exclusive priority. For their game to be worth playing, they have to put increasing yields, shelf life and resistance to pathogens above anything else when designing crops. They have no choice than to do this, from their perspective, because the alternative is to allow themselves to be outperformed by their rivals.

 The fact that corporations put their own profit above health is a systemic issue in the world economy, and it is already known to the majority of consumers. We face it every day. Most of the fast food served by multinational fast food companies is accepted to be unhealthy, so the claim that giant food companies have little interest in our health is not a conspiracy theory. It is only a rational suspicion that the agricultural producers of seeds will also put profit over the long-term health of consumers and the interests of local farmers.

In theory, genetic modification could lead not only to higher yields but healthier food. Unfortunately, the businesses involved only really care about beating competition and becoming the best supplier. This behavior poisons everything, perhaps literally, now that these companies have been entrusted to define the toxicity in crops as a defense against pests. What we can learn from this that the problem is not GMOs per se, but the aggressive greed of the corporations who desire the oligopoly on food production via GM technology.

The public harm caused by giant firms, especially when they practice their ability to lobby the state itself, already runs very deep in most facets of life. The more significant the tools made available to such firms, the greater the potential for harm. Even if specific specimens are not harmful and can be proven completely benign, the fact is that GMOs open up an unacceptable avenue for unprecedented harm and malignant corporate interests invading people’s innards. It is this, rather than the whole science of genetic modification, that should be opposed and protested against.

Genetic modification and synthetic biology do not need to be new instruments of oligopoly and monopoly. There is a benign alternative to foolishly entrusting the mastery and ownership of living organisms to greedy multinational leviathans. We can look into “biohacking”, as popularized by science and technology enthusiasts who favor the empowerment of individuals and small businesses rather than corporations. There is a strong nod in this direction in J. Craig Venter’s book, Life at the Speed of Light (2013), in which he envisages living organisms being quickly customized and modified by lone individuals with the technology of synthetic biology. Such a development would transform society for the better, eliminating any need to trust an unsympathetic and self-interested corporation like Monsanto.

DIY genetic engineering is already possible. DIY means the product will be entirely disinfected from corporate greed, and adhere to your own specifications. They would not be able to put their profit above your health, because they would not get the chance. With this, biohackers can already genetically modify organisms for their own benefit. The extent to which farmers can begin to modify their own crops using comparable technology is not yet clear, but the development nevertheless represents an extraordinary possibility.

What if farmers and consumers could decide genetically modify their own food? In that case, it would not be the profit-oriented poison that is being consumed at so many different levels as a result of corporate greed. Crops would be modified only insofar as the modification will meet the farmer’s own needs, and all the technology for this process could be open-source. This hypothetical struggle for DIY genetic engineering rather than corporate genetic engineering would be comparable to the open-source and piracy battles already raging over digital technology.

Of course, some new hazards could still conceivably emerge from DIY genetic modification, if the technology for it should become ubiquitous. However, the only risk would be from individual farmers rather than unaccountable corporations. This way, we would be moving away from giving irresponsible and vicious companies the ability to threaten health. Instead, we would be moving towards giving back individuals more control over their own diets. Of course, abuse would still occur, but it would not have global consequences or frighten millions of people in the way that current genetic engineering does.

In sum, there is no reason to complain that genetic modification is perilous in its own right. However, there is always peril in giving a great social responsibility to a profit-hungry corporation. In much the same way that large firms have captured the state machinery of our liberal democratic states to serve their greedy interests, we should expect them to be subverting health and the public good for profit.

The complex dilemma over GMOs requires not an anti-scientific or neo-Luddite reaction, but an acknowledgement that intertwined monopolistic, statist and hegemonic ambitions lead to the retardation of technology rather than progress. I have made this very case in an essay at the techno-politics magazine ClubOfINFO, and I consider it to be an important detail to keep in mind as the GMO controversy rages.

By Harry J. Bentham - More articles by Harry J. Bentham

Originally published at Dissident Voice on 23 June 2014

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Make Your Own Headlines

. #ebook. @HJBENTHAM. #howto. #headlines. #fame. #succeed.

From Make Your Own Headlines, Shock Waves and Markets in Six Months: An Internet Writer's Campaign:

What I have decided to jot down in this book is an invaluable, detailed overview of the secrets to how I found my way into so many diverse publications, and a plan for others to accomplish precisely the same. I reject monopoly and the destruction of competition. I encourage everyone to publish as I have. I encourage everyone to make their own shock waves, headlines and markets as I have. The information needed to accomplish this has been compiled here, in this single digestible volume. 
Success through publishing and connecting with audiences in the Information Age should come at zero cost. It is a plan guaranteed to accomplish this, that I offer to everyone by writing this small but vitally informative read. I assure the reader that you will not regret possessing this title, because it contains everything you need to know to copy the steps I have taken to gain my present level of influence.

Discover Harry J. Bentham's secrets, and apply them in your own campaign. Click the image below to get your copy of Make Your Own Headlines:


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1 July 2014

A Transformational Experience

. @hjbentham. #transhumanism. #transformer. #tech. #netbook.

I have been genuinely awed by a radical new design of netbook, which I bought to replace an earlier machine after the keyboard suffered under a coffee spill. When this coffee spill destroyed the keyboard with with which I had written 15 books and published work in over 40 different sources, I realized just how dependent I had been on technology. What to do? Surely, anything else I bought would eventually succumb to the same kind of silly accident? I don't believe that.

My solution? Imagine that you spill your coffee on your laptop computer. You do not waste a moment mourning your lost technology. Instead, you disconnect the compromised keyboard and throw it to the floor after which you continue with the touchscreen. ASUS has introduced the "Transformer Book", with which you can now do this. After I had ordered the Transformer Book, swayed by its promise of transformation, I regained control of the keyboard that had suffered under the coffee spill. However, that didn't change my mind about buying a Transformer Book.

All the essential hardware of the transformer book is contained in the screen. which detaches to become a 10-inch tablet. Such a design is inherently more durable and effective that what you'll find in conventional netbooks. Keyboards get worn down, and they create a horrible vulnerability to liquids. Touchscreens malfunction if they get liquids on them, but they don't suffer any permanent damage.

What I found was the ASUS Transformer Book T100. I tend to only go for the cheapest available computers, and this was no exception, but I was impressed by the incredible power of this tiny computer. Honestly, it is like having the power of a full desktop PC in your hands.

The new separation feature, in which the screen and keyboard can be separated to offer an incredibly powerful tablet, make this netbook very friendly. It is comfortable for entertainment and play, as well as being as efficient as possible for work. You can literally use this as two completely different devices.

If you have a very mobile lifestyle or you prefer not to be fixed in one place, this gives you the power of a full desktop PC wherever you go. The Transformer book is very fast, excellent for writers and bloggers, who will find themselves able to get everything done at the maximum speed and efficiency.

By Harry J. Bentham - More articles by Harry J. Bentham

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ClubOfINFO is on LinkedIn!

. @LinkedIn. @ClubOfINFO. #socialmedia. #business. #connect.

ClubOfINFO Circulation is introducing a LinkedIn page, and is calling for followers from across the rest of its social media presence. We can plan on introducing a Facebook group too, in addition to our existing Twitter presence.

Updates will be posted at our LinkedIn page, and this move will serve to boost ClubOfINFO's potential as a business:

ClubOfINFO Circulation is an online publisher, launched in March 2014 with a mission to encourage and circulate offbeat and fascinating analysis and views on business, science, politics, culture and literature. Central to ClubOfINFO is the website clubof.info, managed by author Harry J. Bentham at Wigan, UK and home of the ClubOfINFO biweekly web magazine. 

For more, go to the ClubOfINFO Circulation LinkedIn page. Don't forget to follow, to show your support for this fledgling media project.

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