30 September 2014

The Catalyst Thesis, One Year On

. @HJBentham. @IEET. @HPlusMagazine. #transhumanism. #technology. #anarchy.

It has been over one year since Catalyst, the thesis of technology-powered socioeconomic liberation from Harry J. Bentham, was published on July 28, 2013. Downloaded hundreds of times by readers over this period, it is still waiting for its first customer reviews at Amazon. In an effort to lobby these belated reviews from downloaders, we recommend a quick download at Amazon.

If you've read Catalyst already, write a customer review for Amazon to share your thoughts

From the description at Amazon:
Catalyst is radical Lifeboat Foundation futurist Harry J. Bentham's 2013 political pamphlet, forecasting an unprecedented era of technology-powered socioeconomic liberation. According to Bentham, "the gravest danger to hegemony and oppression lies at the transformational crossroads of liberation and technology."
The thesis takes some of the most progressive ideas from sociology, and combines them with transhumanism to paint a vibrant picture of a world being destroyed and rebuilt in a new, user-friendly form. Such a revolution has greater potential than anything else to disrupt the structures that have held global inequality in place for centuries, thus emancipating, enlightening and arming the billions of people who have been kept oppressed, marginalized and eternally pressured into arduous labor in the world's poorest countries.

Since 2013, the ideas expounded in this book have been at the core of a lot of online publishing projects, including the creation of ClubOfINFO as a content website in 2014. ClubOfINFO is essentially Catalyst's unofficial website, dedicated to bringing this thesis to as many online readers as possible.

If you're a UK customer, write a review for Amazon UK

What is unique about Catalyst is its desire to expand the spectrum of the battle being waged between monopolistic entities like the US government, massive corporations and repressive regimes, and brave people-powered forces like WikiLeaks and Anonymous. This spectrum will come to include the real world, as various new and transhuman technologies like 3-d printers and synthetic biology further transfer power away from corporations and states and into the hands of individuals.

Catalyst makes a bold prediction about the enlargement of the technological rebellion shaking the world today: in the future, insiders will no longer just be leaking information to the public, but smuggling manufacturing and security-related technologies of a controversial nature to the world's most marginal and oppressed peoples. These Promethean deeds will start the true battle, enlarging the spectrum of personal liberation far beyond the internet to places it had never reached before.

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Harry Danilevics: a Position for Philosophy

. @HarryDanilevics. #philosophy. #socialchange. #politics. #lifestyle.

When I was at Columbia University, a close mentor of mine led me to the destined path of philosophy.

People around me always questioned what philosophy was and how that would be applicable in society, and asked what I would do for work, most of the time following that up with the only thought they had, that with being a teacher. I would denounce the assertion that teaching wasn’t my only option to take after studying philosophy (and the 15 other majors I stepped foot into), and the assumptions that thinking all day and learning 'nothing' would surely mean no applicable life skills only helped to fuel me more.

I knew all along that there had to be some reason why so many of the world’s greatest leaders, politicians, businessmen, investors, and spiritual leaders delved into the philosophic world at some point or for their entire lives. It wasn’t long before I was putting the connections together from the entire known past and the current present that I was exposed to, which in NYC & Columbia is quite expansive. Their differing senses of lifestlyes, mindsets, governances, occupations, cultures, religions, nations were all thrown at me after only knowing the Phoenix, Az perception of the world for so long.

Since I was in New York City, which serves to be the economic capital of the world at this current time, I was forced to notice and observe all of the current intricacies to survival in human civilization and society during this modern era that we’re living in. What the governance structure is like, how the financial markets are working and the impact their having, the purpose of organized religion, the concept of earning your keep through jumping into the work force and devoting your life to economic profit, and all the other wide ranging movements amongst men. 

Visit Harry Danilevics' website

Having this vision of what humanity encompasses down on Earth can only be understood if you take your eyes off of the ground and ponder into space. We humans are part of a massively complex accumulation of life that has arisen on a planet that is immensely small in our universe, yes ‘our’ universe because there are now acknowledged beliefs that we live in a multiverse. So all of the problems and fights we are having down here on Earth right now are meaningless until we understand ourselves.

What I mean by this is comprehending that we are the evolution of some spark of energy that has evolved infinitely into our bodily composition, and even that constantly changes. We humans have been trying to find an explanation for that since who knows when. Currently we find purpose in our possessions, professions, friendships, and other shallow ideals. When you learn to understand that death is not something to fear, because it’s not the body that matters, but the energy you possess which as a human is part of the entire race and life in general, and that we share that with all animals and organisms.

It is the whole of humanity that you are a part of and it’s the success of that entire mass that really will matter in the future and by helping to make it better now, your life energy whether passed down into children to continue on or by the positive contributions of your skills and energy. That being said, if we can understand this, while understanding the technological, biological, cosmological, sociological, economical, and political advancements that have been made, we should be able to realize that we can stop the spinning out of control and organize ourselves more humanly now that we have the ability to do so more than ever before. 

These are some of the things that philosophy led me to see. What that has made me think about is how we could combine all of the advancements of the day together to propel society forward in a better manner for everybody. I’ve enveloped myself with information constantly, observing trends and learning about movements in all fields, moving across multiple dimensions of society. What I noticed was strict rigidity amongst fields, to be an expert meant knowing everything about your profession and disregarding anything past basic of the others.

Of course, more successful people tend to see or look more between multiple spheres and that helps contribute towards their success. But the very few who have studied philosophy, I’ve learned, have helped move humanity as a whole forward and didn’t focus solely on themselves. 

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26 September 2014

VISIT: Maquis Books, Our Sci-Fi Wing

. @MaquisBooks. #indiepublishers. #stories. #fiction. #books. #kindle.

ClubOfINFO's fiction wing, Maquis Books, is inviting a bigger online audience in its first significant push to gain more users and readers. If you're fascinated by science fiction or have personal ambitions to boost your audience as an indie sci-fi writer, Maquis Books is the right place to go.

At ClubOfINFO, many somewhat dissident political angles are introduced, and there is no shame in this or any attempt to hide it (it's just the nature of ClubOfINFO's niche in the blogosphere right now). However, you might just prefer less such material, and a more relaxing alternative is available through Maquis Books. The blog there has no political biases, and is simply dedicated to offering entertaining and interesting content for all consumers.

Maquis Books has a blog space at maquisbooks.blogspot.com, as well as a Twitter account devoted to giving author shout-outs and circulating their short fiction. We can give you a shout out too, if you have your own fiction works you would like to share via our contact form.

The Maquis Books outlet may still be tiny, but it is already home already to a single full-length science fiction/fantasy novel, The Traveller and Pandemonium (2014) by Harry J. Bentham, with some rather interesting and unique features, as tweeted below.

Free fiction stories are posted at Maquis Books every Monday, and we're already circulating work from indie authors like Harris Tobias and Michele Dutcher, both of whom were discovered through the popular online fiction peer-review platform Quantum Muse.

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Re: When Google Met WikiLeaks (2014)

. @hjbentham. @WhenGoogleMetWL. #WikiLeaks. #Google. #JulianAssange.

Julian Assange’s 2014 book When Google Met WikiLeaks consists of essays authored by Assange and, more significantly, the transcript of a discussion between Assange and Google’s Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen.

As should be of greatest interest to technology enthusiasts, we revisit some of the uplifting ideas from Assange’s philosophy that I picked out from among the otherwise dystopian high-tech future predicted in Cypherpunks (2012). Assange sees the Internet as “transitioning from an apathetic communications medium into a demos – a people” defined by shared culture, values and aspirations (p. 10). This idea, in particular, I can identify with.

Assange’s description of how digital communication is “non-linear” and compromises traditional power relations is excellent. He notes that relations defined by physical resources and technology (unlike information), however, continue to be static (p. 67). I highlight this as important for the following reason. It profoundly strengthens the hypothesis that state power will also eventually recede and collapse in the physical world, with the spread of personal factories and personal enhancement technologies (analogous to personal computers) like 3-d printers and synthetic life-forms, as explained in my own techno-liberation thesis and in the work of theorists like Yannick Rumpala.

When Google Met Wikileaks tells, better than any other text, the story of the clash of philosophies between Google and WikiLeaks – despite Google’s Eric Schmidt assuring Assange that he is “sympathetic to you, obviously”. Specifically, Assange draws our attention to the worryingly close relationship between Google and the militarized US police state in the post-9/11 era. Fittingly, large portions of the book (p. 10-16, 205-220) are devoted to giving Assange’s account of the now exposed world-molesting US regime’s war on WikiLeaks and its cowardly attempts to stifle transparency and accountability.

The publication of When Google Met WikiLeaks is really a reaction to Google chairman Eric Schmidt’s 2013 book The New Digital Age (2013), co-authored with Google Ideas director Jared Cohen. Unfortunately, I have not studied that book, although I intend to pen a fitting enough review for it in due course to follow on from this review. It is safe to say that Assange’s own review in the New York Times in 2013 was quite crushing enough. However, nothing could be more devastating to its pro-US thesis than the revelations of widespread illegal domestic spying exposed by Edward Snowden, which shook the US and the entire world shortly after The New Digital Age’s very release.

Assange’s review of The New Digital Age is reprinted in his book (p. 53-60). In it, he describes how Schmidt and Cohen are in fact little better than State Department cronies (p. 22-25, 32, 37-42), who first met in Iraq and were “excited that consumer technology was transforming a society flattened by United States military occupation”. In turn, Assange’s review flattens both of these apologists and their feeble pretense to be liberating the world, tearing their book apart as a “love song” to a regime, which deliberately ignores the regime’s own disgraceful record of human rights abuses and tries to conflate US aggression with free market forces (p. 201-203).

Cohen and Schmidt, Assange tells us, are hypocrites, feigning concerns about authoritarian abuses that they secretly knew to be happening in their own country with Google’s full knowledge and collaboration, yet did nothing about (p. 58, 203). Assange describes the book, authored by Google’s best, as a shoddily researched, sycophantic dance of affection for US foreign policy, mocking the parade of praise it received from some of the greatest villains and war criminals still at large today, from Madeleine Albright to Tony Blair. The authors, Assange claims, are hardly sympathetic to the democratic internet, as they “insinuate that politically motivated direct action on the internet lies on the terrorist spectrum” (p. 200).

As with Cypherpunks, most of Assange’s book consists of a transcript based on a recording that can be found at WikiLeaks, and in drafting this review I listened to the recording rather than reading the transcript in the book. The conversation moves in what I thought to be three stages, the first addressing how WikiLeaks operates and the kind of politically beneficial journalism promoted by WikiLeaks. The second stage of the conversation addresses the good that WikiLeaks believes it has achieved politically, with Assange claiming credit for a series of events that led to the Arab Spring and key government resignations.

When we get to the third stage of the conversation, something of a clash becomes evident between the Google chairman and WikiLeaks editor-in-chief, as Schmidt and Cohen begin to posit hypothetical scenarios in which WikiLeaks could potentially cause harm. The disagreement evident in this part of the discussion is apparently shown in Schmidt and Cohen’s book: they alleged that “Assange, specifically” (or any other editor) lacks sufficient moral authority to decide what to publish. Instead, we find special pleading from Schmidt and Cohen for the state: while regime control over information in other countries is bad, US regime control over information is good (p. 196).

According to the special pleading of Google’s top executives, only one regime – the US government and its secret military courts – has sufficient moral authority to make decisions about whether a disclosure is harmful or not. Assange points out that Google’s brightest seem eager to avoid explaining why this one regime should have such privilege, and others should not. He writes that Schmidt and Cohen “will tell you that open-mindedness is a virtue, but all perspectives that challenge the exceptionalist drive at the heart of American foreign policy will remain invisible to them” (p. 35).

Assange makes a compelling argument that Google is not immune to the coercive power of the state in which it operates. We need to stop mindlessly chanting “Google is different. Google is visionary. Google is the future. Google is more than just a company. Google gives back to the community. Google is a force for good” (p. 36). It’s time to tell it how it is, and Assange knows just how to say it.

Google is becoming a force for bad, and is little different from any other massive corporation led by ageing cronies of the narrow-minded state that has perpetrated the worst outrages against the open and democratic internet. Google “Ideas” are myopic, close-minded, and nationalist (p. 26), and the corporate-state cronies who think them up have no intention to reduce the number of murdered journalists, torture chambers and rape rooms in the world or criticize the regime under which they live. Google’s politics are about keeping things exactly as they are, and there is nothing progressive about that vision.

To conclude with what was perhaps the strongest point in the book, Assange quotes NYT columnist Tom Friedman. We are warned by Friedman as early as 1999 that Silicon Valley is led less now by the mercurial “hidden hand” of the market than the “hidden fist” of the US state. Assange argues, further, that the close relations between Silicon Valley and the regime in Washington indicate Silicon Valley is now like a “velvet glove” on the “hidden fist” of the regime (p. 43). Similarly, Assange warns those of us of a libertarian persuasion that the danger posed by the state has two horns – one government, the other corporate – and that limiting our attacks to one of them means getting gored on the other. Despite its positive public image, Google’s (and possibly also Facebook’s) ties with the US state for the purpose of monitoring the US pubic deserve a strong public backlash.

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23 September 2014

Challenging the Motives Behind War

. @cnels43. #NoMoreWAR. #Iraq. #Obama. #IS.

American criminal law takes a nuanced view of murder, creating several punishable degrees of it. First degree murder is generally defined as premeditated. The murderer has a plan to kill and takes sufficient time to map out his crime. Second degree murder involves the killer who hasn’t necessarily taken the time to plan out his crime, but nonetheless has an “evil mind” and intends to kill. Another variety of second degree murder involves the killer who engages in conduct so depraved that the law says he should have known that his behavior would likely result in death. Then there’s manslaughter, sometimes referred to as “negligent homicide,” wherein the killer behaved negligently and someone died as a result. These are age-old American legal traditions.

Somehow, American war culture manages to turn a blind eye to these longstanding, basic legal principles when it comes to its government’s wars. Americans brook no nuance when it comes to war. A war with massive civilian casualties is the same as a war with no civilian casualties, as long it meets some vague government objective. For anyone who doubts this lack of distinction, simply look at the body of historical work surrounding “The Good War” – World War II.

War is hell, they say. War is a dirty business. You have to break a few eggs to make an omelette. The countless despicable metaphors used to describe war are intended to distract people from what war really is: Non-punishable mass murder.

Unfortunately, no matter how reckless, depraved, ill-informed or misconceived American war-making becomes, the war-makers are never held to the same standards as run-of-the-mill murderers. Neither George W. Bush nor any other American president, were he tried in a criminal court of law (loud laughter), would escape conviction for first degree murder.

But in war, all the war-making murderer needs is a place where he or she claims bad people exist. To hell with other details or circumstances. The rest of the war-making murderer’s conduct gets blanket immunity so long as that low threshold requirement is met. Most of the time even that part can later be found false or mistaken. The actual execution of war never matters. Its implementation always ends up being reckless, depraved, and of such a nature that even a toddler would recognize it as guaranteed to lead to the murder of innocents. Yet presidents and congressman always get away with behavior that would land any ordinary person behind bars, probably on death row.

Many critics of the American War Machine give their opponents the benefit of doubt by acknowledging supposedly good intentions. This is a grave mistake. It becomes a mantra that gets tossed out prior to challenging any war: “I know you mean well, but …” It’s time to drop that preface. Just as criminal law cuts the negligent killer no break, so too should serious war critics drop the forgiving aspect of their engagement with government killers.

Remember this when Barack Obama or any future president speaks to you in an effort to outline his or her war strategy. It doesn’t matter whether he or his clan of humanitarian killers are able to come up with some cockamamie excuse for dropping bombs. Their behavior is going to end innocent lives, pure and simple.

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Political Governance & Natural Boundaries

. @gmincy. @c4ssdotorg. #commons. #heritage. #desert. #ecology.

The vast Sonoran Desert of the American Southwest lies in the political territories of California and Arizona and reaches south into Mexico. Its arid landscape is home to human industry and a complex ecosystem full of unique flora and fauna, mesas, canyons, arched rocks and other processes of deep time. It is thus governed by two competing forces: Political governance and natural boundaries.

In the Sonora, just outside of Coachella, California new development plans call for building tens of thousands of new homes on the landscape, converting wilderness to neighborhoods and town squares.

Media reports coming out of the southwest the past few months, however, note the great drought and water crisis gripping the region. Residents wonder where the water for even more sprawl will come from. NASA satellite mapping the region reveals incredible reductions in groundwater across the landscape. The trend is resource depletion, and we are warned it will only get worse.

But, the water shortage is not the crisis gripping the Southwest.

There is water everywhere in desert. Water flows in braided streams and deep channels such as the great Colorado. Water carves out canyons and gorges against quartz rich sandstone, occupies porous rock and nurtures incredible desert plants such as the flowering cacti. As desert enthusiast Edward Abbey writes in his book Desert Solitaire: “Water, water, water … There is no shortage of water in the desert but exactly the right amount … There is no lack of water here unless you try to establish a city where no city should be.”

What is imperiling the desert is human domination of the landscape.

Planning, zoning and development ultimately seek economic growth. There are of course guidelines and restrictions, town hall meetings and financial statements, but at the end of the day centralized economic regimes will develop a landscape if there’s a profit to be made.

Landscapes have been divided, not based on the sciences of resource management, geology or ecology, but rather to serve political and economic ambitions. States draw fictional lines in the sand for the sole purpose of claiming landscapes as property to enclose, develop and regulate. The political boundary is a marker of centralized economic planning — an institution that sprouts cities, municipalities, lush green golf courses and dam construction in arid lands.

It is a pity that advocates of central planning, in the name of the environment no less continually deny that high-liberalism is a failed dogma. The market mechanism, however, coupled with common governance offers a fresh take on resource management. This adaptive approach allows us to analyze landscapes in terms of watersheds, ecosystems, capacity for food production, resources available for trade, cultural heritage and resource conservation.

Such an order would ensure that vast landscapes will rarely, if ever, be occupied by our bodies.

The market mechanism, free of sweeping land use policy, would naturally cap resource extraction at its maximum sustainable yield. There would be strong economic incentive for water conservation in arid lands, as opposed to the maximum utility we see today. This respect for natural boundaries would in turn limit the amount of sprawl into the landscape. In the commons, land is not a commodity, but a connection — a place of labor and heritage.

I have long admired the desert. In these lands geologic formations readily display the story of an ancient Earth, streams intricately carve new landscapes while deep canyons and alluvial fans speak to the power of time. The desert should not be subjected to the Anthropocene, but liberated from it.

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19 September 2014

Black Hole of US Regime "Justice" System

. @dsdamato. #policestate. #slavery. #prison. #anarchism.

The Black Hole of the American Injustice System

Though many Americans know that prisoners often work while behind bars, the conditions under which they toil may be less than clear. Fortune magazine made waves this summer when it reported that “[p]rison labor has gone artisanal,” revealing a multimillion dollar business that puts convicts to work making everything from specialty motorcycles to goat cheese sold at Whole Foods.

And while consumers pay top dollar for the prisoners’ expensive wares – and companies like Colorado Corrections Industries rake in millions – the prisoners themselves often make as little as 60 cents per day. David Fathi, director of the ACLU’s National Prison Project, says that prison labor operates in a “legal black hole” where basic legal protections such as minimum wage are conspicuously unavailable.

That hopeless black hole has swallowed nearly 2.5 million individual Americans, destroying lives and dreams, tearing families asunder and leaving them in financial ruin. As is now a well-known and shameful fact, the United States incarcerates a higher percentage of its populace than any other government on earth. No country sanctioning such a practice can maintain that it is “free” in any but the most ironic, mocking sense.

Such statistical data confirm the United States’ brutal and unjustifiable over-criminalization, the tendency toward outlawing acts that a free society would treat as permissible. Today, a huge percentage of American prisoners at both the state and federal levels are nonviolent offenders, their crimes usually involving the possession of illegal drugs. Most of these captives are black or Hispanic Americans – even though these groups are no more likely to possess “contraband” than white Americans. Subjected to militarized police forces that treat their neighborhoods as occupied war zones, members of these vulnerable groups are routinely harassed, stopped and frisked, watched and arrested without cause. They are made criminals, sent to prison to languish or perform slave labor.

Yet even if we grant, for the sake of argument, the preposterous premise that almost everyone in prison has committed some actual crime, we are nonetheless left with the question of how a free society ought to deal with those who violate the rights of others. The notion that wrongdoers must be punished is the great unexamined assumption. It is not at all clear that justice is served by punishment – much less that justice requires punishment.

In Resist Not Evil, distinguished attorney Clarence Darrow argued that punishment itself represents a great injustice, his great legal mind condemning “the evil and unsatisfactory results of punishment.” Darrow believed the criminal justice system should strive to make a victim whole and to reform the lawbreaker, not to subject the criminal to savagery and vengeance, the barbaric holdovers of less enlightened ages. Darrow went so far as to contend that the state’s simple and mindless revenge, “without any thought of good to follow,” is indeed worse “than any casual isolated crime.” Considering the practice of punishment from all angles, addressing all ostensible rationales, Darrow revealed it as wrong, ineffectual, inhuman.

Market anarchists believe that only acts which violate the equal rights of others ought to be regarded as crimes. Every individual thus has the sovereign right to live her life in whatever way she chooses, as long as she allows everyone else the same right. Under these simple standards, the prison system is an abominable example of injustice and aggression.

“The time will come,” Darrow wrote, “when the public prosecutor and the judge who sentences his brother to death or imprisonment will be classed with the other officers who lay violent and cruel hands upon their fellows.” With American prisons bursting at the seams and giant corporations exploiting the slave labor pool they create, one hopes that the day Darrow wrote of is coming sooner rather than later.

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17 September 2014

NOt an Option - Final Reasons to Vote YES

. @YesScotland. #IndyRef. #18September. #ScotlandDecides. #VoteYes. #Tomorrow.

For Scots: Some key reasons to vote YES in the Scottish Independence referendum taking place tomorrow, on 18 September:
  • Scotland should control its own destiny
  • Escape further decades of bad governance by London
  • Scotland should be able to base its policies on its own interests, not London's interests
  • Remove the specter of dwindling and southward-shifting industry that has plagued both Scotland and Northern England
  • Independence will remove the regime completely, implementing a more significant change than any general election. UK general elections are obsolete for Scotland and never produce what the Scottish people want, due to Scotland's small population
  • The main Westminster parties openly acknowledge that they are all of the same view on Scottish independence, as they are on all issues, and therefore all are inept choices for real change. Independence allows for actual change, not fake change
  • London is highly likely to implement further economic hardship on Scotland in the event of a NO vote, as punishment for the referendum being held at all and a deterrent to future referendums
  • London will not give more powers to Scotland after a NO vote as they will have no incentive to do so and more incentives to do the above
  • That the referendum is being held at all contravenes the Tory government's interests and priorities so decisively that Scotland cannot expect to be rewarded for holding it, if a NO vote occurs
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16 September 2014

Help Crowdfund ClubOfINFO Circulation

. @Indiegogo. @Openlrning. #democracyforall. #ecourse. #openeverything.

ClubOfINFO is reaching out to potential donors to keep the site online and maintain our packages that offer a voice to the voiceless. We have 55 days left to make this happen, so check out our efforts and see what you can do to assist.

Please review our new crowdfunding campaign at the popular platform, Indiegogo. See the perks you can unlock by contributing, and consider putting a small sum forward. We could at least do with the minimum $25 renew control of our own domain name, and we have no-one to call on but the crowd to achieve it.

We have created a new page at ClubOfINFO explaining how we directly assist people searching for the right outlet to express their views and develop as a successful online author. In addition, we have introduced a free ecourse teaching our special zero-budget personal publishing tactics at Openlearning, and at least three students have already enrolled to discover our secrets. Consider joining them, and get the same material that had previously only been available in the book, Make Your Own Headlines.

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Cypherpunks (2012) – Book Review

. @WikiLeaks. @ORBooks. #Transparency. #Privacy. #Anonymous. #WikiLeaks.

Cypherpunks: Freedom and the Future of the Internet is a fascinating series of conversations between Julian Assange, Jacob Appelbaum, Andy Müller-Maguhn and Jérémie Zimmermann. While illuminating the political dangers of state “total surveillance” of the uploaded lives of the population of the entire industrialized world, the more positive case on the internet at the end of the book draws attention to the unprecedented level of popular influence and freedom it can still represent. For those who only go with a highly optimistic view of technology, Cypherpunks may cause disillusionment, but it also offers hope and a brilliant direction for incumbent technological change to be channeled. At the very least, this book enables those of you who consider yourselves to be “hackers” or to be striving for positive technological change in society to quickly know thine enemy. The book captures how hacking is the popular conquest of technology, while “centralization of technique” is the state conquest of technology for sustaining the power of a privileged few.

In stores prior to the disclosures of Edward Snowden in May 2013, the book nevertheless captures the awareness of the extensive nature of the surveillance yet unrevealed by Snowden at the time. The book’s concern seems to be that state political and economic abuses, particularly repression, unequal exchange and insider trading, will become rampant if government officials exploit their present information privilege (p. 4). While currently governments enjoy high privacy and citizens are made transparent by surveillance, instead the opposite ought to be enforced (p. 141-147). Going beyond the normal political spectrum, the book posits that both the state and powerful firms are enemies of our newfound technological liberation (p. 53-54).

The book considers how governments believe secrecy is needed for the sake of “slowing down processes to better control them” (p. 22). This kind of state thinking is an admission that states currently consider themselves too sluggish to keep up with popular technology and the popular wills expressed through it. Knowledge can be interpreted as the power to understand and effect change (p. 23).  States, which depend on borders, regard the internet as a horrible wound, and their vicious reactions to leakers resemble the throes of a fatally wounded beast. They are afraid of the popular “ability to affect government affairs by travelling to other countries, speaking to people, and spreading ideas.” The “most dangerous” thing that state authorities believe they are facing is that they can be popularly rejected and contradicted because of the information explosion (p. 113). However, the internet in politics can be seen as a double-edged sword for both sides, as it can be used to track down dissidents as well as criticize governments. One decisive point that deserves particular attention at our juncture in history is the simple observation of how, rather than it remaining the case that state technological advantages and monopolies are accepted as practical necessities by the public, those state advantages are increasingly only ever justified through a variety of paranoid and autocratic security narratives (p. 72).

In their horror at the newfound popular power of the internet, states want to bypass the war of information and seek the last-ditch defense of hardware dominance (p. 3). Perhaps they feel the urgency to control the ground upon which data centers rest. Yet, in spite of all their efforts, high “centralization of technique” is historically succeeded by “democratization of technique,” as more people are empowered by the historical flow of technology (p. 26-27). Everything rests on the way in which the technology exists and can be used, and inherent democratic properties and potentials in the technology itself can indicate inevitable democratization of the technique of using the technology.

The state retains control of many hackers by teaching a “cog in the machine” mentality (p. 36) to them. This goes against the current historical trend of the crisis of state social cohesion. Hackers, among tomorrow’s educated youth, reject the “nation”. The true trend is that the youth are becoming increasingly difficult to use as nationalistic automatons, and must directly be affected morally in order to compel them to do anything. They are more morally affected by their peers, who reject state authority, than they are by the state. This trend ought to be encouraged if technology is to move in the direction favorable to freedom.

Part of the war of position of the hackers is their encouragement of legislation to counter surveillance, as explained (p. 41-49). However, this is not possible unless in a small country where rulers can more easily be known to be violating their mandate and easily held accountable. In a larger country, it is far harder to know when legislation and treaties are violated by the government itself. Hacker culture is also part of the war of position, as transnational civil society has proven overwhelmingly sympathetic to the hacker activist element (p. 68). Cryptographic tools are the key option in the maneuver warfare of hackers to circumvent the prying eyes of states, because they subvert the ability of governments to threaten violence to stop information (p. 59-65). Violence cannot be used when the source of the information is unknown.

A fascinating observation shared by Assange is the fact that there seems to be only two kinds of escape from the “totalitarian surveillance society”. One is the path of the hackers (people who are trained and willing to take apart and understand systems to conquer them) and the other is the path of the neo-luddites (people who simply avoid communication technology to escape surveillance, but become politically irrelevant as a result) (p. 62-63). With the larger public, there could arise the problem of self-censorship, in which true political grievances go unexpressed because all people know they are being listened to and don’t want to be investigated or harassed (p. 65).
The end of the book looks beyond the apparent dystopia forming around us, to imagine a better world through free technology and information (p. 149-161). Most importantly, technology has a life of its own and can run free from the hands of the powerful and even its own creators:
“Technology and science is not neutral. There are particular forms of technology that can give us these fundamental rights and freedoms that many people have aspired to for long” (p. 151)
 Compare this with the fact that the political vision of the modern world has really always been in favor of liberty and equality. Nothing could be more foolish than to throw away an opportunity to impose those revolutionary images in the architecture of our world with technology. A free world requires free software and free access to technology (p. 152-153). We must make the world hacker-friendly, and the key to this is to win the war of opinion and education to create individuals who are both skilled and free thinkers with a strong ability to chastise the powers that be when they are behaving in an undemocratic way.  Making the world hacker-friendly could go beyond mere internet freedom to the real world, with 3D printing and other technologies to allow people to “build their own three-dimensional objects” (p. 153). This DIY technological world threatens to debase states and monopolistic firms in the world, which is why it is so necessary to win the popular battle of encouraging a decentralized culture which maximally values freedom.

Only a small amount of the book’s attention is paid to the human element in the fight for freer information and technology. However, hackers are characterized as being “away from our national identity” (p. 156) and have their own “common consciousness”. Transnational in nature, the democratic conquest of technology is necessarily something that must leave the current kind of state behind in the pages of history. More hopeful is the prospect that a generation of new political minds will arise who understand the internet and the democratization of technology, and know it is unstoppable and necessary (p. 157). In this sense, the web freedom controversy can be seen as a conflict between the global youth and the current old geopolitical states system. Perhaps those of us who wish to understand the future should regard the controversy in a non-emotional way as a necessary part of a historical social transition.

However, Assange considers the pessimistic scenario to be a far more likely outcome, and is more committed to cautioning people on the emerging technological dystopia than positing a utopia (p. 159). If the dystopia is certain, the only way to oppose it is through a “high-tech rebel elite” (p. 161) because only the hackers hold the key to lifting technologically-imposed injustice. Highlighting the most positive trend that could be taken by accelerating technological progress is the observation that global problems simply necessitate the global freedom of information enabled by the internet (p. 131). Thwarting this freedom could seriously hamper the ability of humanity to articulate and address their primary concerns or avert catastrophes of civilization. There must be a “self-knowing of human civilization” (p. 158), meaning that the world of the future must be a hacker’s world, occupied and led by those individuals who play with technology and, driven by their curiosity, truly conquer the machines our new world has been suspended upon. 

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

Originally published at h+ Magazine on 23 August 2013

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12 September 2014

ClubOfINFO app available

. @ClubOfINFO. @AndroidDev. #android. #androiddev. #freeapp. 

A free developer version of the ClubOfINFO mobile app is available for 60 days. The app can be used on Android and Windows devices.

The basic feature of the app is similar to other news apps, providing the latest headlines, summaries and thumbnails right from ClubOfINFO. This is ideal for staying up to date on the latest posts from ClubOfINFO's main blog.

Download the ClubOfINFO App instantly

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The next open source frontier is the farm

. @OpenSourceWay. @FarmBotProject. #agriculture. #robot. #robotics.

Earlier this summer I visited Funny Girl Farm, a beautiful and productive example of sustainable agriculture in Durham, North Carolina. Founded in 2012, Funny Girl Farm is now producing and selling fresh vegetables, delicious fruit, cut flowers, seasonal mushrooms, and lots of eggs. It is strategically located at the intersection of two major roads between Durham and Chapel Hill, and the roadside farm stand does a brisk business from 3pm-6pm every weekday and 10am-3pm on Saturdays.

Farmers Ethan Lowenthal and Melissa Rosenberg have done a phenomenal job of reading the land and organizing the farm so that every row, every planting benefits the farm, both economically and environmentally. Owner Adam Abram helps by tilting the field in their favor—literally. Using heavy equipment, he has subtly changed the topography of the farm so that when the rains come, the water is a welcome friend rather than a ruthless foe. In every visible way, this small, young farm is a thriving success. But Ethan and Melissa will tell you that they could be growing and doing so much more but for the fact that the costs (mostly related to labor) make it uneconomical to do so.

Industrial agriculture solves the problem of labor costs with Terminator-like efficiencies. Gigantic machines operating on enormous fields have driven the cost of planting and harvest to almost nothing. Bio-technologies have similarly driven the labor cost of pest and weed management to almost nothing as well. And chemical fertilizers have made it possible to grow crops at rates that not even the best soils in the world could support naturally. As Michael Pollan explains in The Omnivore's Dilemma, these mechanical, biological, chemical, and industrial technologies don't come free, or even cheap, but they do replace labor, and they do dramatically cut costs, at least when counting calories produced per dollar of input. Industrial agriculture is so efficient that we can afford to feed more than 80% of what we grow to animals, we can afford to throw 50% of what we grow for humans directly into the trash, and we still consume more calories than our bodies can heathfully metabolize.

But, not all of this is good news. As a reported by Cornell University in 1997: "90 percent of U.S. cropland is losing soil—to wind and water erosion—at 13 times above the sustainable rate. Soil loss is most severe in some of the richest farming areas; Iowa loses topsoil at 30 times the rate of soil formation. Iowa has lost one-half its topsoil in only 150 years of farming—soil that took thousands of years to form." Earlier this year Mother Jones reports that the problem has gone from bad to worse. And it's not only our farmland that is suffering: midwestern agricultural runoff has created a dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico expanding over 5,000 square miles.

Are we truly forced to choose between better and faster/cheaper? Rory Aronson's TEDx UCLA talk begins by introducing these two agricultural paradigms, and then proposes that there is a third way ready to be developed and implemented. The sustainable agriculture community has developed incredibly strong science showing that agricultural productivity and environmental health need not be a zero-sum game. The industrial agricultural community has recently developed large-scale precision agriculture techniques that can reduce herbicide and pesticide use by 50%-90%, fertilizer use by 25%-40%, water use by 15%-40%. By scaling precision agriculture technologies to smaller sustainable agriculture systems, it should be possible to make many more crops and growing systems economically feasible without compromising environmental health and sustainabilty. This could mean more locally grown, organic food grown profitably in more communities and accessible to more people at lower cost—a huge win for small farmers. And it could mean that change is possible in large-scale farm management practices as well.

Industrial agriculture evolved around the assumption that total uniformity was the key to efficiency. What if large-scale processes could tolerate medium-scale diversity, restoring the benefits of ecological diversity to improve farm health?

The key enabling technology is the FarmBot, a universal agricultural tool based on 3D printing technologies running open source software. While the plans are very much at the prototyping stages, the underlying ideas are based on very solid track records. The key to FarmBot's success will be the organic growth of a strong development community and a healthy, diverse user community.

Looking at the challenges—and opportunities—of FarmBot, I'm reminded a bit of the factors that played into the origin of the world's first open source company, Cygnus. That history traces back to 1987, the year that Richard Stallman released version 1.0 of the GNU C compiler. At that time, compiler ports cost millions of dollars and took years to deliver. I was very interested in writing compilers, but I saw no prospect for doing so because (1) there were very few compiler companies in the world, and (2) they employed a very small number of people—most of whom were famous for having written the few compilers I'd ever heard of. Who would hire somebody with no commercial compiler experience to work on something so rare and valuable?

The GNU C compiler came onto the scene supporting the two major computer systems found in computer science programs at the time: the venerable DEC VAX and the Sun3 workstation. Both these machines ran UNIX, an operating system that came with a C compiler already installed, so at first blush the GNU C compiler offered nothing new except the fact that one could read, modify, and share the 110,000 source lines of code that made it work. Nevertheless, I decided to take the challenge of porting the compiler to a new machine, and to my great surprise I was able to do in two weeks what the industry might need two years to do. I realized that this was more than just a competitive advantage: whenever there's an order of magnitude change in time or cost, whole new markets can open up that were economically infeasible in the status quo.

The first question for the FarmBot project, therefore, is whether it can achieve some early wins and make some crops economically feasible that were not feasible before, but automating tasks that are simply too labor-intensive for humans to do.  If so, the next question is whether it can continue to scale and adapt to more and more crops, and more and more systems, until it becomes the new standard.

I do hope that a technology like FarmBot can help farmers like Ethan and Melissa bring more fresh produce to market. If you also have farmer friends, consider contributing to their Kickstarter campaign, join the team, and help plant the seeds of the future of open source farming!

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9 September 2014

Cyber Activism: The People’s Defense

. @jfrost. @valdenormb. #Anonymous. #Wikipedia. #regime.

Cyber-Libertarian Activism: The People's Defense

On July 28, Aragon Alexandre of Folha de S. Paulo reported that eleven of Brazil’s federal government computers were used to modify Wikipedia pages between 2008 and 2014. The IPs indicate that Serpro (the Federal Data Processing Service) and the Presidency edited articles on both allies and opposition to the current government, adding compliments, suppressing criticism and so on. More recently, on August 12, Exame magazine reported 256 Wikipedia interventions from computers connected to the Presidential Palace’s wifi network.

Controlling knowledge, information and the historical narrative has always been a way of exercising power and enlisting popular support. Since politics is about perception, it has always been necessary to persuade the people that the system in power is just and should be perpetuated, and that one or another group “deserves” power.

In the old Soviet Union, Stalin erased old allies from pictures. In Brazil Getulio Vargas presented himself as a savior of popular and black cultures through his own (selective and controlling) cultural policy, relegating to oblivion recreational, sports, carnival and dancing associations formed by poor and black people in the cities, especially in the old capital, Rio de Janeiro. In fiction, the totalitarian state of 1984 even created a new language to express the worldview of the party in power, formulated so as to make any kind of thinking outside its boundaries impossible.

Politicians have never been short on ideas to manipulate and try to get more power, but the recent attempt to edit Wikipedia articles is at best laughable. The Internet is one of the greatest technologies for free expression, thinking and press.

Wikipedia, especially its English version, is an excellent example of how open collaboration and voluntary cooperation can achieve excellent results. Thousands of people work diligently to make Wikipedia’s content incrementally better, while the government tries to edit articles to meet its objectives. One by one, these edits have been weeded out by other users.

And, so that the government is put under even more scrutiny, the Twitter bot @BRWikiEdits has been created, modeled after the US-centered @congressedits (a move that has also been replicated in Canada and in the UK as well). @BRWikiEdits is a bot that tracks edits to Wikipedia page performed by computers from the Senate, the House of Deputies and several other government branches.

It’s a welcome effort in a cyber-libertarian activism that has also been responsible for a ramping up our online privacy against government surveillance through encryption and helping take our economy out of the corporations’ hands through P2P networks and crypto-currencies. Edit bots now act to protect our information sources, and have already tracked several modifications to Wikipedia pages.

The recent unanimous approval of the Civil Landmark of the Internet in Brazil, without much discussion in society (who does it benefit?) proves the necessity of increased activism online.

The government can’t extend his power over the internet. It’s too powerful a tool to be put in service of power, the re-writing of history and the suppression of freedom of thought.

Translated into English by Erick Vasconcelos.

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The United Police States of America

. @DSDAmato. #policestate. #ferguson. #fergusonriot. #anarchism.

Ferguson, Missouri’s police department has released its report on the August 9th shooting death of teenager Michael Brown, a redacted document that ACLU attorney Tony Rothert says violates Missouri’s Sunshine Law by omitting key information.

Brown’s death at the hands of a Ferguson police officer provoked impassioned demonstrations and debates on police brutality and the very nature of policing in the United States, leading many observers to wonder if Americans are now living in a full-fledged police state.

But what is a “police state?” The phrase has become an almost commonplace feature of our conversation on police violence and militarization, a convenient way to give voice to growing fears about deteriorating civil liberties. The history of the phrase offers insight into its contemporary usage, a way to analyze the current situation in the United States and decide whether indeed we Americans now live under a police state.

Historian and political scientist Mark Neocleous explains that the “term Polizeistaat, usually translated as ‘police state,’ came into general English usage in the 1930s,” increasingly used at that time to describe totalitarian governments such as those of Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia. Still, Neocleous is quick to clarify that, notwithstanding this popular twentieth century usage, it presents a “historical problem” to the extent that it suggests a certain inappropriate picture of “the original ‘police states.’” Those original police states were, rather than brutal, totalitarian regimes like Nazi Germany, early predecessors to the modern welfare state, or Wohlfahrtsstaat.

Given these historical connections between the welfare state and the police state, we might revise our understanding beyond the twentieth century definition, broadening the concept to include not only the most extreme and draconian twentieth century tyrannies, but most, if not all, contemporary “administrative” states. Once we begin to understand these connections and the growth and development of the total state during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, phenomena such as the murder of Michael Brown become easier to understand. Whether we call it the welfare state or the police state, the reality is that we live in an environment completely dominated by regimentation — coercive control over and regulation of almost every aspect of our lives.

Historically and theoretically, it is impossible to disentangle the welfare aspects of the modern total state from its police functions. Just as the progressive, administrative state gave rise to a growing class of professional bureaucrats, so too did it increasingly professionalize — and correspondingly militarize — police forces. The language of expertise, efficiency and specialization provided the rationale for the modern state’s systematic establishment of professional police. Such professional police forces, unlike earlier forms of community protection, were intentionally quasi-military in character, instructed to occupy, study and control the policed communities, to make policing a fully developed science with its own methodologies and techniques.

Market anarchism is an argument for a more free society, one in which power is divided to the greatest possible extent and provision of important services such as defense is not monopolized, but left to the peaceful push and pull of voluntary trade and cooperation. Monopolies, insofar as they are exempt from competitive pressures, lend themselves to abuses of power like the contemptible crime that took Michael Brown’s young life. Brown’s murder is not an aberration susceptible to remedy through better police training. It is rather a predictable symptom of the underlying disease that is the United States’s authoritarian police state, the treatment of which is to eliminate professional policing as a coercive monopoly and thus to end the impunity that officers currently enjoy.

Citations to this article

David S. D'Amato, The United Police States of America, Before It’s News, 08/24/14

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5 September 2014

ClubOfINFO gains 1000 followers, joins FB

. @ClubOfINFO. #SocialMedia. #Twitter. #Facebook. #Media.

ClubOfINFO has gained 1000 followers on Twitter and has created a page at the social media website Facebook.

You may be quick to say 1000 followers is still a fairly modest number for a nascent media source that uses Twitter for a lot of its sharing activity. Nevertheless, these are valuable, relevant followers. We have given many of them shout-outs through the social media site, and this number of followers breaks through a big barrier to making us the popular blog we want to be. While we continue to engage our followers on Twitter, we want to also shift focus to other social media because they offer further opportunities to circulate content.

ClubOfINFO's Twitter feed

We're looking for people like you who already follow our Twitter feed to take a look at our new pages and follow us elsewhere as well.

ClubOfINFO's new Facebook page

Also, for people newly interested in the valuable media content hosted at ClubOfINFO, this is an opportunity to follow some of our vitally informative social media presence. Please express your support for our message of positive social and technological change by following our pages.

ClubOfINFO's LinkedIn company profile

Thanks for your support, and we look forward to giving each of you a shout on other social media platforms soon ; )

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WAVE connects with the Mont Order

. @Wave_movement. #MontOrder.

The techno-progressive WAVE institute has formed a collaborative connection with the Mont Order.

M. Amon Twyman, the WAVE movement's top executive, confirms that WAVE considers itself to have a "collaborative connection" to a social and political club known as the Mont Order. This follows the official claim by a friend of the Mont Order that the WAVE Zero State group's accession to the Order's "club" has been successfully negotiated.

The Mont Order: ancient club revealed

The move to include activists in the counsel of the Order marks the return of the Mont Order to a more active form since its original breakup in 1999. This is according to Mont negotiator L'Ordre, in a Mont statement released through the popular activist outlet Dissident Voice.

The WAVE movement influences a vast network of activists centered around the ideas of eminent British social futurist M. Amon Twyman, in the United Kingdom. The ability to advise this network on the sidelines somewhat re-establishes Mont as an active religious and political club, as is now recognized by both L'Ordre and Amon. Amon confirmed the move to form a connection with the loosely defined Mont Order club, in its current form, in an informal WAVE statement on Thursday. This may be followed by further comments.

The Zero State Facebook group

The Mont Order is still shrouded in mystery, with a conspiracy theory in existence over its origins, although L'Ordre assures that the current iteration is just another affinity group intended to be part of the future fabric of global social change. The club's main developing form is as a public affiliation of churches, groups and writers.

At present, Mont only sees itself as existing in a formative state, but already has aspirations to bring many disparate churches and individuals together in the interests of global social change in the future. It now displays a public page blessing its representative groups and writers through the world's top multifaith website, Beliefnet.

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High-ranking psychopaths are pushing for a nuclear war with Russia, seemingly intentionally

If the US leaders wanted to wage a thermonuclear war that would destroy America and the world, we would not be here to talk about it. Presid...

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