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url text when title <p>Excuse the long title, it&#8217;s to help people search for this post &#8211; took me ages to find out how to make this work.</p> <p>1) Download gnome-tweak-tool</p> <p>2) Under the &#8220;typing&#8221; option</p> <p>3) Set CAPS-LOCK as additional super key</p> <p>Done. Everything works just fine, it&#8217;s lovely.</p> <p>Still not sure about the keyboard, it sounds like a typewriter factory in here!</p> <p>Wicked.</p> <p><a href=";id=3553&amp;md5=8eac15230565b208fac5ef011a3c6958" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2014-03-15 Configuring Ubuntu 13.10 to work with the IBM Model M keyboard without a Windows Key / Super Key <p><em>(I should be asleep, but I can&#8217;t quite get rolled over)</em></p> <ol> <li>I&#8217;m <em>really</em> enjoying writing software again. It&#8217;s a strain and a challenge, it&#8217;s who I used to be, and I&#8217;m damn good at it, in my way. I am going to have the luxury of actually writing a lot of code this year, and we&#8217;ll see where that takes us.</li> <li>I am unequivocally getting older. I don&#8217;t like it. That&#8217;s also going to mean some changes. Nearly everything in my life revolves around extreme stress management, and cutting the fundamental stress is where I&#8217;m going to get the slack to take better care of myself with.</li> </ol> <p>Message ends.</p> <p><a href=";id=3549&amp;md5=bfe9b38613572d0957468da0cbebec53" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2014-03-07 Couple of thoughts <p><iframe width="560" height="315" src="//" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe></p> <p>My Bitcoin Expo London talk &#8211; now with subtitles. <a href=>Lucas Gonzalez</a> and I did a transcript and subtitles.</p> <p>Talk covers bitcoin, its competitors, governance, the future, resilience to change, the hexayurt project, and living in a nine billion person world.</p> <p>Key section: the last question gets into whether bitcoin is an Anarchist or a Libertarian breakthrough, and the relationship between anarchist and libertarian aspects of the bitcoin governance problem. That starts <a href=;t=17m40s>at the 18m mark</a>.</p> <p>We hope you enjoy the talk.</p> <p>Make sure the subtitles are on when you watch the talk, they help in a few places where the crowd noise is really loud! We&#8217;ll talk you through the process of doing a video this way some time!</p> <p>==============================================</p> <p>[00:00] WHAT WE MEAN BY &#8220;THE FUTURE&#8221;<br /> If you&#8217;re 40, that&#8217;s by the time you&#8217;re 70. It&#8217;s the kind of horizon over which people plan their financial futures. It&#8217;s the kind of horizon over which people plan something like a mortgage.</p> <p>So, let me give you an example of something that&#8217;s changing in a semi-predictable way right now, which is the price of solar panels. Solar panels have fallen in price by 7% a year, every year for the past 40 years. So, on the order of every decade, the price of solar panels halves.<br /> 30 years out you can rationally expect the price of solar panels to be less than a 10th of what it is now, and as a result the entire global energy landscape will change.</p> <p>Energy relates to every single economic process we have. It gets deep inside of the structure of things like bitcoin because of the ratio of costs. It is an absolutely ubiquitous part of human life. So, when you hear people talking about 10-15-20-30 year projections forward and they don&#8217;t talk about the exponential fall in energy prices, they&#8217;re living in a fantasy land. There&#8217;s just no such place.</p> <p>Let me show you a thing. This yellow cable that I have around my keys is a material called &#8220;spectra&#8221; [dyneema]. Everybody see that? So, spectra is a nanomaterial. The breaking strength of that piece of string is in excess of 400 kg. And sometimes I demonstrate this by having people pull on it in teams,<br /> 4-5 people on each side. This stuff will cut into wood half an inch. It&#8217;s 40p a meter on Amazon. It&#8217;s just dirt cheap; long chains of carbon atoms axially aligned with the forces. [on the cable]</p> <p>So you look out 30 years this stuff is going to be everywhere. They&#8217;re spinning it into clothes. Levi&#8217;s is making jeans that are laced through with spectra today; you can buy them for about £80 a pair. Look forward 10 years, the ubiquotous use of clothing, construction. Look forward 20 years, solar substantially cheaper than any other kind of power available. Look forward 30 years, nanotechnology, biotechnology, replicator engineering are everyday parts of life.</p> <p>If you are a big player, a hedge fund, if you&#8217;re a regulator, if youŕe the state, you&#8217;re responsible for making plans 30-40 years forward. If you&#8217;re an individual and you&#8217;re looking at this kind of world where you&#8217;re trying to plan your future, you&#8217;re responsible for thinking 30 years forwards. And in this context you then place bitcoin. Bitcoin is a ripple on an incredibly rapidly accelleration. It&#8217;s not a final solution. It&#8217;s going to have successors. the successors will solve other problems. It might become a standard that will last a really long time like the internet, or it might roll over very quickly. There&#8217;s no way to know.</p> <p>But this is what we mean when we start talking about the future. It&#8217;s not 5 years out. It&#8217;s 15-20-30 forwards you have to be thinking.</p> <p>[03:23] ADAPTATION<br /> So, let&#8217;s assume that bitcoin continues to adapt, because it builds a governance structure that allows it to continue to change relative to the challenges it faces. That means that you continue to modify the standards, it means that you continue to modify the code base. That means that you try and not break the system of value that you&#8217;ve created, because that would be the equivalent of a violent revolution, because people&#8217;s property rights would get broken.</p> <p>Inside of that structure, the only way that you survive into the future is by<br /> constant adaptation to the circumstances. If you don&#8217;t adapt, you don&#8217;t get to be a part of the future, and we know that. Even theoretically stable standards like VISA are constantly mutating to handle the evolutionary enviroment in which they are embeded.</p> <p>So, in the process of that adaptation, the primary reason for adapting is conflicts that you might lose.<br /> Conflict number one, regulators.<br /> Conflict number two, competitors.<br /> Conflict number three, traditional vaults, stores of value which will not cooperate with the bitcoin system. For example, there might be laws which prevent you from buying land in bitcoins. There could be all kinds of structures which come into play to stop bitcoin from moving forwards. It&#8217;s the abiity to adapt to that on-rush of change that defines whether or not you survive.</p> <p>Right now, Bitcoin is in a position where its mechanisms for adaptation are vastly weaker than it&#8217;s adoption curve. Far more people are coming on board with far more intensity, far more interest and far more money than the government structures that manage standards. And if you centralize the governance structures you&#8217;re going to get nuked like e-gold.</p> <p>[05:01] GOVERNANCE<br /> So, how do you decide how to move forward in a complex environment?</p> <p>Given how difficult the structures are to navigate for above ground fully visible ordinary institutions [LUCAS DOESN'T UNDERSTAND THIS PREVIOUS SENTENCE]- given the time that you typically spend in the Fortune 1000 is<br /> only 7 years &#8211; companies rise and they fall again<br /> how do you build the adaptive capacity into the governance structures around bitcoin<br /> such that it has a long term future?</p> <p>the environment is complex<br /> we are going through a period of unprecedented discontinous change<br /> through that we have to take this enormous pool of value &#8211; what are we up to now, 12 or 15 billion dollars at spot? &#8211; larger than many large corporations<br /> larger than many countries</p> <p>how do you steer that, given that it&#8217;s by nature decentralised. And I don&#8217;t have an answer for that but I know that it&#8217;s absolutely critical that the bitcoin community begins to talk about governance and about<br /> risk management in a completely proactive way because the first time you have a serious challenge if the system cannot turn relatively quickly to adapt you&#8217;re gonna get creamed in the same way that e-gold did.</p> <p>Survival means adaptation, and adaptation means governance capacity.</p> <p>[06:22] RICH ACTIVISTS<br /> Other targets that might come up. Wealth transfer. For the first time in my life the people that I know that are doing radical politics are rich. That has never happened before. Whether it was the anarchists &#8230; whether it was the greens, whether it was the left, even the libertarians for the very most part were dirt poor.</p> <p>You step right outside of the ordinary political economy and their values and you become rapidly unemployed and we all know this.</p> <p>So for the first time I have seen an actual economic model for people that consider themselves to be activists, which is building out an alternative economy.</p> <p>In the 1960s one of the most prescient criticisms of the new left, the revolutionary movement in America, was that they did not have an economic model. they put all of their energy into resisting the State, and as a result all they got was beaten up, and at the end of it they had no new institutions.</p> <p>The need to build alternative institutions has always been seen as a core part of the revolutionary or the radical agenda and bitcoin has by far the most effective alternative institution (in terms of feeding the people that build it) that has ever come out of alternative political structures, possibly since the invention of communism (state communism).</p> <p>So what we have is a genuine breakthrough in core structures.</p> <p>so you wind up</p> <p>GUYS, PEOPLE ARE HAVING A HARD TIME HEARING ME<br /> COULD YOU HUSH IN THE BACK?<br /> THANKS GUYS, SORRY ABOUT THAT</p> <p>Sorry you were having a hard time hearing.</p> <p>So what you have is the first time an orgnaizational structure has emerged which is capable of feeding the people who are activists within it. What we have is an alternative institution which is making the people that are actors within it wealthy. And that has never happened before. The last time that happened was State Communism where they made the communists wealthy by stealing other people&#8217;s land, by stealing their industrial production, by stealing their productive capacity. So we&#8217;re now in a position where we have an alternative institution which is successful in feeding the people who are working for it. It potentially has enormous legs. But what it means is that the holders of wealth in other forms, and the memerbs of other participatory structures which have that property, for example conventional State Capitalism, are going to become increasingly threatened as bitcoin scales. Because you have an alternative institution which is completely continous with the goals of the dim-and-distant now-forgotten 60s &#8211; the radical decentralization, the ability to bulid non-State structures that work &#8211; you&#8217;ll get identity management, you&#8217;ll get property rights managmment, you&#8217;ll get auction houses, you&#8217;ll get all the rest of these kinds of structures &#8211; escrow is already here &#8211; as that stuff builds out, what you have is a direct competitor with the State, which was always the Anarcho-Capitalist dream. It was always the Libetarian dream. But can you hold it?</p> <p>As Ben Franklin said, &#8220;What do they have? They have a Republic &#8211; if they can hold it.&#8221; And the ability to hold it comes back to the ability to govern. It&#8217;s the ability to change and it&#8217;s the ability to adapt, even if the governance is completely decentralized swarm behavior, it&#8217;s still governance because the swarm acts as a whole. And this is the critical challenge. Every time you succeed, you come into a new type of people that are threatened by your existence, with a new set of techniques for shutting you down. So as you begin to be a substantial alternate way of storing value, all of the other stores of value become threatened. All of the people that are storing assets in those stores of value become threatened and this is how the pressure piles on.</p> <p>[10:15] POWER AND RESPONSIBILITY</p> <p>So, a final piece on this: with power comes responsibility. So as bitcoin begins to put a real pressure on the world, and on the way that things operate, comes with that the responsiblity of solving some of the problems that other actors are failing to solve. The two big problems that I worry about most are climate (and the associated impacts that are in the humanitarian sphere) and nanotechnology and biotechnology risk management, which is grey goo, designer plagues, it&#8217;s basement bioweapons and all of that stuff. So what I really want to see emerge from this new thing which is happening is not just a counter-economics. Counter-econmics is lovely, it&#8217;s a great way for a limited number of people to go out there and do their thing, great, fantastic, but counter-economics will not do anything at all to stop six degrees of planetary warming and a drop of two billion people in the human population because agriculture collapses. So with great power comes great responsibllity.</p> <p>How is this community of people, that have built the first really successful alternative political institution since communism, actually going to find a way of making sure the planet that they&#8217;re living on continues to exist long enough for them to enjoy their success?</p> <p>When we start talking about political conscoiusness, the State is just the last institution that had responsiblity for solving the real problem. As you begin to out-compete the State in certain areas, you become responsible for solving the real problem. It&#8217;s not just currency, it&#8217;s not just freedom, it&#8217;s survival. And until we begin to build a political rhetoric that absolutely the real stakes of the human game that we play the tactical and even the strategic success of bit coin will not turn into a better chance for the human race to survive. These risks are real and acute. We must not get into a position where we have a tactical or even a strategic success that fails to solve the real political problems that we face.</p> <p>Thank you.</p> <p>[12:30] HEXAYURT</p> <p>I just realized I forgot to explain the slide. My main project is a thing called the Hexayurt Project which is an open hardware housing system. In a nutshell, the walls of these shelters are whole sheets of four-by-eight (or 1.2m x 2.4m material) and the roof pieces are half sheets. So you can just take this mateiral off a truck in huge quantities, cut half of it in half, screw or glue or tape it together, and produce emergency housing.</p> <p>These pictures were taken at Burning Man, and last year they build about 1500 units. So this is kind of all the way at the other end of Maslow&#8217;s Hierarchy from Bitcoin. This is the basic mechanics for keeping people alive in inside of a Libre context, and there&#8217;s a whole bunch of other work.</p> <p>Hexa&#8230; Yurt. Six sided yurt.</p> <p>If I can get them to adjust the slide, other side of the slide, can you move that over so we can see the big dome?</p> <p>I don&#8217;t think they&#8217;re listening. Anyway. Do we have time for questions?</p> <p>[13:50] Jack Fresco.</p> <p>Q: are you on the same page as Jack Fresco?</p> <p>Jack Fresco? I don&#8217;t know Jack Fresco. So, I don&#8217;t know.</p> <p>Other questions? Given that I don&#8217;t know who Jack Fresco is, I can&#8217;t help you.</p> <p>Yell!</p> <p>[14:00] HEXAYURT LONG TERM VISION</p> <p>A: Could you talk us through your vision for the hexayurt outside of Black Rock City?</p> <p>Sure! So the question is &#8220;can I talk about the vision for the hexayurts other than at Burning Man&#8221;.</p> <p>Very basically, we&#8217;ve got to provide a decent standard of living for an additional four to six billion people over the next fifty years or we&#8217;re going to have endless resource wars. So the long term strategy for the hexayurt is to take two thin sheets of aluminium like you&#8217;d use for a Coke can and then a honeycomb of cardboard in between and fill the gap with shredded newspaper. Machine seal the edges, and that gets you a three kilogram insulated panel which costs on the order of ten euros and as long as you don&#8217;t pierce the surface with a nail the thing will last for on the order of fifty to a hundred years before the glue fails. When that happens, rip the aluminium off and recycle it, and mulch the cardboard. What that means is that we can do super-lightweight insulated housing out of enormously available materials for the entire world inside of a free market context. Very, very simple.</p> <p>And you can go up to these kind of domes here. That&#8217;s all made with the same components as the little hexayurts, you just build a slightly larger version out of basically four of the roofs of the smaller units connected. So that gets you housing. Solar panels get you energy. Dirt cheap telecommunications devices are already ubiquitous, there&#8217;s no problem there. There are equivalent technological breakthroughs for water, for cooking, for sanitation, for agriculture. Safe Water Trust, One Acre Fund, the Biolite Stove guys, or any of the wood gasification stoves. What you wind up with is a system where you can buy everything that it takes for a family to live relatively well in a rural environment for on the order of three hundred dollars, which is roughly equivalent to one year&#8217;s income. And that system if you implement it properly will give people essentially first world lifespan because they will stop getting the vast majority of diseases which are water bourne, because they&#8217;ll have some access to basic medical information, because they&#8217;ll have decent infrastructure for the basics of staying alive. And the long term vision is to create a safety buffer for the probability that we are going to continue to have a power law distrubution on of wealth so we&#8217;ve got to figure out what we&#8217;re going to do for the bottom half of humanity. They&#8217;re not going to be able to get a foot on the ladder, they&#8217;re not going to the stars, they&#8217;re not going to get life extension treatment. So how exactly are we going to provide a decent standard of living for everybody without having to implement global Socialism. And the answer is that you make the essentials that people need to stay alive so cheap that everybody can afford them at which point you don&#8217;t need to regulate how these things are provided any more, they become as ubiquitous as pencils.</p> <p>Does that answer your question?</p> <p>Oh, and I should say, almost all of those technologies are fully public domain or the patents expired decades ago. This is all LIbre stuff, we are not going back into a patent regime with this.</p> <p>Ok, any more questions?</p> <p>[17:00] HOW DO WE CONTACT YOU?</p> <p>Q: How do we contact you?</p> <p>Basically, just find the hexayurt. Vinay Gupta, The Hexayurt Project, just look on the web site, there&#8217;s my twitter, my email and all the rest of that stuff. Easy to find.</p> <p>Q: What about the water powered engine? They killed the bloke who invented it!</p> <p>I&#8217;ve never seen anything like that actually function. Thank you.</p> <p>[18:00] COIN VALIDATION</p> <p>Q: Self regulation?</p> <p>Self-education? Self-regulation!</p> <p>Ok. Hard question. How much time do I have left for questrions? Two minutes.</p> <p>Ok. Self-regulation.</p> <p>Q: So the question is, what is your view on coin validation? What are your thoughts on coin validation?</p> <p>Coin validation. God, talk about a hard question! So, ok nobody has really done the deep political-philosophical work on bitcoin. Everybody thinks that it slots neatly into an Anarcho-Capitalist or Libetarian framework but actually it&#8217;s much more complicated than that because there is no strong property right for management of the system as a whole. And this is an absolutley critical thing, right? If bitcoin was incorporated as a conventional company there would be a property right that was sold and traded for the people that owned that company and they would be responsible for making policy decisions and it would be operating inside of an ANCAP or Libertarian framework.</p> <p>The problem is that at the top level Bitcoin is an anarchy. So you have a bunch of people that are working in an Anarcho-Capitalist trading structure that is administered as a non-State anarchy and the impedence mismatch between Anarcho-Capitalism and Stateless-style property rights and the actual anarchic nature of the bitcoin enterprise is shockingly undiscussed. So what comes out of that is that every time you get a question like coin validation, and what constitutes a failure of the system that requires central intervention to repair like a blockchain fork, you wind up with a whole bunch of people talking completely different languages about how to solve the problem because without a solid property right at the beginning, without an owner, it just doesn&#8217;t work inside of a standard Anarcho-Capitalist model. And very few of the people who work in Bitcoin have any of the necessary skills to govern this in an anarchy. Right?</p> <p>Libertarians do not understand how governance works in anarchy. It&#8217;s a completely different model of how you get things done. So the real question about bitcoin is Libertarian or Anarchist? Because Anarcho-Capitalism is really just a subset of Libertarianism, or the other way round, it doesn&#8217;t matter which, it is not the same as non-State anarchy, it is not the same as Left Anarchy, it is certainly not the same as classical Anarchy. Rothbard be damned.</p> <p>So you get into a position where the community as a whole has to decide whether they&#8217;re going to become Libertarians and establish a strong property right that controls Bitcoin, or they&#8217;re going to be Anarchists and they&#8217;re actually going to learn how to get good at decentralized governance. My assertion is this. if you go down the Libertarian route you&#8217;re going to wind up owned by Morgan Stanley. Eventually so much of the Bitcoin will be owned by hedge funds that they will wind up as the de facto masters of the universe and your system will wind up as just another commodity, and then there&#8217;ll be a sea of alt coins that just continue to foam in the background and they&#8217;re worth about fifty quid each. Or you could go down the Anarchist route, grab the system by its hair, and figure out how to do governance.</p> <p>And I think &#8211; and I hate to say this &#8211; but I think that we&#8217;re either going to wind up having an identity architecture so you can do representative governance or you&#8217;re going to have to say One Coin One Vote. But if you go down the route of having One Coin One Vote (which is cryptographically pretty easily managed) you&#8217;re going to have huge problems if the hedge funds decide that they like Bitcoin. So this is really the challenge. I don&#8217;t have any answers, but I think that people really need to up the discussion about bitcoin in terms of political philosophy, really, really several times very quickly. Because right now you have a runaway success which has rapidly exceeded the capacity of the people using it to govern it and if you don&#8217;t solve that problem pretty damned quick then failures of governance are going to end the Utopia. So now is the time to go back to the Anarchists. Herbert Snorrason in Iceland ( is a guy called Herbert Snorrason. Poke him until he tells you what to do. He&#8217;s very smart.</p> <p>Thank you!</p> <p>AHHHH the Venus Project. I just didn&#8217;t remember the name.</p> <p><a href=";id=3539&amp;md5=24fef42cc345a9311d24461fcb82fc79" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2014-02-02 Governing Bitcoin: what the future holds for our favourite currency <p><iframe src="//" width="500" height="281" frameborder="0" webkitallowfullscreen mozallowfullscreen allowfullscreen></iframe> <p><a href="">Vinay Gupta, Change Tears and Shear Planes… how technology is splitting society, and leaving us indecisive</a> from <a href="">WSA Global Futures</a> on <a href="">Vimeo</a>.</p> <p>The talk is in three parts: the hexayurt story (with a bit more about materials science than I usually do), followed by tug-of-war trying to break a nanomaterial cable (&#8220;string&#8221;) and a discussion of modern materials technology, followed by a frank examination of Snowden&#8217;s likely long-term impact on US and global foreign policy. </p> <p>People liked the talk a lot. I&#8217;m glad people have found this angle useful.</p> <p>Here are Amazon links for the various pieces of technology I was discussing in the talk: <a href=>UK</a> and <a href=>US</a>. I also mention the <a href=>biolite stove</a>. There are a few more odds-and-ends on my <a href=>design tumblr, A Fine Consideration</a>.</p> <p>Enjoy!</p> <p><img src="" width="300" height="300" class="alignnone" /></p> <p><a href=";id=3535&amp;md5=45b90f6ebcdaca7c84948717f802999a" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2013-11-27 Change Tears and Shear Planes: WSA talk <p><font size=-1><i>In which I rain hellfire on a debate, espouse an unpopular position, and ask questions about our long term plan. Be warned this is not easy reading: do not burn me at the stake if you don&#8217;t like it, I&#8217;m not forcing you to read it, think about it, or respond to it. Do as you will.</i></font></p> <p>Those of you who don&#8217;t know my work very well may not realize that I&#8217;m fascinated by power. My world model assumes that, to all intents and purposes, there are only a handful of real countries in the world &#8211; those with nuclear weapons and the will to use them. Everything else is merely an autonomous region operating on the sufferance and indifference of the nuclear nations. This kind of absolutist power analysis is not very popular in international relations analysis so you can imagine that applying it to gender and sexuality is going to be upsetting. Read on at your own risk.</p> <p>Two axioms, clearly stated: biological evolution is real and our basic outlines are more-or-less correct. Second axiom: therefore, <b>any model which does not cleave closely to this biological basis is worthless</b>. If you ask why the earth goes around the sun, but answers involving gravity are forbidden, <b>you&#8217;ll get nowhere</b>. If you want to understand the sexual behaviour of a social primate species, and give no attention to evolutionary biology and ethology, you&#8217;re living in a dreamland. Note that I am not going to draw the same kind of bullshit conclusions that normally come from evolutionary psychology, but let&#8217;s deal with things as they lay.</p> <p>So let me slice through the first layer of bullshit. <b>We have no fundamental understanding of why homosexual and asexual mammals evolved</b>. For reasons that we do not understand, there are homosexual animals <a href="">across an enormous range of species</a>. There may also be widespread <a href="">asexuality in animals</a> &#8211; it&#8217;s been observed in <a href="">humans</a> and sheep, but researchers have not looked closely elsewhere yet. With existing scientific models, there is no compelling explanation for why 5% or more of a species should take themselves out of the gene pool while apparently healthy. The presence of this trait over an enormous number of species argues against it being a quirk of evolution. In all probability, given the high reproductive cost of homosexuality, and its widespread nature across divergent species, <b>homosexuality is an adaptive trait at a macro level for reasons we do not currently understand.</b></p> <p>This is intensely important. All arguments about homosexuality and, by extension, much of the debate about gender and sexuality are based in ordinary primate behaviour: animals do this stuff too. But amazingly, for such a large class of activities across a lot of different species, we have no reasonable scientific explanations. There are speculations, but no clear understanding at this time. Whatever it is, it is likely that the evolutionary biology of homosexuality will be forehead-slappingly obvious once understood, but until then it is largely opaque although some of the genetic/hormonal markers are thought to be known. Conclusion: we have to accept all homosexual behaviours as natural (from animal models) unless there is compelling reason not to in some specific circumstance. We also know that fundamental models of homosexuality are almost entirely cultural artefacts &#8211; the <a href="">normative bisexuality</a> of Rome and the entire Greek thing.</p> <p>Homosexuality is normal primate behaviour around which different cultural models are built. Do you roast your food or eat it in soups? It really is about that important at a fundamental level, i.e. not at all.</p> <p>Now let us discuss rape. There is a ton of rape in <a href="">animal sexuality</a>. There&#8217;s a ton of rape among our <a href="">primate relatives</a> too, with whom we share an enormous evolutionary heritage and a very similar social structure. Animals rape. Our primate relatives rape. Rape is state of nature as much as homosexuality is.</p> <p>However, starving to death in winter and being eaten by savage predators is also state of nature. We do everything in our power to avoid freezing to death or being eaten by savage animals: it is therefore very reasonable that we attempt to make rape as rare as being eaten by wolves. We have to choose (individually and as a society) which natural behaviours we foster, and which we criminalize and suppress at all costs. Some societies choose to attempt (unsuccessfully, or course) to stamp out homosexuality, or allow rape to go largely unchallenged. These are horrible choices about how to manage our biological inheritance. But let us make no mistake: managing our biological inheritance is the name of the game here. This is not social or political discussion, this is <b>all primate biology</b> and we are those primates.</p> <p>One thing is certain: we seem to have done a much better job stamping out being eaten by wolves than stamping out rape. Attitudes to how best to stamp out rape vary as widely as attitudes and cultural norms around homosexuality. For a long time, the human norm was that rape was prevented by large aggressive men in the nuclear/extended/tribal family with big pointy bits of metal and an &#8220;honour code.&#8221; This scheme is widely agreed to be far from perfect. Now instead of the archaic &#8220;honour code&#8221; systems, the State is the primary retaliator for rapes and it does a <a href=";channel=fs&#038;q=unprosecuted+rapes&#038;ie=utf-8&#038;oe=utf-8&#038;gl=uk#channel=fs&#038;gl=uk&#038;q=unprosecuted+rapes&#038;safe=off">piss poor job of prosecuting</a>. Without effective social mechanisms to stamp out rape, given that rape is common in animals including our primate relatives, rape continues to be common.</p> <p>Now, let me frame this argument carefully. What I am saying here is this: animals rape, quite a lot, including primates. Humans also rape quite a lot, but we have a unique ability to engineer outcomes that are <b>far from the state of nature</b> including operations like farming, making electricity, and going to the moon. The tendency towards rape is likely in our genes, but we no more have to live in a rape-laden society than we have to live in caves and eat rotting meat. Natural does not mean good: it is the baseline from which we must work, not the end of our possibilities.</p> <p>I&#8217;m working through these base cases to approach making a case about why the patriarchy is a completely misunderstood institution, and why attempts to overthrow it have more or less completely failed, with some danger of current progress being rolled back by regressive factions, for example, US Christian Conservative Republicans. To break through to effective actions means reconsidering what we think we know. I did not suggest this would be pleasant: remember, I think there are only six or eight real countries, defined by nuclear weapons, and the rest are just little vassal fiefdoms. This is bloody gender/sexuality realpolitik not Californian Gender Studies classes around 1989.</p> <p>=================</p> <p>Let us turn to a more pleasant subject: <b>basketball</b>. Let us assume a society in which wealth is allocated by success in playing basketball, a sort of Sports Socialism which has chosen to directly tie economic gains to sporting success in a sort of athletic command economy. Pure gedanken experiment, nothing realistic about it. Sports Socialism.</p> <p>In this imaginary world, somebody notices that <i>tall people are making a lot more money than short people</i>. True, this effect is not true in all cases &#8211; there are some <a href="">short people who are doing very nicely thank you very much</a>, although rarely do they reach the very top rank of earners. There are many tall people who are useless at the game. But, on average, and indeed on the mean, the tall dominate the sport.</p> <p>Various suggestions are made about how to handle the problem of tall people out-earning short people. Some areas use leagues divided up by height, but with the rewards still weighted towards the taller in each bracket: less unfair competition in each height bracket, but with the taller brackets still getting greater rewards. Other areas attempt to hobble taller players by making them wear weighted shirts or even glasses that restrict vision. Some even feed short people performance enhancing drugs in the hope of evening the odds. Nothing works: all solutions are unsatisfactory and have unwanted results as well as evening out the height imbalance. If the game is to be the yardstick by which money is handed out, height is always going to be a factor. Some wags point out that even if we have leagues made of players of exactly the same height&#8230; why then <i>weight</i> starts looking like a statistically significant predictor of earnings. These systems of privilege just never stop, do they?</p> <p>By the way, this is not entirely fiction: short people really are <a href="">measurably economically and socially disadvantaged</a> compared with taller people. The effects are substantial, significant, and hardly ever discussed as a widespread form of prejudice like racism, sexism or ageism, even though the impacts are quite serious over the course of a lifetime. This is an anomaly which I do not pretend to understand: culture is weird and inexplicable at times, and the lack of regulatory action on height discrimination is part of that puzzle.</p> <p>Let us return to the basketball experiment:</p> <p><b>The only way to fix the notional society in which the game of basketball is used to allocate wealth is by playing a different game.</b></p> <p>There is no way to handicap the game of basketball so that everybody can compete fairly. Bodies and talents are too different, and any rule change to level the playing field results in new anomalies which are often as bad in their own way as the original height bias is. The game inherently favours the tall, and the only effective way to remove this bias is to change to a new game. A game which selects for the tall cannot be effectively handicapped to produce a more level playing field in most cases. If our society wishes to allocate rewards <b>not</b> based on height, then it must change the game played in profound ways.</p> <p>Now, two more observations. Basketball on first examination is a fair game: everybody has an equal chance of doing well, with rewards largely dependent on skill. Secondly, basketball&#8217;s rules nowhere mention height as being an input into one&#8217;s formula for payment. Wealth flows to the winners, who happen to be tall, but <b>the rules of the game do not explicitly give rewards based on height.</b></p> <p>The game of basketball is, in fact, fair. It&#8217;s only through observation we discover who basketball is biased towards. Looking at the rules on paper, you might conclude victory would go to those who can throw effectively or run fast but, in practice, height turns out to be a dominant factor to an amazing degree. Who knew?</p> <p>=================</p> <p>Back to the real world.</p> <p>The game is called reproductive fitness. Its the game of human evolution, in which different genetic codes are duking it out for the most widespread dissemination of copies of themselves. There have been a series of breakout strategies conferring massive advantages in this game. Some notable examples: opposable thumbs, walking upright, large brains, language, tool use, agriculture, cities, capitalism. These trends go from the unquestionably biological through to the potentially/probably cultural, but there is no doubt that the language-using apes out-competed the dumb ones: that&#8217;s why we damn near all talk today. Damn near all humans survive on agriculture, too. This is winner-take-all in most cases.</p> <p>In 1991 the Soviet Union died. Their vision of the future of humanity &#8211; and it was a global vision &#8211; was Socialism, which many critique as human-as-hive-social-insect. Central planning committee takes the role of queen, and everything radiates out from there. Whether it was an adaptive strategy for humanity is hard to say, because their implementation was horrible. There&#8217;s no reason that Socialism had to result in mass murder and toilet paper shortages, at least not one which is <a href="">immediately obvious</a>. But theirs did, and the result is the centrally planned hive-model is dead, for now.</p> <p>In its place we have capitalism and colonialism. The financial collapse has put enormous numbers of young middle class professionals back in their parents homes, because they cannot afford a place to live, and house prices are kept artificially high to protect their parents&#8217; generation from market forces. The little bits of paper we exchange for toil and ideas and risk simply decide, in many situations, who will breed and who will not. Our genetic outcomes are shaped by our economic systems, because a home and a certain amount of security are necessary to most decisions to reproduce. The imperative to put our 20s into education and work rather than child-rearing as most of our ancestors did further shapes our reproductive options based on cultural factors. Human genetics and economics are, correctly understood, a single field. Our position in all of these games <b>literally</b> forms the identity to which intersectionality refers: race, gender etc. all cut right to the biological core of our instinctive behaviors. Our responses are far from rational!</p> <p>The winners of both of these social structures, Socialist and Capitalist, the team that stays on the table regardless of outcomes, are typically male. Although historically roughly <a href="">twice as many women have children as men</a> (<a href=";channel=fs&#038;q=%22Genetic+evidence+for+unequal+effective+population+sizes+of+human+females+and+males%22.&#038;ie=utf-8&#038;oe=utf-8&#038;gl=uk">cite</a>) the men that do stay on top often have absolutely phenomenal reproductive success. Bob Marley is thought to have had around fifty children, vastly more than any woman could manage even in theory, for example. <a href="">One human in 200 is descended from Genghis Khan</a>, which verges on <i><a href="">reductio ad hitlerum</a></i> for this argument.</p> <p>That&#8217;s your patriarchy, right there. It&#8217;s the tiny fraction of men, mostly warlords and dictators, who throughout human history have managed to <a href="">silverback</a> absolutely enormous numbers of women into breeding with them. One big male and a group of females is a strategy found in our close relatives, and when it breaks out in humans, the nature of our biology and culture can spread those genes unbelievable distances. This is, if you like, genetic imperialism. You take one facet of primate biology, and multiply it by complex social structures and enabling technology like the <a href="">stirrup</a>, and what results is an incredibly, unreasonably effective reproduction strategy: enormous centralization of power, and vast <a href="">harems</a>. This is a reproductive strategy, and it&#8217;s one that works: the silverback gorilla rules over a nest of one younger male and a few females, plus the kids. The human emperor rules over an entire region, and frequently produces many hundreds of children. <a href="">Zsa Zsa Gabor was the virgin lover of Ataturk</a>. She was far from alone. Her description of her experience is enlightening.</p> <p>Until we acknowledge the biological basis for social forms like dictatorship, we cannot effectively fight them. It is not enough to wish we were evolved from bonobos rather than some evil creature that&#8217;s closer to the baboon than anything else, given their omniverous canine teeth and love of throwing stones at predators! While the patriarchy is understood to be a purely social construction there is little hope of combating it. It must be seen and understood as an artefact of primate biology, amplified in reach and damage by our exquisitely complex social structures. Then it comes within reach. The genetic legacy of the super-successful reproduction of the occasional Emperors builds on the inheritance of the silverbacks and lives within all of us: the genes sleep in men and women alike. The adoring crowds of sexually available women that surround celebrities are doing their genetic bit to propagate the patriarchy too. Every groupie is unconsciously playing the female response to the genetic strategies of Ataturk, the Ottoman Emperors and Genghis Khan: enormous centralization of genetic success enabled by complex societies building on top of primate polygyny ala gorillas tends to produce incentives we would not necessarily choose consciously.</p> <p>Let me say that again: the reproductive strategy of a very few men mating with an enormous number of women is the foundation of the patriarchy. Women who are not captives raped in war still often play into this male reproductive strategy around celebrities or those with extreme wealth. Star fucking is a female continuation of patriarchy. So is looking for a very rich husband. This pattern is ancient. What it produces is genetic incentives for centralization of power around one asshole who fucks everything that will lie still long enough, or can be made to lie still. The poor man tends to monogamy. The rich man does not have to. Patriarchy is an evolved strategy. Women are not its only victims: young men drafted for the Vietnam war, or the nice guys who can&#8217;t get a date are also confined by a winner-takes-all model all too familiar in financial competition as oligarchical capitalism, and in genetic selection terms as patriarchy. </p> <p>It&#8217;s possible that over some number of generations, birth control (i.e. groupies and most mistresses are not conceiving these days) may be a surprisingly effective brake on this strategy. Only time will tell.</p> <p>Now, hold your anger. Stop and think. If we accept homosexuality as natural and acceptable, and rape as natural and unacceptable, we are two thirds of the way to looking at patriarchy in similarly biologically deterministic forms. The social, and more likely biological winner-fucks-all reproductive tendency in animal species (think <a href="">deer</a>) gives rise to the entire spectrum of inclinations which we culturally manifest as the patriarchy. The genetic incentives are completely different than those in a society in which monogamous pair-bonding is the reproductive norm (if such a thing ever existed, probably not.)</p> <p>Winner-fucks-all and genetic competition make perfect sense of the Imperial tendency towards genocide. Groups with very different genetic makeup meet, and as with the new silverback killing the children of the previous silverback, an atavistic impulse to kill and enslave everyone, and impregnate all of the women kicks in. In happens in wars: rape followed invasion in the ancient world in nearly every case. The Red Army stands <a href="">accused of raping its way across Germany</a>. This pattern continues to this very day. You cannot separate this atavistic genetic tendency from imperialism, from colonialism, from <a href="">slavery</a>, from war. In certain circumstances, women voluntarily participate in the propagation of these genes (groupies, star fuckers etc.) but let us not downplay the coercive nature of the harem, and the outright rape which is the backbone of this reproductive strategy.</p> <p>It is in all of us: it is the dead hand of our ancestors and our barbarous past. Form the pyramid, and the one on top gets to father 0.5% of the human race 1000 years later. Genghis Khan as the all-father. Recent dictators have tended to be less free to perform mass impregnation, but who can deny the psychosexual weirdness around Hitler, or <a href=";channel=fs&#038;q=mao+concubines&#038;ie=utf-8&#038;oe=utf-8&#038;gl=uk">Mao&#8217;s train-loads of concubines</a>.</p> <p>Worse, the patriarchy gene and the cultural transmissions that go with it are often <i><a href="">extremely good at handling raw political power</a></i> (on this blog) which creates a self-reinforcing power cartel. The competition between the patriarchs is like the competition between the silverback gorillas: it is about perpetuating the patriarch line, not about bringing it down. It does not matter who you vote for, the government always wins. There is no way out of this situation without understanding this. <b>The Empire is a sexual organ by which the patriarchy propagates its genes.</b></p> <p>The Empire is the <a href="">extended phenotype</a> of the patriarch, and the patriarchy is one natural (but not desirable) human sexual selection strategy. There are other, less damaging, models.</p> <p>But let us be clear here: the patriarchy keeps coming back because the patriarchy is in our genes. <a href="">Planet of the Apes</a> portrays an egalitarian-monogamous society, but get right down to it and in the back room there&#8217;s gorilla-on-gorilla single combat to ascertain dominance, followed by orgies. That&#8217;s gorillas for you, even in a society where they&#8217;ve evolved speech and complex culture. We are doing our equivalent right now.</p> <p>In America, instead of gorilla orgies, we have college football and cheerleaders.</p> <p>Is college football a re-enactment of tribal combat followed by rape of the conquered? You have to wonder. At least I do.</p> <p>But these are the questions raised by following the genetic footprints of violence and sexual behaviour around violence in detail. Nobody wants to ask them, and almost nobody wants answers. I&#8217;m (at times) Mr. Realpolitik, Mr. &#8220;nuclear weapons define sovereignty.&#8221; I warned you at the beginning this was going to be rough, and it certainly is.</p> <p>If course, if you dont like it, it&#8217;s very hard to prove any of this. We don&#8217;t have the science. But we could one day. To really study what is going on at the genetic level might be the right approach to really understanding rape and the cultural abuse of power right up to and including genocide <i>well enough to put a stop to it forever</i>. If we don&#8217;t look, we can&#8217;t know. If we can&#8217;t know, we can&#8217;t win.</p> <p>It&#8217;s that simple.</p> <p>=================</p> <p>Power, without evolutionary biology, cannot be studied effectively. I&#8217;m not sure that power can even be <b>defined</b> correctly without reference to our primate heritage and mammalian dominance. The <a href="">Old White Dudes that run so much of the world</a> are consciously or unconsciously playing out a reproductive strategy from our dim and distant past that still works today for some of them. The younger men that support them, hoping one day to be the silverback, extend this power structure for their own <i>reproductive</i> interests. The <a href="">Lewinsky</a> class instinctively seek these guys out, and the quiet discussion in the corners from young male college professors is that this phenomena doesn&#8217;t require any great amount of power to manifest: you don&#8217;t have to be a president for status to be attractive to people. Just a little social standing in a sufficiently naive group will do it. Patriarchy for women is not just about rape, patriarchy is also wanting a successful husband, a man who has won his war to get to the top.</p> <p>Within this framework, the Thatcher-Meir-Gandhi-Bhutto-Merkel line also makes perfect sense: either they are fitting into a system designed to be run by men or, even more disturbing, they&#8217;re running enough of the relevant genetic scripts to pursue these strategies unconsciously, even though they have no reproductive advantage to gain from them. This is a heretical thought and no more than an idle speculation, but is the motivation to power <i>always</i> a buried male reproductive script exemplified by Genghis Khan? Are there really any other modes to the Will to Power? Do you have to carry the genes to be shaped by it, or can it be community-acquired from the culture?</p> <p>Without doing the science, we will never know.</p> <p>Centralization of power benefits men by creating opportunities for men with power to father enormous numbers of children. The star system that produces Led Zepplin or Bob Marley does the same thing. Bob&#8217;s fifty kids, all fathered (as far as we know!) with willing women are as much an expression of this reproductive strategy as, well, frankly the women who chose to sleep with him.</p> <p>Until women stop having lots of children with rich, powerful, socially central men, there will be patriarchy. The strategy only stops working <b>when it stops working in genetic terms</b> and the people with the power to make that decision are females, unless you are dealing with Mao or Genghis Khan in which case that choice is completely removed.</p> <p>These are not new arguments. <a href="">Steven Goldberg</a> formulated a version of this argument in 1973. The more recent <a href="">Demonic Males</a> frames the argument in even more extreme terms.</p> <p>The price of accepting that homosexuality is biologically normal in mammals is that we need to start thinking about other aspects of human life in biological terms. Homosexuality is inevitable, persecution of homosexuality is clearly preventable. A tendency towards sexual violence is natural, rape is clearly preventable. A tendency towards patriarchy and domination is clearly natural, Empire is probably preventable. There are a few mechanisms we could use.</p> <p>But until we understand that we are wrestling with monsters from the id, with the horrific legacies of evolution which we must work very carefully to prevent overwhelming us &#8211; as carefully and as strategically as we fight cancer &#8211; we will all be in danger from the violent past in which our species evolved, and the ways we evolved to cope with it.</p> <p>Today the biological imperative towards power manifests as nuclear weapons. Males, out of territory to expand into, appear to be fully locked into primate dominance wars. There&#8217;s nothing to do but a fight to the finish between two sides, as we&#8217;re currently seeing shutting down the government in America. The multi-party face-off between Russia, America and China is simply three groups of big apes following their genetic programming.</p> <p>I don&#8217;t believe that without opening up new worlds for our ancient genes to conquer there is any realistic hope of peace on earth. But if we can reopen the sky, perhaps we can trick the most genetically driven members of our species to sink their atavistic drives into getting off the rock and taking their genetic equivalent of &#8220;<a href="">manifest destiny</a>&#8221; with them. Perhaps with enough room to manoeuvre, a more cooperative culture can emerge, with our &#8220;last man standing&#8221; genetic switches set to the <b>off position</b> because we have abundant territories to expand into, explore and discover.</p> <p>The two archetypes at work here are Genghis Khan and Captain Kirk. In a limited, zero sum world, the inner Genghis Khan predominates.</p> <p>But it is possible that if we can open the sky, the male and male-strategy replicating portions of humanity will discover their inner Captain Kirk, the desire to boldly go places, and not to kill their way to power which is so much of our current dominator mode of business? Could it work?</p> <p>We are locked on this planet with <a href=;channel=fs&#038;q=monsters+from+the+id&#038;ie=utf-8&#038;oe=utf-8&#038;gl=uk>monsters from the id</a>. But if we set them free in the stars, it is my firm belief they will sprout wings and transform into, if not angels, Pegasus, carrying our awful genetic heritage into the heavens, but transforming it in peace and freedom as we go. It may be that our fundamental violence is soluble in the infinite horizons of space. It is this or genetically selecting these trends out of our species: what could possibly go wrong with such a plan? Everything. Eugenics? Everything.</p> <p>In the 20th century, we had a simple choice: what to do with nuclear technology, and what to do with the plutonium. Here were our two choices: the <a href="">territorial dominance ICBM</a>, or <a href=>Project Orion that would have taken us to the stars</a>. I think you know what choice we should have made. I certainly do. Our probes would certainly be back from Alpha Centauri by now. Possibly even our first manned Orion-class craft.</p> <p>If we stay confined on earth, we are going to have to artificially select or genetically engineer out male aggression and female attraction to wealth, power and status if we are to survive. If we go into the stars, aggression will turn into exploration, and rather than living in genetic slavery, we may all be free. Faced with an open horizon, who will we become?</p> <p>Space is the only viable path to cohabiting with our genetic heritage, rather than breaking nature in the name of peace. I do not believe we have the wisdom to govern our genetic inheritance wisely, but I do believe we could escape our trap, and go to the stars. <a href="">The Spirit Level</a> may be a temporary fix, but a lasting solution to our problematic genetic heritage is going to require a radical change in our environment. There&#8217;s only one place I can see that coming from.</p> <p>To survive ourselves we need black sky thinking about even the most everyday of issues.</p> <p>(the end. i may have a few more tweaks upcoming, but that&#8217;s it for now.)</p> <p><a href=";id=3519&amp;md5=2ce030659b6007ca07bb912dc33b1a4a" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2013-10-02 Patriarchy, colonialism and intersectionality: a definitively unpopular analysis? <p>A couple of people have asked me recently to describe the model of gender/sexuality/etc. which I was exposed to through my 1990s spiritual practice as a Hindu tantric. It is as follows.</p> <ol> <li>The human can be divided (for this purpose) into four layers: absolute consciousness, core spiritual identity, position within a lifetime, and physical body. The upper two levels aren&#8217;t worth trying to describe in detail, but together they encompass the full range of human experience &#8211; old/young, male/female, good/wicked and so on are all within those identities, and they lie buried and inaccessible within every human being (we believe.) Think of those levels together as the great repository of every possible form of humanity. (!)</li> <li>Physical body is simple: it&#8217;s the meat. It also refers to the base consciousness of the body &#8211; the thing that gets hungry, the thing that jerks you leg when somebody taps it with a hammer &#8211; the thing that you share with a dog. At least on layer of sexuality (and it can be as many as four) resides here.</li> <li>Position in a lifetime is mutable. Today you are young, in 40 years you will be older. Today you are a computer programmer. In 40 years you will paint houses and look after your grandchildren. Today you are alive, in 40 years you may be dead. As you pass through time, the physical body takes a relativively predictable trajectory for most people. It ages. Sometimes it gets injured or, rarely, modified. The position in a lifetime level is vastly more mutable &#8211; everything you can become is potential within it. As you change in directions which are unusual, you start to see life in new ways, and tantric practice pushes pepole into very unusual perspecives indeed on a number of axes as a way of forcing people further and further towards the cosmic and universal levels which are hidden within them. &#8220;Being what you are not&#8221; is a huge part of the practice: trying to experience death, trying to experience what its like to be of another gender, changing social status, gaining and losing power, and many other polarities are experienced and explored.</li> <li>Western culture has many deeply graven problems around sex. Therefore westerners tend to attach to the 20% or so of tantra which involves sexual identies. Weirdly, however, they never seem to want to deal with the tantric spirituality around work, child-rearing, family responsibilities and everything else that goes with sex in the traditional cultures which tantra evolved in!</li> <li>One core practice cycle is to build a clear understanding of how you would look at life and experience life if you had been born in the other gender. In highly gender-role-segragated societies, this practice was extremely radical and mind expanding. The more equivalent genders are in a society, the less there is to learn from this work. But tantra is very old, and the roles used to be very socially constrained, hence these practices worked well for inducing personal flexibility. One optional extra (highly recommended) is to then unify with the other-gendered aspect of your own potential: done correctly this largely cancels some of the more obsessional qualities of the <i>romantic quest</i> and in most cases it results in a much broader and more flexible range of responses to life &#8211; men who can more easily nurture, and women who can more easily fight is a common understanding. Note that this practice does not typically alter expressed preference in sexual partners, although it might for some people in some circumstances. It also does not change performed social role in public (tantra is <b>secret</b>) although it may change performed role in ritual. If this all seems a bit alien, some core tantric concepts are maybe 8000 years old.</li> <li>This model differs heavily from western models of gender and sexuality. The idea of <i>what a human is</i> which underlies tantric practice is so alien to common western conceptions of identity that the, er, &#8220;gender bending&#8221; practices of tantra are extremely hard to map. Tantra existed within cultures in which arranged marriage was a fundamental social norm, where not finding your kid a spouse was as bad as not educating them or feeding them! No birth control, no STD treatment: this was a different world. Although it&#8217;s tempting to map personal fluidity around gender from one lived experience to another, in this case, it&#8217;s not at all clear that without the fundamental spiritual model of the self underlying, there&#8217;s any clear mapping to be made. In particular, the maintainence of a performed social role <b>while voluntarily changing the lived experience</b> is a feature which does not appear to map at all well to the western debates about gender, sexuality and identity. It&#8217;s a different game.</li> </ol> <p>That said, dialogue might be productive &#8211; the new world is new, and people are pushing hard on boundaries which the tantrics of old had no approach to. But it&#8217;s not a simple or direct mapping, and I can&#8217;t see direct points of congruence or transfer past certain superficial similarities. Perhaps time will change that.</p> <p><a href=";id=3515&amp;md5=3f656071daef5770d8c1e9fb55573d05" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2013-10-01 Gender and sexuality in Hindu tantra <p><b>It&#8217;s taken me two weeks to write this.</b> This is the pitch for the third Big Picture Day, on Tuesday 20th of August, at <a href="">Limewharf</a> in London. We&#8217;re going to talk about the NSA, Snowden, and the changing relationship we need to have with the technology not to get generation-gapped.</p> <p><strong><a href="">REGISTER NOW</a></strong></p> <p>I knew, as soon as the <a href=";gl=us&amp;tbm=nws&amp;authuser=0&amp;q=snowden">Snowden</a> thing popped, that nothing was going to be the same. I went to <a href="">OHM2013</a>, a big hacker camping festival in the Netherlands. 3000 people, <a href="">five government whistleblowers</a> who had attemted to stop illegal surveillance in the past. At least one scary-realistic Ed Snowden look alike. Even a <a href="">hexayurt</a>. <img alt="" src="" width="200px" align="right" style="padding: 5px" /></p> <p>I am afraid. We had a week, and we failed to retell the story of our lives relative to what we actually <b>know</b> about the vast, secretive spying operations which are run against us. I hardly know a single friend that, at some point in their life, hasn&#8217;t done something worthy of the attention of law enforcement: riding freight trains, for example, became a big &#8220;critical national infrastructure&#8221; deal after 9/11. All those messages, sitting in a pile, waiting for the State to decide they&#8217;ve had enough of <a href=";hs=g2Z&amp;channel=fs&amp;gl=uk&amp;q=freight+riders&amp;bav=on.2,or.r_qf.&amp;bvm=bv.50500085,d.ZWU,pv.xjs.s.en_US.ciY8R2R6XC8.O&amp;biw=1047&amp;bih=520&amp;um=1&amp;ie=UTF-8&amp;hl=en&amp;tbm=isch&amp;source=og&amp;sa=N&amp;tab=wi&amp;ei=sSgKUo7pJYfkOY7ggMgL#bav=on.2,or.r_qf.&amp;channel=fs&amp;fp=b490adf50043e903&amp;gl=uk&amp;hl=en&amp;q=riding+freight&amp;sa=1&amp;tbm=isch&amp;um=1">freight train riders</a> and prosecute. It could happen to any group.</p> <p>So I wanted to host a conversation <b>about what has happened, and about what we know now.</b> There was an attempt a few years ago to rename the cell phone &#8220;<a href="">the tracker</a>.&#8221; Now I wonder, given that everything you and I do on the internet is monitored, and much or all of it stored for posterity, is <i>the internet</i> still a valid concept? Or is there simply a single giant eye, the Palantir from Lord of the Rings, showing us the Eye of Sauron every time we go online?</p> <p>This is a very critical and fast-moving situation. The recently revealed <a href="">shakedown of the Guardian offices</a>, the situation with <a href="">David Miranda</a>, the continuing flow of leaked information proves &#8211; without a doubt &#8211; that current events have rattled the governments invovled badly. We all need to be concerned about this.</p> <p><strong>So come to <a href="">Limewharf</a> at 6PM on Tuesday 20th of August</strong> to meet and discuss the issues together. We&#8217;re putting together a few short talks to briefly frame some of the issues, but this event will mainly be small group conversations about the issues, and about what they mean for our lives and culture.</p> <p>Do please come: it&#8217;s our chance to reset the narrative about what is happening, and perhaps emerge with some new ideas about what to do next.</p> <p><b>AGENDA</b><br /> Doors open 6PM for meet, greet and initial discussions.</p> <p>Speakers start 7PM.</p> <p><b>Confirmed speakers</b></p> <ul> <li><a href="">Smari McCarthy</a> &#8211; Icelandic civil rights activist, International Modern Media Initiative</li> <li><a href="">Ed Geraghty</a> &#8211; UK Pirate Party &#8211; &#8220;How did we get here? What&#8217;s the historical context behind all this surveilance?&#8221; </li> <li><a href="">Vinay Gupta</a> &#8211; former NSA contractor (kinda) &#8211; &#8220;A failure of imagination: why is re-inventing the Stasi the best thing the US government can think of do with the internet?&#8221;</li> </ul> <p>After the speakers, there&#8217;ll be a chance for extended in-depth discussion, mostly in small groups, so we all get a chance to think together about how this is going to affect us personally, politically and long into the future.</p> <p>Particular thanks to <a href="">Thomas Ermacora</a> for helping me get unstuck on this session. Invaluable assistance!</p> <p><b><i>Cyberinsecurity</i></b> is the third in the Big Picure Days event series at <a href="">@Limewharf</a> in London. The first event was <a href="">Swarm Cooperatives</a> on mass collaboration. The second was <a href="">Stacktivism</a> on politics and critical infrastructure.</p> <p>I hope you can come. This one&#8217;s going to be a doozy.</p> <p><strong><a href="">REGISTER NOW</a></strong></p> <p><a href=";id=3496&amp;md5=7264043fa99ad8678b26a4aec988d1ce" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2013-08-13 Cyberinsecurity: is there a cure? <p>Guns in the US are involved in 5000 to 10000 murders per year, plus a lot of suicides. However, the Second Amendment is staunchly defended by a wide range of Americans, and the gun murders stand. Car crashes kill about 30000 per year, and nobody&#8217;s pushing for a radical end-to-end rethink of transport to save <i><b>those</b></i> lives. So we can establish clearly that merely killing quite a few people is not sufficient cause for action.</p> <p>So let us consider what kind of a threat might require pervasive monitoring of ever human being who can be reached, 24 hours a day (do you have your phone with you?) including their communications, travel, spending, health records, employment activities and everything else? </p> <p>The answer seems obvious: <b><i>Vampires!</i></b> </p> <p>Let us examine this from a different side. Let us consider America&#8217;s long struggle with <b><i>The Vampire Threat</i></b></p> <p>No less a creative power than Tim Burton produced <b>Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.</b> You don&#8217;t really want to watch the trailer for the film, but it&#8217;s worth three minutes of your life. Bear with me.</p> <p><iframe width="560" height="315" src="//" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe></p> <p>About mid-way through, the Vampires reveal their secret: <b><i>slavery is how vampires breed humans to feed on, and they&#8217;ve been at it since Egypt if not before.</i></b> At which point, a relatively silly film jackhammers its way into a certain kind of Twilight Zone Episode greatness.</p> <p><iframe width="420" height="315" src="//" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe></p> <p>Now, if this was really going on, I think the NSA&#8217;s current stance &#8211; to identify every single vampire feeding on Ordinary Americans by discovering who is being fed on, by narrowing down the vampire&#8217;s hiding places, and by sending out SWAT teams to impale every single one of these blood sucking leeches, down to the last one, is entirely rational, commensurate with the severity of the situation, and what&#8217;s more, Just.</p> <p>But if it is not vampires, then what the hell is it? If the effort being made would be commensurate with an invasion of undead horrors, and we don&#8217;t likely have an invasion of undead horrors, what&#8217;s all the struggle about? Surely all of this isn&#8217;t being done to blow up a couple of thousand Muslim fundamentalists with a fetish for blowing things up? In 12 years they&#8217;ve killed around 3000 people in the US, roughly 1% of the number of Americans who have died in car crashes during the same period. No rational organization would spread so much blood and treasure on the sand for such a loss&#8230; no, it must be something more. It must be a Vampire-scale threat&#8230; or they have lost their minds!</p> <p>The only credible explanation I can see for a rational, reasonable NSA is this: they&#8217;re scared shitless of something huge. It&#8217;s either something we know about and under-estimate (terrorism using biological weapons would be my best guess) or it&#8217;s something out in <a href=>Gordon White</a> territory: aliens, ancient astronauts, Neanderthal clades, Cthulhu cults, or similar. I have a feeling if it was the latter, we might well have seen traces, the occasional improperly covered up Bigfoot sighting, or a Dr. Who-esque UFO landing from time to time.</p> <p>Because if it&#8217;s not Vampires, we have a much worse problem: Fascists. And we know the harm they could do: 22 million dead from the German outbreak, and their close neighbours in Russia offed 70 million, and China another 50 million. Around 250 million people died in death camps and similar &#8220;democides&#8221; in the 20th century, and if we are being asked to accept an American Fascism on account of 3000 people killed by terrorism? By the numbers, terrorism is roughly a hundred thousand times less dangerous than political authoritarianism.</p> <p>If the price of cars is 30000 lives a year, and the price of guns is 10000 or more, by god, if the objective is to save lives, start there. Or with tobacco. But, by god, if we&#8217;re willing to sacrifice our basic freedoms for 3000 dead in 12 years, we have truly lost our freaking minds.</p> <p>If the NSA is to be believed, they are protecting us from something far, far more terrible than they are. And, at that point, it&#8217;s Vampires or nothing.</p> <p>Which is it?</p> <p><b>UPDATE</b></p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p><a href="">@leashless</a> Apparently it is vampires after all.&#10;&#10;<a href=""></a></p> <p>&mdash; thomas_lord (@thomas_lord) <a href="">July 11, 2013</a></p></blockquote> <p><script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script></p> <p><a href=";id=3491&amp;md5=dbdbd2cc4684623929288aebe0cf6ab5" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2013-07-11 The Vampire Hypothesis: falsifying the NSA’s claim to help us <p><a href=""><img src="" alt="jobs-big-brother" width="100%" class="aligncenter size-full wp-image-3475" /></a></p> <p><b><a href="">Come to the Stacktivism conference in London, July 13, to discuss infrastructure and political control.</a></b></p> <h3>The history</h3> <p>We all knew this was happening.</p> <p>Anybody who worked in computer security looked at the NSA&#8217;s budget and the falling cost of hardware and simply said &#8220;they&#8217;re storing everything.&#8221;</p> <p>There had been evidence before. The <a href="">secret rooms</a> in the telecom company data centers which piped data straight to the NSA, for example. But something about Ed Snowden&#8217;s presentation, the straight-from-the-horse&#8217;s-mouth documents, the banality-of-evil Powerpoint presentations, completely with their dreadful graphics and strange codenames, then the international circus as Snowden scoots across the map of America&#8217;s enemies before getting parked in Limbo in a Russian airport where he could spend months (or decades.)</p> <p>Whatever it is, something in the drama caught the public imagination. Even with <a href="">D-Notices</a> and the usual American news blackout, the centre of gravity of the internet has shifted.</p> <p>America are no longer even slightly plausibly the good guys. They&#8217;re using the internet against <em>everybody</em> &#8211; their own citizens, their allies, the European parliament. They&#8217;re storing everything. <a href="">Snowden&#8217;s video</a> describes how they could go back over years of your activity, your email and phone calls, and find something, anything to prosecute you for if they chose to.</p> <p>Lest we underestimate the severity of this threat, consider the history of <a href="">COINTELPRO</a>, a blatantly illegal FBI program to suppress a wide variety of groups of poltical radicals in the 1960s, including the American Indian Movement, the Black Panthers and the Peace Movement. We will never know the full extend of the damage done by COINTELPRO, but many lives were shattered. If you would like to think this is all a shadow of times past, consider the current scandal of UK police officers <a href="">fathering children with activists</a> while in &#8220;deep cover&#8221; identities to spy on them. Governments which are abusing their power in these ways, without providing any realistic framework of political accountability when due bounds are exceeded, simply cannot be trusted with the kind of power that the new NSA/GCHQ toolkit puts into their hands. If you need evidence of that, consider the <a href="">murky networks that snared Anonymous</a> and Pentagon risk management for <a href="">large scale economic collapse</a>.</p> <p>All this used to be <a href="">conspiracy theory</a>. It is now a matter of public record. Although given <a href=>the NSA&#8217;s tendency to lie under oath to Congress</a> what is really going on is anybody&#8217;s guess.</p> <h3>Lawyers, Doctors and Accountants</h3> <p>I want to draw attention to one very specific area of impact: the role of pervasive government surveillance in the <strong>lives of professionals who require client confidentiality</strong> in their work. The three most obvious examples are lawyers, doctors and accountants. In most nations, communications between the professions and their clients are legally protected: <a href="">attorney-client privilege</a>, <a href="">medical confidentiality</a>, and <a href="">accountant-client privilege</a>.</p> <p>Here&#8217;s the problem. In the UK and Europe, any email communication can be rationally expected to be monitored by the American government. Can professionals be secure in their relationships with their patients with a foreign power reading their email? If &#8211; <strong>if</strong> &#8211; the surveillance was being carried out by the government of the country the communication was conducted in, perhaps it would be possible to claim that the privilege of confidential communication had simply been withdrawn from the professions. But Germany has <a href="">500+ million emails</a> spied on each month by the USA, completely violating its sovereignty and the basic rights of German citizens.</p> <p>Are German doctors, lawyers and accountants simply to stop using electronic communication because it is no longer confidential? Surely this is a situation for the Pirate Party to pick up?</p> <p>People like Mark Zuckerberg say that &#8220;privacy is dead&#8221; but try telling that to lawyers, doctors and accountants. Our society cannot function without professional confidentiality, and having foreign powers be presumed to intercept all communications is simply the end of these professions as we have known them. There&#8217;s no trusted advisor to consult with when it&#8217;s all ending up in the Utah data centre to be consulted in future decades under administrations with unknown political agendas.</p> <p><img src="" alt="hague" width="100%" class="aligncenter size-large wp-image-3485" /></p> <h3>Looking forwards</h3> <p>Were we ruled over by benevolent intelligences flooded by wisdom and compassion, overflowing with the milk of human kindness, these powers would be corrupting. But we are ruled over by organizations which have maintained Guantanamo Bay and the Black Sites, which have engaged in campaigns of political assassination by robot airstrikes to prosecute their wars, and who have wrought havoc on the world with a series of ill-dignified wars.</p> <p>I had hoped that America would recover after 9/11 and slowly rebuild its Constitution in government by closing Guantanamo bay, pushing the intelligence services back within constitutional bounds, and returning to the richly-deserved peace which came after the Cold War ended. Instead it is clear that the inmates are running the asylum, and even a President with the <a href="">best of intentions can be co-opted</a> by the logic-of-necessity into complete complacent collaboration with blatantly unconsitiutional action on a vast scale.</p> <p>The language used to justify these actions is the language of fascism.</p> <blockquote><p>If you are a law-abiding citizen of this country going about your business and your personal life you have nothing to fear about the British state or the intelligence services listening to your phone calls or anything like that. &#8211; <a href="">William Hague</a></p></blockquote> <p>To this I have only one reply: the Assange Doctrine is simple.</p> <blockquote><p><a href="">If you are a law-abiding government of this country, faithfully representing the people, you have nothing to fear from leaks or anything like that.</a></p></blockquote> <p>How does that seem to sit with government these days? Poorly, because the leaks and the surveillance are two halves of a whole: leaks are how citizens spy on their government, and the NSA/GCHQ are how governments spy on their citizens.</p> <p><strong>This is a brutally destructive equilibrium. It cannot be allowed to continue.</strong></p> <p>This is simply insanity: the culture of distrust cultivated by constant surveillance and constant leaking is simply a 21st century Police State with a looks-both-ways Panopticon. It&#8217;s a total mess.</p> <p>Instead of rule of law, with reasonable transparency and oversight by courts which take the law seriously, depriving leakers of legitimate grievance, we have what amounts of a covert surveillance battle between the state and the people over the basic right of the people to understand what their government is doing. To have both sides, government and people, making a mockery of the rule of law in the name of the rule of law is not the answer. The rule of law alone stands.</p> <p>The whole point of this edifice is to maintain the fundamental bones of our civilization, the rule of law, and the supremacy of the courts over the political personalities of the day. If the USG had the NSA operating within due constitutional bounds <em>there would have been nothing for Snowden to leak</em>, and any leak he made would have been an indefensible breach of national security, unjustifiable by any argument as in the public interest. Snowden would likely have been a competent public servant for all of his tenure.</p> <p>As it is, the revelation of blatantly illegal action on a huge scale is a simple proof that intelligence services without reasonable oversight simply drift further and further into insane and cannibalistic action: <a href="">Nixon</a> and <a href="">Hoover</a> have proven beyond all reasonable doubt that every level of the American government requires continual oversight to function within Constitutional bounds.</p> <h3>Shifting alliances</h3> <p><a href="">I don&#8217;t know what happens next.</a> Snowden has shone a lot of light into a very, very dark corner, but there are <a href="">vastly worse corners</a> which are still in darkness.</p> <p>There are three main factions of response to the new reality in which we operate. They are</p> <ol> <li><b>Germany</b> pushes back using international law against US intrusion into its sovereignty. The US likewise.</li> <li><b>Civil Libertarians</b> push back within the court system in America and the UK asking for answers, real oversight, and civil rights.</li> <li><b>Cipherpunks</b> now push end-to-end encryption of all messages as a basic civic duty by which we attempt to protect each-other from the State gone wrong.</li> </ol> <p>The hardest part of all of this is going to be keeping all of these groups cooperating and moving in the right direction. The Germans, of course, want <a href="">data retention</a> and the right to spy on their own citizens, as most EU countries do. They will be quite unhappy with the cipherpunks. The civil libertarians are quite distrusting of encryption as an end-run around the legal system, a technical implementation of a civil right that could be over-turned by superior technology: a worthy argument, but let them change the law to comply with the Constitution <em>then</em> complain about crypto. Finally, the non-state wing of the cipherpunks view international and national action as a distraction: the system cannot be fixed, the guilty cannot be punished, and the only available approach is to remove the power of the State to do what we do not wish it to: a digital insurrection.</p> <p><strong>The desperate need right now is for orientation to the new reality that Snowden&#8217;s actions have exposed.</strong> The old map of superpower alliances may be toast, with China, the EU and Russia allied against the US in at least basic security concerns. The black-clad paranoids of the hackerspaces are now fully vindicated, and preparing GPG and OTR for mass adoption is now an urgent step. Finally, the ACLU &#038; co are now, without a doubt, completely vindicated &#8211; but can they actually close with their targets, or will they be intimidated and fobbed off by corrupt courts?</p> <p>It is all to play for, but discard your old map and do the analysis from scratch. There is much more going on than the old models predicted. Gods help all of us as we reorient and reintegrate, and take action to survive.</p> <p>Disorientation is normal. Go about your day, citizen!</p> <p><a href=";id=3474&amp;md5=f411291c82f99bf4a3cd1df26e231de8" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2013-07-03 Snowden <blockquote><p><a href=>#stacktivism</a> is a term that attempts to give form to a critical conversation &#038; line of enquiry around infrastructure &#038; the relationship we have to it</p></blockquote> <p><b><a href=>Sign up for #STACKTIVISM &#8211; Big Picture Days 2 &#8211; July 13th London</a><br /><a href=>Read more about #STACKTIVISM and the plan for the day!</a></b></p> <p><video width="100%" controls="controls"><br /> <source src="" type="video/ogg" /><br /> Your browser does not support the video tag.<br /> </video><br /> <a href=>Right-click to download this video, 800mb .ogg</a> (plays in FF, Chrome, VLC etc.)</a></p> <p>I just returned from the <a href="">Green Foundation Ireland Climate Gathering in Dublin</a>. <a href=>Eamon Ryan</a> invited me, the second of his events I&#8217;ve been to, and it was an extremely stimulating and mind-expanding weekend. The topic, in theory, was urbanism, but actually it was a profound discussion of values around intergenerational transmission of culture that dominated the days: is the shortest path to fix our broken industrial base to fix the insane culture that created it? </p> <p>I believe the answer, in the short run, to CO2 is <a href="'s+law+for+solar&#038;oq=moore&#038;aqs=chrome.0.59j57j0j5j61j62.1276j0&#038;sourceid=chrome&#038;ie=UTF-8">ultra-cheap solar panels</a> but that just buys us time until the next crisis, probably around biotech/nanotech, <i>and</i> runs the risk of simply making our shitty political culture sustainable. But it&#8217;s better than 6C+ of warming, so there we go.</p> <p>So then I got <b>knocked on my ass</b> in a way that hasn&#8217;t happened since my <a href="">first conversation with Marcin Jakubowski about Open Source Ecology</a>. They&#8217;ve <a href=>come a long way</a> since it was one man in a mud hut!</p> <p><a href=>Shannon Hayes</a> started a movement called <a href=>Radical Homemakers</a>. Her conception of the world is simple: the economic value of Do It Yourself culture in small areas like knitting is small, but the sense of personal empowerment that comes from <b>doing it</b> leads to genuinely significant steps in self-sufficiency as one acquires a rooftop garden and chickens. Then, over time, at least some people can make the leap to genuine Producer status, where they stand on their own feet.</p> <p>Shannon&#8217;s moral code is simple: social justice, family, community, ecology. The magic of her life &#8211; and that of her family &#8211; is that she&#8217;s managed to create an ecosystem niche which fulfils all of these requirements <b>simultaneously</b>, without infringing trade-offs. What she&#8217;s achieved is every bit as impressive as the Open Source Ecology vision, and I hope you&#8217;ll be equally inspired by <a href="">her words</a> and her work.</p> <p>I shot video of Shannon&#8217;s talk in Ireland. She discusses the history of the Consumer/Producer split, and the creation of the Consumer identity in the gender-and-work struggles in post-WW2 America. Then Shannon turns to the cultural changes as Farmer&#8217;s Markets became increasingly a real and productive part of people&#8217;s lives, the growing &#8220;Producer Culture&#8221;, as well as what she&#8217;s learned from her kids in the process of home-schooling them, and the practical steps that ordinary people can take down this path. The Q&#038;A is particularly excellent.</p> <p>Absolutely amazing work.</p> <p>This is one of the most advanced efforts I&#8217;ve seen at cracking the intellectual code which traps people in consumer culture and consumer consciousness, and done in a way which belies the intellectual sophistication that produced it. I&#8217;m incredibly impressed. This is exactly the kind of future I was hoping for when I wrote <a href=>The Unplugged</a>, that early #STACKTIVISM classic. Anyway, watch the video &#8211; it&#8217;s absolutely riveting, and come to the Stacktivism conference.</p> <p><b><a href=>Sign up for #STACKTIVISM &#8211; Big Picture Days 2 &#8211; July 13th London</a><br /> <br /><a href=>Read more about #STACKTIVISM and the plan for the day!</a></b></p> <p><a href=";id=3464&amp;md5=190a2be3f01a5122769d723d53333d67" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2013-06-21 What does it look like to own the stack? Shannon Hayes puts #Stacktivism into action! <p>If you&#8217;re new to the show: <a href="">Evolution of Swarm Cooperatives</a> on June 1st is the first <a href="">Big Picture Day</a>. Swarm Coops is intended to develop some new ideas about hackathons, unconferences, bar camps, hack days and similar, and the Big Picture Days will develop those ideas and take them forwards.</p> <p><iframe src=";loop=false&amp;delayms=3000" height="389" width="480" allowfullscreen="true" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <p><strong><span style="color: #ff6600;"><a href="">Register here.</a></span></strong> <b><a href="">Click here to add a session idea</a></b> to the presentation above.</p> <p>So let&#8217;s talk about outcomes. Whenever a swarm cooperation event like a hack day ends, I usually hear one or more of the four main complaints that people have around hack days and hackathons.</p> <ol> <li><strong>Over or under-facilitation</strong><br /> Either nobody knew what was going on, and it was randomness and time wasting, or the events team or some of the attendees took the situation in an iron hand and blocked <a href="">emergence</a> and creativity.</li> <li><strong>Top-down PUSH</strong><br /> Typically seen when a big organization funds a hack day and believes that there are clear, concrete, pre-defined outcomes that they are certainly going to see for their expenditure. Often combined with (1).</li> <li><strong>Nothing really happened</strong><br /> Decent event, we came, we saw, we formed teams, we wrote some code &#8211; then we went home. The event basically works, it can even be quite productive, but there&#8217;s no magic there. There are no surprises, and it feels like a day at the office.</li> <li><strong>Wrong people in the room</strong><br /> At humanitarian hackathons, that&#8217;s typically &#8220;lots of subject matter experts from the NGOs, not enough Django programmers.&#8221; But it can also show up as &#8220;there were no graphic designers&#8221; or &#8220;nobody really knew how the tool chain worked &#8211; we&#8217;re not Eclipse guys&#8221; and so on. It&#8217;s a human resources problem without a human resources team! It&#8217;s hard when people are volunteers. But if the mix isn&#8217;t there, the magic doesn&#8217;t happen.</li> </ol> <p><strong>The magic is what swarm cooperatives are about.</strong></p> <p>Everybody loves the <em>results</em> of the magic that happens when people come together to do something great, for free. When it&#8217;s there, the thrill of engagement, of discovering new problems, meeting new people, forming teams, struggling to deliver against a short event deadline and finally delivering something great is <em><strong>absolutely</strong> <strong>wonderful! </strong></em>We go to these things not out of some sense of dry duty to whatever the cause is today, but because we love the experience and the process.</p> <p>That&#8217;s why it&#8217;s such a let down when the alchemy doesn&#8217;t work and it&#8217;s all dull and flat.</p> <p><a href=""><strong>Evolution of Swarm Cooperatives</strong></a> is going to be about the magic of working together when it&#8217;s great and about the wider context of this mode of civic engagement &#8211; what changes as big orgs get involved, and how the challenges change when we&#8217;ve gone from a <a href="">code sprint</a> for a Free Software project to engaging with government to <a href="">solve the problems of the welfare state</a>.</p> <p>June 1st, Limewharf, London. Tickets are free, please book early so we can estimate numbers for catering, it&#8217;s going to be a great day.</p> <p><a href=""><strong>See the schedule here.</strong></a> We&#8217;ve deliberately kept it relatively sparse to make lots of time for collaboration, conversation and working together on the deep issues.</p> <p>Speakers include <strong><a href="">Thomas Ermacora</a></strong> of <a href="">Limewharf</a> (my co-curator &amp; our host!), <a href="">Lloyd Davis</a> of Tuttle Club and more, <strong><a href="">Zaid Hassan</a></strong> of <a href="">Reos Partners</a>, <strong><a href="">Alberto Cottica</a></strong> of <a href=";/a">EdgeRyders</a> and <a href="">Mamading Ceesay</a> of <strong><a href="">London Creative Labs</a></strong>. We&#8217;d hoped to have <a href="">Nadia El-Imam</a> also from <a href="">Edgeryders</a> but she can&#8217;t make it.</p> <p>What do we hope to deliver? What forms might our outcomes take? Here are some of my ideas &#8211; <a href="">what are yours?</a> (please add them to the planning presentation!)</p> <ul> <li>Some kind of one page code of conduct for large orgs doing hackathons, to help them not squash the creativity and emergence.</li> <li>A documentation breakthrough for unconferences &#8211; a little working practice that helps people who weren&#8217;t there share what happened. Could be as simple as annotated video of groups reporting back with their progress, could be new software tools.</li> <li>A review of best practices for code sharing, maintenance and reuse after hackathons.</li> <li>Notes for correcting facilitation gone wrong &#8211; an analysis of the failure modes, and recommendations for what to say to facilitators to correct each one.</li> <li>A review of the original <a href="">Open Space Technology</a> to see what we might learn from this found of all meetings.</li> </ul> <p>Those are just some ideas of the kinds of things I&#8217;d like to imagine we&#8217;d do together.<strong> <a href="">What&#8217;s your idea?</a></strong></p> <p>Click that link to edit the Swarm Cooperatives presentation, and please add your concepts to the doc, even fill in your details so that people can find you on the day.</p> <p>We hope you&#8217;ll be able to come!</p> <p><a href=";id=3442&amp;md5=7d18de9f685f22e586f8e727b9d469e2" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2013-05-28 Swarm Cooperatives – questions, hopes, outcomes? <p><iframe src=";loop=false&amp;delayms=3000" height="389" width="480" allowfullscreen="true" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <p><b><a href="">Swarm Cooperatives</a></b> is the first of six <a href="">Big Picture Days</a> at <a href="">Limewharf Annex Culture Lab</a>. As befits a swarm-themed event, we&#8217;re pulling things together very fast (you won&#8217;t believe when we actually get access to the space!) but that&#8217;s all part of the fun.<br /> <a name=schedule></a><br /> We hope you&#8217;ll be able to come!</p> <p><strong><span style="color: #ff6600;"><a href=""><span style="color: #ff6600;">Sign up for a free ticket on Eventbrite</span></a></span></strong><br /> <strong><a href="">Edit the above Swarm Coops planning presentation</a></strong></p> <div style="background-color: cornsilk; padding: 10px;"> <p><strong>PROVISIONAL SCHEDULE FOR SWARM COOPS JUNE 1st</strong></p> <p><strong>&#8220;Swarm Coops&#8221;</strong> are groups that come together for <strong>mutual learning and problem solving</strong>. Examples include free schools, unconferences, hackathons, hack days, bar camps and stakeholder workshops. There will be talks from practitioners, plenty of time to learn, teach, think and brainstorm together, and time to <strong>produce some tangible output</strong> to share with everybody. We&#8217;re going to <strong>evolve the medium forward</strong> to create better events. We&#8217;ll also use what we learn in the upcoming five Big Picture Days.<br /> <b><a href=";src=typd">#BIGPICTUREDAYS</a></b> is the hash tag for the event. <a href=>Edit</a>/<a href=;loop=false&#038;delayms=3000>View our planning presentation</a>.</p> <p><strong>11AM INTRODUCTION AND THOUGHT MENU</strong></p> <ul> <li><strong><a href="">Thomas Ermacora</a> &amp; <a href="">Vinay Gupta</a></strong> introduce Big Picture Days. <p>Next up, the <a href="">Thought Menu</a> &#8211; short talks on Swarm Coops. This will be the 6th Thought Menu event!</li> <li><strong><a href="">Lloyd Davis</a></strong> on <a href="">Tuttle Club</a>, <a href="">#riotcleanup</a> &amp; <a href="">#wewillgather</a>, public service hack days, <a href="">#hackthebarbican</a></li> <li><strong><a href="">Zaid Hassan</a></strong> (of <a href="">Reos Partners</a>, a high stakes stakeholder partnership consultancy) on why planning is killing us, and how prototyping will save us</li> <li><strong><a href="">Alberto Cottica</a> &amp; <a href="">Nadia El-Imam</a></strong> on <a href="">Edgeryders</a>, the <a href="">Living on the Edge</a> unconference series, and <a href="">bottom-up policy making</a></li> <li><strong><a href=>Mamading Ceesay</a></strong> will talk about <a href=>London Creative Labs</a> and asset based community development workshos for employment.</a> <li><i>We&#8217;re looking for one additional speaker on Crisis Camps / Crisis Mapping / H4D2 and other Humanitarian Hackathons &#8211; please get in touch with @leashless if that&#8217;s you!</i></li> </ul> <p><strong>12NOON SESSION PITCHES</strong></p> <p>We&#8217;ll take half an hour to figure out together what we want to do in the next two sessions, and what concrete deliverables we can make in the workshop period. Expect a grid with a number of work spaces &amp; a lot of post-it notes as we try and schedule what&#8217;s going on. Please, please if you are thinking about coming, <strong><a href="">fill in your page on the Attendee&#8217;s Deck</a></strong> so we can all get a sense of common interests and themes!</p> <p><strong>12:30PM LUNCH</strong></p> <p>Eat, drink, maybe take a walk in the park, flesh out some ideas, and get ready.</p> <p><strong>WORKING SESSIONS</strong></p> <p>Topics may include</p> <ul> <li>Engineering effective code reuse / project continuation at hackathons</li> <li>Managing intellectual property / licensing issues including patent or invention rights</li> <li>Documenting unconferences</li> <li>Creative use of back / side channels</li> <li>Scheduling sessions / talks when there are too many great things to fit in</li> <li>Creating genuine participation</li> </ul> <p>These are just some seed ideas &#8211; see the editable presentation above for more, and add your own ideas!</p> <p><strong>1:30PM FIRST SESSION</strong></p> <p>Four to six break out groups, some led by the speakers from the morning, to deep dive on specific areas of interest. Last 15 minutes will be for session reporting to the whole group.</p> <p><strong>2:30PM SECOND SESSION</strong></p> <p>Another set of breakout groups, heading towards some conclusions we hope! Last 15 minutes will be for session reporting to the whole group.</p> <p><strong>3:30PM REFRESHMENTS</strong></p> <p>Possibly coffee, probably beer (there&#8217;s a <a href="">nice pub</a> just outside!)</p> <p><strong>4:00PM MAKE SOMETHING</strong></p> <p>A two hour block to sit down in teams or on your own to <strong>deliver something concrete from the workshop</strong>. Things you might consider: doing a deep dive on a particular question and writing a blog post on what you have learned together, editing your pictures and notes from the day then uploading them, documenting the sessions you were part of from your notes, writing a specification for some software that expresses an important idea, or writing to people on projects you are involved in with insights you had today. Do some of the things you&#8217;d like to do later now while everybody is still here!</p> <p>If you need a break to think about things, <a href=";hl=en&amp;ll=51.535925,-0.045147&amp;spn=0.012733,0.030556&amp;sll=51.535458,-0.056069&amp;sspn=0.006367,0.015278&amp;gl=uk&amp;hnear=45+Vyner+St,+London+E2+9DQ,+United+Kingdom&amp;t=m&amp;z=15">the park is just around the corner </a>- take a stroll, walk with friends, but do please try and write up <em>something</em> before the end of the day.</p> <p><strong>6:00PM CONCLUSIONS</strong></p> <p>Plenary session. A chance to discuss the day with the group as a whole, and talk about next steps, subsequent projects, and canvas for support for any projects that have come out of our day.</p> <p><strong>7:00PM EVENING PROGRAMME </strong></p> <p>We are investigating options. They include retiring to The Victory, the aforementioned nice pub, doing a Classic Album listening session in the main space, taking the whole show to the park for a late evening dinner picnic, etc. The answer may well be &#8220;all of the above depending on your mood&#8221; but I&#8217;ll have updates on our options later this week.</p> </div> <p>Questions? Please contact <a>Vinay Gupta</a>. I hope you can make it.</p> <p><b>UPDATE</b><br /> Planning doc for future events. <a href="">Please feel free to contribute!</a><br /> <iframe src=";loop=false&#038;delayms=3000" frameborder="0" width="480" height="389" allowfullscreen="true" mozallowfullscreen="true" webkitallowfullscreen="true"></iframe></p> <p><a href=";id=3406&amp;md5=6fd497c6790e1c1651122300289d9efc" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2013-05-18 Swarm Cooperatives Schedule <p><strong>Swarm Cooperatives</strong> are temporary social structures we create to solve problems, explore new ideas, and make the most of opportunities. You can think of Swarm Coops as &#8220;constructive flash mobs.&#8221; Common examples include unconferences, bar camps, hackathons, crisis mapping, and free schools.</p> <p><strong>The Evolution of Swarm Coops</strong> is a one day workshop at <a href="">The Limewharf Annex Culture Laborotory</a> to discuss Swarm Coops we have been grateful members of, and to examine how we can evolve the form with the knowledge gained by all the events we have been part of in the past. The emphasis will be on working together to discover and document practical methods for making hackathons and unconferences more enjoyable, engaging and productive.</p> <p><a href=" "><span style="color: #ff6600;"><em><strong>Sign up for your free ticket on Eventbrite now!</strong></em></span></a></p> <p>Tangible problems we could work on include <strong>documenting unconferences</strong>, more effective <strong>code reuse</strong> after hackathons, and <strong>coordinating sessions</strong> when time and space are both too limited. I believe there is also room to examine the role of big orgs in sponsoring and managing unconferences and hackathons, and dealing with the tricky issues around licensing that can come up. After this event, we will all have an opportunity to put our ideas into practice at the upcoming <strong>Big Picture Days.</strong></p> <p><strong>The Big Picture Days are a series of 5 one-day workshops that I&#8217;ll be curating with <a href="">Thomas Ermacora</a> </strong>(of <a href="">Limewharf</a>, <a href="">Clear Village</a>, <a href="">Love the Earth</a> w. <a href=";v=yupwG9RxWLc">Imogen Heap</a> and many other projects!) Thomas and I are bringing our friends and our heads together to create the kind of environment where genuinely breakthrough thinking can happen, by getting the requisite diversity into the room, and providing the kind of space and time that people need to get to the heart of the matter at hand and reveal the productive kernel of truth.</p> <p><strong>The first Big Picture Day will be on <a href="">Stacktivism</a></strong> &#8211; the interface between politics, history and the critical infrastructure that keeps us alive, including sessions on cloud computing, human and cultural infrastructure, and London&#8217;s unique history as an pioneering infrastructure city. We will think about energy infrastructure, climate change, and trace some paths through future global political issues. The date is TBA, but it will be sometime in July.</p> <p>Other days will be themed around topics for debate that are ring-fencing the edges of what we are might call Wikisociety, such as: artificiality, intellectual freedom in the 21st Century including <a href="">defensive publication</a> (including the intersection between bitcoin, cryptography and social media), the social impacts (good and ill) of big data, and the entire question of platform economics, equity and ownership.</p> <p>There&#8217;s a Facebook group for ongoing planning for the events. <a href="">Sign up here.</a> If you prefer Twitter, <a href=";src=typd">#bigpicturedays</a></p> <p>Update: looks like we&#8217;ll be coinciding with the <a href="">National Day of Civic Hacking</a> in America.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><a href=";id=3394&amp;md5=3fc422a0e4fef19874202c78652d0672" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2013-05-13 The Evolution of Swarm Coops: our June 1 workshop <p>I did a talk today on hexayurts and the wider sustainability picture at <a href=>Electromagnetic Wave</a> &#8211; a hacker conference in London. I was a bit off base (bronchitis? anyway, I felt pretty rough) but the talk turned out well.</p> <p><video width="100%" controls="controls"><br /> <source src="" type="video/ogg" /><br /> Your browser does not support the video tag.<br /> </video></p> <p><a href=>PDF of slides</a> and .ogg video (<a href=>100mb</a> or much nicer <a href=>300mb HD</a>)</p> <p>I got a few dots joined up that I had not before &#8211; talked about the <a href=>cardboard-and-aluminium foil construction method</a> which I haven&#8217;t discussed for years, and how it connects to the whole global sustainability more-with-less agenda. We really could house a planet that way.</p> <p>Also discussed a little about social capital, engineering and mortgages, tied together a few threads from the <a href="">Meaning conference talk</a>. It felt good to tie the pieces together.</p> <p>I need to do a big audience long-form talk sometime soon to tie all of this together in a fairly finished form. Any ideas on venues/platforms?</p> <p><a href=";id=3391&amp;md5=7bcfe1f0a349497c1a8a6f885a7cc15c" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2013-05-05 The Hexayurt Project – from sheds to sustainability <p>So I had a <a href="">good long think about it</a> on twitter this morning, and I want to try and simplify the story into a few paragraphs.</p> <p><strong>1> Computer power is an ever-more-abundant resource.</strong> As a result, the data center is <a href="">doomed for a variety of reasons</a>. Yet even in such times, the temporary efficiency of the data center is bought at the price of centralization and inevitable monitoring. Capital costs of providing data center space is paid for by investors, who then greatly constrain the space of possibility in their search for the 1/1000 shot which makes a billion dollars. The inevitable collusion between large corporate interests and the State makes it all too possible that whatever data we give to social sites of various kinds will be <a href="">reused later in unexpected ways</a>. However, simply encrypting the data in the data centers leaves the pathological incentives of centralization right on the table for people to use, particularly investors looking for their next eBay.</p> <p><strong>2> Bitcoin and Bittorrent&#8217;s two new products, a video streaming and file syncing utility show that P2P architectures are now mature.</strong> I don&#8217;t want to discuss Bitcoin as the holy grail of Libertarian currency (it isn&#8217;t) or the copyright issues around bittorrent. I just want to note that operations once considered natural targets for a data center type architecture (I&#8217;m looking at PayPal, Youtube, Dropbox) are now implemented using an architecture without massive centralized computer resources and the attendant commercial-political-intelligence risks. While these are very sophisticated products from very serious technologists, the nature of open source (well, Free Software) is that the hard parts will be standardized into reusable code libraries, and they will mature into an &#8220;environment&#8221; or &#8220;stack.&#8221; </p> <p>The common-carrier data center stack was called LAMP (linux, apache, mysql, php) and programmers got used to using a couple of million lines of ultratechnology as if it was Perl in the 1980s quickly enough. So once the P2P stack matures there will inevitably be <a href="">easy-to-program P2P stacks</a> which enable the construction of complex P2P applications without horrendous legwork going on under the surface being visible to the common-or-garden programmer. We really can do this: it happened with databases, it happened with heavy math libraries, it happened with 3D graphics, it happens all the time. Libraries get written, easy to use stacks are created, ordinary programmers work wonders. So P2P will go.</p> <p><strong>3> There is an inevitable talent migration to P2P.</strong> The flow has been: <ul> <li>Desktop programs, to</li> <li>Web sites, to</li> <li>Mobile apps, to</li> <li>P2P networks like bitcoin and bittorrent.</li> </ul> <p> As people prove you can make a lot of money on the new platform, smart young programmers move into the new territory. There&#8217;s a bloom as people throw resources at it, and then a prune as the stuff which did not work or pay dies. However, P2P apps derive most of their benefits from not needing a data center, and the dotcom industrial model is very, very good at data centers. So it&#8217;s not at all clear that conventional dotcoms will benefit much from P2P. </p> <p>On the other hand, applications which scale their computer resources as more and more people use them are inherently appealing to the hard-to-monitize but socially important stuff like, say, social networks which don&#8217;t spy on you and backup services which cannot reveal your data to the police. It could well stray into a replacement for DNS (domain names) as objects are referenced by their contents, or alternative ways of naming and finding things which are more suited to a P2P environment evolve. It&#8217;s likely that account-based identity systems will be replaced by object capability schemes to handle the multifaceted Confused Deputy problems inherent in P2P networking. If a sufficiently strong computational sandbox can be found, apps could even move other apps / compute tasks around. The goal, really, is to never have a computer on the network idle. The reward is killing the data center and the financial structures that created it and all the eyes which go with it. Your computers collectively form the #peoplescloud and there&#8217;s no reason not to leave them on all night. Shared abundant resources create new ecologies.</p> <p><strong>4> #PeoplesCloud is a logical extension of Free Software.</strong> It is now practical to share computing power to get rid of the data center, in much the same way that it became practical (with time and effort) to get away from the monopoly OS vendors for at least a substantial subset of people. Stallman always said that the dotcom boom was produced by a bug in the GPL: it did not cover &#8220;software as a service&#8221; as &#8220;distribution&#8221; and therefore did not force dotcoms running on the LAMP stack to release source code to their users, even if every component on which they built was Free Software. Only a fool would allow closed-source P2P applications on to their computers (I&#8217;m looking at Spotify and Skype right now, open on my desktop, and yes, I am a fool.) But the long term trend in a People&#8217;s Cloud environment is going to be towards Free Software simply because People&#8217;s Cloud empowers Free Software vastly more than it empowers dotcoms which could pay for data centers will all that lovely investor&#8217;s money. People&#8217;s cloud differentially empowers people without money for data centers. People&#8217;s cloud makes it possible to scale to global reach without having millions of dollars of donations as for wikipedia.</p> <p>The crux of this is that People&#8217;s Cloud architectures extend the basic concepts of Free Software to the data center. It&#8217;s self-reliance, Swadeshi, for the internet age. And it&#8217;s coming, whether people like it or not.</p> <p>You may also enjoy <a href=>Petascale Urban Computing</a> which examines how mesh networking could work in cities. People&#8217;s Cloud on Petascale Urban Computing is the next logical step in this progression, where the semantic indexing of the People&#8217;s Cloud meets the need for network-topological indexing in the Petascale Urban Computing environment.</p> <p>The result is Meshes which function like Metacomputers.</p> <p>But that is one horizon out from here, and quite enough for one night.</p> <p><a href=";id=3383&amp;md5=52f812776c4de01e78ffcfd0a11ded34" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2013-04-29 People’s Cloud architecture and futures in 1000 words <p>((long series of tweets &#8211; you want to read this in reverse order, if at all &#8211; I&#8217;m keeping it for later))</p> <p>Vinay Gupta @leashless 11h </p> <p>We can simply work-and-buy our way back out of this mess. It&#8217;s worked on the Desktop w. Linux, it can work on the network. Next round!!! <img src='' alt=':-)' class='wp-smiley' /><br /> Expand<br /> Reply Delete Favorite More<br /> Vinay Gupta @leashless 11h </p> <p>To maintain an equivalent quality of service, we&#8217;d have to cover the costs ourselves. It might cost as much as your internet connection does<br /> Expand<br /> Vinay Gupta @leashless 11h </p> <p>Things like Youtube don&#8217;t just happen. They&#8217;re extracting enough value from watching You watch Youtube to store all the world&#8217;s video there.<br /> Expand<br /> Vinay Gupta @leashless 11h </p> <p>We&#8217;ve gone through an age in which Capital controlled Culture, after an age where Church controlled Culture. Go beyond that now, it&#8217;s safe!<br /> Expand<br /> Vinay Gupta @leashless 11h </p> <p>Get the State and Capitalism back out of your internet. We did it for the individual machine (Linux), now we have to #DisinfectTheNetwork.<br /> Expand<br /> Vinay Gupta @leashless 11h </p> <p>You have to kill a few things along the way: DNS &#038; domain names, non-encrypted messaging, account-based services. Nothing important <img src='' alt=';-)' class='wp-smiley' /><br /> Expand<br /> Arthur Doohan @artied 11h </p> <p>@leashless Errr&#8230;No!&#8230;&#8221;Software as a Service&#8221; is a series of constantly reflated bubbles&#8230;the &#8216;net&#8217; is mainly hardware &#038; some code&#8230;<br /> Retweeted by Vinay Gupta<br /> View conversation<br /> Vinay Gupta @leashless 11h </p> <p>Such a mechanism could protect our culture from the travails of Bubble Capitalism so that a dotcom crash didn&#8217;t wipe out our trust networks.<br /> Expand<br /> Vinay Gupta @leashless 11h </p> <p>You put these pieces together, and you get a simple system: privacy, #peoplescloud, Free Culture only. You don&#8217;t carry stolen goods. Ever.<br /> Expand<br /> Vinay Gupta @leashless 11h </p> <p>.@stevie_qpr Or put millions back into productive work. Cultural stagnation driven by taking brilliant tech minds and having them sell ads?<br /> View conversation<br /> Vinay Gupta @leashless 11h </p> <p>When your *culture* is built in Bubbles &#8211; Flickr, Tumblr, Instagram &#8211; bursting bubbles dying erase memory #posterous …<br /> Expand<br /> Vinay Gupta @leashless 11h </p> <p>My connection to all of you is owned by the Bubble. When the money runs out, it fades away. We can&#8217;t build culture/society on Bubble-capital<br /> Expand<br /> Vinay Gupta @leashless 11h </p> <p>That means that the tools you use are suspended in a Bubble which will burst. One day investors will notice Twitter&#8217;s not making money.<br /> Expand<br /> Vinay Gupta @leashless 11h </p> <p>A Bubble is people pouring money into something that is not worth what they paid for it. The net is a series of bubbles, constantly reflated<br /> Expand<br /> Vinay Gupta @leashless 11h </p> <p>It would be less realistic to talk about destroying the engines of Control Capitalism were it not in the midst of self destruction already!<br /> Expand<br /> Vinay Gupta @leashless 11h </p> <p>But to get there from here requires human unity and self-discipline. It requires people to pay their dues as Citizens, not lie kept slaves.<br /> Expand<br /> Vinay Gupta @leashless 11h </p> <p>Good Anarchy is not the absence of order, it&#8217;s the absence of paid thugs to impose that order. Free Content on a Free Network is very doable<br /> Expand<br /> Vinay Gupta @leashless 11h </p> <p>Freedom implies Responsibility. Free areas *must* be effectively self-policing. Bad anarchy is simply warlordism, feudalism, not freedom.<br /> Expand<br /> Vinay Gupta @leashless 11h </p> <p>You can have Free Culture on a Free Network, but as soon as you break the law on a mass scale, the State shuts the show (and Rights) down.<br /> Expand<br /> Vinay Gupta @leashless 11h </p> <p>If we build a non-Corporate replacement for the current advertising-driven model of the web, in which we have Privacy, we must not steal.<br /> Expand<br /> urbanpermaculture @permagriculture 11h </p> <p>@leashless Still waiting 4 #Ethical #Hacker to write the virus that just silently installs: &#038;<br /> Retweeted by Vinay Gupta<br /> View conversation<br /> Vinay Gupta @leashless 11h </p> <p>Privacy is a Right which requires matching responsibilities: one must not steal, evade taxes or otherwise manipulate using one&#8217;s privacy.<br /> Expand<br /> Vinay Gupta @leashless 11h </p> <p>We can make an ethical choice to move away from Architectures of Enslavement to Architectures of Freedom. We did it for the Desktop and won.<br /> Expand<br /> Vinay Gupta @leashless 11h </p> <p>It would take tools and discipline to divorce from the Corporate Web. But we divorced from Apple/Microsoft when Linux became mature. More!<br /> Expand<br /> Vinay Gupta @leashless 11h </p> <p>The Unions taught us how to take ground and fight for it. They fought for a fair share of the Commons of Trade. When Unions broke, we broke.<br /> Expand<br /> Scribe @6loss 11h </p> <p>@leashless Maybe &#8220;seeing&#8221; is the problem. Most commons are under the radar. Google, Twitter, Facebook etc are all just global surveillance.<br /> Retweeted by Vinay Gupta<br /> View conversation<br /> Vinay Gupta @leashless 11h </p> <p>Academia and Free Software were already sharing cultures, there was just nothing on the internet to steal. MP3 has not yet been invented.<br /> Expand<br /> Vinay Gupta @leashless 11h </p> <p>The extension of most-white mostly-rich Academic privilege is what bought the Internet its initial Freedoms: speech, free expression etc.<br /> Expand<br /> Vinay Gupta @leashless 11h </p> <p>We forget that the Internet was originally deployed with government money: tiny military use, then much broader academic use. It was Free.<br /> Expand<br /> Vinay Gupta @leashless 11h </p> <p>I don&#8217;t know where we&#8217;ve seen political organization to recapture a lost commons (net *was* universities, *became* private companies.)<br /> Expand<br /> Vinay Gupta @leashless 11h </p> <p>It is convenient to have servants: far away programmers work on your behalf to bring you this message. But their investors are your masters.<br /> Expand<br /> Douglas Edwards @SebastosPublius 11h </p> <p>.@leashless I for one would much prefer the #peoplescloud to #spyvertising.<br /> Retweeted by Vinay Gupta<br /> View conversation<br /> Vinay Gupta @leashless 11h </p> <p>You must build the Architecture of Freedom in a way that moves with each generation&#8217;s particular threats. Our threat is pervasive monitoring<br /> Expand<br /> Vinay Gupta @leashless 11h </p> <p>That&#8217;s how Free Software strikes back against the capture of the Web by commerce and spyware companies: #peoplescloud democratizes servers.<br /> Expand<br /> Vinay Gupta @leashless 11h </p> <p>You write software. Your users run the software. The users provide services for each-other using their spare computer power: not a company.<br /> Expand<br /> Vinay Gupta @leashless 11h </p> <p>Imagine simply killing the dotcom. Nobody uses them any more: 8bit privacy holes. People use peer-cloud network apps for news, social, etc.<br /> Expand<br /> Vinay Gupta @leashless 11h </p> <p>Bitcoin and Bittorrent have shown us *clearly* that you can do #peoplescloud for key infrastructure and have it work just fine. Ace start!<br /> Expand<br /> Vinay Gupta @leashless 11h </p> <p>I think it&#8217;s Too Late for the web: the Server Farm and the Global Picture have to be paid for to exist. It&#8217;s not too late for the Internet.<br /> Expand<br /> Vinay Gupta @leashless 11h </p> <p>But we could reconcile this to a different equilibrium: the Library (tax-funded), the Movie (ticket-funded), rather than advertising-funded.<br /> Expand<br /> Vinay Gupta @leashless 11h </p> <p>I&#8217;m not sure that re-implementing the TV/Magazine model on the Internet is really safe given what we know about Big Data and Neuromarketing.<br /> Expand<br /> Vinay Gupta @leashless 11h </p> <p>You pay for Facebook, Google, Twitter and everything else by *letting companies understand you well enough to push your &#8220;buy&#8221; buttons*.<br /> Expand<br /> Vinay Gupta @leashless 11h </p> <p>When you use somebody else&#8217;s resources, you must pay them. Now we pay for information *with* information: used to manipulate us with adverts<br /> Expand<br /> Vinay Gupta @leashless 12h </p> <p>&#8220;I saw the best minds of my generation writing spam filters&#8221; as the man said …<br /> Expand<br /> Vinay Gupta @leashless 12h </p> <p>And it&#8217;s not until we face the facts &#8211; a dotcom has the same cultural value as a new TV show in almost all cases &#8211; that we can see again<br /> Expand<br /> Vinay Gupta @leashless 12h </p> <p>A Web which does not exploit you is a Web which cannot make you rich. It&#8217;s just pulling money from other advertising channels (TV) anyway.<br /> Expand<br /> Vinay Gupta @leashless 12h </p> <p>But to get there, you have to sacrifice the idea of getting rich on the internet. That&#8217;s only possible through advertising, to 99% certainty<br /> Expand<br /> Vinay Gupta @leashless 12h </p> <p>If a substantial part of the content-worth-having is not on the Web, but is on a #peoplescloud-based replacement with privacy restored?<br /> Expand<br /> Vinay Gupta @leashless 12h </p> <p>Even if you wind up with a largely opaque network as a result of peer-publish and crypto, that personal recommender network is preserved.<br /> Expand<br /> Vinay Gupta @leashless 12h </p> <p>Search is inherently a low-value activity. All the real *value* comes from People who collect, recommend, add-value, *personalize* for you.<br /> Expand<br /> Vinay Gupta @leashless 12h </p> <p>You need to solve three problems to make that works. 1) what are things called? 2) where can I find them? 3) equity (for creators+carriers)<br /> Expand<br /> Vinay Gupta @leashless 12h </p> <p>(Spyware installed on your machine is illegal. Facebook, Google etc. are &#8220;legal spyware&#8221; because the spyware you use is on *their* machine.)<br /> Expand<br /> Vinay Gupta @leashless 12h </p> <p>We&#8217;re within a short technological march of being able to do a P2P #peoplescloud which would be impossible to monitor by spyware companies.<br /> Expand<br /> Vinay Gupta @leashless 12h </p> <p>What if we killed The Web? Keep the browser, keep the internet, but throw away the server farms and ad-driven big bucks start-up ecology?</p> <p><a href=";id=3384&amp;md5=0f2ba87741b1ddd97ec83f6e0331e969" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2013-04-29 freeing dotcoms from predatory investors <p>Here&#8217;s my prediction: <i><b>space in data centers is going to become almost free.</b></i></p> <p>A convergence of trends is going to crash the price, and business model, of many Cloud providers in the next two years.</p> <p>Those trends are four.</p> <p>1&gt; Smart dotcoms are <strong>rewriting their backends</strong> in fast, compiled languages like golang. One example <a href="">went from 30 servers to 2</a> by rewriting some systems. Python, PHP, Ruby etc. are all hot-five-years-ago and it&#8217;s showing. JavaScript&#8217;s in an odd position, with vast resources going into compilers, but reports vary on their systemic stability: in any case, JIT-compiled and fast.</p> <p>2&gt; <a href="">Blade servers</a> and <strong>ARM-based blades</strong> in particular are off-the-hook available now. The hardware is maturing, which brings farm costs down, down, down. At the same time, projecting growing demand, cloud providers are pouring money into the emerging trend. Result: massive overbuild.</p> <p>3&gt; <strong>Desktop supercomputers</strong> are becoming a reality, through three main channels: <a href="">GPU applications on fast graphics cards</a>, cute <a href="">desktop supercompuers</a> and the drift towards multicore in general. Once programming languages mature to use multicore machines (golang, I&#8217;m looking at you here) huge-core machines will come soon after. Huge compute is coming home, not on the amazon clusters. It&#8217;s a lot more convenient to have the massive compute right in front of you than in a data center in many cases (moving terabyte datasets, particularly.)</p> <p>4&gt; <a href="">Bittorrent is evolving</a> to do Youtube&#8217;s job with a <strong>new P2P architecture</strong> and Dropbox&#8217;s job with a <a href="">new sync app</a>. Skype, Spotify etc. are already P2P apps. Bitcoin&#8217;s proven huge P2P for complex collaborative computing is a fact, and the swarm of <a href="">DHT</a> applications which bitcoin will inspire will soon-enough move all kinds of common &#8220;cloud&#8221; operations to the p2p networks. Expect a bunch of weird P2P hybrid physical devices like <a href="">Space Monkey</a> for backups and <a href="">Freedombox</a> for privacy. <a href=>WebRTC</a> makes it easy to push P2P right down into the browser, further enabling web apps without server farms.</p> <p>Put it all together and the result is pretty clear: <strong>Cloud is going to die much faster than anybody expected</strong>, probably with a massive over-build of server farms which will sit idle, soon to be replaced by a new style of P2P apps and devices, desktop parallel supercomputers. A major industry shakeout will result.</p> <p><a href=";id=3373&amp;md5=9e43162232003c279cede1c4507c59bf" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2013-04-28 The Cloud is dead: long live the Swarm! <p><i>* although there was this one time</i></p> <p>A few people have noticed my biographical similarity with <a href="">Satoshi Nakamoto</a> &#8211; British person with American English tendencies and ties to Ireland. There are three reasons why I cannot be Satoshi Nakamoto.</p> <ol> <li>My coding skills are not up to it. I haven&#8217;t written C/C++ since the mid-1990s</li> <li>My personal security skills are not up to it &#8211; long-term concealment of an active identity is beyond me</li> <li>My cryptographic <b>implementation</b> skills are not up to it &#8211; a separate issue from language mastery. Implementing cryptographic protocols securely is a specialized skill which I do not have.</li> </ol> <p>However, I have designed at least one fairly well thought of scheme involving substantial cryptography, the <a href=>CheapID Genocide-Resistant Biometric ID Card Standard</a> and I do have quite a good understanding (at the &#8220;arm waving&#8221; level, mostly) of cypherpunk concepts and eventually somebody is going to track down a piece of work I did in the 1990s. Rather than have this all blow up when that work is found, I&#8217;m publishing now. I&#8217;ve informed some people who ought to know of my intention to do this, so nobody get any funny ideas.</p> <p>In the late 1990s I was heavily involved in <a href=>e-gold</a> and experimented with the now-defunct <a href=>digigold</a> currency, which was as I recall a Chaumian digicash of the classic type (centralized server required.) I&#8217;m not sure I ever completed a single successful digigold transaction.</p> <p>At some point back there, a project started, to implement the rest of the common financial instruments on the e-gold platform, starting with Limited Liability Companies with bearer shares. That I got involved in, as the cryptographic applications designer. I figured out an extremely elegant hack, which for the purposes of historic interest, I will now describe.</p> <ol> <li>an INCORPORATION AGENT generates a keypair for the COMPANY. the public key and the right to have documents signed by the private key is sold to an OWNER.</li> <li>a BILL is posted by the INCORPORATION AGENT to the APPEND-ONLY PUBLIC NOTARY stating the keypair belongs to OWNER. no operation not signed by OWNER and INCORPORATION AGENT is valid.</li> <li>the APPEND ONLY PUBLIC NOTARY is a pretty simple-minded entity. any incoming message has metadata prepended, is signed including a hash from all previous signings, and pushed out to the community to mirror/archive for their security.</li> <li>the OWNER pushes a request via the AOPN to the SHARE ISSUER who issues STOCK, in the form of copies of the original request from OWNER, the OWNER&#8217;s public key, and with additional data from the SHARE ISSUER, and signed by that issuer 1/100, 2/100 and so on. These documents are posted to the AOPN. They&#8217;re just like paper share certificates.</li> <li>[the bitcoiny bit] STOCK is transferred by the OWNER appending the NEW OWNER&#8217;s public key to the bottom of the share certificate, plus a percentage of transfer (5% of this share), and sending the lot to the TRANSFER AGENT who checks the math. If it all adds up to 100%, the TRANSFER AGENT copies the share certificate, individually adds the new fractional ownership to each copy, and sends the lot to the AOPN. These new STOCK certificates include the full history right back to the original incorporation request, of course &#8211; they just keep growing in length as they are traded.</li> <li>a SHAREHOLDER DEMOCRACY AGENT can be hired by the OWNER of a company to hold a ballot of members. Each member&#8217;s public key is visible in the AOPN&#8217;s records, and notice is posted to the AOPN that a vote is due. The AOPN counts the votes, and if they exceed 50% of stock, the OWNER key can be replaced by an ELECTED DIRECTOR key in the records of the INCORPORATION AGENT. Remember the INCORPORATION AGENT must cosign all transactions for the COMPANY, so once they accept the DIRECTOR key, the original OWNER has no power. This becomes particular relevant because, for example, cryptographic bank accounts may well be used which transfer COMPANY assets on DIRECTOR authority.</li> <li>STOCK can track an asset (i.e. &#8220;a 1 kg e-gold account&#8221;) and therefore act like currency.</li> <li>DIRECTORS and STOCK OWNERS can, of course, remain as anonymous as they like, even though all transactions are matters of public record in the AOPN registry.</li> <li>The systems are relatively centralized &#8211; AOPN etc. were all conceptualized as server clusters rather than as protocol-ized decentralized entities. It was the 1990s!</li> </ol> <p>I figured out that this was not a safe line of business to be in, deleted my prototypes, and left cryptography for many years. The next cryptographic application I designed was for the Office of the Secretary of Defence (Networks and Information Integration) with technical input and supervision from the National Computer Security Center / National Security Agency.</p> <p>I am not pro- or anti-bitcoin. I do, however, believe that the <a href="">unchecked excesses of unaccountable power</a> occur on both the large and the small scale. The &#8220;Power Law Lottery&#8221; which places more wealth in the hands of the Wal-Mart heirs than 40% of America&#8217;s population is insane, and technologies for extreme financial privacy are not only going to wind up in the hands of daring oppressed people in repressive regimes, but also in the hands of the giants who have subverted our democracies and terrified our elected representatives with the threat of starving them of <a href="">election campaign donations</a>.</p> <p>Neither should I be considered a Statist. I don&#8217;t know how to keep Humanity&#8217;s finger off the trigger of its own destruction, environmental or more likely through nanotechnology or biotechnology as instruments of war. Without some ability to centralize enough power to regulate dangerous technologies out of play (and that includes coal plants) I don&#8217;t know what we&#8217;re going to do.</p> <p>Once upon a time, when I was young and dangerous, I thought that ultra-low transaction cost financial instruments would revolutionize the lives of the poor. I still think that: today I think they&#8217;ll be used to rob them blind.</p> <p>I am not old and cynical, but I am beginning to understand the mastery of America&#8217;s Founding Fathers in their original &#8220;checks and balances.&#8221;</p> <p>May we all be so wise.</p> <p><a href=";id=3368&amp;md5=57e0e919764ff56add5ab8f9d683ad69" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2013-04-27 I am not now, nor have I ever* been, Satoshi Nakamoto <p>Draft of an introduction to an energy policy doc. Could use some feedback &#8211; comments welcomed!</p> <p>====<br /> Nothing stands still. The continued addition of complexity to the basic systems of our society has run for hundreds of years, mainly on fossil fuels. The continued injection of energy into our societies has produced a boom in population, productivity, global interconnectedness and countless other areas. This boom has lasted for hundreds of years, and given rise to almost all that we know.</p> <p>We now face a very real imperative to change: climate. There are also looming scarcity issues which may restrict availability of some fuels below global demand, or force exploitation of more expensive and often more environmentally damaging energy sources. Energy often exists in a complex matrix of factors. Consider the complexity of a widespread migration to electric cars: battery technology, widely deployed charger station networks, changing loads on grids, a push towards &#8220;green grid&#8221; (non-fossil grids), consumer and fleet vehicle roll-over, vehicle safety regulation, automotive industry investment patterns and many other factors intersect to make such a transition either inevitable or impossible. Nobody can predict if Tesla Motors will be the Electric Ford or a footnote in transportation history. Yet the geopolitical consequences of aggregate consumer behavior are extremely serious: the amount of energy used per unit of GDP critically affects an economy&#8217;s ability to transform and conform to future restrictions in energy availability. An economy&#8217;s flexibility dictates its ability to migrate to new kinds of energy resource as they become available. The broad political outlines of the world are largely shaped by access to cheap energy: the entire Middle East, for example, is held together by liberal access to natural resources, shaping the patterns of alliances and rivalries which dominate regional politics and the world&#8217;s relationship with Islam.</p> <p>One of the complex systems built on top of this underlying energy economy is finance. As we have seen throughout history, the financial system is inherently unstable: it melts down periodically in different ways, sometimes closely repeating former patterns (bubbles, for example, repeat in exactly the same way) and sometimes displaying entirely new and unheard of modes of failure. The financial crisis has produced great waves of social upheaval, and unbelievable costs to taxpayers all over the world as governments wade in to stabilize the system by extending their own financial might to cover losses, secure debts and bolster investor confidence.</p> <p>However, this periodic storm did not affect all players in the same way. Some giants, most notably Lehman Brothers were simply caught in a fragile configuration and immediately destroyed by changing global financial conditions. Others, such as HSBC have maintained substantial profitability over a long historical period, but at a substantially lower apparent risk profile. The same logic applies to nations. Iceland, famously referred to as &#8220;a hedge fund with a flag&#8221; went under fast although it displayed surprising social resilience in recovery. Cyprus, similarly, has been hit disproportionately hard almost as if fundamental lessons from Iceland were ignored until history repeated itself: small island nation, big banks, lax regulation, and a sudden crisis which could have significant implications for sovereignty.</p> <p>The purpose of resilience is to be well positioned for future conditions which may negatively effect us and our peers. It is a competitive advantage, as the herd thins in tough times. Profitability or effectiveness in summary conditions tell us nothing about who can survive winter or effectively move south to a more welcoming environment. The long term differentials in quality of life between citizens of nations who handled the financial crisis and recovery well, and those who simply were blindsided and then botched their recoveries is enormous. Perhaps the ultimate example of this is the former USSR where the fallout from the economic crisis which provoked the final death of the Soviet Bloc still heavily impacts quality of life in the rebooted Russia and especially in the smaller states of the former Soviet Union. The same class of structural problems and lack of resilience which brought the USSR down continue to plague the region.</p> <p>Now let us turn again to energy. The global energy system is a complex system, similar to and interpenetrated by the global financial system. It shares some of the same exposures as the financial system (for example, both are vulnerable to cyber attacks). As with the financial system, different countries have different degrees of exposure, with complex and far-reaching implications for their viability when confronted with systemic shock or systemic change. Iceland, for example, is massively over-provisioned in hydroelectric energy and is heated by geothermal power. In the financial crisis, their basic access to electricity and heating fuel was not effected at all, and their recovery was unencumbered by external fuel bills. Cyprus, on the other hand, imports nearly all of its energy, and although its climate is may seem forgiving than Iceland, air conditioning is almost as energy intensive as heating in many climates. The direct exposure of an economy to financial stress is well-correlated with its energy profile: Latvia&#8217;s energy use is down 25% since the financial crisis, and its climate is far from forgiving. That is direct personal hardship for many people.</p> <p>Energy prices are not within the control of any single entity, with the exception of those with independent generation capacity who are not dependent on the market &#8211; a strong argument for renewables. Entities &#8211; from companies to countries &#8211; which have well understood and well-managed exposure to energy price fluctuations and even supply chain volatility are well positioned to weather a variety of storms. A inescapable systemic transformation of the energy sector, driven by climate and new technology is underway. There is a continuing risk of systemic shocks in the energy sector, particularly from sudden geopolitical factors.</p> <p>We hope that you will find our analysis a strong argument for understanding energy as a parallel and interrelated system to the financial system, with similar (or even greater) impacts in the event of instability. There is much to be gained from resilience in this area, on every level from the correct selection of equipment through to 30 year investment plans and continental energy grids. The need for constant adaptation and innovation to a rapidly shifting technological and political landscape is at the heart of our study.</p> <p>The only constant is change.</p> <p>Cyprus energy:<br /> <a href=";;hl=en&amp;gl=uk&amp;pid=bl&amp;srcid=ADGEESgip-HDzgmLcAyVE-CYSz02p-PrUnz3uE7LXg-cdw5-dC6g-xBb4tA2yIy_O1l6oDghuXqPmWK9t4ElMocDAhkAgR08JEqcIzTphmTmNkfmJIZJtLdEkqZDq0irpalsvit3D8dD&amp;sig=AHIEtbQDr8EMRZSUoJO2hG1yzefMgVhEzg" target="_blank"><wbr />viewer?a=v&amp;q=cache:<wbr />kMQulAlOUUsJ:www2.archimedes.<wbr />ee/teadus/File/kasulikku_<wbr />koostoo/2008/energia_cyprus_<wbr />overwiev_2005_280108.pdf+<wbr />cyprus+energy+use+stats&amp;hl=en&amp;<wbr />gl=uk&amp;pid=bl&amp;srcid=ADGEESgip-<wbr />HDzgmLcAyVE-CYSz02p-<wbr />PrUnz3uE7LXg-cdw5-dC6g-<wbr />xBb4tA2yIy_<wbr />O1l6oDghuXqPmWK9t4ElMocDAhkAgR<wbr />08JEqcIzTphmTmNkfmJIZJtLdEkqZD<wbr />q0irpalsvit3D8dD&amp;sig=<wbr />AHIEtbQDr8EMRZSUoJO2hG1yzefMgV<wbr />hEzg</a></p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">http://greece.greekreporter.<wbr />com/2013/02/18/greece-cuts-<wbr />energy-use-in-crisis/</a> - latvian energy use stats</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank"><wbr />the-Economy/Iceland-Credits-<wbr />Green-Energy-for-GDP-Growth.<wbr />html</a> Iceland GDP recovery &amp; energy</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank"><wbr />prospects/gdp-impact-of-oil-<wbr />price-shock</a> oil / gdp correlations</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank"></a> - renewables as part of energy portfolios</p> <p><a href=";id=3361&amp;md5=d71666addf22bef601e25672b5c2781a" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2013-04-22 i hate energy policy <p><a href="">Paul Hughes</a> writes about the possibilities for radical decentralization in a high tech world. This comes up in a thread with some discussion of Hakim Bey. Let us proceed.</p> <p>=====</p> <p>Let me answer those points at a practical level, and then at a more philosophical one.</p> <p><strong>1) As I note in the <a href="">piece</a>, Hakim Bey has never been convicted of molesting a child.</strong> However, he makes no bones about being attracted to under-age boys, and that thread is present through a lot of his work. Various sources have catalogued it, and in the absence of an explicit denial from Hakim Bey, I think I am on solid ground suggesting that he is a paedophile (attracted to legal minors), perhaps inactive (not molesting.)</p> <p><strong>2) I do not believe that any society, no matter how perfect, is going to produce zero predators.</strong> There will likely always be people who&#8217;s wiring is messed up to the point where they exhibit violent, predatory tendencies. Probably the closest thing we have seen on any sustained basis to a functional utopian anarchy is various hunter-gatherer groups throughout history, and unfortunately many of them have <a href=" ">absurdly</a> <a href="">high</a> homicide rates &#8211; certainly not all of them, but it&#8217;s a common thread.</p> <p>I believe it is a pretty safe bet that, just as with homosexuality, many other kinds of complex human behavior have biological roots. Homosexuality is a pretty neutral biological fact of life, with hundreds of animal species also having a homosexual percentage of their populations. We can be fairly sure that homosexuality is a significant piece of human behavior with at least some genetic component. I don&#8217;t think the biological roots of homosexuality are significant except in fighting homophobia and persecution: skin colour is biological too, and the persecution homosexuality and skin colour is ancient, among many other forms of oppression.</p> <p>But let&#8217;s consider problematic behaviors like psychopathy, sociopathy and low-empathy disorders (autism), schizophrenia etc. very likely have at least <em>some</em> biological baseline reality and getting rid of them is no more plausible than the far right&#8217;s vision of getting rid of all the gays.</p> <p>That leaves a problem of managing the fraction of the population that just will not or cannot behave itself. People go nuts and do insane things. Some of those people are superficially normal, but in one or two areas, monstrous.</p> <p>Any society has to be able to deal with them, and that includes preserving their basic human rights, not just lynching them on an ad-hoc basis.</p> <p><strong>This implies we need a theory of justice, and enforcement capability, ***however localized or decentralized it may be.***</strong></p> <p>Moving on.</p> <p>=====</p> <p>Now, that was the pragmatics. Let me step back to the philosophical.</p> <p><strong>3) I&#8217;m profoundly non-Utopian. </strong>This is not to say I am a pessimist. As I&#8217;ve said for years, &#8220;I&#8217;m not a pessimist, I&#8217;m an alarmist.&#8221;</p> <p>I&#8217;m not trying to create a perfect world. My goals are pretty simple: every human being on earth has a solid meal each day and somewhere to sleep. You could add a knowledge of germ theory and rudimentary medical assistance to that, but, in principle, I&#8217;ll be happy enough if we can just stop people dying of starvation and intestinal worms.</p> <p>The utter horror of life at the bottom is very real to me. I will settle for any reasonable fix for that resource distribution problem.</p> <p>Now pair this with the oncoming systemic threats &#8211; terrible problems with abuse of nanotechnology and biotechnology seem very credible (particularly bio, you can argue Monsanto and national biowar programmes count there) and we have the onrushing problem of climate devastation, biodiversity loss, topsoil depletion and all the rest.</p> <p>I believe that we are going to need law. I believe we are going to need very, very heavily enforced top-down law, to protect the world from ordinary human being&#8217;s tendency to over-consume and over-reproduce. I don&#8217;t believe, based on my understanding of human nature, that self-regulation is possible at this level.</p> <p>That is not to say that I believe in a global dictatorship or whatever, but I think we ARE going to need top down military style force to enforce climate etc. protection. I also believe that nobody should be making social policy or sexual prohibitions for their neighbours.</p> <p>What I&#8217;d like to see is an authoritarian approach to protecting the planet from the human population, and a libertarian/anarchist/syndicalist arrangement of life for everything outside of the planetary protection imperatives.</p> <p><strong>4) Betrayal</strong></p> <p>A lot of people would like it if I did not believe that the authoritarian component was going to be required. I am among them: it&#8217;s loathsome to come to love the Leviathan. I am not the first person to come to a conclusion of this type: better men than me have gone down this path before, notably <a href=";ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1366222330&amp;sr=1-1&amp;keywords=age+of+consent">George Monbiot</a>.</p> <p>I am still seriously considering whether there&#8217;s a fundamental and fatal flaw in my thinking to lead me to this conclusion. I have a similar debate in my life about the role of violence in securing both Liberty and conformity to Rational Law relative to environmental protection. I have conclusions that I cannot rationally overthrow, and yet simultaneously cannot morally trust. What to do?</p> <p>Consequently, in my public communications, I try and stick pretty close to what I consider fairly solid, well-understood areas: speculation on how one might manage a city&#8217;s infrastructure systems in a crisis, or commentary on Greece&#8217;s economy, or the need for the Free Software Movement to start addressing the moral and ethical problems created by running Free Software on Chinese-manufactured hardware.</p> <p>Until I am fairly sure about the big stuff, I&#8217;m going to wait. I&#8217;m not putting any force behind these interim conclusions, I&#8217;m taking my time, reading more widely, talking to people who disagree with me, and I&#8217;m waiting. Maybe in six months I&#8217;ll figure out that, yes, we can do this bottom up using zero force. Maybe I won&#8217;t.</p> <p>But, right now, I&#8217;m biding my time and working on some new fundamental concepts: &#8220;Calculus of Competing Virtues&#8221; and some concepts around mapping which political solutions are possible given specific kinds of technology.</p> <p>Maybe I&#8217;ll have more breakthroughs, maybe I won&#8217;t.</p> <p>But that&#8217;s where I am.</p> <p><a href=";id=3354&amp;md5=89874d8c3f8730b6fd03a53bdcb31c6a" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2013-04-17 Is decentralization possible? A note to a critic. <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Three lightly edited excerpts from a conversation about bitcoin with some Californians.</p> <p>=====</p> <p>I actually worked for the NSA. I did a genocide-resistant biometric ID project for them. <a href="" target="_blank"><wbr />cheapid/</a> (note that it is fully public and in the public domain &#8211; those are the only conditions I work for spookland under.)</p> <p>What we know, for sure, is that the NSA etc. have been 20 years ahead of civilian cryptography twice: hardening DES against differential cryptanalysis long before civilians discovered differential cryptanalysis, and discovering public key crypto (RSA) long, long before civilians got there. They&#8217;ve got two substantial assets, and two drawbacks: infinite money and huge teams of smart people, operating in a national security bureaucracy with massive internal secrecy.</p> <p>It might take them a long time to get around to noticing bitcoin. It might take them a few years to resource a team to do something about it. It might take them a while to hit it. But with those resources, you can bet your bottom dollar there are vulnerabilities, mostly related to attacking bitcoin if you have 51% of the mining capacity. Let&#8217;s be clear here: the State still has teeth. Probably not a hell of a lot the government of Ghana can do about it, of course.</p> <p>=====</p> <p>As for the cable companies etc. in the US, cable companies have near-monopoly status <a href="" target="_blank"><wbr />479610/us-cable-companies-are-<wbr />monopolies-expert-says/</a> what that means is that collectively they *can* change the way the internet works. Here&#8217;s how that plays out:</p> <p>1) cable companies do &#8220;deep packet inspection&#8221; on all traffic, to block bittorrent, bitcoin and any other protocols they don&#8217;t like. Here&#8217;s some information about cable companies and DPI <a href="" target="_blank"><wbr />policy/2009/04/cable-dpi-is-<wbr />good-for-us-congressman-its-<wbr />frightening/</a></p> <p>2) the internet responds by encrypting everything to block deep packet inspection, probably using VPNs.</p> <p>3) cable companies stop carrying encrypted traffic if they can detect it, except to large retailers etc. who have HTTPS certificates from big domain name registrars.</p> <p>4) internet responds by moving to steganography (hiding encrypted messages in other files) but that severely limits the bandwidth of encrypted apps to maybe 1% of current levels or less.</p> <p>5) Usability drops, ordinary folks stop using encryption, networks which rely on large numbers and high bandwidth collapse (bittorrent certainly, and possibly bitcoin.)</p> <p>Every step on this path has been well-understood for 20 years.</p> <p>Mesh will get you internet-like services inside of a single high population density area, a city. But outlawing mesh and prosecuting it in the same way that pirate radio is brought down is possible for a fraction of the effort used in the War on Drugs, and it can be substantially more effective because the mesh nodes are radio transmitters which can be triangulated down to the square meter using (say) detector vans or, in future, drones.</p> <p>So let nobody doubt this is possible. The question is whether there&#8217;s the political will to do it and whether other political power groups in the US would fight back hard enough to stop it happening.</p> <p>=====</p> <p>This whole debate is colored, very badly, by cheap Californian idealism. I hit the same thing whenever the topic of &#8220;transforming consciousness&#8221; comes up. That whole meme is unconsciously rehashed Mahayana Buddhism layered on top of pre-existing Christian millenialism. The &#8220;Great Liberation&#8221; in which all sentient beings realize their Buddhahood is replaced by the Great Turning On in which all the squares simply  vanish in rainbow clouds of dope wisdom. You can say the same thing about Marxism: the Messianic Age with no Messiah.</p> <p>Again, this is a domain I have substantial technical expertise in: I was formally trained as Hindu clergy, spent 14 years of my life with spiritual work as my main productive output, formally joined a Hindu lineage and was recognized as my gurus as enlightened but not best used as a teacher.</p> <p>I&#8217;m going to draw a distinction here that people won&#8217;t like. Believing that consciousness can transform the world is accurate. However, the consciousness which can transform the world is not ungrounded visions of peace and love &#8211; we have tried that, and it failed, and many of its leaders (Gandhi, MLK) were assassinated. Their successes were partial, and the living conditions of modern Indians and African-Americans are testaments to the limits of these approaches. What is needed, what *can* deliver results, is an acute, technical awareness of what is wrong in the world, leading to the desire to transform it. But the awareness has to be sharp, precise knowing of the problems, not blustery generalisms about how great things are, could be, and will be.</p> <p>The history of the sixties is complicated. There&#8217;s a critical split, between the New Left (say the Yippies, Saul Alinsky etc) and the Consciousness movement (Tim Leary, Alan Ginsberg, Ram Dass). In the early stages, my understanding is they were a fairly collaborative community. As time passed, the Consciousness movement went further and further into vapourspace, and the New Left was decimated by COINTELPRO and internal rivalry.</p> <p>Then you look at this history in more detail. The only people with significant access to LSD in American in the early years were spooks &#8211; MK ULTRA types specifically. The biggest early proponent of LSD, who administered it to huge numbers of people and sourced it for many of the brand-name psychonauts was Al Hubbard, the &#8220;Johnny Appleseed of LSD&#8221; who appears to have been an intelligence officer.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank"><wbr />Alfred_Matthew_Hubbard</a></p> <p>There is a very good chance that the entire consciousness movement of the sixties was sparked by a CIA psyop. And, while that sounds like a conspiracy theory, consider:</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank"><wbr />COINTELPRO</a><br /> <a href="" target="_blank"><wbr />Operation_Northwoods</a><br /> <a href="" target="_blank"><wbr />Project_MKUltra</a></p> <p>Which are government conspiracies of around that period, well sourced from Freedom of Information Act requests, that is to say confirmed by US government documents which were released. We don&#8217;t know for sure what was going on with LSD and the hippies, but there is a very real prospect the entire show was fueled by the government as a way to derail and delegitimize the New Left.</p> <p>Why does this matter? Because people think that the Hippies had a chance, and that consciousness transformation was the solution that failed, and not just a swirl in the test tube of a government agency.</p> <p><a href=";id=3348&amp;md5=0fa9f4b791f5ba70ba3b412789f4fa24" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2013-04-16 Bitcoin, the 1960s, and the great LSD conspiracy <p>A quick summary. <ol> <li>Data centers are inherently centralized, and bloody expensive. Once you have all that data in one place, doing large scale monitoring is very easy.</li> <li><a href="">Sutherland&#8217;s Wheel</a> predicts that centralization and decentralization take turns as &#8220;progress.&#8221; We are turning forwards to decentralization again: bitcoin, bittorrent and so on.</li> <li>The People&#8217;s Cloud is the aggregated computer power of their online devices. Bittorrent uses the People&#8217;s Cloud to serve your files in a hurry!</li> <li>The People&#8217;s Cloud, with appropriate security, deprives advertisers, marketers and central government of improper knowledge of our affairs.</li> <li>Figuring out how to stop bad people using your computer for bad things is an inherent problem of People&#8217;s Cloud applications. It&#8217;s not a computing task-farm for money, I can tell you that much.</li> </ol> <p><a href=";id=3343&amp;md5=e0d6fc52e3e185421bef95d1a92fc05b" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2013-04-07 The People’s Cloud #peoplescloud <p>Simple concept (!) I wanted to give a URL to.</p> <ul> <li>One thousand or more nodes in a mesh or other network</li> <li>Each node has: <ul> <li>One terabyte or more of disk</li> <li>One gigabyte or more of ram</li> <li>On gigahertz or more of processor</li> </ul> </li> <li>Nodes are scattered through a contiguous geography like a city</li> </ul> <p>Conceptually, Petascale Urban Computing weaves a supercomputer through a city. A petabyte is enough to store most of what a community is interested in, and the combined processing power is plenty to be getting on with.</p> <p>How do you program a petascale urban computer? One possibility is JavaScript &#8211; nodes can relatively safely run JS programs for other nodes, and they can&#8217;t touch local disk. Search, transcoding etc. could all be done with such mechanisms with very thing APIs exposed by REST or JSON calls to helper apps on local web servers (i.e. your mobile JS agents call local services through type calls.)</p> <p>The core vision is that your PUC router is a direct connection to an urban supercomputer that completely penetrates your world, continually crunching data so that whatever you need is right there when you want it.</p> <p>At night, when you sleep, it thinks on your behalf.</p> <p><a href=";id=3340&amp;md5=4db42f9d0c174a9a9ffa54243ba2f9b5" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2013-03-31 Petascale Urban Computing <p><object width="560" height="315"><param name="movie" value=";hl=en_US&amp;version=3"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src=";hl=en_US&amp;version=3" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="560" height="315" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true"></embed></object></p> <p><i>(hit play, and read on)</i></p> <p><a href=><img style="padding-left: 8px" align=right src= border=0 width=35%></a><b>Marmaduke Dando&#8217;s back&#8230; if you help!</b></p> <p><a href="">Marmaduke Dando</a> is a good friend and a great musician. He is recording a new album, and he&#8217;s <a href="">crowdfunding it</a> because, well, this is 2013 and that&#8217;s how great, quirky musicians make second albums. </p> <p>His first album, Heathcliffian Surly, is a damn fine piece of work. It became the soundtrack to the Dark Mountain festival for many people, and&#8230; well, it encapsulates a very particular, peculiar and splendid aesthetic, a Brechtian series of fables. It&#8217;s a beautiful album to listen to, but it&#8217;s got layers and crosscurrents where Marmaduke&#8217;s vision of the world, informed by his own deep musing on our collective plight and shame, and his equally remarkable and spontaneous reaction to it. I always thought of him as a potential English Tom Waits, to be honest.</p> <p>In that spirit, I haven&#8217;t shown the <a href=>beautiful, professional Odessa video</a> in this blog post, but the much rougher and sharper &#8220;The Last Drink.&#8221; </p> <p><b>I have no idea what the new album will be like, but I was willing to pay in advance to find out! <a href="">Go and help a unique voice be heard!</a></b> </p> <p><b>In other news, Lucas Gonzalez has published&#8230;</b><br /> <a href=><img src="" alt="Screenshot from 2013-03-29 03:54:19" width="484" height="244" class="aligncenter size-full wp-image-3325" border=0 /><br /> The OODA-SCIM guide for managing pandemic flu (and other systemic risks.)</a></p> <p><a href="">Lucas Gonzalez</a> has produced a new emergency management toolkit: the fully professionalized, fact-checked, ready for government use Official Version, including damn near everything we discovered in my own rough-and-ready work on <a href="">pandemic flu</a> and <a href="">simple critical infrastructure maps (SCIM)</a>, as well as years of professional epidemiological experience from the good doctor. Lucas has taken fundamental models, including John Boyd&#8217;s <a href="">OODA loop</a> and SCIM, and produced a detailed 80 page manual which covers the current state of the art science and epidemiology of pandemic flu and everything we currently know about decentralized management of infrastructure in a time of national crisis. I think Lucas&#8217;s work will find applications far outside of flu, and I encourage you to download a copy, pass it around to people who think about risk, and think about potential applications of these models to things like currency crises. This is the good stuff, and I hope many, many people will find it useful. There&#8217;s a 5 page intro <a href=";view=article&#038;id=89&#038;Itemid=499">here</a> as well as versions of all these documents in English and Spanish.</p> <p><b>Graeber&#8217;s Debt gave Occupy an analysis. iPermie gives Occupy a plan.</b><br /> <a href=><img src= align=left width=20% border=0></a> iPermie is <a href=>Bob Waldrop&#8217;s</a> <b><i>magnum opus</i></b>, a Lord Of The Rings length, <a href="">unbelievably comprehensive (TOC)</a> guide to permaculture, social transformation and personal resilience for ordinary-extraordinary citizens of the 21st century.</p> <p>It is, frankly, the most impressive writing effort I&#8217;ve ever seen, in terms of assembling a comprehensive practical guide to the technologies and mindsets of resilience. It has the breadth of a book with 20 authors, and the coherence and vision of a single mind. It is, frankly, a work of genius.</p> <p><b><a href=>iPermie is two bucks &#8211; $1.99 &#8211; and available in just about every electronic form known to man. You could buy five and give them to friends, and still call your copy a bargain.</a></b></p> <p>I was privileged to <a href=>write the foreword to the book</a> &#8211; I hope you&#8217;ll take a moment to read it, and dip into the huge free sample in that document.</p> <p>This is great. Pass it on.</p> <p><b>And finally, an extremely rare #FF from me</b><br /> <a href=>Stirling Newberry</a> is a man who should need no introduction, but probably does. He&#8217;s <a href="">popped up here and there</a> in history, trying to get Wesley Clark to run for president, or unpicking the world&#8217;s economic and political woes. I&#8217;ve occasionally been hanging out on twitter with Stirling, and shared Marginal Revolution&#8217;s <a href="">revelatory reaction to his insight</a>.</p> <p>Get to know Stirling&#8217;s work.</p> <p>Consider the multidimensional nature of two pieces Stirling produced in response to Aaron Swartz&#8217;s suicide: a blog post discussing the <a href="">political/economic forces</a> behind Aaron Swartz death, and a musical composition, this requiem.<br /> <iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe></p> <p>I don&#8217;t know quite what to say about talent like that, but let&#8217;s hope he stays pointed in a good direction, and gets where he&#8217;s going.</p> <p><b>I&#8217;m lucky to know these people. I&#8217;m glad to be able to pass on that privilege.</b></p> <p><a href=";id=3306&amp;md5=cea8b58a58e07bc38922053899eca172" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2013-03-28 Four Stars – an extended #FF and an introduction to some friends <div>I got an <a href="" target=_blank>interesting write up on the unemployment / mechanization / income</a> angle from my friend Nathan Koren (he does collaborative futures with Noah Raford at <a href="" target="_blank">Futurescaper</a>). <a href=>Nathan&#8217;s</a> basic argument is that Ford&#8217;s innovation of &#8220;make a car your workers can afford&#8221; has now been displaced with &#8220;race to the bottom&#8221; feedback loops in manufacturing, and that only a fairly comprehensive rethinking of how we distribute value can stabilize our social order.</div> <p> <div>In the UK we have a long history of struggle over access to land and the value of labour. My own ancestors were cleared from their land in <a href="" target="_blank">Ayrshire</a> to make room for sheep enclosures, and another very nearly deported to Australia as a <a href="" target="_blank">Tolpuddle Martyr</a> for labour organizing (the family legend is that he missed the raid by 15 minutes, having left for the pub.)</div> <p> <div>There&#8217;s an ongoing historical debate about the role of education in the industrial revolution. The common mythology is that the school system we have now (fixed starting times, bells, lockstep production in class rooms) was instituted to condition the children of farm labourers for work in factories. Whether that&#8217;s historically true or not, there&#8217;s <a href="" target="_blank">fair evidence</a> that availability of primary education was a bottleneck in industrialization in some countries.</div> <p> <div>I think that all of this comes down, in the end, to access-to-capital, <b>including education and know-how</b>. If subsistence agriculturalists have good access to land, and markets where they can sell produce in return for manufactured goods like solar panels, their basic self-sufficiency gives them certain political freedoms. This is the <a href="" target="_blank">Jeffersonian</a> model. If, on the other hand, their access to capital is <b>contingent</b> because the land is rented / mortgaged, or they are industrial workers working on machines they do not own, in times of hardship or rapid chance, <b>they are left disenfranchised</b>. This is the downside of the <a href="" target="_blank">Hamiltonian</a> model.</div> <p><i>(A short Alexander Hamilton break)</i></p> <p><object width="560" height="315"><param name="movie" value=";hl=en_US&amp;version=3"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src=";hl=en_US&amp;version=3" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="560" height="315" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true"></embed></object></p> <p><i>(annnnnd we&#8217;re back)</i></p> <p> <div><b>Nearly every challenge faced by today&#8217;s developing world was first faced by America.</b></div> <p> <div>The Chinese alternative is the most dangerous. Chairman Mao&#8217;s &#8220;<a href="" target="_blank">Combat Liberalism</a>&#8221; frames the internal struggle within agrarian communism as being between those with nothing, and nothing to lose, and those who have attained a little comfort and status and want to feather their nests. In the long run, of course, Liberalism won and China is left vulnerable to a second revolution of some kind if their <a href="" target="_blank">growth slows below the current 7%</a>. The stability of society, even under those conditions, is still based on people who have a little something to hang on to, a little something to lose. It&#8217;s the small fences built around each back yard that, collectively, form the great walls of cultural stability.</div> <blockquote><div>&#8220;You only have power over people so long as you don&#8217;t take everything away from them. But when you&#8217;ve robbed a man of everything, he&#8217;s no longer in your power &#8211; he&#8217;s free again.&#8221; - Solzhenitsyn</div> </blockquote> <p> <div>There&#8217;s a new round of argument against the Free Culture movement from thinkers like Bruce Sterling and Jaron Lanier that, in fact, the sharing economy is simply disenfranchising the middle classes from the fruits of their labour from their traditional intellectual toil. I&#8217;m not sure buy that argument, but certainly a good case can be made for it. Sterling&#8217;s argument is that disintermediation and disruption (&#8220;creative destruction&#8221;) is<a href="" target="_blank"> wiping out value faster than it is creating it</a> (last 5 minutes) leaving us net-poorer. Lanier suggests that the <a href="" target="_blank">middle classes can&#8217;t survive</a> without the ability to create &#8220;micro enclosures.&#8221;</div> <p> <div>Is it simply pumping wealth from the middle classes into a global commons that differentially empowers the poor? Or are we breaking the ladder that gets out of poverty (through the middle class) and turning the world into a Global Brazil, with <a href="">open source at the bottom</a>, and <a href="">boutique capitalism</a> at the top?</div> <p> <div>We have to find a mode which is not classical capitalism or communism, which is realistic about the global constraints and risks we face, that has the authority to effectively police nanobio while, at the same time, not being prey to cultural whims and excesses, from beard taxes to the war on drugs.</div> <p> <div>Oddly, I&#8217;m not pessimistic about our odds of getting there. An entire generation is growing up with always-on networks, and the concept of &#8220;I don&#8217;t know&#8221; is rapidly becoming history, replaced by &#8220;let&#8217;s look it up.&#8221; We have to have faith that the generation coming, with such incredibly different experiences growing up, will be capable of finding a perspective which will maintain our core values, stabilize the damaging discontinuities, and keep the ship afloat.</div> <p> <div><b>We have another shot at the big picture today. </b>The dual <a href="" target="_blank">dividends of fracking</a>, and the very real prospect of a second &#8220;peace dividend&#8221; as we recover from the huge costs of the wars now ending, plus the all-important re-opening of the skies as the private space flight industry repaints people&#8217;s ideas about the future (&#8220;one day I could go to orbit and see the stars, and the earth!&#8221; is becoming real for entire generations) &#8211; together these things give us a shot at another 1990s-style round of optimism, openness, and technological expansion.</div> <p> <div>If there are answers, they are in the future. We have to get there as fast as possible.</div> <p> <br /> PS: <a href="">PROUTist cooperatives</a>.</p> <p><a href=";id=3279&amp;md5=c5048f920bbe2f5e205cc958934d4f87" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2013-03-28 Not Capitalism, not Communism <p>Google, Facebook and all the rest make most of their money advertising. The more they know about you and your behavior, the more accurately they can forecast which adverts will change your behavior, and the more they can make being paid to alter your behavior &#8211; on somebody else&#8217;s behalf. <strong>Advertising is a control game, and it&#8217;s the economic engine of the internet.</strong></p> <p>The civil disobedience / get off my doorstep response to this is <a href=>Adblock</a>. You stop seeing ads. Ad-supported sites start feeling the pain. Consider Destructoid&#8217;s story.</p> <blockquote><p>&#8220;Almost half of your readers block your ads. We don&#8217;t think we&#8217;re mistaken.&#8221;</p> <p>BlockMetrics was easy enough to set up and monitor. At first, it was about 10%, then 20-something. When I dared to blink it just increased faster. Over a few days it never got better, averaging at an ominous 42-46% block rate. I thought their tech might have been flawed, so I performed my own tests and contacted another company who returned a similar result. </p> <p>This means that we&#8217;re working twice as hard as other sites to sustain our company, as if keeping a group of game writers fed isn&#8217;t difficult enough. We see gaming sites shut down or selling out so often these days. <a href="">Feeling my pain yet?</a></p></blockquote> <p>Let me propose a solution. <a href=>Discourse</a>, <a href=>Disqus</a> and similar are ideally positioned to <i>manage subscriptions for speech.</i> Sites would, by default, not permit readers to comment. Maybe you get so many free comments. But, fundamentally, participating in the conversation is something you pay for. You get rid of the adverts and get the ability to talk, for a dollar.</p> <p>You don&#8217;t pay each site individually, that results in a massive burden of individual payments. Rather, you pay the &#8220;Identity Broker&#8221; $20 a year, and every site you sign up to using that identity gets $1 or whatever they see fit. You never see ads, the people you&#8217;re commenting with are accountable for their actions (abusive speech etc. can now be punished &#8211; &#8220;pay this bond or lose your account&#8221;) Sites get paid, and civility is returned to the internet. Transactional overheads are manageable because a single payment is farmed out to the sites you actually use.</p> <p>Do you see the catch yet? No credit card, no voice. No poor farmers who just got 3G because their cousin in Bangalore send them a cheap android tablet to keep in touch with the family. No 11 year old photographers on Flickr developing their skills.</p> <p>How else might we do this? Proof-of-work, so you simply leave your computer running for a week to generate an account? Unless that computation is paid for, we are no further forwards &#8211; what&#8217;s the going rate for computer time at the moment?</p> <p>Free is ending. Advertising has turned the internet into an enormous eye, staring at you. That same approach is fuelling the national security apparatus.</p> <p><strong><a href="">If you are not the customer, you are the product.</a></strong></p> <p><a href=";id=3255&amp;md5=606e4473f6ff05ca3343c62ddf139ae9" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2013-03-10 Microsubscriptions: solving the adblock problem and ad-spying <p>Although I spend a lot of time feeling powerless, I have more undivided, informed, concentrated attention on the affairs of the world than almost anybody. Because I&#8217;m self-funded (i.e. usually broke) and self-directed, I get to set my own agendas. There are very few actors with this kind of freedom.</p> <p>It also means that I can&#8217;t do anything without your help. Every <a href="">hexayurt</a> built builds another hexayurt, and makes the next two or four more likely. Every person using <a href="">Simple Critical Infrastructure Maps</a> on their own problems makes that language more widely spread. I spread my solutions to the issues by education, and prefer to educate by helping people to master crafts (building, mapping) than teaching abstract, theoretical knowledge. Even better, people pick up these tools, spin them round, say &#8220;yes, but you know&#8230;&#8221; and we get quaddomes, H13s and the new SCIM design language. These approaches to sharing knowledge and cooperating are not approaches that necessarily have deep theory behind them. These are aesthetic, rather than rationally optimized choices. And, in some small way, they work.</p> <p>The how is essentially improvisational. The why is very different: I do what I do because I believe it to be objectively necessary. I believe it to be necessary for three reasons:</p> <ol> <li>There&#8217;s a rational case to be made that the future health of the planet and survival of humanity is at substantial risk</li> <li>I had a very odd Monty Pythonesque religious vision in which some notional swamis tried to get anybody who would listen to help them save the world so that they wouldn&#8217;t have to do the end-of-planet form-filling paperwork (I shit you not)</li> <li>I keep washing up in weird situations where I can actually do something useful</li> </ol> <p>Somebody once told me not to worry &#8211; that at this level of concern, the nature of life on earth was self-correcting. That not only was this aspect of life, the existential struggle for the future, not something I needed to worry about, it was something <em>nobody</em> needed to worry about &#8211; an ego-driven dead end. Roughly, perhaps, equivalent to the <a href="">Asuric</a> realms of Hindu mythology.</p> <p>I thought about this for a long time. Was it possible that I was simply caught up in a long, delusional power trip?</p> <p>I might have spent a year wondering about it off-and-on, prying the truth out of the question. You need to be a pretty high player to ask me a question about my spirituality which takes me a year to answer, so I&#8217;m grateful for this particular quandary. I finally solved it a few weeks ago.</p> <p>&#8220;If it is self-correcting, it&#8217;s self-correcting with unacceptable catastrophic crashes in human quality of life.&#8221; Even if the system as a whole <i>may</i> self-correct (after all, we seem to get out of trouble again and again and again as a species!) the hell-on-earth we often create along the way is unacceptable. Consider the utter holocausts in South America, they may be the best single example of so much pain for nothing-but-gold-and-potatoes.</p> <p>So I remain in the game, attempting to manipulate human destiny to keep us out of hell and the mass grave.</p> <p><a href=""><img src="" alt="perspec5a" width="313" height="308" class="aligncenter size-full wp-image-3251" /></a></p> <p>A lot of the work needs an infinite vantage point, like a vanishing point in perspective drawing. Without it, the threats are simply overwhelming imponderables, beyond all comprehension. Almost nobody spends their life fighting the infinite darkness without some conception of the infinite light, but it doesn&#8217;t seem to matter much whether it&#8217;s Humanity&#8217;s Destiny in Space, a visit from Space Aliens, a Star Trek like faith in Liberalism as manifest destiny, or some modernized, weaponized form of the Old Religion. I just don&#8217;t meet players without <i>something</i> even if the poor miserable bastards are clinging on to some mutated form of Christianity, theology popping rivets from the strain as they try to justify saving a world that <a href="">their God will later hideously destroy</a>. Even in the most unlikely places, human dignity wins out.</p> <p><b>I have come to the conclusion that there is no hope for humanity or our world if we do not violently tear down the old myths and preconceptions which plague our species with demon gods and imaginary karmic enslavement.</b></p> <p>The New Atheists are an obnoxious lot: they are right, in that these things do not exist, <a href="">but in the Alan Moore sense, they are all-powerful masters of the human imagination</a>. </p> <p>But the New Atheists lack wonder, and so cannot generate the infinite reference point which empowers people to act far above the ordinary human conception of limits. We cannot forego passion for reason and survive; we are not that far from the animals we issued from.</p> <p>What we need to do is yank people out of their context, like magnetized iron filings, and let each align to their own identity with the infinite. The form, as far as I can tell, matters very little. Then we simply need to get to work, gutting the old mythologies as fast as we can, and rebuilding something that works.</p> <p>The reason I think this is necessary is very simple: there are very few effective agents of change without some kind of internal spiritual gyroscope. Most of them are flying by the seat of their pants, and assume that all versions of the infinite at the same when correctly understood &#8211; that the infinite is a single point. This is a sort of folk religion of the new age, &#8220;it all converges.&#8221; </p> <p>But in truth one can place that infinite reference point anywhere &#8211; one, two or three point perspective &#8211; with very little functional distinction in results. Yes, indeed, wherever you put the perspective points, it looks like the lines all converge &#8211; that&#8217;s why they call it perspective. <b>But the points are not in the same place.</b></p> <p>You can draw the world in perspective. That you have in common with others who have discovered the infinite somewhere, in love, in wonder or in beauty. But not every point of perspective is identical. This error must be expunged for us to find true common spiritual ground. There is convergence, but not because things are the same.</p> <p>It&#8217;s a bit like GPS &#8211; it doesn&#8217;t matter which satellites you are locking on to, you can navigate. You have the infinite, you get perspective.</p> <p>The belief systems that people cook up around their pet infinity do not have to be fungible, they just have to provide a wide-enough frame of reference not to fry like a bug on the magnitude of the task at hand. Even bloody dialectical materialism might do in a pinch, although god help us if it ever catches on widely.</p> <p>We are fucked without lighthouses. When our challenges were about large scale social organization, on the model of kingdoms and then nations, centralized authoritarian bureaucracies were enough. Now we&#8217;re a long, long way beyond that model &#8211; in less than a lifetime of years we&#8217;ve been propelled into an entirely different universe, starting with nuclear weapons and living, right now, through climate and heading into nanobio and the great unknowns of our high tech future. Our old lighthouses are failing: the Church is the world&#8217;s largest (?) paedophile ring. America is raising a generation for whom America has always been the world&#8217;s great fascist power, no recollection of their brave stand against the Nazis and the Soviets will go undiminished. Yet we still march to the beat of these memes.</p> <p>You need to pry the old crap out of your own head. You can&#8217;t really get moving when the old crap is in there: you see the world through dead eyes.</p> <p>Everything in western culture, and increasingly global culture, dead-ends in Capitalism, Colonialism and Christianity. Everybody&#8217;s language and mindset have been shaped by these forces, usually to make the victims completely invisible.</p> <p>Witness the trouble Occupy has developing a global politics: they&#8217;re so attached to the idea of being The Oppressed they can&#8217;t even see the Chinese and the Africans. The fixity of ideas is on all sides.</p> <p>You can&#8217;t build a coherent politics without a coherent geography. Seven billion people, headed for at least nine. Global warming, global ageing. You draw that map, and the bleating of nation state level political actors is like a brass band of chimpanzees.</p> <p>They&#8217;re not even wrong.</p> <p>They&#8217;re right in a way which is so limited it completely destroys our ability to survive.</p> <p>What do you mean we can&#8217;t have global agreements on climate because angry chimps with nuclear weapons say they want to keep the SUV viable?</p> <p>I&#8217;m not saying you should just pretend these things aren&#8217;t there. What I am saying is <i>feel free to stop believing in them.</i></p> <p>It&#8217;s much easier to just saw off the entire branch, than to go leaf-by-leaf cataloguing errors.</p> <p>You must rebuild your politics from scratch pretending you are a citizen of a fair world government oppressed by a bunch of imposters trying to make you believe in various nation states. These liars and thieves conspire to hide the true geography and true history of the world behind farcical distractions and petty affrays &#8211; sports with terrible death-tolls &#8211; and all trace of the real news is buried or marginalized in the egg-head sections of the broadsheet papers.</p> <p>You just tear up the medieval map in your head, and replace it with a real one.</p> <p><a href=";field-keywords=+globe&#038;rh=i%3Aaps%2Ck%3A+globe">Buy a globe.</a> Teach yourself to think on it. Put the physical object beside your computer, put stories from the news on maps.</p> <p>Strafe the terrain in Google Maps.</p> <p>Every time somebody quotes a statistic, put it on a reference frame against <a href="">global averages</a>. Then consider it against <a href="">means</a>, not averages.</p> <p>It doesn&#8217;t matter where you cut the branch. You cut once. The easiest place is geography and history, but you can do it anywhere: cosmology, religion, philosophy, even politics. </p> <p>But once you shove the nation state, and all that went with it, out of the window of your mind as a medieval fantasy which now constrains us as much as religion once did, you can start to find your way.</p> <p>We have to get to climate in time, and nanobio shortly thereafter. We may have to crush a lot of dreams on the way. But let&#8217;s start with the fantasies and illusions of the past: nothing to lose there at all.</p> <p>Once you start to deal with the states deprived of all legitimacy, as historical mafias with completely control over given turfs, we can admit we might need those mafias to play ball in the short term to get anything done.</p> <p>But never again do we fall under the spell called politics.</p> <p><a href=";id=3248&amp;md5=5d34f8231791e9bc35140b5ec03f5567" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2013-03-04 Dynamic Tension <p><a href="">&#8220;A players hire A players. B players hire C players.</a> <a href=>Then comes the Bozo explosion&#8221;</a></p> <p>This is well explained by the Dunning-Kruger effect, <a href="">&#8220;Idiots are too stupid to know they are idiots.&#8221;</a></p> <p>This can be seen as a minor corollary of the <a href="">&#8220;Five Laws of Stupidity&#8221;</a> which assert that idiots are the most dangerous kind of people, and collectively constitute a threat more severe than the Mafia or the Military-Industrial Complex because they destroy without anybody gaining from their actions. (Thanks to <a href=>Lucas</a> for that gem.)</p> <p>We need good rhetoric to point out these kinds of people and situations, without becoming like <a href="">Leo Strauss</a> in the process.</p> <p>It needs to become acceptable to say if we&#8217;re going to clear the decks on critical issues like climate and get down to a workable truth.</p> <p><a href=";id=3243&amp;md5=8cc6c78378c13efc719995d3b1e96930" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2013-02-28 A little connection <p><strong>The Phases of Money</strong><br /> We discuss money as if it was water &#8211; a liquid, flexible, easily-measured, infinitely dividable pure substance. This aspect of money is <a href="">well understood</a>.</p> <p>But we live in a situation where very nearly all the wealth in the world seems to be tied up in destructive forms. If the money is fluid, why is it not able to simply flow from destructive forms to creative ones?</p> <p>The answer is simple: money has a fluid aspect or phase. In this phase, it is found in small conglomerations known as &#8220;pocket change.&#8221; You can spend this change on a bus ride or a newspaper and never notice it. It simply flows.</p> <p>Consider this form of money against the mortgage (French for &#8220;<a href="">death contract</a>&#8220;) The whole point of this vehicle for money is that it is as permanent as the life of the person who has promised to pay. In Japan, they have <a href="">100 year mortgages</a>, intended to be passed down through generations of a family. We are no longer dealing with &#8220;pocket change&#8221; we are dealing with an appalling fixity and permanence.</p> <p>This is like a phase transition: gas into liquid, liquid into solid. The individual little pieces of pocket change gather together into a hundred year contract to be passed down the generations, a tie that binds, or one faces homelessness.</p> <p><strong>Now let&#8217;s talk about real money</strong><br /> Bill Gates amassed a <a href="">personal fortune</a> large enough to <b>personally</b> pay off the <a href="">external debt</a> of countries like Argentina, Saudi Arabia or Israel.</p> <p>Gates then gave most of his money to a foundation, and Warren Buffet joined him. The Bill &#038; Melinda Gates Foundation is worth <a href=>$36 billion</a> give or take, with pledges to put more money in later actually increasing its total expected payouts.</p> <p>Now we can begin to understand what real fixity looks like. There are complex politics around this money, but let&#8217;s make it simple: if somebody spent the whole thing on solar panels rather than development aid, in the short term a lot of people would die. Research programmes would stop, education would be defunded, monitoring would cease, vaccinations would cease to be available, and people would start dying.</p> <p><b>What holds that money in place is people&#8217;s lives.</b></p> <p>Now let&#8217;s get back to the routine world of grant funding, <a href=""donor+driven+aid"">donor-driven aid</a> and the rest of the mess. Money in real quantities does not exist as a fluid. It exists as an entangled mass of political, legal and social obligations, which are there <i>from the time the money is collected onwards</i>.</p> <p>Consider money coming from government: it is collected from tax payers by the state &#8220;for their own good,&#8221; pooled in a national budget, allocated to an agency like DFID which exists with a clear mandate and bureaucratic structure, then trickled down into a budget where somebody takes responsibility for spending it. Everybody in that chain, from the taxpayer through to the final recipient of the aid is obligated to the system. The money never existed in a fluid form, it only ever existed as a set of legal obligations inside of a machine. The money is aggregated using legal force, and that legal force pervades every aspect of its later use. To do otherwise is corruption.</p> <p><strong>Imaginary numbers and imaginary money</strong><br /> Almost all of the substantial pools of money are bound in this way. However, we habitually think of money-in-pools as a much larger version of &#8220;pocket change.&#8221; The reason for this is probably rooted in our childhoods, where the first money we see is probably an allowance from our parents, discretionary spending to do what we like with. As we begin to earn money of our own, we still feel like it is &#8220;our money&#8221; and slowly, resentfully learn how much of it is actually earmarked at the point of creation into a wide variety of mandated buckets &#8211; some political, some legal, and some social. We have very little control of most of it. Fully <a href="">discretionary income</a> is rare.</p> <p>But we do not really have a notation to reflect this reality. In mathematics, there are so-called &#8220;<a href="">complex numbers</a>&#8221; which are a superset of our common-or-garden integers and floats. Complex numbers have two parts, a real part (X &#8211; an ordinary number, on the real number line) and Y, the imaginary part. Y is in odd units, &#8220;i&#8221; the square root of minus one. &#8220;i * i = -1&#8243; and so on. The details do not really matter, the important part is that <i><strong>all real money has an imaginary component</strong></i>, usually made of politics, law and social obligations.</p> <p>Lacking common notation for these invisible attributes of money, we simply look at a world made of money and wonder why none is going into the most-urgent causes or the vital long-term research and development efforts which could lift humanity out of poverty. This is as blind as looking at a ton of &#8220;complex numbers&#8221; and simply ignoring the &#8220;imaginary components.&#8221; If you don&#8217;t know any of the math, this is kind of abstract &#8211; it is akin to walking into every house as if it was your home, regardless of who thinks they live there or own it. It just does not make any sense.</p> <p>In fact, the political, legal and social system completely encapsulate all but the crumbs of money that live in our pockets. Even the rich have very little discretionary spending &#8211; you can pick which yacht to buy, but without enormous political power and wealth, simply deciding to buck the values of your society and give all your money away will destroy you <i>socially</i> because of other people&#8217;s discomfort. They keep each-other in line much as any other social class does, and while exile to a mansion and other people&#8217;s parties does not seem like much of an exile, still exile it is. You have no friends because you did something weird. You make new friends, but you have become an outsider.</p> <p><strong>The awkward position of the self-aware middle class</strong><br /> Most of my current readers are in a difficult position. They&#8217;re globally in the top 1% or 5%, making middle class or better salaries, or privileged, well-educated intellectual activists. But they feel poor because they spend a lot of time dealing with the mess made by the genuinely rich, the people Occupy calls the 1%, the people who control most of the assets in the rich countries. This 1% is a global elite &#8211; the 1% are the super-rich elite of our 5%-of-the-world rich societies.</p> <p>We look around at our talent, capabilities and expertise, and wonder why we cannot lay our hands on enough wealth for a manned space mission or a hexayurt refugee camp or an open source education system, or even an energy system which does not sacrifice the future stability of the climate to inefficient houses and metal-cave cars. The world is made of money.</p> <p>But politics, law and society are the invisible component of every substantial accumulation of wealth, from the 100 Year Mortgage of the Japanese, through to the binding covenants which Gates and Buffet put around their money when they gave it away. It is only when you start looking at large pools of wealth and mapping the political, legal and social frameworks around them that you begin to understand how little discretionary spending there is in the world, how little liquid money there is to do innovative things with.</p> <p>Most of the money is made, at root, in one of two ways: oppressing other people, or destroying the natural world. The political, legal and social frameworks which enable these acts to be performed are then encoded into the structures which govern the wealth so-created, and that wealth can no more flow to constructive ends than water can flow up hill. In fact it is critical to understand the contradiction and paradox at the heart of constructive capitalism in all of its forms to really appreciate how difficult it will be to turn the ship around.</p> <p>When it is all added up, there is almost no financial freedom at all. Venture capital is to make more money. Innovation funding is not to cause revolutionary change. Social enterprise must not stray into socialism. Everywhere you go the available funding streams come with invisible or softly whispered political, legal and social constraints. We call that system accountability, justice and transparency, but in practice it is control: only visions coherent with the forces which brought a given pool of money into existence are generally permitted to draw on it.</p> <p>The invisible and imaginary component of money is power. </p> <p>Understood another way: &#8220;Money is the mask of power.&#8221;</p> <p><a href=";id=3235&amp;md5=a7ee3cd373b8a4faef4125387a5e4ebf" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2013-02-28 Why there’s no money: the imaginary part of financial systems <p><a href="">Nathan Koren</a> brought it to my attention.</p> <blockquote><p>You should watch <a href="">Utopia from Channel 4</a>. It&#8217;s the bastard love-child of your brain, David Lynch&#8217;s, and Grant Morrison&#8217;s, on a bad nutmeg trip.</p></blockquote> <p>This sounded implausible, but I duly <a href="">fired up their iPlayer</a> and got caught up. There are six episodes. Each episode leads people a little further down the rabbit hole in search of&#8230; well, the official narrative is that they&#8217;re searching for the truth, but tragically many of them already know the truth.</p> <p><a href="" rel="attachment wp-att-3228"><img class="alignright size-full wp-image-3228" alt="Screenshot from 2013-02-27 16:22:29" src="" width="322" height="335" /></a></p> <p>What they are struggling for is salvation.</p> <p>Utopia is about groups of people dealing with the Bad Future. The one that gets called the <a href="">grim meathook future</a>, in fact. But they aren&#8217;t dealing with it in 2060, they&#8217;re dealing with it right here right now. They&#8217;ve become actors in the story because a bunch of Cold War remnants have figured out how to stop the Grim Meathook Future ever happening by doing something&#8230; <i>unthinkable.</i></p> <p>And now everybody scurries around in the shadow of that event terrified not only by the evil network at the heart of the mystery, Mr. Rabbit and all the rest, but also by the catastrophic future which that particular cohort are fighting back against. As you might expect from something that smells so much like <a href="">Delta Green</a> (the modern Call of Cthulhu setting) there is a secret book, in this case a madman&#8217;s comic book which purports to tell the future. Things weave into reality from this fictional source, but it is very much a source of clues, an object of desire, and a cipher. Much comes from spreading out its pages and tracing the lines, a nice nod to Liber AL. </p> <p>Negotiations are usually carried out at gunpoint, even between friends. The moral questions come up over and over again from an endless selection of angles&#8230; &#8220;but what if they&#8217;re right, what if this is the only way?&#8221; and back-and-forth we sail over the line. In the face of the unthinkable horror, which sacrifices are the right ones to make? Trivial decisions about who is to live and who is to die on the individual level threaten to spiral off into the fate of billions in future decades. </p> <p>If we really think this through, are there <i>any right choices?</i> Some react with emotion, let a short range pragmatic morality guide them, sheltering behind the hedgerows as the cruise missiles of fate zoom overhead.</p> <p><a href="" rel="attachment wp-att-3229"><img src="" alt="Screenshot from 2013-02-27 16:28:16" width="309" height="217" class="alignleft size-full wp-image-3229" /></a></p> <p>Utopia is not perfect. The story still lives in the benighted world of Gandalf and Aslan in some key areas, with infallible grey or white wizards, and those of many colours, striving for solutions in an endless <a href="">wilderness of mirrors</a> while the little hobbits run around causing trouble. It it still an English story. In this respect, it hasn&#8217;t fallen far from the Cold War narratives which are so much a part of its makeup. JK Rowling&#8217;s narrative breakthrough in the latter Harry Potter books, where she seizes this mythology and rips it out by the roots is still percolating out through culture, as iconoclasm is a generational business. So we still have wizards and mortals, chess players and pawns, and yet still the angry young wizard outs, plays a critical role, and so the old myths and the new ones are both served. Not bad work.</p> <p>(I&#8217;m sorry if this is opaque, but I&#8217;m trying to avoid spoilers and frame this in the terms it deserves)</p> <p>What preserves me from the kind of extremism that Utopia proposes &#8211; on all sides &#8211; to the Grim Meathook Future is very simple.</p> <p><a href="" rel="attachment wp-att-3226"><img class="alignnone size-full wp-image-3226" alt="Screenshot from 2013-02-27 16:08:04" src="" width="577" height="397" /></a></p> <p>There is every chance we&#8217;re going to innovate our way out of this mess. Cheap solar, improved agriculture or super-productive aquaculture, metals from space, the whole bit.</p> <p>Where I am stuck is a level further up: most of the really radical breakthroughs, particularly ones involving very small systems like biotechnology and nanotechnology, may open up new cans of worms. As nuclear power and the nuclear bomb went hand in hand, biotechnology pairs with bioweapons, nanotechnology with nanoweapons. <a href="">DARPA shovels money into nanotechnology</a> and, yes, somewhere in <a href="">Pandora&#8217;s Box</a> we may shake out a <a href="">cornucopia machine</a>, grey goo, the borg, self-assembling terminator robots and in the bottom of the box, find only hope.</p> <p>Utopia portrays a world without wise solutions. You will not be reassured. But it is against a landscape of this size that we have to ponder, so I would say it is essential viewing. A bleak English X-Files with a higher mortality rate will not cheer you up, but you&#8217;ll have a new perspective, and a way to talk about some of the big issues that you did not have before.</p> <p>4/5 stars. Thanks again to <a href=>Nathan</a> for pointing it out to me!</p> <p><a href=""><b>Watch Utopia from Channel 4</b></a></p> <p><a href=";id=3225&amp;md5=d0aeacb9392ba79cec40faf1966baf94" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2013-02-27 Utopia – Channel 4′s resource scarcity / bioterrorism TV show. <p>Punchline: Fracking probably holds the global economy together long enough for cheap solar to take over by 2020.</p> <p>(note: I used to work at the Rocky Mountain Institute, and worked on <a href="" target="_blank"></a> and <a href="" target="_blank"></a>. I&#8217;ve also spent a bit of time doing geostrategy around resource conflict)</p> <p>Details:</p> <p>I&#8217;ve been sold on the risk (I&#8217;d put it around 1/3) of global economic collapse leading to 1920s/1930s style living conditions for most people, with the attendant risks of fascism or other forms of political authoritarianism as a second order risk. I hung my hat on that nail around 2008/9 after living in Iceland during their crash, and it became <a href="" target="_blank"></a> and <a href="" target="_blank"></a> &#8211; and indirectly it led me to futurism.</p> <p>In 2010, George Monbiot and I had a set-to about his model of the future and mine. George said, very clearly, that we&#8217;d squeeze newer, dirtier fossil fuels out of the ground, and that would allow market capitalism to continue growth or at least stability. I argued (based on <a href="" target="_blank"></a>) that the military did not make that assumption, and with access to very good data.</p> <p>My guess about the situation is that energy price (with oil price a major factor) is a huge driver of the global macro-economy. For example:<br /> <a href="" target="_blank"><wbr />module_files/gdp%20and%20oil%<wbr />20price.gif</a><br /> <a href="" target="_blank">http://graphics.<wbr /><wbr />GDP1010.gif</a><br /> <a href="" target="_blank"><wbr />resources/media/global/<wbr />editorial/interactives/oil_<wbr />price_calculator/oil_price_<wbr />calculator.html</a> (a nice little calculator, although it doesn&#8217;t expose its assumptions.)</p> <p>Clearly these factors apply to Europe and Japan as well, although I haven&#8217;t seen equivalent numbers calculated for their economies.</p> <p>In the US, not-exactly-impartial sources suggest that there&#8217;s a couple of million jobs being supported by fracking.<br /> <a href="" target="_blank"><wbr />news/2012-10-23/fracking-will-<wbr />support-1-dot-7-million-jobs-<wbr />study-shows</a></p> <p>Think of that as being 1% or 2% of the jobs in America, and a larger fraction of the economy &#8211; that&#8217;s a ton of well paid manual labour and engineering jobs, in addition to the various support roles etc. generated. Then you consider the drop in energy prices &#8211; they&#8217;re paying 20% of what we&#8217;re paying for natural gas &#8211; and it is enough to take the US from small-contraction to small-growth. Now this is very critical, because small contraction tends to turn into large contraction as capital panics and tries to find increasingly irrational ways to grow, or simply runs for safety in commodities with all kinds of horrible effects. <a href="" target="_blank"><wbr />archive/2012-12/03/food-<wbr />speculation</a></p> <p>But with a little growth, everybody settles down. Business as usual is restored. The cycle of decline is interrupted. Things start to grow again.</p> <p>So we wind up in a position where the US stabilizes its economy by burning more natural capital. And this is a dirty, dirty industry, make no mistake. The precise recipes for fracking fluid (the stuff pumped into the ground, with attendant groundwater contamination risks) are proprietary and confidential, but the US government enquiries into their properties are far from reassuring. (carcinogens among a ton of other weird stuff)<br /> <a href="" target="_blank"><wbr />blog/intelligent-energy/toxic-<wbr />fracking-fluids-revealed-in-<wbr />congressional-report/5698</a></p> <p>Head out about 10 years.</p> <p>1) Global economy probably stays up for a while because of a cheap energy fracking boom.<br /> Four subsidiary factors.<br /> 1.1) Wells may run dry far faster than expected <a href="" target="_blank"><wbr />brendan-demelle/fracking-<wbr />output_b_1900810.html</a> resulting in massive long term capital destruction (wells don&#8217;t pay for themselves)<br /> 1.2) Mounting environmental costs, earthquake risks (!) and other negative factors accumulate.<br /> 1.3) US goes back to a broadly peacetime footing as Iraq and Afghanistan conclude, which also massively boosts the economy (think of the 1990s boom as largely being peace dividend driven, it&#8217;s not far off.)<br /> 1.4) Solar power is cheaper than coal either now <a href="" target="_blank"><wbr />2013-02-01/first-solar-may-<wbr />sell-cheapest-solar-power-<wbr />less-than-coal.html</a> or in 10 years <a href=""></a> depending on who you ask.</p> <p>But, over-all, it seems likely that fracking holds up the US economy long enough for solar to take over as the primary source of cheap energy, which puts the world in a very, very different position from 2020 onwards. This combined with the peace dividend probably put America back in the saddle again for another decade, rather than an economic decline detonating the cultural landmine on which the current American political consensus rests at so much risk.</p> <p>I&#8217;m not constitutionally given to optimism, but I think we may well discover that fracking was the band-aid we needed to buy time to let the solar panel technology mature until it&#8217;s ready to carry the weight of the global energy demand.</p> <p>Now, a bonus factor.</p> <p>A ticket to space costs $20,000,000 (twenty million) in 2008.<br /> Virgin Galactic are selling tickets for $200,000 (two hundred thousand)<br /> SpaceX expects to bring the cost to $20,000 (twenty thousand) by 2020.</p> <p>There are already two prototype space hotels in orbit right now.<br /> <a href="" target="_blank"><wbr />Bigelow_Aerospace#Expandable_<wbr />habitat_modules</a></p> <p>So what we&#8217;re talking about is space tourism for the same ballpark cost as a round-the-world cruise in an environment where solar power is going to be cheaper than coal in a lot of places.</p> <p>All of a sudden, there&#8217;s a real possibility that we&#8217;re going to skip over the Grim Meathook Future where capital starvation and general chaos prevent our technological capabilities maturing into a new, sustainable equilibrium.</p> <p>It might all actually just about work out, and fracking is in no small part responsible.</p> <p>Ugly, but (as far as I can tell) true.</p> <p>((post taken from an email I wrote))</p> <p><a href=";id=3220&amp;md5=5e9d2a22fd23b7560c2c4aaaf211badf" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2013-02-07 Fracking has saved the world? An unusual thesis <p><a href="">Dougald</a> wanted me to write up a couple of concepts quickly. Firstly, the &#8220;don&#8217;t wait for State help in a systemic crisis.&#8221;</p> <ol> <li>The State has about 1% of the population as first responders: police, army, fire service, coast guard, the lot.</li> <li>In a systemic crisis, there&#8217;s no enormous reserve of people from unaffected areas to draw on for help.</li> <li>In such a systemic crisis &#8211; financial collapse, pandemic flu, massive grid failure &#8211; resources will cover the worst 5% or 10% of the people affected. Think of this in terms of &#8220;how many people can one policeman help if they&#8217;re all in equal trouble?&#8221;</li> <li>Therefore, make all efforts to stand on your own feet* during such a crisis, because you don&#8217;t want to be in the most badly affected 5% of the population that receives help from the State.</li> </ol> <p><a href=>Lucas</a> has an interesting perspective on the modes of &#8220;standing on your own feet.&#8221;</p> <ul> <li>YOYO is the standard model, &#8220;You&#8217;re On Your Own,&#8221; as said when the last plane leaves.</li> <li>WOOO is the new model, &#8220;We&#8217;re On Our Own,&#8221; said when people organize mutual aid in times of crisis.</li> </ul> <p>It makes all the difference in the world, but remember that resilience grows as assets exceed liabilities: it&#8217;s important to count group strength, not just group size, when considering the resilience of teams. It doesn&#8217;t matter how big your group is, you can&#8217;t make insulin or zoloft.</p> <p><a href=";id=3214&amp;md5=9effb132fc75c3989496df66b17c0ea1" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2013-01-18 Local resilience in systemic crises: WOOO vs. YOYO <p>I&#8217;m running out of mid-life crisis. When I hit 40, <em>almost a year ago</em> I declared on twitter that I was going to have a mid-life crisis. I&#8217;d been aware that since my life went nuts in Spring of 2001, I had been running hard with constant change and constant appoximations. I&#8217;d bolt from lifestyle to lifestyle to take advantage of opportunities, but if some of my soul got left behind on the way, so be it. So I needed a period of reflection, of catch-up, and reintegration.</p> <p>This turned out to be a volatile business, but I knew it would be, so I called it a mid-life crisis and went to down. I shook myself to pieces, digging for the truth, what had gone wrong, and what could be done to fix it.</p> <p>I came to two realizations, after many late nights putting pressure on my own conceputal understructure looking for weak points and dropped threads.</p> <ol> <li>My original work on poverty had become diluted by concerns like social collapse and disaster relief, both low death toll events in most cases. I needed to refocus.</li> <li>Hinduism no longer provided an adaquate support for the work, because the &#8220;caste dharmas&#8221; (social divisions of responsibility) did not include a supported position for people working on global issues. It&#8217;s thousands of years old, from before we had such power. It needs updated.</li> </ol> <p>Those are foundational realizations for me, things which go very deep into my whole life strategy. Neither is, I think, a fruitless error &#8211; they&#8217;re both in the manner of &#8220;had to try it to see if it worked, and 90% of it did&#8221; but, similarly, both are things which if I continue as if they are not there, will destroy me.</p> <p>I shook that out a couple of months ago. I went to Greece. I came back with giardia (bloody composting toilets on hippie communes) and got sorted out (thanks, NHS!). I came back to Ireland, got re-involved in the show here. Great, great things going on in <a href=>Cloughjordan</a>. I&#8217;m working with EdgeRyders again, on &#8220;<a href="">Living on the Edge 2</a>&#8221; in Brussels 6Dec to 9Dec 2012, and pitching a new concept called &#8220;<a href="">Venture Social Capital</a>&#8221; which attempts to have a community step in to do some of the work of VCs.</p> <p>Then I wrote a novel, at least a very substantial first draft, in 6 days. I consider it Utopian Cyberpunk Young-Adult Science Fantasy, which is to say it&#8217;s set around a family in 2040-2060 intersecting with war, magick, giant killer robots and true love in a future America, Africa and Orbital.</p> <p>The novel is called <a href=><b>Mother of Hydrogen</b></a> and it&#8217;s about gods and goddesses, ancient wisdom in the hypermodern world, and it&#8217;s utopian in that the human race is very substantially out of danger, albeit by the skin of its teeth.</p> <p>I want to publish it, to put into the same swirling bucket of text that shaped me so much as a young man &#8211; Sterling&#8217;s &#8220;Green Days in Brunei&#8221; indirectly fathered the hexayurt, for example. I&#8217;d like to pass something on. Ironically, The Chairman recently suggested I have kids (I asked him what I should do next, I&#8217;d been feeling very stuck) and&#8230; well&#8230; strange outcome. I committed fiction.</p> <p>I don&#8217;t know if publishers still really exist for first authors, or if everything is self-publish as an ebook and go 50 shades of grey if you&#8217;re lucky, I&#8217;ve been pulling on a few threads, trying to get a sense of the course. But the next thing to do is to get it into print in some accessible form, and go from there, I think.</p> <p>30k words to go, about half of that before-the-end filling in of descriptions and missing scenes, and half of that telling the rest of the end from everybody else&#8217;s points of view. It&#8217;s a bomb.</p> <p>But the story is substantially complete, and what has been revealed, said and done in it cannot be unmade, so we&#8217;ll see where it goes from here.</p> <p>I also have a mad inspiration that I need to consider going to work in video games &#8211; the perfect fusion of storytelling and technology, and an excellent point to consider accessing the medium of film through. That&#8217;s a challenge for another day, I don&#8217;t know how to get leverage on that yet.</p> <p>So that&#8217;s where I am. A month until 7Jan2013, at which I&#8217;ll be 41, and I&#8217;ll have had my year. I got a lot of it out of my system in previous years too.</p> <p>Not much else to do, really. Onwards.</p> <p><a href=";id=3207&amp;md5=a5a489f1a6f2b6aa3b9190abe7521e9a" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2012-12-01 Running out of mid-life crisis – quick, write a novel! <p>A Feather for Lifting Anvils &#8211; EdgeRyders 2.0 plans to change the world</p> <p>The <a href="">EdgeRyders community</a> has decided to take a crack solving the world&#8217;s problems by inventing a new collective structure: &#8220;Venture Social Capital.&#8221;</p> <p>The idea is to &#8220;finance&#8221; new positive, local projects using the collective power of an extended social network, with a commitment-based social structure to give us the ability to make decisions in a timely and business-like manner.</p> <p>In other words, we&#8217;re going into the banking business. Are you with us? We&#8217;re already staffing up!</p> <p><strong>1: What&#8217;s wrong with Capital?</strong><br /> The hardest part of doing things that have never been done before is finding the money. Ideas are, basically, cheap. There&#8217;s seven billion of us, two billion or so online, and with that many brains, seeing the &#8220;adjacent possible&#8221; &#8211; something doable, something close to where we are, but the next evolutionary forwards step &#8211; is as much a question of luck as talent; we&#8217;re in a position where the first step in innovation, the idea, is cheap. Our ability to imagine, to know, to mingle and network with people that provide us with the requisite diversity our minds require to have new ideas has far, far outstripped our ability to build things. We&#8217;ve got more possible forwards steps than we can take.</p> <p>This is a problem because our societies are wedging themselves up shit creek without a paddle, as Americans would say. They&#8217;re gutting their welfare states and social programs, deporting immigrants, talking about splitting up Europe and worse, wasting half of an entire generation&#8217;s talent in 40% youth unemployment areas. I&#8217;m 40, and I have absolutely no idea what I would do if I was 20 today. My generation, comparatively speaking, had it easy &#8211; paid to go to university, and 1989-2001 as more than a decade of stable(ish) peace(ish.) I&#8217;m not saying those were better times (less internet!) but they were easier times in the hard-cash roof-over-head sense.</p> <p>A lot of this catastrophic change in our societies has been driven by <strong>abusive capital</strong>. Governments have gotten cornered by enormous banks who, when their gambling at the International House of Dodgy Financial Instruments finally hit &#8220;00&#8243; and everything went back to the House, came back to the Government and said &#8220;If we go bankrupt, which by law we should, it&#8217;s going to eat your economic prosperity for a generation. Pay our debts!&#8221; What we have is a protection racket, where Capital has convinced Government that it needs to be taken care of more than People. As a result, our societies are leaving more and more of us high and dry. I&#8217;m 40, at an age when one starts to wonder about things like retirement, and I&#8217;m not at all convinced that there&#8217;s any store of wealth other than relationships and creation which has any chance of surviving this transformation in our societies.</p> <p>Capital, as it has been manifested so far, is poisonous.</p> <p><strong>2: What&#8217;s wrong with Society?</strong><br /> We are faced with two great challenges globally: poverty, and ecology. Poverty is simple: 7 billion people, 4 billion tooth-brushes, 2 billion flush toilets. One billion fat people, one billion people who are regularly hungry, both sides deprived of something they need to be healthy &#8211; exercise and meaning on one side, simple raw calories on the other. The world is a mess.</p> <p>Ecology is equally pressing, but more subtle. Huge loss of forests and sea life, climate destabilization &#8211; freak weather flooding cities, 28 years of &#8220;above average&#8221; temperatures, and good-times government subsidies for protecting the future which, as the banks imploded, were withdrawn to nurture Capital at the expense of the Planet. You could not do a worse job of managing a civilization without resorting to fascists or late Roman emperors: Golden Dawn and Berlusconi.</p> <p>But to change things means taking risks. New ideas, by virtue of being new, are untested unknowns. Innovation means failure, and recovering from failure means having something in reserve: Capital. You don&#8217;t (usually) finance the company with the money you needed to pay rent, because if return is not immediate and large, you&#8217;re homeless. Just when your society needs innovation most, to face adversity, Capital dries up, and you&#8217;re left the same behaviors that caused the problem, endlessly repeated because nobody will finance new thinking about the core issues. We get stuck.</p> <p>We think we have a solution.</p> <p><strong>3: A Plan: what can ordinary-extraordinary people do?</strong><br /> The brutal truth is that the crisis deprives us of access to Capital, without which we cannot innovate, because if the innovation does not immediately succeed, we&#8217;re homeless. A large scale culture of innovation requires a large scale culture of investment, and the money poured out of Education and Health into the banks is not returning to us in the form of access to investment. Our cultures are stuck.</p> <p>To get out of this cycle of decline, we need access to &#8220;Countercyclical Capital&#8221; &#8211; something which gets more available as economic conditions get worse. Fortunately, this kind of Capital exists &#8211; it&#8217;s called Human Capital. It&#8217;s talented people without jobs, without incomes, without fully-utilized talents. As the economy ceases to provide work or affordable education, people become idle, and that&#8217;s our reserve of Countercyclical Capital. We buck the trend!</p> <p>Our job, therefore, is to organize this Countercyclical Capital &#8211; that&#8217;s us, we under-financed masses, yearning to create &#8211; into a form which permits Countercyclical Investment. We form a social organization, like a labour union, which permits us to Collectivize our strengths, in a form which lets us change the way the world works for us and others. This improves our negotiating position, by making Talent powerful without access to (financial) Capital, and it might allow us to provide the much-needed innovation to help our societies out of their stuckness.</p> <p>It really is possible. There are examples.</p> <p><strong>4: Stepping out of the usual frame</strong><br /> Wikipedia&#8217;s a very, very good example of the combined power of Human Capital to change the world. We all use it every day, and it&#8217;s taking effective action on both poverty (poor people are using it too, all over the world!) and ecology (it&#8217;s saving huge numbers of trees on paper books.) People are working together to solve a real human problem &#8211; access to knowledge &#8211; and it&#8217;s improving all of our lives.</p> <p>There&#8217;s a tiny thread of financial capital &#8211; running the servers, say &#8211; but Wikipedia is a Human Capital enterprise. It shows what can be done.</p> <p>But what we want is sustainable livelihoods. While Wikipedia is great, sitting around all day and contributing to it is not going to put food on the table or buy Mom&#8217;s birthday presents. What we need is to use a similar kind of effect &#8211; a lot of volunteer labor, and a little financial capital &#8211; to solve the employment problem for all of us.</p> <p>In the process, we should have impact on the innovation gap that is threatening all of our futures, and thereby poverty and the ecological crisis too. It&#8217;s a tall order, but this is an age of miracles.</p> <p><strong>5: Building it</strong><br /> Here&#8217;s the idea: a volunteer driven &#8220;Venture Social Capital&#8221; fund.</p> <p>We all put in some time, energy and effort &#8211; we pre-commit resources &#8211; promising time and energy to that fund. A Board of Evaluators does what Venture Capitalists usually do &#8211; they evaluate projects, and give Capital &#8211; in this case, Human Capital or Social Capital &#8211; to get these projects off the ground.</p> <p>A funded project can then take their grant &#8211; of your and my time and resources &#8211; and ask for help. You come to me, and say &#8220;I&#8217;ve got an EdgeRyders grant for 40 hours of time and I was wondering if you could write something for me, Vinay?&#8221; and I say &#8220;well, I&#8217;ve got 6 hours on balance here, so yes, what do you need done?&#8221;</p> <p>When I&#8217;ve done all the hours I&#8217;ve promised to the EdgeRyders organization on one project or another, I&#8217;m done. I&#8217;ve paid my &#8220;membership dues&#8221; (like a union!) but, of course, if I feel like doing more voluntarily, I can. It&#8217;s that simple. But imagine how it could change life for innovators trying to get great new ideas off the ground if they could get 50 or 100 hours of free, skilled help at the most critical stages of their projects, helping lift the projects off the ground and creating sustainable employment for their founders, and more.</p> <p>We&#8217;re asking you for one day a year: 10 hours. We think we can get close to 1000 people to volunteer one day a year from the existing EdgeRyders network, and we hope the idea will go viral and become a common social form. If we all give a day a year, perhaps we can finance some of the innovation that neither the Banks or the State can manage, and turn some of this mess around.</p> <p>I&#8217;m in. I&#8217;ve given my day. Who needs me? What do you need me to do?</p> <p><a href=";id=3350&amp;md5=11a2c85b45a545e2121afc241b9ecf1c" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2012-11-26 A Feather for Lifting Anvils – EdgeRyders 2.0 plans to change the world <p><a href=""><img src="" alt="" title="meaning_screenshot" width="911" height="624" class="alignnone size-full wp-image-3193" /></a></p> <p>A couple of weeks ago, October 1st, I talked at the <a href=>Meaning Conference</a>. The good <a href=>Will McInnes</a>. Will invited me to give a talk at a <a href=>social business sessions</a> meetup in London, and I talked on the <a href=>Hexayurt Project and Social Capital</a>, and I guess Will wanted to see what I&#8217;d do with a broader stage!</p> <p>It was an incredible day. Packed: nine speakers, with several talks which were simply somebody&#8217;s core life&#8217;s work layed out on the table at full revelation exposure. I had no idea how I was going to handle following nearly last on top of a day like that. <a href=><b>All of the talks are online, too!</b></a></p> <p>Here are the <a href="">slides from my talk</a> (pdf.) The video has the slides, it&#8217;s really good.</p> <p>My twitter handle is <a href=>@Leashless</a>.</p> <p><iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe></p> <p>Here are some things I mention in my talk.</p> <ul> <li><b><a href=>The Future We Deserve</a></b>, our massively collaborative futures book project.</li> <li><a href=>The Hexayurt Project</a> <ul> <li><a href=>750 hexayurts at Burning Man 2012</a></li> <li>The <a href=>big hexayurt domes in practice</a> and <a href=>big hexayurt domes in theory.</a></li> </ul> </li> <li><a href=>The Exponential Function</a></li> <li><a href=>The falling cost of solar panels, equal to grid power by 2020</a> <li><a href=>Small is Profitable</a> was one of The Economist&#8217;s Books of the Year 2002, about energy economics. </li> <li><a href=>Dougald Hine</a> on the <a href=>social functions of money</a> from the <a href=>Collapsonomics tour of Ireland</a> series. I also did a talk there.</li> <li>Economists <ul> <li><a href=>Ronald Coase</a></li> <li><a href=,_Jr.>John Nash</a> of <a href=>A Beautiful Mind</a> fame</li> <li><a href=>Yochai Benkler</a> who wrote <a href=>The Wealth of Networks</a> which figures out what wealth looks like in the 21st century</li> </ul> </li> <li><a href=>The Goat Rodeo</a> theory of organizational disfunction, including the infamous Goat Rodeo Index for measuring such problems. </li> <li>Background Sources <ul> <li><a href="">Buckminster Fuller</a>, environmentalist, humanitarian and the original dome designer</li> <li><a href=>Mahatma Gandhi</a> who&#8217;s <a href="">21st century incarnation might work like this</a> </li> <li><a href=>The Unplugged</a> is a short mythic manifesto I wrote about combining <b>Gandhi&#8217;s goals, Fuller&#8217;s ends</b>. You may well enjoy, and it is short.</li> </ul> </li> <li><a href=>Resilience Maps</a> (Simple Critical Infrastructure Maps) and my old company, <a href=>Buttered Side Down</a> which focussed on European state failures</li> <li><a href="">W. Edwards Deming</a>, American quality control guru, and his <a href="">14 Points of Management</a> (point 8, &#8220;drive out fear!&#8221;)</li> <li>Valve Softare <ul> <li><a href=>Gabe Newell</a></li> <li><a href=>Valve&#8217;s profits per employee</a> exceed Google and Apple</a></li> <li><a href=>The Valve Employee Handbook</a></li> </ul> </li> <li><a href=>The Farm</a> are the folks who asked me about zero waste domes in the first place</li> <li>The Hexayurt Project team (in the order of the story, not alphabetical or in sequence) <ul> <li><a href=>Edmund Harriss</a> who invented the quad-dome</li> <li><a href=>Dylan Toymaker</a> who invented the H13 and other designs</li> <li><a href=>Jay Springett</a>, hexayurt activist about town, and <a href="">counter of hexayurts from the satellite pictures</a>. <li><a href=>Lucas Gonzaleze</a> who translates, documents and did the <a href="">epidemeological analysis of hexayurt growth trends at Burning Man</a></li> <li><a href=>Rasi Masri</a> who helps build hexayurts and does documentation, renderings and visualizations</li> <li><a href=>Julie Danger</a> who invented the Camp-Danger hinge, and makes great explanatory videos. <i>(I inexplicably missed Julie on the talk slides!)</i></li> <li>You! (and who else am I forgetting?)</li> </ul> </li> <li><b><a href=>The Future We Deserve</a></b>, our massively collaborative futures book project.</li> </ul> <p><a href=";id=3192&amp;md5=5130683952648d9345776d272f4b777e" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2012-10-19 Meaning: Plausible Utopias <p><i><font size=-1>(As usual you will need Firefox, Chrome or another HTML5 browser to see these videos, they are in OGG, a Free video format. Many thanks to <a href=>Christopher Brewster</a> who took me along to Greece and showed me the sites. Come to Chris&#8217;s <a href="">Disaster 2.0 hackathon</a> (<a href="!/search/realtime/%23h4d2">#h4d2</a>) in Birmingham 21th of September. I&#8217;ll be there.)</font></i></p> <p>=====</p> <p>Greece is amazing. There isn&#8217;t going to be a single blog post about it because pasting a unified narrative over a disjoint experience creates a simple problem: <i>the chief advantage of fiction over truth is that fiction has to make sense. (Mark Twain)</i> </p> <p>So let&#8217;s start with the videos where I talked to the Greeks, after two weeks of living in their country, seeing their fabulous rivers and archeological sacred sites, cruising by their cities and marvelling at the little differences, good and bad. There are two talks here: one from the <a href="">Athens Hackerspace</a>, and one at <a href="">Free and Real</a>&#8216;s <a href="">Telaithrion Project</a>. Both of these groups embody, at root, the possible structural solutions to the problems which plague Greece and the rest of the world: the reunification of Production and Consumption in an environment of global justice.</p> <p>As it was a special occasion, for a brief while, I wheeled out <a href="">The Big Gun</a> (Dark Mountain 2010), and talked about the poor and the transformation of the world as the internet pours into the villages. But that was in a context where Greeks are already returning to their villages, albeit to drink coffee and see relatives and wait for Athens to provide jobs so they can leave home again, rather than to farm. The prospect that the jobs will not come back crosses nobody&#8217;s mind: The Problem is the politicians, or the Germans, not the global supply chain which provided a boom for us at the cost of a permanent bust for those unlucky enough to live in &#8220;permacollapse&#8221; (permanent collapse) countries like most of Africa, or designated regions such as rural India.</p> <p>We also talked about the Chinese fascism embedded in all of our technological artifacts, the oppression of Chinese workers in an environment which bans unionization because you have the Communist Party for that, and the poor miners who slave away in Hell for dollars a day to harvest minerals for our 3G modems and cell phones.</p> <p>Free Software talks about the freedom of users, as in <a href="">Stallman&#8217;s Four Freedoms</a>. Free Hardware must talk about the freedom of everybody involved in the supply chain, not simply the freedom of end users.</p> <p>In Greece, they are no closer to the cliff and the fall than we are, the only difference is that they can see it.</p> <p><a name=1></a><br /> <b>So here are the highlights of the Athens Hackerspace talk</b></p> <p><video width="100%" controls="controls"><br /> <source src="" type="video/ogg" /><br /> Your browser does not support the video tag.<br /> </video></p> <p><a name=2></a><br /> <b>Here is the full talk</b>, with much discussion of SCIM, hexayurts, collapsonomics, what is the State, software to run nations and so on. Introductory and general, but a useful starting point</b></p> <p><video width="100%" controls="controls"><br /> <source src="" type="video/ogg" /><br /> Your browser does not support the video tag.<br /> </video></p> <p><a name=3></a><br /> <b>And here&#8217;s the talk I did at <a href=>Free and Real</a></b>, a rural and off-grid community high on the mountainous coasts, a four or five hour drive on twisting country lanes from Athens. There we were talking about the deep practicality of living in the hills, on your own infrastructure, on your own land, your own tools, your own resource. Amazing to deliver the theory to people living the practice, and to find that it aided, illuminated and made sense. I was delighted.</p> <p><video width="100%" controls="controls"><br /> <source src="" type="video/ogg" /><br /> Your browser does not support the video tag.<br /> </video></p> <p>Resources:<br /> You can <a href=>download the talks here.</a><br /> For some reason, Greeks love <a href=>Gridbeam</a> as a concept for furniture etc.<br /> <a href=></a> is the new home for Simple Critical Infrastructure Maps, the mapping technology with all the grids you&#8217;ll see in the videos.<br /> <a href=></a> comes up a couple of times &#8211; four new careers waiting for resilience activists.<br /> <a href=></a> is the Hexayurt Project site, again with many examples in the videos. I used <a href=>Razi Masri</a>&#8216;s visuals a lot in all three talks!<br /> <a href=>The Future We Deserve</a> is our collaborative futures book &#8211; you&#8217;ll love it!<br /> And finally, <a href=>this is me</a> and <a href=>this is an index of my work</a>.</p> <p>I hope you&#8217;ll find that useful.</p> <p>Vinay</p> <p><a href=";id=3178&amp;md5=b233dfad512e423d332f2f58a20362af" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2012-09-04 The start of a new day (Greece, September 2012) <p>It all started when I saw the <a href="">Jack Wolfskin Skylight.</a> I&#8217;d greatly enjoyed the superlative <a href=>Jack Wolfskin Weather Report Umbrella</a> while it was available, and I sometimes pop my head into the store to see if they have come back. </p> <p><a href=""><img src="" alt="" title="jack_wolfskin_skylight" width="100%" class="alignleft size-full wp-image-3162" /></a></p> <p>The Skylight weighs 1200 grams and is impossibly tiny. </p> <p>But let&#8217;s go back further, to Greece. In Greece, they have <a href=>malaria</a>. Malaria is a terrible disease, or perhaps family of diseases is a better description. Since the economic trouble there, malaria has come back, and many other horrible problems (HIV, drug resistant TB) are also sharply, terribly on the rise. I am afraid of malaria. I&#8217;m afraid of it because it&#8217;s just the kind of chronic withering disease to which I have fallen prey twice: chronic fatigue syndrome in my teens, and drug resistant walking pneumonia in my thirties. I&#8217;ve spent more than half of my life ill in some way or another. I am tasty to mosquitos etc, and I come out in itchy red bumps from minor bites, and I really don&#8217;t want to get malaria.</p> <p>So I&#8217;m looking at this tent, and considering my upcoming trip to Greece. It pitches without the fly, so just the netting protects you. You can just set up somewhere and lie safe from the bugs, and this is good. But it&#8217;s £200, and I found myself thinking&#8230; <i>goddamn that&#8217;s not a lot of living room</i> and more specifically three things are problems.</p> <ul> <li>The seams aren&#8217;t taped, There&#8217;s a tube of goop you have to apply yourself to waterproof the critical seams, and I hate that job. I never feel like I&#8217;m doing it right. That&#8217;s generally a sign of a cheap tent, too, and this is not a cheap tent</li> <li>It&#8217;s not <b>freestanding.</b> That means that the tent-pegs are integral to the stability of the tent: it falls over if you take the tentpegs out. Dome tents aren&#8217;t like that, and (while they are heavier) it also means you can pitch them on concrete or gravel kinda-sorta or move them around if you have to. Freestanding tents are much less of a pain in the ass to use in less-than-ideal conditions because their structural performance degrades gracefully, a semi-ok pitch, vs. non-freestanding tents which either work or fall over depending on the quality of your tentpeg placement.</li> <li>It&#8217;s sodding tiny, so you can&#8217;t sit up in it, and that&#8217;s a problem because I love to meditate in tents (and hexayurts) and that means half-lotus position and a straight spine. If I&#8217;m going to be spending £200 on a tent, I need half-lotus, thank you.</li> </ul> <p>Now, let me teach a little engineering. There&#8217;s a model in my head, of <a href=>Christopher</a>&#8216;s ghetto car camping ways: he sleeps rough, nothing ever bites him, and he has the constitution of a horse, if not an ox. I know I get bitten to hell under those cirucmstances, and there&#8217;s a vanishingly small chance (maybe 1 in 100,000 or less) of me getting malaria when I&#8217;m in Greece because of that. It&#8217;s probably less than half that. And I think &#8220;gravel by the side of roads&#8221; and various kind of not-tentpeg-friendly car-associated surfaces, and now I&#8217;m beginning to write a specification in my head, a spec.</p> <p>The tent I&#8217;m looking for should be</p> <ol> <li> a mesh inner tent, so it can screen from mosquitos etc. and other bugs without being suffocatingly hot. Should be possible to pitch mesh-only, without the flysheet.</li> <li>freestanding so it will tolerate bad pitch conditions</li> <li>possible to sit upright in for meditation</li> <li>as close to 1000g as possible, and tiny to boot</li> </ol> <p>Now I think about my dreams. I want to travel more, to see some of this world before air travel becomes too expensive, while I&#8217;m young enough to be mobile and a little foolish, and while I have a little money. And I realize that you could pitch a tent of tha spec inside of borrowed corners of a friend&#8217;s house or a hotel room or on a concrete balcony and be safe from biting insects, and this makes me happy, because I do not get along very well with insects, being Scottish, as well as Indian. And now <b>the spec</b> has turned into thing of dreams, a possibility, a range extender.</p> <p>It&#8217;s become something I must have, even though my plan for big travel is in trouble because of trouble getting paid for some work I did last year. And this may be a mistake, but it&#8217;s the hunger of engineering. And this is where the coincidence engine kicks in. The man I talk to about the Jack Wolfskin Skylight turns out to be a <a href=>ShelterBox</a> fundraiser in his spare time, he&#8217;s doing an event with them! He&#8217;s interested in humanitarian sheltering, and how&#8217;s that for a rarity in retail employees?! And so we&#8217;re talking about the hexayurt, and about my dreams of travel, and the years I spent on the road in America visiting my imagnary friends from the internet, and dreaming of home, and my very-dear-to-me two person <a href=>Walrus tent</a> that I bought on a freight train trip years ago because the tent that somebody else was supposed to have was too small, and there were, a, a common thread, mosquitos. But no malaria! And so one more link is forged, and who knows what conversations will come of it, and I leave the Jack Wolfskin store, thinking of <b>the spec</b>.</p> <p>This is what it is to be an engineer-human. It&#8217;s a reflex response to the world, and it means many things.</p> <p>So I go to the internet and do some research. There I discover three things.</p> <ul> <li>There are an enormous number of new technology tents which are <b>dramatically</b> lighter than I&#8217;m used to</li> <li>They range from reasonably priced to £600 or £700 quid</li> <li>They&#8217;re small and light enough to enable me to consider long backpacking trips in reasonable weather at 40 with a dodgy hip that may be rheumatoid arthritis</li> </ul> <p>The tech might enable me to do what I could not do otherwise, and a little hope glimmers.</p> <p>This is what it is to be an engineer. A machine changes who I am, and the right machine means a better me. <b>All engineers are cyborgs.</b></p> <p>So let&#8217;s run through some candidates.</p> <p><a href=""><img src="" alt="" title="marmot eos 1p tent" width="100%" class="alignnone size-full wp-image-3166" /></a></p> <p><a href=>Marmot Eos 1P £215</a> which is 1300 or 1400 grams, mostly mesh, freestanding and, critically, too small for me to sit up in because it narrows so quickly at the top that my head is wedged against the mesh. Beautiful piece of equipment, but fails <b>the spec</b> although it&#8217;s a much better candidate than the Jack Wolfskin Skylight, so now I&#8217;ve traded up. About the same money, more room, not much more weight, and critically a large vestibule (area inside the fly sheet but inside the tent body, as I had to explain to their staff!) which means your backpack stays dry.</p> <p><a href=""><img src="" alt="" title="the north face mica 1 tent" width="100%" class="alignnone size-full wp-image-3168" /></a></p> <p><a href=|froogle>The North Face Mica 1 £210</a> which has a clever asymetric pole arrangement and is freestanding with plenty of headroom, a large vestibule, light at 1500 or 1300 grams, and mesh on one door only, giving no cross-ventilation and more-or-less completely rending it unfit for use in hot climates if general tent performance is true in this case. Why do designers do this, even now, I don&#8217;t know. Well, I do, and we&#8217;ll discuss that in a minute, but moving swiftly on.</p> <p><a href=""><img src="" alt="" title="blacks apex octane tent" width="100%" class="alignnone size-full wp-image-3170" /></a></p> <p><a href=>Black&#8217;s Apex Octane £60 down from £150</a> is almost identical in basic design philosophy to the Marmot Eos 1P but not freestanding. The same big hoop, the same big vestibule (even bigger in this case) but with 600 points to guy down to make it work. And almost certainly not enough room to sit up in, for the same reason, but I could not test this because Blacks couldn&#8217;t get enough space to put the tent up properly with the long guylines etc. At 1700g it&#8217;s a little heavier, but also a little larger. Probably a superb piece of equipment, and certainly a superb price. I felt like giving one as a gift, but had nobody in mind at that moment.</p> <p><a href=""><img src="" alt="" title="msr hubba hp tent" width="100%" class="alignnone size-full wp-image-3171" /></a></p> <p><a href=""><img src="" alt="" title="msr hubba tent" width="100%" class="alignnone size-full wp-image-3172" /></a></p> <p><a href=>MSR Hubba £320</a> is brutally expensive, but 1300g, MSR and perfect except for one problem. In the UK,they sell the MSR Hubba HP which is the version of the Hubba without any bloody mesh, because we&#8217;re a cold climate camping environment. But I&#8217;m camping in Greece, and need the other one, and generally speaking prefer more ventilation and more clothes in tents. Nothing worse than a muggy tent! The MSR Hubba <b>meets the spec</b> and is mail-order for about £200, as well, which is probably how this will go.</p> <p><a href=""><img src="" alt="" title="vango helium 200 tent" width="100%" class="alignnone size-full wp-image-3173" /></a></p> <p><a href=>Vango Helim 200 £250</a> which is another of these single hoop jobs, but the hoop runs in the other direction, cross the body of the tent, not down it. Tons of space, a two person tent at 1300g with superb use of tensile materials and ultra-light poles. Just, just talk enough to sit down in, I seriously considered this as the best designed tent I saw today, but it requires a ton of guy ropes and pegs to be stable, which is the price you pay for this kind of space-and-weight performance. A marvelous object. But not a lot of mesh, and therefore another day&#8217;s device. The chap in the store who showed me this tent was a physicist with a strong interest in designing outdoor equipment, and he may take on a hexayurt-related project with me. Such is the mystery of my occasional quests for objects: the hexayurt pervades the space, for both the Shelterbox contact and this one. Who&#8217;s to say how such coincidences factor into the wider picture of things, eh? There are many other tents of almost exactly this design too, but this is the lightest of them within this approximate price range.</p> <p><a href=""><img src="" alt="" title="big agnes seedhouse sp1 tent" width="100%" class="alignnone size-full wp-image-3174" /></a></p> <p><a href=>Big Agnes Seedhouse SL1 about £200 online</a> looks superb, hits the spec, and is 1100g stripped. Unfortunately nobody in London stocks them, and I can&#8217;t quite tell if I&#8217;d hit my head off the inside or not because there&#8217;s less than two inches in it as far as I can see. An absolutely superb piece of gear that I probably can&#8217;t buy because I can&#8217;t actually evaluate it.</p> <p>There&#8217;s a ton of additional tents very close to these numbers. Hilleberg in one direction, and GoLite etc in the other. You can pay £100 less for a two person tent at 2500g or 3000g and that&#8217;s also a very good idea, but that weight difference is as much as my laptop weighs, and I don&#8217;t intend to take it camping, so&#8230; there&#8217;s a role for the &#8220;weighs as much as a full nalgene bottle&#8221; tent which a bigger, better, heavier tent simply does not fill.</p> <p>What I realized was that I spent nearly two days thinking about this, and did not usefully write down what I had learned for other people, so that those searching for information on tents might be able to see an analysis from a slightly different direction, both the questions, but also the reasons for asking them, in one place, crosscutting across the technologies offered. Engineering.</p> <p>Searching for conformity to The Spec is a huge part of what engineers do. Discovering the new spec is a designer&#8217;s question, in essence. When you combine these functions, with a sharp eye, good search terms and time, <i>you can find almost anything in a Capitalist material paradise</i> if you have the time to analyze and the money to spend.</p> <p>Crap design survives because people without the time to do the analysis buy a brand name item on the basis of reading at most one or two competing reviews, and that&#8217;s the full extent of their winnowing of wheat from chaff. </p> <p>I spent three years in the UK not carrying a pen-knife because I could not find one that I could carry without worrying about cutting myself because I&#8217;d gotten so used to US-style lockknives that I didn&#8217;t trust myself not to gash a finger unconsciously treating a folding knife as if it had a stable blade. I finally <a href=>solved that problem</a> but it stayed as an unsatisfactory open question for three years.</p> <p>Lest this all seem like frippery, I carred the open spec which was unsatisfied until I invented <a href=>the hexayurt</a> for six years until I invented the solution, and I carred the open spec which became the <a href=>hexayurt quad-dome</a> for fifteen years until <a href=>Edmund Harriss</a> solved it. These are not trivial questions or processes, it&#8217;s this attention to detail and creative flux around creating and satisfying specifications which is the main creative engine of my working life.</p> <p>I&#8217;m not just buying a tent, I&#8217;m learning what tents are so that I can decide on a good one and, perhaps, one day design something better. This is a practice, and it&#8217;s what we should teach young people if we want the next generation to build better things. You have to be an analyst to create effectively, particularly in a high tech world driven by discontinuous change in fundamental materials and manufacturing processes.</p> <p>Try it yourself: break some question out into a spec and a search, and see how it changes your buying behavior.</p> <p><a href=";id=3161&amp;md5=68479e8fa2981bf9fe5475e4c1d7fac1" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2012-08-04 One person tents – an engineering consideration <p>It started when I put up <a href=>The Gupta Store</a> (mostly Electronics and <a href=>Outdoors</a> plus a whole pile of goodies <a href=>not on amazon</a> which I simply indexed.) The Gupta Store was an idea I&#8217;d originally passed off as a gag, before <a href=>Mark Charmer</a> and <a href=>Ben Vickers</a> convinced me to think about it more seriously. I was on a bit of a wild hare tonight, having had an incredibly good day hanging out with <a href=>Rick Falkvinge</a> so I though&#8230; &#8220;I wonder how much of this gear is on Amazon?&#8221; &#8211; the answer is not all of it, but quite a bit. <a href=>Most of the rest I put here</a> at the main Gupta Store URL.</p> <p>And then I got The Fear.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-in-reply-to="218439025378344960"><p>@<a href="">leashless</a> A tweet-length reason explaining &#8220;why this&#8217;ll be critical in a collapse scenario&#8221; for each product would be great.</p> <p>&mdash; Jonathan Deamer (@JonathanDeamer) <a href="" data-datetime="2012-06-28T20:26:36+00:00">June 28, 2012</a></p></blockquote> <p><script src="//" charset="utf-8"></script></p> <p>Because, the truth is that what you need for a &#8220;collapse scenario&#8221; is&#8230; well, there&#8217;s four things, really.</p> <p>1> A month of food for everybody in your house, and more if you can manage it.</p> <p>2> A bottle of chlorine bleach for purifying water (look up how online) and cleaning.</p> <p>3> A three month or longer pre-order of any medications you and your family require.</p> <p>4> A shit-ton of luck.</p> <p>Because those first three get you through a short, short crisis &#8211; software errors fuck up the entire banking network, or there&#8217;s a run on the banks and the government turns it around. The multi-year prolonged Soviet-style collapse which many of us fear is a whole different ballgame. People talk farmland or owning a house and gardening in the back yard for food, and that&#8217;s all good advice, but not many people have that organized. And there&#8217;s The Fear.</p> <p>This is really happening, at least in Greece. Spain, Italy may follow. America&#8230; is simmering; while all eyes are on Europe, the Dollar cracks quietly in the background as faith in the governance of the US fades. There are all kinds of places you can &#8220;go survivalist&#8221; but there&#8217;s no substitute for a simple truth: you&#8217;re going to miss that warm, comforting industrial supply chain if it wobbles, and right now it&#8217;s looking pretty shaky.</p> <p>The Gupta Store was a bit of fun, a place to talk about design, about paying attention to breakthroughs in how things are made and how fundamental industrial technologies are changing. But it&#8217;s also a place to consider a different question: if society gets shaky, how much more than this are you going to need?</p> <p><a href=>Dealing in Security</a> is a method for thinking about what you actually need in real detail. It&#8217;s part of the <a href=>Gupta State Failure Management Archive</a>. Try the two talks in the archive which were done in Ireland. </p> <p><a href=";id=3153&amp;md5=67ff924b861c16d022807c4464fda750" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2012-06-28 I am afraid <p>Pretty tough to make war on the people who supply 10% of your grid power. How much harder if it was 50%.</p> <p>========</p> <p>Syria has faced a chorus of criticism over its eight-month crackdown on opposition protesters that has left, according to sources reporting to the U.N., at least 3,500 people dead. The regime is showing no indication it will soften its position, so will President Bashar al-Assad be open to any outside influence?</p> <p>Who is criticizing Syria?</p> <p>Many Western powers, notably the United States, Britain and France have condemned Syria&#8217;s brutal crackdown. The regime shrugged off that criticism, but in a surprise move, 18 of the Arab League&#8217;s 22 members voted on November 12 to suspend Damascus&#8217; membership of the alliance.</p> <p>On Monday Jordan&#8217;s King Abdullah said he would step down if he were al-Assad, a statement observers interpreted as a call for the Syrian president to do just that.</p> <p><strong>Turkey also added to the pressure Tuesday, threatening to cut off power supplies if Syria did not change course.<br /> </strong></p> <p>This criticism from regional neighbors previously considered allies is a stinging blow to al-Assad, according to Professor Fawaz Gerges, Professor of Middle Eastern Politics and International Relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science.</p> <p>&#8220;Externally Syria is now more isolated than ever,&#8221; Gerges told CNN. &#8220;The noose is now tightening around the neck of the regime. The loss of Turkey is a huge blow: not only are the two countries important trading partners but al-Assad and Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan used to be friends &#8212; they even took vacations together. This was not just a political relationship &#8212; it was one based on tremendous potential between the two countries.&#8221;</p> <p>The Arab League&#8217;s move though was the biggest shock. Gerges said its decision to suspend Syria was a &#8220;game-changer,&#8221; as Syria portrays itself as the &#8220;beating heart of Arab nationalism.&#8221; Consequently &#8220;the Arab League&#8217;s decision resonates hugely among the Syrian people,&#8221; Gerges said.</p> <p>Will Syria listen to any of this external criticism?</p> <p><a href=""></a></p> <p><a href=";id=3141&amp;md5=a45859b3b359282c4bdbdc3952dcd04d" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2012-06-25 Syria is shooting down Turkish planes… and using their grid power <p><i><font colour=grey size=-1>(crossposted from <a href=>EdgeRyders</a>)</font></i></p> <p>The video is compressing in the other window. White characters on a black background, the cryptic commands chained one after another feeding the files through the process.</p> <p>avconv -i DSCN5430.MOV -vcodec libtheora -vb 384k -acodec libvorbis -vol 512 -ab 128k DSCN5430.MOV.ogg</p> <p>Lots of clips of our teams at work, speeches given and jokes told.</p> <p>Video compression is political. I started to use these tools because, actually, they did what I wanted (simplewith, crude, basic video processing) better than the equivalent toolkit on the mac, Quicktime and iMovie. They kept changing iMovie around &#8211; much-valued features disappeared between releases to be replaced by ever-simpler, ever-easier kit. Always the lure of the pro-gear, too.</p> <p>Stallman dropped the hammer on me personally: &#8220;do not require your users to use Flash, it is spyware.&#8221; Right, right&#8230; the irony of making videos about political freedom, and then requiring people to use corporate software which logs everything they see, was not lost on me. I love and respect Stallman, and while everything they say about him is probably true (he is, after all, profoundly developmentally disadvantaged by something in the general direction of autism) there is no denying that he is a hero of the human race, a myrmidon of the future, who freed our Software and our Knowledge by creating the GNU software license and inspiring WIkipedia (which he hardy ever claims credit for.) Alas, like Gandhi, he&#8217;s impossible to follow in all things, but making videos about Freedom requiring non-Free tools landed. I stopped.</p> <p>I have three videos I want to show you. The first is the well known &#8220;Vinay Gupta at Dark Mountain, Time to Stop Pretending?&#8221; film. I&#8217;m rather haunted by this because it was a moment of almost unbearable focus and purity-of-intention. I knew when I stepped up on stage that I was speaking for posterity, with clear sight and firm conviction, as if looking from an ascended position on a mountain. I wasn&#8217;t right again for about six weeks afterwards, the shock of tangible action at that level was so large. I know how to live up there all the time, but it comes with costs: it completely destroys your ability to relate to other human beings as equals. They&#8217;re staring up at you across 600m of altitude, you feel you&#8217;re looking them straight in the eye, and it&#8217;s a disaster. Guru-land.</p> <p><video width="100%" controls="controls"><br /> <source src="" type="video/ogg" /><br /> Your browser does not support the video tag.<br /> </video></p> <p><strong><a href="" target="_blank">TIME TO STOP PRETENDING, Uncivilization, 2010. (10m .ogg format)</a></strong> (this link will work on Firefox and Chrome, but not Safari)</p> <p>So then we get to something a little harder.</p> <p>This is the Black Briefing, at least a civilian edition of it. It&#8217;s a brutally frank examination of the psychological forces which give rise to fascist leadership, and the risks of seeing this in a European setting in response to the financial collapse. At Dark Mountain, the audience was a heavily left-green collapse-oriented group, coming together because of isolation in their gloom. At EdgeRyders, the group was young people (and quite a few formerly-young people like me) pushing hard for a better future for each-other, ourselves, and the continent.</p> <p>At this point in proceedings, we&#8217;d had two days of Proper Conference. Senior dignities and notables addressed the audience, members of the audience addressed the group in dialogue with the same, and there were only occasional flashes of &#8220;teeth&#8221; as somebody broke the polite rules of engagement and said &#8220;excuse me, but in my country, we are screwed&#8221; or, perhaps, said &#8220;but I think that 2 million empty houses should, perhaps, be reallocated to five million unemployed young people? How might we arrange that?&#8221; followed by the polite tittering of fear which accompanies any vision of putting pressure on existing property rights.</p> <p>The Fear is very real. As I said in <strong>&#8220;<a href="">Europe is at risk of War</a>&#8220;</strong> on the EdgeRyders site, The Council of Europe and the European Union were created to prevent a continuation of a thousand years of war. To see them in trouble is to fear the problem they were created to solve will return, refreshed and rearmed, to plague the future.</p> <p>I did not take the stage during the conference, nor during the first day of the unconference. I was waiting to see what happened, where the energy fell, what people really wanted to talk about. I can be, as Alberto Cottia observed, quite the showman, and I did not want to distort what was happening organically with that kind of attitude, not until I&#8217;d gotten a clear sense of momentums. I&#8217;m trying here to paint a picture of a political decision making process that I went through before deciding to act, and how. I can&#8217;t tell you what EdgeRyders was like &#8211; you had to be there, and, in fact, you had to be there as every individual present! Everybody had their own trip, together, and I suspect the take-aways will be extremely diverse.</p> <p>So in the Black Briefing, I explained how people treat each-other and see each-other in different kinds of scenarios, with exposure to different kinds of anticipated pressures from the future. I discussed trade network theory, and the implications for civil war, rebellion and revolt. I explained something about nuclear weapons and space travel, and I tied a pretty bow on it. &#8220;This is for you, this is your problem now.&#8221;</p> <p><video width="100%" controls="controls"><br /> <source src="" type="video/ogg" /><br /> Your browser does not support the video tag.<br /> </video><br /> <strong><a href="" target="_blank">THE BLACK BRIEFING, EDGECAMP 2012 (40m .ogg format)</a></strong></p> <p>I did this in the last hours of the Unconference as an attempt to add what had been left out, to broaden and deepen the discourse, outside of the immediate political problems, but to address the issues too high, too nasty and too long to get at inside of a more general environment. If I&#8217;d stood up on Thursday morning in the first session at the Plenary Microphone and had 20 minutes with the crowd, I could have set an agenda which would have got most of the organizers burned at the stake. I kept silent and waited, a bit of action here and there on the back channel, precisely because field-muddy combat boots go very poorly when banged upon the desk of State. And this is the split, really, that we have two &#8220;fields of the possible&#8221; &#8211; the possible in which all the Council of Europe&#8217;s promises are met without violating what are currently perceived to be fundamental property rights among property owners, and the future in which &#8220;we must eat the rich to survive&#8221; which is scattered in different balkanized islands of reluctance to accept that the old are automatically better off than the young, because they bought houses when it was cheap.</p> <p>On my return to London, I did a talk at <a href="">Will McInnes</a>&#8216;s <a href="">Social Business Session</a> at the beautiful new Mozilla London offices. And there, really, freed from expectations, with a small group of people to talk to, I finally felt free enough to speak my mind.</p> <p><video width="100%" controls="controls"><br /> <source src="" type="video/ogg" /><br /> Your browser does not support the video tag.<br /> </video><br /> <strong><a href="" target="_blank">SOCIAL CAPITAL AND THE HEXAYURT PROJECT (20m .ogg)</a></strong></p> <p><strong>This was a lesson to me: the freedom to really get down to what is important is hard to create within pre-existing political spaces.</strong></p> <p>In that talk, on return from Strasbourg, I started blank slate at the highest top-down level and worked through to a conclusion, elbows clear. And it was, frankly, a much better, more penetrating and more useful thing than the Black Briefing. The freedom from constraint and expectation is crucial to finding new ways of seeing. We need to create contexts within which we can tell the truth to each-other about what is happening, and about our world/s. Getting enough elbow-room for people to meet on the level, without a straitjacket of goals and expectations, to see clearly together what is and what must be done, this has to be our goal.</p> <p>The EdgeRyders conference was probably as far as the Council of Europe could stretch, and it was without-a-doubt the best Open Government flavoured event I&#8217;ve yet heard of. It was a spectacular success in their terms.</p> <p>The <a href="">EdgeCamp</a> unconference (which I first suggested, and which <a href="">Francis</a>, Stephane, Yann, Noemi, Malcolm and Nadia planned, organized, hosted and executed) was a spectacular success and was, without-a-doubt the best Open Everything flavoured event that I&#8217;ve yet heard of. It was a spectacular success on those terms. Getting to spend days with<a href=""> Lucas Gonzalez</a>, who&#8217;s been my daily collaborator for about six years, and who I only met for the first time at<a href="">Living on the Edge</a>&#8230; was profoundly amazing.</p> <p>But I found myself sitting in the middle of both events feeling constrained because the mental frame embedded in the events is just too narrow to even conceptualize the problem/solution space in which we find ourselves embedded.</p> <p>Council of Europe frames the problems as softening the damage economic blows cause to culture, and seeking to defend us from those blows in the first place. The EdgeCamp vibe was very much about figuring out why those blows were landing in the first place (analysis sessions on banking and politics) and architecting a comprehensive social-political response to them. But the awareness of gigantic Post-Imperial Cultural Privilege, the awareness of poverty and massive environmental constriction, did not form the backbone awareness of either group at the time.</p> <p>I&#8217;ve been trying to find a secular platform which would allow me to speak as freely and as intensely about the problems of the day as I did at the first Dark Mountain talk when, without a doubt, I said what was on my mind. I get lost in the fractal details of political speech, trying to go to people where they are and deliver a message they will find valuable and can use, without demonizing any side of the destructive equilibrium we are locked in. But my politics are, god damn it, Sacred Politics. I don&#8217;t believe we can solve these problems at the same level of thinking that created them, and you only need to look to the Transhumanists to see just how aggressively weird the future we are moving into might become. You need massive, massive headroom to content with this kind of situation, and that headroom is not present either in the Institutions of Old Europe (where you have every right to not expect it &#8211; these things govern, they don&#8217;t tell fortunes with cards!) or in the rhetoric of the politically aware young, still dismayingly hashing out century-old refracted reflections of Marx and Kropotkin as we burst through into a post-scarcity environment in some areas, and a Total Scarcity environment in others.</p> <p><strong>I&#8217;ve seen, I believe, the best that the Institutions have to offer, and the best the Networks have to offer, at EdgeRyders and EdgeCamp.</strong></p> <p>It&#8217;s not enough. I need a bit of time to think about how to frame what might be enough, and perhaps to plan-and-execute a beta-test meeting (ah, <a href="">Bembo Davies</a>, you devil&#8230; the Perfect Human Meeting haunts me still!) but what I&#8217;m left with at the end of the process is a simple fact: we did not generate enough leverage to make a decisive mark on the landscape at an incredibly decisive window in history. We exceeded all reasonable expectations in terms of incremental change, but our problems are step-functions and our responses are analogue waves. <strong>Given the severity of the situation, we need more.</strong></p> <p>I can&#8217;t say more of what that &#8220;more&#8221; is yet. I think we need slightly more formal orientation processes based around statistical and scientific data before people start. I think we need better use of online time before meetings to build bridges and understand each-other&#8217;s point of view before the show. I think, too, that we need money &#8211; a pot of a few hundred thousand euros that such a meeting might control to actually fund proposal-writing and micro-projects coming out of such courses of action.</p> <p>In short, we need to up the tempo of action to keep pace with the times. The next time we do this EdgeRyders thing, let&#8217;s aim to walk out not having changed ourselves, but having changed the world.</p> <p>There is a strange melancholy at seeing such a gathering of beautiful people chipping away at these problems, sometimes with explosive force, and saying &#8220;yes, but all together, it is not enough.&#8221; When you start measuring our impacts against the actual size of the problems, it becomes clear we have to break the old frames to get enough leverage to effect change.</p> <p><strong>We have done as well as any group of human beings has ever done with these tools, and it is not enough.</strong></p> <p><strong>We need new tools which deploy solutions at the same speed and scale as the real problems, not to sit around telling people how great our kit is while all the time living inside of the reality-gap.</strong></p> <p><strong>Time for change.</strong></p> <p>We are going to need to get much, much better at this process to get through the next ten years. The urgency is very, very real.</p> <p><a href=";id=3136&amp;md5=dc8fdb7de6fe2152b9f107a3a070c7ef" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2012-06-24 The Strange Melancholy of the Beautiful People at Work <p><b>I&#8217;ve just come back from a 10 day extravaganza in Helsinki, Finland and Tallinn, Estonia.</b> </p> <p>It all started with the lovely people from Pixelache invited me to do a <a href="">keynote for their digital culture festival</a>. We built a <a href=",hexayurt/Interesting">hexayurt sauna</a>, of course! I was kindly hosted by the <a href="">Helsinki Fablab</a> folks.</p> <p><a href="" title="2012-05-11-IMG_1830.CR2 by anttia, on Flickr"><img src="" width="500" height="333" alt="2012-05-11-IMG_1830.CR2"></a></p> <p>Then I went to Tallinn, Estonia to do a talk for <a href="">Ptarmigan on Infrastructure-centric politics</a>. I also did a very, very funny (drunken) podcast, Slothrop&#8217;s Screaming Sky, a <a href="">Tallinn bookstore&#8217;s</a> podcast series. You can hear me and the guys <a href="">here</a> and <a href="">here</a>. It&#8217;s pretty demented. I love their habit of listening to the podcast and putting up a list of all the items mentioned as hyperlink references. That&#8217;s excellent practice. Hy and Binx do beautiful work.</p> <p>The <a href=>Helicam aerial cinematography</a> folks let me fly their drone simulator and try to fly a trainer drone, and <a href=>stood me in front of a RED cinema camera</a> which just goes to show that I look incredibly lifelike in 5K format! They actually fly REDs off an octocopter. It&#8217;s insane.</p> <p>Then I came back to Helsinki, visited with the <a href=;channel=fs&#038;q=kuori+hexayurt&#038;oe=utf-8&#038;gl=uk&#038;um=1&#038;ie=UTF-8&#038;hl=en&#038;tbm=isch&#038;source=og&#038;sa=N&#038;tab=wi&#038;ei=QVe9T7CcL4LG8gPhrYBG&#038;biw=1024&#038;bih=512&#038;sei=SVe9T9SICtPv8QO9_YxN>Kuori Hexayurt Gallery</a> folks, hung out a bit with Occupy, and came home.</p> <p>Here are my pictures from the trip.</p> <p><embed type="application/x-shockwave-flash" src="" width="600" height="400" flashvars=";captions=1&#038;hl=en_US&#038;feat=flashalbum&#038;RGB=0x000000&#038;" pluginspage=""></embed></p> <p>Here&#8217;s the talk I did in Helsinki on why the Government can&#8217;t get organized, but the People can.<br /> <video width="100%" controls="controls"><br /> <source src="" type="video/ogg" /><br /> View in Firefox or Chrome please.<br /> </video><br /> <a href=>Slides and .ogg video download</a></p> <p>Here&#8217;s the talk I did in Tallinn on infrastructure-centric politics and a new economic geography for the 21st century.<br /> <video width="100%" controls="controls"><br /> <source src="" type="video/ogg" /><br /> View in Firefox or Chrome please.<br /> </video><br /> <a href=>Slides and .ogg video download</a></p> <p>You&#8217;ll probably want to download the videos for those talks rather than watching them in-browser. The talks are about an hour long. I&#8217;ve tried to upload them to blip but its not playing ball tonight.</p> <p>So that was my vacation. It was insane, I loved every minute of it, and I hope you get to meet some of these fabulous people. I&#8217;m amazed by the culture that&#8217;s brewing in Tallinn, and Helsinki is, without any shadow of a doubt, a summer paradise.</p> <p><i>PS: I&#8217;ve identified folks by project rather than by person because, well, they&#8217;re kinda private up north.</i></p> <p><a href=";id=3132&amp;md5=afb4fe10cd7fab8003d9238e5b202f43" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2012-05-23 My Summer Holidays – 10 days in Helsinki, Finland and Tallinn, Estonia <p>An absolutely exceptional night of live music from <a href="">Marmaduke Dando</a>, <a href=>The Murder Barn</a>, and <a href=>Will Miles</a>, our host. I&#8217;ve presented the songs in running order, except for the first Murder Barn song which is just&#8230; the one for all the right (and wrong!) reasons.</p> <p><iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe></p> <p>And there&#8217;s more!</p> <p><iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe></p> <p><iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe></p> <p><iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe></p> <p><iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe></p> <p>I always feel a bit bad shooting music on a DSLR rather than on a Zoom Q3 but I didn&#8217;t have the right camera with me. The audio quality is acceptable, but you&#8217;ll want to play things pretty damn loud to get any sense of how the room felt.</p> <p>One of the best evenings of intimate live music I&#8217;ve ever seen. We should do this again. Can we get <a href=>Andrew Clarke</a> out to the next one?</p> <p>Rock.</p> <p>Oh, and the music was so good I almost neglected to mention the stew which was, and I say this to you as a fat man, <i><b>excellent</b></i>. More of that too.</p> <p>Musicians &#8211; song titles in the comments and I&#8217;ll update things.</p> <p><a href=""><img src="" alt="" title="DSCN4948" width="225" height="300" class="alignleft size-medium wp-image-3127" /></a></p> <p><a href=""><img src="" alt="" title="gaia_marcus__marmaduke_dando" width="100%" class="alignleft size-full wp-image-3129" /></a></p> <p><a href=";id=3124&amp;md5=d7f0452a70cc789b9978394ccb4f169d" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2012-05-08 Papa Bill’s Stew-Stick Jam – pub paradise <p>I am thinking of <a href=><i>going walkabout</i></a>. Virgin have a <b><a href=>round the world air ticket</a></b> which gives 29,000 air miles for a bit over a thousand pounds. Enormous flexibility, you can do damn near anything their network goes, and while some serious craft is required on the booking front (so much choice) the deal is Pretty Good.</p> <p>Why? I don&#8217;t know. I can&#8217;t seem to get settled anywhere in the world. I was happiest wandering in America, backpack and social network, occasionally spending weeks camping alone in the back country, the infamous hobo sections, Burning Man, the world. I am a traveller. </p> <p>But although I&#8217;ve crawled over many, many inches of America (sometimes literally) I&#8217;ve never done the rest of the world &#8211; didn&#8217;t get to Africa, only a touch of South America, haven&#8217;t been to India since I was three. Even my Europe is pretty limited! And then there&#8217;s China to consider.</p> <p>To simply pick up and go, repack the life into a carry on bag, and take off. I suspect I could pick up quite a bit of perspective along the way, maybe make some notes for a book, meet a lot of interesting people.</p> <p>I&#8217;m failing to ground in London, and while I love Ireland, it&#8217;s cold. I&#8217;m going to head back there for the summer 90% odds, but I&#8217;m not wintering in a cold country this year, it&#8217;s just not good for me.</p> <p>So it may be time to take the show on the road, go see some of the world, and learn what&#8217;s out there. </p> <p>I really want to go.</p> <p>There&#8217;s also a certain &#8220;last chance to see&#8221; quality to a lot of this, too, that the world won&#8217;t look this way long, and I&#8217;d like to have seen these places before gas gets too expensive, I get too old, and life gets too complicated. And I travel well. </p> <p>Perhaps its time.</p> <p><a href=";id=3121&amp;md5=befead3487bda887e14ff61abe60a0b0" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2012-03-28 Going walkabout <p>I have now spent ten years as an unpaid <a href=>employee</a> of an invisible global government: the government-in-exile of the well-intentioned survivors of the <a href=>Crew of Spaceship Earth</a>.</p> <p>The crew of Spaceship Earth are largely holed up in Engineering and down to the last rations, occasionally losing members to bloody, fruitless combat with passengers who believe that any interruption to their Vacation Cruise because of minor contingencies like hitting an asteroid or breaking the lifesupport system should be treated as a grave mortal threat and met with violence.</p> <p>I&#8217;d like you ask you to consider rerouting some of your productive capacity to taking the actions necessary for the continuation of the human species, and the continued existence of all life on this planet. The social structures we used to use to organize these goals have always basically sucked, but it did not matter very much until we invented atomic bombs and started to scour the earth and pollute the skies. Now we are in <b><i>urgent need</i></b> of an immediate cessation of destructive activites, and as many as a third of the passengers are in urgent need of medical assistance or resupply and that number is expected to rise sharply if fighting breaks out about forthcoming problems in ration supplies and energy availability.</p> <p>There are several plausible strategies for an immediate cessation of hostilities between passengers and crew, and indeed between passengers and passengers. You could implement realistic pricing within the market economy, using government action to make what is irreplaceable simply unaffordable. You could implement a green planned economy in socialist states. <i>But the surging mass of humanity believes itself to be in a position that it is not: a position where the future will be better than the past, and where one&#8217;s children or one&#8217;s children&#8217;s children will live in a substantially better manner to than we do now.</i></p> <p>The reverse is likely true. Structural damage to lifesupport and teeming population mean the yield of natural resources supporting our species is dropping sharply as our population rises. What can be scavenged from the surface or by digging up areas of the ship has been made use of, and is a steadily less productive activity. In short, things may well be largely worse rather than better without action.</p> <p>The so-called Deck Courts are small local jurisdictions on many decks, claimed by bands of passengers attempting to keep order, enforcing laws which protect only the interests of inhabitants of that deck.</p> <p>However, these Deck Courts are making many areas inaccessible to engineering, and inter-deck rivalries are squandering yet more of our precious capacity, talent and resources on action which not only will not protect the ship, but reduces all of our chances of survival. Worse still, armed Ship Security personnel have become embroiled in these fruitless conflicts, which presents a danger to all passengers and crew. Heavy weapons intended for ship defence are unsuitable for settling political issues between passengers.</p> <p>Please attempt to support the action of Engineering to restore adequate life support to all passengers, raise the shields, restore navigation and ensure our flightpath is safe.</p> <p>A word of advice to our younger passengers. This is a <b>generation ship</b>. You were born on it, and most of you or all of you will die on it, eventually. For us to lose life support and become a meaningless husk without navigation, crewed only by a few passengers in isolated pockets of air is an unworthy end for emissaries of life.</p> <p>Do not allow the old to bury the young.</p> <p>The time has come to start working backwards from the future we choose, rather than simply managing our day-to-day affairs in fits of expediency. There is simply no point in being the most popular passenger on a morgue ship. It is necessary to clearly envisage a future in which life support has been restored to all passengers, and we are safely on our way into the future, together.</p> <p>It is clear that with these goals in mind, practically all of our pre-existing expedient political structures are irrelevant. They simply do not have the necessary mandates to undertake the work at hand: a 4 year popularity contest cycle for leadership of a Deck Court is in no way a substitute for an efficient, functional ship&#8217;s crew.</p> <p>Furthermore, an attempt to restore ship security by an assembly of deck courts has clearly failed to provide adequate support to Engineering and the remaining crew. A ship cannot be managed by consortia of feuding decks.</p> <p>Were the spell broken, which blinds people to the fact we are standing on a ball of rock flying through space and time, covered in a precious sheen of green moss and transparent water, perhaps we could get our acts together and sort things out.</p> <p>The reports from Engineering are excellent: they can fix this, given resources. However, the persistent mythology that the ship is a component in an alternate reality game where &#8220;good&#8221; and &#8220;evil&#8221; war for non-existent tokens called &#8220;souls&#8221; is making it extremely difficult to get solid attention and cooperation from passengers with the Crew and Engineering to stabilize life support, never mind navigation. If any of you are unsure about the actual operating conditions please look up during the hours of darkness into the infinite void in which we shine.</p> <p>Our home is the stars, and if we survive, we will be there soon.</p> <p>Acting Captain Gupta over and out.</p> <p><a href=";id=3105&amp;md5=abdbbcfc4a384e075701d13524f09796" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2012-03-10 A message from the Captain <p><i><font size=-1 color=grey>(click the images for more info)</font></i><br /> <a href="" target=_blank><img src="" alt="" title="Click to find out more about Daniel" width="225" height="300" class="alignleft size-medium wp-image-3095" /></a></p> <p>This is Soap Guy. He makes soap. He doesn&#8217;t just make soap, he makes <i>political soap</i>. Soap so good it makes you question capitalism. Let me explain.</p> <p><a href=>Alex Fradera</a> gave me a bar of soap he&#8217;d made with his own two hands, after going to <a href=>Soap School</a>, and it was amazing. It was, to me, like the experience people have when they describe organic mangos fresh off the tree at the peak of ripeness. The soap was <i>right</i>. After you washed with it, hair and skin felt both clean and smooth and supple, not dried in the least. It was a life-changing bar of soap!</p> <p>I said Alex, this soap&#8230; why?<br clear=all></p> <p><a href="" target=_blank><img src="" alt="" title="See their website" width="300" height="225" class="alignright size-medium wp-image-3098" /></a></p> <p>And the answer is fascinating. Commercial soap &#8211; even from places like Lush &#8211; is not &#8220;whole soap.&#8221; At one point in the process they skim off the all-important moisturizing ingredients like glycerin and use them in the cosmetics trade at huge markups, leaving your skin dry and your wallet empty as you buy additional products from their supply chain. It&#8217;s like peeling all the good stuff out of food, and selling you empty corn syrup and vitamin pills. Whole soap, real soap, is like organic food for the skin. It&#8217;s an amazing thing, and you can tangibly feel the difference immediately.</p> <p><a href="" target=_blank><img src="" alt="" title="The online store" width="600" height="450" class="alignleft size-large wp-image-3099" /></a></p> <p>Soap Guy&#8217;s name is Daniel Knight. He&#8217;s been doing this for years. He&#8217;s got personal friends down his supply chain, goes to Africa to buy shea butter and essential oils from people he knows personally. He makes the stuff himself, in his kitchen, and his sister is an industrial chemist. They really know what they&#8217;re doing, and they make <b>great soap</b>. You can go and visit them in Camden Market &#8211; they&#8217;re on the upstairs floor of Camden Lock, the big building by the water, it&#8217;s easy to find! The stall is inside on the gallery level, talk to Daniel, smell some soap and buy it.</p> <p>You don&#8217;t hear me talk about things this way very often. But you really need to try this soap, and you need to understand just how much value is being taken out of our lives by money-grubbling industrial efficiency. To me, real soap is kind of a symbol of living right, in much the same way that organic food is for many people.</p> <p>The difference is, it&#8217;s three quid a bar.</p> <p>Treat yourself. Get down to Camden Market, and meet Daniel, who makes real soap.</p> <p><i><font size=-1 color=grey>(I am not affiliated with <a href=></a> in any way, I just think they make great soap.</font></i></p> <p><a href=";id=3094&amp;md5=08bef508a56a0bb0400cc3e8f99da474" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2012-03-09 The Yardstick of Civilizations <p>So&#8230; it&#8217;s done. <a href=>The Future We Deserve</a>, my &#8211; well, <i>our</i> book project, is done. You can buy a lovely copy online from <a href=>PediaPress</a> and it&#8217;ll be on Amazon soon enough. It&#8217;s a thing of beauty, if I do say so myself.</p> <p><a href=""><img src="" alt="" title="The Future We Deserve" width="600" height="450" class="alignnone size-large wp-image-3087" /></a></p> <p>So what can I tell you? As you know, a hundred people wrote for the book. I wrote a couple of pieces, one or two other people wrote a couple of pieces, but it&#8217;s basically a hundred different perspectives. It&#8217;s shocking, jarring, powerful stuff. The common experience is that it&#8217;s so dense (the pieces are a page each, more or less) and the ideas so packed that after reading a couple of pieces you need to put it down and do something else while it assimilates. I feel like we might wait most of a year before decent reviews come out because it takes that long to assimilate it.</p> <p>I waited. This is the hard part to explain. We had most of the material in place a year ago, and I had some grand ambitions. They were twofold. Firstly, I wanted to write a long sense-making introductory essay picking out common threads and deep ideas, spinning a coherent narrative from the pieces people had given us. Secondly, I wanted to run some workshops on the book, using the ideas in it as starting points for conventional futurism.</p> <p>I failed in both of these, and that&#8217;s why you should read the book. Here&#8217;s the lesson: when you actually talk to people in depth about what they want in life, it&#8217;s not possible to approximate a useful truth from it. You blur it, you build categories, you can pretend the pieces join.</p> <p>But when you read the source data, the world stops for a while. The experience is gazing at the world through a hundred different lenses, peering into hopes and fears, closely held, tightly expressed, beautifully composed in many cases, and slowly dawns the insight.</p> <p>We have no idea where we are going or what is going on.</p> <p>There&#8217;s the stuff we know about global warming and population and resource scarcity, that part of the future we understand. But there is a human factor beyond all that, something within us that you have to ask the right questions to see. I did not know, when I said &#8220;the future we deserve&#8221; that I&#8217;d hit on a key which empowered people to get in touch with their deepest hopes (and fears) for humanity and the world, and speak with authority for themselves and our race.</p> <p>This book has soul.</p> <p><a href=>It&#8217;s free</a>. Please read it and pass it on.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And now a note about our authors. Thank you so much for writing such amazing things. I&#8217;m contacting people slowly, sort of relishing the opportunities to say &#8220;hey, it&#8217;s done!&#8221; and touch base, see how life has been. It&#8217;s been really good working with you. Together we&#8217;ve built something amazing, something that really touches people. These are your words, not mine! There will be a <a href=>directory</a> with short bios, twitter handles and so on soon. Please give us a chance to sort out the wiki namespace issues first, though!</p> <p>I&#8217;ll write a little more about the crowdfunding side a little later, that&#8217;s a story in itself too. You are deeply appreciated, and gave me the time to do this.</p> <p>And, dear reader, this is not a passive process. I&#8217;m going to build out some tools, basic, perhaps, but enough &#8211; to start a conversation where we can, perhaps, follow up these seeds of thought and expand on their theses and create real change on the basis of the ones we liked the most. Just exposing some of these ideas to a wider public may be enough to catalyse change in our sense of the possible. Join the process: read a book, let go of the old realities, and change the world.</p> <p>Thank you all. I hope the next book, provisionally titled <i><a href=>The Present We Have</a></i> won&#8217;t take a year!</p> <p>Blessed.</p> <p><a href=";id=3086&amp;md5=68f9f61015d88918e9b785d3b2633ac3" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2012-03-09 The Future We Deserve – an exercise in hope <p>So <a href=>Dougald</a> and I are going to be <a href="">running a one-week residential workshop</a> at <a href="">Schumacher college</a> on <a href="">Collapsonomics</a> April 30 – May 4, 2012. I thought I should write something about why people should take this course.</p> <p>The bottom line is that learning a new perspective on life is difficult. It took the best part of two years of conversations to really shake out the core insights of collapsonomics, and those core insights have become key cultural generators of a variety of projects that the collapsonomics gang have undertaken, from urban regeneration through to large scale risk management and including one-step-removed projects like Dark Mountain and the Gupta State Failure Management Archive.</p> <p>There&#8217;s simply no quick &#8220;start here&#8221; to absorb that model &#8211; we can write about it, but even a very good book on the subject (and one has not yet been written as of 2012!) is only a small part of the jarring shift from &#8220;wait, this is all going to be ok, right?&#8221; to &#8220;we&#8217;re mid-way through an unstoppable process of change, and this is how we should see and feel those fluxes.&#8221; We&#8217;re basically making a week in which people can come, unpack their sense of the present, and re-see themselves and their lives in light of the real situation.</p> <p>That real situation is not simple. It&#8217;s not cut-and-dried economic analysis &#8211; we are not forecasters. Rather it&#8217;s about understanding the past, from the industrial revolution and colonialism, to the present, with infrastructure, trade and supply chain volatility as core parts of how the world works which we are trained not to see by the constant, brightly-lit, ever-available stream of products at every supermarket. Collapsonomics is about understanding that this bounty is vulnerable, that people like us all over the world have gone from having it to not (and sometimes back again!) and that, at a core level, our identities must be free of our roles within late-stage capitalism.</p> <p>We must learn to be ourselves within and without this economic game, and our course is about that reality.</p> <p>There will be three main areas that I&#8217;ll be focussing on, and I&#8217;ll take the risk of speaking for Dougald a little on this too. The first is modelling our critical infrastructure and supply chains &#8211; really <b>seeing</b> the water and the power and the food supply as systems, and understanding our personal technical and emotional relationships with them. Then there&#8217;s the social side of the economy (Dougald&#8217;s models of the social functions of money, and the transformation in society and wealth from the 15th or 17th century onwards.) Finally, the acceptance of loss and inevitable change as the price of not living with our heads in the sand, waiting for the end &#8211; rather, a continuous engagement with the rough seas of life, a falling-with the processes, rather than a harsh resistance to change. The idea is to teach you models which reflect the practicalities of life in an engineering sense, and the historic and cultural realities of the way people live <b><i>to allow you do your own analysis of situations as they change and unfold around you.</i></b> We are not tied to one way of seeing the future, so it&#8217;s important to show you how to feel the bones of the present and past, to enable you to do this for yourself every day as things move forward.</p> <p>It&#8217;s only crushing to lose a Mercedes if you thought you deserved one.</p> <p>So come to our workshop at Schumacher, get an intensive insight into how we do things, and learn all the things you could have learned down the pub with us, if only you&#8217;d been in London for the past few years, and had the time to spend. We&#8217;re not private and protective about this work, we teach it everywhere we go, but this is a time and place for extensive exposure for people who&#8217;ve followed us on the internet and want the face-to-face time to learn and absorb.</p> <p>It&#8217;s the first time, we&#8217;re giving it our best shot, and we&#8217;ll hope to see you down there. <a href="">Please sign up today if you&#8217;re coming!</a></p> <p>Here&#8217;s the video we made discussing the course. See you there!</p> <p><iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe></p> <p><a href=";id=3054&amp;md5=ab7ace9d8deb2abc48f4a62c21a8dc33" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2012-03-04 Collapsonomics: come and learn from the masters of the art <p><a href=""><img src="" alt="" title="Screenshot at 2012-02-21 17:21:25" width="511" height="427" class="alignnone size-full wp-image-3035" /></a></p> <p>The new-new thing at EdgeRyders is that map. We&#8217;re building a map of what&#8217;s going on, where the sites and stories are which show the new peeking through the cracks in the old, where the action is.</p> <p><a href=>You can sign up to edit the map.</a> That&#8217;s actually pretty bold &#8211; we&#8217;re crowdsourcing a map of the New Europe and, indeed, the New World, and it&#8217;s a government-funded project.</p> <p><i>Remarkable, isn&#8217;t it?</i></p> <p>I&#8217;ve been rattling on a lot about EdgeRyders, trying to get people to participate, for a while. It&#8217;s hard to actually convey why it&#8217;s important, why it&#8217;s got to work, but I think I&#8217;ve figured out how to make the case in a new way.</p> <p><b>EdgeRyders is an example of Government acting the way we&#8217;d like them to act. It should be encouraged.</b></p> <p>The team are&#8230; well, I&#8217;m one of them. Alberto&#8217;s in the Italian Chumbawamba. Nadia brings an arc welding rig to lunch. Hubsters, anarchists, Candian-French, East European, of the system, in the system, anti-system all working side-by-side because&#8230;</p> <p>And this is the part I haven&#8217;t been able to articulate until now&#8230;</p> <p><b>Because the government of Europe is doing some of the things we always wanted government to do.</b></p> <p>Imagine if the UK government had an official project to showcase and highlight the best and most interesting &#8220;new mainstream&#8221; (as Dougald Hine would call it.) Compare EdgeRyders to the <a href=>NESTA list of Britain&#8217;s New Radicals</a>, a hackneyed collection of genuinely interesting people chosen in the most boring possible way: &#8220;selected by a panel of expert judges&#8221;. The NESTA 50 is the self-replicating nature of the British establishment made manifest, old-establishment figures picking new-establishment figures, passing the torch of blessed authority and screening out anything that was <b>too</b> radical, didn&#8217;t look good, or would have made it too hard to get the blessing of their political leadership. Here&#8217;s the <a href=>EdgeRyders coverage of Romanian anti-ACTA protests</a> &#8211; on a Council of Europe funded web site, by god. Radicals? </p> <p>This EdgeRyders thing is genuinely good work done by a government body. This is what I mean about &#8220;government acting the way we want it to act.&#8221;</p> <p>But it&#8217;s a small project, it&#8217;s a tentative first step, but it&#8217;s important. A clear win will result in more of this kind of genuinely communicative, collaborative engagement. A middling result may result in same-old-same-old for the next five years, until another breakthrough occurs.</p> <p>So I&#8217;m asking for a bit of civic engagement here. We&#8217;re all so used to crap government efforts online, with vague, half-hearted attempts to connect and understand what&#8217;s happening in the real world, with projects run by people who don&#8217;t give a damn.</p> <p><b>This EdgeRyders business is different.</b> It&#8217;s sort of like an Official <a href=>Superstruct</a>, an in-house <a href=>Urgent Evoke</a> &#8211; it&#8217;s a State-level actor waking up and saying &#8220;Internet? That&#8217;s where the cool people are?&#8221;</p> <p><i>To make the point that we&#8217;re here and we&#8217;re willing to play, to make it clearly and unambiguously, to show support for the concept of open government collaboration at the European level, we need about ten times the amount of engagement we have now by the end of the project. If we had about 10,000 users, about the same size as Superstruct or Urgent Evoke, there would be another, and another, and another, and we might have found a way of getting our collective voice into play at the Council of Europe and beyond, in a fully internet-native way.</i></p> <p><b>Ask not what the Internet can do for Europe, but what Europe can do for the Internet</b></p> <p>To get there, what we need is <b>democratic engagement outside of the voting booth</b> &#8211; this is a chance to engage with government on our own ground, to tell our stories, to make examples known, to highlight resources &#8211; to shape the discourse, to make our voices heard.</p> <p><a href=>It needs us to show up.</a></p> <p><a href=";id=3034&amp;md5=a1f94bec294d74c543a4c517363107de" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2012-02-21 What if goverment wasn’t dumb about the internet? <p><video controls="controls" width=100%><br /> <source src="" type="video/ogg" /><br /> </video><br /> <a href= target=_blank>Click here if your browser doesn&#8217;t support HTML5 video</a></p> <p><a href=""><img src="" alt="" title="complexity_kills_screencap" width="150" height="150" class="alignleft size-thumbnail wp-image-3032" /></a> I&#8217;ve had a really good time the last two weekends attending <a href=http://thisistheevent>The Event</a> <a href=>Leila Johnston&#8217;s</a> talk series on <i>absolutely</i> catastrophic risks (think cosmic rays, supervolcanos and worse.) I did a talk called <b>complexity kills</b> on understanding risk and <a href=>Simple Critical Infrastructure Maps.</a></p> <p><a href=>Download the talk, slides and Dealing in Security.</a> They are also embedded below.</p> <p>The <a href=>Gupta State Failure Management Archive</a> has a <b><i>lot</i></b> more of this kind of thing. Download a copy, you never know when you might need it.</p> <p><a title="View Dealing in Security - understanding vital services and how they keep you safe on Scribd" href="" style="margin: 12px auto 6px auto; font-family: Helvetica,Arial,Sans-serif; font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; font-weight: normal; font-size: 14px; line-height: normal; font-size-adjust: none; font-stretch: normal; -x-system-font: none; display: block; text-decoration: underline;">Dealing in Security &#8211; understanding vital services and how they keep you safe </a><iframe class="scribd_iframe_embed" src=";view_mode=slideshow&#038;access_key=key-2ax3f1013ldpq1mbqtrw" data-auto-height="true" data-aspect-ratio="1.49388753056235" scrolling="no" id="doc_1693" width="100%" height="600" frameborder="0"></iframe><script type="text/javascript">(function() { var scribd = document.createElement("script"); scribd.type = "text/javascript"; scribd.async = true; scribd.src = ""; var s = document.getElementsByTagName("script")[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(scribd, s); })();</script></p> <p>Here are my slides.</p> <p><iframe src="" frameborder="0" width="410" height="342"></iframe></p> <p><a href=";id=3024&amp;md5=5908a583b3b9f431351009563685cb02" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2012-02-20 Surviving “The Event” <p>If you want the summary: build the courts first, and build them now, if you want to protect the Electronic Frontier, and, indeed, the People.</p> <p>(You may well want to read the two previous blog posts which go along with this one to understand the whole mindset behind this piece, but that&#8217;s about 6K words total, so&#8230; <a href=>On Undesigning the Cryptographic Utopia</a> and <a href=>On the Ethics and Pragmatics of Cryptography</a>)</p> <p>So here&#8217;s a problem to solve: peer caching of HTML5 video objects. I&#8217;ve got a few of these: <a href=>the #TRUTHandBEAUTY video archive.</a> Suppose that the <a href=>Jamais Cascio talk on solving global warming with Geoengineering</a> goes viral? I&#8217;m hosting 500mb of files, multiplied by 80,000 viewers, that&#8217;s 40,000 gigabytes, 40 terabytes. I&#8217;m not sure than when <a href=>Dreamhost</a> says &#8220;unlimited&#8221; they mean 40 terabytes unlimited. So I could move them to, but that file is CC-BY-SA-NC. Vimeo and Youtube and Blip won&#8217;t do such a long file, and advertise all over everything in some cases, so&#8230; let&#8217;s just say hosting this stuff myself is the current paradigm, and hoping that people who Slashdot also mirror.</p> <p>Now, why is this a crypto problem? We can&#8217;t reasonably expect every human to make a legal assessment of every file they want to help host. It&#8217;s simply unreasonable: the transactional overhead of examining every file for Copyright and (by god) even Patent infringement is too great for Youtube and all the other Common Carrier services, like your ISP, and it&#8217;s too great for you and me. But not having savage lawyers fighting on our behalf, we have to try something different.</p> <p>Question: is an encrypted file that I cannot read copyright infringement if another person downloads it and decrypts it into a copyrighted file on their machine? What if I have <b>absolutely no idea</b> about the contents? How far do we have to push this argument (say I&#8217;m only holding 1/8th of the bits?) before we wind up with a &#8220;no infringing files here, Officer&#8221; cache? <b>We can legally design this. Google might even help.</b></p> <p>So now I&#8217;ve got my 500mb .ogg file. I have a utility which cuts it into some set of known-safe sections. In my case it&#8217;s a .ogg which is OK to redistribute, but even if it was copyright infringing, it&#8217;s all OK for now because we&#8217;ve cut it into non-infringing lumps and stored them too. We&#8217;ve probably doubled our file size in the process, but we&#8217;re going to live with that problem for now. So your web browser is the next obstacle.</p> <p>You download the .ogg &#8211; no problem. I&#8217;m getting hammered, rather than serving you the .ogg, I want to be able to serve you a redirect. I don&#8217;t just want to serve you the redirect, though, I want to serve you a metadata file which your browser turns into a &#8220;go git &#8216;em&#8221; strategy not unlike a politically sophisticated Bittorrent. Now this implies a browser plug-in or a proxy that sits on your machine and grabs URLs of the format http://cache.cache/<hex></p> <p>These are not evil pieces of software to write, particularly after Bittorrent, so let us continue down this path.</p> <p>Let&#8217;s assume, for a moment, that caches are social and work like currency. I have 10 or 100 friends. They have web sites. They set up a subdomain,, and a robot sits there. If my site (and not somebody else&#8217;s site) pushes a file over there by HTTP with appropriate passwords, the cache robot takes a non-infringing set of files. On request it returns them by HTTP, as it would any other file, up to a preset limit between us which is likely based on your web host&#8217;s policy, your degree of good will towards me, and how much traffic you&#8217;ve seen so far.</p> <p>If you&#8217;re <b>particularly</b> well-intentioned you have 10 or 100 friends, and if my file is really, really moving, you ping them and ask if they&#8217;d be willing to carry a slice of the file. And, after all, you have no idea what&#8217;s in it, and in fact whether it originated on my web site, or whether I was simply carrying a cache file for somebody else, and decided to spend a little of my capital with you by passing on this slice of popular content to you.</p> <p>It&#8217;s a little like Bittorrent, with a couple of key differences.</p> <p>1) You don&#8217;t know what you&#8217;re carrying because it&#8217;s hacked up into lumps (Freenet-ish)</p> <p>2) The social network of people sharing cache responsibilities is hardcoded, it&#8217;s a social/trust network, rather than being the swarm of people currently downloading a file.</p> <p>These are <b>politically</b> rather than technically important distinctions, and we&#8217;ll get to the reason for making them later.</p> <p>So now we&#8217;ve got a METADATA format, and a simple protocol for moving LUMPs of files across the network to be served by cache robots. Robots presumably have half a dozen or so operations, roughly:</p> <p>* catch a file<br /> * ask a neighbouring node to cache a file<br /> * serve a file (actually this is probably just HTTP via Apache or whatever)<br /> * expire a file that we don&#8217;t want to serve any more<br /> * manage bandwidth (&#8220;no more files this month&#8221;)<br /> * communicate status to various humans and robots</p> <p>Now, let&#8217;s discuss liability again.</p> <p>Let&#8217;s say we&#8217;ve moved beyond mere copyright infringement, and we&#8217;re dealing with CP. So now we&#8217;re in a domain where even holding a chunk of something, and simply saying &#8220;got no idea, gov&#8221; is not enough &#8211; it&#8217;s morally repungant to be aiding and abetting in the distribution of CP, and even if we&#8217;ve got a technically legal system, these people can fuck right off. We want to put heads on poles here, and we&#8217;ll help the police to get the job done. So our fully-anon system where blocks are being pushed around an (encrypted) network all on their own suddenly isn&#8217;t good enough. It might be <b>technically</b> fine, within the limits of its lack of sophistication, but it&#8217;s <b>politically</b> inadequate. There&#8217;s a very basic atomic operation missing: <b>get that motherfucker!</b></p> <p>So let&#8217;s take a look at this again. I need to know who is distributing these files. But I <b>must not</b> know what&#8217;s in them, because I&#8217;m a Common Carrier and only carrying a chunk to protect myself from some kinds of liability.</p> <p>This is a job for crypto. Specifically, this is a job for Secret Sharing and Digital Signatures. And possibly zero knowledge proofs. Now this is a proper-hard protocol design question, but let&#8217;s think through the political level first, then get technical.</p> <p>* I&#8217;m hosting a non-infringing lump of <i>something</i><br /> * There&#8217;s a METADATA file which names all the lumps required to assemble FINAL file.<br /> * The METADATA file includes a decryption key for this final file.</p> <p>Now, what I need to know is that this METADATA file exists (or the lumps I&#8217;m holding are useless) and that it&#8217;s VALID (in some political sense). But I don&#8217;t want to see it, and I don&#8217;t want my ROBOT to see it, to avoid liability. In fact, I might even have a defensive-driving script which autorefuses to store both the METADATA file and a LUMP file.</p> <p>So how&#8217;s about we don&#8217;t touch anything which doesn&#8217;t have a METADATA file with some kind of credentials. Ah, but we don&#8217;t want to see the METADATA, so what we need is a SIGNATURE or something like it <b>for each lump</b>.</p> <p>&#8220;No, officer, I don&#8217;t know what this is &#8211; in fact I <i>can&#8217;t</i> know what this is, but I accepted it based on <b>this credential</b>, and since you&#8217;ve proven to me (by the digital signatures) that it&#8217;s actually CP, and you have a warrant, have&#8230; SOME INCRIMINATING DATA ON THE AUTHOR.&#8221;</p> <p>Ok. Promising. So I have a list of known-good digital signatures, and I accept a LUMP which is signed as known-good by them, and if something goes wrong, I point at&#8230; hm&#8230; no. No good, because we&#8217;ve broken ANONYMITY as a goal state. Try again.</p> <p>Now, ANONYMITY is a problem. I want to get these CP peddling mofos as much as you do. What I <b>really</b> want is PSEUDONYMITY and REASONABLE COURTS. I want stuff like SOURCE PROTECTION for journalists. I want to know, for sure, that if this person is evil me and my friends can reveal their identity in a legally binding form, but I don&#8217;t want to be pressured into doing that.</p> <p>This is Zero Knowledge Proof territory, perhaps. So let&#8217;s examine a protocol.</p> <p>=== PROTOCOL BEGINS ===<br /> 1) We meet, and I agree I&#8217;ll take a share of your Secret Identity.<br /> 2) I don&#8217;t want sole responsibility for this, no sir, so we&#8217;re doing this Jury Style &#8211; a committee of 12 of your peers, or 15 because this is the internet and people are flakes.<br /> 3) We&#8217;ve got two technical assets &#8211; Secret Sharing (e.g. gfshare or ssss in Ubuntu) and zero knowledge proofs.<br /> 4) Brute force: You take your passport, and you show it to the 12 of us. You then take your laptop and prepare the following.<br /> 4.1) a PNG of your passport, and a digitally signed legal document asking us to act as a JURY and turn it over to relevant authorities under a set of conditions (this akin to a legal escrow agreement, or a will)<br /> 4.2) This file split into 15 pieces, of which 12 enable recovery, or some similar scheme.<br /> 4.3) You prepare 100,000 sets of 15 files.<br /> 5) We agree on 99,999 sets of these files, and check (by recombining parts) that they, indeed, sum to your Identity. Ideally we&#8217;d like to do this in a clever way which prevents us seeing YOUR IDENTITY but still proves it was in there, but that&#8217;s a Hard Problem, so we&#8217;re going to accept that we&#8217;ve seen your identity.<br /> 6) If 99,999 files were legit, there is an extremely high probability that file 100,000 is legit. Again, consult the Zero Knowledge Proof literature for ways of doing this in a few dozen turns, not 100k turns, but we&#8217;re thinking this through in brute force terms.<br /> 7) I now have a share of your identity, which I have <b>excellent</b> reason to believe is <b>you</b> I can&#8217;t <b>prove that it is you</b> without 11/15 others helping me. We&#8217;ve locked your identity where we can&#8217;t get it (assuming that we really did delete those other shares&#8230;)<br /> 8 ) Everybody involved now signs each of these shares, blind signatures (i.e. of the hash, not the file) <b>and signs your key with those blind signatures</b>.<br /> 9) We have now legally and technically escrowed your identity &#8211; <b>this committee of 15 people knows who this individual is, for sure, but only 12/15 of us in agreement can legally prove it</b><br /> 10) I can now take this document to escrow brokers of other kinds and use it to generate, for example, PSEUDONYMS (subsidiary keys) with any given of security or reliability.<br /> 11) Let&#8217;s call an identity like this an ESCROWNYM. An ESCROWNYM creates PSEUDONYMS, because the intermediary generating the PSEUDONYM keeps a copy of the ESCROWNYM document, possibly split in shares etc. as illustrated, and all legally binding like.<br /> === PROTOCOL ENDS ===</p> <p>Congratulations. You&#8217;ve just re-invented Jury Trial, more or less.</p> <p>Now let&#8217;s go back to our file hosting problem.</p> <p>I REQUIRE any content that I am hosting to be backed by an ESCROWNYM which is backed by a Nation State passport. But because Nation States are being pathological bitches right now, most smart people prepare one of these ESCROWNYM documents backed by SIGNERS in 14 jurisdictions, including hard-to-navigate spaces like Iceland, Russia, Sweden, Palestine, South Africa and so on. And, of course, people signing these ESCROWNYM documents are actually often using ESCROWNYMs to sign them &#8211; we have an absolutely solid chain of legal responsibility here, to named individuals identified by their Nation State identity documents, but the overheads of <b>FORCING</b> these individuals to reveal the identity of a person behind such an ESCROWNYM are genuinely formidable.</p> <p>But if I get a PSEUDONYM-signed file, tracked to a Known-Good ESCROWNYM (i.e. the pseudonym generated by a service I trust, such as a reputable City of London legal firm), I&#8217;m comfortable hosting it. Because <b>IF</b> it turns out that I&#8217;m hosting a share of a CP file, or nuclear bomb making instructions or something, I&#8217;m <b>absolutely sure</b> that either the Person Who Made This Data, or the Persons Protecting Them, can be made fully and legally transparent.</p> <p>Now let&#8217;s stop and think about that for a moment, maybe take a breather.</p> <p>=== breath ===</p> <p>=== breath ===</p> <p>=== breath ===</p> <p>So I&#8217;m hosting a file on my machine. I&#8217;ve digitally signed it with a PSEUDONYM backed by an ESCROWNYM and now I&#8217;m getting slammed because the file is Very Popular. My network of buddies take the LUMPs of the file that I have prepared (and signed) and carry them, and people coming to my site get served a tiny METADATA file which tells them what the LUMPIDs are to reconstitute the file, and the decryption key. In the event that the file allows, for example, comments or modifications at a later date, the DECRYPTION KEY is actually a PUBLIC KEY, which can be used to decrypt the METADATA for future versions of the file.</p> <p>Hm.</p> <p>This isn&#8217;t really very technically sophisticated, is it?</p> <p>You know, if we were <b>just a bit</b> more technically sophisticated, I bet we could generate PSEUDONYMS from an ESCROWNYM automatically. That&#8217;s something along the line of blind signatures, or some of that tricky Chaumian stuff which is typically used on digital cash. You sign my ESCROWNYM and, at the same time, 1000 PSUEDONYMS which you <b>never ever</b> see, not even for a moment. Yes, there&#8217;s tech for this, no, I don&#8217;t understand it well enough to know exactly what the edge on that envelope is &#8211; I&#8217;m a cryptographic applications designer, not a cryptographer or cryptologist, and there&#8217;s a big, big difference. Trust me on this: past a certain point, cryptosystems and algorithms are black boxes to me. But I can think about code and politics at the same time, and that is useful. Bear with my technical limits.</p> <p>Now, what I&#8217;m proposing here is obviously a socially-networked anonymous publishing system with full legal and community accountability. PSEUDONYMS backtrack to ESCROWNYMs backtrack to IDENTITIES through a series of nestled processes. You can see a version of this thinking, assuming (ahem) trustworthy Nation State and International Organization actors in <a href=>CheapID</a> (which, let us remember, was produced for the Office of the Secretary of Defense with the US National Security Agency doing the technical oversight.) </p> <p><b>But my faith in the Nation State&#8217;s trustworthiness has been shaken so much by #NDAA and the legalization of indefinite detention without trial in America that I&#8217;ve been forced to go back to the drawing board.</b></p> <p>Don&#8217;t blame me: I&#8217;m trying to preserve the existing rights and freedoms of our societies, things we all voted on, things we all agreed, things that have been historically Known Good for hundred and hundreds of years in many cultures. This is not vagabondish Cryptoanarchy and end-running around taxes, this is right to a trial by jury in a digital domain in a situation where, alas, jury trials are being denied to people by their governments.</p> <p>Now, do you understand my lines, and what it means when The State crosses them? I am FUCKING SERIOUS about the Free Society, and I&#8217;ll do what it takes to defend it.</p> <p>Let those with ears hear me: civil rights, and the democracy that arises from them, stay, at the point of a sword if needs be. I am not easily provoked, but I know the history of the Holocaust, of Stalinism, of Maoism, of Pol Pot, and yes, of Vietnam and El Salvador and all the rest well enough to know one thing.</p> <p>None of us are safe from a government which has breached Habeas Corpus and claimed a Global Jurisdiction. I did a pretty good analysis of this kind of <i><a href=>Transnational Sovereignty</a></i> stuff a few years ago (for the DoD), I know the terrain, and I believe I understand the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld-Rove-Feith type thinking behind it pretty well.</p> <p>I&#8217;ve drawn a line in the sand here. I know how dangerous cryptography is: when they said &#8220;munitions&#8221; they meant it. I&#8217;ve stayed <i>scrupulously</i> clean, out of the field, for years, while friends of mine went off and did things like <a href=;channel=fs&#038;q=smari+wikileaks&#038;ie=utf-8&#038;oe=utf-8&#038;gl=uk>Wikileaks</a> and <a href=;channel=fs&#038;q=herbert+openleaks&#038;ie=utf-8&#038;oe=utf-8&#038;gl=uk>Openleaks</a>.</p> <p><b>I don&#8217;t even use encryption in my personal life &#8211; I don&#8217;t use PGP, I don&#8217;t use GPG, I don&#8217;t use OTR, I try to avoid using Skype because I do not want any TLA (three letter agency) worrying about what&#8217;s on my mind. I keep all my shit in Gmail, for god&#8217;s sake.</b></p> <p>But, seriously, this shit will not stand.</p> <p>If I have to actually build prototypes, hell if I have to build a team with diverse skills and actually build a working system for a properly secure, legally and politically sophisticated global protected publishing system, I will. I&#8217;m hoping to inspire people younger, sharper and more technically capable than me to ask the right questions of the cryptographic applications they may be writing right now.</p> <p>But if it comes to it, I think I&#8217;m smart enough to evade making most of the mistakes made by other attempts to solve this problem, and I&#8217;d point to the dents I&#8217;ve put in certain other intractable problems as evidence to that effect.</p> <p>I don&#8217;t want to go down that path, I have many other things which call for my time, but I&#8217;m here for civil rights, and if I have to fight for them, I&#8217;m not going to make the mistake of bringing a knife to a gun fight.</p> <p>If we have to take back the internet one byte at a time, line by line, network by network, wire by wire encrypting everything as we go, building new jurisdictions in which the <a href=>antient Rule of Law</a> is observed, so be it. We have agreed on these laws, they are in the Constitution of the United States of America, and no mere Law or President may abrogate them. They are in the laws of Great Britain. They are present in the Constitutions, Laws and Practices of nearly all countries.</p> <p>We need to start building Jurisdictions which respect free speech, including political free speech, but do not violate other Common Law. We need to obey basic rules in these Jurisdictions to protect them from shutdown by the State on the basis of copyright infringement or similar crimes, including distribution of terrorist materials, CP and similar.</p> <p>The internet is not going to police itself. If we do not do it, the State will, and right now, the State is in really serious danger of going right off the cliff into Fascism, at least in America.</p> <p>There are rules. Governments must obey them, even the Americans. Liberty will not be lost. </p> <p>Not on my watch.</p> <p><a href=";id=3004&amp;md5=31be3ed36da8ff1c2c6943b41e4f21d8" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2012-02-05 Taking a crack at a practical system (introducing the ESCROWNYM) <p><strong>Utopia.</strong> No-place. We can and must do better than this.</p> <ol> <li>Because the Media are owned by Corporations who we wish to Police using the power of the State which they have Suborned using the gutter press and requiring political advertising in elections.</li> <li>Because the Internet Service Providers are Tightly Aligned with Copyright Holders who are tightly aligned with the Media who Suborn the State as above.</li> <li>Because with current technology, one must choose between Freedom of Speech (including the ability to repeat previous utterances, which may or may not be Copyrighted) and Enforceable Copyright. We do not know how to do both.</li> <li>Because Anonymous Free Speech is a critical part of Democratic Participation in Contested Societies, which is all of them if you are (for example) politically radical or queer in ways which are oppressed.</li> </ol> <p>So let&#8217;s nail down a few basics. In <a href=>the previous post on the ethics and pragmatics of cryptography</a> I fleshed out some of the political background. Now let&#8217;s have a think about system design in terms of things such a system MUST do, and things it MUST NOT do, as well as a few desirables.</p> <p>Let&#8217;s start with a few very basic notions.</p> <ol> <li>We&#8217;d like to build infrastructure which worked like HTTP or (better!) NNTP or SSH or even GIT &#8211; useful, extensible, general, logically deep but simple to implement &#8211; protocols and platforms, not applications if you like.</li> <li>We&#8217;d like to support four primitive operations: <ol> <li>Create</li> <li>Read</li> <li>Update</li> <li>Delete, and two additional operations</li> <li>Link/Reference and</li> <li>Blacklist</li> </ol> <p>I will explain Blacklist in a moment.</li> <li>As noted, anonymous free speech is necessary for political reasons, and is our primary goal in this matter.</li> </ol> <p>So now let&#8217;s talk about <b>identity</b>. There are only two real kinds of identity: biometrics and biographies. These expose us in totally different ways: biometrics put a name to a face on the street. Biographies allow association of a single fact (&#8220;car license place XXXYYYZZZ&#8221;) with the rest of our story. The worse case is Biometrics tied to our Biographies which allows the merest sight of our face to be correlated to everything about us in the files, including errors, omissions and politically-motivated hate speech. <a href=>CheapID</a> addresses with problem with an axe: it forcibly separates Biography and Biometrics, gives one to your Nation State government, and the other to the United Nations, and uses Sheer Evil to protect the cryptography which prevents the two colluding.</p> <p>Right now, The State mainly identifies us using Biographies. Credit ratings etc. are also Biographies. It&#8217;s worth noting that under current law you don&#8217;t own facts about you, you can&#8217;t make people (a company) forget what they know about you, and these profiles are casually interlinked to form pervasive information resources about us. They may know us better than we know ourselves in some areas, say spending habits.</p> <p>So let us consider a few more points of background.</p> <ol> <li>We have some customary rights, such as more or less everything you can do with a pencil and paper is legal.</li> <li>Computers and public key cryptography are a bit different from pencils and paper in that they implement very efficient mass duplication and some other interesting atomic operations like digital signatures.</li> <li>In most cases, digital messaging is going to require using the machines of people we do not control to carry our traffic, whether they are peer intermediaries or internet service providers.</li> </ol> <p>Now, that heavy <b>thud</b> noise is the absolute obviousness of our problem: if the person (company) carrying our traffic wants us to shut up about something, only the power of the State can compel them not to censor or silence us. Without State oversight, anybody can simply refuse to carry the traffic of a person they do not like, or refuse to carry conversation of a topic they do not approve of. Private, individual rights afforded to intermediaries, their right to control their own equipment, turns into their right to silence your voice without even a hint of technical irony. In the same way that you can choose either Copyright in its current forms or Free Speech, but cannot prevent those with Free Speech from repeating what another has said before them, you must choose between each individual&#8217;s Freedom to control their own computers, and each individual&#8217;s right to have their message carried by third parties who might have other priorities, ideological objections, or real-world costs.</p> <p>We are beginning to frame the problem, are we not?</p> <p>A node on a network chooses to Repeat my Speech to relay the message to my friends.</p> <p>I choose to Repeat a piece of Speech by Lada Gaga to my friend, and this is now copyright infringement.</p> <p>You can&#8217;t get copying out of the network, and this is why it&#8217;s a choice between Free Speech and Copyright.</p> <p>But the problem is that my right <b>not</b> to Repeat <b>your</b> speech turns into censorship. This is why we have exquisitely heavy laws around censorship, discrimination and other forms of favouritism in many aspects of the workplace.</p> <p>What do you choose to carry, in some sense, defines you.</p> <p>So the first thing we have to do is to Blind Intermediaries. We can&#8217;t make them responsible for the content they carry &#8211; you&#8217;re going to replicate my Political Free Speech whether you like it or not, because I&#8217;m not going to tell you what you are carrying, and this removes the possibility of content-based censorship from our intermediate parties, including ISPs. Note how carefully and precisely we are constructing this: this is about fundamental technical and social forces inter-relate. We&#8217;re building this up from atomic operations because it&#8217;s like lego, not like a legal system!</p> <p>So let&#8217;s talk about Blacklisting. You can&#8217;t Blacklist what you can&#8217;t see. On the other hand, you don&#8217;t <b>have to</b> Blacklist what you can&#8217;t see. Common carrier / good neighbour type provisions allow us to carry each-other&#8217;s encrypted traffic as a social courtesy, protected from our neighbour&#8217;s weirdness or illegality. All messages are encrypted from end-to-end by default.</p> <p>So what of Publishing, of Speech? I originate a Message. You wish to see the Message. You have the key to decrypt the Message. Intermediaries may or may not have this key. So now we have one Atomic Operation still &#8211; messages which we may-or-may-not have keys for. This is a very similar general conclusion to that reached by Freenet, at least in it&#8217;s earlier incarnations, and by Self-certifying File Systems.</p> <p>So let&#8217;s boil it down one more step. A Message is encrypted with a Key. You obtain the Key in the body of another Message. The Key is in-some-way tied to mechanisms for retrieving the Message (hashes, indexes, self-certifying file systems and so on.) You have a network of readable Messages to which one has Keys, and (potentially) a set of Messages to which one does not have Keys. This is a very simple construct. Authorship may or may not be required to carry a message, and can be asserted by a digital signature. Public notaries can deal with the problem of people stripping off one signature from a Message and replacing it with another (i.e. digital signatures prove that a Key is <em>willing</em> to sign a document, not that they created it.)</p> <p>Message distribution protocols may vary &#8211; there&#8217;s an absolute mess of methods of moving files around on a network, with different properties in terms of latency, accessibility, queuing and fifty other things. As long as the messages stay encrypted until they hit a key, it really doesn&#8217;t matter how they move around. This is a fundamental error made by many efforts in this direction so far: unifying <b>Delivery</b> and <b>Key Management</b> and often <b>Identity Management</b> in a single system. Actually these functions can be separated into a set of subsystems which interface and overlap, message retrieval vs. decryption vs. identity architectures.</p> <p>So let&#8217;s pick apart Identity. Two basic approaches: biometrics and biographies. Two simple approaches: take a state-owned ID like a passport, assuming that you live in a State with strong identity architecture, and encase the State ID in a container constructed using <a href=>Shamir&#8217;s Secret Sharing</a>. Use an introducer network to store the shares as a precondition of entry to the network. You can also use a Non-State biographical or biometric profile to store this information. So then you basically get introduced to the network, you get your first set of keys, and then you connect to the system as a whole one link at a time. You can view it as a file system, you can view it as the web, you can view it as Dropbox, you can view it as Freenet &#8211; the underlying cryptographic architecture is the same.</p> <p>So let&#8217;s talk about what we&#8217;re talking about: replacing the file system, both on your PC, and distributed in various forms, with something which is cryptographically sensitive to the world we operate in. You could think of this in brute-force forms like whole disk encryption, but that&#8217;s pretty much working in the same single-computer-at-a-time monolithic paradigm which also produces our fragility in hardware terms and necessitates the Cloud and various kinds of decentralized systems. Possibly <a href=>TAHOE-LAFS</a> has a lot of these features, albeit pointed in a slightly different direction. The <a href=>Capability-Based Operating System</a> folks, in their thinking about filesystems and similar, have likely already cracked a lot of this. The crux of it is that there&#8217;s a lot of technology, at at least the level of sophistication required to build a genuinely politically useful tool-set, but because these systems have been built as applications rather than infrastructure, because they&#8217;ve been built as programs rather than services, because the political structures haven&#8217;t been clearly designed in a specific way (with Freenet as a possible exception) we haven&#8217;t seen the jump to scale.</p> <p>Introduction to a network with identity (in some form) escrowed using Secret Sharing.</p> <p>Publication into some form of storage grid, which could use a variety of technologies depending on whether you&#8217;re pushing a 50kb email-type communication to a single recipient, or a 5gb archive to 78,000 people. Moving files around is a transparent process, it doesn&#8217;t affect the fundamental publishing architecture, and the case-hardened viscously secure untraceable server architectures follow as-needed. Even one&#8217;s personal file system could have these attributes, with files from other people being stored encrypted with a key-ring for access &#8211; in short, a cache of a much larger system &#8211; if we wanted to go in the general metacomputer direction.</p> <p>Now, within this general speculative framework, four items.</p> <p>Firstly, you can blacklist known-evil files and transactions, and if there are signatures (and many systems may require a signature to play) you can track back up to something resembling a subpoena against a network of people holding shares of the identity split with Secret Sharing. Community accountability for child porn and/or copyright infringement and/or storage of classified data <b>depending on community standards.</b> Consistent refusal to honor subpoenas (court generated, community generated &#8211; these are policy issues) results in forks, subnets splitting and similar.</p> <p>Secondly, you can store the local files, move them into a remote storage grid, distribute them via decentralized server architectures or what-have-you without disturbing the cryptographic enclosures. This is important: we&#8217;re discussing a new way of thinking about files, and dropping these new objects into existing or new storage systems should work transparently. </p> <p>Thirdly, we can step out of the domain of solving one problem at a time. We need decentralized cache-and-storage architectures, we need backup, we need cloud metacomputing and these things don&#8217;t need to be provided by Amazon because, well, we&#8217;ve got a ton more compute power than they do and most of us have hundreds of gigs empty in one place or another. This is a property rights and security issue, and the right combination of simple architectures and politically sophisticated implementations of crypto can make that entire resource usable. The only obstacle is the copyright lobby, and there&#8217;s a pretty simple approach to that: acknowledge that we secure the GPL and Wikipedia using Copyright and Hollywood secures their movies using Copyright. We need to renegotiate the legal framework around Copyright but, for now, let us consider using our own community enforcement mechanisms (see first point) to make a network which is clean to some appropriate level. Community policing of copyright on a private network is a very reasonable approach to building new infrastructure, and if we can&#8217;t manage this, we&#8217;re going to have the State down our neck for the foreseeable future. A partionable network &#8211; clean networks and renegade subdomains &#8211; is entirely plausible.</p> <p>Finally, let&#8217;s think about this in terms of historical trends. Computing goes through a well-understood cycle, <a href=>Sutherland&#8217;s Wheel of Reincarnation</a> where systems swing between centralized and decentralized, parallel and serial, hardware and software. As each layer becomes more sophisticated, it acts as a platform for the alternate strategy &#8211; Amazon&#8217;s datacenters are centralized parallel supercomputers. So are google&#8217;s. In fact, the world is dominated by parallel supercomputer companies, although we use terms like cluster and data center. But it&#8217;s all the same kinds of thinking that were pioneered in the <a href=>Transputer</a> age.</p> <p>To build a genuinely Free parallel supercomputer &#8211; something which belongs to all of us and none of us, which ships our bits when we get massive traffic spikes on our HTML 5 videos, backs up our files, crunches our data and generally manages our &#8220;cloud&#8221; needs without simply handing the next round of computer development to the corporate powers without a fight.</p> <p>This is a much bigger issue than just file sharing. It is about freedom of speech, of unpopular speech, of political speech in jurisdictions where what you may have to say is illegal or even more dangerous. The implementation for the current control structures is corporate control of the information technology backbone, both at the wire level, and at the scale of the large scale parallel supercomputer clusters which currently only exist in the hands of corporations.</p> <p>So that&#8217;s the game plan. Metacomputer infrastructure for the internet, out of corporate control, using crypto to manage the policy issues by making people accountable to their peers in a manner akin to jury trial, including handing people to the State for things like CP.</p> <p>This constitutes lifting the core functions of the &#8220;internet&#8221; &#8211; right down to structures like DNS &#8211; right out of corporate control, and therefore government control in most cases.</p> <p>It&#8217;s <b>vastly</b> harder to patch the existing system with layers of crypto and retrofit than to figure out three or four fundamental primitives &#8211; identity, files-and-distribution, key management, distribution-and-queues. Building applications on top of those primitives to reimplement various applications we currently have on the internet (email, twitter, the web) may be vastly easier and more productive than attempting to build a single new system which is built on top of the politically naive internet infrastructure we have to hand.</p> <p>A handful of well-designed cryptographic primitives from which a proper, politically sophisticated digital backbone could be built. This is a non-trivial undertaking, but it&#8217;s one which will be much easier started on the right foot.</p> <p>Think of the original design processes for Unix. Now imagine we&#8217;re working at internet-scale in a politically contested environment on untrusted networks.</p> <p>Game on.</p> <p><a href=";id=2991&amp;md5=611559f2d48f84e347de2de1e470018b" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2012-02-04 On Un-Designing the Cryptographic Utopia <p>I have a knack for crypto. Actually, to be honest, I have a knack for <a href=>Lego</a>. My mind maps the things you can do with a simple set of tools/rules and then generates simple, easy ways of doing impressive things.</p> <p>Good examples of this: the <a href=>hexayurt</a> or the <a href=>Simple Critical Infrastructure Maps</a> system. Applied to cryptographic applications, it resulted in <a href=>CheapID</a> and the infamous, lost PKI stockmarket software I wrote once and erased in fear.</p> <p>Here&#8217;s our fundamental issue: there are (at least) three actors we need to consider in cryptographic applications design. They are The User, The Mafia and The State. Most cryptographic applications designers (CADs for now) are politically naive Libertarians, and make one of two errors.</p> <ol> <li>They confuse the User and the Mafia, or</li> <li>They conflate the Mafia and the State</li> </ol> <p>This is a debate seen most clearly in electronic currency circles. It comes down to taxes. There are two models: this currency is for not paying taxes, because the government are basically a mafia that extracts taxation. Or this currency is not for paying taxes, because we don&#8217;t care if our users are organized crime or not, the government are worse.</p> <p>These are subtly different models. To model the government as a Mafia is a different thing than to model the users as potentially containing Mafias that cannot be extracted from the system. One or other assumption percolates much CAD thinking.</p> <p>I&#8217;ve been close to the Government. It&#8217;s not a mafia. I&#8217;ve been slightly less close to the Mafia. They&#8217;re not like users. There is a very clear need to create a system which:</p> <ol> <li>Protects users from the Government</li> <li>Protects users from the Mafia</li> <li>Protects users from each-other</li> <li><b>Does not protect The Mafia from The Government</b></li> </ol> <p>Now, framing cryptographic applications politics in this way is enough to give most of the people involved in the field conniption fits. The apolitical simplifications made in cryptography and cryptology are actually of the &#8220;<a href=>let us assume the horse is a sphere</a>&#8221; variety, and when you build social systems around those kinds of mathematical constructs, inevitable failure results.</p> <p><a href=>PGP&#8217;s web of trust</a> had, at most, half a million users. <a href=>Facebook&#8217;s web of trust</a> has a billion and rising, while providing users absolutely no protection at all from anybody &#8211; they&#8217;re being predated by advertisers, by the State, and by each-other with no meaningful safeguards.</p> <p>So let&#8217;s distinguish the Mafia and the State, briefly.</p> <ol> <li>Anybody can declare themselves The Mafia by establishing coercion in collaboration with others</li> <li>The State is a special instance of cooperative coercion which may have features like popular support, a criminal justice system with rules, or control of critical infrastructure like hospitals</li> <li>Many of the activities of the State continue with 100% transparency, unlike the Mafia which relies on secrecy to protect it form the State</li> <li>There are a plurality of States</li> </ol> <p>Now this teases apart a useful distinction: the State should be able to operate transparently in (nearly) all circumstances. Mafias, more or less by definition, require secrecy to operate. One could possibly argue that a Mafia which is strong enough to operate Transparently is a State, but that&#8217;s a political argument with some fundamental weaknesses which I don&#8217;t care to make. My definition of the State is that the State is any entity which can retroactively grant immunity for crimes (cf. Weber&#8217;s &#8220;monopoly of force&#8221; model) but this is an aside.</p> <p>We are now in a position of attempting to navigate our lives with a hostile State. Even if our own countries (hello Switzerland, hello Norway) are pretty decent, the US and it&#8217;s enormous technical monitoring apparatus watch us all through our cell phones and our internet connections. The panopticon is watching you read this blog post through your ISP, and it doesn&#8217;t really matter what The Law or Your Government says, because the web server is in America and they&#8217;re probably tapping the undersea cables globally anyway, at least for some traffic. The calculus of competing virtues argument for leaving America to heal after 9/11 changed with the signing of the NDAA which ratified the death of the American Constitution, moving the issues resulting from 9/11 from being a temporary breach to a permanent state of affairs.</p> <p>In this environment, we must therefore examine maintaining our civil rights without passive (or occasionally active) support from the State.</p> <p>Now, I want you to look at that construction carefully. We have, at least in America, agreed on a set of inviolable rights. These rights are not simply legal rights, they are Rights which <b>define</b> what can be legal. They are the Law above the Law, and graven in stone. The current US government is <b>clearly</b> acting illegally by asserting that it is free to murder its own citizens and hold people without trials, and there is <b>no question</b> that a technological implementation of basic civil rights like freedom of speech and freedom from unreasonable search and seizure simply maintains existing legal practices in a more complex operating environment. We are not talking about implementing cryptoanarchy or end-running around the right of the State to exist. Rather, we are discussing maintaining already socially and legally established rights in the face of a wayward government.</p> <p>This is an <b>extremely critical</b> deviation from normal cryptographic applications developer practices. Most of the so-called cipherpunks wanted to implement a new political system called cryptoanarchy using software. That new political system is full of potential problems, and is untried. <b>Defending an existing known-good political equilibrium using software is a fundamentally different enterprise</b>.</p> <p><a href=>Alice, Bob and Carol</a> are about as sophisticated as the political constructs inside of most cryptographic applications get. The State is Carol, and the Users and the Mafia are Alice and Bob, with no distinction made. This is simply using the wrong level of abstraction to get the results you want.</p> <p><a href=>CheapID</a> hinges on a single political insight: <b>the hatred of Nation State intelligence services for each-other could be used to protect citizens from all states</b>. That insight is then used as a political factor in designing a global identity card standard. Many see this as madness, but <i>at least we are addressing the questions at the right architectural level</i>.</p> <p>Finally, we must address the issue of secure endpoints. The smallest and cheapest system capable of resisting technical intrusion so your messages will not be read between the keyboard and your cryptographic application is a military base with three levels of doors, metal-box rooms mounted on springs, and guards watching each-other. The fantasy that consumer-grade laptops offer security is just that.</p> <p>Now, with all this said, we need to start rethinking the mass deployment of cryptography to foil the thieves in the wires, and to protect the human and civil rights we all have. But we must implement what we know works, and not an untried and untested new political equilibrium, no matter how attractive, just because it&#8217;s what drops out of the code.</p> <p>Code is law. Make law wisely.</p> <p>You need a Jefferson at the Keyboard to Write the New Constitution, whether the language is C or English.</p> <p><a href=";id=2985&amp;md5=296900509a69d77beaf7e3cbbc41ab23" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2012-02-04 On the ethics (and pragmatics) of cryptography <p><strong>Five verses on the gap</strong><br /> You can see and feel <em>the gap</em><br /> in the quiet desperation of those well-intentioned<br /> as they age into their 30s and wonder &#8220;is this it?&#8221;<br /> It hit me late: I have no child, I am yet free<br /> One life is not enough to achieve it.</p> <p>The cosmic infinite inside says Gandhi<br /> But the historic Gandhi did not do enough<br /> Nuclear age spun out from his death, an echo<br /> The corpse of a god festering in history, missing<br /> In 1958 He would have united the world</p> <p>I&#8217;ve seen <a href="">the potential</a>, and refused it, haunted<br /> by the <a href="">inevitable failure</a>, not Jesus or Buddha<br /> carried the world, and most certainly not I<br /> A fifth rate avatar of the <a href=;channel=fs&#038;q=ganesha&#038;oe=utf-8&#038;gl=uk&#038;um=1&#038;ie=UTF-8&#038;hl=en&#038;tbm=isch&#038;source=og&#038;sa=N&#038;tab=wi&#038;ei=SWgsT53WM8am0QWKrISuCA&#038;biw=1024&#038;bih=512&#038;sei=TWgsT4zfM8as0QX--uysCA>Fat God</a>, My guru joked,<br /> the sixth rate avatar hangs from a rear-view mirror</p> <p>This, then, is <em>the gap</em>, far worse than death<br /> The inevitable failure to make the world what it is not<br /> Bring two grains of beauty, pass silently or loud,<br /> Become one with the forgotten past when your day comes<br /> It may be that this is all we really are</p> <p>About half of us would have to <a href=>change our minds</a><br /> to make the world work for <a href=>one hundred percent</a> of humanity<br /> and the limit of divine will is just that: your mind<br /> is ever your own, and your choices bind you<br /> the democracy of action is total responsibility</p> <p><strong>addendum</strong><br /> &#8220;You cannot help anybody you are not willing to watch die&#8221; said my guru, meaning that if you are not willing to watch somebody die, they can drag you down with them if they refuse to live, which is common, in extremis. Facing the darkness of the world has now escalated to this point in my life, as I contemplate the break in America represented by <a href=>NDAA</a> and ponder the strain of mitigating and coping with a world in which America has no Constitutional restraint. It&#8217;s as shocking to me as it was for German Jews realizing that that they were no longer secure in their person in Germany in 1932 or a little later. If not the American dream, then what?</p> <p>The pain and sadness I feel about losing America as our guiding light &#8211; which it has been, in some way, for many years, certainly up until 2001 &#8211; cannot be easily expressed. I am an ideological person, and one prone to wind up jammed in the gears of history. I&#8217;m just too tired and too old to mount much of an effort, to make much noise. I face the retreat to the personal domain, rather than taking arms and making noise, because I don&#8217;t see a victory at this juncture.</p> <p>Hitler was gone in 10 years. Perhaps the current wave of fascism in America will pass me by.</p> <p>Is this really it? To sit on my hands, and wait it out?</p> <p>Yes. I&#8217;m too tired to fight. The public will is not with me, at all, in any way, shape or form, and to decline and fail gracefully and with (some) honor is as much as anyone can hope for.</p> <p>It is, perhaps, more ethical than total victory, than ascent into the Bonosphere, filled with doing good by political compromise.</p> <p>Time for me to return to the personal domain for a while, to care for and feed my plants like the hexayurt, and take better care of myself. If there&#8217;s a generation on fire with the desire for liberty, let them find my door.</p> <p>I can&#8217;t tell, for sure, whether this sense of decline and loss is simply me hitting 40 and looking at the wasteland of my life, or if it&#8217;s a genuine reaction to the implication that the Americans are gone &#8211; that they&#8217;ve <em>legalized kidnapping</em> and, in fact, unmade <a href="">humane practices as old as Magna Carta</a>. But I look at my friends, ask advice, and yes, sure enough, it&#8217;s there for them too.</p> <p><em>The Gap</em> is widening.</p> <p>I was taught about this in detail. I&#8217;ve taken some of that work and turned it into the <a href="">social thermometer</a>. Other parts are metabolized into the Awful Play, the Musical Comedy from Hell, which I will not write the name of now. And, above all, there is the non-flinching.</p> <p>I&#8217;ve joked about staring into the abyss until it blinks, but there&#8217;s an element of truth to this. I landmined the path of fascism with everything I had since about 2003 or 2004, worked ceaselessly against this eventuality because I knew it was possible, and <em><strong>my war started early</strong></em>.</p> <p>And I guess that&#8217;s what I&#8217;m trying to say. I&#8217;ve burned the candle at both ends and mortgaged the middle for years because I knew this was possibly coming, and it was far easier to fight it before it arrived than afterwards.</p> <p>Pretty soon, <a href=>The Future We Deserve</a> will be available, and if we got it right, if the timing and the idea and the content are right, perhaps we can start a new conversation about the future. Our future-creation mechanisms suck, they&#8217;re bottlenecked by commercialism and investment strategy and itch-scratching, little visionary work is supported, and we need it more than ever.</p> <p>It might seem peculiar to talk of such tiny candles in a time of darkness, but if I told you what I&#8217;d done to fight the power, you would not be comfortable in the same room as me. I say this not to boast, nor as a warning, but perhaps to ask forgiveness for what I have brought into the world.</p> <p>So let us hope that we can fan some flames of hope and light with <a href=>The Future We Deserve</a> and perhaps build an active network of people with ideas, with vision, and with hope and work on figuring out how to get some of these best practices for living and good ideas into our lives and launched, off the drawing board, into reality.</p> <p>Imagine a good idea that became as popular as some of these pervasive bad ideas are. One or two like that.</p> <p>I realize this is elliptic. I can&#8217;t say everything I know or describe everything I fear and hope. I&#8217;m trying to update my models of reality for the new situation, take the subtle and inchoate and give it, if not voice, an uneasy rotation under its blankets, enough to disturb a cat sleeping on the bed, but not enough to raise the ire of the Leviathan sleeping under it.</p> <p>In short: I prepare my mind to fight, and pray I do not have to. Let us pray.</p> <p><strong>Postscript</strong><br /> I write like this because I want to sit down and explain to somebody the stakes of the game, and what moves I have made, and <a href=>there is no-one left to hear me</a>.</p> <p><a href=";id=2972&amp;md5=da3aac25cce5cfa9d6273ae5fee26df5" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2012-02-03 Five verses on the gap, and addendum <p>I think only somebody like me could decide to have a mid-life crisis. I&#8217;m good at crisis. I decided to have one of my own.</p> <p>My life is, by any standards, a fucking mess. I finally found an image which really does it justice: I&#8217;m a chisel. A very hard, very flat chunk of grey metal that&#8217;s hammered into stone.</p> <p><b>Facet One &#8211; my health</b><br /> I got pneumonia in Colorado when I was about 30. Up until that point I&#8217;d been rock solid for about ten years. Haven&#8217;t been right since, and I haven&#8217;t fixed it. I&#8217;ve gotten slowly fatter and lost more lung capacity with each year, and taking the time out to make repairs has just never been a priority.</p> <p>Think about that. Six months off, regular tai chi, maybe some acupuncture and odds-are that my body would reset the congestion in my lungs. It&#8217;s been ten years, and I haven&#8217;t got to it. I&#8217;ve made time for a withering look at every major planetary crisis we have, although I&#8217;m a little light on nanotechnology and geoengineering (fortunately <a href="">that&#8217;s what Cascio is for dealing with</a>, thank god) but otherwise, deep global coverage. And I&#8217;ve put off resting and taking care of myself for a decade.</p> <p>That has to stop. I have to stop using food as a buffer for stress* and start actually doing the things I know how to do to take better care of myself.</p> <p><b>This is going to mean shedding responsibilities and, occasionally, letting people drown because I&#8217;m too tired to catch them.</b> </p> <p>I&#8217;ve been Mr. Reliable for too long. New approach needed. One which prioritises sleep over saving the world sometimes.</p> <p>* for <i>stress</i> read <i>existential horror</i></p> <p><b>Facet Two &#8211; beauty</b><br /> I was never exactly good looking. I saw some pictures of me from around 25 recently, and the thought did occur to me that I&#8217;d been better looking than I remembered &#8211; and it was a long, long time ago. But that&#8217;s an aside.</p> <p>What I really wanted to talk about was <i>beauty</i>. </p> <p>At least two of the women I&#8217;ve loved and been loved by were <i>beautiful</i> in the most powerful way. I miss them. What I miss is not the simple sculptural quality of looking over at your girlfriend and thinking that god was having an on day when she was made, but something much more subtle.</p> <p><b>Beautiful people care about themselves.</b></p> <p>You don&#8217;t wind up without that kind of surface if you don&#8217;t care about it. It&#8217;s a constant attention to the body, to the emotions, to the environment, to good food, to rest, to many other things, that takes somebody who could be good looking, and turns them into somebody <b>beautiful</b>. It&#8217;s a practice, one might say an artistic one, and it&#8217;s something I do not do at all in any way. I occasionally dress appropriately, I play with images of myself and roles, but I don&#8217;t think I&#8217;ve invested five minutes in actually trying to look <b>good</b> in 10 years. And this is not simply about sexuality, but about an attitude to myself.</p> <p>The thing about being beautiful is that it&#8217;s expensive and often very, very fragile. <b>Hot is durable, beautiful is fragile</b>, people in the worse conditions can manage hot. But beautiful, in the sense I mean it, is spacious. It goes away under pressure. Only the very, very best can maintain it without the underlying blowtorch heat, but it&#8217;s not sexuality.</p> <p>It&#8217;s giving a damn, for years, about how you live in your body, and how your body signals the person you are to the world.</p> <p>I let my ideas and my work do the talking, as is appropriate for a man of my kind. But, actually, to do the things I had to do, to become the person I had to be, I treated my body as a locus of action for my will, not an end-in-itself.</p> <p>When I was very young, about 20, I fell under the influence of a famous curator <a href=>Jasia Reichardt</a> who suggested, with some seriousness, that I become an artist. I had a knack for form in computer graphics, and at the time, the early 1990s, people like <a href=>William Latham</a> were making serious strides.</p> <p>But I was much, much better at technology, and it became the path not taken. I consistently wrote poetry occasionally for about 10 years, painted consistently for two or three, eventually getting about as good as a mildly talented 11 year old (but with a certain outsider ferocity) and just gradually, quietly <b>stopped creating</b>. I don&#8217;t think I&#8217;ve made a thing that was beautiful, rather than simply useful, in most of ten years.</p> <p>I was shocked when I realised that. I&#8217;ve become a caricature of my younger self, not it&#8217;s expression. The useful bits of me have grown out of all proportion to my other potentialities, because the world needed me to be useful, and I did it the world&#8217;s way albeit exclusively on my own terms.</p> <p>But in the final analysis, I made the same mistake as my old friend Brian. I became a human doing.</p> <p>It&#8217;s too late to spend my thirties getting married and having kids. It&#8217;s too late to lose these capabilities and to not know what I know about the world. It&#8217;s too late to be a nicer human being. I&#8217;ve meddled in the affairs of gods, demons and kings for too long, and you can&#8217;t get the edge of the underworld out of my biography. I&#8217;ve spent too much time around death, as a bulwark of life. The price of being a bulwark is looking like a <a href=>bulwark</a>. </p> <p>But I can make some time for beauty, and to create again. </p> <p><b>Facet three &#8211; war</b><br /> I recently said something new about war. The greatly esteemed <a href="">Kevin Carson</a> collected a series of statements and conversations from twitter, <a href="">making an essay of a rather turbulent late night thinking session</a>.</p> <p>I&#8217;m grateful to Kevin for doing that, it might have slipped by without him. So what I said, roughly, is this:</p> <ol> <li>Government in democracies centralises authority in the elected officials representing the Will of the People, but this explicit centralisation of legitimacy is threatened by decentralisation.</li> <li>Network-centric war has a simple goal: a total comprehension of a transparent battlespace. To be efficient with such transparency, a hierarchy has to add more value than following the guidance of a chain of command costs in communications and centralization errors.</li> <li>In all probability, such hierarchies cannot add more strategic value than they subtract in network errors, which also kills democratic oversight of effective wars, by dismantling the the centralization of legitimacy.</li> </ol> <p>To this we add a sub-argument from John Boyd, that to think clearly about war requires one to have an absolutely solid personal moral foundation for one&#8217;s fight. If we do not know that what we are doing is right, the analysis required for clear strategy also leads us to the conclusion that we are heedless murderers or simple evil, and what we know about human cognitive biases is clear. People will not ever come to the conclusion they are the <a href=>Baddies</a> if they can avoid it.</p> <p>In short: you can have an accountable military, or an effective one. Groups like the IRA were never accountable to the populations they said they represented. That problem&#8217;s only going to get worse, and (for example) Special Forces in the US is in some ways being used as an answer to the costs of democratic centralization. But when one adds a &#8220;moral war&#8221; layer to this, the situation worsens dramatically: those who are convinced they are right and therefore require no oversight may also have clarity of mind based on moral certitude, while those who see shades of grey in their mandate may fog their thinking around the moral issues, and thereby lose clarity in strategy.</p> <p>This is, as far as I am aware, new thinking about the interface between new military technology and democratic governance, although it applies old principles in thinking about war. It&#8217;s likely I&#8217;m retreading areas visited by some policy paper from 1985 &#8211; there&#8217;s always <i>somebody</i> but it&#8217;s dropped out of the debate as far as I can see. The precise dynamics of centralization and accountability in a netwar environment are going to be huge issues in the next year or two too: see <i>Anonymous</i>.</p> <p>So back to the chisel: I&#8217;m good at this stuff. Somebody has to be good at it, and I am. I&#8217;ve made substantial contributions to thinking about security issues in several areas, and always towards safeguarding human rights. I can&#8217;t quit this responsibly, I just have to manage it.</p> <p>Consider then, <a href=>James Jesus Angleton</a>.</p> <blockquote><p>Angleton was a true aesthete. He edited a poetry magazine that he himself hand-delivered to subscribers at all hours of the night.</p></blockquote> <p>He also ran counter-intelligence for the CIA and, according to Robert Anton Wilson, had President John F. Kennedy killed because he had earlier worked for the Soviet Union.</p> <p>That, of course, is pure conspiracy theory, but it might explain his happy-old-man demeanour, while at the same time being written up in the history books as a miserable failure. Did Angleton have the last laugh?</p> <p>Anyway, if Angleton can manage to go from a foppish fan of Ezra Pound to the man who killed the king and <a href=>die with a smile on his face</a> I&#8217;m sure I can square carrying tiny my share of the world&#8217;s troubles and keep my head together for the next few years.</p> <p><a name=four></a><b>Facet four&#8230;</b><br /> The big new projects. <a href=>Pirate Party Defence Policy Working Group</a> which does what it says on the tin.</p> <p><a href=>Edgeryders</a> is a Council of Europe funded project on European social stability and options for young people who can&#8217;t enter society by getting a shiny new job and following their parents because they&#8217;re on about half the money our parents had. Now compare that to the seminal <a href=>Framing the Collapsonomics Practice</a> &#8211; we&#8217;ve &#8220;crossed the chasm&#8221; from being out in the woods, talking about the far future to working hand-in-glove with European-level government actors.</p> <p><a href=>TRUTH AND BEAUTY</a> (and don&#8217;t forget our <a href=>video archive</a> builds on the base established by <b>Tea in the Park</b>, an activity we did a couple of years ago where we had a picnic every Sunday for <b>eight months</b> or so, without ever putting up a web site. We just met, week after week, drank tea and got to know each-other. It meant spending a lot of time outside, too, getting familiar with a whole different perspective on London &#8211; as folks who were independent from the cafes and stores, with our own music and our newspapers and our thermos flasks, watching the spending world go by.</p> <p>Truth and Beauty builds on that implicit base of &#8220;it&#8217;s almost like doing nothing, except that you get to know people really, really well.&#8221;</p> <p>Time. We&#8217;re all too busy. We don&#8217;t really know even in our closest friends in the way that people who live in villages know their entire community. I got very used to seeing the same faces every few days when I lived in <a href=>Cloughjordan</a> and the work they&#8217;d done on community development there really paid off in huge ways in terms of quality of life and happy people.</p> <p>So the next phase of TRUTH and BEAUTY is to bring back the Sunday Brunch, much along the lines of Tea in the Park, but this time with added&#8230; indoorness. I suspect if the weather&#8217;s nice we&#8217;ll wind up in St. James Park just round the corner a lot of the time, but we&#8217;ve got many months before warm summer evenings arrive so, until picnic season, Hub on Sunday afternoons.</p> <p>First one will be this Sunday, and it&#8217;ll be a general get-to-know-you and thinking together on what we&#8217;d like to do with our Sunday Brunches at the Hub.</p> <p>See you on Sunday! Shall we say, aspirationally, 11AM onwards?</p> <p>PS: Truth and Beauty on Tuesday 24th will be <a href=>Dash May</a> (who badly needs to send me blurb!) talking about his artistic practice, including a lot of work on biological systems, and why the Axolotl (regenerating newt-like thing) is such a fascinating beastie.</p> <p>PPS: I have decided to spend a chunk of this year learning to take pictures, and I promise-promise-promise not to just turn it into functionalist documentation of work. Promise.</p> <p><a href=""><img src="" alt="" title="DSCN0192_david_bovill" width="100%" class="size-large wp-image-2964" /></a><br /> David Bovill of <a href=>Liquid Law</a></p> <p>PPS: the point was that, at heart, nothing is wasted. It all comes around again.</p> <p><a href=";id=2957&amp;md5=6e6f06c9a2016f251ad42ce61b471de5" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2012-01-18 Four Facets of Forty (FFfF) <p>I&#8217;ve lost respect for western models of feminism after one stupid argument too many.</p> <p>I have not lost respect for women, any more than losing respect for Marxism means you no longer respect Russians.</p> <p>The issues women face are real. However, political mistakes made in the early stages of women&#8217;s struggle in the West are causing huge problems. The strategies conceived in the fifties and sixties and seventies have resulted in yet more problems. The common feminist tactics that I encounter now, raising political issues focus on the gender issues in the world to the near-exclusion of all other forms of analysis and discourse. Political mistakes and strategic blunders have led to tactical ineffectiveness.</p> <p>In short, in my experience, feminism has forgotten how to play nice with others.</p> <p>I&#8217;m therefore disengaging from feminist discourse for the time being. There&#8217;s no way, in reasonable time, to engage in useful debate with people who&#8217;re at the tail end of fifty or sixty years of flawed thinking &#8211; in fact, it&#8217;s often like arguing with fundamentalist christians, who are at the end of a much longer flawed chain.</p> <p>My rough order of concerns, right now, are nuclear/biotech/nanotech apocalypse, destruction of climate, destruction of nature by other means, fascism, poverty, race and colonialism. I understand that the rights of women influence many of these areas, of course. But feminism is, right now, seventh or eighth in my list of concerns globally, and <b>I am unwilling to sacrifice my effectiveness in addressing higher priorities to feminist concerns.</b> I&#8217;ve been asked to do that several times in different ways recently, and I will not do it.</p> <p>Nor, bluntly, should you want me to. I&#8217;m worrying about the US declaring itself fascist: <a href="">you should be too</a>.</p> <p>That does <b>not</b> mean that I&#8217;m going to personally oppress women to get ahead. Jesus christ, who or what do you think I am? What it does mean, however, is that I&#8217;m going to insist that people who want to engage me in feminist discourse accept &#8220;no, thank you&#8221; for an answer in most cases. I have other things to worry about, I probably disagree with you on some very fundamental distinctions about sex, gender, social roles, personal responsibility, obligation and interdependence. But I don&#8217;t have time, right now, to fight with feminists at the level required to get real insight on these issues, so for the moment, I&#8217;m disengaging. </p> <p>Partly, feminism seems (to me) to often be astonishingly unconsciously culturally imperialist, paving over traditional social models which have served men and women alike for centuries with undisturbed aplomb. My culture has always said women and men are equals, it&#8217;s uncontroversial and completely integrated into our way of life. Perhaps there are things here worth learning about.</p> <p>Partly, I think women globally need to up their game. Power is hard: men having access to power historically suffered for it, and it destroyed most of them that held it. If women want to hold power and fight alongside their brothers for what is right for everybody, they&#8217;re going to have to learn how to suffer and die when dealing with power as men always have. The game does not get easier just because women have decided to participate. I think much of the complaining about the way men are using power right now is women discovering just how hard and nasty dealing with power is, and how much men have suffered for it. As a friend once said to me, while waxing philosophical on the nature of war, <b>the women came here to die, the same as the men.</b></p> <p>For the record, then, here is my stance: <b>men and women are equal.</b></p> <p><a href=";id=2950&amp;md5=6a628f112c6bf8e262db490fd4cb6846" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2012-01-02 On losing respect for Feminism <p>People have no fucking clue what Hinduism is.</p> <p>The monotheisms &#8211; the paths which admit a single truth &#8211; are four major and many minor. The four major are Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Buddhism. Buddhism is not often discussed as a monotheism, and in many variations it is not, but the notion of a single teacher who can save the student from infinite suffering should be familiar to anybody who has contact with Christianity or Buddhism: it&#8217;s the same narrative structure. The recitation of lineage back to the first teacher, the Buddha, is akin to Apostolic succession. <!-- originally published 2012Feb18 --></p> <p>Now, let us consider Hinduism. I&#8217;ve written about it at length <a href=>elsewhere</a> from a philosophical level, but now let&#8217;s address the folk religion level. Here&#8217;s the deal:</p> <ol> <li>Every being is exactly equally god: 100%, total divinity, right down to ants and trees. No exceptions.</li> <li>The universe we experience is an elaborate improvised theater piece being performed by God for its own amusement.</li> <li>Enlightenment is the direct verification of these perspectives for oneself, and is often massively, stunningly direct insight of a permanently life-changing kind.</li> </ol> <p>I am enlightened. I was enlightened in the late 1990s after more than 10 years of regular meditation, and several years of direct spiritual instruction from a tantric guru, Bhavani Ma. Bhavani was one of the people The Oracle was based on in the Matrix movies, but was not nearly so pleasantly maternal: she was a belt sander &#8211; an abrasive, meddling old yenta who claimed Lucretia Borgia as a previous incarnation and was enough of a bitch that it was believable. And yet one does not cut diamonds with paper towels. I have a hard head, and it took a monster to reform me out of ignorance and into wisdom; such is life.</p> <p>I inherited a cultural model from Bhavani. That model is called tantra. Tantra is a specific mode of enlightened awareness, not a different state from other ways of being enlightened, but a different way of life and method. My particular school lived within the traditional Hindu frameworks of arranged marriage and would not normally be expected to have more than one sexual partner in a lifetime. There are exceptions, but the idea that &#8220;tantra = promiscuity&#8221; is a western fantasy. Except in rare circumstances, ancient India did not have the material base for promiscuity: disease was not treatable, pregnancy would raise socially awkward questions, and there were more than enough mouths to feed. Arthur Avalon and the lads describe the tantra of the elites, the princes, who were going to have courtesans anyway, and might as well try to get enlightened with them. It&#8217;s an utterly different thing from the quiet lives of postmen and ushers which was and is our way.</p> <p>This preamble matters because I&#8217;m about to attack feminism, and one needs to be pretty well-grounded before sticking a pitchfork into such a beast. It destroyed <a href=>Ivan Illich</a>, and I&#8217;m well aware of the risk I&#8217;m taking here by speaking out. But it is time, and I am clear in my objectives and agendas.</p> <p>So let us first separate Feminism from Women. Feminism is a way of seeing the world, an ideology, and it comes in perhaps 50 flavours with innumerable individual variations. Women are, well, people. This might seem obvious, but it&#8217;s important to understand that Feminism first constructs a category, Women, and then builds various systems to attempt to defend their quality of life or abstract equality in the face of an uncaring and harsh world.</p> <p>The error that people make in the West when discussing Feminism comes from the fact that your culture hates women and always has, at least since it went Christian. Without this bedrock hatred of women, the discourse between Male and Female Humans is carried out in a completely different tone, and the harsh oppression which has been the core experience of women in monotheist cultures is an understandable object of political concern.</p> <p>Hindus do not hate women, at least not as a deep cultural trait, although one cannot speak for all individuals. This is all the way through our theology &#8211; there are goddesses who are self-originating, without any male figure involved in their worship &#8211; absolute spiritual sovereigns. There are also goddesses who are parts of gendered pairs, a Male and Female god/dess seen as a conjugate pair, dual expressions of a single being with two aspects or fused wholes creating a binary entity &#8211; the theology of same/different in the partnered couples like Ram and Sita is nontrivial. But it must be noted with <i>exquisite</i> care that the female partners in such relationships are seen as being inseparably equal from the male principles. This is not Zeus and a chain of maidens, or Jesus and Mary the Whore, these are full-and-permanent partnerships between inseparably divine beings. The women are fully realized, independent entities, not adjuncts or projections of male gods. I&#8217;m not sure that anybody who was not raised with exposure to Hindu mythology can really appreciate the degree to which, as a culture, we accept and integrate female powers into our way of seeing the world.</p> <p>In this context, western feminist battle lines are simply inappropriate. It&#8217;s a fight we do not have, at all. There&#8217;s no demonization to reverse. </p> <p>Now, this is not to portray India as a paradise for women. No, like many poor cultures, it&#8217;s a shithole in many ways, and women have the worst of it, as they do in any poor culture. It&#8217;s a fucking mess, and it needs fixed. People are marrying for the dowry and setting brides on fire, disfiguring women who reject them with acid, and generally being beasts. All this is true, in some areas, at some times. There are castes of prostitutes where the women have been sold as virgins for as long as footsteps in the dust have been wiped away by winds. All of this is here, <b>but it is not rooted in the hatred of women</b> but on the exploitation of the weak. Children are hit just as hard by the grinding, awful poverty of India.</p> <p>We wound up this way in no small part due to invasion and centuries of pillaging by Britain, by the way. It&#8217;s not a neutral matter or one of political disorganization. It&#8217;s damage, material, cultural and spiritual, from imperialism.</p> <p>This brings me to my own training. Bhavani taught me a culture-within-a-culture, a lineage, the lineage of Goraksnath, a man who&#8217;d helped found the State of Nepal about a thousand years ago. He&#8217;s said to be an immortal yogi, an ageless helper of humanity, but that&#8217;s an aside &#8211; we have our dogmas, you have yours. I was taught a very simple model for how the relationships between men and women should be conducted, within a wider framework of <b>many</b> such special-case relationship frameworks, such as the ideals of relationships between Guru and Disciple, or between fathers and sons, or mothers and daughters, or friends. Hindus model things in a very different way to westerners, and I can&#8217;t really bridge those gaps now.</p> <p>Between men and women, then, there are mutual obligations. In Bhavani&#8217;s teaching, there was a simple basic framework, which follows:</p> <ol> <li>Women, generally speaking, have little or nothing to gain from being personally involved in physical violence. (unlike men, who&#8217;s status is often raised by winning or even bravely losing fights) She would paraphrase a long discourse on this truth as &#8220;women lose any fight they get into,&#8221; meaning win-or-lose there&#8217;s unacceptable risk and consequences, generally speaking. This matters a lot, psychologically.</li> <li>Women can get pregnant</li> <li>Therefore, men, who are predisposed to violence and can gain from it, will serve women by protecting them as needed in order that the greater risks and burdens borne by women can be offset by male service to them.</li> </ol> <p>Now, this is a really simple retelling of a way of life which took me many years, so try not to argue with my words or phrasing. Argue with the ideas, not stray words. The crux of it is that men are obligated to women (and vise versa) and, in Indian culture, this is seen as being a condition of incarnation: a woman brought you into the world, and you will serve them according to the needs of the times, to ensure that women live as well as men. This is another core concept: the goal of a tantric lineage, a tantric society, is to make a place which suits women well enough that if great spirits have the freedom to incarnate as either gender, as they are said to, they choose to manifest about 50%/50% male and female. Our model of equality is very simple: it&#8217;s the idea that one is completely comfortable incarnating male or female because quality of life is much the same regardless of gender at birth. In fact, this same principle of equality is at the root of all tantra &#8211; it&#8217;s just the art of seeing people as they really are, and reacting appropriately. The radical spiritual equality of all beings is affirmed by our mutual obligations to take care of one another. Women and men are one of many special cases: the young and the old is another carefully thought-out model for mutual support inside Hindu society. Quality of life should be shared roughly equally among all, that&#8217;s our goal state.</p> <p>Now, from that basis, the Western Feminist models about putting women in the cockpits of fighter jets etc. as female liberation seem kind of twee. If you want to do the stuff that men do, please feel free, but if you want to do the stuff that women traditionally do, please feel free too. Radical equality of all beings is the root of our religious tradition, and always will be. If your body is soft and prone to bear children, if that&#8217;s something you&#8217;re deeply attracted to do, there should be a social support network to make the experience as pleasant as it can be. If your body is hard, and your instincts aggressive and savage, if you are well suited for war, may your opponents have honor, bravery, and thin skulls. The fundamental tantric logic of radical spiritual equality does not dismiss the variations in our physical bodies or minds as irrelevant, nor does it understand a person&#8217;s worth as being tied to their body in any way: they are god, whether a dwarf, a giant or a bullfrog. But the bodies do come in two stock types and generally speaking the psychological drives fit well into the bodies chosen: the hetronormative breeder ideal is actually understood to be a pretty good show for all concerned when its going well, and therefore its privileged <i>because it works</i>, and, if it doesn&#8217;t work for you because you&#8217;re barren, queer or too ugly, it&#8217;s the job of the community and the guru to make you as happy as you can be in whatever role you have chosen instead. This is a rule more honored in the breach in wider hindu society, but we know exactly what we are doing in the tantric subcultures, and that is to be applauded and respected, rather than being denigrated because it does not fit into Western Feminism&#8217;s templates. Quality of life is shared equally between all parties, and that is our equality.</p> <p>I do not expect to be understood, only to demonstrate that I know what I am doing. You may read this as you will, but I hope it&#8217;s the final word on the misunderstanding that Hinduism hates women. It doesn&#8217;t. Our ways are not your ways, but we&#8217;ve got a pretty good thing going on, better (to my eye) than you do, for both men and women, for young and old, for women and children, when we&#8217;re not being beaten down, starved, oppressed and massacred for the economic gain of European empires.</p> <p>In your culture, Woman is the origin of all Sin, and it&#8217;s bred into your bones, into the structure of your language, into your ways of seeing. That does need to be corrected, and I respect whoever is doing that work, but for god&#8217;s sake, stop acting as if my culture is as sick as yours is.</p> <p>Thank you.</p> <p><a href=";id=3016&amp;md5=77cff63ea6ce36b17f0afa24737f3e0d" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2012-01-01 Tantra, race and feminism <p>I want to talk a little about techno-political theories of change, and outline where the paths of Julian Assange and I diverged.</p> <p>Although I don&#8217;t talk about it very much, I was a <a href="">cypherpunk</a> in the 1990s. I contributed a little to a <a href="">software project to protect human rights workers in China</a>. I collaborated with some individuals on a software project to build a Kiva-like microfinance engine on top of e-gold, and narrowly avoided getting entangled in a lot of <a href="">legal badness</a> when the project exploded. I&#8217;m going to return to that story in a minute, but let&#8217;s turn back to Julian Assange.</p> <blockquote><p>The more secretive or unjust an organization is, the more leaks induce fear and paranoia in its leadership and planning coterie. This must result in minimization of efficient internal communications mechanisms (an increase in cognitive “secrecy tax”) and consequent system-wide cognitive decline resulting in decreased ability to hold onto power as the environment demands adaptation.</p> <p>Hence in a world where leaking is easy, secretive or unjust systems are nonlinearly hit relative to open, just systems. Since unjust systems, by their nature induce opponents, and in many places barely have the upper hand, leaking leaves them exquisitely vulnerable to those who seek to replace them with more open forms of governance.</p> <p><a href="">Julian Assange, late 2006</a></p></blockquote> <p>Now there are two things you can infer from this, if you read between the lines.</p> <ol> <li>Some of the &#8220;leaked&#8221; material will actually be obtained by computer intrusion (hacking/cracking) and passed off as being leaked by insiders</li> <li>Assange&#8217;s model is fundamentally economic and logistical: it&#8217;s about <a href="">transaction costs</a> in a <a href="">Coase</a>/<a href="">Benkler</a> <a href="">style</a>.</li> </ol> <p>WikiLeaks is acting as a <i>marketplace</i> for illicit information, literally a <a href="">clearing house</a>. This model, with its unconscious capitalist/economics language bias, is the key reason to doubt the long-term effectiveness of this strategy.</p> <p>Here&#8217;s why: the &#8220;daylight&#8221; model of increasing the transaction costs for conspiracies against the people, in a manner which extends good journalistic practice for the digital age has a simple countermeasure: make security cheaper. By pushing up demand for secure communications, the price of supply goes down. Ah, you say, but leaks circumvent security: actually, no. Digitally tagging files by doing things like rearranging whitespace and swapping words around helps track documents so you know which person leaked. Similar approaches can be taken for images and video. Security isn&#8217;t just about stopping people from listening, it&#8217;s the whole spectrum of information assurance techniques. </p> <p>All we&#8217;re doing is breeding better conspiracies.</p> <p>There&#8217;s also good reason to believe that Assange simply picked the wrong target. There are a vast number of commercial conspiracies &#8211; cartels and industrial espionage being two really useful examples, plus omnipresent government corruption over civil contracting matters. Hitting these networks hard might actually have achieved a lot of popular support for wikileaks in the popular press, and the politically powerful middle class support base which actually decides elections might have come along for the ride. But doing stuff that makes it less likely for the western democracies to win wars makes everybody in those democracies uneasy, consciously or not, and leaves wikileaks politically and more importantly emotionally exposed. People just don&#8217;t like it. And it&#8217;s not just because Julian Assange is a zealot.</p> <p>Now let&#8217;s consider the &#8220;nightside&#8221; model, in which we think of wikileaks as simply being a publishing front for computer crackers to launder stolen documents as more-legitimate leaks. By creating a single exchange point, they&#8217;ve created a point of regulation. Pushing down the cost of publishing a cracked document, and providing filtering to take out (say) the names of innocents involved in a situation also creates a new political bottleneck, which (of course) the authorities have chocked down on as hard as possible. The other argument is that wikileaks primary threat is not the governments of the west, but vastly more unscrupulous agencies (Mossad, the Chinese) who might find their own uses for an allegedly journalistic endeavour.</p> <p><b>Economics thinking leads one astray when dealing with matters of political power.</b></p> <blockquote><p>&#8220;Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.&#8221; &#8211; Mao Tse-tung</p></blockquote> <p>I was writing software to run cryptographic financial markets in the late part of the last millennium. I&#8217;d worked extensively with the e-gold guys, and started to do some real analysis on how to do something very, very interesting. I was thinking about low-cost financial instruments for sustainable development, and rapidly discovered that there was a very, very real risk that my work was going to wind up empowering mafias.</p> <p>I got The Fear. I was an illegal immigrant writing software to build secure, anonymous, untraceable financial instruments on top of a dodgy digital currency run out of a south sea island banking system, and (worse) Florida. I slapped some sense into myself, and left the project behind, and cryptography with it. It just didn&#8217;t feel safe because I was already running one risk (being an illegal immigrant trying to find status to stay in the US) and I was breaking The Rules (1. only ever break one law at a time. 2. never break the law with somebody you don&#8217;t trust. 3. never break the law with somebody protected from the consequences. 4. don&#8217;t get caught. 5. never break the law with somebody dumber than you are. 6. cons con cons (aka &#8220;you cannot cheat an honest man.&#8221;), 7. never steal anything worth less than two years salary. 8. don&#8217;t do it for the thrill.)</p> <p>These are the things you learn growing up on a Scottish housing estate in the 1980s.</p> <p>So I quit crypto. Not being able to go to The State for help, if the situation I&#8217;d been in escalated to Men With Guns, left me with a clear understanding: I needed the State&#8217;s protection to be a full human being. Now, let me say that again: I needed the State&#8217;s protection to be a full human being.</p> <p>This is the start of my divergence from the classical cyperpunk&#8217;s anti-State crypto-anarchist market capitalist stance. I realized that I needed them to protect me from the Mafia, because I saw just the very shady outline of the Mafia two or three handshakes out from where I was, in a position where I couldn&#8217;t get help without getting deported. If they&#8217;d gone from three handshakes away to one handshake away, I&#8217;d have had to make a decision: ask for help and lose my country, or go it alone and risk losing my life or worse.</p> <p>It&#8217;s not until you get a sense of those situations yourself that your ethics become clear. But I realized that I needed the State.</p> <p>Years later, I realized the State needed me. I did a biometrics technology package, aimed at situations like Iraq, which embodied many of the fundamental core cypherpunk principles (anonymity, cryptographic assurances of judicial process, cryptographic implementation of personal privacy) in a proposed biometric ID card standard. I was working for the Office of the Secretary of Defense, with oversight from the National Security Agency. I worked in the public domain, <a href=>you can see the CheapID proposal here</a>, and I considered myself to be doing good. The Pentagon have always supported the hexayurt project, they&#8217;ve always treated the concepts of appropriate technology with respect, and while none of that washes away the evil done, I&#8217;ve never seen the fanged end of the beast.</p> <p>But I know it is there, and I tread carefully.</p> <p>Recently I invented the <a href=>Riot Snorkel</a> in direct response to the abuse of pepper spray and cs gas for suppressing peaceful protest in America. In the long run, that might be a pretty harsh anti-State action, and I&#8217;m aware of the risk it&#8217;s going to get people hurt in the long run by depriving police of an effective first move in quashing protests. I took a calculated risk, and invested some of my political capital to draw a line in the sand: &#8220;you should not be doing this, and I&#8217;m standing up.&#8221; That&#8217;s a political step I made to frame a wider project: getting some of this radical political stuff implemented as the only realistic way of governing ourselves on the planet, given the failure of mainstream democracies to protect the environment, help the poor, or even stay at peace in times where no legitimate reason for war exist.</p> <p>Understand: follow my engineering advice, and pepper spray and cs gas stop working. I didn&#8217;t put that out there without thinking through the risks at a political and personal level pretty carefully. I did it to protect democracy, in my own way, in my own time.</p> <p>So this is where Assange and I part ways. He used an economic analysis, and came up with a way of making conspiracy expensive. I used a military use-of-force analysis, and came to the conclusion that I needed the State&#8217;s protection, and in fact we all do. As a result, I&#8217;m guardedly loyal to the State, and I want the best State possible. I&#8217;m absolutely enthusiastic about the <a href=>A Thousand Nations</a> approach of building some new countries with new governance arrangements and seeing what works (&#8220;a Cambrian explosion in governance!&#8221; as they say) but, in the here and now, we need Better States.</p> <p>So here&#8217;s the model I use, parallel to Assange&#8217;s transaction costs model.</p> <ol> <li>Inside of government there&#8217;s a range of political and personal character, ranging from saintly to outright diabolical in a very literal &#8220;evil&#8221; sense.</li> <li>The good end of government tend to believe in things like open data, open government, rule of law, human rights and similar. It&#8217;s people a lot like you and me, but inside the State.</li> <li>By identifying the progressive incumbents, the best of the people seated at the Big Tables, and supporting them, we can produce better government.</li> <li>The critical periods are long-term conflicts about what to do on the biggest scale: wars, environment, civil rights etc. in which established factions form and fight for the framing of the problem of a given position.</li> <li>The critical actors are senior bureaucrats, not elected officials. Elected officials of any substantial power are all agents of satan by virtue of constantly having to lie to people and the media &#8220;or the other, even worse guy, will win.&#8221; This is corruption.</li> <li>Civil society &#8211; that&#8217;s you and me &#8211; can meaningfully contribute by effective support and cooperation to differentially empower progressive incumbents. We help the critical actors (senior bureaucrats) win critical conflicts during critical periods as a way of expressing our political power.</li> <li>Mostly what they need are good ideas and proof that doing the right thing will work. Civil society can produce these, possibly using Wikipedia-type Free approaches.</li> </ol> <p>I wrote about this approach at considerable length in <b><a href=>The Big Deal</a></b>, a series of long blog posts analysing how civil society could push forwards a new settlement with government in critical areas to try and create a better world. I believe in this approach.<br /> <a name=occupy></a><br /> Now, here&#8217;s why I&#8217;m laying this approach out. Next year, I&#8217;m going after #Occupy. The current political culture inside of #Occupy is dangerously shallow. If we get large scale economic breakage, and Occupy goes from being 2,000 people in New York to being 200,000 people, if it becomes the army of the dispossessed, the <a href=>Tyranny of Structurelessness</a> is going to be an immense bane, as a lot of angry, frightened people get together in a non-democratic environment and attempt to figure out where to apply their political weight to get solutions. There&#8217;s a name for that: it&#8217;s called a mob. We can, and must, do better than first-past-the-post voting every four years for leaders pre-selected by political power elites and corporate-controlled media. But we must also do better than small groups of people waving their hands at each other at emotive appeals.</p> <p>Two core virtues: voting, and written discourse. They go together: you can&#8217;t vote on a speech, or an improvised dialogue, because somebody may have made a mistake and now you&#8217;re voting on their mistake, not their intention. We need clear, written platforms, and political accountability for diverting from them. We&#8217;d all prefer CHANGE Obama to MORE OF THE SAME Obama, but there&#8217;s little framework for holding him to his own high standards. </p> <p>As I outlined in <a href=>The Big Deal</a> and <a href=>When?</a> we just can&#8217;t sustain political change on the basis of an inaccurate world model. </p> <p><b>Fighting, even winning, the war against narrow self interest is not the same thing as creating viable global solutions for the narrows that the human race finds itself in.</b></p> <p>Support progressive incumbents.</p> <p>Solve problems, don&#8217;t just yell at people.</p> <p>Be ready to take responsibility, because The State does a lot of work for us, and it&#8217;s going bankrupt in many places.</p> <p>Frontal assault is always going to get you bitten in the face. But we can change the world, as previous generations have, by skillful politics and picking both our horses and our battles with care.</p> <p>As I said at the beginning, I went to the same school as Julian Assange, but we learned different lessons.</p> <p>We can&#8217;t do this alone, and a counter-conspiracy is just another gang. It&#8217;s up to us to find a better, more inclusive, more whole way to address our global problems.</p> <p>Because until the proposed settlement works for everybody with a veto, particularly a veto-by-violence, stuck we remain.</p> <p>So that&#8217;s my game plan for next year. Thankless as the task might be, society as-a-whole is going to need a more politically sophisticated Occupy to take up the slack left by a limp press and a corrupt government. The outrage of the people needs to be both realistic and constructive, because if we tear down much more, there&#8217;s going to be nothing left. We don&#8217;t suffer from too much governance, we suffer from too little: no effective climate regulation, no effective nanobio risk regulation.</p> <p>Imagine a bridge built from the more reasonable end of Occupy, right through to the strategy rooms of Whitehall and Washington DC. That&#8217;s my vision of 2012: get everybody around the same table, make them all say sorry to each other, and then get on with figuring out how to fix the world.</p> <p><a href=";id=2936&amp;md5=d318eddb1cd0d7ce54b963ae24f94bc6" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2011-12-18 I went to the same school as Julian Assange, but we learned different lessons <p><a href="">Rebel Chinese village of Wukan &#8216;has food for ten days&#8217;</a></p> <p>The rebel Chinese village of Wukan, which has driven out the Communist party, has resorted to smuggling in food past a police ring of steel which has cut off its population of more than 20,000.</p> <p>A demonstration in the centre of Wukan village, in south China&#8217;s Guangdong province.</p> <p>Villagers say that they have enough supplies to hold out for only 10 more days.</p> <p>Wukan has been encircled by the police cordon since Sunday, after a failed attempt by 1,000 armed police to capture the village. No food or water is allowed in, and no villagers allowed out.</p> <p>But the villagers were unbowed yesterday, and their leaders said they had seen signs that the government would “blink first”.</p> <p>“We have an old saying here,” said Chen Liangshu, one of the villagers, referring to the legendary aggression of the Wukanese and their neighbours. “In heaven there is the Thunder God, on earth there is Lufeng and Wukan.”</p> <p>Trouble in Wukan has been brewing since September, after the fishing village revolted at an attempt to take one of its last parcels of farmland and give it to a major Chinese property developer, Country Garden.</p> <p><a href=";id=2933&amp;md5=53afb71053761ca809d91ee26620dd45" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2011-12-14 Water cut off to Chinese rebel village <p>I have decided to do something to prevent the abuse of chemical weapons by police.</p> <p>If I was a lawyer I might sue. I&#8217;m an engineer: I design.</p> <p>So I am presenting a simple plan for a chemical weapons protection system which is suitable for construction by peaceful protesters.</p> <p>I am aware this is a technology which could be abused, however (as I will explain in a moment) I consider this to be a reasonable risk under circumstances where widespread punitive use of sublethal chemical weapons is a routine fact of life for many peaceful protesters.</p> <p><strong>The Ethical Case</strong><br /> Sublethal chemical weapons like pepper spray were originally intended as an alternative to lethal force like firearms. They were sold to the public as a solution to problems like a senile man with a knife: you can disable him with relatively low risk using pepper spray, or you can shoot him with a firearm, but there&#8217;s no other way to disarm him that doesn&#8217;t put a policeman&#8217;s life in danger in close combat with a knife-wielder.</p> <p><em>As an alternative to firearms or other likely-lethal force, sublethal chemical weapons have considerable utility.</em></p> <p>However, as we&#8217;ve seen recently in America, pepper spray and CS gas are being used in a different way: <strong>punitive torture using chemical agents</strong> (<em>punitive chemical torture</em> for short) is being used to punish people for protesting. This is problematic for multiple reasons, but two likely have legal force.</p> <p>Firstly, torture is not a means of punishment which is recognized as legitimate under US law, European law, or international treaties on human rights. The United Nations explicitly takes a stand against it, as does the European human rights system. Therefore punitive use of torture using chemical agents is likely illegal in the spirit of the law, even if it is temporarily legal by the letter of it in some jurisdictions. </p> <p>Secondly, police do not have the ability to impose summary judgement, and punishment. Even if chemical torture was a legitimized punishment for certain classes of crimes (&#8220;protesting and third class trespass, GUILTY!&#8221;) police do not have the ability to decide who is guilty or not guilty and hand out punishment: that&#8217;s the court system&#8217;s job, not the police&#8217;s. This is a very simple argument to make, and the usurpation of powers indicated by police action in this respect is much more in line with the kind of thing you might see under martial law than normative legal conditions.</p> <p>So on this basis, I feel it to be necessary and important to do something to reduce the damage done by likely-illegal punitive chemical torture by police and other actors. As noted, I&#8217;m a designer, not a lawyer, so here is my solution.</p> <p><strong>Improvised Sublethal Chemical Weapons Personal Protective Equipment &#8211; <em>Not the Riot Snorkel</em></strong></p> <p>In the early phases of this project, I used the nickname &#8220;riot snorkel&#8221; for what I had designed. This name is not suitable for general use, because it includes the word &#8220;riot&#8221;, but as a working title it remains. I apologize for any confusion this may cause in future. This device is designed to protect peaceful protesters from improper use of sublethal chemical weapons.</p> <p>The ISCWPPE (&#8220;isc-wipe&#8221;) has three phases tiers of deployment.</p> <p>ISCWPPE-1<br /> Firstly, one takes the mouthpiece from a cheap snorkel and pulls off the snorkel. The mouthpiece is joined to three or four feet of garden hose, which is run down the back of the protester and invisibly positioned out of sight. One breathes in through the hose-snorkel when pepper spray is in play, the air intake being hidden and protected from frontal assault with a spray. This should probably be paired with a pair of goggles and a nose-clip or a face mask from standard swimming gear supplies to protect the eyes and nose. Critically, this does not obscure the face, and therefore is not a likely to be a mask which police might compel one to remove for identification purposes: I believe the ISCWPPE to be legal. The net effect is that if one is pepper sprayed, the respiratory tract and eyes will be protected from the effect of the sublethal chemical weapon. Skin burns will still be sustained, but the essential functions of the body will be protected.</p> <p>ISCWPPE-2<br /> The second level of the ISCWPPE connects the end of the pipe to a soda bottle based filter. Take a two litre soda bottle, connect the hose to the top of the bottle. An air intake goes into the bottom of the bottle, in the manner common in water pipes. The air intake tube starts above the level of the top of the bottle, so that liquid does not spill, and passes through the side of the bottle above the water line, while extending below the water line. The entire assembly could easily go in a small backpack, with the pipe from the snorkel going into the top of the backpack in a similar manner to Camelbak-type hydration packs. As one inhales, air is drawn through the water as a series of bubbles. Gravel or beads break up the bubbles, increasing the surface area. Allegedly vinegar counteracts CS gas, which is the primary modality this approach protects against. I cannot vouch for the safety of inhaling air passed through a vinegar solution (secondary drowning?) but this is terrain for analysis by medics, and possible experiment. Field treatments seem to focus on anti-acids like Maalox, but that seems to be for dealing with the impact of the gas post-exposure, where as vinegar-soaked bandanas seem to be used as face coverings. This is going to require experiment.</p> <p>Be careful with this! You will also need to add an exhale valve (see the standard N95 dust mask) to enable respiration. An exhale valve could also be fashioned from a tube-shaped balloon &#8211; cut off both ends, stretch over the pipe, and air can flow down the length of the rubber, but not back up. It&#8217;s a very simple, very durable valve, but may make a strange noise. Try taping a piece of such a balloon to a straw to understand the principle!</p> <p>ISCWPPE-3<br /> The third level of the ISCWPPE places a plastic bag, sealed at the neck, over the face of the protester. The out breath through the exhale valve expands the bag, producing a clear, flexible bubble around the head of the protester. Pepper spray and CS gas swirl outside of the bubble, while one is safe within. Exhaling continues to keep the bubble inflated. This bubble is at positive pressure, which will stop infiltration by any gas in the environment. However, this setup may be dangerous, as a blow to the head which rendered somebody unconscious without breaking the bag could result in suffocation.</p> <p>This is all notional, first-pass work on protecting people, but I don&#8217;t know what else to do to stop that abuse of these weapons other than making them ineffective.</p> <p>Take care, and be at peace.</p> <p>Vinay Gupta<br /> Director<br /> <a href=>Hexayurt Project</a></p> <p><a href=";id=2918&amp;md5=cd425fa85f4488c68db4911563e80daf" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2011-12-11 Protecting democratic protest from suppression by use of sublethal chemical weapons <p></p> <p>Israel threatens to cut off power, water to Gaza<br /> (AFP) – 17 hours ago<br /> JERUSALEM — Israel warned on Saturday that it would cut the supply of water and electricity to the Gaza Strip if rival Palestinian movements Fatah and Hamas form a unity government.<br /> &#8220;The foreign ministry is examining the possibility of Israel pulling out of the Gaza Strip in terms of infrastructure,&#8221; Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon told the daily Yediot Aharonot website.<br /> A unity government deal &#8220;would transform the Palestinian Authority into a terrorist authority and would put an end to any hope for a peace agreement&#8221; with Israel, said Ayalon, who is also a Knesset deputy from the nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party.<br /> On Friday, Israeli ministers decided to maintain a freeze on the transfer of tens of millions of dollars in tax monies to the Palestinian Authority hours after Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas held top-level talks with Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal at which they announced a new era of &#8220;partnership.&#8221;<br /> The transfer of funds, which make up a large percentage of the authority&#8217;s monthly budget, was frozen on November 1 as a punitive measure after the Palestinians won full membership of the UN cultural organisation.<br /> &#8220;If the Palestinians have signed an agreement over a unity government, it would make a transfer of funds impossible,&#8221; a senior government official told AFP.<br /> In January, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had already threatened to cut off water and power to Gaza, which has been controlled by Hamas since the Islamist group chased Fatah from the territory in 2008.<br /> Israel, which unilaterally withdrew from Gaza and dismantled Jewish settlements in 2008, continues to supply the territory with water and 70 percent of its electrical power, the rest being supplied by neighbouring Egypt or local power plants.<br /> Copyright © 2011 AFP. All rights reserved.</p> <p><a href=";id=2914&amp;md5=5844cee87d56d57f8de39f18d1e0fbaf" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2011-11-27 Israelis threaten to choke Gaza using power and water <p></p> <p>Greeks threatened with power cuts if they fail to pay property tax<br /> Civil disobedience campaign puts pressure on Athens government as it pushes EU/IMF austerity measures</p> <p>Helena Smith in Athens<br />, Sunday 30 October 2011 19.12 GMT<br /> Article history</p> <p>Demonstrators and riot police have clashed as Greeks oppose austerity measures imposed by the IMF and EU. Photograph: Stefanos Rapanis/EPA<br /> The Greek authorities are bracing for a broader campaign of civil disobedience as a nation infuriated by austerity and incensed at the engagement of EU and IMF &#8220;monitors&#8221; takes matters into its own hands.</p> <p>Sales of generators have shot up as households, resisting further belt-tightening, have sought to bypass a new property tax that the beleaguered government will collect through electricity bills.</p> <p>Announcing the measure in a desperate attempt to plug a budget black hole, the finance ministry warned that failure to pay the tax would automatically result in power supplies being disconnected.</p> <p>&#8220;But when 70% of Greek households don&#8217;t pay it what are they going to do, cut off the whole lot?&#8221; asked Giorgos Zisimos, a shopowner-cum-driver.</p> <p>Rather than dampen Greece&#8217;s anti-tax revolt, last week&#8217;s landmark decision at an EU summit to write off 50% of Greece&#8217;s debt mountain while giving Athens another €130bn (£114bn) in rescue funds, appears only to have bolstered resistance. Many fear the deal will mean more austerity on top of wage, pension and benefit cuts already enforced by the socialist administration in exchange for the foreign aid it needs to stave off default.</p> <p>Although hailed by the prime minister, George Papandreou, for providing &#8220;necessary breathing space&#8221;, the accord has also been harshly criticised for ceding too much sovereignty to its international creditors. Outraged Greeks are asking how much say they will have in their own affairs after the EU made clear that monitors would be relocated to Athens to supervise the economy. On Friday, anger reached boiling point as anti-austerity protesters, some carrying &#8220;Merkel = Hitler&#8221; banners, others burning German flags, disrupted national parades commemorating Greece&#8217;s entry into the second world war.</p> <p>&#8220;Greeks are a proud people and the EU should bear this in mind,&#8221; said Yiannis Dimaras, who was expelled from the ruling Pasok party in June for refusing to endorse painful cost-cutting measures demanded in return for a second aid package 14 months after Athens was first bailed out to the tune of €110bn. &#8220;The prospect of more measures will bring more social explosions. The civil disobedience that we are seeing is partly about protest but also about people just not having the money to pay such extras. How can someone who earns €500 a month suddenly be called on to pay a property tax? The government I think is going to have huge difficulty enforcing this.&#8221;</p> <p>Nothing has galvanised public opinion more than the unpopular property tax. The finance ministry says that as a result of rampant tax evasion it is owed €40bn in unpaid taxes. It hopes the levy, whose lifespan is as yet unspecified, will raise about €2bn by the end of the year.</p> <p>The civil disobedience movement, which began with Greeks refusing to pay road tolls and has seen ministries and government buildings being taken over in a wave of strikes and protests, has grown to such an extent that even elected local officials have thrown their weight behind it.</p> <p>With thousands of electricity bills yet to be printed, militant unionists at the public power corporation, DEH, who recently took over the company&#8217;s printing press, have threatened to step up action. &#8220;We are not going to do the government&#8217;s dirty work,&#8221; railed Nikos Fotopoulos who heads the union. &#8220;Electricity is a social commodity, not a means to collect taxes. We will do everything to ensure that unemployed people, poor people do not have their electricity cut.&#8221;</p> <p><a href=";id=2912&amp;md5=d1e84e26bdac318397938bc821e9dc53" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2011-11-27 Greek gov enforces property taxes with power cuts <p><a href=""><img src="" alt="" title="armed_with_science" width="300" height="271" class="alignright size-medium wp-image-2907" /></a></p> <p>I have been written up on <a href=>Armed with Science</a>, a Department of Defense web site.</p> <blockquote><p><a href=>Vinay Gupta</a> probably did not expect to serve as an inspiration for a DoD research project. As a programmer, <b>master of Nepalese magic</b>, editorial staff-member at the <a href="">Rocky Mountain Institute</a> and, most recently, the founder of the <a href="">Hexayurt Project</a> – where he promotes easy-to-assemble shelters for disaster-stricken communities – Vinay’s background doesn’t smack of a strong connection with the U.S. defense community. Regardless, in his work with Hexayurt, he has approached disaster-relief with a <a href="">“6 Ways to Die”</a> model, which argues that humanitarian aid is most effective when targeted at the 6 top causes of human death: extreme heat, cold, thirst, hunger, illness, and injury. Little did he anticipate that it would help inspire the <a href=>STAR-TIDES</a> project (Sharing to Accelerate Research, Transformative Innovation for Development and Emergency Support) at the National Defense University, and guide our efforts to assemble a searchable database of low-cost, sustainable technologies for a variety of missions. [emphasis mine]</p></blockquote> <p>I really owe Van Barker a debt for writing this &#8211; it perfectly captures the ambiguity and complexity of my relationships with the military, particularly the US branch who have been, without a doubt, more faithful in their conscious efforts to support my humanitarian innovations than anybody else. It&#8217;s not an easy situation at times, but unlikely collaborations always been the core creative process at the heart of institutional innovation.</p> <p>The piece also captures an unlikely nuance, <b>Master of Nepalese magic</b>. I think that text originated in the <a href="">Boing Boing interview</a> I did with Woody Evans. It&#8217;s not perhaps how I&#8217;d describe myself, but there&#8217;s more truth to it than I typically tell. The line between the non-obvious bits of yoga and outright sorcery requires a practiced eye from an appropriate standpoint to see. <i>&#8220;I am not a magickian. The universe is magic, and I am standing in a vantage point to see it&#8221;</i> might be closer to what I would have said about the matter if quoted, but I will accept the unlikely situation of acknowledged as a Master of the (Nepalese) Art in a Department of Defense publication.</p> <p>Armed with Science, indeed.</p> <p><a href="">You can read the whole piece here.</a> It&#8217;s a very good summary of the State of Play at <a href="">STAR-TIDES</a>, and has finally provided a definitive way for me to explain my experience with the Department of Defense. Thank you!</p> <p><i>And, no, I cannot make you rich or turn you into a frog!</i> I know a man who can, though.</p> <p><a href=";id=2905&amp;md5=ea6c48b870b41bf4138e99e78570d382" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2011-11-23 Armed with Science… and Magic <p>My life makes even less sense than usual. Remember when I was settled in <a href=>Cloughjordan</a> Ecovillage in Ireland, putting my feet up and hunkering down for the apocalypse? Yeah, me neither. I was offered a role at <a href=>Hub Westminster</a> to <i>&#8220;do something amazing with nights and weekends&#8221;</i> and so I did. So I&#8217;m now back in London, in culture shock, trying to design a lifestyle that works for me including such mundanities as <i>finding a place to live</i>. Ah, the drama!</p> <p><a href=>Truth and Beauty</a> (<a href=>#truthandbeauty</a>) is a regular <a href="">Tuesday and Thursday night events</a> which curates a collection of the most interesting things we can find, mainly discursive on Tuesdays and mainly performative on Thursdays. We have dinner together (by the fab <a href=>Munch Food</a>, or you can bring your own), talk, get to know each other, have our horizons broadened, then have a cup of tea afterwards.</p> <p>We have an intimidatingly good schedule for November: Richard Stallman, <a href="">Jamais Cascio</a> and (TBA) <a href="">Pat Kane</a>. On a lesser note, I&#8217;m doing three talks on <a href=>The Future We Deserve</a>, too, at <a href=>Indy Johar&#8217;s</a> behest.</p> <p>Some details about the first talk, which is on economic geography &#8211; how the world&#8217;s money is really divided, what the real relationship is between the 1% and the rest of us, the 99%, and so on. It&#8217;s big, solid heavy-hitting stuff, and sets the stage for the next talk on Tuesday the 8th of November on governance and globalism, and the final talk on November 15th on where the real levers to solve these problems are.</p> <p>Here are the slides.</p> <p><iframe src=";interval=60&#038;size=m" frameborder="0" width="555" height="451"></iframe></p> <p>There&#8217;s a <a href=>write-up with notes from Ethin</a></p> <p>The <a href=>archival writeup</a> is here, and <b><a href="">this is a direct link to the high quality audio file</a></b>.</p> <p>So come on down to Truth and Beauty. There&#8217;s always going to be something fascinating and amazing going on, and we very much hope to see you at an <a href="">event </a>soon.</p> <p><a href=";id=2895&amp;md5=158557549ceafa89452795e029d2041b" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2011-11-02 A quick life update… <p><i>This piece appears to form the foundation of <a href="" target=_blank>Adbusters Tactical Briefing 18</a>, which gets the basics but misses two important points.</i></p> <p><center><a href=""><img alt="" src="" width="50%" /><br /> <font size=-1><br />Hexayurt Encampment at Burning Ice, Brussels. <br />Click for video of the winter camp.</a></font><br /> </center></p> <p>I&#8217;ve been getting a couple of pings a day about providing infrastructural support for #Occupy. I get pinged by email, on twitter, comments, through friends, at events. It&#8217;s taken me a while to come to a conclusion, and this post is it.</p> <p>Firstly, let me lay out my political stance: any political solution must solve our problems in a global context, recognizing things like <a href="">&#8220;the 1%&#8221; is anybody making more than $34,000 per year.&#8221;</a> #Occupy is very limited in perspective, in general, to local economic issues, and lacks (so far) a discourse that speaks to my concerns about global environmental issues and resource geopolitics. So while I&#8217;m sympathetic to #Occupy, it doesn&#8217;t directly address my concerns: I hope nobody gets hurt, and that the protests generate real action on poverty and inequality within the nation states these movements exist in, but without a genuinely internationalist and global platform, this is not for me. <a href="">Sorry, but that&#8217;s where I am.</a></p> <p>Now, the second thread: advice for #Occupy on winter infrastructure. People were basically expecting something that looked like this:</p> <ul> <li>Cheap polypropylene thermal underwear, two sets per person, with volunteer laundry services. And poly hats, too. You&#8217;ll need name tags for the laundry. </li> <li>Synergy beds: cheap inflatable camping mattress (the 1/2&#8243; thick kind) under a cheap foam camping mat (the 1/2&#8243; thick kind), with a cotton sleeping bag liner to absorb moisture, a decent synthetic sleeping bag, and over the top a Heatsheet-brand space blanket (accept no substitutes) weighted at the corners or taped to the foam mat. The foam mat is essential. The synergy bed is lightweight but utter luxury &#8211; feels like a 3&#8243; mattress! </li> <li>Giant thermos flasks &#8211; 2.2 liters or more are cheap &#8211; and/or Jetboil stoves, which are incredibly efficient for keeping people warm by hot drinks. </li> <li>Corrugated plastic <a href=>folding hexayurts</a>, probably the 6&#8242; Stretch hexayurt, which builds nicely in corrugated plastic. The big hexayurt is just too big for those materials. The bigger, heavier foam insulation units probably don&#8217;t have the right dynamics for the occupation, being rather big and hard to transport. But small folding ones, ftw. </li> <li>Use Simple Critical Infrastructure Maps (there&#8217;s a copy in the <a href=>Gupta State Failure Management Archive</a> to arrange meetings into Shelter, Supply and Safety quadrants, and learn how to use the naming scheme presented in that document to minimize or eliminate misunderstandings about infrastructure &#8211; it&#8217;s literally a series of agenda items for meetings, really, when you get right down to it! It&#8217;s a very simple, clean, efficient way to organize encampments and make sure everything gets done. </li> </ul> <p><strong>But this is totally wrong.</strong> It&#8217;s a tactical approach to a fundamentally strategic and political problem: what to do with #occupy as winter approaches! </p> <p>I&#8217;m not saying there&#8217;s no value in <a href="">Occupy Sustainability</a> type appropriate technology solutions. I&#8217;m not saying that at all. But no set of kit can make your winter camps welcoming and hospitable and easy places of fellowship, not for long month-after-month occupations.</p> <p>So the problem must be considered at a strategic and political level.</p> <p>What I am saying is this: Avoid <a href="">Winter War</a>. Whether it&#8217;s <a href="">Stalingrad</a> or <a href="">Valley Forge</a> or the <a href="">Talvisota</a>, winter is not the friend of those involved in struggle. It might favor one side or another in terms of long term political outcomes, but both sides suffer, and the side with less support for dealing with the winter suffers doubly.</p> <p>So this is my advice on winter to #Occupy. Go <a href="">#homeforthanksgiving</a>. Declare victory, tell people you&#8217;ve held out long enough to make the point, and you&#8217;re going home to your families for the holidays.</p> <p><b>And then actually do it</b>. Leave nothing behind but eerie silence. Clean up, Leave No Trace as they say at Burning Man, and then spend the winter getting your platform together and planning actions for the spring.</p> <p>Here&#8217;s my vision: in Spring, take-and-hold land and plant a hundred thousand wild flowers. In areas with bare earth, turn up with spades and grow food. Grow-occupy (<a href="">#groccupy</a>?) But work with the forces of nature, with the cycles of the earth, and cultivate a culture of growth, expansion, beauty and harmony. In winter, you will grow to hate each other, and the system.</p> <p>In the spring, you may see your way through to the universal love which changes all hearts, and into a culture of such beauty and nobility that nobody will crack your skulls for planting flowers and asking for change.</p> <p>No winter war.</p> <p>In the spring, make peace through beauty.</p> <p>Vinay Gupta,<br /> <a href="">Hexayurt Project</a><br /> If you&#8217;re new to my work, <a href="">this is who I am</a>.</p> <p><a href=";id=2881&amp;md5=3fa1532008d715b817a489b05a937589" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2011-10-29 Avoid Winter War: Hexayurts and #Occupy <p>Once in a while, life gets complicated. That&#8217;s not usually good news, but this time is an exception. I&#8217;ll try and keep the near-infinite complexity of the situation down to a few key core facts. </p> <p>* I left Ireland for a quick trip to visit the KaosPilots with Dougald (of Dark Mountain) and Barbora (of Magnificent Revolution, the bicycle power lab). It was an incredibly tough mission about challenging people&#8217;s core intellectual, personal and cultural assumptions about how the world worked, and I was left wondering about how to do that kind of education before people&#8217;s optimism has been tested against the dense stuff of life in the world. Perhaps it is perspective better learned late than early.</p> <p>* On the way back to Ireland, I visited one of the launch events at Hub Westminster, a night sure to live in Infamy. Suffice it to say, after several days of intense discssion with the team there, I moved back to London to contribute something to the effort. I am now curating a series of intellectual and cultural events in the evenings at the Hub, which start tomorrow night with the first of the TRUTH AND BEAUTY lecture series.</p> <p>This leaves some major personal issues unresolved for me: do I still live in Ireland? Am I less focussed on downside management, and more on creation and preservation of cultural capital? But these questions are subsidiary to the action taken &#8211; talking with Ansuman Biswas about what we might do in the space together brought me to a simple conclusion: if I do not do this, these things will not happen.</p> <p>The rest is details.</p> <p>We are going to start my event cycle at Hub Westminster fairly gently.</p> <p>TRUTH AND BEAUTY</p> <p>On Tuesday nights, at 6:45PM, there will be dinner. For the first few weeks this will be a &#8220;bring Chinese food&#8221; type event, but we anticipate having catering very soon. Of course, you will still be able to bring your own food to eat and share, we can&#8217;t suit all tastes! </p> <p>At 8PM, there will be one hour of rigourous and inspiring intellectual exercise. We have a lot of smart friends, and they demand quality input, so we will try and find challenging and stimulating speakers on pertinent topics. We will keep the talks to one hour including questions, and expect to often have two or three shorter talks on a theme, debates, and other such formats. We are friendly and open to all suggested speakers, and please feel free to recommend yourself, particlarly if you bring an audience.</p> <p>At 9PM, we will adjourn for tea and discussions. There may be cocktails at some future point, if we can arrange them. Around 9:30PM there will be general exodus, because those with busy lives, early starts or children need to get home and cannot fully participate in an event which goes on all night. In fairness to them, we end early. This is important for our diversity, inclusivity and sustainability. Next week, we do it all again!</p> <p>Now, there is more.</p> <p>BEAUTY AND TRUTH</p> <p>On Thursdays, we will have a second event. While T&#038;B is of the mind, B&#038;T is of the senses. We will start with music, acoustic and unplugged in all probability, and likely by candle light, health and safety permitting. At first we will try for the &#8220;one hour then tea and home!&#8221; format, but Thursday is followed by Friday, a day we can face a little worn, so it may be that we will go later by degrees. But we will certainly start with an hour, and go from there.</p> <p>I was asked to put something together late Thursday night. Tuesday &#8211; today, because this is after midnight! &#8211; will be our first event, under-publicised and virgin. But we will be there, with our friends, and hopefully with you.</p> <p>I&#8217;d like to thank the team at Hub Westminster from the depths of my being for their hard work, to manifest such an awe-inspiring space, and for their ambition to do things of significance in the world at a time when most people&#8217;s thoughts run to preservation, rather than audacious creation. </p> <p>There are two more notes.</p> <p>Firstly, this is just the beginning. TRUTH AND BEAUTY is a place to settle in to the new space, to meet friends, to think and plan. It is designed to be a sustainable anchor, a common ground, a familiar, friendly face. If we enjoy each-other&#8217;s company in such space enough to wish to work together to go further, events and conferences and other lecture series and film viewings and workshops and making of things and all manner of other engagement may result. But it all starts with getting the basics right, a cycle of gatherings and friendship, from which all else may grow.</p> <p>Secondly, in November, I will be finishing my work on The Future We Deserve with three lectures and three brief Unconferences on the topics raised in my talks. I will post full details tomorrow, but the dates are the first three Tuesdays and Thursdays in November.</p> <p>I hope you will be able to attend.</p> <p>Thank you so much for your care and support,</p> <p>Vinay</p> <p><a href=";id=2877&amp;md5=7d7dc005247824112921132cd06b350b" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2011-10-18 Truth and Beauty, or “what in the hell is going on, Vinay?” <p><i>or, unpicking workshop design to create genuinely open exchange</i></p> <p>So I&#8217;ve been experimenting with <a href="">various</a> <a href="">formats</a> for a workshop here in <a href="">Cloughjordan</a>. I&#8217;ve been trying to find something that people were interested enough in doing, and that would get the work out there.</p> <p>But I realized, after somewhat lukewarm response, that I was thinking too much about &#8220;I want to run a workshop and get paid to do it, how do people do that?&#8221; This, of course, is Not Helpful, because I&#8217;m not like other people, and I&#8217;m not teaching what they are teaching, so expecting that their models would work for me is not sensible.</p> <p><b>Generally speaking, I try to afford people as much freedom as possible to do what they like with my ideas.</b> </p> <ul> <li>things are unbundled</li> <li>there&#8217;s no ideology</li> <li>items are public domain, generally speaking</li> <li>I don&#8217;t project manage collaborators</li> </ul> <p>What I hadn&#8217;t figured out is that I need to do the same in a workshop setting. So here&#8217;s what I&#8217;m proposing.</p> <ol> <li>You know me and my work, or you wouldn&#8217;t be interested in coming to a workshop.</li> <li>You&#8217;ve already got access to a <a href="">fairly substantial archive</a> of my lectures and papers.</li> <li>What&#8217;s left, then, is individual curiosity about applications.</li> </ol> <p>So if you had the cash, you could just fly out, sit me down for a week, and I could teach you whatever you wanted to know. It might cost you a thousand bucks &#8211; Gupta&#8217;s private mentoring program, for madmen only, just like the magic theater.</p> <p>Better, though, might be a chance to get the download <b>on your own terms</b>, with your choice of companions, covering the material that you are most interested in. And you or I could also invite other people (for example, <a href=>Dougald Hine</a>) to teach at the same time.</p> <p>So this leads me to The Open Workshop. Here&#8217;s the idea.</p> <ol> <li>You find a group of people who want to learn what I have to teach, and figure out with me what the precise syllabus will be.</li> <li>Your group split the cost of my time and accommodation however you like.</li> <li>I teach The Thing, whatever it might be, from my repertoire.</li> </ol> <p>And, as I mentioned, you can invite whoever you like to co-teach, or I can bring in specialists if I&#8217;m not the best person for a specific aspect of your area of interest.</p> <p>In terms of costs, accommodation at <a href=>Django&#8217;s Hostel</a> is minimally 105EUR a week. My time, let&#8217;s say, is 200EUR a day, but a really involved workshop might take a couple of weeks of planning and preparation on my part, depending on the complexity of the material and the depth of the ask. I think a maximum practicable group size is about two dozen, less for extremely intensive material.</p> <p>So how do those numbers add up?</p> <ul> <li>A one week workshop for 20 people based on material I know well already (one day prep) would cost 165EUR including accommodation.</li> <li>A one week workshop for 12 people, requiring three weeks of prep because it&#8217;s material I don&#8217;t usually teach and in-depth, with catering, would be about 460EUR.</li> </ul> <p>I should probably be paying myself about twice that amount, but people aren&#8217;t exactly beating down my door for an education, and I can always raise prices later if demand warrants. But at this point I think I&#8217;ve come up with a recipe which seems right to me &#8211; collaboratively creating the experiences that people want, splitting the load of design and putting bums-on-seats with the clients (that&#8217;s you) and doing it at a price that my friends can afford. It&#8217;s a way of amortizing the cost of putting my attention on your area of interest, basically.</p> <p>So I&#8217;m <a>open to offers</a> and I&#8217;ll continue to develop workshop syllabus material as time permits. In the long run, I think it&#8217;s what I want to spend my time doing for a while, exploring a more oral, more interactive way of making the work available.</p> <p>Thanks for your attention!</p> <p>V><br /> PS: I&#8217;ve put up an editable Google Doc, if people want to <a href=";authkey=CPmRl-oF">do a little thinking together</a> on this.</p> <p><a href=";id=2871&amp;md5=aea4d5ae9d114cb05c0207c9c15374e7" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2011-09-15 The Open Workshop <p>Apocalypse </p> <p>I have reached for the sword.</p> <p>I can&#8217;t or won&#8217;t tell you how or when. </p> <p>Let me then make the argument.</p> <p>1) We are at seven billion humans now, expected to rise to at least nine billion.</p> <p>2) If everybody lived like an American, we would need about eight planets. For Europeans the number is about four.</p> <p>3) Voluntary (individual and community) efforts to reduce environmental impact by changing behavior have been ineffective.</p> <p>4) Coercive (government) efforts to reduce environmental impact have been effective in some instances (ozone, dioxins) but not on other big environmental threats.</p> <p>5) Therefore, as consumption continues to increase as the rich continue to find new ways to consume, poor people cease being peasant farmers and get jobs, and population continues to rise, we are going to damage the planet extremely severely, perhaps even kill it.</p> <p>6) Furthermore, we are giving rise to entirely new classes of threat, including biotechnology and nanotechnology, either one of which could result in massive permanent damage, including completely annihilation, of the world. Our willingness to retain our nuclear capacity speaks volumes about our ability to handle such technologies.</p> <p>In the long run, if we are going to survive, there are two unambiguous options.</p> <p>A) A peaceful and sane technological breakthrough, such as ultra-cheap solar panels or safe molecular manufacturing, which allows humans to consume at these rates or higher without killing nature by degrees.</p> <p>or</p> <p>B) Global enforcement of planet-saving environmental policies at the expense of human comfort, at least for those consuming most at the moment.</p> <p>I still believe A) is <i>partially</i> possible, in that we may get the technological breakthroughs. However, most of the advanced novel technologies are used for war, and you are likely to see a Terminator from nanotechnology long before a Cornucopia Machine.</p> <p>However, B) is much more plausible. The utter destructive, homicidal madness of human beings, as seen in the age of Pol Pot, could arise and turn on hyperconsumers at any time. The bloodshed would be immense, but a planetary interregnum while concerned humans simply tore down the technical foundations of over-consumption to protect the planet is entirely plausible to me &#8211; far more so than a simple renunciation of war, and an acceptance of a peaceful high-technology future for humanity.</p> <p>This is, fundamentally, what has been kicking my ass. This is the crisis.</p> <p>However I roll the dice, I wind up back here, and I can&#8217;t find a way out that gels with what I know. The ultratech solution is fine &#8211; apart from the nanowar. The peasant revolution is fine, apart from the machete war.</p> <p>But all we are doing right now is winching a roller-coaster up and up and up, and the tracks it will roll down go over a cliff, into planetary extinction.</p> <p>Why are we doing this? Because the dominant cultures on this planet have believed for thousands of years that the way to a better world lies on the other side of a planetary catastrophe called The Apocalypse, in which various horrors from the divine world are unleashed upon the earth, culminating in a global fascism under a single just ruler.</p> <p>The secret impulse in all hearts to destroy the world is a perverted desire to see the face of god, or some similarly benign condition, upon the face of the earth.</p> <p>It is bad theology which underlies every belching smoke stack and every abattoir. Nature is not sacred, it is simply the growth medium for humanity, one part to be judged, one part to be saved, to live under unipolar divine law forever more.</p> <p>Sacred cow becomes sacred hamburger.</p> <p>Bad myths make bad people.</p> <p>People like Dick Cheney are demonized. They may, indeed, act like demons, but the special power we afford them, and Hitler, and Mao, and Stalin is the reflected darkness of the Antichrist, the Sum of All Fears, the Adversary, the thing set against God which controls some aspect of the fate of man. We imbue the darker facets of power with a metaphysical horror, an elemental Evil which owes nothing to the pre-Monotheist conceptions of power. A bad king is no longer a bad man, but a facet of The Power Which Opposes, the Heart of Darkness, and eventually, dare we say it, Satan. Our cultural mythology is full of Good Guys, leading us up, and Bad Guys, leading us down. People expect these Agents of Evil to triumph, some literally, creating the need for a just ruler who will reward the innocent and punish the guilty and non-believers. But first the world must die.</p> <p>If a Hindu fundamentalist had not killed Gandhi in 1948, at 78, Gandhi would have lead the global campaign against nuclear weapons, for world peace. If he had lived to 100, he would have lived all the way through the 1960s, and perhaps provided us with the spiritual leadership we needed to slip the yoke of these evil dreams, and find happiness and freedom on this earth. Imagine the 1960s with Gandhi at its head.</p> <p>Instead, there was no effective force to oppose the settlement we have with the nuclear issue, Mutually Assured Destruction, which lasts to this very day.</p> <p>You expect goodness and sanity in a world where we are never more than minutes from complete annihilation if one power group or another presses the red button? The very fact of those weapons is the proof of our madness.</p> <p>As it is, I fear a dark path is upon us. The cleansing of the world by fire is a deep, deep myth in India culture &#8211; the Kalki Avatar, the incarnation of Vishnu who comes &#8220;when Thieves dress as Kings&#8221; and puts the lot to the sword to make way for a new age. This may be the mythology which killed Gandhi &#8211; a man who wished for Gandhi to make war with the Muslims, or at least maintain the sacred barriers of Caste, rather than ushering in peace and egalitarian freedom for all. I wonder if, perhaps, he was killed because he was not Kalki enough. But now I must ask you something.</p> <p>Do you really believe we&#8217;re going to turn this thing around?</p> <p>Look at the world. We&#8217;ve gone crazy. We plod on through our days, and each one of the seven billion of us, or at least the two billion rich, carries a little share of the death of the world and the massacre of the poor within us. One two-billionth share of the death of the world does not seem very much &#8211; a hamburger, a six pack and a decent car and house will do it. Our individual shares of the damage seem so small, and so necessary. None of us are responsible because all of us are.</p> <p>That sword cuts both ways. We, whose over-consumption is killing the world, bear collective responsibilities for our actions.</p> <p>The polluter pays. We say <i>qui bono</i>, &#8220;to who&#8217;s advantage&#8221; and the answer is, &#8220;ours.&#8221;</p> <p>It&#8217;s going to get settled by coercive force. It&#8217;s probably not going to be governments, because they&#8217;re causing most of these problems. </p> <p>If the world is to live, it&#8217;s going to come down to one of two things, and the interaction between them.</p> <p>i) Hail-Mary pass benign technologies, like Nanosolar, arriving without God Help Us technologies like nanowar.</p> <p>ii) Effective coercion of polluters and over-consumers from non-state actors. Think Sea Shepherd on steroids.</p> <p>Both of these, frankly, call for use of coercive force by people who take the survival of the planet a hell of a lot more seriously than governments, who are the number one threat to it right now, given their nuclear stockpiles and sponsorship of insanely destructive technologies on all sides.</p> <p>Corporations are not the problem. Governments which allow them to run amok are the problem. Voters allow governments to run amuck, voters are the problem. Voters = buyers = consumers = We The People are The Problem.</p> <p>Because right at the bottom of it, in some narrow little Freudian place, you don&#8217;t care what we&#8217;re doing to the planet, because when it dies, Jesus comes back.</p> <p>Now I don&#8217;t know if this analysis is correct. I am going through a dark patch here, and I&#8217;m putting this out here for discussion. Perhaps there&#8217;s a different explanation.</p> <p>But I cannot see, for the life of me, that this doesn&#8217;t all root back into the desire to end the world in pursuit of something better than life. That&#8217;s what we&#8217;re buying at the mall: little unitized packets of the death of the world, packaged into products, and enjoyed not in spite of, but because of, the worldeath they represent.</p> <p>Bad myths make bad people.</p> <p>When the time comes, as it might, we may all be forced to consider the role of violence and bad mythology at the roots of our culture.</p> <p>The world is not guaranteed a future, and neither are we. It may, or may not, all just work out this time, as it has for humanity every other time.</p> <p>It is different now, because we ourselves are in charge.</p> <p>Nearly everything about cars and houses is controlled by the State, and as a result, they completely suck from an energy and environment perspective. All innovation is crushed flat. Most of heavy industry likewise &#8211; subsidies for what is old and dirty, disincentives for what is new and clean. Consider nuclear vs. renewable subsidies, when all costs are taken into account. Are we really so stupid we can&#8217;t make a green car and a green house? No! But the aggregated will-to-destroy in people, bad myths, leads us to accept this fate as our own. We will ruin the global economy for futile religious wars in the middle east, but not tax carbon slightly to encourage the move towards a sustainable world &#8211; a world with a future.</p> <p>I don&#8217;t know how you dig 6,000 years plus of bad software out of something without a reformat.</p> <p>Maybe Kalki was right.</p> <p><a href=";id=2862&amp;md5=7ecd0f73f632aea6501a9801886c418b" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2011-09-07 Goddamn. <p>Soundtrack:<br /> <iframe width="420" height="345" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe></p> <p>It&#8217;s hard to know what started it. It was ongoing when I left London for <a href=>Cloughjordan</a>. It might have started when Bembo Davies showed me that what I was doing was terrible theater, just did not work. It might be an impending 40th birthday. More than anything, it might be my work starting to hit maturity.</p> <p>This year&#8217;s Burning Man was the critical arrival of the <a href="">Hexayurt Project</a>. Reports are coming in, apparently it was a great success. We know that <a href=>Edmund Harriss&#8217;s</a> big hexayurt-domes (we&#8217;re still figuring out nomenclature!) were built. There were networks of hexayurts. There were <i>a lot of hexayurts</i>. I&#8217;ll start posting structured roundups on what happened out there soon, as news comes in.</p> <p>More than anything, I am struggling with my own powerlessness. I am, by any reasonable standards, an exceptional human being. There are a handful of people in the world who combine my degree of raw intellectual firepower and commitment to change. Many of the long bets I&#8217;ve made are coming in, and the core of my last decade&#8217;s worth of work is well-established in the world. I believe we&#8217;ll see real, significant, substantial hexayurt deployments in the developing world off the awareness generated at this year&#8217;s Burning Man, and then the project will stand on its own feet all the way. And I feel <i>startlingly</i> unequal to the problems we face as a species. I&#8217;m at full deployment and then some, and even in the sector that I&#8217;m working, I&#8217;m barely making a scratch.</p> <p>The powerlessness thing even though, by any objective standards, I&#8217;m winning on every axis except financially, is hitting me harder and harder these days. Even if everything I&#8217;m doing goes to its full extent, from the <a href="">Resilience Designer</a> stuff through to <a href="">The Future We Deserve</a> and the mass deployment of hexayurts and <a href="">simple critical infrastructure maps</a>, it&#8217;s not going to be enough.</p> <p>It&#8217;s that scene from The Man Who Fell To Earth where he piles up the money from the briefcase of basic patents based on his alien technology, and realizes it won&#8217;t be enough money to build what he came to create. (minimal spoilers)</p> <p><iframe width="560" height="345" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe></p> <p>What defines enough?</p> <p><b>A one-world lifestyle for all human beings.</b></p> <p>I&#8217;m willing to use the coercive force of the State to this end. I&#8217;m willing to use my own life to this end. I&#8217;m willing to over-reach and breakthrough to this end. I&#8217;m willing to lead, up to a point, to this end. But I cannot do this, I can&#8217;t even make it possible, alone. The culture which could actually make this happen does not exist yet. </p> <p>I have two points of reference left in this landscape. <a href=>The Unplugged</a> which describes a social movement which <i>could</i> Solve The Problem, and <a href=>Open Source Ecology</a> which is a real, functioning, higher standard of living relocalization-and-open-source project.</p> <p>(resilience, relocalization and open source &#8211; RRAOS &#8211; might be a term for future use.)</p> <p>Open Source Ecology needs help. They&#8217;re possibly our best shot &#8211; the ideas, and to some degree the team, at Solving The Real Problem. It&#8217;s one of the few efforts where you can say &#8220;if we did this, all of it, it would actually make a real dent.&#8221; If you&#8217;re looking for something to do which will help, help there. I think cold hard cash is probably a better approach than volunteering unless you have specific skills they need, but read up and see where you fit in.</p> <p>But again, I am avoiding the crisis. I don&#8217;t believe in my own plan. The level of engagement it would take to do this and win, globally, is more than I can imagine.</p> <p><b>Think about that: I don&#8217;t think we can do it.</b></p> <p>It is not that I have given up, but I am now moving forwards blindly, with just the outline of a plan and some principles, rather than moving along a planned axis. Up until now I <i>have</i> had a plan I believed in, which was basically reboot Buckminster Fuller&#8217;s work by infusing it with open source principles, and make Gandhi&#8217;s models practical on that technology base.</p> <p>I&#8217;ve given it five solid years, basically full-time, and five years before than in prep. We have one technology out of that process, the hexayurt, and one perspective, the stuff in the Gupta State Failure Management Archive.</p> <p>Not enough. Some bad luck, some active resistance, some misjudgment. We nearly got a big hexayurt deployment in Haiti. We nearly got a much more profound appropriate technology program at the Pentagon. Lot of near-misses.</p> <p>I&#8217;ve failed to deliver the revolutionary change I had hoped to ignite.</p> <p>And it doesn&#8217;t matter. Because I never did what I did because I hoped. I did what I did because it&#8217;s what I am for. When the mains came on in Spring of 2001, when I finally got hold of life properly, I knew this is what I was going to do, in some sense. And I&#8217;m going to continue doing it, but the ongoing crisis of not being able to find a strategy I believe can produce the transformation I was hoping for is just that &#8211; an ongoing crisis.</p> <p>I can&#8217;t push any harder, I don&#8217;t know how to work any smarter, and it&#8217;s not enough.</p> <p>Now what?</p> <p>KBO, Keep Buggering On as Churchill said. I did say I expected the hexayurt to take until 2018 until there for the first large-scale deployment, 15 years from Burning Man 2003, when the first hexayurt ever was built. And now we have the domes, we can do first-world housing. And the cheap solar may yet come, at least it&#8217;s getting cheaper year-by-year. But even if we get these toe-holds, it&#8217;s not going to get to the scenario described in <a href=>The Unplugged</a> where we actually get a substantial number of first-world people back off the grid, off capitalism, and into a lifestyle who&#8217;s research-and-development spending helps the poor farmers too.</p> <p>So at that point, I&#8217;m out of cards and out of plan. I&#8217;m going to keep shipping components, and I hope that someone out there has a use for them, because I can&#8217;t get this fire started. But I can keep chopping wood.</p> <p>Personally, I&#8217;m fine. People often use &#8220;crisis&#8221; to indicate a condition where they need help, and I&#8217;m more indicating a point of radical change, a breaking point. I&#8217;ll continue making weird squeaking noises and accommodating to reality, but this should not be interpreted as a cry for help. I may have to sit at the bottom of the well for a few more months until things start making sense again, but what&#8217;s the point of being a yogi if a season in hell dissuades you from your course, eh? It&#8217;s just a case of sitting with the problem until the pressure of consciousness forces transformation.</p> <p>I just thought you should know.</p> <p><a href=";id=2858&amp;md5=0d11048a325c5625428efeafedeb1b4c" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2011-09-06 My continuing crisis <p>My <a href=>Templars of Earth</a> statement seems to have ruffled quite a lot of feathers. These feathers seem to be in three general categories.</p> <ul> <li>People who don&#8217;t like the militarism.</li> <li>People who think its a secret society</li> <li>People who don&#8217;t get the esotericism</li> </ul> <p>It&#8217;s Templar because it deals with life-and-death struggles, albeit not armed ones, and in such terrain you have two choices: doctors and soldiers. Most other professional cultures don&#8217;t touch life and death directly. Doctors witness it. Soldiers live in it. Therefore the soldier metaphor is closer to the consciousness of those engaged in the struggles of the world <i>in which they live</i> than the doctor metaphor.</p> <p>It&#8217;s not a secret society, and even if it was, so what? But I&#8217;ll get to that in a minute. Public group, open to all at least for the moment. Nothing up my sleeves.</p> <p>Finally, the esotericism. There&#8217;s only a couple of ways to put this, so I&#8217;m going to use all of them.</p> <ul> <li>People openly believe, in large numbers, that a 2000-year-dead dead rabbi is going to return to life to judge the human race, and that&#8217;s <b>normal</b>.</li> <li>Most of the people I know who are able to handle the load of being single individual self-started agents of global change meditate. Most of them meditated for <b>years</b> before becoming socially engaged. Some are probably enlightened, whether they know or care varies.</li> <li>I learned damn near everything I know about life from ancient wisdom traditions, some western, some eastern, some public, some secretive, and some simply beyond comprehension. And the dominant culture has tried to kill those sacred threads from time to time for a thousand years or more. Inquisitions, crusades, jihads. Burn the witches, behead the sufis, you know the drill.</li> </ul> <p>It is not coincidence that so many of the people out here making real change in the world did some kind of heavy inner work first. It&#8217;s where we get the fortitude to stand up to the slow sliding of the world off the cliff in a consumerist waking nightmare.</p> <p>However, as I&#8217;ve noted elsewhere, I don&#8217;t teach. My own lineage did not complete the training required for me to teach, and I&#8217;m unsuited to it by character. People looking for an actual teacher of this stuff should talk to <a href=>Alan Chapman</a> who&#8217;s excellently positioned to teach, and has been through broadly similar territory to me, in that he&#8217;s done both the sitting-on-your-ass thing, and the esoteric tradition thing. Can&#8217;t promise you he&#8217;ll be the right guy for you, but I trust him enough to tell people to talk to Alan first if they&#8217;re serious about Learning This Stuff.</p> <p>These are the books that I&#8217;d recommend, if you&#8217;re a reader.</p> <ul> <li><a href="">Gestalt Therapy, by Fritz Perls</a> &#8211; a firm foundation for understanding personal psychology</li> <li><a href="">Prometheus Rising, by Robert Anton Wilson</a> &#8211; a very broad map of society, politics and consciousness</li> <li><a href="">Trauma and Recovery, by Judith Lewis Herman</a> &#8211; the definitive academic psychology work on trauma, including post-traumatic stress disorder; essential grounding</li> <li><a href="">Promethea, by Alan Moore</a> &#8211; a comic book about initiation from a thelemic perspective</li> <li><a href=>The Invisibles, by Grant Morrison</a> &#8211; a comic book about initiation from a siddha / Vajrayana perspective</li> </ul> <p>That, right there, is the psychological foundation and the modern retellings of the myths and stories of the Heros. I&#8217;d note that it&#8217;s very, very worthwhile reading The Invisibles and Promethea in the same year; either one alone doesn&#8217;t quite capture some essence of the thing. Alan Moore has the God&#8217;s Eye View and Grant Morrison was right in the thick of it. They are good compliments.</p> <p>In terms of practice manuals, I&#8217;m hesitant to recommend, but must.</p> <ul> <li><a href="">Fifty Secrets of Magic Craftsmanship, by Salvador Dali</a></li> <li><a href="">The Calm Technique, by Paul Wilson</a> &#8211; I did this for six years</li> <li><a href=>Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, by BKS Iyengar</a> &#8211; do not expect to understand all of it, this book will be with you for 20 years</li> <li><a href="">Condensed Chaos, by Phil Hine</a> &#8211; little baby steps in thaumaturgy</li> <li><a href=";ie=UTF8&#038;qid=1314787301&#038;sr=1-3">Angel Tech, by Antero Alli</a> &#8211; deep, subtle and substantial, in my early twenties I relied on this more than anything else</li> </ul> <p>What&#8217;s missing here is any decent guide to unmodified Western-style bell, book and candle ritual. That&#8217;s because, right now, I can&#8217;t think of one that I can recommend. That should be interpreted as a warning. Everything that comes off the Golden Dawn line, even orthodox Thelema, seems to be tainted. You also have to watch out for the more totalitarian streams of Buddhism, too. In general, &#8220;we have the Only Way&#8221; is a symptom of people who have only partial realization. If the truth is embodied in single teachers <i>who are dead</i> you&#8217;re looking at a museum, not a path. If, on the other hand, the truth is seen <i>as continually rediscovered by each generation of practitioners</i> then, even if they&#8217;re working from ancient discoveries, you&#8217;re probably fine. I&#8217;ve met realized masters from every path, they&#8217;re just further from the center in more dogmatic environments. The Truth will out! Oh, and watch out for drugs: you get about five years of good times, sometimes less, then they become a rut. Start meditating regularly at least a year before you plan to stop taking them, or you may find the world very rigid and static when you stop.</p> <p>There are three very simple phases to spiritual development.</p> <ul> <li>Slowly realizing that everything is inside your head. <i>Most &#8220;objective reality&#8221; is mere social convention.</i></li> <li>Slowly realizing that other people are real. <i>You can&#8217;t change the mind of a four year old, never mind a world.</i></li> <li>Slowly realizing that you are just like them. <i>At the seat of being, we&#8217;re all just alike!</i></li> </ul> <p>At the end of it, you might know how the world works, you might have seen fundamental truth, you might know yourself to be a reincarnate buddha, a wizard, a god, a dragon or just some guy with a taste for beer and curry. But if you got it right, you&#8217;ll also know that you were <i>always</i> that mythic self, even as a child, and <i>everybody</i> is also profoundly great and magnificent at that same level of spiritual truth.</p> <p>There are a bunch of identifiable phases, some well documented, some not &#8211; pretty much everybody goes through depth psychology, meets archetypal forces. Some go through a phase of extreme synchronicity &#8211; Jung himself did, that&#8217;s why we have a word for it. If that period coincides with magical practice, one can wind up with very strange ideas about the world <i>indeed</i>. Various occult capacities which normally slumber in the self can surface, but pretty soon you realize that children are doing all that stuff because nobody told them not to, and it&#8217;s just normal human capacities that our culture suppresses, just like like our sense of smell. If you&#8217;re persistent, you might hit evolutionary forces and start talking about Destiny and the Good of the Human Species, or even All Life. All of that stuff is steps on the way to being ordinary.</p> <p>I&#8217;m not doing a very good job of being ordinary because the world is a mess and I&#8217;ve been called to do something about it by virtue of being in the right place at the right time to help, and no reasonable being can turn their back on those in need.</p> <p>But if you want a settled, nice, normal life, you don&#8217;t need to touch the spiritual world. Everything which is there, is there now. Things are fine, just as they are. All that you would discover is already true and within you, whether you know it consciously or not.</p> <p>If you set your foot on the path at a time like this, you risk being shanghaied into trying to solve the world&#8217;s problems, and whatever expanded durability or capability you discover within yourself can be taxed to the full by the challenges we face as a species and as a world.</p> <p>The dominant species should not be killing the world it lives on. Something has gone wrong.</p> <p>The dividing line is that, regardless of what anybody tells you, that is a temporal problem. It might have mythic or shamanic overtones, but real spirituality is about the discovery of the nature of being, not about worrying too much about the insanity of a particular culture, place and time.</p> <p>So, 1400 words into a post I did not have the time to write, let me make the point.</p> <ol> <li>We have a dreadful problem which has clear mythopoetic overtones.</li> <li>That problem has nothing at all to do with the fundamental spiritual nature of being.</li> </ol> <p>It is very, very hard as an early-stage practitioner, or as an adult who&#8217;s had glimpses, which is most of us, to distinguish between &#8220;we seem to be killing the world&#8221; and &#8220;god or man is inherently evil.&#8221; But it&#8217;s a distinction you must hold true to, or you&#8217;re going to get fifteen feet up the path and wind up as cannon fodder.</p> <p>You have the right to come to spiritual understanding without picking up the burdens of the world.</p> <p>You have the right to pick up the burdens of the world without without mandatory additional spiritual learning or indoctrination.</p> <p>Nobody should be applying any metaphysical technique to try and fix the problems of the world without clear technical guidance from an enlightened (or equivalent) master, or (much better) being enlightened themselves.</p> <p>Even in the midst of the darkness, what is fundamentally true and real remains so, regardless of all temporal circumstances.</p> <p>This division is an Indian cultural framework, and has ties to things like renunciation and, yes, caste. But I&#8217;m stating it as &#8220;these are the rules as I understand them.&#8221; Other people may have other opinions, but these are mine, and I can explain them in Hindu theological terms if people prefer.</p> <p>You can think of these things as human rights. The temptation to mass produce half initiates as cannon fodder in the attempt to square what&#8217;s wrong with the world is very real, and any cult with a social change agenda, right down to the Hare Krishnas, does it. But to saddle people with the problems of the world in the process of their spiritual education is <i>wrong</i>, as wrong as government abuse of detainees, a draft, or any other State abuse of humans in their effort to meet the State&#8217;s goals. Likewise spiritual indoctrination of those who just want to help, and wind up being pushed into new belief systems by peer pressure in the process.</p> <p>I&#8217;m writing this today to clear my own position, so that everybody understands where I&#8217;m at on <a href="">Templars of Earth</a>, and also <i>why I do not teach.</i> I&#8217;m vastly too encumbered to do it right, and the temptation to hand students slabs of trouble and say &#8220;here, you deal with this one&#8221; would be extremely strong, particularly in my more overloaded periods.</p> <p>If, on the other hand, you&#8217;re already in the territory, and encumbered by the problems of the world, feel free to contact me. I don&#8217;t teach, that&#8217;s not the same thing as saying that I won&#8217;t help.</p> <p>I&#8217;m extremely reluctant to talk metaphysics right now. I&#8217;m trying to keep it to the bare minimum which is consistent with honesty. I hope you&#8217;ll respect that.</p> <p>V></p> <p><a href=";id=2852&amp;md5=64d937ed46fbe6bf0d17e20b6dcaeba3" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2011-08-31 On being a mad cultist <p>Say only</p> <blockquote><p>I understand and accept fully that the human race is harming the natural world by driving species to extinction, releasing long-lived pollutants, changing the climate and poisoning nature.</p> <p>I understand and accept fully that the human race makes many suffer horribly and die in war, famine, injustice, poverty and oppression, and that we are not choosing to provide a good life for all of humanity.</p> <p>I understand and fully accept that my own efforts appear unequal to the task of changing these facts.</p> <p>I swear by the bones of the earth, the roots of the mountains to always treat those who understand and accept fully these Three Truths with dignity and respect, myself included.</p></blockquote> <p>Make a badge or banner, by any means, of this design.<br /> <a href=""><img src="" alt="" title="Templars of Earth" width="150" height="150" style="border-color:#ffffff" /></a></p> <p>You are now a templar of Earth. Display the symbol as you will.</p> <hr /> <p>A templar is a soldier, a warrior. But as I said earlier, at this point, and perhaps always, <a href=""><em>violence is pointless</em></a>. However, to counteract the struggles and isolation of knowing, seeing and feeling these unbearable truths, I enact the formation of a modern Templar movement.</p> <p>I don&#8217;t do this lightly. You&#8217;ve seen me struggling for weeks or months with the pressure to <b>do something</b>, to pick a direction for the energy and awareness pushing me to action. Nothing that I&#8217;ve been able to find has had the heft required to make a dent in the problem of how to step operations up. I&#8217;ve been pushed further and deeper in my thought, but without the kind of breakthrough that satisfied the times.</p> <p>So I&#8217;ve fallen back on something old, and something that I know works &#8211; the guild. Let me tell you why Templars. Freemasonry gave us two major innovations, <a href="">science</a> and <a href="">secular democracy</a>. Yet Masonry itself does little which would lead one to think in terms of revolutions in human thought &#8211; what it teaches it teaches by good example and symbolic gesture. From these practices come trust and insight, and trust and insight between people can generate all else.</p> <p>I looked at that example, and thought &#8220;I don&#8217;t know what to do, but I do know that the people who are doing the best work in this domain are isolated and alone, and share no banner. There&#8217;s mutual respect, but in the absence of a shared platform, little mutual aid.&#8221; Yet we have not and are not likely to agree a shared platform. Perhaps there is something to a guild, where there is mutual respect and mutual support, but from a much broader and more inclusive foundation.</p> <p>I&#8217;d like to see a situation where those who are most directly feeling the load can turn to each-other, under these bonds of common humanity and recognition, dignity and respect, and see a way past whatever differences they have to help each-other continue their work in the world, towards victory over our destruction of nature, and our destruction of one-another. Where there are differences, there can still be respect and dignity.</p> <p><b>It is a big ask to raise a common banner.</b> To pick something as archaic and mystical as a Templar flag and an oath is quaint. Yet I know of nothing else that I believe has the power to solidify what is between people: a political party will not do it, and there is no religion. Many of those who stand strongest on these issues do so from their own personal spiritual foundation, of whatever nature. This is not coincidence &#8211; there is vast strength within us.</p> <p>If you struggle with this knowledge, and are willing to commit to dignity and respect between those who share that struggle in whatever form, you may choose to swear the oath, use the symbol and the name, and commit to always treat those who are fighting the good fight with dignity and respect. This does not mean that we put our differences aside, as the resolution of the problems of the world require us to be clear about such distinctions. It does ask for and engage a higher level of acknowledgment between those engaged in this struggle.</p> <p>So that&#8217;s what I have for you: an oath, a symbol and a name. What you do with them is up to you, but I will be here, under this banner, for the time being.</p> <p>I am a templar of Earth.</p> <p>Hail, and welcome.</p> <p><a href=";id=2831&amp;md5=6610dd1da1d142631842a7d12c773bd2" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2011-08-29 Templars of Earth <p>Right. Can&#8217;t sleep. Things needed done, and said.</p> <p>Let me frame this clearly: the dominant species is killing the planet. We are obsessed with political trivia and the defense of fantastic constructs like banks, while ignoring the biological and human holocaust we are unleashing on every side. Children starve, nuclear weapons slumber in their silos, and the ultra-rich buy second yachts.</p> <p>The wrongness, when you stop to think about it, is palpable. But the individualistic logic of material accumulation persuades us that all action outside of putting one foot in front of the other on the path to destruction is, in some sense, just not what people do. We continue to walk. We are enslaved by bad stories. And if you stop playing the game as it is framed, you will become homeless or broken, because the money must flow or there is no reason for you existing.</p> <p>What the fuck are we doing?</p> <p>Money is a unitized packet of violence. You can tell this because there are many actions you can perform if you have money, like taking an object from a shop, which will incite violence if you do not have money. The money itself comes from destructive and coercive practices almost without exception. The economy is murder.</p> <blockquote><p>&#8220;How can you expect fairness or decency on a planet of sleeping people?&#8221; (G.I. Gurdjieff). (<a href="">see</a>)</p></blockquote> <p>Now, all I can say is &#8220;watch the part of you that takes this in, but won&#8217;t act differently because of it.&#8221;</p> <p>That&#8217;s Satan. I don&#8217;t mean that <a href="">literally</a>, but it&#8217;s as good a concept as any for that part of human nature which simply refuses to change even in the face of overwhelming evidence that we are destroying each-other and the world.</p> <p>Just stop and look at it. You see it when you light a cigarette. You see it when you want to buy a nicer car. You see it when you make excuses, particularly for our political leadership. It&#8217;s every Catholic tithing money to an organization which makes NAMBLA look like amateurs. It&#8217;s every Democrat ignoring Guantanamo Bay now that Obama is in charge of it. It&#8217;s every Republican pretending that Obama made the national debt.</p> <p>Everywhere around you is the <a href="">Black Iron Prison</a>. We just sort of keep on going.</p> <p>I dug my heels in hard. I&#8217;ve tried to say &#8220;<a href="">stop</a>, this is insane.&#8221; I&#8217;ve packaged it as <a href="">policy</a>. I&#8217;ve built it as <a href="">technology</a>. I&#8217;ve tried to avoid any kind of mass movement. They never seem to achieve their goals.</p> <p>I want you to consider the possibility that the culture you are living in is sick, literally mentally ill. We know it can happen to people. We know it can happen to groups, like cults.</p> <p>Here we are, sane, free people in the Cult of Late State Nuclear Capitalism, watching as our insane culture destroys the planet that supports us all.</p> <p>When you think of it as mass mental illness, perhaps built of many individual madnesses combined in a whole-more-than-the-sum-of-its-parts you can see it all with a horrific clarity.</p> <p>We are killing the world we live on.</p> <p>We will not stop, because doing so might make us poorer.</p> <p>What you are seeing is a confluence of evolutionary ratchet behavior with complex systems, producing vast mass pathologies which don&#8217;t seem to have any origination point. Little things within us, magnified by social effects, turn our collective organizations like churches, markets and governments into monsters.</p> <p>This is what we&#8217;re looking at, folks. Individual transformation to the point where we can have sane groups is Not Likely. Reforming the groups without changing the people seems equally hopeless.</p> <p>All I&#8217;ve got for you is &#8220;classify it as madness, and stop participating as soon as possible.&#8221;</p> <p>For me, that looked like abandoning ideas of &#8220;success&#8221; and working as hard as I could on the root problems, for free.</p> <p>What&#8217;s your move?</p> <p><a href=";id=2826&amp;md5=b6db1353e2b4791dfe3093a5fc46e222" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2011-08-29 It is as if… <p>For years, my primary spiritual practice was <a href=";hl=en&#038;safe=off&#038;client=safari&#038;rls=en&#038;tbm=isch&#038;sa=X&#038;ei=6J1ZTuT-FIbl4QS_lLysBQ&#038;ved=0CDYQBSgA&#038;q=acalanatha&#038;spell=1">Achalanatha</a>, who in Buddhism is rendered as a protector of the right of <a href="">women to become enlightened</a>, although I was trained in a Hindu lineage, where such a right is not even conceivably questionable, by an extraordinarily ferocious female teacher, a Grandmother from Hell if you will.</p> <p>Anyway, this is an aside. If you look at the face of that particular deity, it is the face of <a href="">implacable rage</a>. I&#8217;ve worn that face in places you would not believe. I have been, at times, the embodiment of the Wrath of God, or at least as close as 20 years of spiritual practice can get you in a pinch, which is <i>close enough for government work.</i></p> <p>So I know how to get angry, and yet retain the cutting edge of my intellect in the midst of rage. It&#8217;s a very, very scary combination, and not something that I unleash for less than 1% mortality, generally speaking. It&#8217;s a weapon of last resort.</p> <p>I want to explain why I&#8217;m not using it.</p> <p><!-- --><br /> <style type='text/css'>.bbpBox107593459812155393 {background:url( #C6E2EE;padding:20px;} p.bbpTweet{background:#fff;padding:10px 12px 10px 12px;margin:0;min-height:48px;color:#000;font-size:18px !important;line-height:22px;-moz-border-radius:5px;-webkit-border-radius:5px} p.bbpTweet span.metadata{display:block;width:100%;clear:both;margin-top:8px;padding-top:12px;height:40px;border-top:1px solid #fff;border-top:1px solid #e6e6e6} p.bbpTweet span.metadata{line-height:19px} p.bbpTweet span.metadata img{float:left;margin:0 7px 0 0px;width:38px;height:38px} p.bbpTweet a:hover{text-decoration:underline}p.bbpTweet span.timestamp{font-size:12px;display:block}</style> <div class='bbpBox107593459812155393'> <p class='bbpTweet'>People sometimes ask me why I haven&#8217;t thrown my weight behind protests or revolution. The answer is simple. I don&#8217;t know what to do next.<span class='timestamp'><a title='Sat Aug 27 23:20:54 +0000 2011' href=''>less than a minute ago</a> via <a href="" rel="nofollow">TweetDeck</a> <a href=''><img src='' /> Favorite</a> <a href=''><img src='' /> Retweet</a> <a href=''><img src='' /> Reply</a></span><span class='metadata'><span class='author'><a href=''><img src='' /></a><strong><a href=''>Vinay Gupta</a></strong><br/>leashless</span></span></p> </div> <p> <!-- end of tweet --></p> <p>I&#8217;m angry. I&#8217;m angry enough to kill, if it would solve the world&#8217;s problems. That&#8217;s a problem, and its a fact. The problem is <i>there is no target.</i> I&#8217;m angry enough to kill, but I&#8217;m mentally clear enough to know that <b>it will not and cannot help</b>. I don&#8217;t know if Gandhi was angry and had resolve, or simply did not metabolize anger into violence, or was not angry, but nothing makes my real state of spiritual development as clear to me as my disposition towards violence. Carrying such anger is a spiritual function, perhaps someone has to do it, but the very high, very clear people do not; ergo I am not one such. Yet even as I look at the economic genocide and the ecocidal nature of the civilization we are in, <i>I do not go <a href="">Derrick Jensen</a></i>.</p> <p>I want to explain why not. Right now, violence won&#8217;t solve anything. The <i>threat</i> of violence might compel change or protect green shoots of change in some instances, but we don&#8217;t have problems which can be solved at gun point. We have global problems, and nobody has a big enough gun. It may well be that the Gandhian insight is that violence is <b>never</b> the answer, but if that&#8217;s the case, I have not realized it for myself yet. All I know is that right now violence is going to be intensely counter-productive, and we should not commit it. It may well be that I&#8217;ll always feel that way, because the situation will simply never be right, and that would be <i>an engineering approximation to Gandhi&#8217;s insight.</i></p> <p>I am on the side of peace, even wrong, unjust peace, for the time being.</p> <p>I don&#8217;t know if that will ever change. Perhaps if I lived in a genocide zone, and it was outside my door. Perhaps if there was a revolution who&#8217;s values I completely believed in as a genuine, deep, permanent solution to the problems of industrialization and ultratechnology. There are a lot of perhapses. But right now, and for the foreseeable future, I remain a murderously angry man of peace.</p> <p>It&#8217;s not an easy position to hold, but if anybody is looking for a navigational steer, particularly in the context of possible large scale political violence in America in response to (for example) perceived electoral fraud or Constitutional challenge, that&#8217;s my steer.</p> <p>No violence that cannot be committed with a completely clear head, evaluating the costs and benefits in a fair-minded manner. Practically speaking, that may become a very close approximation to <i>no violence, ever</i> if one is mentally clear <i>enough</i>.</p> <blockquote><p><b>I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent. <div align=right><a href="">Emperor Gandhi*</a></div> <p></b></p></blockquote> <p>You don&#8217;t have to be a good person to practice non-violence. You just have to refuse to pick up the gun when the opportunity to become that kind of a part of history is passed to you. As Timothy Leary once said, when asked about Nancy Reagan&#8217;s &#8220;Just Say No&#8221; campaign</p> <blockquote><p>&#8220;It should be &#8216;Just Say No Thank You&#8217;! It&#8217;s terrible how they don&#8217;t teach good manners any more!&#8221;</p></blockquote> <p>We need a global cooperative solution, not the ecological and social justice versions of <a href="">Baader-Meinhoff</a>, <a href="">urban guerillas</a> playing into reactionary hands. We need to design a <a href=>feasible one-planet lifestyle for everybody</a> (<a href="">see</a>), and until that is designed, prototyped and implemented on a fairly wide scale, no amount of kicking against &#8220;the system&#8221; is any more than sawing off the branch we are all sitting on: it&#8217;s stupid and dumb, and could destroy the resources we need for a global cooperative resolution to our world&#8217;s problems.</p> <p>I&#8217;m speaking more about concrete politics, rather than my <a href="">more abstract</a> <a href="">previous work</a>, because I sense than in the next year (or, given my typical prescience, later this decade) these kinds of issues are going to matter. I want you to know that I&#8217;ve been giving them deep thought now, and this is my conclusion.</p> <p>Violence which will not solve the problem is stupid, needless killing.<br /> Right now, no path exists by which violence can solve the problem.<br /> Therefor, and possibly always, violence remains stupid and needless.</p> <p>(*refer to that link if you want to understand why I term Gandhi &#8220;Emperor&#8221; &#8211; it is partly humorous)</p> <p><a href=";id=2818&amp;md5=6922471e0728a05261edb5f21aad5525" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2011-08-28 Managing the Wrath of God – a Primer <p>In &#8220;<a href="">Living in a Changing World</a>&#8221; I suggested a workshop where I&#8217;d spend a week basically trying to transfer<a href=""> everything I know about infrastructure-centric crisis response</a>; an ultra-deep dive for people who had come through Permaculture or Transitions or other kinds of risk management education, and wanted something which took that kind of thinking and applied it to fast moving big problems.</p> <p>I&#8217;d now like to suggest the other approach, <b>going in mob handed</b>. At the limit, a Mob Handed workshop would have eight people teaching together with different skills and different perspectives, to give an over-all well-rounded perspective on all sides of the current crisis, and more importantly, our personal future responses.</p> <p>I&#8217;ve put up a editable google doc, </p> <p><font size=+1><a href=""><strong>The Open Workshop on Living in a Changing World</strong></a></font></p> <p>where you can take a look at the possible schedule, write up what you would teach as part of that group, or indicate you&#8217;d be interested in coming if this course is run.</p> <p>This is a bit more flexible and open than these kinds of approaches typically are, but what I see is that I&#8217;m constantly moving in a multi-skilled environment and being blown away by the depth of knowledge that other specialists have in their core areas. A chance to sit down for a week and get people&#8217;s deepest realizations and best perspectives right across that entire field of expertise would be very valuable to me personally, and perhaps for a lot of other people.</p> <p>So please <a href="">take a look at the doc</a> (<a href="">plain HTML version here</a>), and let me know what you think!</p> <p>Thank you!</p> <p>(there should be a framed version of the current doc here, sorry if you can&#8217;t see it &#8211; gdocs can be a bit squirrely.)</p> <p><iframe width=100% height=600px src=";embedded=true"></iframe></p> <p><center><a href="">[edit this document]</a></center></p> <p><a href=";id=2805&amp;md5=08debb444923eb5d26c685b91cf30281" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2011-08-26 Going in Mob Handed – the other approach to The Big Crisis Workshop <p>Seed of the idea came to me when I was teaching part of the Permaculture course at Cloughjordan yesterday. Made a couple of tweets.</p> <blockquote><p>Right, who wants to help me figure out a Collapse Course where I take all this stuff and teach it? When? Where? Who? Need perspective.</p> <p>&#8220;Living in a changing world&#8221; type emphasis, economic geography roots, politics-on orientation, relentless adaptation for realistic hope.</p> <p>I&#8217;ve got the content, I can hold an audience, but I have no idea how to get bums on seats, logistics and legalities. Do you have that part?</p> <p>I realized yesterday that I enjoy teaching and I&#8217;m good at it. The organizations are moving too slowly. I have a good feeling about this.</p></blockquote> <p>There are quite a few discussions about teaching some of my material as a part of other activities right now &#8211; <a href=" ">@Dougald</a> and I have ongoing discussions that, among others. <b>I am definitely very open to teaching as a component of other courses and activities.</b></p> <p>What I realized yesterday is that the infrastructure-centric way of seeing the world, and seeing collapse risks, is actually much slower to acquire than I think of it as being. With a well-prepared group it still seems to take about an hour to see the first edge of &#8220;ohhh&#8230;.&#8221; form, where the vision begins to shift. And then there&#8217;s threat modeling, and the social thermometer and half a dozen other fundamental models which I live inside, most of which actually take about half a day to really grok, if not longer.</p> <p>So what I&#8217;m thinking about is actually something like a one week residential intensive, probably at Cloughjordan, in which we actually deep dive on those models and seeing the world, and do the psychological work of adapting to the world which can be seen from this much clearer, much more physical perspective. I don&#8217;t expect this to be easy, but I think that for people who are already well-prepared by Transitions, Permaculture, risk management or serious politics, it could be a chance to rapidly sharpen their perspective in the areas which become critical in fast-adaptation times.</p> <p>And, let me stress, not <i>instead</i> of teaching in other places, but as a sort of &#8220;masterclass&#8221; where, by the end of the week, everybody involved ought to be able to practically apply the toolkit to solve their problems, and the problems of the people in their communities.</p> <p>Syllabus might look something like<br /> <strong>Day One</strong><br /> AM serious, deep introductions, and an overview of the course<br /> PM the Social Thermometer &#8211; understanding how people change in tough times</p> <p><strong>Day Two</strong><br /> AM global economic geography &#8211; how the other half lives, what it&#8217;s like to be poor<br /> PM drivers of change &#8211; what&#8217;s broken in ways which directly affects us</p> <p><strong>Day Three</strong><br /> AM simple critical infrastructure maps &#8211; theory and threat modeling<br /> PM simple critical infrastructure maps &#8211; practice and running scenario</p> <p><strong>Day Four</strong><br /> AM individual, group, organization and state &#8211; where to fight your battles<br /> PM the psychology of fear &#8211; how to handle the pressure of knowing</p> <p><strong>Day Five</strong><br /> AM the hope response &#8211; how have humans survived this long? how do we continue to do so?<br /> PM wind-down</p> <p>Given the intensity of the material, I suspect the format would be something like:<br /> * two hours of actual tuition<br /> * one hour of discussion<br /> * one hour of reflection, write up, personal conversations between students, Q&#038;A on technical points</p> <p>The goal would be to create a level of understanding of the material and the models which will allow people to apply them to mitigate risks in the real world using the <a href="">Gupta State Failure Management Archive</a> toolkit. There&#8217;s an enormous amount of other material which is directly relevant to this terrain &#8211; practical experience from people who have lived through these kinds of times in their own countries, specialist knowledge in areas like policing, technical know-how for matters like water filtration or first aid. All that material is outside the bounds of what I have in mind for this course, which is simply deep-dive to master my material and models. People doing that are going to do other kinds of thinking and training too.</p> <p>I think there&#8217;s an <b>enormous</b> amount of room for a much more general course which includes the whole spectrum of material at a more general level, and I hope very much to be included in teams doing that kind of education in the near future <img src='' alt=';)' class='wp-smiley' /> </p> <p>I also suspect that a course like this is going to need at least one, and more likely two facilitators &#8211; one handling logistics and practicalities, the other handling the depth work as people&#8217;s understanding of themselves and their world shifts.</p> <p>So, anyway, that&#8217;s as good a representation as I have right now for what I had in mind. Thoughts?</p> <p>V><br /> PS: compare <a href="">resilience designer</a> which is a more gradual, evolutionary path towards resilience, and assumes a much less deep-dive approach.</p> <p><a href=";id=2800&amp;md5=7f77cc82a5917afbb686b60cc51cc1cc" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2011-08-25 “Living in a changing world” – a Crash Course in Risk Management for Collapse <p>I had a hard Dark Mountain. Not an unenjoyable one, but for me it was more about failure than success, which may be an interesting precedent. I don&#8217;t fail easily, but there is a time and place for everything.</p> <p>I was doing The Sacred bit, at least part of it, in dialogue with Dougald. There was heavy expectation that I&#8217;d perform The Miracle, a repeat performance of the 10 minute laser beam which I dropped at Uncivilisation 2010.</p> <p><iframe width="280" height="178" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe></p> <p>We had an hour and a half, and I failed to deliver. What happened was modest, even pedestrian, certainly by comparison, valid but discursive and academic. The Rock did not come, and the Mothership did not descend, compared to the expectation of pyrotechnic display set up by last year.</p> <p>Later, I also seriously lost my temper to a hexayurt full of people, an intense experience of being an outcast in my own home-space, of watching others react to failing. I had a hard dark mountain this year.</p> <p>This, to me, was the humbling realization of limit. without enough space and room to do what is transcendent and immanent, I gave myself permission to be human, to fail and to muddle through. I was the center which did not hold, and it was fine.</p> <p>Without the confidence to command, I fell back on the desire to teach, rather than embracing the radical experience of being out of my depth in the waters around me. I would not even have known that this option, which I failed to inhabit, was there if it wasn&#8217;t for Bembo Davies, whom I met at the first Uncivilisation, and who&#8217;s become rather a mentor to me. But, anyway, rather than defining a response in a hermetically sealed ten minute framework, in which the goal was to deliver an opening, I was faced with an opportunity to create and then conclude on behalf of the community. And it did not happen. I muddled.</p> <p>All I can conclude is that the failure of our myths is the point of the experience, and I have experienced this first hand, and done my part to add to it.</p> <p>Where do we go forwards from here, together, is uncertain. The <strong>Utopian Pressure</strong> to be perfectly all-inclusive, balanced and universalist will continue to shape and sculpt Uncivilisation and Dark Mountain to a wide variety of concerns, and the community will strive and struggle as sensibly as it is able with those very flaws in our own personalities and cultures. Eventually the Far Right may come calling and we will discover what indeed is a bridge too far in inclusion in strength and learning, rather than allowing them in with weak pseudo-egalitarianism. </p> <p>There was not a despondent heart in the festival, however, many were sad and scared, perhaps, but free of the stuckness of fixed grief from too-long held false hopes and ghostly fears.</p> <p>In no way, shape or form can we afford to believe that we can &#8220;fix&#8221; things, that is the job of Transition Towns and perhaps the Green Party. To learn how to hold the truth, together in community, without changing our minds about what is true simply to make ourselves or others more comfortable seems, to me, to be Dark Mountain&#8217;s most easily expressed purpose.</p> <p>What I discovered is that I can do this for me, but I cannot do this for all of us. Perhaps no-one can. That was my Dark Mountain. </p> <p>What was yours?</p> <hr /> <p>Now, a note on The Politics. This year&#8217;s festival was marked by the emergence of Uncivilisation and Dark Mountain as things of sufficient established value to have people beginning to struggle for self-expression in that context, rather than simply expressing themselves. It&#8217;s gone from being a Project, a collection of people, to being a Place or a Scene and perhaps, in some people&#8217;s opinions, a movement. But that Dark Mountain is now a Place or a Scene is without a doubt true and new.</p> <p>My own agendas are all in the 2010 talk. I said what I had to say there as well as its ever likely to be said by me, this side of the revolution <img src='' alt=';)' class='wp-smiley' /> </p> <p>But, as the skirmishing begins, and different value systems seek and even struggle to define how the Our House of Dark Mountain is to be inhabited, let me make four observations.</p> <p>(1) What do we have in common with, and what do we have to learn, from those who are already poor?</p> <p>(2) How do the Abandoned Battles of prior generations &#8211; from Pastoralism to the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and similar &#8211; relate to our present and our future?</p> <p>(3) The engineering. Always the engineering. I&#8217;m kicking around terms like CSEG (collapse support education guild, or perhaps collapse survival engineering group) as a follow up to the <a href="">Gupta State Failure Management Archive</a> but that&#8217;s more Green Wizards and Transition Towns than Dark Mountain, unless we have a literary movement with an engineering wing. And if so, what then?</p> <p>(4) The rhetoric of freedom, control and values sits ill with literature.</p> <p>I have a feeling that onrushing events may settle many of the issues about The Future of Dark Mountain this year. My take on it is that each of us has our own Dark Mountain to climb, and that we must face it individually, isolated, alone, but together.</p> <p>In that respect, it&#8217;s a lot like life.</p> <p><a href=";id=2794&amp;md5=b15d9b0d626b341b678a116e7bc306bf" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2011-08-23 Uncivilisation – hope and gloom in the woods <style type="text/css"> ol#haggis { counter-reset: section; /* Creates a new instance of the section counter with each ol element */ list-style-type: none; } ol#haggis li:before { counter-increment: section; /* Increments only this instance of the section counter */ content: counters(section, ".") " "; /* Adds the value of all instances of the section counter separated by a ".". */ } </style> <p>(Over 10,000 people have read this post. Please consider sharing it.)</p> <p>This is an exceptionally long blog post, divided into three sections.</p> <ol> <li><a href="#1">When will the economic system collapse?</a></li> <li><a href="#2">What can we do about the state of the world, including human rights?</a></li> <li><a href="#3">What should I do?</a></li> </ol> <p>Most of the punch-you-in-the-head good stuff is in <a href="#2">section two</a>.</p> <p>I haven&#8217;t slept all night, and I don&#8217;t feel tired, but I shall sleep well soon.</p> <p><a name=1></a></p> <h1>When?</h1> <div id="attachment_2786" class="wp-caption alignright" style="width: 247px"><a href=""><img src="" alt="Clock by jay8085 - CC-BY licensed, from Flickr" title="Clock by jay8085 - CC-BY licensed, from Flickr" width="237" height="196" class="size-full wp-image-2786" /></a><p class="wp-caption-text">by jay8085</p></div> <p>I&#8217;ve never answered when. In 2003 I made the precipitous decision to abandon trying to make money, and to store my wealth in the form of reputation capital. It was the Euro that did it; I looked at history, particularly the <a href="">bimetallic</a> period, and decided that having two reserve currencies was likely to crash the global economy within 10 years. It took me about five minutes to decide: my subconscious has a whim of iron. That&#8217;s not saying that I stopped trying to make a living &#8211; had <a href=>Buttered Side Down</a> actually got clients other than <a href=>Arup</a> I&#8217;d be doing alright, but we were just too early. I had over-estimated institutional readiness to face risks. Ironically Buttered Side Down, with its &#8220;<a href="">historic risk management consultancy</a>&#8221; pitch might actually do quite well today, but I&#8217;m burned out on that kind of thinking and that kind of push. I was just too early, by about two years.</p> <p>Bring me a client and I&#8217;ll sort them out, of course.</p> <p>Anyway, I decided the safe place to store my wealth was reputation. I set out to work on the hardest problems I could find, and to place the <a href="">resulting work</a> into the Public Domain whenever practicable, which has turned out to be almost always. I used my unique psychological makeup to peer into dark corners, and I invented useful things. There are three works above all others: the <a href=>hexayurt</a>, <a>Simple Critical Infrastructure Maps</a> and <a href=>CheapID</a>. To a fairly close approximation, those works and their corollaries are my creative output for ten years.</p> <p>There&#8217;s a lot of other stuff, stuff that I made sure went right, like <a href=>The Economist&#8217;s Book of the Year, 2003, &#8220;Small is Profitable&#8221;</a> which I helped edit, or <a href=>&#8220;Winning the Oil Endgame&#8221;</a>, which I sometimes jokingly say prevented America from carpet-bombing the rest of the middle east. But I didn&#8217;t create those; I labored in obscurity. They&#8217;re unspeakably important, but very specialised.</p> <p>So back to the question: <b>when?</b></p> <p>The answer is, <i>I don&#8217;t know, but I think it&#8217;s soon</i>. I&#8217;m an awful one for signs and portents, and I&#8217;m an awful one for being years too early. But I did not leave London years before the riots, I left three months before them. That tells me that I&#8217;m no longer years too early, I&#8217;m heading towards right-on-time. Right on time is that I&#8217;ve spent two years building models for handling state failure, and I dropped the <a href="">entire package into the public domain weeks ago</a>.</p> <p>&#8220;<b>When?</b>&#8221; is a tough question. I moved to Ireland for the food &#8211; not the potato stew, but the 6m people on land that supported 8m before the age of oil. I moved here for the culture &#8211; you couldn&#8217;t get a fascism going here with two Hitlers, four Maos and a cocker-spaniel. 400 years of saying &#8220;feck&#8221; to central authorities has left cultural scars of breathtaking depth, but those scars are character armor, too. You can&#8217;t slide a sheet of paper between two stones here, when you see it.</p> <p><b>When</b> is soon, probably. We could keep rolling sixes and spin it out another 22 years, but we&#8217;re getting to the point where relatively small system shocks could propagate cracks uncontrollably like a fat man falling through ice on a pond. I can&#8217;t tell you when, but I can tell you that the US is in trouble, Europe is in trouble, they&#8217;ve printed insane amounts of money and it hasn&#8217;t stabilized things, assets are being devalued in complex processes which hide inflation and still there are no new jobs. People kick around terms like &#8220;stagflation&#8221; but what&#8217;s happening is simple and subtle: nothing.</p> <p>We&#8217;re treading water. We&#8217;re like a shark that&#8217;s stopped swimming. We&#8217;re a cartoon character, all flailing legs, hovering above the abyss.</p> <p>And at the bottom of it are those poor bastards in Africa, in rural India, South America, Asia, eating rice and bugs because there&#8217;s nothing else to eat. And you&#8217;ve ignored them your entire life as the money poured from &#8220;we know not where&#8221; into the First World Lifestyle, which squandered the wealth which could have fed and housed every human being on earth on an extractive economy which wastes 40% of the food produced and has a billion fat people, including me.</p> <p>In many ways, I long for a moral cleansing of the world, but it won&#8217;t be by the sword, it&#8217;ll be one person at a time, with a spade, growing their own food because the assholes that created the <a href="">Codex Alimentarius</a> are all out their digging in the dirt too.</p> <p>Don&#8217;t you understand? The oil is poison it&#8217;s killing our world one gallon of gas at a time. It&#8217;s like we&#8217;re force-feeding the world cigarettes and complaining when it coughs and turns blue. The hunger side of it is even worse. The indescribable horror of what&#8217;s unfolding in Somalia falls on deaf neurons, not just deaf ears. Didn&#8217;t we go through all of this 25 years ago with <a href="">Live Aid</a>?</p> <p><i><b>Question: when will the economy crash?<br /> Answer: have you looked at <a href=";tbm=nws">Sudan</a>?</b></i></p> <p>Now, who&#8217;s going to get up to work in the morning, and pretend that what they&#8217;re doing matters?</p> <p>I know putting a roof over your head is important. I&#8217;ve neglected it at times, over-reached, friends have bailed me out, caught me, but hopefully at some point I&#8217;ll pay my debts, small as they are, completely. If you&#8217;ve got kids, it&#8217;s right to put them first, to do what you&#8217;ve gotta do, and let the world take care of itself.</p> <p>But we&#8217;re losing it. These narrow windows of self-interest, backed up by armed guards just off the side of your screen, are fighting secret wars to keep capitalism safe, the rich richer, and those dying from poverty far from our front door, <i>but&#8230; why, why those secret wars are being lost.</i></p> <p>It&#8217;s our <a href="">failure to quickly quash resistance</a> in Iraq and Afghanistan that&#8217;s caused this. And I say &#8220;ours&#8221; advisedly, because unless I&#8217;m much mistaken, your country was in there too, come for the terrorism and stay for the oil. An oil well, a good one, produces oil for an extraction cost of $2 or $4 a barrel, and sells at well over $100 &#8211; an almost unimaginable return on investment. So much money it pays to drill mile deep holes in mile deep water to get the oil out. An oil well is a fountain of gold, but it poisons the world. And that&#8217;s what our whole civilization is &#8211; an oil rainbow on a puddle, a shimmering illusion of permanence as we torch the environment for&#8230; more plastic crap while other people&#8217;s children starve.</p> <p>I&#8217;m sorry. Last person out, turn the lights off.</p> <p>I haven&#8217;t managed to square my actions with the truth.</p> <p><a href=>Some dumb bastard</a> (sorry <a href="">Curtis</a>) asked me for a plan. &#8220;You can do it, Vinay.&#8221;</p> <p>No, no I can&#8217;t. But I think I can do something better. </p> <p><a name=2></a></p> <h1>What can we do about the state of the world?</h1> <p>I think I can draw a line through available data that tells us how to get a future we all can live with, <a href="">the future we deserve</a>.</p> <p>I had to tear down most of my mind to get to here, because it requires letting go of our model of how the future is created, and doing something else, and connecting the main evolutionary drives of the human race directly to the machinery which will solve our real problems.</p> <p>Here&#8217;s what we&#8217;ve got.</p> <ol id="items"> <li>Cheap renewable energy revolution <ol> <li value="1.1">Ultra-cheap solar power <ol> <li><a href=>Konarka</a> and <a href=>NanoSolar</a> &#8211; both offer ultra-cheap solar panel technologies, vastly cheaper than coal. Last time I checked the numbers, NanoSolar had $800m of investment and $4.2 billion dollars of pre-orders. Konarka was talking about a long-term goal of $0.10 per watt production costs (5% of the current silicon cell $2/watt) and NanoSolar was talking about $0.30 a watt somewhat sooner. There&#8217;s no clear limit on scaling these technologies once they deliver.</li> </ol> </li> <li>Liquid transportation fuels</li> <ol> <li><a href=>Algal Turf Scrubbers</a> &#8211; farming the thick slippery green hairy stuff that grows on the bottom of rocks. It grows in sea water. It could be grown on non-crop land, in huge shallow tanks in coastal desert regions. It is a polyculture &#8211; grow whatever falls into the tank. It does not require pesticides or genetic engineering to work. The numbers look good enough to provide all the fuel the world needs without breaking anything else. Nothing else is even close.</li> <li>Processed into <a href=>biobutanol</a> it will likely run in existing gasoline cars, too.</li> </ol> </ol> </li> <li>Powerdown <ol> <li><a href="">Water and Sanitation</a> <ol> <li><a href=>Biosand filter</a> &#8211; saves maybe 5m deaths a year, a plastic bucket filled with algae, sand and gravel to filter water. There are other, similar technologies.</li> <li><a href=>Sulabh toilet</a> &#8211; saves about 5m deaths a year. Other toilet designs may suit other regions better, there are many.</li> </ol> </li> <li>Energy <ol> <li><a href=>Rocket stove</a> &#8211; saves maybe 5m deaths a year from breathing cooking fires, and deforestation. Also see wood gasification stoves.</li> <li><a href=>Cheap</a> <a href=>solar</a> <a href=>gadgets</a> &#8211; primarily lights and cell phone/computer chargers, but other things too. Solar cookers seem to work in some places, not others.</li> </ol> </li> <li>Communications <ol> <li><a href=>Mesh</a> <a href=>networks</a> &#8211; everybody shares everybody&#8217;s short range wireless connections to form a global network. Eventually we&#8217;ll wish we never invented these, but face them we must.</li> <li><a href=;hl=en&#038;safe=off&#038;client=safari&#038;sa=X&#038;pwst=1&#038;rls=en&#038;tbs=p_ord:r,vw:g&#038;tbm=shop&#038;prmd=ivnsu&#038;ei=K9VJTrumLYy1hAetkq2fCA&#038;ved=0CAcQvQ0>Cheap android tablet</a> &#8211; add a keyboard if you need one. I use a Huawei S7, $150, 3G works as a phone. Five years they&#8217;ll be giving them away in cereal packets.</li> <li><a>Information services</a> &#8211; m-health, m-banking, m-farming, day-by-day <a href="">precision agriculture recommendations (second to last page)</a> based on satellite telemetry of your GPS coordinated farm, interactive mass-translated how-to guides on how to survive and thrive in every climate. In progress.</li> </ol> </li> </ol> </li> <li>Space <ol> <li>Demilitarize <ol> <li><a href="">Demilitarize space</a> &#8211; we can&#8217;t do anything else up there while space is <a href="">run by black programs</a>.</li> <li><a href=>Declassify the real launch vehicles</a> &#8211; the <a href=>SR-71</a> did <i>officially</i> Mach 4 and 100,000 feet in the 1960s. We have 45 years of technological development since the SR-71 was designed, and the official story is that the now-grounded 1980s technology Space Shuttle is the best we can do. They&#8217;re lying. You know it. I know it. We need the real launch vehicles declassified, or at least the bits we need for civilian access to space. Need, not want.</li> </ol> </li> <li>Expand <ol> <li><a href=>Push all Genetically Modified Organisms into orbit</a> &#8211; biotech companies can still make money up there, it gets the GMOs off the planetary surface, and it provides an economic rationale for investing in cheap launch. And they must go, before there is an awful disaster.</li> <li><a href=>Get the high frontier back</a> &#8211; we&#8217;re trapped on earth and we&#8217;re turning on each other. Blame mammalian or primate psychology, but we don&#8217;t like to be in a confined environment with no way to expand to get more resources. It makes our genes restless, then aggressive. It is our will to go, and we are in a secret pitched battle with the secret state for access to space, which is the only place we have to expand into. We need the agencies to declassify a real launch technology, for the benefit of the entire human race. <a href="">Who&#8217;s our Kennedy?</a> <p>I cannot stress how important this is. People invariably misunderstand this part, but step back, have a think about it. We&#8217;ve gone from relatively hard science to speculation about black space programs. Are we still on solid ground? Do they have these things? If so, when will they release them for the benefit of all of humanity?</li> </ol> </li> </ol> </li> <li>The New Rights of <del>Man</del> Every Person<br /> Two human principles. Firstly, we do not use force, because we do not have atomic weapons and starting a fight you will lose is stupid. Secondly, the only problem we have here is us and therefore we cannot kill our way to a solution, which means no atomic weapons.</p> <ol> <li><b>No global jurisdiction</b> &#8211; we must acknowledge that the field of human rights has become a gridlock of rights, entitlements, preferences and theology. Rights directly conflict with each-other, as in the <i>right to property</i> directly conflicting with the <i>right to assured access to water.</i> Without a global jurisdiction, no government can enforce any kind of coherent rights doctrine, particularly in the face of borderless problems like terrorism or environmental crisis. Without a global court, our conventional methods for handling the conflicts between two virtues fall apart: we cannot leave it to case law and judges to sort it out.<br />&nbsp;</li> <li><b>Geneva for all</b> &#8211; our western democracies are backsliding into legalized torture. We all know our governments are torturing, by sending people abroad, by locking them up in black sites, by legally incarcerating them and treating them so badly their minds break. They may be doing this on our behalf, but they are doing it, and we are not standing outside the embassies and the secret police headquarters every day demanding <a href="">Geneva Convention</a> rights for &#8220;terrorists.&#8221; And this is really what is about: we&#8217;ve lost Geneva. We&#8217;ve lost the international rule of law on the battlefield, and we&#8217;re sliding backwards into barbarism. Can we all agree on Geneva rights for all prisoners as a responsible starting point? Some may wish to go further, but if we can agree that Geneva rights for all prisoners is a <i>good starting point</i> and we should <b>achieve it first</b> perhaps we can make a unified demand of government to end the barbarism and go back to civilized war. Just one small step. I therefore propose a &#8220;Geneva For All&#8221; campaign be the first starting point of any political platform that seeks to repair the damage done to our democracies since 9/11.<br />&nbsp;</li> <li><b>The minority of one</b> &#8211; in an increasingly complex global environment, the hard categories which formed entitlement groups and identities in the early post-Modern period have disintegrated. Transgendered and bisexual people chip away at traditional frameworks of sexual privilege and oppression. Multi-racial individuals dissolve the formerly hard barriers around race. New relationship patterns like polyamory begin to show what a new settlement between human desire and safe-sex technology might look like. Rather than a patchwork of special laws to meet the idealized and mythic special cases, we need to acknowledge that everybody is a special case, a unique and pressurized <i>minority of one</i> struggling to express their humanity through the exercise of their capacities, defended by our collective recognition and defense of their human rights. There is no point in discriminating by race or gender in law because, in the final analysis, these categories have become so fluid as to become legally meaningless in an increasing number of edge-cases. Can a 1/4-Indian sue for racial discrimination? What about a 1/16th Indian? Where&#8217;s the line? Similarly for gender or sexuality. Is it worse to call a hetrosexual man, a bisexual man or a gay man &#8220;faggot&#8221;? What if he is only occasionally gay, or used to be a woman? What then? Legally protect the individual, and not the group, because there are no groups which have real, hard, tangible legal edges any more. We should not be arguing in courts about who is or is not a member of which specially protected group. This is not a legal framework or a call to end protection for minorities, but an observation that the basis for such protection must emanate from the <i>minority of one</i>, not a laundry list of legal special cases.<br />&nbsp;</li> <li><b>The religious roots of oppression</b> &#8211; Crowley completely dropped the ball on <i><a href="">thelema</a></i>. Thelema is a secret thread. It&#8217;s the hard stuff the boys and girls in the back room are doing. It&#8217;s where <a href=>Alan Moore</a> came from. Therefore it&#8217;s where <a href="">Anonymous</a> came from, or at least their iconography. It&#8217;s what Kanye West was thinking about when <a href="">he spent $300,000 on a Horus necklace</a> and made the <a href="">POWER video</a>, which is about as good a piece of <a href="">religious</a> art as has been done in a century. It&#8217;s what <a href="">Jack Parsons</a> was running on when he <a href="">invented the solid rocket motors</a> which fueled the space race and wrote <a href="">Freedom is a Two-Edged Sword</a>. And, yes, it&#8217;s what <a href="">Jimmy Page</a> and <a href="">David Bowie</a> were on, for a while. Why am I talking about occult religion? I&#8217;m bringing this up to broaden the debate on human rights, and for a reason. <p>Mainstream jurisprudence in most of the world is a direct descendent from <a href=";pg=PA188&#038;lpg=PA188&#038;dq=%22desert+monotheisms%22&#038;source=bl&#038;ots=O-fr1iddEp&#038;sig=Qn7qnFLyQV32xtWQ4uMvvah8V3U&#038;hl=en&#038;ei=VOxJTqzQGIWnhAe4--XkBw&#038;sa=X&#038;oi=book_result&#038;ct=result&#038;resnum=4&#038;ved=0CB0Q6AEwAw#v=onepage&#038;q=%22desert%20monotheisms%22&#038;f=false">desert monotheisms</a> or other traditions which unify political and spiritual power in the form of God-Kings as in Japan or China. In these traditions, the secure functioning of the State is equivalent to doing God&#8217;s will on Earth, and this is Very, Very Important. And these guys, all of them, are destroying the future of humanity. The religious right want to start a jihad with the Muslims. The descendants of Mao will enslave their own for <a href="">filial-piety-turned communist</a>.</p> <p>I think that to get effective human rights we&#8217;re going to have to go beyond this. Consider, if you will, <a href="">Liber Oz</a>, which is Crowley&#8217;s summary of The Rights of Man. Now this is very simple. It is freedom. It may not be a perfect expression of Freedom, but there&#8217;s no doubt that the intention is to express Freedom in a fairly absolute form. There&#8217;s no legal system to hassle out what happens when these rights conflict with each other, there&#8217;s no sound basis of <a href="">common law</a>, there&#8217;s nothing about the <a href="">Sacredness of Property as an Extension of the Self</a>. It&#8217;s just Freedom. It&#8217;s not even Just Freedom. Now, as I said, Crowley screwed this up. In the hands of an English Victorian who&#8217;d been educated as a Fundamentalist Christian, it was a bomb. It blew Crowley&#8217;s head off, and he never seems to have done justice to the work. Parsons is a more approachable thinker. If you want the most beautiful, subtle form, <a href="">Alan Moore&#8217;s Promethea</a> is <a href=";rls=en&#038;q=%22alan%20moore%22%20promethea&#038;oe=UTF-8&#038;um=1&#038;ie=UTF-8&#038;tbm=isch&#038;source=og&#038;sa=N&#038;hl=en&#038;tab=wi">staggeringly beautiful</a>. When the time comes to have a renegotiation about the fundamental basis for human rights on this planet, our planet the Earth, I&#8217;d like us to start from The Law of Thelema, which is Freedom at the center. But I&#8217;m not suggesting I care whether you do it or not: do what thou wilt. We have no basis for a jurisprudence of Freedom, nor do we have any realistic goal of rapid adoption of a Freedom-based legal system. Do not let conventional Anarchism or property-based Libertarianism secularize the Sacredness of the fact you are Free. Rather, ask yourself this: if you had been born on a planet where the <a href="">received word of god</a> was<br /> <blockquote>&#8220;Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.&#8221;</p> <p>&#8220;Love is the law, love under will.&#8221;</p></blockquote> <p> <i>how different might your life be?</i><br />&nbsp;</li> <li><b>Ending the nuclear stalemate</b> &#8211; right now we are resolving the problems on this planet with violence, and since the invention of the nuclear bomb, neither side can win so we have a global deadlock in which there is no over-riding dominant power to make the rules, but rather a series of destructive warring fiefdoms that are squandering the future of the human race in endless banal competition. <p>I want you to stop seeing the State as anything more than a garbage collecting utility function. Your nationality should not matter any more than your ethnicity or your religion, it&#8217;s a tiny facet of your humanity, not a reason to draw a line on a map and go to war. The <a href=",4">myrmidons of the State</a> are trapped by a theology which acknowledges only a single word of god, a single point where the Divine Right of Kings radiates out from. Where these competing groups with nuclear weapons meet, two different conceptions of reality are locked in conflict. The strain this puts on the fabric of the planet, on the very fundamental survival of humanity, threatens us all. We must take our nuclear warriors off duty, and make it clear to them that we will settle our differences without organized violence of the kind that could ever escalate to the use of weapons of mass destruction &#8211; or, indeed, military weapons at all. They cannot back down from their status as our guardians, and yet we cannot afford the terrible price of requiring such protection. It is up to the people of earth to dissolve the strains between each-other in an equitable, harmonious way, to make a political peace so strong and so vivid that the nuclear watchmen can hang up their bombs and retire.</p> <p><b>They are not keeping us in cages for their amusement &#8211; they are keeping us in cages for our protection.</b></p> </li> </ol> </li> </ol> <p><a name=3></a></p> <h1>What can I do?</h1> <p>I believe we could lose a couple of billion people this decade. Ten years from now there might not be five billion humans left. A collapsing reserve currency could stop the international food trade dead for two years, and starve hundreds of millions or even a billion people. To this add War, most likely a nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan, or god forbid nuclear terrorism against America or Israel, either of which might desecrate much of the world in insane retaliation depending on the manner and nature of the attacks. It could be a rough decade. Everywhere the choice will be &#8220;<a href="">guns or butter</a>&#8221; because not every cultural mandate can be carried in lean times of economic contraction. In the good times, at least in America, we had &#8220;both/and&#8221; thinking, both social programs and military spending. Now we are going to have to choose, and I hope to god the calculus is correct, and we get an America able to play its part in a democratic peace, and not a a yet-more-unbalanced tyrant. Maybe this will happen. Maybe not.</p> <p>We have to heal the cultural split which opened between civil society and the military during the 1960s, when our defenders became our enemies. I&#8217;ve seen these guys up close, and they are <b>excellent</b> people. The leaders of the military-industrial complex that I have met so far are as subtle and thoughtful human beings as humanity has to offer, trapped in an impossible situation by the sudden advent of the nuclear age, where we went from Spear Politics + Rifles to Spear Politics + Nuclear Missiles over the course of 20 years from 1945 to 1965. Culturally, neither we nor they have had time to catch up to the realities of the nuclear age, and now we must give the order to stand down. We must not see the increasing pressure on the shared global environment (including forces like climate change) give rise to a new generation of military tensions which can (and eventually will) escalate into nuclear or worse wars. You can see it between India and Pakistan, you can, if you dare, see it between America and China or even between Russia and Europe. These are all flashpoints that could escalate, and it is our job to bring such a strong peace and such a strong demand for peace, not by harassing our own side&#8217;s military, but by making common cause with citizens of other countries to heal the world so that not one person in the world will every believe it is their duty to use a nuclear weapon ever again.</p> <p>It is our job to do this. Civil society must address the ongoing economic genocide of the poor and the destruction of the biosphere and the massive tensions which exist between countries or governments will inevitably continue the global gridlock, and the gridlock will eventually lead to more war.</p> <p>When President Obama was elected, he asked the public to push, to keep the pressure up on Washington, to get the radical agenda through. The public then sat back on its ass, and Obama has aged ten years and burned most of his backbone just holding the line against Republican wolves. Lackluster support may have cost us the Leader of the Free World we could have believed in. Anonymous snipes at minor enforcers and structural hypocrites, but thus far has not stepped up to <a href="">offer up a constructive alternative</a> to the activities of the organizations they are taking down.</p> <p>All I can say is, find something to do. Figure out what your will is, what you&#8217;re here to change, and change it. Our old models, of forming groups with complex structures, are not producing change. The UN has ossified into a shell and does little innovation in most areas. Above all, the climate process is gridlocked, deadlocked and lethal. Get behind somebody who might <a href="">know what they are doing</a>, and push.</p> <p>I only have two bits of advice for you. Number one, stop smoking. Number two, stop watching television. I don&#8217;t know a single person who watches a lot of TV, not one, because people who have a TV habit cannot keep up.</p> <p>So back to the question of human rights. We must square the circle: if we are to have Freedom, what do we do about those who want to poison the world with a little dioxin-filled incinerator at the bottom of the garden, or a mercury-leeching gold mine in the Amazon? How do we say no to people with foolish needs? Are we to rely on the power of the State to police what we consider distasteful, yet demand Freedom for ourselves? No, we cannot do this, not yet.</p> <p>Here&#8217;s my advice for you. Do everything you can do to solve the world&#8217;s real problems. Look mercilessly at what needs to be done, and with some beneficence at yourself, but get moving. We&#8217;ve sat around in consensus circles until the cushions are tired and nothing on remotely the scale required to change the world has happened. While that has been going on, the nerds have been prototyping a new form of human interworking called <a href="">do-ocracy</a> or <a href="">open source</a>. This approach has started to out-compete the <a href="">biggest</a> and <a href="">smartest</a> of the corporations. It&#8217;s spreading into <a href=" ">physical plant and distributed manufacturing</a>. But we haven&#8217;t figured out how to get leverage on politics, or how to head this awful global trouble off at the pass.</p> <p>I don&#8217;t know whether what I&#8217;ve said is going to be meaningful to you or not. It&#8217;s very hard to get far enough out to get a truly global perspective, and once you are that far out, there seem to be only two choices: platitudes, or the full, but often incomprehensible, truth.</p> <p>I am Vinay. I have always erred on the side of the incomprehensible truth. I&#8217;m not sure how many of you can hear me, or understand what I have to say. This is a planetary emergency. You have been activated. You&#8217;ve been activated since you were born. You just have to remember that you are a fully-empowered agent of human evolution, the planet you were born on is dying, and species-level pathologies formed around the creation of the nuclear weapon, interfacing with deeper scars left by bad religious theology have wedged us into a no-win global political deadlock that could kill us all, along with all future human beings, and every living thing that walks, swims, flies or crawls upon this earth. Go forth.</p> <p>Put it into high gear. You&#8217;ve got nothing to lose, and it&#8217;s only the media that&#8217;s telling you that you have. Tyler Durden was an optimist. <a href="">Saul Alinsky</a> wasn&#8217;t that radical. <a href="">John Boyd</a> was a man of peace. </p> <p><a href="">You are the benediction</a>. Go forth and bless the world by getting off your ass, and damn the consequences of stepping out of synch with the culture around you so that you can directly face and address the real problems of the world.</p> <p>Vinay Gupta<br /> Director, <a href="">Hexayurt Project</a><br /> Tuesday August 16th 2011, 8AM from the long side.</p> <p>I will be at <a href="">Uncivilisation</a>, the <a href="">Dark Mountain</a> Festival in <a href="">Hampshire</a>, England on Saturday August 20th 2011 from 3:45PM – 5:15PM. </p> <blockquote><p><b>We can no longer afford to ignore the sacred</b><br /> Modern industrial civilisation leaves no space for the sacred narrative. Does it matter? Given the resistance many of us feel towards both institutionalised religion and New Age spirituality, can we find ways of speaking which make room for the return of the sacred? Vinay Gupta belongs to the Indian tradition of the ‘kapalika’, or ‘bearers of the skull bowl’, and the Nath Sampradaya, an ancient yogic sect. He will be in conversation with Dark Mountain co‐founder Dougald Hine.</p></blockquote> <p>Here is what I had to say at last year&#8217;s Dark Mountain Festival.</p> <p><iframe width="560" height="349" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe></p> <p><a href=";id=2713&amp;md5=a917d1c63427b3b4d6650c556aca0196" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2011-08-16 When? <p>As the new world that we&#8217;re in, post US sovereign default crisis, Norwegian shootings and London riots settles in, I&#8217;m feeling a strong pull to wind up more parts of my life.</p> <p>For the time being, I&#8217;m substantially done with politics. I&#8217;ve made all the arguments I need to. I&#8217;m not saying that I won&#8217;t continue to indulge in politics at a recreational level, but at a fundamental level, I&#8217;m done with politics as a method. We <a href=>know what I had to say on the matter</a> and I might occasionally add to that, but it&#8217;s not the way forwards. I had to know, for myself, and now I do. Time to move past it.</p> <p>I&#8217;m also substantially done with deep theoretical work on extreme risk management. Artifacts like <a href=>Disastr</a>, my nuclear contingency work (also applies to very big earthquakes etc.) are useful, but further work in this direction is not where I need to focus right now. This stuff is very, very expensive to produce psychologically, and I&#8217;ve done enough of it for now. Maybe when the work done so far is absorbed or used it will be time to go further, but for now it&#8217;s time to let it go.</p> <p>The long term development work, like <a href=>Winning the Long Peace</a> is more important than ever, although I&#8217;m not sure that anybody&#8217;s listening to that right now, but it&#8217;s a thread I&#8217;ll carefully keep alive for the future. <a href=>CheapID</a> continues to be the crown jewels, but it may well be 15 years before that matters. Long-term storage. I should upload that to properly at some point too. So enough of shutting things down and mothballing ideas, on to what&#8217;s new!</p> <p><a href=><img src="" alt="" width=100%></a></p> <p>This little beauty is <a href=></a> which is my attempt to describe a set of four or five interlocking careers or specialisms which could help people move from fragility to deep resilience over a period of years. It&#8217;s very ambitious, early-stage work, basically trying to frame a new <b>industry</b>. <a href=>This PDF</a> as a three page analysis of where I think the action is, although it&#8217;s pretty self-evident from the diagram if you know the field.</p> <p>I continue to work on <a href=>The Future We Deserve.</a> If you want to understand why that&#8217;s such a process, read a dozen of the pieces (they&#8217;re only 500 words each, the length of a Rolling Stone epic) and see what it does to your mind. I&#8217;m not sure humans were made for this kind of conceptual <b>density</b>. Getting the right book out of those materials is the hardest thing I&#8217;ve ever done.</p> <p>May it have impacts in the world to match.</p> <p><a href=";id=2707&amp;md5=6cb602ff3a068da6ba78eede69489ebd" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2011-08-15 More wrapping up loose ends. <p>((<a href=>The Gupta State Failure Management Archive</a>, 4.3gb of lectures and documents on managing state failure, is in the Public Domain and available for download.))</p> <h3>The London Situation: Threat Modeling</h3> <p>I was asked today to think about gear lists for the London situation, and about framing the risks of being in London period. I&#8217;m not sure if this will be popular, but it needs to be said:</p> <p><b>You are very likely in less danger staying at home in London than doing almost anything else, including driving out of the city.</b></p> <p>Now, let me justify that. The death toll from the riots so far appears to be zero. Although there are a ton of injuries, the vast majority of the have been sustained by rioters and police, the actual fighters. Ordinary citizens are therefore by-and-large very, very safe and likely to continue to be so, barring mitigating circumstances like being in a building which is set on fire and having to leave in a damn hurry. So let us consider an analytical framework, the <a href="">Six Ways to Die</a>.</p> <p>* too hot<br /> * too cold<br /> * hunger<br /> * thirst<br /> * illness<br /> * injury</p> <p>Now let&#8217;s remove the ones which don&#8217;t apply</p> <p>* injury</p> <p>If you are concerned that you are in danger in London, stay away from danger. If you are comfortable and safe at home and likely to remain so, stay at home. If not, please go and visit some friends out of town and wait for the danger to pass. You are safe.</p> <p>Now, that said, let us <a href="">compare-and-contrast with a post I made a couple of days ago</a> on the US news site, Reddit. Now, why am I advising them about a wide variety of serious health risks, including combat psychology, and only suggesting that people stay at home or head out of town for a few days in London? The difference is the <b>threat model.</b></p> <p>The <a href="">PostCollapse</a> folks on Reddit are modeling something known as TEOTWAWKI &#8211; <i>the end of the world as we know it</i>. Instead of a single, coherent threat model like &#8220;there are riots all over London&#8221; they have an indistinct, constantly shifting universal existential threat framed by a combination of real-and-legitimate US risks and Mad Max movies. In that kind of mindset the issue isn&#8217;t as simple as assessing a risk and then making an educated guess about safe courses of action, rather the need is to peer into the <i>nature of risk</i> and learn how to make these educated guesses for one&#8217;s self and one&#8217;s family years, or often decades, in advance of their arrival. In short, the open-ended constantly-shifting nature of the Survivalist&#8217;s threat scenario is more a meditation on the nature of life than a realistic planning strategy.</p> <p>Yet as such a mediation, it has value.</p> <p><H3>Conclusion: Stay at Home</h3> <p>If you want to know how to prepare, it is very simple. In nearly all scenarios,<strong> the ability so sit at home and do nothing for a month will keep you safe</strong>. In the trade, this is called Shelter in Place. It applies to nearly all terrorist scenarios with the possible exception of dirty bombs. It manages a large class of acts of war. It addresses fatal disease, urban unrest and most political violence.</p> <p>Go home. Stay home. Wait for the coast to clear.</p> <p>What do you need to use this strategy?</p> <p>* Most importantly, a 3 month pre-order of any medications you might need, including birth control pills, insulin, antipsychotics etc. Even trivia like antihistamines. It&#8217;s only a few quid to do this in most cases, and you should do it while you can.</p> <p>* Then there is food. Even a <a href="">half-assed food shopping run</a> can sort you out the basics. Remember to buy things you can eat cold, in a pinch, or make backup plans for cooking like laying in a gas stove and gas (a small risk in its own right.)</p> <p>* Toilet paper. No, really.</p> <p>Things like water and a wind up or solar charger to charge your phone are the next level of crisis up, where basic services like water and the cell phone network go down. No we have moved from the simple question of &#8220;how to stay at home and wait for things to blow over&#8221; into &#8220;how to survive once essential services start to be affected.&#8221; </p> <p>This second question is where the bulk of my work lies &#8211; how do we approach a situation where the problem is not random rioters looting stores, but people using mortars on critical infrastructure and triballing opposing tribes power substations and electrical feeds. But we are a long, long way from there, and it&#8217;s not terrain that needs to be directly addressed at this juncture.</p> <p><strong>If you are a Londoner, please get together what you need to spend a month at home.</strong> Put it in some boxes in a corner. Clearly label it. Then the next time riots happen, or if these riots go on off-and-on for ages, you won&#8217;t need to go outside when you don&#8217;t feel comfortable and safe, and you&#8217;ll have taken one less potential victim (or rioter!) off the streets. You may want to extend this advice to other parts of the country too.</p> <p><H3>Getting Into More Depth</h3> <p>If you are interested in the next level of failures, where critical infrastructure issues pile on top of civil disorder or passing shocks like a bad flu scare, you need to start using the full Six Ways To Die model, called <a href="">Simple Critical Infrastructure Maps</a>. You need to make the <a href="">SCIM-INAM</a> chart for your life, and fill in all the appropriate boxes, so you have a really clear understanding of your critical infrastructure related risk, and your potential responses to it. Get ready to make a serious investment in time, gear and training if you want to do a comprehensively good job at this level of concern. It&#8217;s not easy. You may have to move house. You may have to arm yourself. You may, indeed, have to become a survivalist.</p> <p>But that day is not today. </p> <p>Yes, there is a risk of Serious Difficulty, up-to-and-including the failure of the State itself, rule of law, governance at its most fundamental levels, and everything else. Even in that condition, however, I do not believe in a loss of civic order lasting more than weeks or very occasionally a few months is possible. There are very rare counter-examples, but they generally-speaking involve a war zone where the supply chains for both combatant sides come from well-funded nation states duking it out. In situations where somebody can gain the upper hand militarily, typically pretty soon they go back to creating order.</p> <h3>Unexpected Travel</h3> <p>Finally, let us consider that oldest of staples, the <a href=";rls=en&#038;q=%22Bug+Out+Bag%22&#038;ie=UTF-8&#038;oe=UTF-8">Bug Out Bag</a>. Here I will admit to substantial geekery, and I&#8217;ll show you mine. </p> <p><a href="">LifeSystems survival whistle</a> for being found.<br /> <a href=";catname=Shelter&#038;prodname=SOL%20Survival%20Blanket">Adventure Medical Kits Heat Sheet</a> an enormously superior, dirt cheap, double adult size reflective insulator.<br /> <a>A generic foam camping mat</a> for sitting and sleeping on.<br /> <a href=>Generic polypropylene underwear</a> often sold very cheaply in camping shops, tied in a carrier bag to keep them dry.<br /> Some kind of hat, preferably waterproof.<br /> <a href=>A wind-up torch</a> and usually a backup LED light too<br /> A lighter and a few sheets of newspaper, and perhaps some dry twigs.<br /> A bottle of tea tree oil.<br /> Food and water I&#8217;d take out of the kitchen on the way out, I don&#8217;t keep them packed. You should, though. A two liter soda bottle filled with water and some cans of tuna is just fine.<br /> I keep meaning to add some <a href="">chlorine bleach for water purification</a> in a small container to the kit.<br /> A roll of toilet paper.<br /> Two small bottles of hand sanitizer.<br /> <b>Any special stuff you need, like baby food and nappies, or an epipen, or spare glasses.</b> I can&#8217;t stress spare glasses strongly enough.</p> <p>If you&#8217;re particularly conscientious, stick spare picture ID in the bag, at least photocopies of your passport, drivers license etc.</p> <p>You can buy the lot in London for about fifty quid and it&#8217;ll see you right through the vast majority of circumstances which require spending unanticipated time out of your home. Note the distinct absence of a knife, a first aid kid, any kind of sophisticated equipment. I haven&#8217;t counted stout walking shoes or Suitable Clothing &#8211; that&#8217;s your stuff, you should have those anyway. This is just the odds-and-ends that you add to traveling clothes to make you comfortable in a wider range of places and times, from frozen train platforms without any news of a train through to a few days in the outdoors if you wind up in some unpleasant corner of history.</p> <p>There&#8217;s a whole complex art to this stuff, but these are the basics. That&#8217;s all you need. Even the sleeping bag is bonus. Consider again the Six Ways To Die.</p> <p>* too hot &#8211; reflective blanket, sunny side out<br /> * too cold &#8211; thermals, kept dry, the hat and the space blanket<br /> * hunger &#8211; the food you brought, but you won&#8217;t starve in a week, don&#8217;t worry<br /> * thirst &#8211; the water, and the chlorine bleach to purify more if you absolutely must<br /> * illness &#8211; the hand sanitizer, the chlorine bleach, the tea tree oil, the toilet paper<br /> * injury &#8211; nothing but the tea tree oil, for if you get a graze or toothache </p> <p>The main buffers are for the cold, exposure and the weather, because for us, in our climate, that&#8217;s about the only danger there really is. That and the riots! </p> <p><H3>Conclusion</h3> <p>But let me say, as a final point, that fifty quids worth of odds-and-ends is much, much less warm, comfortable and likely to keep you safe than good old fashioned bricks and mortar.</p> <p>Stay at home. You&#8217;re safer there than anywhere else, particularly the mean, mean streets of London. The perception that one must march into the woods makes no sense at all: they are not hospitable places unless you are rather experienced, and even then it takes considerable equipment to simply wait in some rural place, bothering nobody, until the place has quietened down a bit. It&#8217;s not the way for most people, and it&#8217;s much, much higher risk, in almost all scenarios, than staying at home.</p> <p><b>So if you&#8217;re serious about your own safety, make the preparations for staying at home for a month. Think it through, do it right, and then if you have to have a weekend in because they&#8217;ve got riot police blockading your doors, at least you won&#8217;t run out of red wine.</b></p> <p>Stay in a safe place. If you have to travel to reach a genuinely safe place, travel carefully, be prepared, and verify your destination is safe before setting out.</p> <p>The psychological impulse to pick up and run at the first sign of danger, generally speaking, causes more danger than it averts. If you are going to be traveling during a crisis of any kind, <i>ensure you are traveling towards a known-safe destination, not simply running</i>.</p> <p>Stock up the house in case there&#8217;s more of this, and wait it out. That&#8217;s my advice.</p> <p><a href=";id=2664&amp;md5=049a44c27df23f0467c7f0526ae03631" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2011-08-09 On survival – how to do basic threat modeling <p>I&#8217;ve just released <a href=""><strong>4.3gb of files on State Failure and contingency management into the public domain at</strong></a>. You can browse, watch and download individual files there. There is the start of a <a href="">collaborative &#8220;reader&#8217;s guide&#8221; on Appropedia</a>.</p> <a href='' title='On_Designing_Complex_Cooperation_A_Tour_of_The_Gupta_Dimension__Summer2009'><img width="150" height="110" src="" class="attachment-thumbnail" alt="On_Designing_Complex_Cooperation_A_Tour_of_The_Gupta_Dimension__Summer2009" /></a> <a href='' title='The_Reykjavik_Briefing_on_Natural_Disaster__Reykjavik__2008'><img width="150" height="110" src="" class="attachment-thumbnail" alt="The_Reykjavik_Briefing_on_Natural_Disaster__Reykjavik__2008" /></a> <a href='' title='The_Future_We_Deserve__Winchester_School_of_Art__6May2011_2of2'><img width="150" height="110" src="" class="attachment-thumbnail" alt="The_Future_We_Deserve__Winchester_School_of_Art__6May2011_2of2" /></a> <a href='' title='The_Future_We_Deserve__Winchester_School_of_Art__6May2011_1of2'><img width="150" height="110" src="" class="attachment-thumbnail" alt="The_Future_We_Deserve__Winchester_School_of_Art__6May2011_1of2" /></a> <a href='' title='The_Living_City_on_US_Urban_Resilience__Arup_London__Nov2009'><img width="150" height="110" src="" class="attachment-thumbnail" alt="The_Living_City_on_US_Urban_Resilience__Arup_London__Nov2009" /></a> <a href='' title='Modeling_State_Failure_With_SCIM__Greenhouse_Ireland__29Sep2010'><img width="150" height="110" src="" class="attachment-thumbnail" alt="Modeling_State_Failure_With_SCIM__Greenhouse_Ireland__29Sep2010" /></a> <a href='' title='Through_the_Looking_Glass__Greenhouse_Ireland__27Sep2010'><img width="150" height="110" src="" class="attachment-thumbnail" alt="Through_the_Looking_Glass__Greenhouse_Ireland__27Sep2010" /></a> <a href='' title='Time_to_Stop_Pretending__Uncivilisation_Dark_Mountain_Festival__29May2010'><img width="150" height="110" src="" class="attachment-thumbnail" alt="Time_to_Stop_Pretending__Uncivilisation_Dark_Mountain_Festival__29May2010" /></a> <p>You can also download the entire set as a <a href="">TAR file from</a> or <a href=>try bit Bittorrent version here</a>. At 4.3gb it&#8217;s ideal for burning on DVD. Just download the file, decompress (unzip etc. will do it), burn them on to a DVD and pass them out. Such a DVD would be a good starting point for people who want to get oriented to this kind of hard line resilience thinking. Most of the files are videos, and I&#8217;ve <strong>hotlinked</strong> the most important ones below and marked them with a *.</p> <p>The files are all Public Domain, with one exception as noted below. Please distribute the widely, pass them around, and make the tools available to local community organizers who are trying to make a difference in these challenging times.</p> <p><strong></strong> &#8211; web site archive<br /> <strong>emergency_shelter__The_Hexayurt_in_Haiti__Summer_2010.pdf</strong> &#8211; basic overview of a tough hexayurt<br /> <strong></strong> &#8211; web site archive<br /> <strong></strong> &#8211; web site archive<br /> <strong>how_to_buy_food_for_disasters__Reykjavik__2008.pdf</strong> &#8211; simple, very, very easy food shopping &#8211; can be improved!<br /> * <strong><a href="">Modeling_State_Failure_With_SCIM__Greenhouse_Ireland__29Sep2010.m4v (390mb)</a></strong> &#8211; hardcore mortality analysis of a failed state scenario<br /> <strong>Observe_Orient_Decide_Act_OODA_2x2.pdf</strong> &#8211; Boyd&#8217;s OODA loop for organizations<br /> <strong></strong> &#8211; organizational theory for non-traditional partnerships, taken from civ/mil cooperation<br /> <strong><a href="">* START_HERE__Dealing_in_Security__Simple_Critical_Infrastructure_Maps__July2010.pdf</a></strong> &#8211; speaks for itself. Do start here. This file is CC licensed NON-COMMERCIAL USE, please note that.<br /> <strong>STAR_TIDES__BIG_OVERVIEW.pdf</strong> &#8211; appropriate technology and infrastructure theory from STAR-TIDES<br /> <strong>STAR_TIDES__SMALL_OVERVIEW.pdf</strong> &#8211; a little more infrastructure theory, from a brochure<br /> <strong>strategic_complexity_framework_for_dummies.pdf</strong> &#8211; light relief, but also vital<br /> <strong>The_Free_City_State_Urban_Governance__The_Really_Free_School_London__Spring2011.mp3</strong> (1)<br /> <strong>The_Free_City_State_Urban_Governance__The_Really_Free_School_London__Spring2011__warmup_chat.mp3</strong> (2) a new model of municipal governance which helps decentralize the power of the Mayor.<br /> <strong><a href="">* The_Future_We_Deserve__Winchester_School_of_Art__6May2011_1of2.m4v (600mb)</a></strong> &#8211; general overview of my work, and our position<br /> <strong><a href="">* The_Future_We_Deserve__Winchester_School_of_Art__6May2011_2of2.m4v (600mb)</a></strong> &#8211; second part of the talk, and Q&#038;A<br /> <strong>The_Future_We_Deserve__Winchester_School_of_Art__6May2011_slides.pdf</strong> &#8211; slides<br /> <strong>TheGuptaStateFailureManagementArchive.tar</strong> &#8211; the tar file which contains all these files<br /> <strong><a href="">* (100mb)</a></strong> &#8211; US Urban Resilience analysis we did for Arup. Focuses on cold weather grid stability and pharmaceutical supply chain management<br /> <strong>The_Living_City_on_US_Urban_Resilience__Arup_London__Nov2009_slides.pdf</strong> &#8211; slides<br /> <strong></strong> &#8211; long range, large scale thinking on natural disasters, including the seeds of what later became SCIM.<br /> <strong><a href="">* Through_the_Looking_Glass__Greenhouse_Ireland__27Sep2010.mp4</a> (300mb)</strong> &#8211; how many groups can cooperate to provide essential services in a crisis scenario. introduces the concept of AIAC.<br /> <strong>Through_the_Looking_Glass__Greenhouse_Ireland__27Sep2010_slides.pdf</strong> &#8211; slides<br /> <strong>Time_to_Stop_Pretending__Uncivilisation_Dark_Mountain_Festival__29May2010.mp4</strong> &#8211; a little on the global situation<br /> <strong>Vinay_Gupta_and_Mike_Bennett_Collapsonomics__Uncivilisation_Dark_Mountain_Festival__30May2010.mp3</strong> &#8211; a briefing on how pre-existing cultural faultlines can be just as dangerous as geological faultlines<br /> <strong></strong> &#8211; an archive of this blog, up until yesterday.<br /> <strong><a href="">* why_nothing_works_the_Goat_Rodeo_Index.pdf</a></strong> &#8211; on the limits of collaboration when people are not properly aligned at a psychological level</p> <p>The entire package is many hours of video, containing a plethora of deep models for understanding systems and social resilience, and would probably take a couple of weeks to really get through if you were working on it every day. I will be preparing some simpler starting point materials in due course. The &#8220;Dealing in Security&#8221; document, however, is precise, general, readable, informative, comprehensive and short. You can safely start there.</p> <p>There&#8217;s a fair bit that could be done to improve this package &#8211; it could be presented as an ISO file. For size, videos could be recompressed, and audio quality improved, slides intercut with the footage and so on. The PDFs could be ported into some kind of editable format and so on. Most of all, other material could be added, in the couple of gigs that might save, and we could have a genuinely useful &#8220;drop and go&#8221; community-level resilience DVD.</p> <p>That&#8217;s going to be a project for somebody else, though. I&#8217;ve made my content available, I hope that other people will follow suit, and we can all be as well prepared as possible should there be significant disruptions in essentials services in upcoming years.</p> <p>Godspeed.</p> <p>V></p> <p><a href=";id=2636&amp;md5=20b607ef61084cbc52475cb2e27ad6ce" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2011-08-06 The Gupta State Failure Management Archive – a public resource for hard times <p>((from a post made to the Reddit PostCollapse forum &#8211; just kind of a braindump to help some folks out who were just starting to grapple with these problems. Survival Epistemologist!))</p> <p>((<a href=>The Gupta State Failure Management Archive</a>, 4.3gb of lectures and documents on managing state failure, is in the Public Domain and available for download.))</p> <p><a href="">SCIM</a> ( is a model in use by the US military <a href="">STAR-TIDES</a> project (see It provides a really, really simple and objective model of function in disasters. Here&#8217;s the basic model:</p> <p>INDIVIDUAL SURVIVAL</p> <p> * too hot<br /> * too cold<br /> * hunger<br /> * thirst<br /> * illness<br /> * injury</p> <p>GROUP FORMATION</p> <p> * communications<br /> * transport<br /> * workspace<br /> * resource control</p> <p>ORGANIZATIONAL FUNCTION</p> <p> * shared map of reality<br /> * shared plan of action<br /> * shared succession model for replacing leadership</p> <p>NATION STATE FUNCTION</p> <p> * list of persons<br /> * map of claimed territories<br /> * effective organizations (police, army, bureaucracies etc.)<br /> * international recognition<br /> * legal jurisdiction</p> <p>Each one of these services is provided by a complex matrix that you might, for now, call &#8220;society.&#8221; There&#8217;s a more precise term, AIAC (<a href="">agro-industrial auto-catalysis</a> but that&#8217;s an entirely different conversation.</p> <p>Society can be simply grouped into seven tiers of complexity, namely</p> <p> * individual<br /> * household<br /> * village / neighbourhood<br /> * town<br /> * region<br /> * country<br /> * world</p> <p>Something like the fuel supply which provides transportation has a Town level (the gas station), a regional level (the supply depots), and a national/global level which is the pipelines, tankers and terminals which actually process and distribute the fuel.</p> <p>There are two basic types of crisis:</p> <p> * point crisis and<br /> * systemic crisis</p> <p>Point crisis moves the load from your local Town (say) up to the Regional and National levels. New Orleans floods, and support rushes into the area to help from the Federal and State level, for example.</p> <p>Systemic crisis is much, much more dangerous, because the Regional and National levels just stop being able to provide services as effectively, and suddenly you&#8217;re left with what you have locally. What State and Federal resources exist go to the worst-hit areas, but the total size of the potential first responder force &#8211; all troops, police, firemen etc. together is about 1% of the total population. Hence you&#8217;re expecting to be getting along and getting through with your neighbors, and there&#8217;s not much more to be done for it.</p> <p>Systemic crisis is what leads to collapse: banking, national electrical grids, international oil shipments are probably the most fragile systems, with the internet and telecommunications networks not far behind. However, in most cases systemic crises don&#8217;t get back enough to cause massive deathtolls without an authoritarian state response (i.e. China during Mao&#8217;s famine, the Ukranian Genocide etc. require the State to step in and prevent people self-organizing a response to keep them alive.)</p> <p>Three final concepts.</p> <p>All shared property is managed by the Three Bureaucracies: Ownership, Management and Protection. Take a town water tower. There&#8217;s a company that owns it, say the Municipality of Smithville. Then there&#8217;s a guy who manages it, who&#8217;s hired by the Municipality of Smithville to keep it running, and who also allocates the services (pressure, feed) supplied by the water tower. Then there&#8217;s the Police who protect the water tower. That&#8217;s three separate groups of people involved &#8211; the Town Council, the Water Manager, and the Police force before you can have a municipal water tower.</p> <p>It&#8217;s a hell of a lot simpler to have a barrel on your roof and a hose pipe <img src='' alt=';)' class='wp-smiley' /> If you&#8217;re going to share anything, you need to explicitly model the Three Bureaucracies &#8211; who Owns, who Manages and who Protects. Otherwise it&#8217;s easy to wind up with shared property enmeshed in horribly complex implicit social arrangements which fall apart into squabbling and fighting as soon as something goes wrong.</p> <p>Secondly, violence. Fundamentally violence falls into three broad categories:</p> <p> * defense<br /> * status fights<br /> * offense</p> <p>In a defense situation, the goal is to escape or prevent an attacker from entering an area, roughly. Defenders win when the attackers either give up or leave, or when the defenders escape from the attackers. Running is a perfectly effective defense, but in most survival situations people want to stand their ground to protect their supplies and stable living conditions. This is clearly a very general model, but the psychology is what I&#8217;m discussing. Defender psychology ends when the threat goes away, and anything which works is just fine. Defenders are not necessarily passive, but the situation resolves when the attacker withdraws or is no longer pursuing.</p> <p>Status fighting is different. Status fighting includes the concept of winning and proving that one&#8217;s side or oneself is in some way better than the person you&#8217;re fighting with. Defenders stop taking risks as soon as attackers withdraw. Status fighters will pursue or brag to cement a victory. If two people square off to fight, that&#8217;s not an Attack/Defense situation, that&#8217;s a Status fight. The message on Status Fights is very, very clear: DO NOT EVER STATUS FIGHT UNLESS YOU HAVE NOTHING TO LOSE AND ACCESS TO A GOOD EMERGENCY ROOM. You have nothing to gain, and it&#8217;s very easy to get hurt much more seriously than you expect to if a fight escalates.</p> <p>Then there is attack. Attack is where you decide you&#8217;re going to kill somebody, or force them to do what you want them to do or face violence. In a survival situation attack may become necessary for a variety of terms (for example, breaching a roadblock where people are trying to blockade a road you need to get through.) In an attack, the most important thing is to realize that there is no predictable graduation in violence: if you start a fight, you may wind up killing or having to kill somebody. If you are not prepared to do that, you aren&#8217;t mounting an attack, YOU ARE STATUS FIGHTING. If you&#8217;re not willing to kill, you are status fighting. Status fighting in an emergency situation will get you killed. Here is why. Most of the real nasty violence we see comes when Person A thinks they are in a status fight, and Person B thinks they are in an Defensive or Offensive situation. We all have sophisticated ways of showing status by violence &#8211; highschool skirmishes are not intended to leave anybody disabled or dead, but to rapidly and safely establish a hierarchy. Those reflexes and subtle implicit signaling behaviors have nothing to do with Real Violence, because a Person B, an Attacker or Defender who&#8217;s willing to kill is going to stab Person A through the eyeball to get what they want while Person A is still squaring off, yelling and posturing. People who are willing to kill, whether Offensive or Defensive in intention, have an entirely different fight psychology, and nearly everybody who&#8217;s in Rambo Mode is not in that psychology &#8211; they&#8217;re in Status Fight mode, but with guns. Combat psychology is a big area, see &#8220;On Killing&#8221; for the full chapter and verse if you&#8217;re interested. If you&#8217;ve a mind to be a fighter, it&#8217;s more important to read &#8220;On Killing&#8221; than to be a good shot.</p> <p>Finally, you need to understand poverty. 20 million people a year &#8211; one third of the people who die every year &#8211; die of poverty. The breakdown is roughly:</p> <p> * 5m from dirty water<br /> * 5m from cooking smoke<br /> * 5m from various kinds of malnutrition, mostly shortened lifespans from poor diet rather than just plain starving to death<br /> * 5m from lack of vaccinations and similar basic medical care</p> <p>That&#8217;s a very crude breakdown, and all of these factors overlap in complex ways. 9m of the 20m who die are children under the age of 5.</p> <p>A collapse means living in the same conditions as the people who grow your coffee. You have to understand that people are living in collapse or near-collapse conditions all over the world, in fact it may be considered normal or average all over the world. It&#8217;s not a new or unique position, it&#8217;s just poverty and it&#8217;s everywhere already. You have to face this to be able to think accurately about collapse. If you can&#8217;t face the poverty problem, you can&#8217;t plan accurately because your mind will route around unpleasant facts, and those unpleasant facts are exactly what you need to be thinking about to survive. Your mind must be clear, and that means thinking about the hellish problems of the world, so that you can avoid them. (<a href="">see my talk at Uncivilization 2010</a></p> <p>Finally, four technologies you should know about, all easy to build and open source.</p> <p> * the <a href="">hexayurt</a> ( a very cheap emergency shelter which is somewhere between a tent and a house in basic utility. Think &#8220;big shed&#8221; but for a few hundred dollars.<br /> * the biosand water filter, which will peel out most of the nasties from water (99%+ of pretty much everything infectious which can make you sick) and is basically a big plastic bucket, a hose and some sand/gravel.<br /> * the rocket stove, which burns wood 3x as efficiently as an open fire and is well suited to general cooking, though perhaps not so good for heating<br /> * the composting toilet, which at its simpler is buckets, sawdust, leaves, straw or paper, and a place to dump waste to rot down over time. Composting toilets appear to be safe, and are a little more complicated than the other two technologies.</p> <p>I hope that&#8217;s a useful overview.</p> <p>Vinay Gupta Director, Hexayurt Project<br /> PS: a little bleach goes a long way in a disaster. Cleans drinking water, sterlizes medical instruments, washes clothes. If there&#8217;s only one thing you can stockpile, it&#8217;s simple bleach. Dirt cheap and can save your life. Enjoy.<br /> <a href=""></a></p> <p><a href=";id=2628&amp;md5=92cc0535d4097fc8f2ceb7667abe0af2" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2011-08-04 How to think about survival <p>It&#8217;s come time for me to &#8220;declare victory&#8221; on two projects.</p> <p>1) The <a href=>Institute for Collapsonomics</a> got going <a href="">on this blog</a> well over two years ago, in March 2009. The US has just <a href="">narrowly avoided a sovereign default</a> at which point there is no further need to argue about whether economic risks to the global economy need to be addressed <a href="http://">just like any other risk.</a> (MP3, Uncivilization 2010 session). Contingency plans need to be made for economic collapse and <a href="">individuals, groups, organizations and the State</a> all need to be preparing. The Institute for Collapsonomics was correct and prescient, and there&#8217;s no more to argue about. We won this one. <b>You can be prepared to handle the risk or not, but our thesis has been proven.</b> <font size=-1>You can follow the blow-by-blow feed on <a href="">#collapsonomics</a></font></p> <p>2) The <a href=>Hexayurt Project</a> has likewise attained maturity as an open source project. Right now I can barely keep up with the mailing list traffic, and very seldom does anybody ask me anything directly. People are researching, innovating and sharing together effectively as a team. <a href="">Edmund Harriss, Scott Davis and Dylan Toymaker</a> have surpassed me in design, and <a href="">Julie Danger and Lucas Gonzalez</a> have surpassed me in documentation. I&#8217;m continuing to <a href="">do my part</a>, of course, but we&#8217;re no longer in a position where if I don&#8217;t build it, it doesn&#8217;t happen. Judging by mailing list traffic and other factors, I expect there to be several hundred hexayurts at Burning Man this year. The test units in Haiti and Sri Lanka continue to do reasonably well. <b>I am now confident that given time, the hexayurt will spread as far as it is useful.</b></p> <p>I have a slight case of empty-nest about these projects but there&#8217;s nothing worse than being stuck in an identity too long. To continue to grow, feel and be alive there must be constant change and to continue to pretend that these projects need my constant attention would be to refuse new challenges. I can stay stuck in these roles, or I can move on. I choose to move on.</p> <p>===================================================</p> <p>It&#8217;s been hard, psychologically, to disentangle myself from my old perspective and way of doing things to free myself up to do the job right on <a href=>The Future We Deserve book</a>. I knew I&#8217;d hit a crisis when I read the manuscript and it completely wiped out my own sense of the future; nothing I thought I knew or casually assumed to be true was left standing, outside of a few simple technological trends. It shifted my sense of human potential, too, as I saw that everybody had deep insight in the places where the future affected them closely: in fact, specialists tended to talk about other people&#8217;s experiences, rather than their own, and wrote less compellingly. Why can&#8217;t we effectively use the wisdom that everybody has about their own lives?</p> <p>So now the editing begins. If you want to give a hand, please get in touch, but it&#8217;s not so much that it will be an onerous task. I&#8217;m sorry this has taken such a long time to start, but I had to become the person who could see the future in the way that the book portrayed it before I could do the project justice. I had expected to stand where I was, and move the book around me, but instead I found myself having to move to the vision of the future contained in the book, and work from there; I could not deny that I had my mind changed by what the contributors had written, and it&#8217;s taken me most of a year to catch up with myself.</p> <p>I think I&#8217;ve finally done it. You will see progress now. The one thing I do need help with is figuring out how to get PediaPress to play nicely with the ISBN system. Does the <a href="">LightningSource deal</a> fix that? If anybody has insights on that, please get in touch!</p> <p><a href=";id=2616&amp;md5=ddaa69f8911a83dbb8ef8aaae47ca6c0" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2011-08-03 Declaring victory <p><a href="">Umair Haque</a> would like a taste of power.</p> <blockquote><p>My suggestion is: let&#8217;s leave those stuck in a predictable, homogeneous, stagnating, we&#8217;d-believe-you-more-if-you-were-an-<b>old-white-dude</b> past in the past. Let&#8217;s smash through the iron curtains of the status quo&#8211;by creating the future. {<a href=";utm_source=twitterfeed">source: Sidenotes: Smashing The Status Quo&#8217;s Iron Curtains</a>}</p></blockquote> <p>The reason the Old White Dudes (OWD) are in charge is because they are <i>good</i> at power. Consider, if you will, <a href="">John Perry Barlow</a> (OWD) on Dick Cheney (OWD)</p> <blockquote><p>With the possible exception of Bill Gates, Dick Cheney is the smartest man I¹ve ever met. If you get into a dispute with him, he will take you on a devastatingly brief tour all the weak points in your argument. But he is a careful listener and not at all the ideologue he appears at this distance. I believe he is personally indifferent to greed. {<a href="">source: Sympathy for the Devil</a>}</p></blockquote> <p>Now Barlow is Pretty Cool for an OWD. He wrote <a href="">lyrics for the Grateful Dead</a>. He <a href="">applied Gibson&#8217;s science fiction term &#8220;cyberspace&#8221; to the real internet</a>. But perhaps most relevantly, he founded the <a href="">Electronic Frontier Foundation</a>, and wrote &#8220;<a href="">A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace</a>.&#8221; In 1996.</p> <blockquote><p>In the United States, you have today created a law, the Telecommunications Reform Act, which repudiates your own Constitution and insults the dreams of Jefferson, Washington, Mill, Madison, DeToqueville, and Brandeis. These dreams must now be born anew in us.</p> <p>You are terrified of your own children, since they are natives in a world where you will always be immigrants. Because you fear them, you entrust your bureaucracies with the parental responsibilities you are too cowardly to confront yourselves. In our world, all the sentiments and expressions of humanity, from the debasing to the angelic, are parts of a seamless whole, the global conversation of bits. We cannot separate the air that chokes from the air upon which wings beat.</p></blockquote> <p>Now, here is Umair&#8217;s problem in a nutshell. Umair Haque wants you to believe that the Status Quo is run by incompetents. The tragedy is that it is not: it is run by the best minds of previous generations, and <i>even with</i> these hyper-competent intellectual elites at the helm, we are still screwed.</p> <p>Umair Haque would like a shot at power, and sees these elites as self-serving men of limited vision. But the truth, from my limited but significant experience of dealing with these elites, is very different. Most of the people I&#8217;ve met at the top of the tree are incredibly intelligent, multi-talented interdisciplinary thinkers who are doing the best they can to manage an ungovernable world.</p> <p>The problem, if it exists at all in a simple form, is with the people, not their leaders. I am not at all convinced that I am smarter, or (given Barlow&#8217;s insights) better intentioned than Dick Cheney. We love to parody Cheney as the Father of Lies and the Master of Evil, but somebody has to do the hard thinking about bioweapons and structural power if democracy is to survive, and for about two generations it seems that person has been Dick Cheney. We cannot take power from these people unless we are ready, willing and able to replace them, and the public believes us. Now, you may say, why won&#8217;t the public &#8211; and their paid, professional content-filtering friends, the Media &#8211; take our message and tell the public that they should be listening to us, and not to Dick Cheney and his friends.</p> <p>The answer is really simple: the public govern the media, and not the other way around. The public govern the politicians, and not the other way around. For all that we would like to believe that elites control the media and the media control the public, <i>a newspaper which does not sell is not a newspaper</i>. People are voting with their wallets, and they are voting against change, year after year, decade after decade, generation after generation.</p> <p>Politicians are entertainers, first and foremost. Just like pop stars, they are appointed by the public to stand in front of the camera and repeat to the public what the public wish to be said, and when they say things we don&#8217;t like &#8211; true or false &#8211; we replace them with somebody who gives us a message we would rather hear. This mess is the fault of the people, and if power resides with them, so does responsibility.</p> <p>The people know two things as implicit knowledge. </p> <ol> <li><strong>We are rich because they are poor.</strong> Colonialism, the IMF, massive third world debt payments etc. all mean we built much of our prosperity on the backs of the poor.</li> <li><strong>We are at a hard limit in environmental terms.</strong> Whether people give credence to global warming or not, peak oil and biodiversity loss and all the rest are real to people, consciously or unconsciously.</li> </ol> <p>These two facts together give rise to a third fact: we, the rich, the winners of the current global game, the G20, are going to get a lot poorer unless something radical changes. As the poor get richer, their increased economic power and increased consumption (hello China, first big player out of that gate) compete with our own societies, and we must struggle harder to keep up.</p> <p>When it was the <b>working class</b> whose jobs were disappearing to the East, we complained, but it was not us who were on the dole.</p> <p>Now the <b>middle class</b>, the intellectual and chattering classes, are beginning to feel the pinch of rising global competition for their salaries, and suddenly it is a global crisis.</p> <p>We have borrowed the money collectively which we could not borrow individually. Governments have acted on our behalf to raise funds to keep us at the rising standard of living to which we have become accustomed. Now the bills are beginning to be unpayable, and what then?</p> <p>Obama says that the rich have stopped paying taxes, and they have. But why have <strong>we</strong> allowed them to do this? The answer is simple: the <strong>Big Lie</strong> of our generation is that one day we will be the rich, and therefore we keep and feed the Rich as if they were exotic game animals, letting them get away with murder because of our secret aspiration to one day be one of them.</p> <p>It is this dream of wealth which has corrupted our societies. It is not the rich themselves, but the license we have collectively extended them to abuse their privileges because of our own secret aspiration which has destroyed our economies. Democracy has not failed: we have.</p> <p>Umair Haque&#8217;s case is that we can all be rich, together. If we just invest in human potential, or whatever chunk of the last 30 years of solutions he&#8217;s either mining or rediscovering today (remember <a href="">Triple Bottom Line</a> and all that went with it?) somehow the rich can stay on top, and the current incumbent societies can continue to live oh-so-much better than the rest of the world. Haque tells us that if we flap our wings hard enough, we can continue to fly, even when the plane runs out of oil.</p> <p><a href="">Dougald Hine</a>, another thinker of Haque&#8217;s generation, has a substantially different take. Rooted as he is in authors like <a href="">Ivan Illich</a>, and the deep scholasticism of western culture, Hine&#8217;s take is that we&#8217;re returning to the rest of the world, coming back to ground, whether we like it or not &#8211; <i>and that it might not be a bad thing, in terms of our quality of life, our real human aspirations, and our sane, humane goals</i>. That insight, and the thinking behind it, has been a major formative influence on my own work, as I try and extend from my simple engineer&#8217;s understanding of the hard physical limits to the continuation of our culture into the tricky cultural terrain of making real changes. I&#8217;m very happy to be collaborating with Dougald regularly, although (perhaps wisely!) we work as advisers on each-other&#8217;s projects, rather than in closer collaboration. It helps maintain the all-important perspective which lets cutting edge thinkers contrast-and-compare without groupthink. (There may be a footnote of some utility there.)</p> <p>I&#8217;ll be speaking at Dougald Hine and <a href="">Paul Kingsnorth</a>&#8216;s <a href=>Uncivilisation</a> festival in mid-August, near London, by the way.</p> <p>The real radicalism of our times has been radical since it was first proposed in the 1970s or so: an end to growth. We will not be richer than our grandparents, although we might have better gadgets. The price of a more equitable world will be the rich returning to earth, and not simply the billionaires and the ultra-wealthy, but all of us middle class westerners who sit on top of a hundred thousand dollars worth of education each, and tell the world how poor we are because we cannot afford a two bedroom house in a suburb and a car in the most expensive cities on earth. And this, fundamentally is the flaw in Umair Haque&#8217;s thinking: he has not realized that all of his readers are rich, not simply the Old White Dudes who run the world. Perhaps only a brown fellow can call out such an error in the thinking of another brown fellow, I don&#8217;t know, but what&#8217;s missing here is a genuinely global vision, one which speaks the truth about poverty and environment, not just about ossification and generational turnover.</p> <p>To replace the Old White Dudes we have to replace the vision of the world which they have been guardians of, in which a strong, mostly-white but not racistly so, liberal elite with nuclear weapons held down the world&#8217;s despotisms and communism. Cheney and the lads may well have slept well in their beds at night comparing themselves to Chairman Mao and his successors, and indeed when one looks at Putin and the mafiaization of Russian society, you might well want Cheney standing between you and that. Until we are ready to shoulder the burden of protecting Liberty globally, and with it Nature and the Poor, we are in no way, shape or form ready to overthrow the old guard and usher in a golden age.</p> <p>Social policy is an easy problem compared to national security. But it is national security which has bankrupted America, perhaps through poorly chosen 21st century wars, but more likely through the decision not to half the Pentagon budget in the 1990s after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Soviet Union. No amount of reinvestment can refloat an economy which spends half of its tax dollars on war, and spends more than the entire world combined on arms. Until we talk about a comprehensive demilitarization of American society, coalition-based global stabilization, and a true, deep reform of our attitudes and action relative to nuclear weapons, we are going to be broke, and stay broke, in all probability.</p> <p>The Old White Dudes are the last bastions of the power structures built up in the age of the Cold War. Haque and Hine are a little too young to remember the cold fear which was so much a part of my generation&#8217;s consciousness &#8211; the experience, at the age of 8 or 9, of realizing that the adults are holding the entire future to ransom, and that Nobody Is Doing Anything About It. The men in power saw that system come into being, lived through it and under it, and remember it etched into their bones. They fathered children expecting them to die with the world in the final nuclear exchange, and they soldiered on anyway, towards a brighter future, red button in hand. You must respect the generation which maintained global stability through the latter part of the 20th century, monsters though they may appear to be in the peace which they have created.</p> <p>Now they are old, and suffer the faults of old men. But I do not have big enough shoulders to replace them, and I do not blame them for hanging on to power, seeking for safe hands to cast off their burdens to. These Cold Warriors maintain the defense industry, which <a href="">maintains the media</a> (got a better link?) to a frightening degree, and thereby shapes much of what our culture regards as real. The people control the press by what they will buy and what they will watch, but none-the-less the editorial pencil is still in the hands of the military-industrial complex. They do not shape our taste, but they can still spike a story.</p> <p>The reinvention must be a demilitarization, an end to the age of war, not simply gilding the lily of capitalism with a new tier of social values. A less evil capitalism will still be anchored in space and time by nuclear weapons policy, and shaped by the hands of those who must maintain a society in a certain shape to maintain nuclear weapons capability. The fatal mistake is to assign malign motives to the nuclear bureaucrats: they do what they do because they sincerely believe it to be the best thing they <b>can do</b> under the circumstances.</p> <p>So I am content to work incrementally, trying to round off the worst parts of the hard end of human life over, perhaps, a 20 or 40 year project. I don&#8217;t know what to do next, and I don&#8217;t know how to unpick the Gordian knot of the world. And this is not to say that there is no room for young turks, but a little humility goes a long way. Haque does not cite sources for most of his thinking, and has little connection to what is old, solid and true. Blathery demagogues do sometimes get things done, but given the complexity of our situation, there is no time or space for easy answers. And Haque&#8217;s answers <b>are</b> easy answers: we can do more of the same but better, we don&#8217;t have to cut our environmental consumption by 75% to 90% within twenty or forty years, we don&#8217;t have to make space at the table for the poor or face their armed wrath. It&#8217;s not that radical to suggest making money while not being an asshole, Umair!</p> <p>The truth is that it&#8217;s all coming down. A hard truth, but the real truth: between shifting global balances of economic power, the massive need to cut our over-consumption by at least 75%, and the enormous amounts of money we all owe the fundamental truth is <i>it cannot go on like this</i>. Haque&#8217;s failure of imagination, to conceive of a world which is on the other side of these massive shifts in economic, political and military power, and call it &#8220;the future&#8221; is dangerous enough on its own, but sold as The Great New Future, it joins <a href="">Thomas Barnett</a>&#8216;s work as a dangerously misleading brand: to sell &#8220;more of the same&#8221; as radical innovation crowds out the space <i>for</i> radical innovation. <a href="">Chiapas</a> is radical innovation, not the next generation of leaders at Harvard Business School.</p> <p>Lest you think this is simply a brutal takedown of Umair Haque, it is not. It is a call for renewed political awareness, not in the simple party-politics sense, not the dumb left-versus-right debates which have left us unable to govern ourselves without paralyzing clouds of rhetoric obscuring all sense, but a real sense of the hard problems of the world as the ones to which we should be addressing our power to create a better future for humanity. Let me frame five of those hard problems for you.</p> <ol> <li>Environment &#8211; US is at 8+ times footprint, Europe at 4+ times. We have no sane development path for 5 billion poor people trying to get a foot on the ladder.</li> <li>Poverty &#8211; one billion are regularly hungry, 9 million children a year die of preventable disease.</li> <li>Freedom &#8211; can free societies make tough decisions, or will authoritarian states like China endure hardship more effectively? What about creeping fascism and legalized torture in our democracies?</li> <li>Democracy &#8211; has failed, to a substantial degree, when combined with Imperial Power. Can the world be governed by democracies?</li> <li>Technological Risk &#8211; we have essentially no mechanism to regulate global risks from nuclear, biotechnology and nanotechnology. All three are spreading like a plague. Now what?</li> </ol> <p>Working on these problems is radicalism. Working on how to keep Americans rich is not. We need to get real global perspective, and I&#8217;m singling out Umair Haque for a beat down because he&#8217;s telling people what they want to hear and dressing it up as radical truth. If he went into politics, he&#8217;d be <a href="">Bob Roberts</a>.</p> <p>I don&#8217;t have easy answers. I&#8217;m staring, day-in-day-out at the insolubility of the hardest problems that we face as a species, and I do not see hope. A people like us, but better, could thrive and prosper on this world, but we are as we evolved to be, and we are mismanaging ourselves into extinction. The murder of the poor by the rich is a genocide, every bit as vicious and brutal as the Nazis, Stalin, Mao and the rest, and we have made it OK in our minds because it is far away and caused by The Economy, our god. That the poor should die in gutters is a law of man, not nature. To act without hope, in good faith and with clear reason, is the mark of the radical in these times. We must soldier on, under the same burden as the Cold Warriors who kept the peace while planning to annihilate the world, and try and solve the insoluble so that the future has a future, and each new generation may make its own mistakes.</p> <p>But I respect my predecessors who faced the issues of their day bravely, and kept us all alive. The Old White Dudes got us this far, and until we can face the challenges that they struggled with and overcame to get us the world peace which we have mostly enjoyed, we are not entitled to power. Show me a feasible plan which handles the five issues I have outlined as big problems, and I&#8217;ll gratefully hail you, whoever you are, as the one I&#8217;m following.</p> <p>So, for now, peace, and I&#8217;m going back to chipping away at my part of the problem. Let us leave false claims of grand strategy behind, and get back to work.</p> <p><a href=";id=2598&amp;md5=14a59caa13bbd4d883860c8e9d75ab83" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2011-07-26 On the Practical Exercise of Power – or why the Old White Dudes keep winning <p><embed src="" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="480" height="390" wmode="transparent" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" ></embed><br /> </p> <p><a href=""><img src="" alt="" title="Vinay and the H13" width="300" height="225" class="alignright size-medium wp-image-2539" /></a></p> <p>We just built a Hexayurt H13 at the <a href=>Cloughjordan Ecovillage</a>. The <a href="">H13</a> was designed by <a href="">Scott Davis</a> and <a href="">Dylan Toymaker</a>. The H13 adds one panel to the &#8220;classic&#8221; H12 hexayurt, but that one extra sheet of plywood gets an 8&#8242; roof line and three times the walkable space inside the hexayurt.</p> <p>It&#8217;s a really beautiful piece of lateral thinking, and I think it&#8217;s destined to become the standard hexayurt for any application which doesn&#8217;t require the very low wind profile of the H12 or absolute materials efficiency. I&#8217;m very grateful to Scott and Dylan for dedicating their work to the public domain just like the original hexayurt on which they innovated. This is how the commons learn and grow: we all work together to improve the state of the art until our new techniques are good enough to change the world.</p> <p><a href=""><img src="" alt="" title="H13 hexayurt (in OSB3) at Cloughjordan Ecovillage" width="300" height="225" class="alignright size-medium wp-image-2537" /></a></p> <p>This particular hexayurt was built by a green building training course run by Greenworks, an Irish vocational training company. <a href=>Ben Whelan of Cultivate</a>, <a href="">Bruce Darrell of Cloughjordan Community Farm</a> and <a href="">Ben Hutchison of</a> (a stainless steel parts firm that has offices on site) helped with the build. We cut the parts with a table saw at BenH&#8217;s house, then took them up to the farm site and built the hexayurt (destined to be a tool shed) in about 3 hours with a team of about ten people. I was surprised how fast it came together, we&#8217;re getting better with each build, and the combination of multiple screw guns and parallel work on different parts of the building works very well. It&#8217;s all about multiple small teams working in parallel. I&#8217;m looking forwards to assembly-line style construction in the future, where we just crank these things out in stations with jigs. I think you could do about one person-day of effort per yurt that way, possibly less. Large teams could produce enough units for an entire refugee camp in only a few months, and the work is simple enough that even people with no construction experience can meaningfully contribute to the construction process, and those with some building skills are soon fully up to speed. It&#8217;s good, simple, direct work.</p> <p><a href=""><img src="" alt="" title="Hexayurt H13 at Cloughjordan Ecovillage interior" width="300" height="225" class="alignright size-medium wp-image-2538" /></a> </div> <p>This hexayurt is made of OSB 3. We don&#8217;t have the floor finished yet &#8211; there&#8217;s talk of rammed earth or possibly some kind of gravel and carpeting solution (!) but as I say, &#8220;the wind and the rain are the same everywhere, but the ground is unique to each place you go.&#8221; I think that the H13 design is a truly visionary piece of architecture in that it combines the structural rigidity of the monocoque like the hexayurt, but the spatial utility of the roof ridge which efficiently generates walking-height interior floor space, all without creating a need for additional components.</p> <p>Good work, guys, and I&#8217;m hoping to prototype a polyiso foam/<a href="">ferrocement</a> later this year. I think there&#8217;s an excellent chance that a really simple approach &#8211; chamfer the edges of the boards, assemble with tape, wrap the outside with chickenwire, put wire/plastic ties through the foam to another layer of chickenwire on the inside, then brace the inside with wood while the outside is sprayed with concrete, let it cure then spray the inside &#8211; has the potential to produce a cheap, permanent, fully insulated hexayurt. Add an insulated concrete slab and we&#8217;d be in business.</p> <p>Also, I just want to note that the Burning Man hexayurt business is ramping up. Lots of different companies offering &#8220;hexayurt tape&#8221; (yes, they call it that), people beginning to trade hexayurts they don&#8217;t need any more, and talk of community mass production and a few made-for-sale units too. I&#8217;m very glad to see all of this, and as long as we can keep the business side civil, friendly, honest and fair, I could not be more glad to see this happening. Linux needs Red Hat to make it accessible for non-hackers, and we all need quality building materials at fair prices. Good work, guys, and I hope there will be some jobs coming out of the hexayurt ecosystem in years to come.</p> <p>Enjoy!</p> <p><a href=";id=2536&amp;md5=ce6050b61873bfd9e33d067372a1846e" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2011-06-30 Hexayurt H13 at the Cloughjordan Ecovillage <p><a href="">Nick Stewart</a> invited me to the Winchester School of Art to do a talk on <a href=>The Future We Deserve</a>, and to do a panel discussion with him afterwards. I think you&#8217;ll agree we had a fascinating time. I&#8217;m very pleased with this video because at last there&#8217;s a coherent explanation of the models behind The Future We Deserve and where I thought I was going at the beginning, but it&#8217;s taken me this long to articulate what&#8217;s wrong with global governance, and what I think that ordinary people can do while waiting for coherence on climate, poverty and all the other big problems from The Powers That Be. It&#8217;s a constructive, evolutionary ethic about global change.</p> <p>Enjoy,</p> <p>V><br /> PS: <a href="">Winchester School of Art presentation slides</a> are here.</p> <p><embed src="" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="480" height="381" wmode="transparent" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" ></embed></p> <p><embed src="" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="480" height="381" wmode="transparent" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" ></embed></p> <p>Profound thanks to <a href="">Mark O&#8217; Cúlar</a> for making this video possible. I could not have got it online without him.</p> <p><a href=";id=2529&amp;md5=6cd1c3530cb29d8ed32d89b82c70c26c" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2011-06-28 The Winchester School of Art / The Future We Deserve Talk & Dialogue <p>This is a placeholder for a later blog post.</p> <p><a href=";id=2521&amp;md5=60873198a17c2e4896d1cfc70393f855" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2011-06-14 Introducing the Governance Antipattern Library <p><em>(in support of <a href="">Why Nothing Works</a>, my contribution to the <a href="">Age of Warlord Entrepreneurs</a> project)</em></p> <p>The <a href="">Goat Rodeo</a> is a specific aspect of the <a href="">Wicked Problem</a> space. The Goat Rodeo refers to the complex political structures we build to address Wicked Problems. I&#8217;m really just suggesting that these structures are inherently flawed, and when you see one failure is assured. All the evidence I have seems to point to this.</p> <p>The approach then becomes to <strong>revert</strong> to command-and-control for any system which <strong>has</strong> to work, because <strong><em><a href="">complex systems behave unpredictably</a></em></strong>, and focus on getting that part right.</p> <p>This is hideously unpopular, but I want to create a culture in which the following dialogue is possible:</p> <p><strong>Scene: a meeting re. state failure impacts in some horrible place</strong></p> <p><strong>Chairman</strong> > Right, let&#8217;s call this session to order. We have 3 NGO reps, 5 different national militaries, two people from the State Department and USAID, a local government rep and two local civil society representatives.<br /> <strong>Chariman</strong> > On the agenda, [difficult task on which nobody really agrees the course of action]</p> <p><strong>Voice of Reason</strong> > &#8220;Sir, I believe this meeting meets all of the technical criteria of a Goat Rodeo! I move to adjourn and reorganize in a soluble format to actually address the problem.&#8221;<br /> <strong>Voice of Reason</strong> > &#8220;Specifically, we have seven different kinds of entities represented at the table, so we cannot use a standard dispute resolution method if there is competition or conflict. We clearly do not agree on the following two aspects of [difficult task] and so are not in a truly cooperative environment. Therefore we can neither compete nor collaborate effectively, and furthermore nobody is actually in charge or responsible, and the meeting will go round and round in circles without creating an accountable party. Therefore it meets the technical definition of a Goat Rodeo, and we must adjourn and pass the problem to a more suitable group to resolve.&#8221;</p> <p><strong>Chairman</strong>, groaning > &#8220;Dammit, you&#8217;re not invited the next time we try this.&#8221;</p> <p>Only we can prevent the Goat Rodeo. It&#8217;s a cultural change, a willingness to admit that we cannot reliably deliver solutions in the Wicked Problem / VUCA space with complex governance solutions, and need to start avoiding those quagmires at a structural, strategic, political level. When you see somebody attempting to solve a problem by creating and deploying a Goat Rodeo, you can assume failure, and instruct them to do something else instead. &#8220;Those never work, son, they never have.&#8221; Hence &#8220;governance antipattern.&#8221;</p> <p><strong>The Goat Rodeo is the <em><a href="">governance antipattern</a></em> of our times.</strong></p> <p>Compare, if you will, <a href="">Godwin&#8217;s Law</a>, which can roughly be stated as &#8220;In any internet debate about politics, eventually somebody will compare their opponents to the Nazis. This person has automatically lost the argument.&#8221;</p> <p>&#8220;Godwinization,&#8221; as calling a Godwin&#8217;s Law event is called, rapidly improves the quality of debate by closing doors to stupid conversations which lead down endless blind alleys. We need to catalyze cultural change inside the Wicked Problem space. As Amory Lovins says about toxic waste: &#8220;Identify, Label, Track and Stigmatize.&#8221;</p> <p>I want people to be laughing at the idea that Wicked Problems were ever soluble in 10 years. I want people to brand each-other&#8217;s political structures as Goat Rodeos and to feel empowered to refuse to participate in time-wasting talking shops.</p> <p>I want us to stop pretending we have this under control, and return to basics: command-and-control solutions to hard problems with vital, life-and-death outcomes, and an admission of failure where failure has occurred.</p> <p><a href=";id=2513&amp;md5=9951691470730a2436fec3f8f3f0d59c" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2011-06-14 More on the Goat Rodeo Index <p><i><b>Degovernancing</b>: to reduce the need for governance in a situation, frequently by intentional structural change. To buy each child their own version of a toy to reduce fights about sharing is an example of degovernancing.</i></p> <p>Relevant background material <a href=>matrix government</a> (highly relevant), <a href=>infrastructure for anarchists</a> and the <a href=>Leashless Manifesto</a></p> <p>Why is this necessary? The <a href=>strategic complexity framework</a> and the <a href=>Goat Rodeo Index.</a></p> <p><a href=";id=2491&amp;md5=bd891de46de51c9f49f8e54ea6aae972" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2011-05-19 New word: degovernancing <p><iframe width="560" height="349" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe></p> <p>Isn&#8217;t that magnificent? Nice work guys.</p> <p><a href=";id=2501&amp;md5=427877b79ac4363d03b88d9cdcd115d6" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2011-05-19 Timelapse of Scott Davis & Dylan Toymaker’s H13 Structural Insulated Panel hexayurt <p>I moved to <a href=>Cloughjordan</a>, Ireland, to help with an ecovillage project here. You can find links and the start of a resource map at that link.</p> <p><a href=""><img src="" alt="" title="Cloughjordan from the air" width="262" height="300" class="alignleft size-medium wp-image-2499" /></a> There&#8217;s also this excellent map. Click the picture, then click &#8220;SATELLITE&#8221; on the tab which opens, and you can click on the houses and land features to see pictures.</p> <p>Took a morning to do, using a methodology which I&#8217;ll document in detail tomorrow.</p> <p>I&#8217;ve rebooted <a href=>Global Swadeshi</a> &#8211; we have two or three new threads there, including Cloughjordan, a research project on using the hexayurt in America, and the soon-to-be-infamous <a href="">Transylvanian Gypsies Hexayurt Project</a>. I&#8217;m having a really hard time getting my head around this but it&#8217;s probably the most exciting thing to happen hexayurt-wise in quite some time, because it&#8217;s an impoverished, excluded rural population <i>in europe</i> with locals (Gabriel) who are asking for help. These are exactly the kind of conditions which a new approach to aid could be tested in without putting anybody&#8217;s life at risk, so I&#8217;m eager to see how the team to work on this one forms and behaves.</p> <p>I&#8217;m now working two or three days a week on finishing <a href=>The Future We Deserve</a> and managed to spend the <i>entire day</i> today staring at wiki pages wondering how the hell I&#8217;m going to do this justice. First the paralysis, then the genius, right?</p> <p>This is what you pay me for. <img src='' alt=';)' class='wp-smiley' /> </p> <p><a href=";id=2498&amp;md5=bd098f64b3a8f218c1d3df6d61f67510" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2011-05-18 A progress update – some things you might want to check out <p><embed src="" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="640" height="510" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true"></embed></p> <p>Mark Charmer of <a href=>Akvo</a> and I discussing the next step in the evolution of the use <a href="">video</a> and the internet for development. We discuss the work developing world oriented artists like <a href="">MIA</a> and <a href="">Die Antwoord</a> and speculate that we need friendly MTV VJ-style hosts to make the context around the direct video reporting from development projects in the field accessible to a wider public.</p> <p>What do you think? Would you watch the Development Show we&#8217;re pitching here? Answers in the comments, please&#8230;</p> <p><a href=";id=2463&amp;md5=7b4eca9fdfcd2d1a8aafa48e606bad7c" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2011-05-13 What Development needs is MTV – chat with Mark Charmer of Akvo <p>I go feral fast.</p> <p>That wouldn&#8217;t surprise anybody who really knows me, but the years I spent on the road in America in my twenties aren&#8217;t easy to see, here in the last year of my thirties. It&#8217;s 2011, and I&#8217;m sitting beside a cheap tent in a big, dark wood surrounded on all sides by the houses, lights and clearly audible roads of civilization. My lap is a graveyard of dead mosquitos, illuminated by the glow of my screen and prey to my fast hands.</p> <p>Perhaps ten square miles, at the end of the Central Line, you just get off at Theydon Bois or Loughton and walk out of London and into The Wood. Epping Forest is not a big wood. It&#8217;s big enough that you could get thoroughly lost, and walk for an hour in any direction except the straight lenght of it, and hit civilization. But along the straight length it&#8217;s a few miles, and if you stay to the center of that, and occasionally dart off the path into a patch where they&#8217;ve cleared the scrub, or something&#8217;s made a side track, you pretty soon get the idea that, yes, this is The Wood. A small fragment remains of the Forest which once so dominated the hinterlands of our minds.</p> <p>The fox got a pretty good crack at my food. A highly entertaining encounter with bears, and a few stories about the far, far more devastating mice trained me to be very animal-aware camping in the US. The bears were in a dangerous configuration indeed: mother and two cubs, highly habituated to humans, mooching like oversized labradors. They woke us all up in the middle of the night as two yahoos tried to scare them out of the back of their pickup truck by driving around the Yosemite parking lot, honking and hollering. I don&#8217;t think I&#8217;ve ever seen a dumber thing, but apparently everybody, even the bears, escaped unhurt. I left a couple of plastic bags by a tree when I walked down into town to find some network and saw him skulking around when I came back, unable to master either the yoghurt or the peanut butter.</p> <p>GPS turns out to be quite helpful for camping illegally in the deep wood. It&#8217;ll reliably get you within 20 meters of where you want to be. Closer than that is pushing it, so you want some kind of clear, visible landscape feature to navigate the rest of the way from. A ten meter error on your waypoint, and another ten meters on where you&#8217;re standing doesn&#8217;t seem much, but if you&#8217;re doing this in near-darkness, or a real thicket, and the woods all look the same, soon you&#8217;d have issues. I wouldn&#8217;t trust GPS in a real crisis, say to find a survival cache in the middle of nowhere without other markers, but it&#8217;s fine when the price of failure is only some inconvenience. I used to joke about planting a series of survival caches in rural Colorado, five gallon plastic pails buried in the ground, with an assortment of shelter, food, ammo, medicines and so on, with a regular math formula to calculate the GPS coordinates of the next bucket &#8211; a survival trail for crossing territory in the event of something Truely Horrendous happening. Add something to deflect IR tracking, and you&#8217;d begin to have a survival technology.</p> <p>That was in 2002, when Americans were sending anthrax to each other in the mail. I worried that it might escalate from weapons-grade anthrax to weaponized smallpox, and the next thing we&#8217;d know, a third of the human race would be dead. They have it, you know, weaponized smallpox. If you ever want to scare yourself to death, google &#8220;engineered mousepox&#8221; and extrapolate to what must logically exist in the classifed domain.</p> <p>They were pulling anthrax from somewhere out of the biowar establishment in America and mailing it to people in 2002. That&#8217;s actually far, far scarier than 9/11 when you think about it, because anybody with access to anthrax probably had access to agents which are infectious in the general population, like smallpox would be, and if they&#8217;d shipped one of those instead, goodbye Berlin, goodbye New York, and possibly goodbye civilization.</p> <p>The laptop is eerily silent. The fan has a little daemon that turns it off when the machine is cold, and there&#8217;s enough of the chill in the air that, resting on my laptop, it makes scarcely a sound. There isn&#8217;t even a hard drive, going whirrrrrr in the background, so it&#8217;s just me, the birds, the mosquitos, and the incessant drone of traffic half a mile away on one of the through roads.</p> <p>I found a tentpeg here earlier, and the remains of what must have been quite a large fire.</p> <p>I don&#8217;t camp with fire. It&#8217;s illegal most places. Back in the first thrill of discovering advanced combustion, I had a little battery powered stove, not a wood gasification stove, something older and cruder. I spent a few weeks in the woods outside Santa Cruz, under a tree on top of a hill out the back of a national park. It was a cow pasture, and the views were amazing. Every few days I&#8217;d walk a kilometer or so down to the stream and pick up some water, sitting by the side of the water boiling it with the stove. I didn&#8217;t mind carrying shit then. Now I&#8217;d take bleach and, once it had purified, kill the taste of the chlorine with a pinch of vitamin C. A teaspoon of bleach left in a gallon of water overnight will get most things. You can probably use less if the environment is warm, and don&#8217;t use a fancy bleach with pine scent either. Simple bleach, and a pinch off the side of a fizzy vitamin C tablet.</p> <p>You&#8217;d think someone might have tried that in Haiti. It&#8217;s funny how little cross-over there&#8217;s been from survivalism and backwoods camping to disaster relief. It&#8217;s all bikers and dog walkers here in the mornings, but the mindset, once acquired, only needs the slightest sniff to set it off again.</p> <p>Colorado was fierce, but it was on freight trains that I went feral. Iowegian was said to make a living hooking Iowa girls on smack and selling them in Mexico, one every couple of years. I can&#8217;t even remember the road name of the guy I caught it off. He was an army ranger, they said, in Vietnam. Mother died when he was 13 or so, and without a father he walked off the farm and lived as a migrant laborer until the war. He pulled the eyelets out of his boots because they could reflect light, which I suspect was an affectation rather than ingrained habit. But he had something, a certain lean grace, and it was impossible to believe that he had not killed, and probably at close range, quietly and quickly. I went feral watching him over the course of a few days, the space and the slience of his presence, so different from the flagrant alcoholism of the Freight Train Riders of America, and the clanking bouyancy of the anarchist contingent. Jim &#8211; was that his name? &#8211; was different. He was feral.</p> <p>Very strange things happened on that trip. It took forever to get from coast to coast. Just getting from Iowa to Minneapolis took five trains, the first a mob-handed obscenity where 17 people got on one moving freight train. It was as subtle as a brick. Listerine Tom helped the first of us on the ridable boxcar, and a mad scramble got the rest up.</p> <p>You&#8217;d never believe how many moving freight trains I&#8217;ve gotten off and on. It&#8217;s less than a dozen, but it&#8217;s more than a couple. Skillful freight riders never, ever get on and off a moving freight train. They wait for the crew change points, a few miles outside of town, where trains pause and new staff alight. Wiley hobos hop off then, and take the half-hour trek into the city. Amateurs, and the daft young, like the anarchists and I run alongside, matching velocity with the train, then grab for the ladder of a grain car or, when conditions are good, make the chest-height vault to the box car. You can recover easily enough from missing a ladder, but missing a box car can plant you under the train very, very easily. I only did that one once or twice.</p> <p>I learned about people, too. The despair and self-destructiveness of the hardcore gutter-dwellers. The cheerful amorality of the FTRA, and their surprising and staunch defense of one of their members who happened to be gay. Their outrage at discrimination against them because they weren&#8217;t cartoon hobos.</p> <p>The brotherhood of the road are no more, or at least much reduced, by lengthy federal pound-you-in-the-ass prison for interfering with critial infrastructure. It&#8217;s a &#8220;get out of here ya bum&#8221; misdemeanor no more, freight train riding. Now they mean business. I&#8217;m sure plenty still ride, but the tone&#8217;s gone from youthful hijinks and the remnants of an old way of life to the grim pragmatics of the security state.</p> <p>But I was writing about feral affairs</p> <p>It really starts kicking in for me, on this unscheduled break, when I start to see mosquitos not as predators, but as prey. Pretty soon my hands snake out almost by themselves, and *bam* another one bites the dust. The woods feel different, when you realize that a few bites don&#8217;t mean nothin&#8217; compared to the satisfaction of seeing another of the little bastards ground flat against a goretex sleeve. Sure, the tent&#8217;s a cheap Quencha pop tent, just a little bigger than is enough for one person. There&#8217;s no weather here, no wind, no hail, no surprise snow or midnight gale. It&#8217;s England&#8217;s green-and-pleasant, but out in the woods I wear shorts and squat on the ground, smelling the air like an animal.</p> <p>It&#8217;s an attitude. You forget, pretty soon, when you&#8217;re crossing more than a few dozen miles with a pack on your back, what civilization is or is for. The little gadgets &#8211; how far the LEDs have come since I was a lad! &#8211; come from somewhere, sure, but once you&#8217;re on the trail they&#8217;re essentially magick, they Just Work. As I said I don&#8217;t camp with fire, not even with a stove, it&#8217;s just too much weight, too much hassle. Hard bread and dry cheese, a bit of sausage, stuff like that. Dense foods that pack tight and keep well, and are easy to nibble on in short stops. Nuts are almost perfect, half fat, half protein, that and honey-in-a-tube &#8211; the weight of your stove is three or four days of grub, if you&#8217;re rolling that way. Don&#8217;t neglect the space blankets, too &#8211; Adventure Medical Systems heatsheet is the size of a proper quilt, easily big enough for two and a small palace for one. I&#8217;ve spent a lot of time under space blankets, and the extra few quid for the good ones is entirely worth it. They don&#8217;t even make that horrible noise.</p> <p>The fox failed to penetrate the peanut butter. I ate it with a spork, pondering the chocolate bar with the pawprint in bear drool on the paper wrapper, that we once ate as a trophy the night we survived the bears.</p> <p>Civilized is a state of mind. It&#8217;s a way of seeing the world that masks or annhilates all the complexity of nature, and its simplicity too, the simple fact of four inches of leaf mulch crawling with bugs, and the warm, moist air of an English summer, and the occasional mammal, darting through the brush, trying not to be seen. None of that is in a supply chain, or the absent sterility of a supermarket. It&#8217;s not about walking into the woods &#8211; anybody can do that &#8211; it&#8217;s about not trying to make the woods seem more like home.</p> <p>That&#8217;s what passed from me to Jim, or whatever his name was, around the camp fire. I realized, somewhere inside, that he&#8217;d walked away, out of the mess and the fuss, out of the framework of expecations and stories which made up the life that everybody expected of him, and into the life of a travelling man, hauling a pack, working hard with his hands, and living each day from sunrise to sunset.</p> <p>Colorado nearly killed me. I spent a year at 7500 feet with a chronic lung infection editing a book that some people credit with turning the balance against war with Iran back in 2004 and 2005. I was never the same man afterwards &#8211; the confident stride of somebody who&#8217;d marched by fits and starts half-way across a continent, who didn&#8217;t need to sleep more than every other night or so if interesting things were happening, all that was gone. I&#8217;d pushed too hard and broken my body holding up the world for the brief moment when the load landed on me. I&#8217;d taken on a little of my own death, seen myself as expendable for the greater cause, and nobody is truely young after that. Once you know it&#8217;s not about you any more, whether that realization comes to you as a parent or as a humanitarian or as a hero, something changes.</p> <p>I came out here because I needed to be in the wild. Epping Forest is not The Wild, but it&#8217;s like it enough that if you&#8217;ve seen The Wild, and you&#8217;ve got a vivid imagination, you can make the little mental leap and see it here. You get to the point where you can&#8217;t feel any people around, where it&#8217;s just you and the odd thing or two rustling the holly bushes, and a quiet, glowing screen.</p> <p>I don&#8217;t know quite what happens next. I have a bad feeling about this year, something primal and primary that I can&#8217;t shake. I could have rearranged my life to stay in London but I didn&#8217;t, I took the gig in Ireland, which is in a place far, far from anywhere, and which has &#8211; did I hear that right &#8211; 5000 acres of Beech woods up on the hill. It gets cold in winter there, too, last winter was brutally cold, but that&#8217;s a lot of woods for not that many humans, and even in the worst of times, folks would stay warm. Plenty of food in Ireland too, not that they&#8217;re organized to grow it, but farming is worthwhile on such land, even if generations of cultural practice say that they should be an evolve, technical, professional economy, and not mere peasants, grubbing around in the dirt.</p> <p>I just wanted to be in a place where, if something dreadful happened, I could watch it on TV, not wonder where my next meal was coming from now that the supply chains have gone down.</p> <p>Something&#8217;s coming, I recon. I haven&#8217;t had this feeling since the year before 9/11, the sense of something having come off the rails, something sliding downwards into a worse, more complicated world. I left for Colorado six months before 9/11, some premonition of trouble, something that told me it was time to go, that I did not want to be in the city any more, as a matter of urgency. If a biowar had come of those antrax attacks, I&#8217;d have seen it with two person-years of food piled up in the bedroom, and all the basics to survive tucked away in one place and another. I never did build a network of GPS caches &#8211; that&#8217;s a community project, not something for one guy who can&#8217;t drive, and the scenarios where it would have been useful &#8211; most people would rather be dead than live in a world where a five gallon pail of lentils and wheat is a treasure trove to be sought out by a mission armed with a precious GPS tracker and solar panel.</p> <p>I don&#8217;t want you to think I&#8217;m paranoid, but we&#8217;re surrounded by much, much worse futures that the one we&#8217;re currently in, and I wonder how long our luck can hold, now that Al Queda is free of Osama bin Laden&#8217;s &#8220;I won this one, mate&#8221; stabilizing influence, and with the US going bankrupt with all the cultural forces which might make their next president the right wing one that gets written up in the history books where they talk about the end of America as a positive force in the world. I am not saying that it is all going to end, but I am saying that we are running out of a certain kind of luck we have grown used to having, and the collection of forces which are pushing us down further have passed a critical mass, so it&#8217;s now hard to see a world five years from now in which the Western Democratic Consensus still holds.</p> <p>I am a certified apocalypse technician. If you see me running, try to keep up.</p> <p><a href=";id=2488&amp;md5=839883613f11bb08f39997542f49c4d0" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2011-05-08 Going Feral <p>These are two pieces of documentation I&#8217;ve done for organizations which wanted to use video to draw communities together into collective action.</p> <p><strong>The first</strong> is the <a href="">Akvo Video Strategy</a> (pdf) and <a href="">supporting technical doc</a> which from two years ago, February 2009. These two documents together express a vision of how to use video to draw ordinary people into <i>making</i> videos to document projects and enhance their ability to work together to get things done!</p> <p>Akvo has been working hard on this approach since I did the original strategy, as you can see from <a href=>this new Akvo film Mulindwa William and his water project in Africa.</a> This film was shot by Luuk Diphoorn. <a href=>I shot a film of Luuk Diphoorn</a>, and taught Luuk how to shoot these simple films. <a href=>Akvo</a> also runs <a href="">Watercube.TV,</a> which has over 500 similar films of water and sanitation professionals from all over the world. The films reveal little flashes about the personality of the people involved, and the stories reveal their work, which brings support, resources and transparency to their projects.</p> <p>The format is so simple anybody can do it, which leads to participation in video not just by watching films, but by making them. I film Luuk and explain what I&#8217;m doing. Luuk films Mulindwa William, and explains what he&#8217;s doing. Next year Mulindwa William may film somebody else, and explain the technique and the practice, and this is how the craft of making small, simple videos spreads. Mark Charmer, who commissioned me to do the Akvo Video Strategy, made a landmark film in India which encompasses the best of this approach to video. You can watch it here, in context, at <a href="">The Future of Poverty</a>. It shows an Indian woman, Hansabai, showing off the well she got financed in her village. Watch it, and understand the future just a little bit better.</p> <p>There&#8217;s also the &#8220;<a href="">how not to do video</a>&#8221; film I shot for Akvo which, ironically, has become quite useful to a number of people!</p> <p><embed src="" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="480" height="390" wmode="transparent" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" ></embed></p> <p><strong>The second is a manifesto I did</strong> for the <a href="">West Norwood Feast, a community market project in London</a>. You can see the films I shot for that project at that link. The manifesto is called Living Video. I&#8217;m quite proud of this little manifesto, I think it really expresses why getting people to make their own videos is so important to getting communities organized around projects. </p> <p>The right approach to community film-making binds together communities of interest around a project, and turns them into communities of action.</p> <blockquote><h2><b>Living Video</b></h2> <p><b>Making what’s happening visible to people who’d like to get involved</b><br /> Producing good video is both difficult and expensive, but the worst photograph is the one which was not taken, and the worst camera is the one you don’t have with you, or the courage to start.<br /> There are four rules for producing useful video easily.</p> <ol> <li>Stand still or get a tripod</li> <li>Film dialogue and interaction</li> <li>Don’t hide the camera (or the camera operator)</li> <li>Have fun and break these rules when necessary</li> </ol> <p>The visual style of television or film is as impossible to replicate as the glossy full-face pictures on the covers of fashion magazines. You are seeing the work of dozens of skilled professionals &#8211; or hundreds in the case of feature films. What is achievable is the “good holiday pictures” level of video; a video which shows somebody who is socially involved with a project roughly what is happening. A video which takes a person who is interested in the project and turns them into a person who is involved with the project. The final thing people do before deciding to get involved is watch the videos &#8211; it’s the largest investment of time a person can make short of showing up, so it is the point at which people make up their minds.</p> <p>Therefore to be effective, such a video should not sell, it should reveal.</p> <p>“This is what you will see if you come!”</p> <p>An honest, simple video which shows what is happening, is less than two minutes long, has good sound (just stand right beside people!), is well-lit (daylight! under the spotlight!) can achieve that moment of contact with the reality of something, unedited and unfiltered, which is the spark of engaging with people’s sense of the real, and therefore with their deepest sense of what they want. Some people make great films by imagining cool stuff and filming it beautifully. We make great films by doing cool stuff, and showing the basics of what we have done. The hard part is doing something worth seeing.</p> <p>Try not to edit, and keep the fact that a camera is in the scene socially visible. Talk over the top of your shot, try not to be invisible. Ask people to do things for the camera. Prompt with questions. Television is the illusion of reality, in which the mechanisms used to create and record the illusion must be invisible. Our films are just a little slice of reality, in which you are stood there with a camera, joking with your mates about making a video of this for the internet, because it’s great!</p> <div align=right>Vinay Gupta, London, April 5 02011</div> </blockquote> <p>I&#8217;ve shot a lot of this kind of video myself. From the beginning the <a href=>Hexayurt Project</a> has run on video, because a five minute clip of a hexayurt makes it real in a way that no set of pictures ever can, and we&#8217;ve found that people who go on to <i>build</i> hexayurts usually watched the full length hour long construction videos, the whole video, end to end, two or three times before actually going on to build one themselves. The power of video to engage people in action is really underestimated, and I hope you&#8217;ll be inspired to use video in new ways for your own projects.</p> <p><a href=";id=2467&amp;md5=d0dec45a52931d14b26fee0b13afc949" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2011-05-03 Living Video and the Akvo Video Strategy <p><a href=>11 meg compressed audio of mb 12 minutes of chatter and music from my new local pub.</a></p> <p><a href=>400 mb 24/96 .WAV file of 12 minutes of chatter and music from my new local pub.</a></p> <p>You&#8217;ll need headphones to make any sense of what&#8217;s going on at all, it was a very loud and chaotic aural environment. But this is where I live now.</p> <p><a href=";id=2410&amp;md5=46c94c44a2cfd5644c5c321685916fb5" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2011-05-02 I live here. <ul> <li>The &#8220;fading away of the state&#8221; is a long-held dream of many radical political ideologies. I never believed it was possible, and then I realized something.</li> <li>The Church and State were once peers. Over the past few centuries, the Church has basically vanished as a political force. Over the past 20 years the Vatican has become a joke even in strongholds like Ireland.</li> <li>If the Church can fade away (not the religion, but the political power structure that grew on top of it), then why not the State?</li> <li>Imagine a future in which people would no more obey an edict from Central Government than an edict from the Pope.</li> </ul> <p>Suddenly I feel much better about the future. Now all we have to do is square that freedom with global environmental restraint.</p> <p><a href=";id=2460&amp;md5=c8dcc5ce8876caba2ba018002704a5ec" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2011-04-29 On the fading away of the Church and the State <p><object width="640" height="390"><param name="movie" value=";hl=en_US&#038;feature=player_embedded&#038;version=3"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowScriptAccess" value="always"></param><embed src=";hl=en_US&#038;feature=player_embedded&#038;version=3" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowfullscreen="true" allowScriptAccess="always" width="640" height="390"></embed></object></p> <p><a href="">From</a> via <a href=>@justinpickard</a></p> <p><a href=";id=2440&amp;md5=479fc62e0c9dacd807253b318f7cca60" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2011-04-27 Dunbar on his number <p><i>Synopsis: The Irish may just have slid sideways into sovereign default territory, but it&#8217;s not <b>quite</b> that simple. Read on.</i></p> <p>A turning point in the evolution of the European union may have been reached tonight. The Irish government has either deliberately or accidentally triggered an esoteric legal crisis about the value of Irish bonds which could, if mishandled, trigger the European sovereign debt meltdown that three years and untold billions have been spent trying to avoid. If the French and the Germans take this Irish action the wrong way, it may force a reexamination of subsidiarity, the principle that European countries should manage as much of their own affairs as is compatible with the union. The Irish government&#8217;s rash, ill-considered actions may constitute a breach of trust between the financially stable nation&#8217;s governments and their own people: throwing good money after bad in basket case democracies. A fully integrated, federalized Europe has come several steps closer.</p> <p>Here&#8217;s what has been done.</p> <ol> <li><b>1966</b> Allied Irish Bank is formed. A long, long time ago.</li> <li><b>2008/August</b> Allied Irish Bank runs out of money having lent vast sums to people who speculated on property going up indefinitely and then got caught short when sanity started to prevail in foreign property markets. A series of bailouts begins.</li> <li><b>2010/November</b> The Irish government has put 13 billion EUR (or so) into Allied Irish Bank to keep the bank from going bankrupt, and in the process winds up being the majority sharehold (i.e. owning 92% of the bank.)</li> <li><b>2010/November</b> The Irish government passed the Credit Institutions Stabilisation Act (CISA) which gives it the power to do a variety of questionable things, including the Subordinated Liability Order (SLO) which is an eminent domain like right to strip bondholders of their property. This bill was <a href="">long-suspected to be prone to abuse</a>, but nobody expected it on quite this scale. It is expected when the CISA bill is passed that it will be used to force bondholders to accept reasonable terms for their bonds rather than insisting on full payments from bankrupt banks. <li><b>2011/April/15</b> <a href="">The Irish government issues an SLO on Allied Irish Bank bonds</a>. This SLO compels affected bondholders to surrender their bond and have it replaced with a new bond representing a 90%ish loss on the face value of the original bond, with some <b>extremely</b> odd strings attached (which we&#8217;ll get to in a minute.)</li> <li>The strings are as follows. The new bonds replace low-grade bonds which are mainly held by foreign institutions. These new subordinated bonds simply do not accumulate missed payments as a debt which is settled when the money is available, as a normal debt instrument would. If a payment due to the bond holder is missed, the money simply <b>evaporates</b>. This is unprecedented. </li> <li>It gets worse. The higher grade, lower risk Allied Irish Bank bonds (preference shares, actually) are entirely held by the Irish National Pension Reserve Fund (NPRF). Normally these guys get paid <b>after</b> the subordinated bonds. But the government just rewrote the rules of the bond market &#8211; without asking anybody&#8217;s say so &#8211; to let them pay the local pension fund off <b>before</b> paying the foreign bond holders (mostly hedge funds). In effect they&#8217;ve seized property, albeit a particularly subtle and complicated form of financial right. </li> <li>The bond holders have a cow. <a href="">Two of them appeal to the Irish courts.</a></li> <li><b>2011/April/26</b> A third, UBS (you know, that big swiss thing that&#8217;s has a turnover of about a quarter of Ireland&#8217;s GDP) appeals to International Swaps and Derivatives Association (<a href="">ISDA</a>) which is the standards and regulatory body for the global derivatives industry. They&#8217;re basically the Internet Engineering Task Force for this type of finance, but with an arbitration operation and teeth. </li> <li><b>2011/April/26</b> Mysteriously, five hours after the appeal was lodged, which would basically have issued a Credit Default Event, stating that the Irish government had actually defaulted on its debts (<b>sovereign default!</b>) by issuing this SLO, <a href="">UBS chooses to withdraw the complaint for as-yet-unknown reasons</a>.</li> <li><b>2011/May/9</b> The Irish courts will rule on the two cases about the legality of this seizure of property.</li> <li><b>2011/May/15</b> The SLO will go into force, and the old bonds will cease to exist. Assuming somebody really heavy doesn&#8217;t step in and put a stop to the madness before then.</li> </ol> <p><b>Implication: we&#8217;re seeing what amounts to a very soft and esoteric form of sovereign default here.</b> The complexity of the play has left people confused about what is actually going on: is this simply a government which is out of its depth in a maze of twisty, turny financial instruments, or are they deliberately trying to pull a fast one, hoping that nobody in Europe will notice.</p> <p>The IMF and ECB will doubtless take an <b>extremely</b> dim view of what amounts to overturning the 400 year old <b>&#8220;hierarchy of credit&#8221;</b> which defines who gets paid in events like bankruptcies and normal times alike. It&#8217;s as basic a piece of the financial protocols as IPV4 is and it&#8217;s not really something that mere nation states get to redefine when it becomes inconvenient &#8211; not if they wish to continue playing the game, anyways.</p> <p>We live in interesting times. The truly bizarre aspect of these maneuvers is that the massive assistance provided by the EU and IMF to Ireland was largely done to prevent European and global contagion triggered by an Irish default. The ECB and IMF continue to dole out the money allocated to Irish relief on an as-needed basis, and the idea that the Irish would turn around and <a href="">potentially trigger a sovereign default event by meddling in the small print</a> to protect the local pension fund frankly beggars belief.</p> <p>Is it reasonable to expect small countries to navigate the shark-filled reefs of the international financial markets on the same peer footing as large nations with sophisticated and rational native banking industries? Having a flag and a navy does not mean that the Icelanders or the Irish are nuclear-capable, and sovereign authority over property rights, in the wrong hands, is equally dangerous in a globalized world filled with unstable sovereign debt and constant, ever-present contagion risks.</p> <p><a href=";id=2409&amp;md5=2048f336e321cd80e450508ee58961df" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2011-04-26 Liffey and Lethe: on Losing the Plot in Irish Finance <p><a href=>The Future We Deserve</a> has been on hold. I&#8217;ve been in four countries this spring, and doing fascinating things in each.</p> <ul> <li>Belgium, doing a <a href=";feature=player_embedded">hexayurt village</a> in Brussels and learning how to think like a European</li> <li>Berlin, learning about <a href="">mesh networking</a>, <a href="">transferring the hexayurt</a> to <a href="">c-base</a> and researching squat culture.</li> <li>The UK, building hexayurts with Engineers Without Borders (see the videos at the end) and working with <a href="">Spacemakers on the West Norwood Feast</a>.</li> <li>Ireland, getting on the ground at <a href=>Cloughjordan Ecovillage</a> and continuing to learn the economic options available.</li> </ul> <p>It&#8217;s now come time to prioritize The Future We Deserve. My Ireland schedule gives me three or four days a week to complete work on the book, which is the gap that I&#8217;ve needed to take to actually Get The Thing Done. The previous round got rather entangled in a fascinating project involving some rather senior former British military brass and a quarter of a million dollars of research funding for a new generation of humanitarian technologies, and (while I can&#8217;t talk much about that project) it was yet another case of bigger, later.</p> <p>No such error shall be repeated this time! I&#8217;m downcycling to just do the book for now. After all, I&#8217;m sitting on top of $2000 of the community&#8217;s money, and I haven&#8217;t delivered what was supposed to be done by Christmas!</p> <p>The Future We Deserve has matured and mutated considerably in my mind since the project&#8217;s inception. I thought it was going to be a quick crowdfunded, coproduced book about the future, largely of interest to the community around the book &#8211; a sort of community show-and-tell of our ideas. Sitting down <a href="">with the collection</a>, however, has given me an insight: I think both the book and the methodology to produce it are of global interest. &#8220;What is The Future We Deserve?&#8221; is an <i>empowering question</i>.</p> <p>We are not getting The Future We Deserve from our politicians. In a lot of areas, we don&#8217;t have any entity or organization to even <i>ask the question</i>. While the question goes unasked, we cannot frame the enterprise of creating the future in the moral and just terms required to edit out the bad futures, and create the good ones. &#8220;This is not the future we deserve&#8221; is a powerful, simple, final way to reject a proposed reality. The future we <i>want</i> is an infinitely diverse and fluid question, filled with aesthetic choices. The future we deserve is a simpler, more pragmatic approach to co-creating the world.</p> <p>The book is intended to enable people to use a local process of appreciative inquiry to create a shared vision of the future they deserve, and then to implement plans that will lead to the selection of that reality from the palette of potential, available futures. The moral axis, the notion of an unjust future, not just an unwanted one, is the key to unleashing the moral outrage at the future we are actually being delivered by the power structures we have created to govern earth. That is the purpose of The Future We Deserve.</p> <p>Enjoy the plywood hexayurt videos!</p> <p><embed src="" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="480" height="390" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true"></embed></p> <p><embed src="" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="480" height="390" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true"></embed></p> <p><a href=";id=2374&amp;md5=784aaa06c2b2e3716c7aee454916e3ec" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2011-04-13 What’s next up: The Future We Deserve, by God! <p>The Longest Road, Morgan Page / Lissie, Downtempo remix. Not the other mixes. <img src='' alt=';)' class='wp-smiley' /><br /> <iframe title="YouTube video player" width="480" height="390" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe></p> <p>I&#8217;ve tried to avoid writing this for some time. I&#8217;ve searched for another way, for a way of putting what&#8217;s inside of me &#8211; inside of all of us &#8211; into action without words. It&#8217;s not enough, I&#8217;m bursting at the seams.</p> <p>Between you and what you might call god is a story. I say &#8220;might&#8221; because, as I&#8217;ve explained elsewhere, we Hindus don&#8217;t believe in god. Gods, yes, and a universal creative consciousness who&#8217;s nature is pure bliss but no God per-se. Life is what you make of it, laws are ways of getting along with each other, and there&#8217;s nobody with the authority to command anything. It&#8217;s all very decentralized and hard to understand. But the ultimate experiences, joy and union and being, all of that stuff is there in all religious traditions, in one form or another, and usually ascribed to God.</p> <p>But I&#8217;m procrastinating.</p> <p>Here&#8217;s what I&#8217;m trying to say: <i>we can actually do this</i>.</p> <p><i>We can actually do this.</i></p> <p>We could make the world work. We have the science and the material resources. There&#8217;s just one problem standing in our way.</p> <p>We are losing the world to our lousy, destructive forms of social organization, and those attempts are largely based based on failed religious traditions with obscene mythologies of torture and destruction and vengeance. And adherents of these systems will tell you the world is hell, and then make it one. To be an American president you must swear public allegiance to a jealous sky faerie. There are a lot of very reasonable people who will never be <i>leader of the free world</i> because of their choice in personal mythology, and this is a massive problem. It means the only people who can be president are liars or delusional.</p> <p>You don&#8217;t need their god, or their Jesus, or their Muhammad, or their Moses, to make your way to the still center of being within you, and to know, for sure, that whatever created you is benign. Perhaps these people were wonderful and their followers screwed it up. Perhaps religions start as a simple, beautiful method which time corrupts.</p> <p>I know not. I care not.</p> <p>But to stop acting in such stupid ways, to let each-other be happy, gay or straight, black or white, rich and poor alike, we have to step beyond the denigration of the earth, women and freedom which is at the heart of so much of the contemporary practice of religion.</p> <p>The happy, content human race has two billion plus enemies: every single person who professes the need for people to obey a religious law, or face eternal torment. Every person who tells you that Gandhi is going to hell because he doesn&#8217;t believe in X, Y and Z, and that Leonardo da Vinci shares his fate for being gay is an enemy of the human species. Those belief systems, with hell at their core, and the fear of hell their psychological inheritance, are incompatible with peace on earth and true personal happiness. Their followers start wars and persecutions based on memetic contaminations in their heads, and their life-denying ideologies become dangerous indeed when confronted with nuclear weapons and the urgent need to cut our environmental impact. Their only power is their claim to absolute truth, and their assertion of a vengeful god&#8217;s enforcement.</p> <p>If you&#8217;re one of these people, stop. You&#8217;ve been deceived. It&#8217;s not that there is no god &#8211; god knows I&#8217;ve done enough meditation to have had first hand experiences of a kind which left me in no doubt about the existence of a benign, albeit somewhat impersonal, creative power at the root of everything visible in the universe. But the pit of fear created by the unconscious perception of an avenging skylord who&#8217;s eternal dungeons make Guantanamo Bay look like Butlins has driven a very substantial minority of our species completely insane. And those people elected George Bush, who laid waste Iraq and Afghanistan and plunged the world back into war. They are fucking this up for all of us.</p> <p>You cannot make that kind of war without god on your side. The fundamental faith in one&#8217;s rightness, in the Cause above the simple horror of killing is what gives people the moral authority to murder. Sometimes this religious impulse, this desire to control the world in a manner tied up to political authority, whether it is the US model of manifest destiny or the USSR model of marxism and historical inevitability, is seen in an explicitly religious form. Sometimes it goes underground and shows up as the Worker&#8217;s Revolutions or the Free Market, but however it happens the truth is that the world does not need religious law for people to be happy, and all the historical evidence is that when the church in whatever form is strong, and particularly when it is fused to the state, huge suffering results.</p> <p>If you want my ideas about what individuals should do about such matters, they follow:</p> <ol> <li>Stop watching television. That&#8217;s about 30 hours a week you&#8217;ll have back to learn and act. It will break you out of culture.</li> <li>Stop acting on unproven religious beliefs. For many that will result in radical social shifts too, as one accepts that the historical Jesus, if there is one, would disapprove so intensely of nearly everything done in his name that we should not be surprise if the conscious decision to discard religion entirely is completely compatible with a regard for the historical figures at the root of the world&#8217;s major religious traditions. But, in any case, knock it off. If you&#8217;re smart enough to wonder about life and death, you&#8217;re smart enough to discard the sky faeries and square your actions with observed reality.</li> <li>By all means read the mystics. They use the language of religion, but have experiences which they try and document, transmit and make accessible, while all the time trying not to get killed by priests and imams. Wayfarers in consciousness, psychedelic in the sense of mind-manifesting, by all means read the mystics. And believe nothing about their explanations of any state of consciousness outside of the most mundane. They can describe their experiences, but if you were not there, you do not know the difference between a relevant vision and a post-facto rationalization.</li> <li>Deal with the world as it is, which means looking at the statistical data around suffering. The World Health Organization stats are one particularly find source of disturbing numbers about how the other half dies.</li> </ol> <p>Faith, all faith, is superstition and it is incompatible with survival in a world filled with nuclear weapons. We must abandon the apocalypse, and the myth of progress, and live in accordance with that which we can see, feel and experience for ourselves.</p> <p>The just peace requires individual human beings to be happy, and the absurd theology, which paints life as a momentary exam question, with either eternal reward or eternal torment at the end of it ruins our ability to deal with the world on its own terms.</p> <p>We need to love the world as it is to save it, and not treat it as the examination hall of a tyrant god. Release the sky tyrant in all forms, and face the world that these superstitions have made. </p> <p>Together we can fix it. But it starts, as it must, with the abandoning of the belief systems which dominated the culture and drove us to these obscene ends. Free yourselves, and to work! Centuries of ignorance and unconscious hatred of life have toxified and contaminated our planet almost beyond repair, as these pathologies of belief, indeed memetic infections, have driven our species to destructive insanity.</p> <p>If you want to save the world, you must sacrifice your myth that it exists only as a test, and love the world on its own terms.</p> <p><a href=";id=2367&amp;md5=0ba570e373b9e4214fbbb678655beffd" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2011-03-19 On the spiritual <p><iframe title="YouTube video player" width="480" height="390" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe></p> <p>The air is thick with the stench of death and war today. Libya cannot end well, there are no good options on the table, and our countries &#8211; the &#8220;Torture Democracies&#8221; who run Guantanamo Bay, ship people to Egypt to be electrocuted by the secret police, and will not admit the invasion of Iraq was needless &#8211; these Torture Democracies are likely to be the ones at war.</p> <p>Everybody else has basically knocked it off, except us. We are the ones making war. We, democracies, are the problem. It is our fault, as voters, for putting the bastards who start and maintain wars in power, and nobody held a gun to our head as happened in various other countries.</p> <p>If they start another war, if the middle east turns into another invasion &#8211; or two &#8211; will you stand and fight, here, on your own soil, to overthrow the warmongers?</p> <p>Will you fight against democracy, for peace?</p> <p>Into this abyss I throw you: these are our elected leaders, fair and square, and their actions cannot be squared with goodness or justice. It is not the fault of our leaders, it is not the fault of our voters, it is the fault of the system which we call democracy. With the best will in the world, it is putting assholes in charge, who make wars, which we pay for in blood and treasure and many electoral cycles after the mistake was made, we still vote for the same two kinds of evil clowns.</p> <p>But will you oppose the will of the people for peace? This is an error.</p> <p>But will you accept our elected leaders insane, unconstitutional and evil decisions? This is also an error.</p> <p>The paradox of democracy&#8217;s failure to make peace when given the opportunity throws up all kinds of paradoxes and evasions: these are not true democracies, people are uninformed, we need proportional representation, it&#8217;s all Fox News fault. People distort words horribly, refuse to face facts, resort to <a href="">no true scotsman</a>, freak out and become aggressive, all in the name of evading a very simple, basic truth.</p> <p>This is the will of the people, and (on average), the people want war.</p> <p>Now, doesn&#8217;t that explain a thing or two?</p> <p>Throw away your activist&#8217;s model of human nature and face facts: we&#8217;ve seen the face of the enemy at the ballot box as we/they elect murderers into power again and again and again. That&#8217;s not a mistake, not an accident, not an error of judgment. That&#8217;s us using our democratic power to elect people to start wars on our behalf, to torture on our behalf, to violently invade other nations on our behalf, and to lie to us about it on TV.</p> <p>If this thing in the middle east blows up, you&#8217;d better be able to seriously up your political discourse if we&#8217;re going to be able to stay relevant in the chaos which follows.</p> <p>We democratically elected warmongers. They made war. We put them back in power. You know this. I know this. Can we thwart democracy in the name of peace? Can we preserve democracy at the price of peace?</p> <p>Let it tear, let it tear away, all the way, inside of your heart and face the question squarely: if democracy cannot produce peace, what hope is there for a world without war?</p> <p><iframe title="YouTube video player" width="480" height="390" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe></p> <p><a href=";id=2363&amp;md5=840cf92b617c82dd5f8277048a52f22d" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2011-03-18 Songs of another war <ol> <li>City States: If Italy collapsed as a nation state, but remained peaceful, Naples and Venice and so on could theoretically join the EU with very little in life changing.</li> <li>Rational Borders: The suburbs of Geneva are in France. If they were in the city state of Geneva, it would change very little.</li> <li>Matrix Government: If the Road Chief, Rail Chief, Water Chief, Power Chief, Sanitation Chief, Police Chief, Fire Chief, Hospital Chief and so on were all independently elected in a city state, there may be no need for an over-all municipal dictator to keep the lights on and the roads open.</li> <li>Peaceful Villages: Most villages throughout human history have managed most of their affairs. If a village is going wrong politically, people can leave. Transparency helps.</li> </ol> <p>I explore these four axioms, collectively, as <a href=>The Free City State</a>, two talks I did at <a href=>The Free School</a> in London. The talks are tentative, early work, but I feel may point in interesting directions as I build a political model around <a href=>Simple Critical Infrastructure Maps</a>.</p> <p>I hope you find these talks useful.</p> <p><a href=";id=2359&amp;md5=fc1fdc34bf5aad7b9dec836191d81cd6" title="Flattr" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="flattr this!"/></a></p> 2011-03-14 The Free City State
March 2014
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February 2012
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