This is very different from the current HN headline! After all, sometimes technology changes everything so much politics can do little more than try to catch up.
People like to say "you can't solve social problems with technology". It's a statement that's true enough of the time to be common wisdom but not enough to be a natural law. Sometimes technology does help with social problems.
This isn't to say that politics is unimportant. It is still central. But I think dismissing technological solutions out of hand is also shortsighted. I particularly think this of BitCoin, which feels like a monumental change. BitCoin could, ideally, liberate transactions between individuals and significantly reduce barriers for anything from microtransactions to donating to fringe political causes. It certainly won't solve all our problems, it might even solve none, but I think it'll definitely make for a better world.
I really liked Balaji Srinivasan's speech on "Voice and Exit". BitCoin was an example of "exiting" the existing financial system and providing an alternate means of conducting transactions. Viewing it as such, just using and supporting BitCoin is inevitably a political action, limiting the absolute power of the government. To me, this makes BitCoin one of the technologies to really watch for future social change.
Ultimately, technology can empower us to do amazing things, but to achieve it's full potential we've also got to be involved in society as a whole and push to bring the various ideas we believe in into the public's sight. Technology can be a powerful embodiment of a set of ideas such as free-culture, privacy, a decentralized financial system, or what have you. Making people take interest in those ideas and bringing the debate outside the technology sphere can only lead to a better outcome for all.
I don't think that participating in electoral politics is an effective means in reaching my desired ends. I'm not lazy Mr. Sunde, I'm smart. I know that I have a greater chance of dying in a car wreck on the way to the polling station than my single vote changing an election. I know that once the popularity contest is over, the fundamentally flawed incentive structure of "democratic" systems will take over and the political elite/lobbyists will be in charge again.
I think we need to start viewing law and political ideology as "technologies" themselves rather than something separate and just accepting the status quo. One parliament member who is just going to get outvoted by the majority who tow the line with the IP monopoly lobby is nothing to get excited about. I want to see people demand zones for political/legal/economic experimentation like was suggested recently by Larry Page. Maybe you and I don't agree on the best way to do things, but shouldn't people have a right to innovate and try new systems? True democracy is the ability to secede down to the level of the individual.
And then I read from Peter Thiel:
> Most importantly, I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible.
And then I think that there are waaaay too many people in the tech industry who have gone completely out of their minds.
The anti-democratic rhetoric seems to be growing louder and it is starting to get pretty worrisome.
These are rights that individuals — not societies or governments — possess. Even if a majority of the population wants to infringe them through the democratic process, that’s not permitted under the BoR. (You could also say that these rights are natural rights that predated and were merely recognized by the BoR, but that’s not necessary to make my point.)
We’ve already recognized that some aspects of life, including free speech, torture, and so on are too important to be left to the democratic process. We’ve explicitly blocked, or at least tried to block, the democratic process from interfering with those rights. That’s because the democratic process is imperfect: it’s subject to the day’s political whims and foibles.
Given that we already have a fine example of one anti-democratic mechanism at work, it’s hardly ridiculous to contemplate others. This is supposedly HN, not Status Quo Anti-Innovation Political Curmudgeonly News. Right?
What I'm worried about is the anti-American, anti-democratic bullshit that is starting to pour out of Silicon Valley.
I think there is plenty of room within the existing framework to deal with the issues that we're facing. It may take a lot of work and may have to involve some serious restructuring of things like the House of Representative and the Senate, but I feel like it is worth it. What IS important is that we decide to do it together, with a plurality of voices, and not by building some sort of fucking space ship to hide away in like where everyone in SV seems to be heading.
The people who set up this system of government were true supporters of the Enlightenment. They were willing to compromise and willing to admit that "freedom ain't free", to put it in a common parlance. They had love in their hearts and the proof is that they were willing to listen and willing to compromise.
I don't see a lot of that these days. I see a lot of hate, misunderstanding, and self-absorbtion.
I honestly don't know what you mean by "anti-American, anti-democratic bullshit." If anything, it's the Washington congresscritters and assorted legions of hive-minded bureaucrats who are pushing anti-American and anti-Enlightenment regulations on us out here. I lived for a decade in Washington, D.C. before moving to SF and the peninsula, and can assure you that congresscritters and hive-minded bureaucrats and don't have "love in their hearts."
To respond more directly to your point about compromise, at some point people will recognize that the system is broken and suffers structural barriers that mean it is exceedingly unlikely to be fixed. So political compromise inside a broken system becomes not only difficult, but in the end futile. Some folks like the seasteaders are at that point already.
Yes, and look how well that turned out!
(Spoilers: Not very well. The USA has thrived when it has been more democratic and stagnated when less. We are currently in a 40-year period of less and less democracy. Strangely enough, stagnation and crisis have become more and more common during this time.)
"Look how well the expansion of FedGov worked. Spoilers: Not very well. The USA has thrived when it has been more free and stagnated under more government. We are currently in a 40-year period of more and more government. Strangely enough, stagnation and crisis have become more and more common during this time."
There's real arguments behind being anti-democracy, so rather than just complaining about me like a bother, insta-downvoting, and declaring it "simply wrong", maybe you should tackle the issue in a substantive way. It's very "anti-hacker" to just accept democracy as the pinnacle of perfection and think it will last forever.
All I'm hearing is hate, distrust, and of failure.
If you and your technocratic visionaries really want to build a new future you're going to have to do it with love in your hearts. We need a system that expresses compassion and acceptance of all walks of life.
The rhetoric of Thiel and Page if of escapism. Of leaving the system behind. Well, guess what dude, the only system in the known universe capable of supporting life is Earth. Any sort of idealized community in the desert or floating around on a barge is going to need an umbilical chord to the rest of us. You can't leave and start your own brand new world.
It is also "anti-hacker" to not engage with the system in place. An important quality of hacking is to learn the system and how to work within its constraints.
Give me a break. Nobody talks about such things during a crime in progress. All political programs promise to be the best way of bringing about what its adherents want. I'm not even talking about A or B or C being better. I'm saying it is undemocratic to be forced to choose option A, "democracy".
>Any sort of idealized community in the desert or floating around on a barge is going to need an umbilical chord to the rest of us. You can't leave and start your own brand new world.
This could have been said by an 18th century British bureaucrat too. The US was a noble experiment but it has failed, and, no, it's existence today doesn't contradict what I am saying. Tyranny was supposed to be kept at bay by a unique system of checks and balances + democratic representation. History shows that the US political elite has continually aggrandized itself instead. It's like a piece of software that is going to have terrible memory leaks no matter what. If you want a blazing fast app, you can't keep working with this setup.
Hacking can certainly be making the best with what you have but totally ignoring the possibility of the best option being to scrap it all and start over. I'd think that the startup world would be comfortable with at least considering such ideas.
Poke through this thread: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6661282
It's not democracy that's broken; it's the US.
What country is using liquid democracy though? What country is a "good/functioning democracy" right now in your opinion? I assume some European country will be pointed to, then I can still find slews of examples where the structural incentive problem is taking place and causing harm. Liquid democracy is the type of radically different idea that we ought to be able to experiment with.
Introducing a web of trust and having a mechanism for recall or direct representation by individuals is an improvement over the popularity contests we hold in the US every 2/4/6 years. If you slap liquid democracy on the idea of geographic monopoly, you still have an inferior system, because it only outputs one thing, the A or B in a box. If I want A but the chain of delegates chooses B, I am still losing out. What if we could have a way to have both A and B as well as all minority opinions C .. Z be expressed? (as long as they don't break the code so to speak)
Well, we already have this and it is called free markets. If I want soda, I go to an entity I and a bunch of other people have largely turned over power to control picking the best sodas: one of my local supermarkets. That is like the concept of handing over my votes to someone who can in turn give all those to someone they trust to represent them. Coke and Pepsi dominate as people's favorite choices, so they and their flavor variants occupy a lot of shelf space (think Earth's territory for the analogy). What if I want some guava soda or Jamaican ginger beer? Well, there might be some if there is enough demand in the area to make it profitable to carry it.
Obviously, I expect people to have all sorts of objections here to comparing laws to flavors of sodas. I think the availability of all sorts of niche things though is a great example of how markets make the individual consumer "king" whereas "typical democracy" only has the empty promise that anyone can rule.
I am not a fan of liquid democracy. I think it's an interesting idea, but I don't think it's the silver bullet solution that its proponents have made it out to be. Thus why I didn't bother to even explain it when it was pointed out; I helped make fun of it. (It was never clear to me if the upvoters realized I was doing that.)
If you really want my opinions, then you can read https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4493663 https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4658896 https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5998145
I don't spend time on liquid democracy or first-past-the-post or cumulative voting because I think that focusing on the mechanism is useless. It might be part of the change, but making it the centerpiece of any kind of reform fixes a symptom, not a root cause. As you say, "it only outputs one thing, the A or B in a box". It's not a solution to change "How would you like to die, by rifle or pistol?" to "How would you like to die, by rifle, pistol, or machine gun?"
I've spent the last three years learning about how democracies are supposed to work. And you know what? Everything I was taught in school is wrong. Everything people are taught about democracy in school is wrong. To build an analogy, we've been taught that "if you double-click on the spinny E icon, you get the Internet". That's not technically false. It's just woefully misleading.
Of course we're disillusioned with democracy. We were never told what it was; we were told it was awesome and good and we should be very happy about it. We weren't told anything of substance. Our school senates have no power to speak of. Our leadership organizations are only capable of teaching us management skills. Our community service programs teach us about charity.
Where do we learn about civics? Where do we learn about jurisprudence? Where do we learn about legislation? Where do we learn about opinion-gathering? Where do we learn about journalism? As adults. If we're interested. When our biases are fully formed.
Americans then go on to decide that democracy has failed and should be replaced with futarchy or neo-monarchy or technocracy, ignorantly presuming that they've even tried democracy.
People aren't software running on a machine! The point isn't for an idealized system of government that functions like a "blazing fast app".
You know who you sound like?
"Fascism should rightly be called Corporatism, as it is the merger of corporate and government power."
"Democracy is beautiful in theory; in practice it is a fallacy."
"The truth is that men are tired of liberty."
> This could have been said by an 18th century British bureaucrat too.
And yeah, maybe it fucking should have been said, and really loudly as well, because the real shitty thing about the USA is that it WAS built on top of the remains of an existing people, but the colonial setting is mainly tautological and I don't think it is a very strong argument against the tenants of the American Enlightenment.
The "democracy" option besides moving to an authoritarian country is what I actually call "democratic majoritarian rule", so yes this contradicts what I really believe democracy is. There's no options besides this except taking another step backwards to some dictatorship or whatever.
>refuse to accept the existence of any laws restricting their actions.
I was trying to focus on our lack of ability to choose, not so much what I advocate, but I do not advocate a lawless society. A corollary to "right to secede down to the level of the individual"—which is a law/rule BTW—would be that other people can't arbitrarily take control of you and not let you secede.
But what if there are disagreements? I try to approach this in a way that I feel is scientific. I think that we can discover an eminently "human" law but then still have a lot of variation in politics, maintain peace and prosperity with having a few fundamental rules dominate popular acceptance like democracy does now. I don't have time now to get into all of that but if you are genuinely curious I could help you learn.
Of course people can, and will. Humans have endured great hardships and mortal peril many times for political or religious or other reasons. For Americans, the Puritan emigration to a harsh new world is the most familiar. Hundreds of African migrants, almost all reportedly Christians, died last month when their boat sank during an attempt to escape to Europe. An excellent New York Times article last weekend described a harrowing crossing by refugees from Indonesia to Christmas Island; the reporter was told by Australian officials that "if we had left a few days earlier, the boat would have capsized."
The moon and Mars and the rest of the solar system can and will be colonized eventually (barring an existential event that Stephen Hawking and others have warned of). Yes, it's rather more difficult when there's no free atmosphere or radiation shielding. But it's a question of economics, not will, and every generation in the west is wealthier than the last.
The interesting thing, and this is what apparently alarms folks who would prefer HN to be Status Quo Anti-Innovation Political Curmudgeonly News, is that there's no guarantee that the political systems that emerge in the diaspora will be democratic. Some, I imagine, will be non-democratic and worse than our current system. And some will be far better.
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend's
Or of thine own were:
Any man's death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.
Sounds like a species of massive assholes, and I see some ethical problems with letting them off their home-planet.
If you're serious about "ethical problems" letting our species of killer apes off of our home planet, how exactly do you propose to stop it? (Remember: Once you try it, you've just made these killer apes very mad at you.) Seems tricky, once the economics line up for space, unless you're talking mass genocide or mandatory doses of soma.
Transcending the millions of years of evolution that turned us into killer apes is the task of civilization and culture. But the megadeaths of the last century caused by wars between democratic governments actually dwarfed the prior century's wars between non-democratic governments. Maybe, to go back to the upthread discussion, there are better alternatives that don't involve the straw man of "isolat[ing] from each other as thoroughly as we can."
And we will gladly conduct free trade with the rest of the world. But I don't think that means we have to accept the status quo in governance or social systems.
There's a huge difference in saying, "We have a system that serves the people's values and interests better than democracy does", and "You proles don't deserve a voice." Unfortunately, the vast majority of anti-democratic rhetoric right now is of the latter kind.
In the United States, "Voice" is just rhetoric used to make people accept the status quo.
It's entirely possible for the system to work well at doing something people hate. Hence why the people need a voice.
There are incentive problems, like people having no incentive to do in depth research on all the political issues before they vote. There is the problem of respecting minority rights since only the majority has any control. And psychologically it's a terrible system since it creates "Blues vs Greens" type situations and needlessly polarizes everything. Any kind of rational discussion gets drowned out over a thousand voices cheering on their "team" against their hated rivals.
As Moldbug points out, the current US Govcorp is structured as an employee collective, which no competitive corporation chooses as a system of organization in the free market. As Mancur Olson points out, bureaucracies tend to get more inefficient over time.
I know we've all been raised to believe that democracy is love and rainbows, but maybe it's time to rethink that.
That's doubly inaccurate.
* Worker cooperatives don't give membership votes to non-workers, and the vast majority of American voters are not government employees.
* Many firms choose worker cooperative organization and thrive on it. The fact that many districts don't have laws for chartering cooperatives is what holds them back, not some innate untenability of the form itself.
"So Fedco, while it still has a bit of the cooperative flavor, is mainly organized around the other model of bad corporate governance: control by contractors (essentially, employees). To be exact, most of Fedco's decisions are made by its civil service.
As a general rule, an employee-controlled enterprise will never, ever be profitable. In fact, even its bondholders are lucky if they see any payments. The primary interest of contractors is, first, if they can get away with it, in distributing profits to their own pockets; and second, if they can't, in expanding or at least protecting their own power bases. They will make as much work for themselves as they can get away with.
Of course, even the CEO of a company is a contractor. This is why corporations have boards, who work for the shareholders. (In my opinion, it's an abuse to have any corporate employees, even the CEO, on the board.)
If you combine a shareholderless governance model with an enormous revenue stream, you have the perfect recipe for massive and permanent inefficiency and incompetence, and an enormous overgrowth of pointless, self-serving tasks. This is exactly what we see in Fedco. Of course, it could just be a coincidence."
The high-profile failure of one project (particularly when so much of it was carried out by private contracting, a process known to be more corrupt and wasteful than just using federal employees) is not, in and of itself, evidence that the federal civil service is abnormally wasteful or corrupt when compared to other organizations of similar size or scope, or when compared to combinations of organizations forming an interlocked unit of similar size and scope.
Basically, the federal government can trivially be labelled suboptimal, but calling it abnormally bad requires evidence that you can do better. Overwhelmingly, this is not what we see people bringing forth. The claims we see made are, "This organization is suboptimal for the job it currently does, therefore we should destroy large parts of it entirely. The important jobs done by those parts don't need to be done, because we say so."
You should click that foseti link a few comments up.
Bitcoin is inherently deflationary, which would be economically disastrous if it supplanted the dollar. Granted, I think bitcoin supplanting the dollar is unlikely, but it does make me question how beneficial bitcoin really is.
On top of that, bitcoin erodes transaction privacy. Is this really a step forward?
Citation of deflation caused by an increase in productivity or population has caused an economic disaster?
I've searched and came up empty. Thanks in advance if you find something and reply.
I like peercoin, which is a bitcoin that can maintain wallets without the full block chain, do less expensive proof of work problems when the network is computationally competitive enough, and has a fixed inflation rate of 1%.
The only improvement I'd like to see is a currency that uses a coin generation algorithm based off recent monetary velocity, so that if exchange slows the inflation rate increases to stimulate more exchange, and if a lot of money is changing hands the inflation rate is slowed, with a targeted turnover ratio of the entire economy that is whatever is most economically healthy, it would require research.
History gives us plenty of episodes of deflationary growth, such as America after the civil war during resumption of the metallic standard. Yes, a sudden collapse in a money supply is bad, but economies work fine under slow deflation.
Economists are the worst intellectuals. Their predictions are always wrong and their growth advice is ineffectual. I wouldn't take what you read from an economist in a newspaper op-ed page at face value.
You're referring to the period known as "The Long Depression", from 1873 to 1896?
It had an extremely high unemployment rate during the quarter century that it lasted. Ten states went bankrupt. The US manufacturing output virtually stagnated, with periods of significant decline.
That sounds like a great model /sarcasm!
Technology does change society and politics the widespread introduction of the bicycle is supposed to have reduced the instance in inbreeding as you could more easily go courting in a nearby village.
His ideology is mainstream statism (there is no particular evidence of communism or socialism imo) and his general, overarching idea is the exact same as every other young, idealistic candidate, from every mainstream political party (give or take a couple of slogan-sized marginal political differences): That everybody who already got elected are complacent about changing the system, and if you'll only elect me, I won't become complacent then everything will change.
The root problem, of course, isn't that we should just elect better politicians, it's the iron law of bureaucracy.
And this is where I disagree fundamentally with Mr. Sunde: Technology is exactly what we can use to beat the bureaucracy. Uber and AirBnB is doing more than 100 Peter Sundes running for office to reform taxis and rental systems, Bitcoin is a powerful and plausible agent of reform in the banking sector. There are tons of community owned banks and while they do some things differently on the margins, at the end of the day, on the broad lines, they're just like the big, commercial banks.
Finally, this: "This includes setting up cryptocurrencies that are difficult to monitor and tax (Sunde is a firm believer in taxation, since it allows communities to build shared infrastructure)". This is rich coming from a guy who made his name helping people avoid the taxation of Hollywood through a hard to monitor technology.
I said Bitcoin has the potential, not that is was actually there. Already being used for "not necessarily "bad" transactions, but illegal nonetheless" transactions is a powerful endorsement already. I see the potential of Bitcoin, not as a savings currency, but as a transaction currency. Right now, making an electronic, verified transaction is the exclusive domain of banks and fraught with annoyance and danger. In Denmark, an electronic bank transfer takes a day. If you need to real-time transact with someone without credit (ie. trust), you need to use cashiers cheques (which are expensive and have a fixed amount, so no haggling) or cash. Or you need to buy into the ridiculously expensive and painfully over-regulated credit card network. And still deal with charge-backs. In the US, someone can more or less trivially steal all your money if they get your account number. The UK is mostly sane, there's even a mobile app for doing instant account transfers (PingIt), but then add international to the mix and all bets are off.
Bitcoin is a plausible infrastructure for secure, almost instant peer-to-peer transactions without getting the banks involved.
Also, it's a neat technology for people who don't appreciate having their savings "manipulated" for their own good (in reality, mostly other peoples' good).
Besides, if I really want to run the hell away from banks, I can always take all my savings out as cash and either bury it in my backyard that way, or buy its worth in some fixed commodity and bury it in my backyard that way.
Of course, that presumes I have a rather large backyard and a rather large time horizon for savings! When I don't, a bank is very useful, actually.
And of course, let's not forget that bitcoins can be lost forever if my dog eats a scrap of card on which I kept my wallet.
Also, Uber's attempts to battle Taxi drivers is a perfect embodiment of preferring the consumer experience over the worker's dignity. Personally, I find this appalling but realize it's the natural result of American consumerism.
Are there only ever not "other people"? A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic. You can't make an omelet without breaking some eggs.
> Also, Uber's attempts to battle Taxi drivers is a perfect embodiment of preferring the consumer experience over the worker's dignity.
I'm not sure how having an exploitative monopoly is dignified for anyone. I've met plenty of cheerful and dignified Uber and Kabbee drivers (and rude and undignified black cab drivers).
Obamacare is the recent high water mark for change. Woo! Right? We have to solve that problem first.
"Statism" doesn't tell me anything about the position being labelled statist. It only tells me that the person doing the labelling is a ~~libertarian~~ proprietarian minarchist. Left-anarchists don't even use the unvarnished term "statist", not even as a term for policies they oppose.
I want people to stop using terms that tell me about their personalities and start using terms that tell me about the politics under discussion.
FWIW, in my usage "Statism", is a reference to the assumption that by default, a problem should always be dealt with by the state, and when a problem isn't dealt with correctly, the default assumption is that it's a symptom of the state holding too little power and too few resources.
I think that these assumptions are not always false, but they are false often enough that the possibility that they are warrants careful discussion.
These are "assumptions" that almost zero real people actually assume.
No, that's pretty much the default assumption of the statist. It sounds like you just don't like the term.
You can't. The word is used solely by anarchists to mean "everyone who's not an anarchist", except that the left-anarchists decided they had more common cause with non-anarchist socialists and dropped it. Thus, the only people using the term "statist" of their own initiative are minarcho-capitalists, who use it to mean, "Everyone who's not us."
There is no such party as the Statist Party. There is, however, such a thing as Every Party But the Libertarian Party, which is what "statist" actually means.
The word is thus empty of specific semantic meaning, and is simply a smear-word used by minarcho-capitalists.
And you're wrong about only anarchists using that term. But I find your minarcho-capitalists usage pretty amusing.
Hence why leftists aren't called "statists" by the way: because the Left includes anti-state, anti-property leftists (who see no contradiction there: they hold that it's the state which creates property in the first place and property arrangements which create the superstructure in which the state acts!).
It's one of those things that make it abundantly clear that libertarianism is a form of fundamentalism.
My position is that we do need the state, but we need to inject a lot more realism (ie cynicism) about what what government can realistically do (not to mention, do well) into the debate in order to get to a better place.
EDIT: I suspect that you might be referring to my comments on different posts. I find that arguing the libertarian point of view is a useful method of injecting the mentioned realism. Do I find the stateless society appealing? Yes, in theory, as a construct to debate the extreme consequences of ideas. It's a rewarding intellectual exercise to consider how justice might work without the state. But I'm no utopian and I have no illusions about the extreme dangers of revolution. So my "real world" political contributions is in the space of injecting more cynicism into the democratic process in the hope of inspiring more people to avoid reflectively turning to the state to mend their ills and consider, for an example, technological solutions instead.
Uber and AirBnB have faced and will face serious threats from the government. The reason they are continuing to succeed is explicitly because individual people have engaged in the political process to defend their business models.
Or look at Tesla. It seems ludicrous that buying a car online should be illegal, but in many states it is. No matter how awesome Tesla's website and cars are, it won't matter if they're not allowed to sell. The only solution there is a political solution.
> that change can typically happen fairly easily
Now who is being naive about politics? No significant changes to the law are easy.
Yes, all of these activities can help tipping the scale at the moment of decision, but gay rights and gay marriage wasn't brought through by politicians, it was brought through by a social change (that politicians - or technology, for that matter - however much they'd love to, can't take credit for) that helped the broad masses realise that they know several gay persons and that they are perfectly normal people. Once THAT happened, and opposition to gay rights became the untenable position, the scale tipped "fairly easily". My point is, the political bit of the process was "fairly easy", the rest absolutely wasn't.
The internet itself is a counterexample to his thesis, but does not disprove it in general. This technology took off before government could seize control, and it has taken 20 years for the forces of suppression to get a grip. And even today, secure communications are still (barely) possible despite the state efforts to surveil everything, because of technical workarounds of state/corporate power.
Using a war metaphor. Technology is an attack on the rear, politics is a frontal attack. He is merely saying that basing your whole strategy on rear attacks is misplaced.
Not saying anything about the truth of what he's saying, but it's clear that you're misrepresenting him here.
And using Sunde's now quite distant past together with a rather stretched out notion of tax to discredit this message is pretty weird.
But if we look through history to the industrial revolution, powerful technologies we're created, but new political tools we're created in order integrate those technologies in society in a positive way. We had the rise of democracies,wage laws and the labour movement, the social safety net, the geneva convention, etc. Without those ,we might have seen a far more negative contribution from technology.
I believe the same applies for internet technology and smart algorithm. In the wrong political context, it could be turned into a living hell.
Hahaha! Oh wow! Let's see what "haters" means:
> One of the main criticisms [...] is that [...] it doesn't allow individuals to connect their own trusted servers [...] ("even though controlling the network is currently the only thing you can do to keep from being spied on," says Sunde)
I would say a controlled network creates a single point of failure and a narrow target for espionage (e.g. Lavabit).
> and that there are no plans to release the source code
Security through obscurity? Who wants audits from the community, when you can just call them haters, right?
> Sunde sees these critics as elitist. "We want to give decent encryption to everyone -- not just tech people. But the tech people are the ones who are really upset that they can't connect their own server. We decided quite early on to stop listening to them."
Who's the hater here? Is closed source/optional personal network really going to hinder massive adoption outside of tech circles? Does it matter at all?
Community owned banks? We have those in Spain, and those were the main culprits of Spain's banking crisis because they were just politician's toys both on left and right wing communities.
It's not that we distrust politicians: people just can't be trusted, not even the people with good intentions! Economy can't be regulated effectively and public banking demands high levels of regulation to prevent bad behaviour... which is very hard (impossible?) to do right. People with money will always be able to go around good legislation, while the common citizen still has to fight against the system's errors.
He proposes fighting the State with the State instead of with techonology. My opinion is that more State won't fight the State, it will just make it a bigger monster to fight against.
Anyone who accuses an article of being (insert ideological label) actually has a much harder ideological bias in the opposite direction.
So I have a bias because I point at what happened with "community owned banks" in my country?
Regardless of the guy's politics, strictly speaking, you can't fight the law with technology because the law can make your tech illegal. You need to either engage the existing power structures or have a complete revolution in order to make change happen. That's without getting into policy preferences or details, it's just the basic ground zero of the situation. That's what I got from the article.. it's facile, maybe a lazy conclusion, certainly not a great article but also not incorrect.
But you can. Napster launched, what, 13 years ago, and desperate upon desperate law has not even put a dent into the explosive growth of piracy.
The actual problem for most people though isn't that copies or drugs are especially difficult to obtain, but that they might find themselves in a courtroom for procuring them. Technology hasn't changed that; arguably Napster and SilkRoad made it easier for vested interests to generate moral panics around pirating and drug use, and to ensnare people attempting to download music or mail-order contraband. You didn't get children facing lawsuits for making mixtapes in the 1990s.
It's hard to argue that low-friction, even non-DRM, digital music sales wasn't brought around (or at least, brought around much faster) by piracy-induced pain. The RIAAs would have been more than happy to use the law to shut down piracy (in effect, their competition), but even tough the law obliged them, the customers didn't.
I'd call that fighting the law.
Also: communism sees socialism as the transition from capitalism to communism. The only difference is the long term.
E.g. banking regulation - sure, it won't prevent all the bad behaviour, but it will help (see Poland where state control over some banking regulations prevented banks from getting into bad mortgages). Does that mean that government should control everything? of course not! It can be somewhere in the middle (think Keynes instead of Friedman) and where's that middle also depends on the local environment and such - what worked in Poland won't necessarily work the same in Spain.
Also, I disagree with the notion that he proposes fighting the State with the State - he wants people to be the State and I agree with that to a large extent. People like to complain about politics as if they (the politics) were some aliens from the different planet. Spain is a good example here, 2-3 years ago thousands of people were protesting with slogans like "no nos representan". Yet no one from the protesters had the guts to take that movement and actually do something with it, become a leader, a politician, take a responsibility, try to change something for real. Instead they preferred to shift that responsibility back to the politicians they were protesting against. Year later people went to elections and voted the same people as before, the ones that supposedly "no les representaron".
- When they proposed solutions they were called out as being "politicized". Both left and right-wing saw them as biased (in the other direction of course).
- When they didn't propose anything, they were called out as being gutless (as you said), lazy, whiny...
- When leaders tried to step out they were criticized as opportunists trying to kidnap the movement for their personal interest.
- When assemblies were formed, they were criticized as slow and not effective (which they actually were).
Of course all these criticism were promoted from the media to form mass opinion. In case you didn't like a statement, you had the contrary to criticize 15M as loud as you wanted.
In the end nothing happened.
"THIS PROTEST MOVEMENT SUCKS." Nothing more, nothing less. A variety of particular reasons are given for why, many of which are mutually contradictory. From this we can infer that the point was never to have a civilized discussion about the protest movement, its goals, and its methods, but instead to just flame it to death.
This is the mainstream media equivalent of sitting there going "lolol dumb faggot" until the tripfriend shuts up and goes away.
We're back where we started: 15M didn't succeed because it tried to fight State with State. It's counterintuitive, but you can't vote politicians out voting some other politician in. Different dog, same collar. And if you become a politician yourself (and follow the system's rules in the process), you're fighting the State with State (which IMHO is pointless).
Also: you focus on politician's blame which I think is not the problem. I think it's not the person to be blamed, but the State. The institution itself.
Sure, the State generally won't fight against itself, but I think that he makes a good point though about not just completely giving up. I mean I have given up on politics like a lot of people, but when I was reading that article it made me think that if enough people tried, we _could_ make some improvements and help at least ease the adoption of technologies that solve structural/political problems.
There are a lot of people, especially in the US, that are really looking toward social democracy (socialism) as the light at the end of the tunnel. I think that its unfortunate that there isn't a better perspective for these people on the realities of social democracies in Europe or of the historical context of socialism. However, with such extreme inequality, its hard not to lean in that direction in one's thinking.
I actually think the key problems are over-centralization, which occurs both in capitalistic societies and socialist societies to a high degree, as well as a lack of social and physical science being incorporated into decision making. The communist/socialist ideal especially overcentralizes although it does a better job of incorporating hard science into decision making. In that case the main problem is lack of distribution of decision-making and diversity of solutions which stifles evolution of the system.
The capitalistic ideal especially lacks the input of hard social and physical sciences although it does provide a diverse set of solutions, at least until monopoly takes over. We need to measure human and ecological well-being and incorporate different scientifically motivated attempts to improve those holistic measurements into our various enterprises.
Technology is going to be incredibly powerful in moving away from centralization which should directly impact human well-being and inequality.
I'm pretty happy with the credit union I have in the US - that seems to be a pretty good solution to me. It's beholden to its members, not to local politicians.
Most banks are already community owned by virtue of being largely owned by institutional investors, ie. pension funds.
The benefits of being community owned implies that the "community" takes an active part in the management of their bank. In Denmark, community owned just meant that banks gave benefits to customers that put their savings into the bank's shares, they did not generally take part in exercising diligence as owners, and the few that did, struggled to get heard while the going was good. For me, my bank is a simple service provider. To the extent I'm going to be a part owner of one, I'll delegate the responsibility to people who know better than me what they're doing, ie. my pension fund.
Just because social democracy has its own set of problems doesn't discredit the view that it's demonstrably better than American neoliberalism.
Spain is organized as a top-down centralist state where the central government lends power to the Comunidades Autónomas (Autonomous Communities). These are somewhat like USA's states but the other way around (the state is divided into Communities instead of Communities uniting as a federal state).
The central state lending power to communities is because of political instabilities during the transition out of Franco's dictatorship with peripheral territories (Catalonia, Basque Country, Galicia...)
To put things in perspective, I like to think of Spain as a social democracy. Our right-wing (Partido Popular, People's Party) would be considered left-wing in the USA (regarding economy, though it's very conservative in the social sense).
Communities regulate Cajas de Ahorros (literally: Savings Boxes, I guess Savings Banks is more appropriate), which are like banks but non-profit (although still businesses), and must spend part of their profits in social purposes in exchange for taxing benefits. Each community's government controls these cajas and elect their executives.
I'm sure you can see where this is going.
Of course these cajas were used for political purposes in both left and right-wing communities, with BIG loans to the communities government to build airports (deserted of flights), Formula 1 circuits (which only report losses), etc. The purpose of this was to lure voters into thinking the economy was buoyant. A famous case was Caja Mediterráneo, which (as we knew after the crisis started) had people like a ballet dancer in its board of directors (of course designated by politicians).
Fortunately the real estate was growing in Spain and these cajas could more or less make it to the end of the year... until the real estate bubble exploded. Our cajas' economy relied on it and collapsed like a house of cards. Suddenly lots of loans were being defaulted (especially loans to real estate agencies, construction companies and consumers) and a closer inspection on caja's economy revealed a lot of toxic assets (just like in the US) covering the losses from the loans to the communities.
To clean the toxic assets, cajas were taken over by private banks (in exchange for huge amounts money, which of course the State paid) or forced to merge and nationalized. Out of 45 cajas in 2007 only two were left untouched.
Of course the nationalized cajas had to be cleaned too and the central goverment pulled a (blatantly obvious) trick: a bad bank was created (SAREB) which bought (overpriced) toxic assets from the cajas. This bank assumes losses, while the not-entirely-public cajas continue having profits and distributing dividends. Many cajas managers were "retired" with millionaire severance payments and that's it.
Of course this was all paid with EU's 125$ billion loan which the citizens will have to pay (with interest of course).
> as well as a lack of social and physical science being incorporated into decision making.
I don't know your situation, but Spain's politicians are mainly attornies. Unfortunately politics is thought to be a law problem, not a scientific one.
Of course, throwing laws at bad laws didn't help at all.
> I actually think the key problems are over-centralization, which occurs both in capitalistic societies and socialist societies to a high degree.
I agree a lot with this and the rest of your post :)
Mmm. "Firm believer in taxation" opposes crypto-currency. Film at 11.
Granted, private banks have the possibility to corrupt politicians to the same effect.
Cajas problems were related but they couldn't make through because they were already ill. The financial crisis was just the final blow.
In case you're unaware of what happened to public banks, check https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6754390
Please, name a single private bank that had to be intervened during the spanish financial crisis.
You can't even trust people with good intentions AND knowledge (why do economists miss their predictions SO much?)
And especially you can't trust people when they're not risking their own money. They're just not going to put the same effort, even subconsciously, because... well, it's not their money.
Some people might know; certainly, some few people have managed to do better than chance at investing, or at macroeconomic policy. However, it is not popular knowledge.
The point is that geeks need to start doing politics collectively. No, we don't need to be in the same parties. No, we don't need to agree on everything. But yes, we do need more software engineers in our parliaments, calling out stupid stuff, and more geeks in there listening and voting against the stupid stuff.
He's not calling for you to all give up your Libertarian views (in my opinion, equally as naive as his Socialist ones). He's calling on you to care about politics enough to organise and stand.
And maybe, one day, win. Maybe.
There is a popular line of thought that goes something like this:
1. Owing to politics ("ethical considerations"), working with human stem cells is, at best, quite difficult.
2. That doesn't apply to nonhumans.
3. If the technology appears, people will start to wonder why rich people can get (hypothetically) anti-aging treatments and limb regeneration for their dogs, but the same processes aren't available to humans.
4. Politics loses, technology wins.
That example is quite specific (and suppositional), but I'd say the principle is sound.
Another example might be the Japanese suppression of guns. Technology won out. (Yes, it took a while. I'm comfortable with that.)
I'm surprised he says this. Effective solutions often come from a side angle, not a frontal attack. Why would a frontal attack in politics work?
For most western democracies, the government operates by a byzantine layer of legal and regulatory mumbo-jumbo operated by a overworked civil service class. This sounds bad, and it is to some degree, but what it means in practice is very important: not every law is enforced.
People do not understand how critical to civility that statement is. Every day people go too fast in their cars, drink and drive, skip out on toll booth fees, spit on sidewalks, pay day laborers under the table, and participate in all sorts of other non-violent, yet technically criminal activity. And the world keeps spinning around. In fact, I'd argue that this rampant lawlessness is a good thing. People can skate by without car insurance for a month or two because they're getting a second job. They can have the roof fixed by cousin Joe who is on disability because they can pay him under the table at much less cost than hiring a contractor. All sorts of really good things get done because there's a lot of wiggle room.
We start automating everything, and suddenly the system of inconsistent and unintelligible laws become some sort of social operating system. One that is tremendously complex, covers every aspect of our lives, and has never been ran before at any level of completeness. That's a nightmare that any technologists should be intimately familiar with.
So nope, you can't beat politics with technology, and in many cases you can't even fix politics with technology. Politics is about relationships between people, fuzzy arrangements, and structures to facilitate that. Technology is about machines, rigid structure, and boolean logic. The two do not go together naturally.
I always thought there should be a one-in-one-out rule. Want new legislation? Cool. Find something to repeal!
We don't want to live in the a world where it is impossible to get away with a 'crime'.
Unless they, to quote a Japanese proverb, stand up. The nail that sticks out gets hammered, and all that.
The result is a brutal, repressive system, that is very precise in its brutality - typically against minorities, troublemakers, or pretty much anyone who ends up on a bureaucrat's hit list. And nobody has a problem with this state of affairs.
"The core of the belief in progress is that human values and goals converge in parallel with our increasing knowledge. The twentieth century shows the contrary. Human beings use the power of scientific knowledge to assert and defend the values and goals they already have. New technologies can be used to alleviate suffering and enhance freedom. They can, and will, also be used to wage war and strengthen tyranny. Science made possible the technologies that powered the industrial revolution. In the twentieth century, these technologies were used to implement state terror and genocide on an unprecedented scale. Ethics and politics do not advance in line with the growth of knowledge — not even in the long run."
"We need a revolution instead of a technology evolution."
I mean, improve the process itself, try to add explicitness, hard data. Not another this-seems-like-a-brilliant-idea-lets-try revolution, followed by oops-maybe-not.
Some time ago, I made a fun sketch of how the feedback process works in politics vs technology: http://radimrehurek.com/2013/10/technology-vs-politics-round...
Unfortunately in politics you are unlikely to get any kind of consensus on what this 'objective function' ought to be. Perhaps this is partly why smaller more homogenous societies like the Nordic countries are often considered to be better governed , it is much easier for them to come to a consensus about what society's goals should be, and therefore it is easier to strive efficiently towards those goals.
If all the people in the Pirate Parties wouldn't have tried for years to get their foot into the proverbial door of power but instead worked on technologies and organizations to solve the problems they see in society, we'd be way, WAY farther along the way.
It's not too hard to realize that changing things politically in any major way benefitting humanity is improbable, if not completely impossible. But apparently trying (pointlessly as well as fruitlessly) to get into power to tell others what to do means being less of an arrogant bastard.
The thing is, in politics you can only make changes the public won't be rioting too much over. And while this is true in the positive sense that they can't just go full oppression at once, they also can't make things much better at once - even if they wanted to (which most of them don't, being corrupt and all that). Big changes scare people.
As for gradual change - You probably know how long politicians usually think. You should be able to extrapolate from there…
All too often 'nerds' like Sunde see their surroundings as being average - they're not. The average citizen is much more okay with what the state does than you'd think.
Summarizing, I can only say I'll pick someone working on an open technology meant to make people more independent any day over any 'politician' who thinks he's moving the world.
However, he forgets that we can use technology to make it much, much easier (and enjoyable) to engage in the process.
Technology (computer technology) is just a tool for making communication more efficient. A lack of communication is what is hurting our political process right now. Come up with an engaging tool that makes the process easier and more enjoyable for a large audience, things will change.
Sunde nibbles at the solution when he advocates a fundamental declaration for digital rights. But he fails to mention that fundamental rights emerge from the ashes of the "old order" and require years (or decades or centuries) of commitment and pain.
Politics, even when done behind closed doors or in the woods requires real people to commit real acts. Technocrats alter reality in ways, which to most people, which are equivalent to black magic inside an incomprehensible device connected to an incomprehensible network of related devices...
While I don't agree that you can't beat politics with technology, I do agree with what Sunde is saying, in the context he is putting it.
"'We are centralising everything on the internet,' Sunde says, pointing out that Facebook is the dominant social network, Twitter is the dominant microblogging site, Skype is the videophone chat service of choice. 'All of them are based on central servers owned by an American company, which is giving me a really bad vibe when you consider the revelations about the NSA,' he adds. 'It would be impossible to have as much surveillance if we didn't all use these centralised services.'"
Tell that to the dead souls of the Jewish, Russian/kulak, Native American, Cambodian, Central American and hundreds of other communities that were beneficiaries of these State-centered political systems that Sunde supports.
Trusting politicians and political systems is unhealthy. Healthy behavior is antithetical to politics.
Internal corporate politics are also something that people try to bandage with technology - and it seldom works there either.