What can we learn from the Internet?

Internet pioneer Danny Hills has a TED talk about the early days of the Internet. On that talk we see that the Internet, on its early days, was essentially an obscure network based on trust.

Today, the Internet is much bigger, and much more important. Despite its massive importance, governments and corporations are constantly on the lookout for opportunities to mess with it, reducing its usefulness for their own profit and power gain. They get away with this because it is technically feasible to do so, and it is in the reach of their power.

The technical reasons behind this vulnerability are not particularly interesting for this post. The interesting part are the responses the Internet community is deploying to this perceived threat of control. These responses seem to fall into the following three categories:

The first kind of response is to fight in the political space to keep the Internet open. This essentially means that, as members of our societies, we get together and complain to those in power and to each other until they change their minds. This has stopped the progress of bad laws such as “SOPA” and “PIPA” in the U.S. We will call this approach “begging.”

The second kind of response is to start designing an alternative to the Internet that would not be controllable. Designing theoretical alternatives, or prototyping these designs, is not really too difficult. The harder part is seeing how these alternatives would grow beyond isolated localities adopting them and into a global mesh that would, eventually, be easily accessible by anyone, like the current Internet. We will call this approach “forking.” Not really “forking,” as these networks would probably end up talking to each other, but it has to be conceived as to stand on its own, as if it were a fork.

The third kind of response is to build a network that’s better than the Internet in some sense, but on “top” of the Internet, that is, an application using the Internet, as opposed to beside it, as a “physical network” like the Internet. That’s what the “peer-to-peer networks” do. They are not “networks” in the same sense that the Internet is a “network.” In academia, you would say that these peer-to-peer systems, such as BitTorrent, FreeNet, Napster, Bitcoin or GNUNet, are “logical networks” or “overlay networks.” They are networks “overlaid” (built on top of) an existing “physical” network such as the Internet. We will call this approach the “overlay” approach (sounds simpler than “if you can’t beat them, add a layer on top of them that makes it do what you want.”)

So, in the case of transforming the system known as the Internet, what is the correct approach? The answer is, of course, all of them. When a system is as important as the Internet, then it is not a matter of “which is the right way,” but which is the right way for you. All of them are valid, and we’re going with whatever works.

I have a hunch that these paths can be translated to the paths we have available to transforming “The Economy” into a “Resource-Based Economy” or “Love Economy” or “Gift Economy” or whatever it is that we would call it. That problem is, similarly, very important and worthy of all kinds of response we can come up with.

We have many people enacting the first response, of “begging” the current governments and corporations to do things differently.

The second response, of “forking” the current systems, is similarly receiving lots of attention. Simple and small-scale designs, such as designs for specific villages or communities, have been working for decades. Some communities even cut economic ties with the rest of the human world, essentially creating a private “world” where they can claim to exercise a “world-wide” and pure resource-based economy — but you still have to at least negotiate land ownership with some existing country, last time I checked. Larger-scale designs, on the other hand, if not deployed, at least are the focus of much discussion and study.

The third path, I think, is where we would start making some interesting progress.

Consider the following: given any criteria for allocation of the existing money tokens in circulation, which one of the following two entities would be more likely to be capable of capturing more of it?

The first entity is a group of people who each live on their own apartment, and drives each day, on their own car, to the same job site where they work. When these people meet, they pay each other for things, and every transaction is taxed by the local government.

The second entity is the same group of people, but now using a gift economy of some sort between them. They not only share things, being more physically efficient, but they also avoid having their internal economy be implemented using taxed government tokens. Whatever government money they hold in total, it disappears slower from each individual’s bank account simply because they are not taxed for circulating it internally.

Yes, money is a fiction, a convention. But so is any economic game. Even if you have a global network of computer processes monitoring all world’s resources, the representation of these resources is still a model, still a game, still a fiction. An error in modelling of the world’s resources would produce sub-optimal allocation, much like the current government money systems produce sub-optimal allocation. A much better model is still a model.

What this means is, instead of abolishing the fiction of money, why not just satisfy it? Get together with some people, and agree to collectively play the game better than those who won’t build their own gift economies and who will live physically inefficiently. Then just watch the cash pile grow. The government will have no rule it can design to not reward the people who actually want to build something different. And the more “money” you have… well, let’s just say that, in the current system, having money is not exactly a bad thing. Want to build Jacque Fresco’s futuristic town? Amassing a few hundred billion dollars couldn’t hurt. It is all fiction anyway. Gather the fiction, then give it to people who still want it. These people will give you access to the land you need to build a town, as well as deliver all the resources, material and mental, that you need to build it for the first time. Since it is a sustainable town, once it is built, you have one place that doesn’t need money.

The “overlay” path is not without its own difficult challenges, however. When you design an overlay, be it for the Internet or for the human environment sharing problem, you have to keep two worlds in your head instead of one, and constantly remember which kind of thinking goes where. If you are not careful while designing your peer-to-peer system, you may end up recreating its supporting layer without intending to. Having money may cause us to exclusively “buy” our way into simply surviving on the fruits of the global unsustainable production machine, instead of taking whatever first step, even if small and feeble, towards freeing ourselves from depending on these unsustainable (destructive and violent, really) systems. I can “have” a million “dollars,” but that shouldn’t stop me from personally spending part of my day trying to grow some tomatoes.

Final note. Becoming a billionaire solving practical problems and then donating it to charities that also solve practical problems, or funding start-ups that want to “innovate,” is not what I’m talking about here. That’s simply trying to do good within the current economic and financial system, and validating and reinforcing it in the short term. This would be simply using the existing network as it is presented, not using it in a way that makes it emulate what a competing network would be. It is certainly possible that this alone — a “correct” application of business as usual — may bring about sufficient “real” transformation that problems disappear on their own through sheer business, technological and scientific ingenuity. That is, the beautiful communities based on trust and gifting that we envision are actually just around the corner — if only we would let the great Capitalist dance finish its performance on this planet, then we would see how wonderful things could and will be. Then again, it is also possible that trying to grow a new system as a mere “product” of the diligent application of the current system will continue to not work.

Original Post : thinking.nfshost.com/wiki/index.php?n=Main.OnResourceBasedEconomies

20 thoughts on “What can we learn from the Internet?

  1. Imo
    1- We can learn from distributed networks, P2P and Open Source development and so on

    2- We do not need to reinvent the wheel with a new internet at this time, what we need from a purely technical perspective are (open source) software applications that facilitate coordination in a community where as much voluntary work is being done, and *organize* hybrid communities (Hybrid as in: both real life on the ground members in a location(s) AND remote cyber members, as well as, money using in some fashion for some expenses AND organized voluntary work with free products and services).

    3- We need to work with money initially(but think about how we do it), and pay taxes, (because RBE enthusiast X or Y cannot perform the surgery someone might need with all the staff, antithesis and equipment)

    4- We need to increase the production capability of RBE-friendly organizations (and decentralize local production) and gradually reduce the potion of products and services for which we depend on For-Profit organizations and hierarchies.

    (If I had a bit more free time, I would like to collaborate on designing the blue prints of how such a community could be organized and could operate.)

    1. I also think that being a part of a small town/municipality that is inhabited and managed by an RBE-inspired community would be a great asset, it would enable us to rethink and organize municipal library(lending other items beyond books), community center, schools(participatory, technical-skills), daycare centers, and police/firefighter station(with citizen participation and coordination[cell phones, etc], basic training for citisens and complimentary training for the intervention specialists [which in other community would be called police or firefighter]) as well as managing other community assets, differently. Such a municipality could have volunteers working at the local library and provide free lending of books and other objects/tools for free, have gardens hydroponic greenhouses[including rooftop green houses]/edible landscape to provide an amount of free fruits,vegetable,cooking herbs, some which could be just for the picking while others could be small baskets you pickup as you would pickup a book at the library. The potential to participate in an dynamic and engaging community would be very interesting.

  2. Of course I can see the wider parallels in society at large- it is not just about computer networks. You have to organise on top of the current system- which requires money and laws. (Personally I believe you should not ignore the law on principle except in the most exceptional of circumstances (and that is only if the will of god conflicts with the law of the land), though you can fight to change bad ones.)

    But it also shows up another fundamental principle: that of scalability. We can clearly see societies based on mutual trust and sharing work best at the small, local level where people know and care about each other, and relying on the group is a big deal: that of the family, household, tribe, village, whatever, but perhaps less so on the level of a large country, continent or globe. Likewise with the internet- it was not hard for it to operate in such a way when it was a small network with a small number of users and a commonly-understood system of “nettiquette”, and (as the TVTropes article on “Eternal September”, i.e. when the internet became flooded with many new users from the mid-90s onwards, put it) “trolls could literally be shamed off the ‘net”. Now, security threats and cyber-crime are big business. The internet is open to all sorts of unsavoury types and, though many may not like it, interests like copyright owners are threatened in a big enough way to take notice and start lobbying for laws like SOPA. In a small group, betraying community values is a big deal, and ostracisation hurts. In a larger setting, you can effectively disappear or be ignored and still carry on without consequence. So, you need some sort of system of enforceable rules and quite possibly people to enforce them. So, I think any world wide gift economy, RBE, whatever, would have to be run on a very local and essentially autonomous, but not entirely independent level.

    1. This is where it gets interesting, and in the wilder flights of my imagination, I can risk a description of an alternative to what you describe.

      Harald Sando, the author of this blog, has a video trailer of a movie he didn’t make. It touches on the “we have futuristic clothes that are free for taking and they make coffee in their pockets” kind of future thing, but it has a moment which is beautiful, which is the part where the girl mentions to the guy from the 20th century who was just revived in the future, that the world has become “a large family.”

      Can you imagine “security threats” or “cyber crime” between father and son? What about “money laundering”? “Treason”?

      And yet, there are instances where a father will murder a son and vice versa, but these are not common. Much more common is such “crimes” between people who think the other person is an “Other.” That’s not what happens in a “family,” typically, because there’s a deep psychological shift that happens with “familiality” or whatever that is. There’s a kind of union, oneness, with those of your family that averts much of fear and the problems that two fearful people can cause to each other and to all those around them (the nuclear arms race between superpowers is a consequence of this “Me vs. Other” escalating fears relationship affecting negatively both parties and everyone else).

      To say the world “becomes a huge family” means that the level of fear has subsided to fantastically low levels. Perhaps this opens us up to this or that “crime” happening because now we fear each other less and we become “dumb” and vulnerable. But do a quick pseudo-math exercise: in such a “world as one family” , what would be the ratio of deaths or crimes between “family members” that happened because each person now trusts each other person so unconditionally that now it is easy to exploit them, to the number of deaths or crimes that are a consequence of a divided world. Just for fun, start wit the the death count of wars today (just the bullet deaths, not sanction deaths, hunger deaths etc.), that happens in one year, and think how many years it would take of “family crimes” all around the globe to cover that.

      And to make the world that “network” of “peers” that speak a new protocol …. how do you build and deploy *that* network? Do you make it an “education” thing, that needs “funding” and all those institutions… or you try to make it something that anyone can “install” in their own home, their own community, their own mind?

      1. I imagine it would have to be the latter, but pretty specific. Probably only an individual can sort out his or her own issues of trust with other people, fundamentally. I suspect it is a wider social problem, but some things can’t be done from the top down. Else we get mistrust in government, conspiracy theories, and the like.

        Whether or not the entire world can “become a huge family” remains to be seen. I know the likes of Jacques Fresco and co. like to believe in the near-infinite malleability of human nature, but we still retain certain built-in survival instincts that are probably difficult to overcome. Perhaps a reluctance to trust certain people, especially those not of our “in-group” are part of those instincts. I would imagine a certain amount of it *is* learned- hence how it is easier to trust some than others, or if there is social pressure not to trust a certain group (like with some ethnic or religious minorities or certain social classes, age groups etc.) you automatically become wary of them. But all in all it would be easier to trust someone you have built a relationship with, than a complete stranger. A world is populated with, as it stands, billions of people you have only slight chance of ever meeting, in the flesh or online. If it;s a network, you know the individual nodes you are connected to, but simply because they are connected indirectly to all the other nodes doesn’t make them seem less distant.

        But nevertheless communication and getting to know people, or people not necessarily part of your “in-group” might help in this aim. Something like the internet or other mass communication where you are likely to meet random people will certainly be of help.

        The only other issue is there’s always the very small minority of people you know you really cannot trust. How do you deal with them? How do you know that a person you have never met is one such person?

        1. But my point is that no communication or “knowing” the other is really necessary as far as avoiding the main bulk of fear is of our concern.

          If you need that to avoid a society that has, literally, shelves of thick tomes attempting to describe all the fuzzy and exploitable rules we create as a result of our fear of one another, then we’re screwed. You’re turning it into a knowledge and assessment problem. So every human that’s born is born with this huge liability which is his need to learn about a lot of people as fast as they can, otherwise if the majority aren’t able to close this gap, you get “war,” either with guns, or with a police/legal/corporate state where everybody fears and competes with everybody else by default (even if they all smile to each other while they quickly assess each other’s weak points that they will attack if they need to — hey, it’s “business”!). This makes no sense.

          What I’m saying is, human relationships, where we know “names” of people and other things, have nothing to do with it. I’m not concerned with how we relate with people we get to know. I’m concerned with how we deal with people we don’t know, which is the majority.

          It is trivial to design a “secure” system if you can trust all the nodes in it. That’s not our problem. Our problem is building a default-to-love P2P network out of nodes that we don’t know. Default-to-fear systems are easy to achieve, and that’s most of what we have to show for the human societies we built.

          And both primitive societies (that I know of) and our modern societies (that I know of) fail at this test. The point is: how do you end war, forever, by changing your (as in, I change mine, you change yours, if you like the societal game that’s proposed) mind in a very simple way, with a very simple idea that you can test, then adopt it, then get accustomed to and really feel that you are free, that your life has become so much better that you are not going back to thinking in the old ways?

          Maybe I’m crazy, but I believe an utterly peaceful and infinitely scalable society is possible with zero “laws” “judges” “lawyers” and “jails.”

  3. The first thing I’d like to ask is the nitty-gritty technical question of how you’d build a parallel internet. Obviously it would require too much effort to build your own completely independent physical infrastructure if it was a wired network; it would be easier to ‘piggy-back’ the existing system using leased lines or packet-switched virtual circuits, or perhaps you could use something like “packet radio” over amateur radio bands. Or, if you don’t mind a slow and limited connection, old-fashioned dial-up. These sorts of technologies are perhaps possible for organisations building their own private WAN intranet. If you want to use the virtual infrastructure of the internet, you’d need some sort of tunelling protocol or peer-to-peer type setup. I’m sort of reminded of anonymity networks like TOR here, but you have to remember that at present these are magnets for the criminally-minded: drug dealers, hired killers, child pornographers and other unsavoury types. (Of course some people will think that drugs need not be illegalised and ignore such laws on principle, but few who would condone murder and child abuse.)

    It is perhaps this last part that bothers me most about an unregulated network- how does a network based purely on trust stop the network from being overrun by such things? You have to have some sort of measures for preventing this sort of thing, unless you want the less savoury side of anarchy. I think this is why we have some sort of laws and other rules- because there is always the tiny minority you will never be able to trust. It need not have some

    I also disagree with the idea that money is a pure fiction- as in this present world, there are still people who will require it from you in order to provide goods and services, such as whatever you are operating your parallel internet over or whatever new city you choose to build. And governments will try to require it of you in tax one way or another. It is an abstract concept which only has any reality because humanity gives it credence, not any sort of physical quantity, but whilst there are people who you need to get on with who need it, it is still very much a part of reality, in some way. I guess the trick must be to need it as little as possible.

    1. To understand what “to build a parallel Internet” would take, look at how the Internet was “built.” When you say “how would YOU build a parallel Internet,” the first thing to notice is that *I* couldn’t build the ACTUAL Internet either. Actually, for any “you” you point to, that “you” would not be able to “build an Internet,” or a skyscraper, or a house, or a pencil.

      The point is, the effort to *design* a new Internet can be done by a bunch of people. Danny Hills, on the linked video, points to the audience and says: “the people in this room could do it — build a parallel Internet.” What does he mean? What he means is you can get some tens of brains and if they work for a couple years they will have the design of not one but several such “Internets.”

      The hard part is the deployment, and that has to be designed as well. A designed and deployed physical alternative to the Internet is only worthwhile, in the context of the discussion we’re having, if that deployment does not depend on the institutions we know, and much less on “citizens” of the current institutions, but on *people*. Real concrete people, inhabitants of a new concept of world.

      These people, which can *play* the part of “citizens” of the old structures, as well as inhabitants of the new world, whatever it turns out to be, have to each assemble a tiny part of the new Internet. They put it up using their own resources. And then whatever it is that they put up links to the other things that others put up, and then it works. It is like the deployment of a peer-to-peer overlay network: each person puts up a piece, a “node” or some-such, and then the pieces automatically find each other and form a mesh.

      Anyway, that’s my idea of a “parallel Internet” is, or, at least, a parallel connectivity network that is fundamentally “democratic.” It is literally _by_ the people, because it requires each person to act as the holder of one of its tiny parts. And hopefully it is for people in general, not for “tax payers,” “employees,” or “citizens” of “countries.”

      Having this as basis, then yes, there are thousands of alternatives and components that you could use. Each with their pros and cons. A group of dedicated researchers could come up with a workable design for each kind of region or each kind of political violence monopoly that rules each specific part of the globe today (i.e. each state-corporate complex or “country”).

      And this is analogous to building a new global economic system: if you go the “overlay” route, you design something that each person can easily “deploy” on their own, using “materials” that are really available to them: time, cultural constraints, etc. You give them a technology that teaches them to find other people, then form an Ecovillage, take back their “economic” ties in such a way that they can gradually stop feeding the existing war-obsessed institutions, etc.

      Actually, the overlay approach just means “Transition.” As in transition towns, transitional societies, etc. We already have a term for that; I just polluted the discussion 🙂

      As for cheaters, free-riders, poisoners, spammers, identity theft, DDoS, etc. there’s plenty of research (some actually good) on how to address that on peer-to-peer systems. That’s actually my speciality and that’s what I have been working on for years. It’s a difficult problem, but a tractable one. The key is on choosing what the trade-offs are. The Internet isn’t perfect. The fact it is vulnerable to DDoS attacks was one trade-off. The administrative centralization of the IP addressing scheme was another.

      Money is “fiction” in the sense that you get together with your friends to play Dungeons and Dragons, that’s “fiction” even if you momentarily depend on it to get your (real, concrete) emotional kick of competition and sociality. Similarly, just because money is a game you play that allows you to get your (real, concrete) physical kick of not starving to death, nonetheless it is “fiction” in the sense that it requires an active player base. “Money” is a D&D-esque “economic” game we play from birth to death. Since we don’t remember how we started playing, we think it’s real. But you can actually step out of it — and not get your “kick,” but still, you can get out of it with your mind, and that means it is a game, which means, it is fiction.

      1. Firstly, I wouldn’t take too much stock from my use of the word “you”- of course I wasn’t suggesting one person could design or deploy an alternative to the internet! I was meaning a very generic “you”.

        I just saw the video now, actually, and it brings up an interesting point that seems to be overlooked- it almost seems like the internet is actually based on trust a little too much, it seems, and that perhaps is what makes it vulnerable to attack. Firstly, it would be interesting to know some concrete ideas of how an alternative infrastructure would get around those problems. I can see how peer-to-peer connections might solve some of those problems, but how do you do it in a packet-switched network? (I’m sort of imagining something like the old-style phone system in a way- you set up a direct link between two nodes, which isn’t permanent but whilst it exists is a definite connection (I know IP or some parts of the TCP/IP stack are connectionless) and isn’t by or through every possible other node. It’s reliable, and the two ends can trust each other (hopefully) if we want to use our analogy.

        To change direction a little there are several levels of trust here. There is the technical level, which is that the physical infrastructure, the routers, lines and software protocols are up to the job, the system’s own ability to trust itself (that is, say, that the system acts as if it isn’t being fooled, such as by a potential hacker, or it doesn’t act in such a way as to know what every part of the system is doing but somehow “it works”) and the human level, that is, the ability (or not) to trust each other. No matter how well you design the system, it’s still one used by humans who have to be able to work together, trusting each other, or have mechanisms (laws, codes of conduct, other rules, and consequences for breaking them) to ensure they don’t. Having a backup system which is redundant or apart from the present problems of the other doesn’t make it not open to abuse, or whatever other issues may arise.

        You mention money as being like a game. I suppose the analogy has its merits but in some ways it’s less like D&D between friends as being made to play sports in PE at school. You can be as disinterested as you like and take your eye off the ball, but still you’re pushed into it or else. Own a piece of land, and the government will probably tax it. Don’t own one and you’ll probably have to rent (or find someone else to give you generosity who does use money) unless you want to be a tramp, live in the wilderness and forage (just don’t get caught poaching on someone else’s land by mistake). If everyone avoids using money en masse, the government will think of some new way of raising taxes. Don’t pay your tax, and they’ll send the tax inspectors round, then the court summons or the police. You’ll end up in prison. If it’s a game then, like all social constructs, it requires everyone to stop playing and/or not expect people to be players “or else”. The same goes for laws, states and international bodies like the UN, WTO etc.

        1. My particular choice for “alternative Internet” architecture would be something like the following. I have a wireless node in my house, and you have one next door, and they form a “peer” link, not unlike the peer link your Gnutella has with my Gnutella. You can do this with wi-fi or very similar technology — give it a wi-fi-esque range. Have one of these in each home in a community, and now suddenly your community is a fully connected mesh. Then, instead of a topology/routing authority (the IP addressing scheme) have node addresses be public keys, and have routing happen as it would in some variant of peer-to-peer overlay network, but adapted to a physical network, as in, the peer links aren’t mutable. Then do all packet routing you want, because that’s what a network with individual links and routing decisions happening at each node does. For the long haul, you can use whatever else. Actually, new link technologies can be added as they are discovered, and links can change as frequently as every peer wants them to. Take that, solve all the remaining programming/distributed-system-design problems, and then build and distribute the basic nodes somehow.

          The human level must be an “Anonymous” thing. That is, I wake up one morning, I put my metaphorical Guy Fawkes mask on and I decide to be part of it, so I get the hardware, plug it on the wall, and that’s it. No “alternative internet engineering committee” or such stuff. Like Bitcoin: either the protocol is designed right from the start, or it never will be right. If that’s done, then the network just grows, and the growth is done by people, by individuals. Not by institutions. Coincidentally, I believe the “love society” is made primarily of individuals, not of families, groups, clubs or institutions. To act on my perception as an individual directly has to be the basis of everything else. If I’m a prisoner of external approval or moderation, then the individual is gagged, and the voice of reason is always from an individual, never from any sort of processed voice, by some sort of “group” process.

          And finally, I, personally, would never activate “laws” to protect the system, even if these laws existed. I would not jail, not even harass or peer-pressure, people for “breaking into” my node and erasing my data or spamming the network. If I can’t design the system in such a way that it is protected from these things by design, I would simply not care. To me that’s the primary concern: achieving a violence-less, fear-less society. If I act violent and fearful towards enabling the system that would help such a society to exist…. I already lost the game before it even started. This is not unlike the “communism” problem: hey, let’s have a communal society free of greed…. all we have to do is jail or kill all the dissidents! Yay I’m not a capitalist!

          Jacque Fresco said that humans create laws because they don’t know how to solve problems. Let me obsolete his remark and make a bolder statement: humans create laws because they’re afraid of losing something. If you’re not afraid of losing something, you’re free of it. Knowing how to solve a practical problem is cheating — you’re making people unaware of what they would otherwise fear to lose. What we have to do is achieve a society of no fear and no violence _without_ knowing how to solve practical problems _first_ and, out of that lack of fear and violence we discover how to solve all the “problems” we need to solve. But of course, what we do as we try to achieve a state of no fear? We work on stuff; that’s what we always do.

          Your “physical education class” sports analogy is perfect. But since that touches on another topic that I’m interested into (schooling), let me offer the uncompromising individual’s response to the “or else” clause of PE class: “NO.” If you don’t want to do it, then don’t do it. The problem is that you’re afraid of losing approval and favour from others in some form or another. But that doesn’t change the fact — for me, for my reference of what’s true — that mandatory PE is an unacceptable form of violence, as is any form of mandatory or forced schooling. Maybe that’s not like standing in front of a tank in Tianmen Square, but maybe someone has to make a stand someday and stop something that’s wrong for them. And the individual is the ultimate authority, it knows what is best for them.

          Similarly with money. You can make a choice. There’s always several choices available. And the ones that matter are about changing our perceptions, changing our attitudes…. these are the ones that hurt, the ones where we can’t blame anybody else — not even our past selves.

          1. Your idea for network design is quite interesting- especially the use of public-key cryptography as an alternative to the addressing scheme, because it ensures only the sender and receiver of a given message can understand/open it. That way it can be completely open-ended and it doesn’t rely so much on some sort of centralised addressing scheme, or at least, no one node needs to know anything about the other. You’d probably have to build in some sort of system to prevent routing loops, broadcast storms and the like- and it’s probably going to not be terribly efficient without some sort of addressing scheme so all nodes know where it’s going. Imagine by analogy you had a message in a box. Only the intended recipient has the key to open that box. But the only way I have of sending it is by passing it to one of my neighbours who passes it to his neighbour who passes it to one of his neighbours and so on. No-one knows who’s supposed to open the box, and they have to try their key in the lock to see if it’s for them. It would be much quicker if I simply addressed the box to so-and-so and gave it to the post office, who will know where to deliver it. The other thing is using wi-fi, which has a limited signal range. Fine for small communities, bad for more spread-out ones. Unlicensed WiMAX or Packet Radio might be an alternative, but even then that’s limited to so many kilometers (unless you use a shortwave band which probably has very limited bandwidth).

            As to individualism- I’m really not sure that’s how society works, or can. I believe in the family as the basic unit of society- that doesn’t have to be limited to blood relations but it’s natural to include that. People have a tendency to form groups of people they are close to, people they love, and trust, more so than they might another, and work in common with them. In a way, people will be motivated in terms of those relationships. Moreover, it’s an essentially “me-centred” approach- you do things only to the extent *you* want to, not because you ought to for the good of others or what is essentially right. This is bound to lead to conflict sooner or later- what if I think one way and you think another?

            As to use of force- well what do you do with those people who won’t act out of love, or the people who you just can’t trust? Have no law against murder and what happens when someone murders, presumably in a fit of rage if there are no other motives possible? It’s all well and good to have some sort of implicitly understood notion of doing what is right, and basing your society on that, for the small things (like good manners)- the things that don’t matter that much. But on a bigger level then what? Fine to have no mandatory schooling, but what if people don’t want to learn the things they need to learn? Fine to have no taxes, but what if no-one wants to contribute to things like roads, the general welfare etc.? You merely assume they will. But perhaps all that is beside the point. Stand up to authority, or the system, and it will probably overwhelm you. Either way, I think one has to play the game as long as most people are still playing it, even if you do try and stay away from the ball when you can, as it were.

            I agree perhaps the best way to start a revolution (of societal change) is from the bottom-up,, i.e. not by imposing it by force from the top down like the old style revolutionaries. Ad yes, I dare say it is better to solve problems than simply force them into submission. But it’s fine not to care if someone breaks your system- until it’s happened.

            1. The extra costs of routing, whatever they may be, have to be fixed — they would not grow with the network, and they would not grow as link and computing technology evolves. Also, I’m satisfied if we can give every person the equivalent of telephone-modem bandwidth and latencies of minutes or even hours to reach around the globe — just having the administrative/political independence, the reachability and the resistance to attacks to the network itself, would be fantastic achievements, IMO. If to get that quality of service we have to use the same basic link and computing technology we have today that can give us fiber optics speed, I’m happy because what we bought in the process — administrative independence, decentralization — is worth so much more than being able to broadcast cat videos at will.

              About medium-range links, they raise to me an opportunity to again think differently.

              The dichotomy between “large evil polluting civilization that can give me a latency of 50ms to play first person shooter massive multiplayer games halfway across the globe” and “small localized tribe-like hippy community and economy that can produce at most pottery and arrange ad-hoc networks with whatever leftover electronics they can salvage from civilization” is false. And I’m preaching to the choir here (Venus Project and all), but scale and technology have nothing to do with whether the humans on this planet manage to build sustainable societies or not.

              With that in mind: the basis of a free society is a free individual. That free individual forms free small groups, tribes, communities, villages, call it what you will. These places can arrange their own internal free network, free economy, etc. A collection of these places forms what we see today as a city. And a city made of free communities made from free individuals is a free city.

              The city is the basic administrative unit, the “person” that owns long-haul links in a decentralized human/social world. Think about it: if you open Google Earth, what do you see? Concentrated patches of people, separated by land with little or no people in it.

              So, the point is, just because the basis of our network, the bulk of it, is “grassroots,” whatever that means, still, at some point, at a higher level of organization — one that makes physical sense, like “city” — you will solve higher-level problems. It is not individuals or 20-family communities that are going to solve long-haul links (though they might, but let’s simplify). It’s not like a city has 1,000 such communities, and one of these communities is socially burdened with erecting a long-haul link to another small community that _happens_ to be in another city, which itself has another 1,000 such communities. Instead, it is the _free city_ itself, as a whole, using a process where the people, through their communities acting as _citizens_ (all peer members of the “city,” hence citizens) that erects a long-haul link to another such city, creating a peer-to-peer link between such cities, and there you have it — a technical problem telling us what the world of the future looks like. Peers at every level. Peer individuals make a community. Communities solve community problems. Peer communities make cities. Cities solve city problems. Peer cities make countries (due to language, etc. whatever). Countries solve country problems. And peer countries make a world where countries do not have to go to war with each other, do not have to fight for supremacy, dominance, to being the world’s “superpower,” or the boss country. And the world as a whole solves world-wide problems, such as space exploration, etc.

              So, let’s say that at first our packet communications network only works in a city, is only barely sustainable in a city environment. So what? If cities are sustainable — economically (resources), culturally, politically — then they can manage to survive, to contain happy citizens even if it cannot yet import information or physical resources from other places! Then, with time, these links between cities will develop.

              A living “peer” network, human or otherwise, grows one level at a time. It starts with individuals, in a shift of thinking. Then it grows to a community, then to cities, and then to regions, continents, and then to the world. One level at a time. If at every level there’s enough sustainability, if we find it is working, then we aim for the next level of scale.

              I think putting the individual as the basic unity of society, being “society” a form of organization, a thing we invented, is useful, but if we remember that we can’t burden individuals to solve problems that families, tribes, communities or the like are better suited to solve. The main problem an individual solves is not material, but mental. The main responsibility of an individual is making choices, thinking and talking. Most “action,” or physical transformation, yes, does not happen at the individual level. Individuals can make pots and stuff, but building a house alone is damn hard. Why not simplify and just organize (compose “organs”), right?

              Conflict and violence tricky subjects. This is part of that responsibility that individuals have. These questions have to be sorted out by each person alone, first and foremost, I think (perhaps I’m dead wrong here). I think our societies should stick to collectively playing LEGO with matter and not attempt to answer these questions directly and in a collective way (like, in textbooks, holy books, etc. Youtube is fine because it is individualistic: if you want to watch a Jiddu Krishnamurti video on how we can live absolutely without conflict, that’s your choice), and instead leave it for each person, each family, each community to explore these “inner” questions — which by the way we are _very_ behind the times. We have a lot of technical debt in that area, and I think that’s what causes conflict — the fact that as individuals we spend our lives working on meaningless industrial output and random, empty diversions, instead of trying to penetrate these important “moral” questions.

              But I just don’t know. You say, “But on a bigger level then what?”, and all that paragraph, that questioning, that is just beautiful, and I think that’s the process, and it would be so interesting if instead of two people typing long rambling text responses to each other, you had this discussion in a community, of people who are free to talk to each other about these things, and then that’s happening in another community, and then the communities discuss among themselves, and then things start to sort themselves out … because I’m sure only the “Collective Intelligence” or the “Collective Wisdom” is able to reach to the answers to these (wonderful) questions you’re raising.

              Final thought: once you step out of thinking the “power” way, the way that can even conceive of things like “laws,” or “education” (as in mandatory) or stuff like that. Once you step out of that frame, can you even _see_ other people’s attempts at controlling your experiments of living? What I mean is, can you relate to that at a human level, or have we left that behind? What is the difference between your little life experiment ending because a falling meteor destroys your community, or because a zombie horde invades and destroys your community, or because “the police” or “the army” or “the inspectors” or the whatever use force to close your community? What’s the difference? There’s only a difference if choose to try to understand the reason behind violence. But what if you don’t have to? What if violence reduces people to natural phenomena, what if it makes that act just another natural thing that, oh well, happened? At least it frees us to focus our rationality on what matters, which is the future, and forget the past as a lingering wave of disaster that doesn’t really know what it is doing.

  4. Oh it’s not futile. It’s all part of a process to grow the consciousness. And in my believe it is not isolated. As it grows it drags ppl into it like a silent storm. You and I own more power than you think. Sometimes these discussions can feel like a setback, but ultimatly we get closer to each other.

    Btw, i read that longer comment you posted in the “Living together..” Plz submit this as a seperate article. Its far too good than to serve as the tail end of my 50cent post.

    1. Thanks. But that massive “comment” I wrote makes no sense without Tom’s reply to your article. It belongs there 🙂 …. And you’re right. In my better days I can see the power we have, the power to do good things, even if they seem small to us, sometimes they mean the world to others. And yes, I was one of these people dragged into the silent storm, and it won’t let me back into the “matrix.” Thankfully 🙂

  5. Hi again man,

    When the new system is fully developed and in place, taxes will become irrelevant, as you pointed out. I meant in the process of transition, still under the rule of current goverments… anyway, i agree, that it’s mentally draining to jump between these mind frames and maybe we should avoid doin it too much.

    I agree, that it’s better to concentrate on the loving society we want to create. This is the product we want to sell. Maybe we don’t need to tell anyone how to get there in detail, b/c they might just figure that out themselves to a high degree, when they feel our good motivation and are inspired by it.

    Each one of us has to work on his/her attitude, but we also need shining examples for this change of attitude to inspire even more ppl. And that’s where famous people can play a big role. Plz understand, I’m not interested in those who see themselves elitist by current definition, but those who are open-minded and willing to give up their elite status for this love-based society.

    1. I understand. Thanks for your posts & for your comments. They inspired me to submit my own.

      I was trying to explain some visions of how the future could be to my wife, just now. I could barely find the words. I had the image … some of it, anyway … but the words come out with extreme difficulty. And whatever words you choose, they seldom make sense to others, because they’re all tied to these old patterns, as we also are… so you keep saying: “no, no, no, that’s not it ….” ….. which is like trying to express the new patterns on writing in essays and blog comments and forum posts, which feels even more of a futile effort 🙂

  6. oh, me stupid, i got it now… the money is save from tax-reduction on money-transactions (since there are none inside the community)… well as you said, until they come up with another concept of taxing, like – i could rather imagine – taxing these communities as some kind of legal bodies… but considering, that the government might actually do something useful with taxes, like … dunno, build roads, or other public facilities, that we also continue to use in our public life, that wouldn’t be such an unfair thing. I mean, i think the whole argument is a bit fussy.

    Well life has told me a lesson or two about what to expect from ppl. And sometimes you find a friend in what you thought was an enemy. And we will need the help of strong supporters, famous and rich ppl, like it or not. And again, im pretty sure, that they will come on board… b/c you know sometimes these ppl build themselves an empire, but are driven by a higher cause and willing to commit when the time is right.

    1. Dude, you’re not stupid. We’re not stupid. We’re trying to understand.

      “Taxes” are just a way to get people to replace what they take from the commons. A perma-culture, or a culture of gifting does not need “taxes” because people “pay taxes” by giving more to the commons than they take. If a global network of roads needs to be built, then it will be built. There’s no need to “tax” people. Actually, in a moneyless world you would not be able to “tax” anyone, because they don’t want money, therefore you can’t tax them indirectly that way. You can tie them to chains and whip them, I guess, which were an earlier form of taxation/exploitation/commandeering.

      Sure. Rich people, powerful people, famous people can help with externals, but they can’t help you with your own mental, “personal” work. And the “personal” work that each one of us has to go through cannot be bought or sold, because it is neither a commodity nor transferable. And that inner work is _the_ basis of a new world. A human world _is_ that: it’s the sum of the core of every person alive, played through.

      Watch this extremely timely talk by Charles Eisenstein, The Space Between Stories: new.livestream.com/integralcenter/events/1945847/videos/16291400

      Can you separate the “old world, interface” frame of mind that you used to argue your Taxes and Elite people support argument, the inhabitants of the “old story,” and the frame of mind that gives you glimpses of the new? I find that switching between these frames of mind _hurts like hell_. My emotional and mental systems doesn’t seem built to be able to handle this. But I’m trying. Maybe it is a foolish thing to attempt…. maybe it is healthier to just “jump” on the new story, instead of trying to live two at the same time!

  7. Well of course! We must found and grow a world-wide connected parallel-society, where we share our resources and gift each other with our talents instead of buying/selling them. Toward the current system we have to play the money game as long as necessary, until we grow big enough to develop a fully autonomous gift-economy.

    Sharing resources inside the community would def. save some money, but not necessarily grow the money pile. You brought the no-tax argument. But since you can’t earn money from community members, but only from outside-ppl, where the tax is in place, that doesnt seem valid.

    Instead of becoming greedy and trying to gather lots of money by our own effort, by means that could betray our good intentions, we should rather watch out for those who already own sufficient ressources and convert them. The so-called winners of the current system are not necessarily our enemies. Some of them might just be waiting for the right kind of persuasion to throw their property into this idea.

    1. “We” as a whole planet, yes, we need to grow a world-wide new society of sharing. But you and me, concrete small feeble people, the things that we know how to actuate, have to grow the local communities where each one of us will be in. I don’t have an arm that moves the whole world. I have an arm that moves one tiny chunk of my immediate physical surroundings at a time.

      “Saving money” and “growing the money pile” mean the same thing to me. But yes, it doesn’t mean each Ecovillage eventually holds a hundred billion dollars. Collectively, maybe.

      My “no tax” argument is that if you have X “money”, it was “taxed” before you “got” it. If you “pay” your doctor friend, that “payment” will be “taxed” as his “income.” Then you fix his computer, and he “pays” you, which is also “taxed” again as “income.” If all “transactions” were instead gifts, not “payments,” you would not have been “taxed” (that is, until governments decide to monitor and control human productivity directly with chips in our bodies, instead of just convincing us to voluntarily bind ourselves to their tracking and control tool, that we operate for free thinking it is some kind of good).

      Whether we get “greedy” or not is primarily determined by how well each of us can keep their minds free of greed. This is, primarily, an individual, “inner” challenge. One of the ways of avoiding greed induced by the story of scarcity imbued in money is to simply forfeit money altogether. Yes, that certainly works. Some people have done that, quite successfully. But that means you no longer are “visible” to any other person or source of power that’s still bound to money, for whatever that’s worth.

      As far as people who have money now, they have been mentally selected by the money system as successful operators, as “winners.” I’m not sure how fit to jump into a new mode of thinking would the “rich” class be — a category of minds which perhaps, on average, perceives the current system as the solution, not the problem. But perhaps they are _more_ fit to make the jump, having amassed piles of money and ended up with nothing but toys and empty power. Or perhaps they’re as likely as us poor peasants to watch a Jacque Fresco video and get excited about it. I really don’t know.

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