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Sovereign Individual (Part One) 215

Posted by JonKatz
from the mastering-the-transition-to-the-info-age dept.
First in a series of columns inspired by the The Sovereign Individual: Mastering The Transition To the Information Age, by authors James Dale Davidson and Lord William Rees-Mogg. As the Information Revolution picks up steam and supplants the Industrial Age for good, will it undermine the great civic myths of the 20th century? This book argues that individuals are going to be liberated at the expense of the increasingly fatigued nation-states that have governed for centuries. (Part two upcoming: Virtual Merchant-States).

Predicting the future is risky, especially when it comes to technology, whose history defies anything like a rational approach. But The Sovereign Individual, recently published in paperback by Touchstone, raises profoundly interesting questions about the information age and the future, the kind of questions worth kicking around.

In my work, I read lots of books about technology and the future, but this one captured my imagination in an unusual way. While I don't have the answers that Davidson and Rees-Mogg are looking for, I have the feeling they are asking many of the right questions. So we're plucking several of the most interesting ideas from Sovereign Individual and passing them along.

One of the major themes in The Sovereign Individual is the notion that the revolution unleashed by digital technologies is liberating individuals at the expense of the nation-states that have governed much of humanity for thousands of years.

Though all of human history, there have been three basic stages of economic life: hunting-and-gathering societies; agricultural societies; and industrial societies. Now, sparked by the rise of computing and the growth of the Net and the Web, something entirely new and different may be just over the horizon, something all of us are already a primitive part of, a fourth stage of social organization: information societies.

To Lord Rees-Mogg, a former editor of The Times of London, and Davidson, a venture capitalist, the civic myths of the 20th Century are beginning to erode under the pressure of the ascending information age. The death of Communism is only the latest evidence. Western governments, the authors say, may be more benign but are also tired. They're losing their governing authority, their leaders void of answers and ideas, mouthing platitudes fewer and fewer people believe or listen to. An entirely new reality will emerge in cyberspace, ruled by a cognitive elite based in cities like Frankfurt, London, San Jose, Singapore and Tokyo.

Unlike the Agricultural or Industrial Revolutions, the Information Revolution will not evolve over hundreds of years. Like the technology that created it, it will take hold more rapidly than any other social phase of human life. The Information Revolution, now already well underway will play out within our lifetimes, and it's time to get ready.

"Technical and economic innovations will no longer be confined to small portions of the globe," write the authors. "The transformation will be all but universal. And it will involve a break with the past so profound that it will almost bring to life the magical domain of the gods as imagined by the early agricultural peoples like the ancient Greeks (and SF writers in games like Mage and Shadowrunner). To a greater degree than most would now be willing to concede,it will prove difficult or impossible to preserve many contemporary institutions in the new millenium. When information societies take shape they will be as different from industrial societies as the Greece of Aeschylus was from the world of cave dwellers."

In a world awash in punditry and hype, why take The Sovereign Individual more seriously than any other attempt at futuristic navel gazing? One is these authors record: In previous books, they predicted the stock market crash of the late 80s and the fall of Communism. Their view is also less America-centric than much contemporary writing about technology, incorporating a global and economic perspective that is original and provocative.

Are we the first citizens of a new kind of society? Or simply participants in the ongoing modification of the old one?


Look soon for Part 2: Reviving Laws of the March; Virtual Merchant States that Transcend Nationality

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Sovereign Individual (Part One)

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  • There really should be less emphasis on "individuals" and incoherent rants. I mean, is that what we really need to make the world a better place?

    Wouldn't it be a better option to focus more of our resources on petrification technology? Please do, the hot teen girls of tomorrow will thank you!

    ______

  • by Byteme (6617) on Tuesday September 05, 2000 @05:23AM (#803919) Homepage
    Though all of human history, there have been three basic stages of economic life: hunting-and-gathering societies; agricultural societies; and industrial societies. Now, sparked by the rise of computing and the growth of the Net and the Web, something entirely new and different may be just over the horizon, something all of us are already a primitive part of, a fourth stage of social organization: information societies.

    I mean, couldn't that have been said with the advent of the printing press, the library or television for that matter? Is the Internet just a sequential evolution of how we handle information or is it truly a new 'society'? Are we putting the carriage before the horse here?

  • It is time to seriously start thinking about one's separation from the state. It would be interesting to see citizens claiming their rights for independence and sovereignty. Those who have land will have more advantage over those who live in a city and have almost no land. A one family, or even one man or woman state is coming near you now. You set up your own rules, your own government, your own banking and all of it is made possible due to the Internet.

    Of-course there are about one billion questions to be asked and problems to be solved, but with today's computer speed, it's not too difficult. (Who is going to be running those sewers though?)
  • This book seems to look at the individual vs the state, but the same arguments apply to the individual vs the corporation. Technology liberates employees from dependence on any single company, creating a nation of "free agents".

    Technological skills are portable, the fast pace of technological change favors the flexible (which tend to be individuals, not companies), and technology reaches everywhere, freeing those who would otherwise be tied to the local corporate giant.

    This is, needless to say, a Good Thing.
  • This is exactly the point that alot of us "extremists" have been making about the Napster and DeCSS debates. Not that it isn't a violation of Copyright, but that copyright laws are too outdated, and anything that the current court system tries to churn out will be worthless for the most part. Today's gov'ts are exactly what Katz is saying here... Tired, worn out old men. There isn't much left in them in the way of life, and hopefully, the entire old school paradigm of governments will be shattered soon. I don't know about the state of other countries, but I believe the Second American Revolution is coming. Are you ready?
  • by AbbyNormal (216235) on Tuesday September 05, 2000 @05:29AM (#803923) Homepage
    Paulydavis, Corporations already do rule us. They are what religion was to the medival societies, but spinning their own disinformation to the public in hopes they might make a quick buck. What's really scary is that the government is like the kings and queens of the past, protecting the corps., for the sake of stability. Ignorance==Stability?

  • Does 'Peace, Love Incorporated' have anything to do with this?

    Sorry: couldn't resist.

    --

  • Lord William Rees-Mogg - not only editor of the Times at one point, but IIRC he was one of Britains Moral Guardians at one point; think he oversaw decency in telecommunications... Which, IMHO, puts him in an odd position to be commentating on the internet, which is of course full of donkey pr0n...

    Strong data typing is for those with weak minds.

  • by Dan Hayes (212400) on Tuesday September 05, 2000 @05:32AM (#803926)

    And as the "information" revolution occurs and we move into a new techno-utopia we will be finally able to forget that the real world is not as perfect as it seems to the average geek. We'll drown in so much useless information that we won't have to worry about starving children in Africa any more.

    The increasing amount of information watering holes online which are targetted to a certain type of person has a serious negative consequence which you don't often hear about. They encourage conformity and suppress new ideas. Why? Because when the only people whose opinions you read or hear are those who share the same interests as you and agree with your outlook then you're not being challenged.

    Just look at Slashdot for a great example of this. Plenty of like-minded people and a lack of tolerance for alternative opinions. Indeed, moderation provides a wonderful mechanism to encourage conformity at the price of healthy argument.

    As the trend increases and we enter a true "information" age, it will get to the point where people do have access to all the information they could ever want, but instead they limit themselves to the unchallenging and comfortable. It'll be a million times worse than the television, because it'll be personal.

    In this situation who will be bothered about the have-nots? Because there are a lot of have-nots out there, for a lot of different reasons. These people will become an underclass, and the difference will be serious. Today homeless people find themselves trapped because without an address they cannot get jobs or other things we take for granted - how much worse will it be when people are unable to do anything without an online presence?

  • is where does this leave the Government/ stable society? I have not read the book but am curious about the idea of these "Big Brother" cognitive elite? Methinks maybe these authors have read "Brave New World" one to many times. Then again like "Brave New World" the corporations are spreading disinformation and control to the public so maybe it isn't too far off. Mmmmmmmmmm...Soma.

  • People have the power to change the way in which they are ruled independent of technology.

    I know of at least one political party that honors the role of the individual above that of the state. They have been around since the seventies. They are called the Libertarian party.

    Voters in this country have made the choice of the state over the individual by voting for the same old Republicans and Democrats. If they ever decide they don't like the current state of affairs they can get off their fat asses and hit the voting booth.

    If you want sovereignty, vote Libertarian. Your vote won't require Internet access or even a computer.
  • that is the best analogy of where the corporations fit into modern society that I have heard yet.
  • ... what Clive James used to find so amusing with Lord Smogg?
  • Despite the fact that my current career basically hinges on the advent and future of the Internet, I cannot say that it is this huge paradigm shift Mr. Katz wants to make of it. Certainly, its volume and openness make information widely available but it's not changing the way I get information, fundamentally. I'm still reading, viewing, and listening to content, be it news or advertising or whatever. In that sense, the printing press, radio, or television created a much bigger shift. The internet takes those "information roads" and adds instant access to it. It's just not really "new".

    What will it be then? Necessarily, whatever new dimension we can add to human interaction. My guess will be virtual reality; the internet, however, ought to provide the backbone for VR interactions across distances, which makes the 'Net an important first step.

  • It's true, the world (or the US anyway) may be on the way to another revolution, but who's to say that the old school politicians can't squash it before it happens? They've done quite a job on DeCSS and napster (so far), and there's only more to come. The world is a better and *cheaper* place because the net has smashed economic walls. Prices go down when I can buy the cheapest product in the world, rather than in just one store, state, etc. Borders between states, countries, etc. hold less meaning daily because it's possible to buy from another city, state, or country without even leaving your desk. This only makes the old school have to work harder to stop it, because it's harder for them to make a buck. ...which is what they set out to do in the first place. What can we do? political reform? I don't know, but the world can't just change while geeks sit idly by.
  • by ScuzzMonkey (208981) on Tuesday September 05, 2000 @05:45AM (#803933) Homepage
    It drives me nuts when people come out with these grand predictions based on only one of many concurrent trends in society. Technological growth is not the only factor that will determine whether governments retain their power. Even if it were, the conclusions the authors draw from this (as quoted by Katz; I haven't read the book) are questionable even in that context.

    For openers, technology as a liberating factor is still only relevant to a relatively small segment of Western population. Advanced technology in general is present throughout society, but the specific sorts of tech that might be considered liberating (Internet and desktop publishing come to mind) are really only available to an affluent few. Cell phones and pagers are widely available, but how liberating are they? How many people treat them as a leash instead? Certainly most sysadmins I know. And ultimately, how much control does an individual have over the technology he or she uses? Even the brightest are at the mercy of their ISP, telco, or manufacturer for service. It seems to me that the tendency of a technological infrastructure will not be to push control back to the people from government, but rather to large corporations from government.

    And of course, that is supposing that technology is the only force currently driving social change. It isn't. As an example, take population growth and a related phenomenon, urbanization. As more and more people keep being packed into less and less space, the social pressures for more law and regulation will increase, not decrease. Government will be seen as more necessary, not less. This is a trend that pre-dates the Industrial Revolution and has continued through it and the Information Revolution both; yet it does not seem to have met with the authors' consideration.

    Which is my problem with most books/articles/diatribes like "The Sovereign Individual." They are written in the same manner as most science fiction--extrapolate a single technology and imagine what will happen with society as a result--but presented as well thought predictions. Essentially, it's wishful thinking, which I'm not opposed to in general, but I find it a little frightening that some people will take for granted that all of these new things are good things. We should not reject new technology out of hand, but neither should we necessarily embrace it without more careful consideration than Katz and pals seem to have.
  • will everyone please just aknowlege that the internet is not the groundwork of a new society. At its best it is a monumental timekiller following in the footsteps of television and radio.
  • I don't think so. Since Locke's philosophy of the social contract was adopted during the writing of the U.S. Constitution, and his philosophy states that people come together and give up some of their rights for the better of the group, if these governments we're talking about aren't doing it for the good of the group, then the people can (in theory) just leave(and form another government elsewhere)! I suppose that's what this book is talking about in regards to a "digital revolution"...of COURSE this is all just theory, today's nations would never willingly allow their land and resources to be ceded to a bunch of free-thinking indivduals who want to start their own country. I guess what I'm meaning to say (through all my rambling) is that if the government is a body of the people for the people (and it goes bad), the people should be able to disperse and regroup as another body with better intentions.

  • Jim Davidson & Lord Rees-Mogg also publish a monthly newletter, parts of which are available on-line at the Daily Reckoning [dailyreckoning.com], although this is mostly investment-oriented.
  • This sounds like an interesting read ... still, it occurs to me that where the train is going is much easier to predict once it's already started or, in the case of change, been going in a certain pattern / direction for awhile. I don't think the process of change is linear at all (at least with respect to the train metaphor) but Alvin Toffler said a lot of things years ago, which it seems are recycled by others and branded with their name.

    Hey, it's ok though ... these things are usually interesting reads regardless of who said what first, imho.

    Regards,

    John

  • To get a handle on just how hopeless Mogg's predictions have been in the past just check out this this [guardianunlimited.co.uk] article by Francis Wheen. Scroll down to the paragraph headed "The Guru Has Spoken". I have to admit that I practically choked on the (absurdly late) sandwich lunch I was eating when I caught sight of the original post on the usually clueful Slashdot site. Rees-Mogg may have edited the Times, but he is still (IMHO) an upper class, establishment nitwit of the highest (lowest?) order. Incidentally, for those of you reading outside the UK, the "London" Times is no longer considered the "newspaper of record" here. It has declined shockingly since becoming part of that "Virtual Merchant State", the Murdoch media empire. Wheen, on the other hand, writes for the Guardian, probably the best broadsheet newspaper in Britain today (and the only one with any real claim to independence). He is that rare thing, a commentator I frequently disagree with violently, but who always gets my attention. William "Lord" Rees-Mogg isn't.
  • In the future, will it be possible to petrify the Slashdot Cruiser? Then we can preserve its fugliness for future generations!
  • I guess it's a matter of scale. An individual with a small printing press can't produce a lot of publications. His readership will be small. To reach more people, you need bigger presses and employees. $$$

    The library provides information that is intended for large-scale distribution. Producing books and periodicals found in the typical library is still prohibitively expensive. More $$$

    Television broadcasting stations are extremely expensive. $$$!

    The internet is the first forum that allows an individual the possibility to reach literally millions and to do it at very low cost. Up until now, the poor (or more accurately, the non-rich) really had no voice.

  • by xtal (49134) on Tuesday September 05, 2000 @05:58AM (#803941)

    To horribly misquote; It comes from the barrel of a gun. Even a gang member in LA can tell you that.

    The nation states are not going away. This is why those nation states (and all such derviatives since the beginning of recorded history) have armed, military forces who are designed to efficiently and effectively kill, mame and destroy anything and anyone who poses a serious risk to their soveriegn power to rule. As the dominant states today (USA, USSR/Russia, China..) have absoule power (specifically, advanced nuclear weapons & guidance systems, and really, really horrible biological weapons that make nukes look like candy) they will be around forever.

    Get real. Don't believe me? Don't pay your taxes for a few years and you'll find out first hand.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    ... is to identify & defeat The Sovereign Individual. Everything publicly said about drug-dealers, terrorists, etc. is just clean PR for the TV-tube dumb voter set here in the US ("we're the smart guys up here on the election podium... you people down there just trust us ... go vote for me (or my pal opposing me)... go to work... and pay your taxes so that we can keep this really big, really great party just rolling along here!").

    The Sovereign Individual discloses the TRUE threat to The State... these unruly citizens carrying their assets out of the statist's jurisdictional control. So don't you think that rather than looking for drug dealers and terrorists that this neat new technology is primarily looking for US citizens over-seas investment activities ?

    Are you making money in a stock market account located off-shore ? Do you think the US is going to trust that you're voluntarily going to reveal this activity, claim this income on your US tax return ? Sure... "paying income taxes in the US is voluntary..." try claiming that and see how long your freedom lasts around here.

    Every forward thinking person already understands this true use of the Escalon/Carnivore technology... it's to discover and catch US citizens using the convenience of the net to make money overseas... don't buy any of the smoke & mirrors (about bogey-men) to the contrary.

    The State has taken notice of the threats to its power elucidated in "The Sovereign Individual" and is intelligently responding to that threat on the same playing field the threat is presented... the net. We can't have "freedom" in a statist world culture... perhaps because NOBODY would truely ever meaningfully respect paying "voluntary taxes"...

    The State needs the cover of Drug Dealers and Terrorists to essentially hunt out their own tribes tax cheaters... unless of course you're part of the "leaders' krew" in which case, you have the option of sacrificing the central focus of your's lifes work efforts (drop dreaming about ever doing anything "productive" in your life), and instead dedicate yourself to specializing in the esoteric/political intricacies of legal tax shelters...

    Escalon/Carnivore DEFINE the State's response to the threat of world/cultural change suggested in The Sovereign Individual. They're not going to give-up the fight too easily. Unfortunately for all of us sovereign-individual wanna-be's out here... it's going to be very tough getting past the Too-Net-Capable State in any meaningful way.

    In conclusion, understand that all of your income related activities on the net will be under automated State scrutiny... your activities are not anonymous... you will be watched, and inevitably controlled.

    There are ways around this all... but lets NOT talk about it... keep these things to yourself friends !!!
  • Anyone who values freedom in the United States has noticed our freedoms being slowly eroded over the past few decades. The Federal government is larger than ever. We have more failed government programs than ever before. ("Failed government program" is redundant. Can anyone think of a government program that actually worked?) The US government is trying hard to pass laws to disarm Americans (did they stop to think that only law-abiding citizens obey laws? Did they pay heed to the consistent statistic that passing gun legislation increases crime?) We have gross violations of the 4th amendment in the name of the insane, grossly expensive, horribly malicious, and completely ineffective "war on drugs."

    Currently the top 50% of wage earners in the US pay 96% of the taxes. This is why the concept of "tax breaks for the poor" is ridiculous. It also shows how the concept of the rich "paying their fair share" is equally as stupid. If anything destroys the American empire, it will be when the top 49% of wage earners are paying 100% of the taxes.

    In the United States we have apologists arguing that life in Cuba can't be so bad, with its "free" and "free" education. If it's not so bad, then why have Cubans been rafting to the US in droves for the past few decades?

    I can go on all day. It seems to me that tyranny and ignorance are alive and well here is the US. I am sure it can only be worse in other parts of the world.

    "In general the art of government consists in taking as much money as possible from one class of citizens to give to the other." --Voltaire

  • The problem with all this is that it ignores the reason that governments were created:

    Governments exist to protect the property (material or otherwise) of the governed.

    In order to do this, goverments have a monopoly on force. Think about it: Can your neighbor decide to levy a tax on you? Sure. Can he throw you in jail if you don't pay? Nope. Only a government can. If some foreign army occupies your house, can you make your neighbors throw them out? Not directly, but your goverment, made up of you and your neighbors, can!

    The problem with governments is that the power of government is corrupting. People always want government to do things that it can not do without violating it's charter of protecting all of the governed.

    A few comments before I get flamed.

    Property, of course, does include a wide range of things. Intellectual property is protected by copyrights and patents, your person is protected by laws against murder and assault.

    No, I don't hate your favorite government program, but think about it: Is it fair to use force to take my property (my money) to give you something? Not protect your property (that is the purpose of government - we have to fund the courts, the police, & the military) but to buy you a (choose any or all) a water treatment plant, baby food, prescription drugs, sports arenas?

  • I don't know if I'd go that far, but I've began to wonder...

    Do I really need someone in Congress to represent me?

    I don't think so. I can vote on my own behalf.

  • Unlike the Agricultural or Industrial Revolutions, the Information Revolution will not evolve over hundreds of years. Like the technology that created it, it will take hold more rapidly than any other social phase of human life. The Information Revolution, now already well underway will play out within our lifetimes, and it's time to get ready.

    Flowery Katz-language aside, this is artive is much better than his average, with food for thought. This paragraph though, I am not sure it can possibly correct. Katz is as arrogant as the scientists at the end of the 19th century who claimed that everything that could be invented already had been, if he believes this. I think the information revolution started with the development of computers in the middle of last (this?) century, and I doubt we will have discovered everything to be discovered of this new age for quite some time.

    not_cub

  • Industry continues to rule, and will continue to for quite some time. Alan Greenspan knows this and so does every other economist worth his/her salt. The "New Economy" is just some rhetoric to help us swallow the bitter pill that the US will no longer be a superpower because its industrial infrastructure is being dismantled, and be replaced by China or Russia as the world's political and economic leader.
  • Corporations are not equal to religion. Personally I dislike people who are historically ignorant to the means and wherefores of their past.

    Medieval socities had people who lead brutal, short, horrible lives. Their only means of recreation, life, social gatherings, common grounds, etc were through churches. Personally I can't say that I would blame them for wanting a better life after going through shit in mine.

    Corporations don't have that same ability to give people that kind of comfort. They are in fact cold sterile giants composed of men and women who do their own jobs and move slowly to do collective work.

    Corporations more closely compare with Faciasm than any sort of organized religion. Ultimately Faciasm was seen as crap and people finally figured out that they were getting hurt. Personally the only way a company can really hurt you is if you don't have a job or if you are an idiot. Considering that most people have jobs (the US has only about 4% actual unemployment) I can't really see any problem in that area. The only other area is that people are idiots. I have argued this many times in the past. Essentially most of the jobs that are out there now are specialist types of things and usually take something more than your typical high school diploma or GED equivelent. That means that people are going to learn things and make them work.

    Personally I don't think people are ignorant and I don't think the so called internet society will change anything.

    Like I have said there are no conspiracies to do Faciast level evil.
  • And now the signal gets drowned in the noise...
  • Good points but a rant this long deserves a signature. C'mon out AC.

  • Technological skills are not what makes it possible for indivudals to act as free agents. What makes it possible is a matter of supply and demand. If there are a million jobs and only 500,000 people to fill them, it means that any person can change jobs without thinking about it.

    If the gap were to close and it ended up with 500,000 jobs and a million tech workers, free agency wouldn't be quite so appealing as it is now. Bouncing from job to job would be a serious risk where as now, it is almost to the point that not bouncing is the risk (for you look stagnant).

    The ability to do this is not a function of the skills involved or the portability of those skills, but rather the job environment. If there was high demand for short order cooks and nobody to fill the positions, you'd see short order cooks leaping from job to job and making a ton of money too.

    ---

  • Aren't these the same two geniuses who wrote several books about how to survive and get rich during the (then) impending economic apocalypse?
  • I have read this book- a couple of years ago actually. The over-riding point that I took from the book is that the information age makes location unimportant. Today, for the most part, if you want to sell to the masses of American people, you have to be here physically, and thus subject yourself to US law. However, in a future world where we may do almost everything online - the business location may not be terribily imporant to the transaction and that could open up competition among the nation states as they position themselves as the place to locate. And of course, competition among the nations of the worls would in theory reduce the cost of doing business in any one of them.

    I think some of this is already happening today with several carribean islands marketing themselves as tax havens for off-shore businesses and I think you can buy Swiss citzenship for a one time "fee."

    However, I tend to believe that the "state" won't go down easily and that getting to this point, if we ever make it, will be a long and probably bloody affair.

  • by Eladio McCormick (226942) on Tuesday September 05, 2000 @06:11AM (#803954)
    Is the Internet just a sequential evolution of how we handle information or is it truly a new 'society'?

    In all fairness, one thing would not exclude the other. This is like asking "Was the agricultural revolution in the Neolithic just a sequential evolution of how we acquire food, or was it truly a new 'society'?"

    But still, the idea behind your question is dead on. All this hype about the "Information Age" is just corporate propaganda bullshit designed to sell books, IT stocks and technology, plus do clearly misguided things like spend school's scarce money on computers and not on teachers, to the benefit of the IT industry.

    Take the Neolithic, for example. This involved major changes in the forms of production of basic goods, and the living conditions of the majority of people in the societies affected-- hunting ceased to be the primary economic activity of personkind, to be supplanted by agriculture. People settled into towns, instead of wandering around.

    The industrial revolution: the way goods were produced was radically altered. Instead of skilled craftpersons organically creating the end product, the unskilled laborers tend to the machines that make the product. Social effect: deskilling of workers, but above all, people move to the cities.

    Now try to show whether the "Infomation Age" (whose "start", anyway, should be the invention of the telegraph, the first device to allow instant communication) has made major changes in the modes of production of the basic goods, or whether it has made fundamental material changes in the way people in "information societies" live. And the answer is: No. This is still the industrial age.

  • His previous book "The Great Reckoning" was fascinating reading, even though the particulars never came to pass. (For example, he predicted that economic leadership would pass to Japan.) But his "big picture" was provocative, so I will be looking for more thoughtful provocation in the new book (though I will discount its predictive power).
  • The people who control the nation states may fight off their obsolescence with their guns and bombs, but that doesn't make their system any less obsolete.

    Get real. Don't believe me? Don't pay your taxes for a few years and you'll find out first hand.

    True, the IRS & US Government have done a wonderful job of social engineering - Pay Your Taxes or The Big Bad G-Men Will Break Down Your Door & Haul You Off to Jail. Why do you think that the number of audits on lower-income (~$20,000/year) households have risen in recent years? If you're a parasitic organism living off the hard labor of your host, you gotta keep your citizens scared. But what if 500,000 people stopped paying their taxes? 1 million? 10 million? How many people could the IRS go after to keep its campaign of fear going?
  • I mean, couldn't that have been said with the advent of the printing press, the library or television for that matter? Is the Internet just a sequential evolution of how we handle information or is it truly a new 'society'? Are
    we putting the carriage before the horse here?


    Exactly think about it. In reality the internet is just merely a method of gathering data and making it fancy. It dosn't create any new or powerful coalition in any sense.

    The industrial revolution hasn't been supplanted by the internet and really hasn't been eliminated. What has changed is that more and more of the ecconomies of traditional European powers from rougly WWI on have shifted to service ecconomies and their populace have seen a change in government. This occurs on a small scale in the US but we actually have enough material goods to be able to deal with things nicely so that it really dosn't change.
  • and a Slashdot moderator... I'd give you an 11.

    This is a wasted post, I know. Just thought I'd add my voice to this line of reasoning though. Which is almost participating in a reflection of the situation you speak about... only seeking out and responding to information that you agree with.

    I'm already caught in the net. :-)

    -- kwashiorkor --
    Leaps in Logic
    should not be confused with

  • Are we the first citizens of a new kind of society? Or simply participants in the ongoing modification of the old one? Not that this hasn't been said a hundred times before, but the way things are now has little difference to the way they were before. The names have changed and the technology has advanced, but things are still the same. Some people are more equal than others. Might makes right. He who has the gold makes the rules. How is the buying of influence in Congress any different than Borgias controlling Popes? Many people don't believe that might makes right, but the "might" of the sword has simply been replaced with the "might" of the dollar. Corporations are modern translations of the "robber barons" of last century and trading guilds of previous centuries. Every new technological advance will supposedly change the way we conduct our lives. Bread and circuses have been replaced with Big Macs and television. The intellectual elite still make their debates and the common man still has little control of the institutions that control his life. Nothing really changes except for names, dates and methods. And that is why Santayana was right... People keep forgetting the past. We just keep deluding oursleves into thinking that the situations we see are like nothing that has ever happened before. The article states "The transformation will be all but universal." If history has taught us anything, it tells that transformation is anything but universal. It is a slow process that tends to build quietly and then explodes under its own pressure in a place where there is little resistance. Look at any technological advance or social or religious movement of the last five millenia. We're still following paths laid in place in the past and governing authorities will change to accomodate the changes coming. They have before. They will again. It will take time and patience, but they will.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Actually many politicians like Blair and Clinton and a host of continental figures are even more aware than you of the uselessness and obsolescence of the old national borders. That is why they are pushing for the dissolution of borders in national policies (UN, GATT, NAFTA etc.) and laying the groundwork for reconsolidation of political unity at higher levels: yes the rightwing bogeyman of "World Government". I'm sure there are plenty of you who think that global markets "just happen" lol!

    The transition to larger geographical units of political power is news to a few grade-schoolers and rightwing nativists--and is held back in its progress mainly by the pariochialism and mental tardiness of the same.

  • For those not of us not fully up to speed on the information technology of ancient Athens, I recommend checking out the Dead Media Project [wps.com] Working Notes [wps.com], especially the series on how the technology they used to run there democracy (a 5 part series: 1 [wps.com],2 [wps.com],3 [wps.com],4 [wps.com],5 [wps.com])

    Why do I bring this up? I do so because the Athenian Democracy had an enormous information management problem on their hands. The democracy came about by the revolution of the mob overthrowing a tyranny held in place by mercanaries hired from Sparta. Almost every citizen had a hand in this, and so had an interest in making sure that the rule of the tyrants did not return. A recent television series on PBS about the rise of the Greek culture illustrates this point with excellent clarity. As a result, one of the components of citizenship was that the required participation of every citizen. They had to manage and organized this process of the day to day workings of the democracy, selecting citizens at random from the various demes (tribes) for almost all offices and public functions.

    There is a lot of data processing going on there. This was handled brilliantly by the mechanism described in the articles mentioned above. They had created a mechanical computer of sorts to handle the problems of handing out the assignments for juries, the routine bureaucratic assignments, all the rest. It is probably a work of genius, and is fundamental to really understanding how the whole place worked. It is obvious that such a system could easily be implemented on almost any database engine worth its' salt.

    We now come to information societies. We can easily implement such a society using modern computing technology. The downsides of this are the modern apathy to political processes, as well as the desire for privacy. The upside is that you have a system that really reflects what the members of the community want. There is a certain conflict of interest inherent in this.

    A possible solution to this is some sort of opt-in citizenship, with responsibilities attached along with the perks that go with it. This is a difficult question, because of the difficulties associated with question of rights and priveledges over others that are not earned, but are granted without cost.

    In this context, I am thinking of the old problem of the haves vs the have-nots. If you win the lottery, make it big in a dot-com, or whatever, you will be surprised by how many new relatives you now have who think that they have more of a right to the money than you do, and who get insulted when you do not just hand it over. You also see this with certain culture clashes in the area of immigration.

    An Information Democracy is possible, but I am still quite unclear as to how it could be implemeted. We see hints of this to some degree in the character of the various development communities, such as Microsoft Vs Open-source. Microsoft is probably closer to the old style greek tyrants, no matter how much they want to be portrayed as the philosopher kings of the computer age. The Open-Source community is far more adhoc in its organzation, and is not sufficiently organized to be a formal democracy like Athens. It might be said that Linus is probably the closest thing we have to a philosopher king in this context, although he is far more of a philosopher than king by far.

    - - - - - - - -
    "Never apply a Star Trek solution to a Babylon 5 problem."

  • It is time to seriously start thinking about one's separation from the state. It would be interesting to see citizens claiming their rights for independence and sovereignty. Those who have land will have more advantage
    over those who live in a city and have almost no land. A one family, or even one man or woman state is coming near you now. You set up your own rules, your own government, your own banking and all of it is made
    possible due to the Internet.


    That's total bull. You cannot create a new state within another without provoking the ire of the government (it's called civil war and insurrection). People finally learned this during the Civil War. See there were a group of people who didn't get along with the United States we'll call them Southerners. The Southerners were basically being lead by the rich amongst them and controlling the poor. They wanted to stay in power making the good money off their stupid cotton business (which was propped up via an invention by a *notherner* named Eli Wittney and the north was propped up by an invention from a southerner). Well they got irritated at unkie sam and decided to "claim their rights for independence and sovreignty" (and in almost those exact words too). Well why don't we see any people walking around from the CSA (Confederate States of America) now?

    Of-course there are about one billion questions to be asked and problems to be solved, but with today's computer speed, it's not too difficult. (Who is going to be running those sewers though?)

    Computers are tools, they cannot change anyone without actually having someone operate them. AI is a ***Loooooonnnnnnngggg*** way off from being practical.
  • by mholve (1101)
    "You can be as liberated as you want... As long as you follow our rules."
  • This is why those nation states (and all such derviatives since the beginning of recorded history) have armed, military forces who are designed to efficiently and effectively kill, mame and destroy anything and anyone who poses a serious risk to their soveriegn power to rule.

    But if you cripple the military's ability to organize, you have rendered it ineffective.

    That's what the information revolution is about - putting information in the hands of the common man. Information that he could have never had before. Knowledge about How Things Work. This knowledge could spread as fast as MP3s on napster - except it could be nuclear weapons secrets, or other "dangerous" information.

    The way to wage war against the US (or any other major power) is not with tanks and bombs. First you must destroy the government's ability to communicate - to share information. Then roll in with your tanks and bombs for cleanup. A disorganized military is easy to eliminate.

    In any small conflict, brute force will win. (As with your gang member in LA). But in a large-scale conflict, crippling the information (communication) systems of your opponent is the way to victory.

    wish
    Vote for freedom! [harrybrowne2000.org]
    ---

  • Ironically, Napster and DeCSS are both excellent examples of the futility of the tired old men stopping something they cant. Sure there is a very good chance that Napster will die soon, however for gnutella to be stopped, the internet would have to be completely shut down. Suing AOL isn't going to shut it down at all, as they have no control over it. Same with FreeNet. DeCSS may be illegal, but it sure hasn't stopped it from being available on the net. These cases are great examples of how the decentralized nature of the internet makes it impossible to impose an outside order. The genie is out of the bottle, and there isn't anything any government can do to put it back.
  • You assume "people finally figured out that they were getting hurt.". If they are stripped of ways to figure out, then eventually they cannot.

    I PERSONALLY believe that it was harsh to label me as ignorant. I was stating a view and providing examples to support my belief. You stated that "Their only means of recreation, life, social gatherings, common grounds, etc were through churches". Pfew! You mean like the only source of income in a modern day society is by a corporation? Or objects that better our lives...from a corporation?

    As with the techinical knowledge? Where is technical knowledge of use today in modern society?
    My friend, people *are* ignorant. Look at race relations in the US. Look at how long it has taken African-Americans to break free of old constraints and stagnant beliefs continually festered by corporations who yielded tons of money at their slave expense. All these beliefs STILL fester in modern society and ANY US History teacher will decry account after account, of why corporations lobbyied their state representatives to lawfully deny reading and education for the masses would rise up and destabalize the state. This system of ignorance and spinmaking is found continuosly over and over throughout the history of the world. I don't care if you don't "like" me. Please, I just ask that respect my opinion.

  • We'll drown in so much useless information that we won't have to worry about starving children in Africa any more.

    And we worry about them now?

    So if giant media corporations feed us limited news, then we will worry about the Right Things and all will be well. But if we'll be able to pick and choose from the ocean of info, we'll choose Wrong Things to worry about, right?

    I understand your point about picking information to reinforce your worldview, but I don't see any good alternatives because they inevitably imply that somebody else is picking information for you.

    As the trend increases and we enter a true "information" age, it will get to the point where people do have access to all the information they could ever want, but instead they limit themselves to the unchallenging and comfortable.

    Yes, probably. The sheeple certainly will. However, again, consider the alternatives: do you want to force-feed to people information that is "good for them"? Who gets to pick what's good?

    The communist (aka socialist) countries like USSR practiced stict control over information dissemination. For example, crime was almost never reported in the news ( => no copycat crimes and people are not afraid). Do you really want to go down that path?

    In this situation who will be bothered about the have-nots?

    You imply that everybody worries only about what he has seen on the TV screen during the last five minutes. There a lot of people like this, but they are not going to be helpful to the starving-children-in-Africa situations. For people whose attention span is not measured in minutes, the problem you describe is not so severe.


    Kaa
  • Do I really need someone in Congress to represent me?

    In view of the law that isn't going to change. Also you average representative usually has more education and free time than you. Do you have time for say 6 months or more to go away from home to Washington DC and read literally thousands of pages of laws a day and understand/vote on them? I think not.
  • As Sam Morse said "What has God wroth?" when the electric telegraph connected the world nearly instaneously in 1844 (plus about 15 years to wire up much of the world). This first phase led to the daily newspaper. It had a financial mania not unlike the dotcoms.

    Subsequently came other electronic media revolutions: motion pictures, radio, TV, computer, the Web ... Each had its social change and investment mania.

    The utltimate end will be point-to-point video anywhere, anytime, drawing on vast stored archives of human culture (I hesitate to call it electronic, because it may be optical or something else).

    As for the final social impact, it is still hard to tell. There have been many experiments with different types of governments and means of production, with liberal democracies and selfish-incentive capitalism currently winning. Orwell predicted a different end for an information-centered society.

    I suggest Katz's view is myopic, magnifying the current millieu which is a hyperactive blip on a two to three century process.

  • You've got to be kidding me. That's the most understated description of the Internet I've ever read.

    The Internet is the closest thing we've developed to realizing a collective consciousness. ANYONE can now be a global publisher of information. The Internet empowers the individual to create and disperse any type of media they can envision.

    The printing press? The radio? Television? These are merely one-way broadcast mediums. (I use the term 'broadcast' loosely when applied to the printing press, but you get the point) The internet has ALREADY "created a much bigger shift" than any of these. Why? Because the 'net is interactive, it connects people to each other instead of some central point.

    The internet takes those "information roads" and adds instant access to it. It's just not really "new".

    Ahh, but the internet is so much more than just information! Look around you... the whole world is migrating to the net. Millions upon millions of services, offered freely online. Watch a streaming video feed of the news, view a movie trailer, join a chat room with people scattered across the globe, shop online, pay your bills, download more free software than you could EVER hope to use, stock market trading, gaming. People are making friends, enemies, falling in love and getting married over the Net, something they never would have even thought possible merely a decade ago.

    The Internet IS the "new dimension [of] human interaction."

  • What will it be then? Necessarily, whatever new dimension we can add to human interaction. My guess will be virtual reality; the internet, however, ought to provide the backbone for VR interactions across distances,
    which makes the 'Net an important first step.


    Virtual reality isn't something that the average person can use or actually run on a standard PC. As long as mainframe computers are needed to actually run the stuff it isn't practical for anyone. Also the interface is a really bad idea for getting any real work done. Visualization and modeling aren't really useful except for final presentation. I can type faster say
    ls -al *.txt
    emacs slashdot.txt
    than I could to go crusing around in 3d looking for slashdot.txt and then having to pry open the "file" and start reading through it; then maybe take a "pen" and start adding corrections.
  • Just so you know, the head of the patent office was being sarcastic when he said that. He was pleading to Congress to not cut funding of the Office, and he said something along the lines of "Well, I guess it's OK, since everything's already been invented that CAN be invented, eh?"r It's much the same as the way the head of GM said "What's good for America is good for General Motors," but everybody reverses those clauses. 88
    Further information on this topic may be found here [slashdot.org].
  • A while ago I got all upset about Monsanto and BGH milk [editthispage.com]. But reading this story [medscape.com] made me re-think some of my opinions.

    I think one cannot look to institutions, commercial or otherwise, to look after one's own interest. To do so is to invite totalitarianism. From a certain point of view, what we are seeing is just natural progression of society from a paternal state to one in which people have to take more personal responsibility for their own well-being.

    Of course, that doesn't mean it's acceptable for companies to outright deceive the public - such as the case of rBGH milk. But I think that is a sympton of the fact that we are in a transitional period from a paternal state to a personal society - the counter-acting mechanism is yet to be formed. Some people would say that's what the government/the press are for. But I disagree.

    Most people expect their government to look out for their well-being, based on a deep seated belief about what civilized society is all about. But things change, human civilization evolve. What we've been taught to believe is 'right' is just that, a belief. That doesn't make it 'real' or 'right'. The fact of the matter is, the insitutions (government, press, church, etc) we came to rely upon no longer work.

    Once we realize that there is no going back to the past, instead of trying to fix these institutions, perhaps we should concentrate on inventing new ways of safeguarding our own lives. After all, what's the point of all the supposed education people get these days if they can't be bothered thinking? According to the A.C. Nielsen Co., the average American watches more than 4 hours of TV each day (or 28 hours/week, or 2 months of nonstop TV-watching per year). In a 65-year life, that person will have spent 9 years glued to the tube. So I don't believe 'busy lifestyle imposed by modern society' is a very good excuse.

    Right now, we have more free time and resource than ever before in human history. The average middle-class individual in the Western World now has more power at his/her disposal than ever before. But one cannot have true Freedom and Power without Responsibility. Every social change brings about disruption and sometimes genuine misery. But if one step back and look at the big picture I think it would be obvious that life is good and as a whole, things have never been better.

  • Your logic is perfectly sound.

    ...but...

    That is about the worst account of the cause of the American Civil War that I've ever heard. It's almost as bad as the delusional fools that claim it was fought over slavery. It was a war brought about by economic controls being put into place by an oppressive government. I would think that with all the issues currently in Slashdot's spotlight, this woudl be well understood.

    PrimalChrome

  • Percentage-wise, that does not appear to be a viable option unless BOTH major parties fragment simultaneously. You'd pretty much have to hope that environmentalists flee Dems to go Green (more than slightly unlikely), and that pro-abortion GOPers break with their leaders (delegates in both parties being a tad more extreme than the rank and file).

    If only one is split ala Bull Moose, the other sweeps.

    If neither splits, then there simply aren't enough truly independent votes to win major office -- in particular, the Big Prize of the chap who gets to appoint federal judges...
  • Sure. Now that the money filter is removed the signal to noise ratio is horrible.

    I'm willing to take off my cynicism hat long enough to be optimistic that the truly profound signal, the message that isn't driven by profit margin will be heard even through the noise.

    Okay... it's unrealistic... I know...

  • An entirely new reality will emerge in cyberspace, ruled by a cognitive elite

    I don't really think that this is what will happen. Brains will rule over brawn, for sure, but there will be so many strata to the new ecomomic and social food chain that it will be difficult to say who is in charge at all.

    Pretty much any good or service you can buy can is being reviewed, crituqed, and consumed via the web now. It won't be long before every garage mechanic has a discussion forum based on him, where digitally signed and authenticated contributors (who are themselves subject to these same reviews and trust evaluations) will rate the performance of the mechanic, etc. This will make integrity pretty important.

    Sure, the local garage will be able to rip non-car-savvy people off like they have always done, but the person willing to dig for information will have a better chance at getting a good deal when they get thier car fixed.

    The same principle will apply to large corporations, governments, criminal trial (maybe), etc. What is to prevent the rise of some system that gives ruling power to the politician/party who has the highest trust rating? Isn't this what voting does? Why not imagine the election as an ongoing and dynamic process that affects the balance of power. This would really make politicians accountable---it is also mob rule. And "Rome is the mob".

    --8<--

  • One of the major themes in The Sovereign Individual is the notion that the revolution unleashed by digital technologies is liberating individuals at the expense of the nation-states that have governed much of humanity for thousands of years.
    And the nation-states have been aware of this for years now, and are even now taking steps to preserve their power. DMCA and other means of securing the position of the major multinationals are only a tiny piece of the strategy. We've seen China's approach to the situation -- firewall the whole country and only allow traffic that suits their purposes. Other countries may start trying that soon, and I'm not ruling it out here in the USA as well. Enjoy your freedom while it lasts, folks ..

  • Um: "they wanted to stay in power making the good money off their stupid cotton business (which was propped up via an invention by a *notherner* named Eli Wittney and the north was propped up by an invention from a southerner)."

    That is what happened. What other economic controls do you mean, PrimalChrome? The collective south just did not like the whole idea of taxes to begin with. Their stance of the north was: "we don't like taxes + they appear not to like our way of life and are against us ==lets go to war". I know my former history professor would shun me on this simplistic example but it illustrates the point.

  • Just look at Slashdot for a great example of this. Plenty of like-minded people and a lack of tolerance for alternative opinions. Indeed, moderation provides a wonderful mechanism to encourage conformity at the price of healthy argument.

    The "penis bird" is not an alternative opinion.

  • Well, I for one am becoming more and more negative about the impact that technology has on our lifes. This is because it is becoming quite obvious that technology is not been shared and distributed equaly. By this, I do not mean the old story about how the poorer nations are being kept in the dark ages. What I mean, rather, is that technology is bringing new problems with it. For example, a few years ago, people were amazed that the world was split in two by the cold war. That people could not really communicate. 10 years later, it is private interest's abuse of technology that decides to cut the world in 7 DVD zones. Most people would (as I did) not think much of it at first, but WHOM DO WE COMPLAIN TO when things like these get implemented? What power do we have to bring such a cartel to an end? No buying a DVD from them? Then from whom? :-) We do not elect the Bill Gates and Murdocks of the world.These guys are where they are because they wheel and deal with one another and are not kept in check. There absolutely no check in balance mechanism to keep a few of these people from enacting a tremendous amount of control on people. Another (quick) example of the sort of things that I find scary is to see Murdock (SKY Digital) want to add a Tivo-like appliance into every SkyDigital topset box, but with the added feature that an advertiser can disable your fast forward button! I resent the fact that renting a digital receiver can enslave me several minutes at a time just so that some other guy might get a bit richer. And if you think that this is ok because it is afterall commercials that pay the bill, then just wait and watch big companies as they slowly creep in more and more into your personal life: have you notice how more movies in DVD zone 1 no longer come with any other language than English? Big companies do not care about the few millions people who happen to not be speaking English in North America... the market is too small. And, unlike these "tired old goverments", they certainly do not have to protect the rights of minorities ... Goverments might be tired, but at least they (well, some..) are 1) responsible 2) elected 3) democratic. It took centuries to get some of the world into a state where most of us are prosperous and living peacefully. Runaway capitalism and the control of many by a few rich folks is not a step forward. In my opinion, it is a step backward. The actors have changed, the weapons have changed, but it is the sma eold story: most people have very little freedom, and telling them how great their lifes are and how free they have become does not change the reality that they are not in control of their lifes.
  • I think we have a long way to go before the 'net is all that you're making it out to be.

    Although those of us who have computers tend to take them for granted, we're still a relatively small subset of the population. For the majority of people, it's probably still easier to get something published in print (via Kinko's, et al) than on the Internet.

    And, of course, broadcast media are more powerful for their one-way nature. If the Internet were that great at gaining exposure for ideas, you can be sure that advertisers would be shelling out millions to get their 30 second spot up on Yahoo. AFAIK, this hasn't happened yet. More people will hear an idea that is presented on TV than on the net (although there is a certain leaching effect--a few days after I see something really interesting on the web, someone will mention it on the nightly news--the Survivor website leak, for instance).

    You can publish something on the net, but you can't make people read it. You might say this is a good way of sorting the wheat from the chaff, but there are plenty of unattractive or unpopular things in this world that people should see. The Internet allows you to avoid things that don't interest you, and that's fine from an entertainment perspective. But it's not a very good way to stay informed or maintain a breadth of opinion.

    The Internet may well come to be everything you say it is, but for most people, that is still in the future.
  • Sounds like a lot of rah rah - don't-look-too deeply-into-how-we-invest-your-money kind of pitch. WTF does a VC know about government or governments except that they're bad for unregulated absolute free market capitalism? Another book about the irrelevance of government in the global economy. Don't be too sure that governments and nation-states will just roll over. History hasn't borne that out.
  • To horribly misquote; It comes from the barrel of a gun. Even a gang member in LA can tell you that.

    Sure, there's a success story I'd want to emulate.

    LA gangs have all kinds of guns. Why haven't they toppled the government? For that matter, why hasn't the gang with more guns taken over all the smaller gangs?

  • True, but there are structural changes that encourage free-agentry and are not going away in the next recession. For instance:

    --The late80s/early90s corporate restructurings that broke the long-standing social compact between companies and employees. This brought the end of seniority loyalty (last in first out), lifetime employment (to the extent that it still existed) and the implicit promise of corporate responsibility to its employees.

    --The fading away of the unions

    --The portability of benifits, such as 401Ks. You may not remember, but pensions used to vest like stock options. If you left early, you lost them. Now, they're contribution-based, and you carry them with you.

    --Meritocratic business cultures, where skills and performance are valued more highly than loyalty and years of service. Those that thrive in such cultures will have portable talents, regardless of the economy.
  • Perhaps what you say is true, but I have to disagree about your use of Slashdot as an example. Full of "like-minded people"? Oh yes... I'm sure you're right. That's why you never see any arguments or disagreements on Slashdot.

    "Lack of tolerance for alternative opinions?" well yes, these people are called critics, or advocates of the status quo, or sticks in the mud, (or much worse, on occaision ;), and are an essential ingredient in any sort of healthy discourse and dissection... contrast is an excellent analytical tool.

    Moderation encourages conformity!? What rubbish. Moderation encourages the poster to stand out from the crowd, say something startling, intelligent, insightful, or funny. Something that gets noticed, in other words, which is exactly the opposite of conforming. Go to a big discussion and filter for only comments rated 3 or higher, and you will find some real gems. (Including your own post, I might add. Would you classify your own post as conforming and not indentifying any original ideas?)

    Is it a perfect system? No... is anything? But it is simply overflowing with new ideas, opposing viewpoints, and real commentary from real people, not slick, dumbed down, polished editorials.

  • Astoundingly astute observation. But I'll play futurist too and disagree with one point. I predict that we won't have starving children or homeless people. Eventually, a world-wide government will arise, although probably not as an official entity, but rather as an agreement in the UN or such, which the US will dutifully follow and enact laws to conform with. We (the US) will move further towards a socialist society. Eventually everyone will, due to amazing productivity gains, work a short day (if that), and have food, health care, and housing (and internet access, in whatever form) provided to them if needed for free.

    This information, targetted entertainment, and so on, will truly become the opiate of the masses. There will not be a digital divide, but a motivational one -- most people will opt to not tell, and ambition will become the world's most valued commodity.

    What's worse, because of the satisfaction of the general populace and a belief in the goodness of the world, there will be an incredible abuse of power by those possessing it. With everyone too satisfied to play watchdog, those with ambition, right or wrong, will be in charge, and will discover that what tyrants have tried throughout history with secret police, torture, murder, conscription, etc, and failed at, they can accomplish with the carrot instead of the stick. Provide a television and a cozy couch, and who will challenge you?

    I'm blanking on who wrote the story of a similar line, where the populace had a choice to either take a totally side-effect-free happy-drug and live their life in bliss, or to stay off it and try to help run the world. In the story, the happy people really WERE the populace, but my vision is a bit more prone to Morlock raids, to borrow from another piece of fiction. Obviously, the lesson is to master technology, not let it be your master, but its a lot more seductive in real life, as the geek-ified slashdot reader should know.

    On another point, you're right on about the moderation system -- it is trivial (yes, I'm guilty) to post karma-whoring crap, and it often seems as though anyone who can put a coherent sentence together can end up at a 5 if they post in the first 10 minutes. Meanwhile, I've had some of my most well-document and empassioned (and dangerous) comments moderated down as flamebait because what I expressed was unpopular with the reader. As a moderator, I tend to have to keep myself conscious of the fact that I need to moderate up well written, original, insightful comments, and not comments which merely crystallize my own thinking in an eloquent way. I try to promote comments which put for unique, well reasoned, or well documented arguments, rather than promoting what I agree with. It's too bad, in that vein, that if you want to rack up karma, the easiest way to do it is to post early when your (obvious) 2 cents is in great agreement with the masses.

    Good post.
  • by Tackhead (54550) on Tuesday September 05, 2000 @07:12AM (#804003)
    What the hell?

    I happen to think Sovereign Individual was pretty cool. But I'm one of them eeeevul cyberselfish libertarian types.

    But Katz? I was expecting a massive flame of Biblical proportions - and yet Katz is "interested". Katz is probably the exact opposite, ideologically, of Rees-Mogg and what-not. I'm stunned that Katz didn't use the word "corporatism" or "globalism" once! These guys make the most slavering Randroid look like a shiny-happy hippychick.

    Hey kids, if you liked Sovereign Individual, you'll love Ian Angell [lse.ac.uk], who argues (quite convincingly) that The signs are clear: the future is inequality [lse.ac.uk].

    Lucky for us geeks, we actually have a chance to win in the upcoming global social catastrophe. Pity about the other poor bastards, though.

  • Thanks, great link. Hilarious! Of course everyone who makes predictions of this nature is usually wrong anyway, but Rees-Mogg seems particularly bad ...

    WWJD -- What Would Jimi Do?

  • I agree that ultimately, power comes from the barrel of a gun. But in today's world, the rich, privileged, and powerful who hold most of the powerful positions in governments overlap a lot with the people who own and run very large corporations.

    So, while I agree that nation states are not going away, I think that we will increasingly see them acting in the interests of large corporations. This is really nothing new - the United States in particular has often used its military power in the interests of rich companies.

    We may eventually see large companies "buying" small countries just to gain more overt political and military power. For example, Microsoft (everyone's favorite example of a big bad company) could buy some small island state simply by providing each resident with free unlimited education, health care, and work. In return, they would get to run the government. They could change the name of the country to Microsoft, and then they would have a seat at the UN and could start legally creating their own military forces and legal systems.

    Admittedly, this seems pretty ridiculous right now. But perhaps, after a couple more decades of corporations becoming ever more powerful and governments becoming ever less relevant, we might start to see weirdness like that happening.

    (Imagine the EULA: This agreement with Microsoft, Inc. will be governed by the laws of the state of Microsoft... I bet Bill Gates has had daydreams like that.)

    In the end, wars between corporate-controlled countries could be "competition by other means" - not really that far from the wars of lawsuits we get now.

    Torrey Hoffman (Azog)
  • "Failed government program" is redundant. Can anyone think of a government program that actually worked?

    Funny you should ask. Al Franken responded to the exact same bit of retoric from Rush Limbaugh by calling up a bunch of major conservatives and asking them to name non-military goverment programs that had achieved their objectives. People as conservative as George F. Will and Bob Dornan listed multiple sucessfull programs ranging from rural electification to the Federal Deposite Insurance Corporation.

    The governement has done a lot and a lot (if not most) of it has worked. No, welfare has not eliminated all poverty, but no one with an ounce of sense thinks that makes it a failure, any more than the continued existance of sick people makes modern medicine a failure.

    Its real easy for privileged little brats to sit and talk about how useless the govenment is. (but still expect fire departments and police to be there when they need them) but for those of us who have lived a while on the harder side of real life, its just more pathetic whining.

    -Kahuna Burger

  • The online moderation [of /.] is just a good example of democracy: The majority decides what is right and wrong, and the abnormal is ceased. _But_, the difference between this and old, non-online democracy, is that the online-one doesn't _prevent_ anyone froms eeing what is deemed as non-conforming, it just tells people it is non-conformant, while the old one _removes_ peoples ability to read what is deemed as bad.

    If you are right (and you might be) that people will _choose_ not to see what is non-conformant, humanity is doomed, and there is absolutely nothing we can, and perheaps should, do.

    The way to prevent the last concern, which is preventable, is to provide free access att libraries and such places. But that won't help the third world. But what difference will it make from how it is today, for those living there?

    The world sucks, and will continue to do so, neither more, nor less. I am sorry, but that's the fact. Some part of it may get a bit better, but the whole thingy will continue to be as bad as it is...
  • ... soon to be replaced by Corporate-state. The Justice system used to enforce laws created by the state for the good of the public. Now laws are enacted by he-who-has-the-biggest-lobby-group, for the good of the 'corporate citizen'. The (overburdened,underpaid) police just enforces those stupid laws.
    ---
  • Actually I would agree with you on the caveman question.

    My real disagreement is with what you presented as examples of "REAL" shifts... allow me to elaborate:

    "Certainly, its volume and openness make information widely available but it's not changing the way I get information, fundamentally. I'm still reading, viewing, and listening to content, be it news or advertising or whatever. In that sense, the printing press, radio, or television created a much bigger shift. The internet takes those "information roads" and adds instant access to it. It's just not really 'new'."

    But look at what you're advocating...

    • The printing press took something written on paper and printed it on paper. "Certainly, its volume and openness make information widely available but it's not changing the way I get information, fundamentally. I'm still reading, viewing ... content"
    • The radio took audio and gave it to the masses, supplanting (or complimenting) public speeches, announcements, and forums, the "grapevine", live concerts, etc. The radio "takes those 'information roads' and adds instant access to it. It's just not really 'new' ... Certainly, its volume and openness make information widely available but it's not changing the way I get information, fundamentally. I'm still ... listening to content, be it news or advertising or whatever"
    • The television added vision to the principles established by the radio. Once again, it took a live, "hand-crafted" medium, packaged it, and distributed it to the masses. "Certainly, its volume and openness make information widely available but it's not changing the way I get information, fundamentally. I'm still reading, viewing, and listening to content." "The [television] takes those 'information roads' and adds instant access to it. It's just not really 'new'."

    Do you see where I'm going with this? Information has always existed. These 3 inventions simply made information distribution more efficient, and they transformed society as we know it forever... and they weren't even interactive. Now look at the power of the Internet. It's going to be an interesting future. :)

  • ...from the Terminator films? If you want a chilling look into the so-called 'information society of the future,' there it is.

    Neither the nation-states nor the corporations will rule us: the machines will. Our only hope is that the ragged human resistance from the year 2130 will send someone back in time to take out Jon Katz, and thus change the course of history.
    -David Wong

  • Or, at least, most citizens do. Will nation-states ever go away when millions DEPEND on them for survival? How many people in the USA live on social security and public aid checks? How many families depend on a military paycheck? How many people work at companies with government contracts? How many of us drive on federal highways?

    It's a bunch of fun for a crowd of (young) free thinkers to predict the downfall of the huge governments. It's not so easy for the 90% of us who DON'T WANT the government to go away - no matter how much we may complain about it. And as true as that is in the US, it's more true in European countries where even more citizens are dependent on the government.

    The government doesn't exist on its own. We put it there, and we keep it there year after year (and keep it growing) by saying 'yes' every time they propose a new payout program.

    In other words, there's a reason why Liberterians only get 3% of the vote.

    -David

  • If neither splits, then there simply aren't enough truly independent votes to win major office

    Right, and to expand that to a larger point, it's that there simply isn't enough dissatisfaction with the way things are to make that kind of a movement. Many, many people depend on the status quo - and I'm not talking about just politicians and big oil companies. Millions of us do. Most of us do.

    There's a reason why we vote for the same old thing every four years: it's because we like it. The vocal Rage-Against-The-Machine extremists who want to bring the current system down are very, very small in number. And why not? The overwhelming majority of us are well-fed, have homes to live in, cars to drive, clothes to wear, and cable TV to watch. We may complain, but who wants to mess with all that? Who really?

    -David Wong

  • To horribly misquote; It comes from the barrel of a gun.

    My previous flippant answer notwithstanding, I submit that you are more accurate than you realize. Power, real power that is, does come from the barrel of a gun.

    But I suggest that a symbolic gun, that is superior information and know-how, is more powerful than a literal gun, which is of a very limited scope.

    Think about it. A gun, oreven an army's worth of guns, can only control so well. Examples abound of regimes that have tried to rule through force and have faced opposition nonetheless. Ruling through force is a terrible drain on resources and is terribly hard to enforce. How much easier, and more effective, is it to control the populace through an intimate knowledge of what buttons to push to keep them off your back, complete with a media machine that keeps them happy enough not to notice their rights being raped.

    If you want real power, there are more effective "firearms" than those manufactured by Mr. Smith and Mr. Wesson.

  • Does the above article actually say anything? If it does, I couldn't find it.

    In 1948 a guy named Garry Davis decided that the nation-state system had to be abolished if the horrors of World War II were to be avoided in the future. He felt that the logical conclusion to the train of thought that produced the UN Convention on Human Rights was that everyone was sovereign and nation-states had no rights over people.

    In Paris, he renounced his citizenship and walked out of the US Embassy stateless. He issued himself a passport and has been going around the world ever since by convincing bureaucrats that his passport is just as good as one issued by a recognized government.

    His organization, the World Service Authority [worldcitizens.net], still sell the passports and they claim people have been able to get into almost everywhere using them.

    It's kind of a crackpot outfit (I see they're taking banner ads now -- very principled), but it is an interesting demonstration that the nation-state is only as powerful as people believe it is.

    -

  • &ltcontrarian rant>
    Hopefully, we won't have to listen to too much more drivel like this:

    Western governments, the authors say, may be more benign but are also tired. They're losing their governing authority, their leaders void of answers and ideas, mouthing platitudes fewer and fewer people believe or listen to.

    Three points:

    (1) People in technology often stupidly believe that government is a paper tiger. It's purely wishful thinking, which lasts until somebody like the RIAA outmaneuvers them and they're playing catch up. Government is a very potent force for both good and evil. Our government is relatively benign, so you can ignore it a lot of the time, but it won't stay that way all by itself.

    (2) Winston Churchill said that democracy was the absolute worst system of government except for every other one. Freud said that the two areas of endeavor that were doomed to unsatisfactory results were education and government. OOG the caveman probably had some choice things to say back in his day. Acting like there is some new intellectual bankruptcy in government shows distinct lack of historical perspective.

    The real problem is tougher -- when you get a good fraction of a billion people together to live together in a civilized society, it is difficult to make the mechanisms that support it user friendly and the policies that govern it clear and understandable. There will be policies and laws whether they're sensible or not and we're going to have to live with them because they will be backed up with police forces and armies. Throwing up your hands because the politicians don't have any good ideas and neither do you is not good enough. Think harder.

    (3) There is no technological or economic determinism which dictates a better society, any more than there is a historical determinism that will create the worker's paradise. There is only an accelerated series of dangers and opportunities. Be an honest geek. You've participated in the creation of these opportunities and dangers but have done absolutely nothing to shape what your elected officials are doing with them. Now you're wishing the problem would just go away so you could privately enjoy your cognitive superiority in peace and quiet.

    You can't wish the cognitive plebes away. Somebody has to grow your food and collect your trash. You don't shop for a civil society like you would for a pair of shoes. You take part in its creation or you live with its consequences.
    A majority of stupid but involved people beat the "cognitive elite" every time. Aristedes was ostracized by the Athenians. All the "cognitive elite" had to toe the line under Hitler's Nazi regime, and not a few of them bought into the baloney. Leaving the hoi polloi to other congitive aristrocrats is worse yet. Lenin took over the Russian government with little more than chutzpah and a great sense of timing -- ironically he had even fewer divisions than the Pope at the time.


    In a world awash in punditry and hype, why take The Sovereign Individual more seriously than any other attempt at futuristic navel gazing? One is these authors record: In previous books, they predicted the stock market crash of the late 80s and the fall of Communism.


    Doc Smith predicted the fall of communism too, but I'm not waiting for a pan-galactic organization of psychic supermen to solve our problems through benevolent dictatorship.

    I'm going to go way out on a limb here. The economy is headed for a downturn sometime in the next decade. Now will you buy my cock-and-bull story about the coming technological utopia?

    </contrarian rant>

  • I disagree with you about power coming from violence. In today's society (and this is really applicable for probably most of civilzation's history), power comes from money. Enough money buys comfort, the necessities of life, information, and even violence. The Cold War was won, not by violence (The US and USSR never actually fought each other), but because one nation had more MONEY than the other.

    For better or for worse, people in today's society strive to make money, not to gain information or to increase their capacity for violence.

    Think about the Internet, which is the freest flowing source of information. It did not come into widespread public use until it came out of the domain of the US military and Universities and into the realm of the ISPs and AOL.

    Information represents the purest and most idealistic aspects of our society and civilization. Money represents the muddiest and most realistic aspects of our society. We aren't a purely intellectual society (if were are, somebody please explain Brittney Spears) and we aren't a purely greedy society (if we are, somebody please explain Open Source). Somewhere in the middle is where we live.
  • Hey kids, if you liked Sovereign Individual, you'll love Ian Angell,

    Damn rights. Mod this bitch up! Lots of great ones in that link. This is my fave:

    But in the Information Age, governments chosen by the majority are governments chosen by losers.

    That goes RIGHT into the .sig file :)
  • Yep, that is a horrible misquote. Mao said "Truth comes from the barrell of a gun"; 'Truth' being (controll of) information and the 'barrel of a gun' being power. The reverse is also true, that those who controll how truth is defined have the power. All the guns in the world won't help you if all the soldiers follow your enemies.

    A horrible misquote of my own: "Guns are not strong boy, people are stronger. What is the strength of a gun without the hand that fires it?"

  • Power comes from many things... don't think a fat wallet is going to protect you from a mugger with a gun. Quite the opposite, in fact.

    "Free your mind and your ass will follow"

  • Quoting Ian Angell, snocone writes:

    > But in the Information Age, governments chosen by the majority are governments chosen by losers.

    Since Mr. Angell isn't here to speak on his own behalf, I'll paraphrase him from a documentary I once saw on his work:

    He's not a techno-libertarian, he's an economist. While the future he portrays in his writings has an obvious direct appeal to the hardcore technolibertarian segment, his opinions of the morality of such a society are neutral.

    If he were here (and I think he'd make a great slashdot interviewee someday, and I hereby apologize for putting words in his mouth), I think he'd say something like "I'm not a moralist - whether this is a Good Thing or a Bad Thing is not for me to judge. But whether for good or ill, this is what I think the future holds."

    The fact that people (such as myself, and presumably such as Snocone) read his writings and think "Wow, cool! The future's gonna be hardass, but at least we're in the lucky small percentage of the population that has a chance at surviving it!" is a reflection of Angell's readers, not on Angell's politics themselves.

    Indeed, the thing I like most about reading Angell is that he keeps his personal opinions about the morality of the future to himself; it's up to the reader to decide whether this is:

    • Good, and something in which you want to actively participate and help bring about.
    • Evil, but inevitable, so you'll swallow your pride for the shiny toyz that come with being part of Dogbert's New Ruling Class (TINDNRC :)
    • Good, but worth opposing because it benefits the few at the expense of many.
    • Evil, and worth opposing tooth-and-nail on the same grounds.
    It's a matter of considerable philosophical debate whether the middle two items on that list are self-contradictory.

    I don't know anyone who would argue in favor of the third item on the list ("Good, but worth opposing on moral grounds!"), but I know many who would argue for the second ("Evil, but wotthehell, bring it on!").

    I posit that both of these positions are contradictory. The third is more obviously loony than the second - if you believe the needs of the many are greater than the needs of the few/one, how can you say it's "Good"? But the second is no less self-contradictory; it just presumes that the needs of the few/one ought to be subservient to the needs of the many, rather than the other way around.

    I say pick one baseline for Goodness or Evilness and stick with it. If your choice makes you "altruistic", or "cyberselfish", so be it. (But then, I have a value system that considers logical inconsistency to be more "evil" than selfishness, so what else would I say? :-)

    Angell's money (and Rees-Mogg's, and mine, for what little all three of us are worth in the grand scheme of things) is bet on the selfish side of the battle. Where you put your money - and more importantly, your actions - is up to you.

  • The whole reason why a lot of the dot coms are failing is because they tried to be an extension of the existing system. It doesn't work that way. Would you use a car to drive up an escalator? No, that would be absurd. It's the same idea as trying to set up a department store strictly on the web. It just won't work. Companies who have adapted to the web and used it's strengths will survive. Take REI [rei.com] for example. They didn't move all their operations over to the web, that would be stupid. They leveraged the web to access a larger audience. ALA Click-And-Mortar.

    Though all of human history, there have been three basic stages of economic life: hunting-and-gathering societies; agricultural societies; and industrial societies. Now, sparked by the rise of computing and the growth of the Net and the Web, something entirely new and different may be just over the horizon, something all of us are already a primitive part of, a fourth stage of social organization: information societies.

    I take some issue with that because the first three phases of society were all about aquiring resources to live. Information in itself does not put food in the mouth. It can help pay for it, but it does not actually get it to your mouth. Factories still have to churn it out. Now if we start evoloving towards automating anything and everything, then I would agree that we are on the way to the "information age". Until then, I would say that we are still in the industrial age.
    --
    *Condense fact from the vapor of nuance*
    25: ten.knilrevlis@wkcuhc
  • I think that it is incorrect to suggest the power is going to the individual. New technologies introduce new capabilities which can be leveraged by any person/organization to their own benefit. For example, television provided power to corporations, politicians, and individuals who understood how to manipulate it. Some learned faster than others, some refined their skills more than others, but I disagree with the notion that technologies (particularly classes of technologies) have a bent in any particular direction.

    Sure, the Internet is making it easier for someone to make one's voice heard and to gather information. However, as more and more information becomes digitized (and particularly since digital security is being repressed), it becomes increasingly easy for governments to rewrite history, control access to information, violate someone's privacy, and police a population. Business have unprecedented oppurtunities to control and spy on their employees, manage their public image, collude and organize to maximize how much they grab from customers.

    Governments, as always, have been slow to learn the Internet, as they were with television. However, television is a good indicator of how they can eventually become quite skillful. I suspect the ultimate loser will be the general public, who in the long run tend not to master new technologies.
  • Cool, thanks for the insight!
    AHAHA! "Sparked by a pig????" HAHA! Damn you! Now I'm definetly going to have to look that one up! Reminds me of that Simpson's episode with Smither's and his assistant are in their office and he says he'd cut a check for a $1mill to some charity if "pigs flew". HAHAH..

  • It seems to me that "information" and "knowledge" are very different things.

    different, but closely related. knowledge comes from reason and/or experience, depending on your epistomological orientation. information can serve as a basis for both. you can view information as a catalyst for knowledge. the common man, in possession of nuclear secrets, can choose to turn that information into knowledge. without that information, however, if he desires that knowledge he must invent or discover it himself.

    wish
    Vote for freedom! [harrybrowne2000.org]
    ---

  • Democracies fail when the politicians realize that they can buy citizens' votes with their own money.
  • I think you're taking the free agent concept too far. In fact, it's not about contracters and temps, but simply people who know they have options and move until they find a job they find rewarding. You can be a free agent and stay with a single company for years, if it's the right one (just like the sports analogy of the word).

    There's also free agentry *within* a company; mobility works in all sorts of ways.

    Think of free agentry as simply being where you are because that's what you want, and not because you find it too difficult to move, and I suspect you won't find it as worrysome.
  • The fact that people (such as myself, and presumably such as Snocone) read his writings and think "Wow, cool! The future's gonna be hardass, but at least we're in the lucky small percentage of the population that has a chance at surviving it!"

    Heh. I'm a bit more hardcore about it than that. Here's a piece of a flamewar on more or less the topic of this discussion that I bothered saving a couple years back (Sherlock content searching ROCKS! :) At the very least, I trust it presents a thought-provoking alternative to the 'newly empowered sovereign individual' theory. I wrote this three+ years ago, but I see no particular reason to change my opinion so far.

    From: Alex Curylo
    Sent: Wednesday, April 2, 1997 11:20 AM
    Subject: RE: Jobs

    > If the problem stems from not enough training rather than not
    > enough jobs, how do you account for the recent increase in student
    > loan defaults?

    Because lots of students are idiots and they take useless crap like arts courses. That is not training. That is wasting your time.

    > Regarding wages, it DOES seem to be an employers market. In 1980 I had a
    > job as a construction grunt for $8.00 an hour. I have seen so many present
    > job postings where employers are providing the same wage for applicants who
    > must have at least 3 yrs. experience with references AND a degree.

    Supply and demand, my earnest but apparently ignorant sir, supply and demand. In 1980 I was milking cows for $4.50 an hour, and I bet you didn't have to get up at 3:30 in the morning to do your construction either. My present job posting is $75K. Training, my dear boy, training. And a modicuum of foresight in putting oneself on the DEMAND side of the supply and demand curve. I think $75K a year for me to fuck around emailing people like you is hardly an employers market, but that's just my opinion.

    > Canada is going through a radical change right now where the rich are
    > getting richer and the poor are getting poorer.

    Actually, no, what's happening is that the natural pattern of human relations is reasserting itself. Despite my above broadsides at arts courses, knowing what's in them is actually good, particularly in this case economics and history. In all societies throughout history up 'til the Industrial Revolution, there were three classes:

    A) The owners of the means of production
    B) The skilled workers
    C) The peasants

    Whether these were Pharoahs, scribes, and farmers, or kings, priests, and peasants, or tsars, boyars, and serfs, the pattern was basically identical. Now, with the Industrial Revolution, suddenly unskilled labor became valuable with the addition of minimal training; and furthermore, the peasants suddenly became empowered. Strikes, or sabotage, can strike directly at Class A in a way that previous peasant uprisings never could unless they were truly universal and the government had pretty much lost its grip in any case. So Class A was forced to share its wealth not only with Class B as it always had, but with Class C as well. Thus the rise of union labor and the middle class, starting around 1825 and extending more or less to now.

    This little history recap is pretty uncontroversial, altho it's usually not presented in precisely these terms. It is also generally accepted that with computerization and automation and global free trade, we are currently (last 10-15 years, say) starting the Information Revolution, or the Third Wave, or the Industrial Derevolution, or whatever the trendy label is this month.

    However! And here is the first thing I've said that qualifies as a genuine insight -- it is a NECESSARY consequence of this derevolution that the middle class disappear. The odd person has noticed that union jobs are going away and manufacturing is going to Indonesia and all that and has questioned what's going on, approximately the same level of insight you've demonstrated. But they haven't thought through the consequences of computerization and automation. If they would, they would realize that computer technology is going to wipe out all but the most menial and most skilled of jobs just as certainly as the internal combustion engine wiped out horsewhip makers. It's not a side effect, it's not something that the government can do anything about, it is a direct consequence of technological progress.

    In less than 25 years, and quite possibly in less than 10, this is going to be obvious to everybody. It's being hidden right now because of the effects of trade globalization (another NECESSARY consequence ... but that's another discussion altogether) have brought in the intermediary step of manufacturing being diverted to developing countries before being disposed of altogether. So we have the anti-Nike demonstrations and so forth. Well, those people are all complete idiots who don't know history, either of the early Industrial Revolution or of the last 50 (hell, 20) in the industrializing Asian economies, or basic economics, or fucking common sense for that matter. But I digress yet again. The point is that once the currently 'exploited' societies industrialize, then the manufacturing will disappear completely. It'll take at least 20 more years in Thailand, Burma, and so forth, maybe 50 in China (or then again, maybe not, those 23% annual growth rates in Shenzen are downright scary...) but when there's no more pockets of underdevelopment, then it will become perfectly obvious that The Era Of The Middle Class is OVER worldwide. It'll have been long gone in the currently industrialized world for decades, of course. And we will be back in the normal pattern of human relations: the rich, their lackeys, and the common scum.

    I'm doing pretty good positioning myself for the lackey class, in my humble opinion. So you're not doing that good, eh? Well, better get on it then, you don't really have all that much time left.

  • And, of course, broadcast media are more powerful for their one-way nature. If the Internet were that great at gaining exposure for ideas, you can be sure that advertisers would be shelling out millions to get their 30 second spot up on Yahoo. AFAIK, this hasn't happened yet Actually, the Net is fantastic for getting ideas exposed. So long as you choose to be exposed to areas of the net that expose new ideas (yes, it's circular, it's meant to be). And actually, I doubt you'll see millions for the 30 second spot on Yahoo. The beauty of this is that it doesn't have to be 30 seconds. It doesn't have to be full page. It can be whatever it wants (or needs) to be to a target audience.

    Sure, Yahoo gets a lot of eyeballs, but how many of them are the eyeballs *you* want to sell to?

    As for the content filtering mechanism of the Net, you are absolutely correct. But don't think for a second this is a bad thing. I happen to think I'm *more* informed now than I was in the past. It's simply a matter of what I choose to expose myself, and what those exposures leave to. Anyone can live in a vacuum. I actually think it's harder to maintain a firm wall on your preferred views on the Net than, say, Talk Radio.

    As for breadth of opinion, I find the Net to be far vaster than what is available to me on Network broadcasts, or indeed, from my own employer. They have concerns with presenting what is a *balance* of coverage at the expense of everything but what they know has a resonable response from their audience.

    The Net knows no limitations. A newspaper is limited by the costs of production and distribution offset by what people are willing to pay in for advertising and in subscriptions. Network news is limited by ratings tied to advertising dollars, which generally limits most stations to 2 hours of news per night, with at least an hour of that, largely repetition.

    Now, it could be argued the Net is also subject to economic forces. I'll agree, but suggest that economics is not nearly the limitation online as it is off. Anyone can put a site online with no capital investment. It would be very difficult to get a minority view expressed offline without spending money. Now, whether or not anyone will see that viewpoint is another matter. But it is out there, and very feasible for me to see it.

    So what does this all come down to? Largely a matter of choices and who makes them. Offline, a group of learned editors make decisions based on what's been covered previously, how it could affect the audience, and also (rightly or wrongly) their perception of knowledge among themselves, the reporter and the audience about a particular subject.

    The Net need not have any of these restrictions. Thus, the experience is (and will be) largely what we make of it ourselves, not what we are currently limited to by others.

    The key, i believe, is to let the medium live as it evolves, without adjustment or compensation to make it more acceptible to the status quo. The key is forcing the status quo to catch up.

  • Offtopic from Mr. Katz's article:

    GypC, you are right. Power does come from many things, but I still maintain that violence is not as powerful as money.

    If you hand the fat wallet over to the mugger the chances of you getting away unharmed are actually very high. In effect you are "buying" your life. Granted that it is not an expense that you were planning on, but if you were mugged, and you had NO money in your wallet, the chance that you will be shot becomes higher, because the PAYOFF for the mugger is much lower.

    And the fact that the mugger is trying to use violence to gain money just illustrates my point. Money is more powerful than violence.

    Violence does not feed people. Nor does it supply a roof over your head. Some people would argue that dictators use violence as the ultimate power, but even dictators can be bought off.

    Hitler rallied post-WWI Germany against the Jews, because he convinced the Germany people that the Jews were using their wealth to keep Germans in poverty. Hitler attempted to gain power over the Jews with violence. In the end, Hitler's evil violence was not able to overcome the combined economies of Britian, the US, the USSR, and the other allies (in the form of oil).

    I am not saying that I agree that money should be as powerful as it is, but I think it should be recognized that it is VERY powerful. I wish that the free flow of information and knowledge was the most powerful thing around. I think that it would benefit most all of humanity if that was the way the world worked, but unfortunately, the world does not work that way. Also, recognize that it must be the FREE flow of information. If information becomes a commodity (as it would if databases could be copyrighted), all it does is to replace money in the arena of power.
  • Well, IANAEconomist, but I think technically we are in a post-industrial service-oriented age (well, at least a lot of the "western" world). When you can live entirely in a house, without going outside to obtain resources, pay bills, etc., then we are starting to approach something like an "information age". Not that farmers and industrial workers disappear off the face of the earth, but that everybody is so specialized, and everything is connected via an "information" network, that the majority of people's needs can be obtained impersonally, without any interaction with people or work specifically towards that resource. Used to be if you wanted bread, you farmed and made and baked it yourself, or at least went to the baker. In an "information age" we could hypothetically have smart agents that know what we need to get and just get it for us and it arrives at the door, or better yet, right in our fridge.
  • Touché.

    I concur that money is the more powerful of the two in general circumstances. But when it comes down to the individual the threat of death is generally a more powerful motivator.

    Anyway, we agree to my main point that power comes from many places.

    "Free your mind and your ass will follow"

"Don't worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you'll have to ram them down people's throats." -- Howard Aiken

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