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Sovereign Individual (Part One)

JonKatz posted more than 13 years ago | from the mastering-the-transition-to-the-info-age dept.

Technology 215

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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215 comments

Future developments (1)

Cobalt Weaponary (228323) | more than 13 years ago | (#803918)

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!

______

Is this accurate? (4)

Byteme (6617) | more than 13 years ago | (#803919)

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's time to separate (2)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 13 years ago | (#803920)

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?)

Free agent nation (2)

zlite (199781) | more than 13 years ago | (#803921)

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.

Napster etc... (2)

DustyHodges (174738) | more than 13 years ago | (#803922)

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?

Re:but i thought corprations were going to rule us (4)

AbbyNormal (216235) | more than 13 years ago | (#803923)

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?

Information Society? (1)

don_carnage (145494) | more than 13 years ago | (#803924)

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

Sorry: couldn't resist.

--

The Lord... (1)

deefer (82630) | more than 13 years ago | (#803925)

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.

This won't be any better than it is now (5)

Dan Hayes (212400) | more than 13 years ago | (#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?

My question (1)

AbbyNormal (216235) | more than 13 years ago | (#803927)

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.

Its all about who you vote for (1)

scotay (195240) | more than 13 years ago | (#803928)

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.

Re:but i thought corprations were going to rule us (1)

phUnBalanced (128965) | more than 13 years ago | (#803929)

that is the best analogy of where the corporations fit into modern society that I have heard yet.

Anybody remember... (1)

Malc (1751) | more than 13 years ago | (#803930)

... what Clive James used to find so amusing with Lord Smogg?

The information age (1)

Kinetic Kit (156741) | more than 13 years ago | (#803931)

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.

Revolution anyone? (1)

skeebe (221142) | more than 13 years ago | (#803932)

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.

Incomplete Logic (4)

ScuzzMonkey (208981) | more than 13 years ago | (#803933)

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.

don't , don't ,don't believe the hype (1)

surferfro (168486) | more than 13 years ago | (#803934)

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.

At The Expense Of Government? (2)

syf0n (208210) | more than 13 years ago | (#803935)

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.

Online Newsletter (2)

redelm (54142) | more than 13 years ago | (#803936)

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.

Riding on Alvin's Wave? (1)

JMZorko (150414) | more than 13 years ago | (#803937)

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

Rees-Mogg: the World's most inept futurologist? (2)

counsell (4057) | more than 13 years ago | (#803938)

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.

Re:Future developments (1)

Slashdot Cruiser (227609) | more than 13 years ago | (#803939)

In the future, will it be possible to petrify the Slashdot Cruiser? Then we can preserve its fugliness for future generations!

Re:Is this accurate? (2)

sandman935 (228586) | more than 13 years ago | (#803940)

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.

Power doesn't come from information... (5)

xtal (49134) | more than 13 years ago | (#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.

Escalon/Carnivore's TRUE objective... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#803942)

... 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 !!!

But we are becoming less free, not more (1)

Loundry (4143) | more than 13 years ago | (#803943)

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 REAL purpose of governments (1)

jmarkham (85511) | more than 13 years ago | (#803944)

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?

Re:It's time to separate (1)

sandman935 (228586) | more than 13 years ago | (#803945)

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.

Like the artice, disagree with the timescale (1)

not_cub (133206) | more than 13 years ago | (#803946)

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

Horse pucky. (1)

BitwizeGHC (145393) | more than 13 years ago | (#803947)

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.

Ultimately people win (1)

sips (212702) | more than 13 years ago | (#803948)

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.

Re:Escalon/Carnivore's TRUE objective... (1)

sandman935 (228586) | more than 13 years ago | (#803950)

Good points but a rant this long deserves a signature. C'mon out AC.

Supply and Demand (1)

sterno (16320) | more than 13 years ago | (#803951)

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.

---

Blood in the Streets (2)

Detritus (11846) | more than 13 years ago | (#803952)

Aren't these the same two geniuses who wrote several books about how to survive and get rich during the (then) impending economic apocalypse?

Nation-States are obsolete (1)

q2k (67077) | more than 13 years ago | (#803953)

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.

The "Information Age": BS corporate propaganda (4)

Eladio McCormick (226942) | more than 13 years ago | (#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.

The Great Reckoning (1)

bukys (185387) | more than 13 years ago | (#803955)

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).

Re:Power doesn't come from information... (1)

nido (102070) | more than 13 years ago | (#803956)

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?

Not terribly. (1)

sips (212702) | more than 13 years ago | (#803957)

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.

If I were a member of SpinalTap, (1)

kwashiorkor (105138) | more than 13 years ago | (#803958)

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

...more equal than others... (1)

Atreides_78723 (228515) | more than 13 years ago | (#803959)

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.

Re:Revolution anyone? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#803960)

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.

Athenian Democracy in the Information Society (2)

Alien54 (180860) | more than 13 years ago | (#803961)

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."

That wouldn't work (1)

sips (212702) | more than 13 years ago | (#803962)

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.

Re:Power doesn't come from information... (2)

wishus (174405) | more than 13 years ago | (#803964)

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]
---

Re:Revolution anyone? (2)

evilned (146392) | more than 13 years ago | (#803965)

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.

Re:Ultimately people win (1)

AbbyNormal (216235) | more than 13 years ago | (#803966)

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.

Re:This won't be any better than it is now (2)

Kaa (21510) | more than 13 years ago | (#803967)

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

Re:It's time to separate (1)

sips (212702) | more than 13 years ago | (#803968)

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.

info revolution 156 years old already (2)

peter303 (12292) | more than 13 years ago | (#803969)

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.

Re:The information age (2)

Wraithlyn (133796) | more than 13 years ago | (#803970)

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."

Re:The information age (1)

sips (212702) | more than 13 years ago | (#803971)

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.

about "everything being invented" (1)

rkanodia (211354) | more than 13 years ago | (#803972)

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].

Evolution of the Society (1)

georgekma (144646) | more than 13 years ago | (#803973)

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.

Re:That wouldn't work (1)

PrimalChrome (186162) | more than 13 years ago | (#803974)

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

Re:Its all about who you vote for (1)

Stonehand (71085) | more than 13 years ago | (#803975)

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...

Re:Is this accurate? (1)

sandman935 (228586) | more than 13 years ago | (#803976)

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...

Cognitive elite? Not a chance. (1)

rongen (103161) | more than 13 years ago | (#803977)

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<--

Nation-states aren't good sports. (1)

kd5biv (129563) | more than 13 years ago | (#803978)

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 ..

Re:That wouldn't work (1)

AbbyNormal (216235) | more than 13 years ago | (#803979)

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.

Re:Ultimately people win (1)

sips (212702) | more than 13 years ago | (#803980)

You assume "people finally figured out that they were getting hurt.". If they are stripped of ways to figure out, then eventually they cannot.

Which at the most fundamental level is impossible. Even in communist countries people have secret papers and there is always the concept of whispers and looks. Human communications will flourish even with the gestapo at the door.

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?


I concede that you probably are not ignorant but just taking a different look at something which has been proven before.

As with the techinical knowledge? Where is technical knowledge of use today in modern society?

Well this is slashdot afterall and we are using the inernet right? And I am in the process of learning about technical subjects every day so I guess that dissapates that one.

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.


Uh race relations usually don't center on the fact that a person was born in a certain area as to disunderstood cultural mores and sterotypes. For example. Blacks are all in gangs/commit felonies/are prisoneers/deal crack, etc are all ideas. This dosn't say that everyone who is from Africa or who has black skin is evil just that ignorant people like Cletus think that all black people are like the guy who is his next door neighbor. Nothing so fancy. The only time when any "corporation" if you could call them that actually was in the slave business was in the old south and culturally and philosophically the south and the north were two different entities. I sugest you look at one of the very good books that deal with Southern History (can't remember the name deals with many essays on the differences in northern and southern though).

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.


Like the Old Deluder Satan Act in new england which created essentially a wide spread reading program for almost all children? How about all those one room school houses that were around when my grandfather was alive? Personally I like references of massive attempt to keep people in the dark. Maybe funding was the problem but pretty much it's the law now to go to school (and has been for a long time). Those arguments may have been more relevent in say the 14th century or back when Gutenburg was around.

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.


Political control is common I grant you that. However not every country is like a Moussilini or a Hitleran state. Ultimately when everything is said and done massive political unrest will unseat any corporation or any political entity. Technical knowledge is the cornerstone of true ecconomic success. Slashdot if proof enough. The massive influx of technical oriented jobs is another.

Goverments haven't figured it out yet (1)

HenryWirz (174386) | more than 13 years ago | (#803981)

Things are changing. Look at how much trouble governments are having at controling the exchange of information. What governments haven't figured out is that they can't stop the information. Anyone who wants to can find DeCSS or kiddieporn despite them both being unlawful to diseminate in the US.

Re:This won't be any better than it is now (2)

Detritus (11846) | more than 13 years ago | (#803982)

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.

Re:At The Expense Of Government? (1)

pianoman113 (204449) | more than 13 years ago | (#803983)

This is very true. I very much doubt that there will ever be any kind of "digital revolution" as described by Jon. One problem I see with his brief essay is where the revolution will be centered. Right now, the US has pretty domininant control over the World Wide Web. The Web is the only part of the internet that the masses have a clue about. They don't know about telnet or gopher. They only know about ftp if they have been linked to one to download files. The only alternative net solutions they have contact with are Gnutella (maybe) and Napster.
So what is the point? The US government has drifted further and further from the idea of contractual government (mostly because the American people are predominantly idiots). This means that if they want, the US government can shut down the WWW (Carnivore, perhaps).
There will also be no "Individual Liberation" because individuals cannot survive. We live an a cooperative society, and we depend upon others for certain services. Even if those services are web based, we are not truly "liberated." The most obvious example is internet access. We will still rely on the phone company for internet access, like it or not.
While the idea of truly being individually liberated is nice and fluffy, it will never happen. Don't get your panties in a bunch.

Re:It's time to separate (1)

nan0ok (135157) | more than 13 years ago | (#803984)

If you think every representative that votes *know in depth* what they are voting about, you're quite naïve.

Besides, if I don't (or can't) know the law, how can I know what's illegal? It's not like the laws made these days are intuitive.

The whole legal/political system has this millennium become a very strange beast indeed. To know how it shold work has become a profession in itself.

I am for "direct" democracy, at least on a local level.

Re:It's time to separate (1)

sandman935 (228586) | more than 13 years ago | (#803985)

You obviously have a higher opinion of our elected representatives than I.

Do they actually read and understand these laws? I doubt it. I think they vote the way they are directed to by corporations that do have the time and resources available to fully understand the bills that often make little sense. As and example (if I recall correctly), I believe there is/was a bill on the floor regarding banking laws that somehow needed verbiage regarding the prohibition of methamphetamine information on the internet. I don't recall the HR# at the moment but it serves to illustrate a point.

Once you've cut out the corporate/special interest noise, I think the majority of the population would be up to the task of voting how we govern ourselves.

That... or give me term limits and campaign reform. Make public service truly public service and not a career.

I don't think so... (2)

Uncertain Bohr (122949) | more than 13 years ago | (#803986)

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.

Re:This won't be any better than it is now (1)

Cobalt Weaponary (228323) | more than 13 years ago | (#803987)

The "penis bird" is not an alternative opinion.

However, petrification is a real and attractive alternative, and if you look in my user history, you will see that I've been moderated down many times for my opinions! How fair is that? Plus, I've had people respond with links to a picture of someone's discusting, slimy anus! Eeeew!

I'm sorry, but you sexualists discust me. You're so closed minded.

______

Re:That wouldn't work (1)

sips (212702) | more than 13 years ago | (#803988)

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.


Well pretty much the average southerner didn't want to go to war and fight for the rich. It was the poor dirt farmers who died at Gettysburg and not the rich plantation owners. It's pretty clear that the South was controlled by the planters who in turn owned slaves who in turn got pissed off that the north because of their motives and extremists (abolitionists) and their ideas about states rights. Yes the war was not fought about slavery in the sole but in fact more about the rights of states in the abstract. South Carolina had been a trouble spot since the 1830's under John C. Calhoon and the Jackson administration.

Re:The information age (1)

Kinetic Kit (156741) | more than 13 years ago | (#803989)

You're right. The fact that we can have this discussion over /. is evidence enough. I guess my point is that we never want to confuse the amplification or perfection of something with its invention. As a form of communication, interaction, information distribution and so on, the Internet is the pinnacle. When some medium comes around and engages all five senses across distances, like real-life does now, then I'll cede it the title of "new dimension."

Which artist deserves most praise? Pablo Picasso, whose art unquestionably is among the most revolutionary ever; or some long-forgotten cave-dweller who, with red rock on a cave wall, drew a stick-animal and created art and with it all visual communication?

I answer the latter, which may be why we disagree.

Re:The information age (2)

ScuzzMonkey (208981) | more than 13 years ago | (#803990)

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.

Re:This won't be any better than it is now (1)

shren (134692) | more than 13 years ago | (#803991)

I don't think your concerns are badly placed. But, I also don't think that people cubbyhole themselves quite as much as you think. Whenever I hit a slashdot story that really interests me, or get an email that really interests me, or have a new topic I want to go into, I don't search Slashdot. I throw some keywords at Google and see what comes out the other side.

Re:Escalon/Carnivore's TRUE objective... (1)

sandman935 (228586) | more than 13 years ago | (#803992)

Ya think? I don't know which is worse... agreeing with a troll or being caught by one.

What is the authors' agenda? (2)

gelfling (6534) | more than 13 years ago | (#803993)

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.

Re:Power doesn't come from information... (1)

Kakurenbo Shogun (64436) | more than 13 years ago | (#803994)

It comes from the barrel of a gun.

If you haven't watched the movie "Gandhi" lately (or ever), I highly recommend checking it out. There are ways to fight against the barrel of a gun. As Gandhi states (paraphrasing), the goal of civil resistance is to make injustice visible. Once it's clear that the resisters are acting morally and those in power are not, it is possible to amass enough support from people at large to win victories over the power of force.

As has been stated during some of the discussions here of the protests at such events as the Republican convention, one of the reasons why protesters these days have been unsuccessful in enlisting the sympathy of the masses is that their protest methods don't fulfill this goal--violent protests only serve to justify the use of force in the eyes of people not already converted to the cause.

It's worth citing another quote (or paraphrase) from the movie: When asked whether he thought non-violence could be used against someone like Hitler, Gandhi replied, "Not without deafeats and much pain. But are there no defeats in this war? No pain?" Don't mistake the fact that in a war of civil resitance, the resisters receive injustice while the other side doesn't for ineffectiveness. Part of being a civil resister (paraphrasing from the movie yet again) is the willingness to accept injustice without responding in kind, in order to make injustice visible.

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.

These kinds of weapons may be effective for combatting external threats, but I have a hard time imagining them being used internally. If they were, I suspect it would only take a few seconds for the vast majority of the citizens to realize that their government had become an unbearably corrupt enemy of the people, resulting in (at best) total non-cooperation or (at worst) bloody revolution.

Re:Power doesn't come from information... (2)

Nezumi-chan (110160) | more than 13 years ago | (#803995)

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?

Re:Supply and Demand (2)

zlite (199781) | more than 13 years ago | (#803996)

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.

Wrong! Nation-States have not rules for centuries. (1)

Cain Novocaine (215368) | more than 13 years ago | (#803997)

Nation-states are a unique creation of the twentieth century. They were in part developed as a way for for retreating imperial powers to keep the peace in their former colonies. It has had almost precisely the opposite effect, as political borders are imprecise and minority ethnic groups (nations) exist within the new countries(states.) Pakistan-India, Kosovo, Angola, Nigeria, Rwanda, even Belgium all feel the pain of imposed borders and imprecise Nation-Statehood.

Re:This won't be any better than it is now (2)

Wraithlyn (133796) | more than 13 years ago | (#803998)

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.

Media Hype (1)

DustyHodges (174738) | more than 13 years ago | (#803999)

OK, I know I'm going to make myself look like a real extremist here, but the thing is that's exactly what the media and the gov't want you to think. The only people who want to overthrow the government are a bunch of wacko fringe groups that we should all mock on Late Night Talk Shows, then go back to our happy fat consumerism. This America is so far from it's original vision it's disgusting. The only way that it will be taken back is with an uprising, violent or no. Are you going to keep being a puppet, or are you actually going to stand up for your rights?

Information is the opiate of the masses? (2)

MattW (97290) | more than 13 years ago | (#804000)

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.

Re:That wouldn't work (1)

ahodgson (74077) | more than 13 years ago | (#804001)

Actually, they didn't say "let's go to war". They said "we're out of here, see ya". The Federal government went to war to preserve the Union.

The result was a strong United States and the end of slavery, so I'd have to say it was a good thing. But it was Abe who went to war, not the South.

Re:Ultimately people win (1)

RedneckTek (120165) | more than 13 years ago | (#804002)

Corporations don't have that same ability to give people that kind of comfort.

/putting on flame armor/

I don't agree. Corporations have been telling us how to be comfortable with ourselves for years. They tell us what to buy, what to wear, how to act. Even if the /. community doesn't follow it, the fact remains that corporations determine the status-quo.

KATZ likes "The Sovereign Individual"!?!! (3)

Tackhead (54550) | more than 13 years ago | (#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.

Re:Rees-Mogg: the World's most inept futurologist? (2)

zorgon (66258) | more than 13 years ago | (#804004)

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?

Cause and effect (1)

Actinophrys (225053) | more than 13 years ago | (#804005)

Nation-states might be having some difficulties, but to associate this with the continued rise of info techs is forging a link that need not be there.

Keep in mind that we are still in the immediate aftermath of the world wars. Even after the Peloponesian war had sealed the doom of ancient Athens, it still lasted for a century, though the democracy was crippled by a disenchanted public. One could argue the nation-state is in the same phase. WWII exhausted Europe, at least.

The result of that, of course, could easily be a shifting of locus. America and Russia replaced Europe as the world centers. Russia has collapsed, but how America fairs has yet to be seen. It is a mistake to assume that the power shifts of a century mean a permanent decline.

Furthermore, if there is a decline, it is absurd to consider it coming from the rise of the common man; this should make a democracy stronger, shouln't it? The problem should come from the growth of aristocracies at the expense of the common man, as undermined Rome, Byzantium, and Han China.

Just some thoughts...

Re:Power doesn't come from information... (2)

Azog (20907) | more than 13 years ago | (#804006)

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)

Re:It's time to separate (1)

Happy Monkey (183927) | more than 13 years ago | (#804007)

...and read literally thousands of pages of laws a day and understand/vote on them?

One question I've always had is, why do there need to be thousands of pages of laws? Personally, I don't think any one law (or, incidentally, contract or other legal document) needs to be more than 5 pages or so. Otherwise it is too complicated, or poorly written.
___

Conformity? (1)

DrCode (95839) | more than 13 years ago | (#804008)

I don't think so. In the pre-online days, all the news I read came from 'standard' sources like the local newspaper or Time, while reading more varied sources was too much work.

Now, with a few clicks through Yahoo, I can not only read what the major U.S. news sources have to say, but I can also read opinions from all over the world. So, for example, I can easily get both the Arab and Israeli points of view regarding their conflict, not just the U.S. view.

Re:Wrong! Nation-States have not rules for centuri (1)

Actinophrys (225053) | more than 13 years ago | (#804009)

The western European countries developed into nation-states towards the end of the Middle ages (with the notable exceptions of Germany and Italy). The concept of nation-state did not extend throughout the rest of the world until the 20th century, but clearly Europe had an impact disproportionate to its size.

Re:That wouldn't work (1)

AbbyNormal (216235) | more than 13 years ago | (#804010)

Actually that's not entirely true. The confederates, if you recall [britannica.com] actually fired the first shots of the war. The Union did not, at that time, have any massive organized troops. Their defeat in Charleston, kinda kicked them in the butt a little bit.

Working government programs (2)

KahunaBurger (123991) | more than 13 years ago | (#804011)

"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

Interesting; a 'metabiological' opposition view (1)

scotfree (87141) | more than 13 years ago | (#804012)

I agree that the balance between the individual and the group 'scales' of societal structure is shifting, but I think you can argue it's going the other direction:

The sovereign individual has reached its apogee in western culture, and is (arguably) on the decline in favor of dynamics, structures, and behavior based in the group or cultural entity. Certainly, the old-style nation-state is also fading; the structures I mean are based in cultural and informational substrates, not (traditional) politics or militarism.

This is not a good or bad thing, though I find aspects of it quite frightening and exciting. But I liken these times to a metaphorical moment when single-celled life began to give rise to multi-cellular organisms. One imagines that prokaryotes first discovered the advantages of cooperation and mutual support. Then, after a few (million...) generations, began to notice that they were increasingly less able to function as 'individuals', but had been subsumed into a larger structure, in which each played a needed role, but was unable to exist as a seperate entity. One can abuse the admittedly stretched metaphor further by imagining 'prokaryot rights' groups protesting the invasive behavior of the larger eukaryiotic structures: defending the privacy of individual nuclei, decrying the increasing lack of independance and moral fibre of the younger generations in favor of better assimilation - maybe even attempting to fight the tide with direct (chemical) action (the birth of immune systems - as Cops or Protesters?)...

Consider the increasing acceptance of the loss of individual privacy in deference to 'security' or 'societal cohesion'. Consider the increasing power of cultural phenomenon and movements in political and legal arenas. Time was, we'd look at these and cry 'conspiracy' but that's clearly old-school. I increasingly find that one can explain most conspiracy-like structures more satisfactorily without recourse to some star-chamber of indiviuduals planning the whole thing out.

Rather, I see these phenomenon as emergent behavior not originating in individual preference or schemes at all. Noam Chomsky loves to use NY Times complete avoidance of certain topics as an example of classical consiracy; I love to use the same thing as an example of 'emergent' or 'structural' conspiracy: one can imagine a thousand individual choices, all innocent and minor, based on style/mood/cultural trends/etc, having the same end result without any individual ever deciding to censor news about, say, East Timor. I see many political and societal changes coming about this way, with no individual choice except at a very local, simple level, yet with a higher level impact very reminicent of concious behavior. Increasing technological advance excacerbates this change, and we increasingly resemble the individual components comprising larger organisms, which in turn, depending on your point of view, look like something between: on the positive side, Vernor Vinge's 'Transcendant Powers' or some utopian 'society of mind'; on the negative, Star Treks' 'Borg' or Dr. Who's 'Daleks'...

Not that I neccesarily see things as this extreme, or even buy any of this at all. But I think it's an intersting way to look at things, and I can't resist viewing societal structures as large scale organisms - and this has some odd implications for the concept of 'The Sovereign Individual'....especially when you've had few cups of coffee and don't want to do your PHP coding....

let us not forget (1)

snarkh (118018) | more than 13 years ago | (#804013)

Let us not forget that the wonderful democracy of Athens had put Socrates to death by poisoning after an entirely democratic proceedings where he was found guilty of impiety and corrupting the minds of young citizens of Athens.

Re:The REAL purpose of governments (1)

ScuzzMonkey (208981) | more than 13 years ago | (#804014)

(Apologies in advance to those readers who are not subject to the US Constitution)

In some ways, I would tend to agree with you, but you've made a mistake in assuming that all governments are identical. Your central thesis is sound: Government exist to protect property (although not always of the governed). You speak of the government violating its charter without actually looking at that charter itself, which does not say exactly what you think it does.

Protecting some rights involves forfeiting others. What is protected and what is forfeit is specified in the charter and approved by the governed. Specifically, the 16th Amendment gives up your ability to take home all you earn, and instead ships it off to Washington, where your favorite legislator can use it to line his or her pork barrel to their hearts content. Now, you may be saying that I'm proving your point here, and to a certain extent I am--I don't think that our current system of taxation is equitable. But the real point is that we, the governed, consented to it when it was passed as an amendment to our basic charter.

We could have a whole different sort of charter with different sets of rules with more or less emphasis on certain rights, but we don't. There are degrees of trade-offs, and that is where they are specified.

For what it's worth, I personally do want to live in a country that has some sort of social support system. I detest the pork-barrel stuff, but I can't really fault the concept of the system. I don't see providing for the less able as thievery, but as a way of strengthening the country (when applied properly, which we don't). I think a straightforward, cutthroat, capitalist society would eventually eat itself. But that's another topic.

Democracy (2)

redhog (15207) | more than 13 years ago | (#804015)

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...

Infrastructure for distributed sovereignties (1)

smaring (229775) | more than 13 years ago | (#804016)

Bloated governments like the U.S. certainly do a fine job of screwing things up and taking away our freedoms. I'd be more than happy to declare myself a sovereignty.

But how do you support civil infrastructures like roads and judiciously process criminals who do harm to others? Expressing authority on these matters could be a power struggle of the week vs. the powerful. I suppose autonomous focus groups, similar to OpenSource projects, could form to specialize in certain areas, but how would they get funded?
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  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
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