Digital Maoism: A warning from an Internet pioneer

Discussion in 'privacy general' started by LockBox, Dec 27, 2012.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. LockBox

    LockBox Registered Member

    Joined:
    Nov 20, 2004
    Posts:
    2,275
    Location:
    Here, There and Everywhere
    It's long....but a fascinating read from the January 2013 issue of the respected Smithsonian Magazine.

    And so it is with Jaron Lanier and the ideology he helped create, Web 2.0 futurism, digital utopianism, which he now calls “digital Maoism,” indicting “internet intellectuals,” accusing giants like Facebook and Google of being “spy agencies.” Lanier was one of the creators of our current digital reality and now he wants to subvert the “hive mind,” as the web world’s been called, before it engulfs us all, destroys political discourse, economic stability, the dignity of personhood and leads to “social catastrophe.” Jaron Lanier is the spy who came in from the cold 2.0.​

    Full article: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-...st-the-Web-183832741.html?c=y&story=fullstory
     
  2. I think Lanier is correct to an extent. OTOH, we live in a society where governments are quick to punish people for blowing the whistle. Widespread anonymity may be conducive to atrocities, but I think some anonymity (to protect whistleblowers) is required in order to prevent atrocities.

    Then again, the Internet doesn't have a spectacular record for preventing atrocities, does it? Look at what's going on in Syria. Or Sudan...

    Even so, I dislike the idea of a de-anonymized Internet. In an ideal, perfectly tolerant society, we could get by without any privacy, but in current societies, lack of privacy can get innocent people killed. And there's also the issue of who enforces ID on the internet - because whoever they are, they would perforce have the ability to rig their own system and remain unidentified.

    tl;dr Yes, anonymity is bad for the human psyche. On the other hand, do we really want the kind of authoritarian panopticon state that would be required to get rid of it?

    The other alternative I see is to ditch the Internet entirely. This may actually have been a good idea a while ago - a way to a "linear" future, where technological progress follows a more predictable route, and perhaps gives our civilization more time to mature and adjust. But at this point the genie is out of the bottle, IMO; and the First World, at least, is too dependent on being interconnected to stuff it back where it came from.

    No, I don't have solutions (and I don't believe AIs will come out of the woodwork to rescue us either, sorry Mr. Kurzweil). I suspect people could come up with something sensible if they worked at it. The question is whether anyone would be willing to work on something sensible, as opposed to making a power grab for control of a panopticon future.

    ... Yeah. I hope the above makes sense.
     
  3. LockBox

    LockBox Registered Member

    Joined:
    Nov 20, 2004
    Posts:
    2,275
    Location:
    Here, There and Everywhere
    Oh, Gullible....actually, you made a lot of sense. I agree with almost everything you said. I think for Lanier and the early pioneers, many of them thought an anonymous Internet would end up as a disaster after so many years and they've just been waiting. And, it may yet. It may be! But, I'm with you with big reservations about ever turning back the clock though. Fascinating article.

    I have a question for those outside the United States....do your local sites, like your local newspapers, etc. have the same kind of sick vitriol and childish rantings? It's just terrible here in the USA where the most basic of everyday humdrum stories on the local newspaper comments can bring out vicious flame wars. That's where I think Lanier is spot-on. If nothing else, it has shown the dark, dark side of people and what they are capable of saying when they are totally anonymous.
     
  4. Joxx

    Joxx Registered Member

    Joined:
    Sep 5, 2012
    Posts:
    1,126
    It's not as bad (from Europe).

    But then again most mainstream media is somewhat dormant nowadays and most blogs are nothing but amateurish.

    If you go and look for renegade media you find some little American gems like Zero hedge (to be consumed moderately), but even it sometimes doesn't escape the partisanship that seams to afflict US society.
     
  5. Joxx

    Joxx Registered Member

    Joined:
    Sep 5, 2012
    Posts:
    1,126
    I think there's a fundamental flaw in the article. If it's true that (web) anonymity can create vicious situations, it can also be the vehicle to expose.

    It depends more on who reads than on who writes.

    The naive will always be so, either on or offline.
     
  6. Nebulus

    Nebulus Registered Member

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2007
    Posts:
    1,582
    Location:
    European Union
    The article in itself is interesting, because it tries to present a different point of view about internet and society. However, it looks to me that a lot of Jaron Lanier's ideas revolve around money (he talks about loosing money from piracy, about how "free information" is bad, he links the economic and financial crisis with the computers and internet, talks about the loss of middle class, even about destroying the economy). And when he's not talking about money, he puts the blame on anonymity, which somehow turns us into a "mob", and the article even talks about "digital barbarism he regrets he helped create". And yet, he is portrayed as a visionary, as a creator of ideologies? These are his ideas and ideologies now? Give me a break... :thumbd:
     
  7. Mman79

    Mman79 Registered Member

    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2012
    Posts:
    2,016
    Location:
    North America
    I don't think you read it thoroughly enough. I get it, and he's right on a lot of things. Everything we have can be turned against us, used for good and bad. Let's discuss a few examples:

    Media and Piracy

    Good: The Internet has allowed anyone in the world with a connection to find, hear and watch, and purchase music, film and books from every corner of the globe.

    Bad: This same Internet has allowed anyone in the world with the will and skill to copy and share this same media with everyone in the world, without paying a dime to those who created it or helped create it.


    Anonymity

    Good: It allows us to have the freedom to express our views in a world increasingly against that ability. It also allows us to report on issues around the world without fear of retribution.

    Bad: Anonymous, LulSec, Internet bullying/threats, crime, trolling, piracy and the list can go on.

    Two good things come from anonymity, and the price we pay before any government or corporate interference is very heavy. Government is getting way too big, and yes, the power hungry are always there and ready to grab. But, you want to know the real reason you're seeing the decrease in anonymity on the Internet? Because it's out of control. Humanity being humanity, they got handed a digital Wild West, most of it free, and here we are, a digital world of pedophiles, drug dealers, hitmen, hackers, racists, gangs/organized crime and so on..and that's just on the visible Internet. Take a stroll through TOR and those things multiply like a wet mogwai. Our biggest problem? We won't police ourselves, and many of us take any sort of policing by "authorities" as an attack on our "rights". Think about it, most of us would lead a cop by hand over to some teenager in an airport screaming obscenities, racist remarks and threats. But put this same kid on Youtube, try to go after him, and you suddenly get a mass of people yelling "1984!" and hiring the kid a lawyer and the ACLU...now you tell me where the hypocrisy is here. So, though I went slightly off topic, my point is that there are different sides to what this article is discussing.


    He does talk a lot about money, but money is important to the discussion really. Here's something to think about, are you tired of "being the product"? Do you think if you had to pay for Google and its services that they'd be so willing to hoard and trade your data as they do now? They wouldn't. Do you think if you paid for that PDF reader/creator, music or media player, that internet radio service you listen to and so on, that they'd sneak in "gifts" in the form of bundled software from companies you've never heard of? They wouldn't. If you don't pay for a product, you become one yourself. Does that mean I think free software is bad? No, and if someone immediately thought that, it's proof they're close minded and want things their way or the highway and feel entitled.

    And, that's exactly how they are if they don't try to see the side of the story this article is presenting. You don't have to agree with every point, I certainly don't. But simply dismissing it as crap or the ramblings of a "crazy hypocrite" shows such a reader as the one who has the problem.
     
    Last edited: Dec 28, 2012
  8. On the other hand, if Google put a price on their services, how much useful information would be off limits to how many people due to simple lack of money?

    You're correct. The Internet is very "Wild West," and not policed well at all. But it also represents the first inkling we have of a society without scarcity. And make no mistake, there will be more of that coming - more efficient solar power, 3D printers, and other advances will probably make many products much less expensive in the near future. We are going to have to get used to the idea that markets do not work for certain things, and that the number of things they don't work for is going to increase.

    And in the long run, that could be a good thing. Billions of people are living in absolute poverty and ignorance right now, because our market-based global economy requires that you have money if you want to get anywhere. If money became something merely desirable, as opposed to something vitally necessary to survive, a lot of people might be better off.
     
  9. Mman79

    Mman79 Registered Member

    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2012
    Posts:
    2,016
    Location:
    North America
    Nothing Google has is anything that can't be found elsewhere. I'm not sure I understand the relation between the Wild West Internet and the technological advances in infrastructure and other areas. We can have 3D printers, better solar power and such without the Internet being a "Wild West". The reason we took so long to have or still don't have things like this is the lack of will to spend money now and be patient enough to see the fruits of labor later instead of padding corporate wallets right this moment. Very few people are willing to let their bottom line suffer temporarily for the greater good, they want profit today, not tomorrow. A market-based society is what is keeping the world from turning into one giant goose-stepping society, actually. Money will always be vital to survival, you simply cannot turn humanity into a bunch of selfless Care Bears. They want to see the fruits of their labors, people aren't going to work their behinds off because "it feels good". In order for people to only have money "because it's fun", you have to change them. You have to rid the world of dictators, of greed, of the power hungry, the "me" crowds. I wish you luck in that endeavor.
     
  10. Sorry, I probably wasn't clear in the last post. The "Wild West" side of things is more about the lack of good policing.

    If search engines charged for their services, then that would be "anything that can't be found elsewhere for a cost." A cost which some people would not be able to afford.

    OTOH, if Google charged for their search service and other search engines didn't, then Google would have a heck of a time competing with them... Unless Google had some substantial advantage of their own, no?

    I don't think the situation is a whole lot better than that, outside of the more affluent countries. For instance, the casualties from the Congoese civil war IIRC rival those from World War II.

    I think those statements are a little at odds with each other. Money being a vital necessity is, IMO, one of the things that enables the most selfish among us to stomp on everyone else.
     
  11. Mman79

    Mman79 Registered Member

    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2012
    Posts:
    2,016
    Location:
    North America
    I meant more along the lines of their services beyond search, as without search the Internet would be rather limited in use unless we all started keeping a list of IP addresses ourselves. I get your point though.



    Yes, but still if we relied on government for everything, which is what would happen without being market-based, we'd all be in bread lines and under boot heels much faster and it would global instead of certain areas.



    Again, point taken. But, I'll say again, it simply won't happen while humans are still humans. Services cost money because providing those services cost money and they'll continue to cost money so long as humans are overall a greedy, selfish species which we are, and while resources are not infinite, which they aren't. Believe it or not, needing money for things actually keeps a balance on the world. Think a bit on what the world would be like if everything were a free-for-all, if humans the way they are right now, had access to everything, anytime. It's not the utopia you're probably expecting. You can't change the world if you can't change the people living in it.
     
  12. Nebulus

    Nebulus Registered Member

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2007
    Posts:
    1,582
    Location:
    European Union
    I hear this a lot of times... Can you tell me why wouldn't Google sell my data anyway, even if I would pay for their services? What exactly would stop them to do it?
     
  13. Mman79

    Mman79 Registered Member

    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2012
    Posts:
    2,016
    Location:
    North America
    Sure, now Google may always be Google, but when you're giving money back to a service, your wallet is louder than your mouth. What I mean is, most providers are going to listen when their bottom lines start getting smaller and people move elsewhere. For a service like Facebook, the lack of data collection/sharing would kill it overnight, because that's exactly why the service was created. For, say, a music service, if the money starts drying up, developers, customer service reps, IT people, their wallets get smaller. You have far more power and say when you're paying for a service than you ever will gobbling up freebies. If you add taking away money plus complaining/badmouthing to fellow users or media, that's like a nuke going off in that service's face.
     
  14. Relying on government control for everything would be contraindicated. But it does work presently for some things, in some countries.

    There have been (and are) societies - low-tech ones with low population densities - that live under largely non-scarce conditions. They're not Utopian, and they don't have everything they desire (which would undoubtedly be a bad thing), but they get by.

    Re resources not being infinite, we're already seeing cases where we have (currently) sufficient resources to provide for everyone, and distribution is the problem. See for instance my home country throwing away enough food annually to support several third world nations.

    (Noting also that importing food to those nations wouldn't necessarily be all good, since it would drive local farmers out of business.)
     
  15. Mman79

    Mman79 Registered Member

    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2012
    Posts:
    2,016
    Location:
    North America
    In other words, there are no easy answers and there are likely never going to be any :) Distribution is a good point. Funny how we have enough food to open a handful of McDonald's in one city, but the homeless in that city have to beg for a fry. We've got enough materials to build that high-rise condo, but not enough to get rid of the projects and build some houses for the "lower classes" stuck in the hell holes.
     
  16. ronjor

    ronjor Global Moderator

    Joined:
    Jul 21, 2003
    Posts:
    57,729
    Location:
    Texas
    This discussion is beyond the scope of Wilders Security Forums.
     
Loading...
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.