DC Miller is a controversial but misunderstood person. He is a writer in London outcast from polite society after his opposition to the Shutdown LD50 campaign two years ago. I've talked with him enough to know he is not the evil caricature his enemies make him out to be, but I still don't understand his views fully. In this livestream we will try to get to the bottom of what DC really thinks. In doing so we make a series of distinctions about conservatives, fascists, neoreactionaries, and free-speech leftists. DC wrote the book, Dracula Rules the World and Mark Zuckerberg is His Son. You can find a list of his other writings at dcxmiller.tumblr.com.
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When I first laid out my idea for a neo-feudal technocommunistpatch, I only waved my hand at the coming technological pathways to my proposed polity. In that first talk, I just hypothesized that Rousseau's concept of the General Will could be engineered by Internet of Things + Smart Contracts.
But "Internet of Things" is really just a popular shorthand for the deepening integration of our physical and digital worlds. So it's easy to point at such a general class of coming technologies and say "something here is certainly going to solve [insert hitherto unsolvable problem]." One could very well have questioned my original talk on the grounds that what I was describing is not really feasible, or will not be feasible anytime soon.
The technology necessary to make communism game-theoretically stable seems closer than I thought.
One pathway on the sensor front is radar. Google has produced a new sensing device called Soli, which uses miniature radar to measure "touchless gestures." It's basically a tiny chip that holds a sensor as well as an antenna array, in one 8mm x 10mm rectangle:
Though Google's intended applications revolve around hand gestures, some people are already finding more general applications. (A flashy new prototype from a megacorp is one thing; but when some other entity starts tinkering with interesting results, that makes me pay more attention.)
A team of academics at the University of St. Andrews recently used Soli to explore the...
counting, ordering, identification of objects and tracking the orientation, movement and distance of these objects. We detail the design space and practical use-cases for such interaction which allows us to identify a series of design patterns, beyond static interaction, which are continuous and dynamic. With a focus on planar objects, we report on a series of studies which demonstrate the suitability of this approach. This exploration is grounded in both a characterization of the radar sensing and our rigorous experiments which show that such sensing is accurate with minimal training.
Take a minute to watch it in action, before we embark on a little thought experiment.
It's easy to imagine — without much extrapolation — how one could use this technology to enforce collective honesty and ethical performance optimization. Consider a large multi-family compound. One individual in one of the families is, by far, the most productive chopper of firewood. But he's a little dumb, and earns little money on the market. Then some other individual is by far the most productive software developer; he makes a lot of money on the market but he sucks at chopping firewood. Of course, rich software developers can already pay dumb manual laborers to produce their firewood, but currently no smart and rich person can enjoy the much more valuable and scarce luxury good of living in genuine harmony with a manual laborer.
So our wood-chopping expert hooks up some Soli chips to the pile of chopped wood he maintains for the community. Whenever a piece of wood is removed, he gets a ping on his phone, or maybe a digest at the end of each week. It tells him how many pieces of wood were taken, their weight, which person took them, and how many tokens were transferred to him by the associated Firewood Smart Subcontract (subcontracts are like clauses added to the original founding Smart Contract established at the founding of the polity; they can be constantly added and taken away by consensus, typically as new people enter or leave the group, or if/when individuals' skills/traits/needs change substantially). The richer the person taking firewood, the more they pay per piece of wood via the Smart Contract, according to a steeply progressive taxation rate agreed and programmed into law previously.
On the other hand, if Mr. Bunyan is not keeping the stock replenished, which leads to some individuals suffering very cold evenings, a certain number of tokens are transferred from him to whoever suffered a cold evening. This transfer can be automatically triggered whenever the data show the wood stock to be beneath some threshold, and the temperature data from a particular house to be beneath some threshold, on the same day. And again, these thresholds can be agreed consensually.
Aside: It might seem that this technocommunism sure does require a lot of group decisions — won't it fail like Occupy failed, because democracy is too much work?! Not quite. First, other than the basic preference thresholds defined in the contracts, there is no discussion or deliberation whatsoever. The code is sovereign, and removes the need for regular meetings and debates. My references to consensus only refer to periodic updates. Second, you know what requires a million decisions? The construction of a modern website. And yet it's easier than ever to make one, even with a group. Why? Because code evolves. With code, future people let the smartest and most successful past people make decisions for them. Over time, the larger global community of neo-feudal techno-communist polity hackers will converge on templates: kits containing a variety of sensor devices with a corresponding code repository, containing all the device+subcontract components found in almost all of the most successful previous patches to date. Groups will add new modules if they enjoy hacking, but many will just use the default settings. Or upon initiation, each person completes a short survey gauging basic traits and aptitudes, which plugs into the template optimal values for the various preference thresholds.
Depending on the use case, perhaps a video rig combined with image detection algorithms would work better than radar. Perhaps multiple, redundant methods leveraging different dimensions (video, radar, sound, etc.) might be used at once, in especially tricky and sensitive cases. Perhaps it turns out that 67% percent of the most destructive community offenses occur in kitchens, so the kitchen is loaded with every method and a heavyweight ensemble model. With some problems our tolerance for false positives might be greater/lesser than our tolerance for false negatives, so perhaps the statistical cutoff for inferring a violation would be set higher or lower accordingly.
Meanwhile, while the wood-chopper's system is managing itself, the rich computer programmer might leave a huge stock of old-fashioned USD greenbacks out in the open, available to all for immediate, interest-free, cash loans. Why? Because the risk approaches zero: Just as you can watch in the video above, all removals and returns are fully identified and recorded with radar, and if anyone fails to repay, the owner of the cash stock will be automatically credited from the taker's account after some agreed time (if the taker doesn't have it, a small portion will be taken from all of the others, all of whom have agreed to guarantee each other).
The only question right now is, what are currently the best technologies available for getting started? That and, who's game?
I've been exploring the work of Ernst Jünger, which I've never really read until now. The most cursory searching confirms a high likelihood of this man entering the Other Life pantheon. Consider the following from Eumeswil:
When society involves the anarch in a conflict which in which he does not participate inwardly, it challenges him to launch an opposition. He will try to turn the lever with which society moves him. Society is then at his disposal, say, as a stage for grand spectacles that are devised for him. Everything changes; the fetter becomes fascinating, danger an adventure, a suspenseful task.
I found a feature-length documentary about Jünger's time in Paris, called One Man's War (La Guerre d'un Seul Homme), which had his approval:
Jünger himself knew of this film, as a short passage from The Details of Time: Conversations with Ernst Jünger reveals. In those conversations with Julian Hervier, he only indicates that he had given the director Cozarinsky permission to make the film and in retrospect had no reason to regret the decision. Indeed - it is well done and provides excellent context for Jünger's difficult and yet enriching experience in occupied Paris.
I can't vouch for the film but I have added it to my queue, and will watch it soon. Perhaps you will watch it, too.
On my coming to Jünger, hat tip to Curtis, from whom I occasionally receive short missives in the reactionary genre of unsolicited advice — with gratitude, of course. I promise I'll eventually get to the other authors on your list, sir, but this one seems nearest my current tastes. Vielen Dank.
What's great about modern tolerance is that we're rarely confronted with negative judgments about our personal choices (notwithstanding the resultingly elevated sensitivity to negative judgments, which makes some people perceive a growth of "hate"). However, one of the unfortunate consequences of tolerance is that people don't give advice like they used to. Today the consensus among civilized people is to never give advice unless it is requested, and even then the entire exercise should be nullified with a "do whatever you think is best…" Advice that ends with a warm affirmation of any path whatsoever is not advice at all.
If someone has more experience than me, and they believe they are wise, and they have a considered reason to believe they understand something that I don't — then they should tell me what they believe I should do. And they should insist that I do it, despite whatever I may think is best.
Giving strong advice is not "disrespecting my freedom:" I am only maturely free if I can make my own decisions in the face of strong advice. To criticize the presumption of strong advice-giving on the grounds that it disrespects the freedom of others betrays a hidden disrespect for the other, a belief that the other is not capable of freedom.
To not give advice one is in a position to give is a profound, if invisible, declaration of hostility toward the potential advisee, a strangely hateful comfort with watching another person walk off a cliff. True advice, intolerant advice, although it is sometimes cruel and judgmental and oppressive, is, ironically, an index of care. The decline of true advice-giving does not reflect social progress or humane enlightenment, but rather the generalization of the hostis down to lower and lower levels of interpersonal relating.
We dislike that others might know best what we ourselves should do, so we train them to hate us — and call it respect.
This is the second post in a series, on the concept of "becoming imperceptible" in Deleuze and Guattari. The first one is here.
For obvious reasons, we have strong inclinations to be understood by others. There is a problem here because, to the degree we wish to be perceptible to others, we are conditioning our own expressions on contingent social and political variables. In an ideal community, this might not be a problem. If technological or other contextual variables veer off in a way that biases and malforms popular perceptions, then thinking and speaking to be perceptible can easily lock one into a life of inescapable confusion, suffering, and reproduction of precisely what one despises. This is the problem of perceptibility, in a nutshell.
Note that perception refers to sense data. Perceptibility therefore has pre-conscious connotations. You might think of perception as kind of like "understanding,"but the latter is misleading because it connotes conscious intellection. It's worth clarifying this point because the problem here is not the prospect of being correctly understood intellectually. We will seek to be understood, but only by those who can understand. Seeking to be perceptible means catering to the initial and cheapest pieces of others' psychological and behavioral equipment.
To be perceptible means that institutions, and their human trustees, know how to manipulate you. Being perceptible means you are easily pigeonholed, and what's worse is that often you are correctly pigeonholed. If you optimize for how you are perceived, and especially if you build a life on how you are perceived (i.e., anyone who's income is based on status in an institutional hierarchy), then your thoughts, words, and actions are easily controlled by anyone above you in the institutional hierarchy. For by definition their edicts have greater influence on the perceptions of everyone attuned to the hierarchy than anything you might say or do, thus pleasing one's status-superiors is a necessity for those who wish to be perceived well. (This matter is greatly complicated in contexts of institutional breakdown and fragmentation, as we are currently observing, so we will need to treat the matter in greater detail later; but for now, most of us are still maneuvering lives overwhelmingly characterized by the inertia of mass institutions, so even if institutions break down rapidly over the course of the next few generations, the general lessons here will suffice for most people for quite some time.)
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