fbpx

RSS Feeds
Technocommunist Vectors: Radar Edition

When I first laid out my idea for a neo-feudal technocommunist patch, 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.

Exploring tangible interactions with radar sensing

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,

Ethereum Smart Contracts and Political Engineering with Dave Hoover

Dave Hoover (@davehoover) is a software engineer and expert developer of Ethereum smart contracts. He wrote the book Apprenticeship Patterns: Guidance for the Aspiring Software Craftsman and runs a distributed software development firm called Red Squirrel. He is currently writing a book on smart-contract development, called Hands-on Smart Contract Development with Solidity and Ethereum.

In this podcast, Dave gave me a better understanding of the potential — and the limits — of Ethereum smart contracts. I told Dave about my own ideas (see Reality Patchwork and Neo-Feudal Techno-Communism and Aristocracy and Communism) to see how my intuitions bounced off a technical expert. There's also some good stuff in here for anyone curious about learning to develop their own smart contracts.

Big thanks to all the patrons who help keep this podcast going.

Download this episode.

#9 - Sam Berkson

Sam Berkson is a poet and blogger. Sam is a really passionate and active writer, performer, and organizer (of culture and politics) in London. We recorded this podcast in Sam’s flat in Tottenham at 3am on a Friday night.

Sam's recent book, Settled Wanderers, is out now with Influx Press. You can find more of Sam's work on his website and you can hit him up at @AngrySamPoet.

Notes with timestamps

general patterns of the universe!!! 00:01

full automation or nah? 00:03

what’s up with Red Bull owning the whole world of extreme sports? 00:06

the crazy growth in performance in extreme sports 00:07

linguistic invariance, principles and parameters 00:14

even educated people basically don’t know shit 00:16

how natural human mental functioning is really faulty 00:18

the metaphor of the elephant and its rider 00:19:30

right-wing vs. left-wing models of human needs 00:24

the problem of aggregating from individualism to tribalism to global community  00:28

nobody does anything great out of desperation 00:44

why you have to be realistic about what thinking can do - 00:46

talking with people isn’t about solving problems but doing something meaningful 00:47

if listeners don’t like my podcasts then they're fired! 00:49

Stay up to date on all my projects around the web. No spam, don't worry.

The content of this website is licensed under a CREATIVE COMMONS ATTRIBUTION 4.0 INTERNATIONAL LICENSE. The Privacy Policy can be found here. This site participates in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

rss-square linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram