Tuesday, September 27, 2005

The Wood Between the Worlds

One of the questions outfits like Pajamas Media are trying to answer in action is what the future of information gathering will look like in a few year's time. Brian Micklethwait at Samizdata provides an interesting glimpse into where things might be headed by focusing on a small news event he stumbled on. An activist belonging to Fathers4Justice, which advocates more custody rights for dads, had scaled Parliament house in London when Micklethwait was walking by. (See Samizdata for the photos) The protester was talking to ... his lawyer? ... a radio interviewer? ... someone at least, on his cell phone. Regular journalists were positioned down below taking continuous footage of the protester, while hard by, a literal crowd of regular citizens had whipped out their digital cameras (with an optical 10x zoon and autostabilized in the case of Samidata's Micklethwait) and were covering the protester and the press coverage itself. The protester might have been on radio talk-show, while being snapped by photojournalists, who were in turn memorialized by citizens, one at least of whom was a blogger. The issue that interests Micklethwait is what happens in a communications-dense environment where everyone is potentially wired to everyone else, where everyone is a node on a graph. He has come to one conclusion: at the very least a wired society makes it harder for government to simply make things go away.

One of the features of modern government, or maybe that should be recent government, is that modern/recent government often likes simply to blot stories off the airwaves. I am not saying that they wanted to squash this one. But I am saying that if they had entertained any such censorious thoughts, although they might have got away with this ten years ago, now, they would have far less chance.

Other questions come to mind. If Moms4Justice had scaled Nelson's plinth and Kids4Justice had swarmed Buckingham palace at the same time, how would meme collision get arbitrated on the nervous system of a digitally wired society? Is there any way of assigning headers to memes such that they get where they should? Is there any way for memes to rearrange themselves in a logical order upon arrival at a destination to form an even more complex idea? What is to prevent the whole digital nervous sytem from suffering a breakdown from an overload? And encapsulating all these questions implicitly is the most important question of all: how does one make a buck out of it?

Maybe no one knows, but folks sure are interested in getting control even though they don't know where it will all lead. U.S. to U.N.: Keep Away from Internet:

The U.S. has made it clear that it will fight any attempt to put the United Nations or another international body in charge of the Internet. ... Several nations with tightly controlled media, such as China, Iran and Saudi Arabia, plus a number of industrialized countries including Switzerland and Russia, would like to see the U.S. relinquish its control of the Internet.

BTW, who does control the Internet?


Blogger Jesse Clark said...

Al Gore?

9/27/2005 06:18:00 PM  
Blogger diabeticfriendly said...

the jews... just ask c4...

9/27/2005 06:28:00 PM  
Blogger James Kielland said...


A very interesting post, as always. Many would note the interesting capacity of individual information gatherers to bring a story to the public. Fortunately we have you to take things a little deeper.

It's also interesting that you bring this up just a day or so after bringing up the concept of "the singularity." Ray Kurzweil's thoughts on this matter, specifically the exponential explosion of information, are worth considering even if one doesn't share Kurzweil's vision of the trajectory. Information has always been an important commodity, but the changes that come about due to it's rapid expansion and proliferation are anyone's guess.

What happens when a precious commodity becomes absolutely abundant?

I'd guess that this could perhaps be illuminated by simple thinking of signal/noise. I believe that we use the term "signal" to refer to some kind of meaningful patterns. The internet and associated and ongoing revolutions have resulted in a proliferation of signals. But at the same time, this is effectively raising the amount of noise Or, another way of looking at it may be that in order for memes to rise above the noise threshold they will need to be increasingly rich, elaborate, easy to contextualize, and in some manner on-going.

The global brain is being re-wired and outfitted with more robust memory and switching systems. Nevertheless, like all nervous systems it will undoubtedly unfold with certain groves or pathways gaining the lion's share of traffic. As the chorus of fragmentary signals raise the volume of noise, it will become every more difficult for individuals armed with cameras and keyboards to produce compelling signals that sustain much attention. Nevertheless, and this is where it gets exciting, we are constantly moving into a global system where slight coincidences can and will result in rapid and utterly unpredictable meme explosions.

9/27/2005 06:29:00 PM  
Blogger Kerry said...

If, as I believe, the internet is a self organizing system, by definition it could not be controlled. On the other hand, leverage might be applied to tilt or skew it into a particular orbit. Someone with training in these things, obviously not me, may have specifics, and therefore clarity. Anyone, anyone...?

9/27/2005 06:35:00 PM  
Blogger James Kielland said...


You wrote:

"If, as I believe, the internet is a self organizing system, by definition it could not be controlled."

I'm not sure this necessarily follows. Plants and animals are self-organizing systems, as well. And the science of agriculture has enabled humanity to control and guide these self-organizing systems.

9/27/2005 06:39:00 PM  
Blogger RWE said...

The interesting thing about communication is that it has gotten technically much easier and organizationally much more difficult. In recent years I have discovered that if you hand over your driver's license at the bank or post office and they forget to give it back, they will not even think of calling you and telling you they have it. I have found that it is simply no longer possible to call the local Sears store to ask a simple question; you get routed to the Intergalactic Sears Information Center, and they have no idea if the paint shaker at the store 4 miles away from you is working - and have no idea how to find out. And of course, we have all had experience with Spam and Spam filters.
In previous blogs you have already raised the daunting issue of information overload - and that may be the answer. The amount of data is so huge that odds are that no one can control the Internet.

9/27/2005 06:43:00 PM  
Blogger Tony said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

9/27/2005 06:43:00 PM  
Blogger Tony said...

BTW, who does control the Internet?

"Ain't you?"

Gunner in Bunker in "Apocalypse Now" = when asked the similar question "Who's in charge here?"

9/27/2005 06:54:00 PM  
Blogger orlandoslug said...

The internet providers and search engines are the dendrites which touch down in each person's computer and are the current money makers and gatekeepers; however, as very few corporations, much less multinationals, have moral fortitude other than to keep the stock price on the climb, as Yoo Hoo recently has shown, they're willing to sell out to big brother if his market is big enough!
Please, no UN; at least with Yoo Hoo et al you know where they're coming from without all the Byzantine posturing...
...plus, the marketplace can take a walk...

9/27/2005 06:57:00 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Haha - I love that the internet is ours. Ours! Hands off, suckas!

Explain this concept of "self-organizing" X to me, please.

9/27/2005 07:34:00 PM  
Blogger ex-democrat said...

This gem from the linked article, is worthy of Scrappleface:
"This situation is very undemocratic, unfair and unreasonable,” said Sha Zukang, the ambassador from China - which recently imposed new rules that allow only "healthy and civilized” news to be read by the nation’s Internet users."
Earth to the Chinese aristocracy: your days are numbered.

9/27/2005 07:42:00 PM  
Blogger Cardozo Bozo said...

No one controls the entire internet, but many people control many parts of it. The recent stories of complicity between China and various Western companies (Yahoo, Google, Microsoft, Cisco, etc.) only highlights these attempts.

Of course, these attempts to control will only become more limited with each passing year. Computers get cheaper, more software is open source, bandwidth on every frequency just keeps growing and growing. The amount of information being passed around today is almost unimaginable, and only 1/2 of America and 1/12th of China is online (let alone the rest of the world). Those who want to control the Internet will increasingly find the self-organizing system to organize right around them.

With the advent of open-source hardware controlling agencies won't even be able to control the physical nodes. It will be entirely out of their hands.

As for how to find all this information, Search will only get better. Plaintiff law firms today receive millions and millions of documents in response to their discovery requests. They use 'fuzzy searches' to link documents not by keyword but by concept (or meme). It's by no means perfect (its pretty crappy, actually, compared to a lawyer), but it's fast and it's getting more accurate all the time. Many browser search plugins allow you to highlight text and search the web for it in two clicks. Once Google, Yahoo, and MS enable fuzzy searches (and they will), your Meme Organization System will be an algorithmn somewhere. Think of Google News, but with "Would you like to see more blog posts discussing this topic? At what level of abstraction?"

China, Russia, et. al. are worth worrying about (a little) in the present, but not in the long run. Although the Russians and Chinese currently in power have an interest in control, the Chinese and Russion people have no more interest in being controlled than you or I. Just as any American politician who suggested filtering out 'freedom' websites would be tarred and feathered, so will Chinese ones in a decade soon to come.

9/27/2005 07:44:00 PM  
Blogger wretchard said...


Let me throw up an example of its manifestations. I argued in the previous post on precision strikes against insurgents that within the context of our technological capabilities, information alone can kill. All the other stuff -- bombers, JDAMs, etc -- is already out there. Add information on the location of the Emir of Qaim and an emergent phenomenon comes into being: the precision strike. A new thing came out of the old things, which is not one of the old things but a consequence of their interaction.

Consider another example. Proposition. If you pump out enough hate ideas for long enough, two aircraft will materialize out of the clear blue over Manhattan and carry out the fantasy. Once again, in our affluent world, the materials were all to hand. All they needed was an idea with enough time to germinate to turn it into reality.

I've long suspected that some of the more disgusting perversions now reaching epidemic proportions have actually been created by some idea, formerly confined to the skulls of a few individuals, which are now free to propagate over the Internet and cross-fertilize with other memes to produce God knows what abomination.

If you think it, it will come.

9/27/2005 07:49:00 PM  
Blogger Vercingetorix said...

Well, the obvious solution, Wretchard, to meme-confusion is compartmentalization; like in the massively parallel network of the mind, you have centers for vision, for speech, for understanding speech, for singing, for poetry…Again, is the future of the internet inclusive or exclusive?

In the US, I’d guess extremely transparent, but in China, misbehaving companies (Yahoo!, Google, Microsoft) have made cultural firewalls more likely. Advancements to computer anti-virals make casual civil escape from such walls increasingly unlikely.

But the internet will NOT be a utopia; it is becoming attached to the real world more and more, it allows ancient blood feuds to get a shock of remembrance like in Kosovo, to bring back bad, old times, Machine translation will allow even the lingua anglais to fade.

Technology will not bring us together. It will allow us to create richer, more pluralistic societies and social groups within societies but there will be more things to fight over and there will be more energy in the system, like in 527s, in which to clash over perceived differences.

The nation-state is dead, but the market-state has arrived in force; it is not government oppression per se, at least in America, that will be most dramatic to watch (the rest of the world is another story), but a return to 2500 years ago; a timocratic revolution of enfranchised yeoman citizens seeking to draw decisive conclusions in the flat, open cyber-spaces.

9/27/2005 07:54:00 PM  
Blogger Karridine said...

"From two ranks amongst mankind have I seized power... kings and ecclesiastics."

"I have given power to the people."
The Lord of Hosts

THIS is the paradigm for this Day, for THIS Era. We, the People, have a God-given RIGHT to know the truth. We, the People, have a God-given right to accountability and responsibility in our reporting. Trustworthiness is right up there, too.

He controls the Internet. He always will.

9/27/2005 07:56:00 PM  
Blogger Vercingetorix said...

A new thing came out of the old things, which is not one of the old things but a consequence of their interaction.

Yes, but not so fast, Wretchard.

Consider the expected rise of AI long predicated on the limitations of computer power; when exponential growth in computer speed and memory happened, AI still didn't.

Its important not to embrace a form of materialism, that things are determined by the environment, without being very specific about the interactions. This could blind us to assuming, for instance, that tolerance comes with wealth or enlightenment with education and on, emergent phenomenon taken to extremes of prediction.

9/27/2005 08:09:00 PM  
Blogger Karridine said...

"Technology will not bring us together," said Verc.

True. Our unity is organic and real from before our births, fundamental in the oneness of humanity.

But our HARMONY, our choice of unified goals and aims and actions... these must come from our heart! These choices are human, and fall under our control.

9/27/2005 08:10:00 PM  
Blogger Tony said...

Don't despair.

If this fearsome meme of open webs of communication is so scary - America is the place where freedom, egalitarian equality, and a commons of ideas - has turned out to be the most successful, if sloppy, form of socially accepted governance ever.

This should carry over to Americans naturally pioneering and civilizing the Web, in brotherly peace, from sea to shining seas.

Same kinda dealy-o, right?

9/27/2005 08:11:00 PM  
Blogger Alex said...

Who controls the Web? Anyone with enough force to enforce their will upon everyone else - same as the answer to who controls anything. At the moment, that's a handful of groups - Microsoft, the US government, whoever runs the assorted big standards, and a few others. Other than that, it's anarchy, and because it's only a mirror of the real world and not the real thing, anarchy is generally a good thing.

But don't assume it'll last. As long as there are abuses(and anyone with an email addy will see them about every half hour), there will be clamour for someone to step in and end them - civilize the barbarians, more or less. At the end of the day, it'll probably be the US government that does that, and when they do, the Net we know and love will probably be gone. That said, it'll be fun while it lasts, and it's not like it'll totally disappear(it'll just go from anarchy to rules-based chaos). But I don't expect P2P to exist in 20 years, for example - never underestimate what somebody throwing billions of dollars at a problem can do. The one thing I do know for sure is that it'll be interesting to watch.

9/27/2005 08:19:00 PM  
Blogger Karridine said...

I see a valid analogy (information & war & peace) in cancer therapies.

Where once cancer was something 'treated' (often unsuccessfully) with systemic drugs (which often caused more bodily damage than the cancer) and radiation (destructive effort), a much more responsive approach today involves attitude management (a focus on LIFE, and LIFE VALUES); responsibility (why did I bring this cancer into my life?); change of diet (what memes and tropes have I been ingesting uncritically over the past years?); and focused chemicals which have no ill effect EXCEPT on cancerous cells (Vitamin B-17 cyanocobalamin).

All the new "therapies" are based on accurate observation and assessment of observed realities over the last century of accurate record-keeping.

All this is more 'power to the people'.

9/27/2005 08:19:00 PM  
Blogger Karridine said...

Alex, perhaps you confuse 'control' with 'enable' or 'influence'.

The "experiential cognoscenti" swarms which appeared around, say, Dan Rather's 'documents' was a phenomenon ENABLED by the Internet, and nobody CONTROLLED it. Hundreds of people, with real, studied, experiential and relevant background in type, typesetting, typewriters available in 1978, National Guard, Texas and document analysis...

converged and posted publicly accessible -and therefore open to public scrutiny and possible debunking- facts, data and professional opinion based on such.

Rather (and 'peripheral' Mapes) chose to shelter behind OPINION, bluster, non-fact, misdirection and obfuscation. Did I mention 'denial'?

This is non-partisan, and reflects a humanity-wide thirst for freedom from oppression, in this (above) case, the oppression of a media elite!

9/27/2005 08:28:00 PM  
Blogger exhelodrvr said...

It is simply a technological/informational manifestation of what we see with the spread of diseases. Diseases that were once very localized, with people either dying out from them or developing immune systems, now spread all over the world. We have seen that with AIDS, SARS, avian flu. The same logic applies to the spread of insane ideas; through modern communications, the relatively small percentage of people that are likely to fall prey to the extremists' ideas can now communicate with each other, and form large, widespread (albeit low density) groups, which no longer die out.

9/27/2005 09:03:00 PM  
Blogger ed said...


"Who does control the internet?"

I do. Make checks out to "Cash" and send them to ....

9/27/2005 09:16:00 PM  
Blogger RCM said...

The guy with the power cord?

In a bunker in Virginia, right?

In that "undisclosed location."

9/27/2005 09:18:00 PM  
Blogger Aristides said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

9/27/2005 09:56:00 PM  
Blogger Aristides said...

Apropos your last question, the biggest question in internet law is who has the authority to control the internet. Does Iran have jurisdiction over an American website run off of a server in Bermuda that shows a lewd picture of an 18 year old Afghani girl, if it is accessed in a Tehrani internet cafe? Where is a webpage domiciled?

The example above highlights the discomfort almost every other country has with the internet being decidedly American. America has the greatest latitude for freedom of speech in the world, which means something allowable here is almost certainly breaking laws elsewhere. Recently, France tried to enforce a speech limitation on Yahoo because Yahoo's auction site offered Nazi paraphernalia, which is illegal in France, and US courts refused to enforce it. First Amendment speech protection trumps the comity of nations doctrine, always and forever, and it drives everyone else crazy.

So there are really three options for control. We can internationalize it to the UN and the ICC, we can recognize the universal jurisdiction of every nation (which would create a lowest common denominator for content freedom, since the strictest countries would set the standards), or we can maintain the present Constitutional requirements of jurisdiction as set forth in case law interpreting the 14th Amendment.

The first and second options will never work under the strictures of the Constitution anyways, so we are stuck with the third. How interesting that our framers, when drafting the Constitution, and our jurists, as they interpreted it over the years, have inadvertently created the platform for a most destabilizing phenomenon, a phenomenon that is bringing the American revolution to every corner of the earth.

We are witnessing a fast-forward game of memetic evolution. Men have long lived in echo chambers, and for most of history these chambers were geographically established. Geographical reinforcement meant that memetic opponents were much harder, and costlier, to engage. Now, perspective flies around the world, bypassing jurisdictional protections, answering questions in some instances, spawning them in others, memes interacting at the speed of light.

And America, as always, leads the way. Because we refuse to bow to other nations, oppressed peoples everywhere are learning to stand on their own. They know there is another world out there, a world of promise and forgiveness, hope and mercy. Those who have the most to lose hate us, but those who have the most to gain are inspired, and strenghtened, when they find likeminded souls online.

So, to answer your question succinctly: America controls the internet because we allow more of it, period.

9/27/2005 09:59:00 PM  
Blogger James Kielland said...


I really like your closing sentence.

Perhaps a way of looking at it is that the internet is basically an extension of that very old human social product: the market. Power structures that create means for the market to act on its own and shield it from interference develop great power from that market. Power structures that attempt to improperly control and restrict markets end up sapping them of strength. Since the market is about an exchange of goods and services and the internet is about an exchange of ideas (as well as goods and services) we shouldn't be surprised to see similar dynamics at play.

Maybe we don't control it. Perhaps we simply exercise more influence through it by not attempting to control it.

9/27/2005 10:06:00 PM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

China is threatening to set up their own internet, if America won't give them co-power over the current one. Fine -- set it up and see if they come. My bet is, they won't.

The other thing about the international urge to dabble in the internet is it's a wonderful opportunity to inflict new taxes, a money-making scheme par excellance for something like the UN. Chirac and some of his cronies want to institute new taxes on air travel, ostensibly to feed the poor people in Africa.

Can you *imagine* the sort of taxation scheme all the poor people involved at the UN would institute if they could somehow dig their grimey little paws into developed countries' pockets and institute a mandatory percentage for the time we spend on the internet, and the things we access?

All those nodes and simultaneous pictures that Wretchard is talking about? What would happen if America lost control and someone started charging for the privilege of posting that stuff?

9/27/2005 10:09:00 PM  
Blogger Hanba'al said...


Well, nothing is free. With all the benefit of global distributed intelligence, it comes also with global distributed stupidity. But you have to have faith in your human fellows that unless being forced under a gun, history has proved so far that people are not stuck in stupid like those MSM drama queen journalists of yesteryear. They will always make the right choice, late but right, (I hope: because past performance never guarantee future result). In the mean time, we do the battle in between to make sure there are somebody doing their job not to let the elitists weaken our principles, and making everything too late to defend.

9/27/2005 10:36:00 PM  
Blogger fooburger said...

To be a little bit literal, there are a few root servers for the domain name service which determines exactly who is 'yahoo.com', 'google.com' or 'blogger.com'. Some groups have attempted to setup alternative root servers, but there're severe trademark and other issues related to such endeavors.
Right now, I think DNS root servers are mainly controlled by the US. I doubt they're under the control of the NSF anymore, but I'm not certain what specific organizations own/operate them. Probably a google search on DNS root servers would provide such information.
What's a bit strange about this, is the incredible amount of power in these root servers. They literally control the flow of money to *many* multi-billion dollar companies. If our DNS systems were all compromised or taken over by hostile forces, huge swaths of our economy would be in limbo.
Would it create lasting damage? I'm not certain, but it would certainly cause an immediate plunge in stocks related to many billions of dollars in tech companies.
As for the nervous system analogy, it's a little bit murkier than the kind of speculation I generally engage in. Good points, certainly, but a little too abstract right now.

9/27/2005 11:03:00 PM  
Blogger Hanba'al said...


I agree with you. It's the market who control it and if there is a market for each and every sections on internet, there will always be a crowd catering to it whether it's Islamic fanatics "heaven can't wait" sex deprived or Back to the Past crowd.

However, I do not subscribe to the idea that the market is everything and no one will be able to control the market. Market is human and has all weakness and strength of human being. Let it free, it will prosper and shackle it, it will wither. If there is a concert effort of governments of the world to control the internet, it will die.

9/27/2005 11:06:00 PM  
Blogger Sophia Phoster said...

Somebody said that P2P will not exist in 20 years. Au contraire. P2P is already about 60% of today's bandwith and the technology keeps increasing both connectivity and anonymity. When digital video capability becomes a commodity item, like throwaway 35 mm film cameras, there will not be an event on earth more than a few minutes removed from millions of ears and eyeballs.

Add satellite broadcast WiFi to the mix, a dollop of real-time language translation software, and you have a witch's brew of globablly uncontrollable information.

Rathergate is a watershed event. Not because we know the MSM is lying, but because they know we know they're lying.

9/27/2005 11:38:00 PM  
Blogger Hanba'al said...

Ex-Demo said...

This gem from the linked article, is worthy of Scrappleface:
"This situation is very undemocratic, unfair and unreasonable,” said Sha Zukang, the ambassador from China - which recently imposed new rules that allow only "healthy and civilized” news to be read by the nation’s Internet users."

So this news is sure not worthy in the China "healthy & civilized" society because the fetus was "healthy" and was aborted "uncivilized"

Brutal Campaign of force abortion and sterilization

9/27/2005 11:42:00 PM  
Blogger Hanba'al said...

My tongue in cheek language messed up.

So this news is sure not worthy in the China "healthy & civilized" society because the fetus is "not healthy" and was aborted "uncivilized"

9/27/2005 11:46:00 PM  
Blogger The Mad Fiddler said...

Seen from orbit, the Earth’s surface shows no borders between countries. A cynic replies that such observations should be kept to one’s self, lest the petty governments immediately paint ten-mile wide stripes in day-glow orange along every border, to ensure they CAN be seen from space...

This last year has provided a number of celebrated examples of how the internet and the people who monitor the flow of information can augment, correct, “fact-check” and even sometimes trump the Old Mainstream Media. But it is sometimes forgotten that the key to it all — the key to ANY of it working — is a fine, insightful, devastatingly logical mind with the ability to identify a crucial item, and like some kid with a Rubik’s Cube, sift through all the variations and extract the verities for us.

Most of us can recognize a snake displayed on a table top. Not so many can pick out a diamondback rattler sitting motionless in the leaf litter where we are about to step.

Thanks for your many insights.

9/28/2005 01:02:00 AM  
Blogger wildiris said...


Back in the sixties, before computers became so ubiquities, my high school friends and I speculated on what would happen if one could build a computer that would rival in size the human mind. Our answer was, that it would probably display all of the same foibles that the human mind does, memory loss, bouts of anxiety and doubt and etc. The point was that the aspects of our behavior that we consider our humanness are not unique to us, but are attributes that would appear in any system that was sufficiently complex to mimic the human mind in power. There were a number of science fiction movies and stories back then that dealt with the subject of a computer growing in size and finally becoming sentient. But after the mid-seventies, when the first home PC’s started appearing and the with the early eighties and the home personal computer boom, these kinds of speculations seem to have dropped from society’s things-to-wonder-about-list.

What I think we are seeing with the blog-sphere is a system growing in complexity (i.e. the number of connected nodes) that will soon rival the complexity of the human brain (when viewed as a neural network of connected neurons). As this happens I would speculate that you would start to see exactly the behavior your mentioned, “What is to prevent the whole digital nervous sytem from suffering a breakdown from an overload?” And just to get everyone wondering somemore, religion and spirituallity are the way our minds deal with these kinds of overload and contradictory-inputs issues.

It’s probably time to re-introduce to the wider lay public, the concepts of AI, so that we can have a common vocabulary to be able to engage in broad public debates on these kinds issues.

9/28/2005 07:03:00 AM  
Blogger Baron Bodissey said...

BTW, who does control the Internet?

The UN is trying to grab control of the names on the Internet by replacing ICANN (a US operation) with WICANN (a global kleptocracy operation). See Dymphna's post from last week, Witches’ Brew at the UN.

A primal and archaic human notion is that to have the power to name something is to control the thing itself. And, with WICANN, that might be true. They might not be able to shut your site down directly, but they could de-register your URL if you violated one of the Ten Precepts of United Nations Internet Behavior, or whatever protocol they develop to control information and line the pockets of the usual suspects.

9/28/2005 07:20:00 AM  
Blogger Cosmo said...

Always interesting to hear totalitarian apparatchiks prattle on about what is "undemocratic" and what is not.

And like Libyans in charge of human rights commissions, we let gangsters regimes like China's get close to the institutions of freedom and civilization at our peril.

The fact that anyone is entertaining seriously anything that one of history's most murderous and repressive regimes has to say about freedom of information and speech demonstrates how far down the relativist hole we've fallen.

Like trying to feed a grizzly bear.

9/28/2005 07:32:00 AM  
Blogger ex-democrat said...

cosmo - not sure if this is what you meant, but i wonder about the relationship/connection between the madness that drove 'the grizzly man' and the madness that drives some to put stock in the 'prattle' of 'gangster regime's' like China's (see lan's example).

9/28/2005 08:14:00 AM  
Blogger Cosmo said...

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9/28/2005 08:47:00 AM  
Blogger Cosmo said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

9/28/2005 08:47:00 AM  
Blogger Hanba'al said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

9/28/2005 08:50:00 AM  
Blogger Annoy Mouse said...

“On Feb. 11, 1998, Hillary Clinton told reporters that the Internet needed an "editing" or "gatekeeping" function. The World Wide Web was out of control, she said. It needed to be reined in. Five years later, Hillary's dream is on the verge of being realized.”

9/28/2005 08:50:00 AM  
Blogger Hanba'al said...

Totalitarian regimes like China was caught off guard by the internet at the early 90s. Came with offshore manufacturings from Western countries to China also came with information tools to make the job easier and they did not know how to cope with that.

Not anymore, they know now that they can filter the contents and specific websites so only any science contents and sicene related websites can get through while Wretchard might be on their black list. They are only interested in our science reservoir of information from our universities, the rest is all irrelevant. And by filtering other contents it will not hurt their advancement in science and technology. Their labor is always cheap, their people always work long hours for meager pays because that's the only way to get the porkridge instead of dirt for supper, their scientist and engineers are as advance as their US counterparts, the environment is relatively safe and secured relative to other countries in term of terrorist attack with the exception of SAR and bird flu but we are not threaten because until we are really threaten through an outbreak, so money is there to be make by doing business in China. It's not that hard to see why M$, Cisco, Google, Yahoo and plenty of many other big companies from the Western world come to kiss the Chinese' balls all the way to the root. It's a matter life and death of these companies to gain or lose market shares by make products affordable to the consumer of the world so we can live our luxury borrowed life with dwindling budget eaten alive everyday by our elected idiots.

They know that we depend on them with cheap supplies of labor (for now) more than they depend on us and with that they know they have arrived.

9/28/2005 08:57:00 AM  
Blogger Annoy Mouse said...

The compelling possibilities occur when information is decentralized, power is equally decentralized. A belligerent leader in Malaysia uttered a spate of anti-Semitic garbage, was utterly astounded when investors began pulling out their money because the man sounded unhinged.

A world wide democracy of consumers could form bonds over the internet that influence mass buying trends. Consumers chose dolphin safe tuna, the suppliers followed. Shrinking investments in South Africa and generally world opinion brought down the SA government and caused the fall of apartheid.

Socialists like following the great leader and so those groups that can make up the critical mass of consumption, can force their will upon global corporations. For instance, the US government could not do much to influence China, but if a half a billion Westerners decided that they will not by products from murderous tyrants, the old boys would soon fall. Think of the possibilities.

9/28/2005 09:14:00 AM  
Blogger Cosmo said...

ex -

Not familiar with 'grizzly man.' But China has been at this Internet regulation thing for some time through the ITU.

Whenever one of these police-state apologists pops up speaking the language of the West, I'm reminded of Vladimir Posner, the barely-suave Soviet apologist who used to hypnotize Nightline’s Ted Koppel during the Cold War. It was never acknowledged that there was no American equivalent to Mr. Posner on Russian television.

Sorry to be unclear, but I was referring to the West's almost unlimited capacity for self-delusion -- dealing with the world as we wish it to be instead of as it is. This is how we end up with judges seated at the ICC from places where there exists no rule of law or due process.

Our enemies -- for the most part gangsters hiding behind flimsey ideologies and masquerading as statemen -- have mastered the language of Western post-modernism, phony victimology and obsessive legalism. They understand that Western virtue and morality has been hopelessly compromised by relativism. And it is all being used against us.

9/28/2005 09:16:00 AM  
Blogger sirius_sir said...

When digital video capability becomes a commodity item, like throwaway 35 mm film cameras, there will not be an event on earth more than a few minutes removed from millions of ears and eyeballs. Sophia Phoster @ 11:38

True enough, but won't that mean the task of sorting out what is important or significant or meaningful will be even more difficult and important than ever? The good news is that this task will no longer be confined to a few individuals associated with a nightly newscast but to untold numbers all vying with one another to supply context to content that is at once reliable, intelligent, entertaining, credible...

The bad news is the viewer who wants to be well-informed will have more choices than he or she can ever possibly explore which will require attaining discipline and discernment.

No, that's not the bad news.

The bad news is that there will still be too many who, as now, will be content to remain ill-informed.

9/28/2005 09:16:00 AM  
Blogger Cedarford said...

pork rinds for allah said...

the jews... just ask c4...

Careful of making specific criticism of a Jewish act or Zionism into a general smear. Everytime the Jews have tried this smear tactic - inflating specific criticism into bias against all things Jewish, it has tended to backfire.

A good example was the Jewish Anti-Defamation League's attempt to smear Mel Gibson as a complete anti-Semite for "The Passion of the Christ".

All that accomplished was evangelical Christians coming out saying they had not realized how lying, manipulative, and vindictive certain Jews in the media and certain organizations were until then.

The obvious goal in making a general smear of bias against any criticism of Jews, Muslims, blacks, you name it - is to get the critic to back off and defend themselves against the blanket smear "George Bush is a racist Bull Connor" - rather than specifically answer the specific criticism.

Muslims have watched Jews carefully, and emulate their tactics. Any criticism of any Muslim is expanded into a hatred of all Muslims - therefore all good societies that wish to NOT be accused of Bias Against The Religion of Peace must shut up and police those who do criticize Islam. But the end result of attempted suppression or stifling of legitimate criticisms only tend to make general resentment against all Muslims or Jews more prevalent.

Nice try, Pork For Yahweh.

9/28/2005 09:17:00 AM  
Blogger nonomous said...

Up to now, no one has used the word 'election' commenting on Wrechard's essay.

I think everything still hinges on elections. The changes in communication technology only change the dynamics of 'getting out the vote'. The vote (and it can be defined many ways) is still all important.

It remains easy to fake an 'electronic network' vote, so I suspect old fashioned 'ink on your finger tips' style authentication schemes will keep the act of voting pleasantly physical.

The art of manipulating public opinion is changing, though. Since the mainstream media is the primary manipulator, being able to photograph the 'press' in the act of manipulation is having some immediate impact.

The real question regards group cohesion. 'Getting out the vote' requires a huge, well trained team (or cadre) and I suspect network technology has the ability to lower the cost of coordinating large 'get out the vote' teams, but the dynamics required to energize this 'low cost' team involve highly emotional issues which are antithetical to teamwork and team-continuity over time.

9/28/2005 09:34:00 AM  
Blogger ex-democrat said...

cosmo - i couldn't agree with you more. and for a tangential experience, do go see Herzog's new movie "Grizzly Man." i'd be very curious to see if you get my drift or if, as i suspect, i am merely losing my marbles.

9/28/2005 10:24:00 AM  
Blogger Cosmo said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

9/28/2005 02:19:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmo said...

Thanks, for the tip, ex.

I'll check it out. And don't worry, I lost my marbles long ago. On another BC thread, I paraphrased The Clash's Joe Strummer (GRHS), without giving him credit. To wit: my politics are as convoluted as anyone else's.

9/28/2005 02:21:00 PM  
Blogger Annoy Mouse said...

The human mind is motivated by hunger, pain, and desire. It is driven by thousands of years of evolution as our reality is tempered by a process of homestasis that ensures continuity of consciousness and acts like parser, constantly organizing data and comparing it to known quantities. It is the glue that makes a Gestalt of events flow into a contiguous fabric of perception. Meditation techniques attempt to interrupt this homeostasis. It is like a fountain that continually regenerates itself. As Carlos Casteneda’s Don Juan would say; “The dreamer dreams the self.”

Until computers can meditate their ability to become self aware will be unattainable.

Do androids dream of electric sheep?

9/28/2005 03:48:00 PM  
Blogger Johnny Sapphire said...

What a subtle title for your post.

9/28/2005 04:27:00 PM  
Blogger Red River said...

What is news at its root but first person account of something?

In a sense, the Iliad and the Odyssey are serialized news features - first hand accounts of the War of Troy, brought home for the home front.

Until the rise of the Hearst Empire, most stories were passed word of mouth by people to each other. Even news stories of the day were compilations of word of mouth stories, many attributed like "Mrs Jones Son xxx "

With the rise of the blogosphere, we see the mass customization of the news sources occuring again.

In his book "Truth Machine" James Halperin asks the question of which Wretchard's is the corollary - what if we could know if someone is telling the truth immediately?

The blogosphere is a Truth Machine - witness Rather's Memo.

In his later book, "First Immortal", Halperin looks at what eternal youth means. But he touches upon what instant knowledge means as well - and the antidote - people who have experience and age.

Near the end of the book we learn the Earth is going to have a cataclysmic event and everyone panics!

Only that the event is HUNDREDS of years in the future. It is the very old, i.e. people awoken from cryo-sleep who were born in our time, in the 1990s, who can put this in perspective. These people are pre-Singularity.

9/28/2005 05:02:00 PM  
Blogger Red River said...

Wretchard said:

"If you think it, it will come."

Vernor Vinge has said:

"Anything that is proposed to do which has no internal contradictions can be accomplished." when referring to a society on the event horizon of the Singularity.

That does not mean it does not have external contradictions.

Viruses are in a sense ideas with no internal contradictions but which have devastating effects outside of their meme.

A Thermodynamicist sees viruses differently. For him, they are a manifestation of the Second Law - the higher the order, the more it will tend to quickly go to disorder. Viruses really help.

What would a Thermodynamicist say about Communism and Terrorism?

9/28/2005 05:16:00 PM  
Blogger willy said...

It will be a complex information situation, where everyone will be able to find "news" that matches their existing world views, and miss out on stories that may be reality and important for survival, either economic or physical. I can see the need for some type of "official" word from on-high, like the media of old, except one that follows closely the journalistic oath to be objective, and provide the consumer with only the 4Ws as I was tought in journalism school: Who, What, Where, When. It was a slippery slope for the journalist to try to develop the "Why" into opinion instead of facts. But I guess the reporters of today want to be more than journalists, and more scientists (whose job it is to try to figure out the why).

9/28/2005 05:21:00 PM  
Blogger Annoy Mouse said...

If something is infinitely improbable, it will happen.

9/28/2005 05:22:00 PM  
Blogger orlandoslug said...

aah the internet...
which brought us ebay to find things that we'd never find in a 1,000 years of searching garage sales...
which makes namby pamby men feel that they're part of a thriving, normal population of boy loving men, though dispersed by hundreds of miles...

China's businesses will put unrelenting pressure to stay connected for economic reasons; but, I can see the mother of all bottlenecks if all internet communication must be filtered by big brother...so much easier to at least attempt to push the world court into the arena to do the battling for them...
meanwhile developing their own root servers; perhaps, more protected than ours...

Non-the-less, I trust that the pirates of the Internet will be able to run circles around their attempts to filter - if by nothing else than by old tried and true codes and code-names...

9/28/2005 06:51:00 PM  
Blogger M. Simon said...

The idea of noise is that it is not useful to the task at hand.

i.e. suppose your cell phone gets blanked out at the base of a radio broadcast tower.

What is signal and what is noise is in they eye of the beholder.

Take cosmic background radiation (for which Penzias got a Nobel Prize). For a telephone relay antenna it is noise. Penzias saw it as a signal with useful information.

Signal or noise? Only the reciever can decide.

9/28/2005 09:22:00 PM  
Blogger ex-democrat said...

cos - that's what happens when you're 'lost in the supermarket.' ;o)

9/28/2005 09:46:00 PM  
Blogger kma said...

As long as communication protocols remain open, no one really controls the internet. Microsoft made a play to monopolise it last century by trying to make their protocols the internet standard, but that died at the hands of the open source community. What the US does seem to control is domain name registrys, and obviously large US corporations own a lot of the cables and routers connecting all the parts together. But the system is designed for breakdown, and easily routes around it. Authorities need to leave the internet alone, it can and does police itself.

9/28/2005 11:39:00 PM  

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