* Y2K and the Revolution * ---greenspun.com : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread
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SpinTech: January 12, 2000
Y2K and the Revolution
by Don Lobo Tiggre
Happy new millennium (may the mathematically inclined forgive the fuzziness)! Since youre reading this, Y2K must not have knocked our Cinderella civilization back to the Dark Ages at the stroke of midnight. Thats good. But damn, now youll have to remember to write 2000 on your checks -- and you thought it was tough when all you had to change was the last digit, or two! So Whats next? Is anything that really matters going to be different this year, or next, or even in the next 25?
In a nutshell: YES! Though we may not see just how different or important for a few years yet.
Pull up a seat, let me dust off my crystal ball, and lets have a look at why. No, not that seat, that one is reserved for Valen, or Nostradamus ghost, if you prefer. Okay, lessee
Let's start with a retrospective of the late, great, 20th century. Good riddance, some might say: two (so-named) world wars, genocidal concentration camps, a Soviet empire that took 70+ million lives, chemical, biological, and nuclear warfare, and other pleasant products of statism. On the bright side, it has also been a time of great progress and real change in the human condition: human presence on other planets, cures for dread diseases, telecommunications for the masses, microprocessing, cloning, agricultural overabundance, and other products of reason and the profit motive, such as, 100% voluntary human communities that transcend geographical and legal-political limitations. These last are born in cyberspace, of course, but often develop quickly into networks among people in realspace that command greater loyalty than any nation state could ever hope to achieve. There may be other things I should mention here, but these give the gist of what Im getting at: most of the beasts that have stalked human nightmares for centuries are still with us, but new things have appeared upon the scene that are changing the rules of the game.
Most people don't realize it yet, but what it means to be human has already changed, and well see those changes develop more fully in the 21st century.
For decades, science fiction authors have played with the concept of great changes in the human condition signaling the ends of eras and the beginning of new ones. Some fancied that the development of nuclear power signified a new threshold crossed, and that future calendars would measure the years from the beginning of the atomic era (instead of, for example, the Christian era). Others imagined that things would become irreversibly different when people seized full control of their genome and could adapt their bodies for life underwater, in other atmospheres, or even in space. To me, the conquest of space is very important because it puts the survival of our species and my posterity beyond the destructive reach of a single global cataclysm, or even a stellar one. But that fact won't change the way people act -- there have been times in the past, when the world was a bigger place full of unexplored corners, and people still waged war, took slaves, and were as brutal toward one another as they could think of ways of being.
What will change the way people live, think, feel, and act has already started, but isn't any more understood today, in general, than was the significance of the Bible Gutenberg printed on his press some 500 years ago. We could call it the dawning of the "information age", but that would leave a lot out of the picture. Placing the "word of God" into the people's hands with the printing press broke the near monopoly the church had on "the truth", but wouldn't have changed the world quite as drastically as it did without the simultaneous proliferation of firearms. Similarly, information processing alone wouldn't have quite the same explosive effect its going to have without the wider context of the global marketplace, rising levels of education, falling costs of production, and the temporary exhaustion of frontiers with the unknown, among other variables.
There's a story about some missionaries, or peace corps volunteers, who went to Bolivia and built some huts with flush toilets high in the mountains. The idea was to improve sanitary condition for some of the impoverished indians that lived there. Now, these indians had been in the habit of using rocks smoothed by the mountain streams to wipe themselves off. And they had no real income sources to afford long trips to far off stores to buy toilet paper. So, when the indians' benefactors came back to check on them after a while, they found all their toilets full of rocks and out of service. If this is an example of a powerful new technology falling into a context that is not ready to make the fullest use of it. The Internet has to be one of a technology falling, like a seed crystal into a supersaturated solution, into a context that was super ready for it. People are so hungry for what the internet and associated applications have to offer that not only are there people who cant live without it in the US, but there are many towns in third world countries that cant get it together enough to pave their streets or provide potable water, but theyve got their internet cafes!
And what is it the internet provides that people crave so greatly?
Community. Or, you can call it human inter-connectivity if you don't like words that smack of collectivism. But, before you rush to dismiss the value I'm saying people are finding online, let me add that I'm not talking about the individuality-suppressing wet dreams of socialists, statists, and other coercivists. While those worthies were busy denouncing the technologies that 'dehumanize' and 'alienate' the people, those very machines were preparing the stage for the advent of something the collectivists could never produce: a real community, formed entirely of free individuals who choose to take part and whose separate interests coincide with the well-being of the whole. This is because the coercivists have employed force as their major instrument; they have treated people as though they were the very soulless machines they accuse the 'capitalists' of trying to make them be.
Meanwhile, profit seekers who eschew the coercive machineries of the state are ever motivated to find new ways to serve the people, to treat each one as though he or she were of great value. They are all, ultimately, customers or potential customers. So, the blind, ungoverned (by people), evolutionary forces of the marketplace are finding ways to satisfy this great desire for true community -- to be among people who share important values, who care about one another, who understand each other. This desire, ironically, is perhaps more pent up now than at any other point in history, since there has been no free place on the planet for new communities to form unfettered to the old ones, and the socialists and other statists have had 150 years in which to carry out the dehumanizing and alienation they claim to oppose.
What is so revolutionary about this? Why is this a change such as no other before it?
A real community that is as healthy as the free individuals who make it up has not been possible throughout recorded history. Its possible, perhaps even likely, that such communities existed in prehistoric times. People who didn't like the rules, other people, customs, cooking, sports, etc. of one cave could go start another, and had access to the same weapons as anyone who might try to stop them. But since then, communities have been made up of whomever happened to be at hand at the time, regardless of any of the shared commonalities that make up a truly voluntary community, and often under compulsion in spite of grave differences.
If the creation of real communities that is happening now, on and off line, is really a high-tech return to a social way of being similar to that which existed before the invention of agriculture and government, then it is the most profound and far-reaching revolution of all history. It would be a 7,000-year revolution back to balance between individuality and community -- the first and only such a revolution of which we have knowledge. It is a balance in which the community recognizes that it has no health, no existence without the healthy existence of the individuals that make it up. It's a balance in which Ayn Rand and Robert Heinlein don't conflict. In such a state of balance it might be possible, even 'natural', for many of the mass evils that have plagued humanity throughout history, from famine to warfare, to fall by the wayside.
And if I'm right, all of this is happening NOW. The changes have already started and you'll see them bubbling and swirling around you throughout Y2K and beyond. The statists cant pull the plug on the technology that makes it possible without pulling the plug on their own ability to compete with other statists.
Many look forward, with justifiable glee (as do I!), to the increasing difficulties nation-states will have taxing wealth that is created in the encrypted safety of cyberspace. The advent of micro-manufacturing (with or without real nanotechnology), coupled with global secure communications will make the task of would-be regulators more and more impossible while simultaneously making more and more individual choices possible. Scared statists will, while they exist, get ever more brutal in their attempts to control the increasingly uncontrollable -- watch out for the thrashing of the dying beasts! There are many such trends visible today that are worth observing and taking advantage of, but these are all currents and flows caused by a larger changing of a tide.
Yes, we're going to see a lot of "interesting times" this year. The tide has changed, and you can see evidence of the change in the flowing of current events, if you keep your eye on the big picture. The great changes afoot will certainly cause great disorder. You and I may become wealthy and free sovereign individuals within the next generation, or we might be killed in the turmoil. Chaos and Opportunity, another yin-yang. It's up to us to try to make the most of it.
So, as I said, happy new millennium!
Don L. Tiggre is author of Y2K: The Millennium Bug. He is co-founder of the Liberty Round Table, which invites young people to contribute to its 4th annual essay contest.
-- snooze button (firstname.lastname@example.org), January 23, 2000
"And what is it the internet provides that people crave so greatly? Community...a real community, formed entirely of free individuals who choose to take part and whose separate interests coincide with the well-being of the whole...People who didn't like the rules, other people, customs, cooking, sports, etc. of one cave could go start another..."
Good post, snooze, thanks. Tiggre's definition of community as--- individuals whose separate interests coincide with the well-being of the whole---says it very well. TB2000, over time, has morphed into a community that has become something other than its original purpose. There are many who have posted that they want this forum to continue indefinitely due to that shared sense of community. I think most of us are able to discern which posters do not have the well-being of this community at heart. In truth, there are those among us who would find great pleasure in destroying this community and urinating on its ashes.
-- (TrollPatrol@sheesh.now), January 23, 2000.
He got it wrong on taxes. They will tax the Net commerce with greater ease and efficiency than ever before. Transactions will be monitored and recorded. People in the future will not use tax forms. Your taxes will be taken out of your pay by computer, sales taxes, etc. and the governement will send you a printout each year showing what you paid. Encrypting money will not work because at some point the money has to enter the system. Electronic money cannot be hidden.
All of this, because the money is electronic. No civil liberty lobby group nor any level of public opposition will prevent this. Don't kid yourselves, this is coming.
-- Forrest Covington (email@example.com), January 24, 2000.
Encrypting money will not work because at some point the money has to enter the system. Electronic money cannot be hidden.
Really? What about someone paying someone else with encrypted e-gold that can be used to pay yet another party, who can take physical gold if he wishes? If the final party or any of the others is outside the reach of the taxing "authorities", how will they even know about it?
-- Steve Heller (firstname.lastname@example.org), January 24, 2000.