lots of cool stuff about Cory.
perhaps my fav – the end of the internet’s own boy.. when he says..
we can’t block the rabbit holes
interview jul 2013:
Aaron Swartz and Hacktivism
15 min – because 97% of them will plead guilty
16 min – you owe us a kazillion – so why not let’s settle for open
Aaron wrote the afterword in Cory’s homeland – it only works if you take part
comes out nov 2014:
book links to amazon
“Filled with wisdom and thought experiments and things that will mess with your mind.” — Neil Gaiman, author of The Graveyard Book and American Gods
“Cory Doctorow has been thinking longer and smarter than anyone else I know about how we create and exchange value in a digital age.” — Douglas Rushkoff, author of Present Shock and Program or Be Programmed
keeping money flowing right way:
1. anytime someone puts a lock on something of yours but doesn’t give you the key – that’s not to your benefit, ie: digital rights management – you lose control – and are permanently bonded to lock person
(this is crazy)
2. fame won’t make you rich, but you can’t sell your art w/o it
(whoa – too much)
the way the internet works is to make copies
3. information does not want to be free – info is just an abstraction – it’s people that want to be free – what the internet is – is the nervous system of the 21st cent. you should be allowed to know about all the flaws in your devices.
if someone’s action/communication – seems banal to you – it’s because you’re not the audience
if you need to break the internet to accomplish your trick – then you’re on the wrong side of history
jan 2015 on Holt:
weapons of Math Destruction: how Big Data threatens democracy boingboing.net/2016/01/06/wea…
..Cathy “Mathbabe” O’Neil’s talk at Personal Democracy Forum 2015, “Weapons of Math Destruction,” in which she laid out the way that the “opaque, unregulated, and uncontestable” conclusions of Big Data threatens fairness and democracy.
I’d read her excellent site for years, but the presentation crystalized much of what I’d read of hers in a crisp, compelling argument.
We live in the age of the algorithm. Increasingly, the decisions that affect our lives—where we go to school, whether we get a car loan, how much we pay for health insurance
are those not irrelevant s..?
—are being made not by humans, but by mathematical models. In theory, this should lead to greater fairness: Everyone is judged according to the same rules, and bias is eliminated. But as Cathy O’Neil reveals in this shocking book, the opposite is true. The models being used today are opaque, unregulated, and uncontestable, even when they’re wrong. Most troubling, they reinforce discrimination: If a poor student can’t get a loan because a lending model deems him too risky (by virtue of his race or neighborhood), he’s then cut off from the kind of education that could pull him out of poverty, and a vicious spiral ensues. Models are propping up the lucky and punishing the downtrodden, creating a “toxic cocktail for democracy.” Welcome to the dark side of Big Data.
Tracing the arc of a person’s life, from college to retirement,
www ness, et al
O’Neil exposes the black box models that shape our future, both as individuals and as a society. Models that score teachers and students, sort resumes, grant (or deny) loans, evaluate workers, target voters, set parole, and monitor our health—all have pernicious feedback loops.
perhaps the dark\er side: we big/focus on irrelevant data. we perpetuate not us even when we think we’re light/er siding
perhaps it’s not the big ness but the wrong/irrelevant ness of the data we keep assuming is the data .. that’s keeping us in the dark.
p 203-04 – being a science fiction writer is nothing like a futurist. or shouldn’t be, anyway. .. the point of science fiction is to talk about the present – to build a counterfactual world that illustrates some important fact about the present that is so vast and diffuse that it’s hard to put your finger on…. we pluck a single tech fact out of the world around us, and we build a world in a bottle where that fact is the totalizing truth … take reader on tour of this thought experiment that gives him the power to intuit the way tech is flexing our reality, … making the invisible visible… its value is not in prediction but in description…… call it hope… even if i was convince nothing i did mattered, i’d still be out there .. because this world is people i love… ask what you can do to make the world better.. live as though… – cory doctorow
april 2016 – on capitalism
Anything big and complicated that is subject to exogenous shocks is never going to be a thing you can plot.
That’s a futuristic parable that uses Wikipedia and any Linux project to think about the scale at which we can operate in the absence of hierarchy. It challenges our imaginations to think about the coordination of that much labor without hierarchy.
Proponents of surveillance would rather argue about the personal merits of the whistleblower than about the substance of what they’ve blown the whistle on.
Down in front, Doctorow! pic.twitter.com/ot8ppGZjcO
1:50 sf (2:50 den) – Cory
Keynote: Cory Doctorow – “How Stupid Laws and Benevolent Dictators can Ruin the Decentralized Web, too”In the last twenty years, we’ve managed to nearly ruin one of the most functional distributed systems ever created: today’s Web. There are many stakeholders being damaged in the process, from individuals to entire nations. To lock open the Web we will need more than code. We will need binding agreements and covenants that enshrine our deepest values. Cory Doctorow shares his vision of what went wrong and how we can get it right – through governance and policies – in the decentralized Web to come.
once become grown up.. will be tired /unable to resist..and the most strong willed thing you can do is use willpower you have now when strong.. to be best later.. called ulysses pacti’m not better than people who made compromises… either are you ..easy to understand present bene’s and hard to remember future costs..help self – making oreos more expensive
take options off table right now..: the way to avoid making compromises in future is to take them off the table in the presentthe way the web got centralized today was bc people like you + I, who share our values, made incremental compromisesthe GPL (general public license) worked at locking things open by not being able to compromisesystems that work well but fail badly are doomed to die in flames – the GPL is designed to fail welldrm (digital rights management) – software on computer that overides user..tries to take over your computer to enforce you not seeing things.. DRM is legally enforced anti-tampering – it’s being used by ford to force you to buy their partswhat that means: if you want to do io w/o permission…. that has never been modified by legislature.. conduct becomes radioactively illegalDRM “is a bad idea whose time has come… And has metastasized” into the larger worldGovernments responsible for enforcing retribution they never legislated.
if drm is inevitable.. and i refuse to believe it is.. it’s becasue people around world made a mill compromises.. made because each of us thought we were alone and no one would have our back…they were good people acting unselfishly
when we are alone.. believe we are alone.. we are weak..
if all need to do is find someone smart/kind and ask to make all decisions for you.. but it fails badly.. we are all a mix of short sighted and long term..
we must give each other moral/literal support.. by agreeing now what an open internet is.. and locking it open..
and/or.. making sure people are free.. ie: science of people in schools et al
1\ systems all be designed so owners can overidden by remote parties – When a computer received conflicting instructions from its owner or a 3rd party, the owner must always win.
2\ disclosing true facts about security we rely on.. should never be illegal
if you computerize world and you don’t safe guard users ..
cannot lock open.. best is to wedge it open until it falls.. and leave behind materials/infrastructure that people can take in future… a legacy of tech.. norms/skills that embrace freedom/openness.. a commitment to care about all people alive today and all who live in future.. ..
q: how to we keep bad from happening when valient efforts 2\ two levels.. specific: a condition of using some library.. et al.. is to irrevicaly promise to never use patents against people who use it in addition: never take any step that restricts the thing that using a patent would restrict.. is off the table..
way to change this.. in legislature.. is iteratively by picking off around edges.. challenge constitutionality of dml all together..
or perhaps.. leap to a nother way.. disengage from laws.. for (blank)’s sake…
9 min – on rules on rules on rules..
system where tools.. are illegal to investigate/report on.. and web is subject to censorship.. however we think about innovation.. artitrary access to censorship.. and making it illegal to tell people about bad of use..
inspectors of inspectors ness.. laws keeping us from helping us
13 min – wrote little brother.. mark klein story .. 2006-7
16 min – on leaks et al.. ie: panama papers.. consequences of misconduct becoming more personal..
17 min – we are at peak indifference..
18-20 min – on talking of his privacy tools..
imagine if we didn’t spend time/energy on that..
36 min – www consortium.. w3c
41 min – better a screwed up web with us still around to manage it..
42 min – better idea via w3c – making everybody at w3c not to use patents.. position on whether not impediments to standards.. failed to get it…
43 min – then…. in absence of consensus.. tim bl said – alright let’s make dmr w/o protections… i don’t know what we’re going to do.. i think maybe we just lost the web…
44 min – they could just promise to not sue people .. they have it in their power.. but choose not to.. really got me down.. don’t know if we fork w3c..
46 min – everyone of these firms that are participating in drm got their start from something drm would have prevented…
47 min – i don’t know what to do about this… i can’t sit on sideline writing sci fiction novels.. we’re going to lose if we don’t do something about it..
48 min – let me address this getting paid ness… i don’t think copyright law… rent seeking.. other than adding value.. lock others out of adding value..
51 min – project – appollo 1201 – to kill drm in next (in our lifetime)
ps in the open ness
But there’s a very special kind of disagreement that’s a kind of disagreement that’s hard to make progress from, and That’s denialism. This is manufactured controversy from people who benefit from making it seem like there’s controversy about something for which there is no actual controversy among practitioners.
the kind of denial I’m going to talk about mostly today, is Turing-completeness denial.
So, we only really know how to make one kind of computer. That’s the computer that can run all the programs that we can express symbolically. But for lots of reasons, people would like it to be possible to make computers that can only run programs that don’t make you sad.
One of the canonical examples of Turing-completeness denial is digital rights management, this idea that if you want to stop people from running programs that make copies of files that you wouldn’t like them to copy on their computer, you can encrypt the file and send it to them, and also send them the key, but ask their computer not to let them know what the key is. The technical term for this in security circles is “wishful thinking.”
But of course, if Turing denial isn’t just about DRM, ….. cryptography denial, ….other kind of Turing-completeness denial that we have is privacy denial, the idea that if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear. That secrecy is the same as privacy. That because I know what you do when you go into the toilet it shouldn’t be your right to close the door….
And the thing about denial is it begets nihilism. Denial matters because the things that are being denied (the potential harms of privacy, anthropogenic climate change, AIDS, cancer) those things are real. And the non-solutions that arise when you deny them, those non-solutions don’t solve these problems that are real and getting worse because they’re not being addressed through our policy because we can’t address them because we’re in denial about them.
It’s the old lady who swallowed the fly problem, right? Once you accept that we need to solve this problem by smoking lighter cigarettes, by taking more vitamins, then it begets another problem. You must not be taking the right vitamins. You must not be smoking light enough cigarettes. You you must not be trying hard enough to lock down hardware so that users can’t reconfigure it.
So, the problem is still there. The solution hasn’t worked. And the denial movement won’t admit it, because to admit it would be to admit that they were wrong. Instead we pass a law that says disclosing vulnerabilities inDRM is a felony punishable by five years in prison and a five hundred-thousand dollar fine. Because although we know that the DRM can be broken, we assume that we can just silence the people who discover those flaws.
If you’re not allowed to tell people about flaws in systems that they rely on,
it doesn’t mean that those flaws won’t get weaponized and used against them. It just means that they’ll never know about it until it’s too late. Everyone should have the absolute right to know whether or not the technology they rely on is working.
So we spend more money, we take more measures, we waste more of everyone’s time, and then we end up with it’s starting to feel like it’s too much trouble to even bother with.
Even though we can’t agree on the cause, we can agree that there is a problem. So with privacy, for example, the US government says that the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act makes violating terms of service a felony. And as Ethan just described, this means that we can’t investigate in depth how services gather information and use it, because in order to do so we have to violate their terms of service. And since the terms of service have the power of law, we risk going to jail just to find out what’s going on.
moxie on the need to be able to break the law.. to find new things/ways..
The privacy and security implications of all of these devices being off-limits to investigation, to security auditing, and to disclosure… That’s figuratively thermonuclear, but it’s literally potentially lethal for you not to be able to know how these systems are working and whether or not they have flaws in them.
Now, at a certain moment, because these problems become so visible to us, we hit a kind of moment of peak indifference. The moment when the people who care about this stuff, the number of people who care about it, is never going to go down.
That’s not the moment at which the tide changes in the policy debate, but it’s the moment at which the activist tactic changes.
Peak indifference is the moment when you stop convincing people to care about an issue, and start convincing them to do something about it.
perhaps less about convincing.. a more about modeling.. acting as if already.. and/or.. convincing by modeling..
And no one is the villain of their own story. The net pioneers who made the compromises that made the Internet what it is today, they instead of deciding to sell out, made a tiny compromise. And because we’re only really capable of detecting relative differences, they made another little compromise, and another little compromise, each one of which felt very small, but we ended up where we are today.
You’ll need tools to stop you from becoming compromised when you get old and tired.
mech simple enough.. to keep us alive/woke.. tools that keep you asking yourself everyday.. what matters most.. a story about people grokking what matters..
via Doug‘s share here:
As a member of the Walkman generation, I have made peace with the fact that I will require a hearing aid long before I die. It won’t be a hearing aid, though; it will really be a computer. So when I get into a car — a computer that I put my body into — with my hearing aid — a computer I put inside my body — I want to know that these technologies are not designed to keep secrets from me, or to prevent me from terminating processes on them that work against my interests.
HOW SCIENCE FICTION CAN INSPIRE THE FUTURE – Cory Doctorow on London Real
fiction as useful tool to snap people out of nihlism
prediction is not a hugely interesting thing to be in game of.. implies future is unmaleable.. fixed..if can predict future.. can’t change future.. sci fi’s greatest job/trick.. has been to influence/inspire/warn the future.. turn generation into fans who want to do what they can to build…
fiction can provide an emotional fly thru of social/tech change..
the way we experience other people is by trying to model them in our minds.. interrogating a kind of model you built up.. very naively.. our subconscious builds that model when we’re reading.. and we experience empathy with that reading..
empathic sympathy is because you’re imagining your model of …
we give people empathy in stories for imag people in imag situations
reading little brother just now
Cory Doctorow (@doctorow) tweeted at 7:16 AM – 15 Mar 2017 :
268 words on Party Discipline, a WALKAWAY story #dailywords (6307 words total) (http://twitter.com/doctorow/status/842001585987178496?s=17)
3 words: a nother way
do able social fiction: a nother way book
There’s always been a gambling madness in the human spirit, a kind of perverse, instinctive itchiness that suddenly makes us willing to court disaster, simply on the off-chance of altering the mundane or miserable parameters of our daily lives.
If we could transform some of that madness into a madness of optimism and creativity, rather than boredom, rage, and despair, that could only be a good thing.
Tor Books (@torbooks) tweeted at 7:36 AM – 26 Apr 2017 :
Start reading @doctorow’s new novel Walkaway: an epic tale of revolution, love, post-scarcity, and the end of death https://t.co/Mk7u1mBlEb (http://twitter.com/torbooks/status/857226823918170112?s=17)
Watch Edward @Snowden and Cory @doctorow imagine our hopeful, dystopian future https://t.co/87Pgq3GTW3
Original Tweet: https://twitter.com/FreedomofPress/status/861627302962110464
21 min – one reading of walkaway.. an attempt to figure out how to respond to a world where a system that’s gone to far to be reformed thru traditional means – Ed
27 min – a strong theme of econ – but opp of Ayn Rand – that only way is to exchange.. Ed
29 min – market capitalism.. produces thru competition.. enormous gains in productivity.. that are to the great benefit of the long human project.. how to elevate every peasant to live like a lord
33 min – walkaway – sci trick of cleaving tech system from econ/social- what would it be like if we had the productivity of the assembly line and the working style of the craftsman.. engineer beyond boundary of firm and into world – Cory
44 min – to bank something that’s abundant when it’s abundant and then get it to somewhere scarce when it’s scarce.. – Cory
45 min – country based on searching for less order and more freedom – Ed
58 min – on it being hard to argue with people who are closest to you.. enormous sorrow.. these people i respect so dearly so angry – Cory
59 min – ed in
1:01 – how do you change people’s minds – Paul arguing – good will and willingness to spend the time – Cory
1:03 – diff between relationship never having a fight and one where all diff come to mutual understanding – Cory
1:04 – most frustrating thing in argument.. that other not only disagrees w you but also with something you’re not saying – Cory
1:05 – my possession of the (piece of art) is you not having it – hard to imagine how we could overcome – Cory
they just go where the wind blows them.. because they know wherever the wind takes them there’ll be someone they can have an enjoyable time with.. and that’s really why they’re in the sky .. there’s nowhere they need to go.. just somewhere they can be – Cory
1:08 – and that seems to have been an element of the technology.. this idea that we can use networks to arrange it so that no matter where you are something great is there..
this is the invisible magic
the river why – gus connection law
1:12 – on – not changing people’s minds.. but changing what they do about it – Cory
1:14 – can’t outrun it anywhere – Cory
1:20 – actually ed back.. cut off.. when saying.. being born from treason.. and.. this is the fundamental liberty..
what liberty really means.. to act w/o permission.. freedom from permission.. – Ed
1:23 – we’ve lost those undiscovered spaces.. and the true frontier space .. people discovered.. not undiscovered.. but unregulated.. ie: when do things that jeopardize riches people in society.. how to make this a post scarcity not in terms of resources but in terms of days to live – Ed
1:24 – when we have no unexplored spaces today.. is our frontier spirit more about invention/ideas that is about the physical location where we occupy.. what would you say is the frontier today.. – Ed
1:25 – hard to talk about frontiers w/o talking about power relationships they always embody – Cory
1:26 – i don’t know if i want to recapture that frontier spirit .. always involves erasure.. i think if there’s a place people think not everything has to be mandatory or prohibited today.. it is around the periphery of tech.. we still have this idea of federation of networks.. don’t need to agree on everything in order to cross connect.. across boundaries.. can do radically diff things – Cory
io dance ness
federalist view – very utopian.. can disagree about almost everything.. but have two separate parallel experiments.. – Cory..
1:28 – the immortalities is a mcguffin – able to say whatever you want – Cory
1:29 – the mcguffin of immortality.. the positional good – when you have something that others don’t.. when that becomes widespread.. some people interpret that abundance as a bug and not a feature – Cory
1:32 – nature of rights.. don’t need to justify them.. they are for the most vulnerable among us.. to property/opinion/speech.. not necessary if you are ie: mark zuckerberg.. a general.. if you have access to resources/power… but for people who don’t have much.. are a little diff.. have radical ideas.. these are the people for whom rights matter most w/least capability to defend them.. these are the people who make our society good.. make the world move forward.. status quo don’t drive progress.. – Ed
1:34 – privacy isn’t about something to hide.. but to protect.. space for self/ideas.. w/o haunting.. if happen to be bad.. try them in a space.. – Ed
1:35 – arguing for privacy because nothing to hide.. like arguing for freedom of speech because have nothing to say – Ed
1:36 – this system should be improved upon in a radical way w/o asking permission.. – Ed
what is the route for reform
1:37 – ability to form groups and work together – Cory
find people via 2 convos a day..
before.. if wanted to work together.. had to what for others to catch up et al..
what internet has done is given us this fluid improvisational style – Cory
1:38 – ability to have the form of coming together for a good bake sale but to work on a wikipedia..the problem of forming groups has always been esp hard for opposition groups.. because all..
opposition groups pay a very high institutional cost – have to not only find people like them.. but keep the existence of the group something like a secret
if not from govt itself.. maybe from people they don’t want to disclose their political affiliations or heterodox views to.. ie: gay liberation.. needed to be in the closet and then find other people in the closet.. but then figure out a way to work together to argue that you should all be able to come out of the closet without necessarily coming out of the closet.. that was a really hard project – Cory
1:39 – the ability for us to find people like us.. very cheaply.. online.. esp heterodox views.. *is playing out around us.. in ways that run as an absolute counter to the increased oppressive surveillance/control/hierarchy that we’re seeing at the state level.. for better or for worse.. – Cory
*let’s focus on that .. let’s free 7bn.. up for that.. we can.. we have the means.. a nother way
1:40 – fearful for future.. when two rub up against each other.. – Cory
is it that.. or is it that we have that freedom.. but after hours.. so it’s not us accessing the freedom.. ie: like us sitting on couch because we’re tired.. so more might use it for not human nature stuff..
i’m just saying.. the partial ness is what’s killing us.. and keeping us from us.. and this invisible magic.. as you say
1:59 – we haven’t paid attention to how people feel when they try these other things.. ways that make people happy and not just busy – Cory
this again is the partial ness killing us.. it’s perpetuating exhaustion/defense/ et al
i’m for building a world that beggars our imagination – Cory
walkaway review by npr
“The point of Walkaway is the first days of a better nation,” says one of Doctorow’s characters. Says many of them, actually. That’s the recurring belief-system on which the book runs. It is the story of precisely this — what comes after the slow-burn apocalypse we all secretly fear is coming, how it will work, how it will all go wrong and how it will get made right again with drones, wet printers and elbow grease.
walkaway via google books
In a world wrecked by climate change, in a society owned by the ultra-rich, in a city hollowed out by industrial flight, Hubert, Etc, Seth and Natalie have nowhere else to be and nothing better to do. But there is another way. ..
Cory Doctorow and John Scalzi: “walkaway & the Collapsing Empire” | Talks at Google
8 min – the likelihood of a world where 99.9% are total bastards (because people saying this also include.. except me and everyone i know) .. and everyone that you know isn’t .. is really low.. it’s much more likely that the people around you are a rep sample (of world) and that they have the dual nature of humans.. on a good day rise.. on bad day regrets..
9 min – solved by people who run to the middle.. not to the hills
10 min – walkaway is a story about people who are consciously trying to form societies that fail gracefully instead of societies that work well..
a nother antifragile way
and that they’re trying to use.. the coordinated latent power of tech to get there rather than thinking about tech as a thing that helps us manufacture/communicate.. they’re thinking that about it as a thing that lets us at our labor one to the other.. even if we don’t all agree on what needs to be done.. [do what we do and leave a trail – whether it’s used or not]
11 min – rather than sit down and have someone tell us all what to do .. we all do what we think needs to be done and we have a tool that lets the parts of it that are useful glom together
there were a lot of people who didn’t want wikipedia and gnu for 1st 10 yrs.. and they were really right for first 10 yrs.. that’s the amazing thing.. jimmy wales: it is a complete disaster in theory it only works in practice
12 min – thing for solving disputes: forking
fork to the limit of idio jargon
18 min – the likelihood that the thing you want to do won’t be tolerated and you can’t find anyone to do it.. that’s a pretty low likelihood
2 convos would drive likelihood to nil
19 min – we could use coordination to simply shunt around resources..we could realize these new efficiencies..
really challenges notion that you can’t have infinite growth in a finite world.. infinite growth implies you don’t have any kind of process automation.. don’t have any changes in what people want.. but there doesn’t seem to be any bottom in sight to how many few tons of steel you can put in a car
20 min – most interesting in sci fi.. take a tech phenom and see if it can be extracted from its social/econ context and whether it still works..
23 min – on banks’ focus being more on manufacture than coord
Bad news: tech is making us more unequal. Good news: tech can make us more equal. boingboing.net/2017/05/31/zot…
how to use technology to attain those goals
“Effective today, @EFF is resigning from the W3C.” – https://t.co/dK8reQOfzg good to see someone has principles #DRM; time to boycott @W3C?
Original Tweet: https://twitter.com/glynmoody/status/909854011951599616
WIRED UK (@WiredUK) tweeted at 3:37 AM – 21 Sep 2017 :
The open web needs all the friends it can get, especially in these dangerous times https://t.co/efzaD41np3 by @doctorow (http://twitter.com/WiredUK/status/910800015433637888?s=17)
Thanks, @doctorow, for the forgotten memory of that P2P working group meeting, and for the best review of my book that I’ve read yet. It’s wonderful to read a review that is not a rehash of the content, but a vaulting forward of the argument! https://t.co/XOK78PyMhD
Original Tweet: https://twitter.com/timoreilly/status/938066073693196288
A book that tells us how to keep the technology baby and throw out the Big Tech bathwater
can love the sin hate the sinner
WTF? is a book about technology as it was, as it is, and *as it could be. It is told from the perspective of someone who has been personally present at the most important moments in the fast-paced history of tech, and who played a significant role in those moments. It’s a rare and important piece of criticism that inspires even as it dissects.
*this is what i found most frustrating about the book.. i think we’re missing what it could be.. big time.. and perhaps.. precisely because we’ve still got that hierarchical format for listening.. ie: you can’t hear me.. we need tech to listen to all voices (of alive people.. the mech has to also wake/detox us up) w/o judgment.. and facil that
we’re missing tech as it could be..
David Mihalyi (@davidmihalyi) tweeted at 5:12 AM – 5 Jul 2018 :
Defo not the usual take on why ‘data is the new oil’ by @doctorow . https://t.co/dbmcF5mgSJ https://t.co/jWnE7bpIGg (http://twitter.com/davidmihalyi/status/1014829453585932288?s=17)
Cambridge Analytica didn’t convince decent people to become racists; they convinced racists to become voters.
Laura J. Mixon (@LauraJMG) tweeted at 6:01 AM – 28 Jul 2018 :
Cory @doctorow lays down some hardcore truths. https://t.co/OFqIKhDzdX (http://twitter.com/LauraJMG/status/1023176623355379712?s=17)
son of an asylum seeker, father of an immigrant (@doctorow) tweeted at 7:24 AM – 27 Jul 2018 :
Science fiction sucks at predicting the future, but it sure is good at predicting the present (c.f. @greatdismal): that is, the stuff that seems plausible in science fiction at any given moment is a good source of insight into what’s on our collective minds. (http://twitter.com/doctorow/status/1022835206347141120?s=17)
Lots of people have noted that the fear of AIs taking over the world (especially when evinced by the super-rich) is really just a tell that capitalism has spawned transhuman, immortal colony lifeforms that use humans for gut flora (AKA corporations, AKA “slow AIs”)
But today I’d like to discuss another tell: the trope that when there is some kind of disaster, your neighbors are coming for you, that we can expect arson and carnage the moment that society’s guard-labor levels drop below a critical threshold.
Obviously, this is not true. If you and everyone you know are pretty much decent people who sometimes do dumb or bad things, it’s statistically likely that you know a representative sample and that means it’s very, very unlikely that 99.9% of the world are total bastards.
For more, read Rebecca Solnit’s magesterial, vital, crucial history of selflessness, nobility, and elite panic during disasters, “A Paradise Built in Hell”
To understand this, consider a related trope: the prison riot. When we encounter a story about life in prison, it’s not hard to understand why the prisoners riot the instant the guards’ attention wavers.
Those stories are at pains to establish that the prisons are not good for the prisoners. They exist to punish the prisoners, not to rehabilitate them. They are basically slow torture chambers, designed to inflict misery on the prisoners.
Prisoners set fire to the cellblock for the same reason that a galley slave would sink the ship where they have been chained to an oar for years. Whatever beneficial purpose the ship serves for its owners, for the rowers, it is an instrument of torture. I’d sink that ship too.
Back to the idea that The Event will precipitate total destruction of society and all its physical plant. That doesn’t make any sense if you think of people as being served by society: water, sanitation, food, education, safety and security
But if cities are slow torture chambers for their inhabitants, it makes perfect sense.
If, for example, cities fund themselves by manufacturing petty infractions to charge poor people with, arresting them when they can’t pay fines and putting them to hard labor…
Or if rents are too damned high and your debt mounts and mounts, or if you spend all your time cowering in fear of a one-star review on your gig economy app, or….
If you face license-plate cameras, CCTVs, gait recognition, predictive policing, facial recognition, school-prison pipelines, etc…
You’re living in a city that exists to control you, not to help you realize safety, security, shelter, dignity, etc.
Which is, of course, totally, blindingly obvious — and also completely outside the Overton Window. No one in (e.g.) the Democratic establishment (and certainly not in the GOP) is willing to talk about this naked class warfare.
But it comes out in our collective dreaming. If you think of cities as prisons for poor people, then The Event riots make perfect sense — they’re just another version of the prison riot. Completely plausible. #
As Leonard Cohen once noted: “Everybody Knows.” Everybody knows we’re in a state of class warfare, but we dare not speak that aloud. Instead, we whisper it in our fiction, and nod our heads in recognition when it’s said.