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April 27, 2010



Shorter version: magic man conjures benevolent demon that solves all the world's problems. Hard to take seriously an idea whose central premise is so preposterous.


I always find Carson tremendously interesting, but whenever I see his byline I'm instantly distracted: "KEVIN CARSON, DUN da dun da da derrrrrr dedowdodowdedow, KEVIN CAA-HA-HA-SON".

Fellow Traveller

Centralized planning works if you're a super intelligent AI invented by a game designer (Farmville takes over the world - everyone brace themselves when Sid Meier kicks the bucket). I think Ken MacLeod got there first with The Space Fraction and The Cassini Division. Neal Stephenson did the distributed computing platform supporting a network of anonymous agents in The Diamond Age.


Iain M Banks got there before MacLeod - the Culture's a communist state run by superintelligent AIs.
Bruce Sterling's "Maneki Neko" is about a gift-based economy overseen by distributed AI and the hopeless attempts of an IRS agent to tax it.

Richard J

a gift-based economy overseen by distributed AI and the hopeless attempts of an IRS agent to tax it.

Imputing a cash value to a non-cash transaction being, of course, completely beyond the ability of tax authorities worldwide.


Not that so much, IIRC, as the fact that the transactions just aren't being recorded anywhere, and sometimes aren't even recognised as being transactions and not just random serendipitous events.


Sterling's Distraction (1998) shares a lot of plotmatter with this as well. I mean, nanotech/biotech + home fabbing as a rebel military-industrial complex is routine cutting edge today. '98? Really prescient.


Iain Bank's take on the culture is essentially ironic. You can have utopia, so long as you accept being the pets of godlike benevolent AIs... Which is basically what most of the major religions believe, right?

Its kind of ironic that Keven Carson is praising a book whose basic premise is so un-libertarian. Paradise is reached through a god. Not only does this seem unlikely (successful AI research suggests that intelligence requires a body and an environment of some kind), but its unnecessary. Ditch the AI, and explore the possibilities of a Stephenson style distributed network. That's at least theoretically possible.

Kevin Carson

Thanks for the link!

BenSix, you're the first person I know of who's ever had that particular reaction to my name,

Cian: Actually, I expressed some misgiving with the deus ex machina premise at the end. But I enjoyed the book because, leaving aside the Daemon's role in kick-starting it, the system itself (resilient communities linked through a Darknet) was so close to the kind of thing Robb discusses.


Yeah but its a darknet which requires a benevolent AI to run/maintain it. Which is cheating. Any program of political change that requires a god is a bit of a non-starter.

It would be more interesting to start from where we are. Both totally dark, and semi-transparent nets exist. Plenty of them engaged in illegal activities, and mostly unmonitored by the authorities. What do you do with that, and how is that useful. Its not really a problem of technologies, but organisation and ideology. The best hope for anarchists would seem to be the open-source movement, but they're mostly a bunch of unreconstructed Randian/Mises freaks (Mises for fucks sakes. Not even Hayek, but Mises).


I didn't realise you'd written a new book Kevin. Looks interesting, shall read.


I never really thought of the review or the book in terms of straight politics: more as a survey of the current state of the libertarian imagination. It's interesting that a book from this quarter makes corporations the villains.

Incidentally, Kevin, what do you make of John Robb's politics? I can't really work them out. he seems to be evolving from that obsolescent Wired type vulgar techie libertarianism to some form of...I dunno, anti-state socialism with an odd redneck twist.


Kevin - I don't think they're big in the States.


BenSix - I can't see that video here in Canada, but by any chance does it tell us that Tipper Gore was a friend of mine?


Yeah fair enough Jamie. I'm in a bad mood after wasting a morning reading some MIT media lab papers.

Kevin Carson

BenSix: BTW, after my last comment I thought of the Seinfeld episode where Kramer had an odd reaction to the opening credits on Entertainment Tonight.

Cian: I don't think the Daemon's necessary to maintain the Darknet once it was established. And there's no reason the basic architecture couldn't be built without a Daemon. After all, in the story it was based on a multi-player gaming architecture by real world humans recruited by the Daemon. There's no reason in principle they couldn't have done the same thing themselves, or that local community meshworks couldn't set up some sort of common virtual space accessible through connected goggles.

Jamie: I think Robb's coming from some place similar to Vail and Ronfeldt when it comes to describing networked resistance and 4G warfare. His goals seem to be a mix of the techno-utopianism you describe with localist economics and micromanufacturing. I find most of it pretty appealing.

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