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[liberationtech] Privacy, Moglen, @ioerror, #rp12

Shava Nerad shava23 at
Thu May 10 12:00:37 PDT 2012

Sent from my iPhone so pardon the brevity/formatting! (yes, this entire ramble on my mobile over a cup of Earl Gray... I must be quite mad...;)

On May 10, 2012, at 12:40 PM, Lee Alley <lee at> wrote:

> +1 for this discussion! Fascinating and informative! Thanks :-)

It's what I miss about living in the ivory tower! ;)

My personal belief is that human ethics has it's own Dunbar number.  Regardless of the political, religious, ethical, moral or whatever system - including the vaunted enlightened self interest of capitalism, which tends to break down due to the individual incapacity for systems thinking (or as a leader, projecting the vision of that system to others) the center can not hold, and it does not scale - because we do not have better people.

Culture gradually instills greater foundations of axioms of memetic systems thinking tools earlier in more humans.  De Chardin's noosphere, Fuller's techne, builds generation by generation.  

Meanwhile, cultural conservatives create fascistic and nostalgic mass movements based on fear of inevitable change, hobbling education and intellectuals, starting wars and controlling resources through coersion.

The geeks plow forward, while the agrarians rein us back.  Following the dictates of biological rather than noospheric/memetic/techne/cultural evolution, where rapid innovation and sports are tolerated, traditional evolution (many of which, ironically, deny Darwinian physical selection) shuns and punishes geeks produced by cultural and memetic evolution - we've even seen that literal language turn around in the last half century!

So we see a war manifested dramatically in the online world, where it is best abstracted in a pure forms as power, resources, force, coercion, information, persuasion, memetics, co-option, education, away from some of the immediate brute force methods of the agrarian bully, of Esau.

It's not about corporations, or nation states.  It's about collections of humans that decline to treat one another humanely.

If I need to be a coyote to keep people safe, to teach people how the world around them works when others have lied to them, to speak their truth, to fight fair, and communicate firmly and peacefully whenever possible (and study SunTzu when not), to be anti-obscurantist and not shy away from hard education jobs but understand that some people can not learn in this lifetime and need to learn that too (and that's hard - especially in democracy!)...

I'm not sure how these transformations happen.  I just harbor working assumptions they are necessary, and my necessities are, like everyones', subject to compromise.  Because nothing is more dangerous than a utopian, and I won't be one.

So, please, I have worked in government.  It's not all good or all bad.  It is all people.  It's not even all coercive, or at least evenly applied most places - that's a vice and a virtue.

I have been a CEO and a VP (Inc5000, Inc Urban100,...), and corporations don't all suck either.  My grandparents were syndicalists and my dad was a wobbly organizer - when the PDX Business Journal staff nominated me for Woman Entrepreneur of the Year I giggled nearly nonstop for three days.

Our work seems infinite some days.  The days it does not seem infinite represent a failure of the imagination.

We can work with corporations and nations where we find people of good will.  Those people will always be in places of ephemeral security, surrounded by compromises and questionable positions.  They may end up making decisions they can not disclose or justify.  It's a game of thrones, a trust game, a very curious world full of people who are never as pure as the systems we discuss in abstract.

Government, military, intelligence, law enforcement, corporate, political strategy and tactics - any system where power is a currency - is very messy this way.  

In academia, many of us want things to be more pure.  Digital.  What is the perfect citizen?  An awesome conversation, one for the long term.

But these worlds of governance are analog, smearing populations on graphs, because that's how decisions end up being made when decisions are delegated by whatever means.  

If a road is built, who will eat and who will run out of benefits, and turn to crime; how many more cells do we build and guards do we hire?  Do we hire guards for twenty years or road builders for the summer?  

These are not so direct, ever.  They seep through the system like water through peat, a brown tea, a byproduct of no one decision maker.

Very few in government or corporations mean to diminish a particular person - if that person were within their "Dunbar number," their tribe, their insider ideas. (And if they do, it's that power politics competitive thing...)

Formal nonviolence works to erase those boundaries.  MLK's "beloved community" in a way is an expansion of the idea of "friends" in the social networking let's-set-the-bar-low to the whole of our community that acts in good faith.  The content of our character (or avatar?).

Lessons lost; still relevant.

Shava Nerad
shava23 at

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