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Can Technology Bring on a World Wide Social Revolution?
Kris Notaro   Jul 15, 2010   Ethical Technology  

“The antiscience tendency in anarchism, which does exist, is completely self-defeating on this score [questions of technology and revolution]. I mean, it is going to take, it is going to require sophisticated technology and scientific discoveries to create the possibility for human society to survive—I mean, unless we decide, well, it just shouldn’t survive, we should get down to, you know, 100,000 hunter-gatherers or something. Okay, except for that, if you’re serious about, you know, the billions of people in the world who—and their children and grandchildren, it’s going to require scientific and technological advances.” – Noam Chomsky

In the next 30 years there can be a world wide revolution.  The U.N. estimates that there will be over 8 billion people on earth by 2040.  Currently there are 6.8 billion people on earth. But don’t let these numbers scare you, especially if you’re a lefty radical who dreams (literally) of a world wide workers/peoples movement.  Within the next 20-30 years we will see the rise of smartphones and other “Personal digital assistants”, which we can only dream of.  If the worldwide capitalist system looks something like it does today with the G8 and G20 nations controlling trade while trying to maintain a failing capitalist system (where the only ones who win are the rich), poor people will not be getting the eyeglass computers, or the computers in contact lenses, nor the computers which will be part of your clothes.  However, during this time we should see the spread of faster more affordable mini computers, smartphones, and PDA’s.

If people from developing countries can get their hands on older PDAs and smartphones (imagine a computer from just 15 years ago, you wouldn’t want it, even though you could get onto the web, use word-processing, play simple games, etc)  In my experience computers come and go, and so do cell phones. As smartphone usage goes, hopefully low income people will have the ability to acquire one. A fast one, one that can translate any text or speech, hooked up to an open-source “shadowy” network, a network much like the internet.

“Now imagine that each of these shadowy smart phones actively stays in wireless contact with whatever of its fellow shadow smart phones happen to be within range (a few hundred feet), and each one acts as both an access point and a communal router to pass along text and data for its user and for the community as a whole. Since none of the shadow phone owners can be identified, no enforcement can be imposed on them. And because the network has no specific boundary (it might cover a city or a continent) it is impossible to prevent information from getting into the network from outside, or out of it from within.” - Stephen Euin Cobb

People could educate each other about the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Group of 8 (G8), Group of 20 (G20), International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, and the World Trade Organization (WTO), and understand how each plays a role in their life, how each one keeps them in poverty.  This is revolution, a world-wide revolution, one made of 0s and 1s, put together to produce the ultimate information packed networks.  All that needs to happen is that the people care enough to act, care enough to take real action.  By real action I mean revolution in the sense of taking over workplaces, educating each other about patriarchy, sexism, racism, homophobia, classism, capitalism, etc.


Lets say 10 years from now, 80 percent of low income people in the world have a smartphone, but these wont be any ordinary smartphones, well actually they may be, but a bit tweeked up with software Kurzweil and crew have been working on.  Imagine taking a picture of words, words in books, words outside in the real world, on billboards etc, and having the phone read it back to you after you take a picture of it, but imagine that these books and billboards are in another language which you cannot read, the smartphone will interpret it and read it to you in your native language.

Now imagine having a network like that of Facebook where everyone, including the poor can really communicate, utilizing software that can break down the language barrier.  And imagine if a peer-to-peer network that could not be shut down by governments were implemented in these smartphones, computers and PDAs so the people of an uprising can communicate with each other from all around the world. Self organizing local, national, global communities hooked up to a network would allow for cooperation and even democracy, for they could be used to vote in world wide elections.


Newer software which allows people who are illiterate to simply click a button and point at an object containing letters in any language and have that read back to them in their native language would be amazing.  We need hackers, anarchists, socialists, etc.  to be part of this, to put together a network that will act like peer to peer, but can be utilized like Wikipedia, and perhaps setup similar to Facebook and the like.

 

Poor people in certain areas of the world who can’t read will be able to use these phones because they will have voice activation on them.  I know my phone from 7 years ago has voice activation, so I believe that if the world’s poor people unite utilizing technology to communicate no matter what language one is speaking to the other, would be incredible.  The rate at which people would learn could increase dramatically, and the possibility of a technoprogressive future would accelerate at astonishing speed. Its all about information and organization which looks promising in the next 30 years by way of technological innovations.

References

Noam Chomsky, http://www.chomsky.info/interviews/20100312.htm





 

Kris Notaro served as Managing Director of the IEET from 2012 to 2015. He is currently an IEET Rights of the Person Program Director. He earned his BS in Philosophy from Charter Oak State College in Connecticut. He is currently the Bertrand Russell Society’s Vice-President for Website Technology. He has worked with the Bertrand Russell A/V Project at Central Connecticut State University, producing multimedia materials related to philosophy and ethics for classroom use. His major passions are in the technological advances in the areas of neuroscience, consciousness, brain, and mind.



COMMENTS

Now imagine that each of these shadowy smart phones actively stays in wireless contact with whatever of its fellow shadow smart phones happen to be within range (a few hundred feet),


I’ve seen recent developments in wireless technology over on NBF that indicate this will actually be miles not feet.

I’ve advocated this particular tech for quite some time, as a prime way to bypass the telcos.  If they succeed in subverting the FCC then I see this becoming a defacto standard shortly afterwards.

In the science fiction literature, Iain M. Banks’ Culture cycle is a very interesting way to develop philosophical and political reflections on the potential role of “intelligent” machines in an advanced society (a sort of “computer-aided” anarchy). For an analysis, see: http://yannickrumpala.wordpress.com/2010/01/14/anarchy_in_a_world_of_machines/

@ Kris..

What we want/need is World Wide Social “Evolution” not revolution. That is driven by your ideals of communication and education and freedom of speech.

In fact, the only way I feel that social evolution is actually possible is through peaceful process and the determined solidarity of intention towards change. Do you want things to be different? Then if so, discuss and communicate and change things, make change happen!

You are correct that with the technological means of near “instantaneous” worldwide communications, ideas and change can happen, and I believe it will. And it is “will” and not merely words alone that can instigate change. I already receive near instant tweet messages via my “not so Smartphone”, from all around the globe, India, China, USA to Australia. Technologies and devices are already available to peoples in less fortunate and less wealthy nations, and we share ideas.

The Internet and world wide web and near instant communications has transformed into a “Global mind”, a living entity. And this “Global mind” functions in a similar manner to our own brains, with an incessant torrent of sub-conscious thoughts and ideas and information travelling at near light speed. Fragmented and incoherent maybe, yet when thoughts and ideas and ideals align, then magic happens. Take for example the student demonstrations in Iran, and the use of Twitter and tweets. Although I am not a great fan of Twitter, its effectiveness is apparent in its speed, and it is an effective tool for the spread of ideas and information.

By linking our biological brains/minds through Smart devices to the “Global mind” we achieve nothing less than “true connectedness” as the barriers between our individual biological brains and the Global mind become as insignificant. Do not underestimate the power of a single idea!

My ideals involve both spiritual and ethical evolution, and this once again relies upon Self-understanding and the realisation of our true connectedness to each other, our ecosystem and the entire cosmos. And I don’t think we need a generation to achieve this as “Global awareness” either. If the “Global mind” eventually transforms human awareness and consciousness towards the goals of egalitarianism, then there is not a single regime or political system that may stop it!

:0]

CygnusX1, I believe in a peaceful revolution through non-violent direct action across the globe.  This is both revolution and evolution, absolutely! I think that as time goes on what you refer to as the “global mind” needs to be independent of most governmental systems.  This would require the “shadow network” idea.  The internet needs to allow for freedom of speech, and we know this is not true in China and a few other countries. 

We also had to sit back and watch the government of Iran crack down on the protesters and their twitter which was extremely sad to see.  If another movement like that of Iran’s happens again in Iran or any other country in the near future I don’t think you will see much difference, the government’s are extremely powerful entities which have the ability to crack down on the flow of information.

However, your right, Iran was part of this technological evolution in the sense that we all learned something from it.  I think the best thing to do is to educate yourself and others about the global economic system and the oppression which is a result.  People need to become serious about shadow networks and the software needs to be made to help people communicate and learn, the internet alone, as it is today (while a very useful tool) can not do this quite yet.

People continue to work in sweatshops, live in poverty, slums, and continue to be oppressed by the global economic system and its governments.  Grassroots organizing will evolve and people will take action!

Dunno about that, am not one of nature’s optimists; it is especially disturbing how authoritarian immigrants are, how much bad religion they practice. And what does social progress mean now, and what will social progress mean for the foreseeable future?: if it means ethics, in conventional terms, then progress means—as far as I know—little. If social progress means smaller governments, then it also means little. As it all gets bigger & more complex/complicated, social progress is the hardest ‘thing’ IMO to comprehend.

@post

“it is especially disturbing how authoritarian immigrants are” - that is pessimistic and classist!

“how much bad religion they practice.” education!

IMO pessimism is now justified; the most obvious downer is, personally, after the Cold War ended I bought into the ‘End of History’ chirpiness: just for starters, after 40 years of feminism women haven’t been able to break from the clutches of men—because men are able to use violence to control, and women generally cannot. We don’t even live in a real civilization; but you write “classism”, as if class is a minor political ‘problem’ divorced from millions of years of inequality. Now we can see classes will exist for many decades, perhaps centuries. I am NOT writing things can’t be changed, am writing that the time frame is too vast to wrap the mind around. And you think after thousands of years of religious inculcation mere “education” will .... miraculously… alter the constancy of superstitious thought processes? Spirituality/religion is embedded too deep in the superstitious mind; part of the problem is academics living in bubble communities don’t fully appreciate the bad religious—and other—memes existing out in the more primitive world.

“bad religions”, well most religions are memes, contain memes that are non-sense.  however, for example the people in Tennessee protesting against the proposed mosque are probably not educated about the peaceful part of Islam. http://www.cnn.com/2010/US/07/15/tennessee.mosque.controversy/index.html

People should have the right to practice religion if they want to, but education can have the power to sway people one way or the other - proper education and will power can change memes.  I dont think it will take centuries for a scientific world view to take hold.  Yes, fundamentalists are everywhere around us, but we need to keep moving on with science, technology and education and have an optimistic viewpoint on freedom of speech and freedom of religion even if that religion is a useless, “superstitious” meme.  Thats my opinion.  What i really want to see is a peaceful world wide revolution against oppression, not an increase in oppression.  Its a tricky subject, I admit, but we need to move on and continue to work on eliminating centuries of inequality.

We’re in agreement, it appears. Not to say all religions are (in shorthand) “bad” ; but IMO most are; having written that it would make sense to leave open the possibility than x number of ‘faiths’ are harmless, x number are beneficial—doing charity, helping families cope. You rightly emphasize free speech above, an even larger issue than spiritualism/religion; free speech is a universal issue. Problem naturally with free speech is the parameters (without bringing up the platitudinous ‘shouting fire in a theater’). One can’t exclaim slander to excess, it’s of course based on delicate legalism. The Kansas preacher who sponsors rallies in many public places, protesting “God hates fags” is, it goes without saying within his First Amendment rights. However the dilemmas of what is socially acceptable, and what is libel, and so forth arise. The gray areas of legalism. One would have to be an attorney to grasp free speech limitations. Even then, attorneys don’t know everything and it is to the good they don’t, otherwise we would REALLY be in trouble 😉

@post, i think we just mostly agree on harmful useless memes and freedom of speech.  This article is about a peaceful world wide revolution utilizing technology to connect the working poor. 

2% of the adults in the world have more than half the world’s wealth, the richest 5% per cent have 71% of the wealth, the top 10% have 85% of the wealth…The bottom 50% has less than 1% of the wealth.

These numbers have to change, dont you agree?

“These numbers have to change, don’t you agree?” Yes… but don’t know where to start. All is so complex/complicated I don’t know what to think anymore. Might be aging of the mind, though—can’t adapt as youth can.

Those numbers will change, though not for the reasons most people are willing to contemplate.

We are at the end of the era of “material wealth”.  Material resources are becoming far more available than ever before, and we are changing our technological base from rare materials to extremely common ones. This is devaluing material resources, reducing the relative worth of them compared to non-material resources.  Regardless of the efforts to prevent this change from material “wealth” to non material “wealth” it is occurring with greater rapidity every year. The current “economic crisis” is a direct result of this shift.

The day of those with massive material wealth is ending, and those “numbers” are merely symptoms of the “disease” which is killing off the old economic model of scarcity.

This is not to say that they will not do their best to “maintain” the “status quo” by slowing down this transition as much as possible, but so far those efforts (i.e. the Bush administration and the current conservative agenda) seem to have hastened the collapse more than delayed it.

There is much that could be done to alleviate suffering on a worldwide scale which will not be done so long as we have an economy based on scarcity, but the maintaining of that economy is daily growing more difficult, and is unlikely to succeed for even another 2 decades, if that.  Almost every technological advance we are making is reducing the “rarity” factor of every resource humanity uses or creates.

The electronic web we are weaving with the internet will also work against the “status quo” because every form of “control” requires the ability to “control” information, which the internet is intrinsically hostile to. As a network deliberately designed to enable universal information access, it treats censorship in much the same way it treats “network damage”, enabling dozens of alternate routes for information spreading for each channel closed. Even attempts to “control the internet” such as those feared by “net neutrality” supporters are doomed to failure, and will merely spur alternate paths, such as the “shadow net” I commented on earlier.

We are developing socially, technologically and ideologically towards a single end state, that of a single world wide Athenian democracy in which all human needs are met for nearly zero “cost” by various forms of automation, and in which material resources have ceased to have all value, while non material (i.e knowledge creation) resources will be the primary basis of wealth generation.  All other possible states that could occur other than a species eradicating event are temporary conditions that will destablize within extremely short time frames (months to years, not decades) before proceeding to the end state.

Why? Because all other possible end states require information control and a populace with minimal education, neither of which will remain viable over the course of the next twenty years as the internet and personal VR devices create an environment of universal “always online” connectivity between all humans on the planet, and narrow AI “digital assistants” enable universal educational access.

By 2040 to 2050, we are likely to look back at today and wonder why we allowed such a small percentage of humanity to hold the rest of us hostage to their personal quests for aggrandizement.

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