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inkwell.vue.133 : Peter Ludlow: Crypto Anarchy, Cyberstates, and Pirate Utopias
permalink #0 of 106: Linda Castellani (castle) Wed 28 Nov 01 17:09
    
 Peter Ludlow received his PhD in philosophy from Columbia University in
 1985. He has written, edited, or co-edited ten books, including High Noon
 on the Electronic Frontier (MIT Press, 1996) and Crypto Anarchy,
 Cyberstates, and Pirate Utopias (MIT Press, 2001), and has published over
 50 articles in scholarly journals on issues ranging from the philosophy of
 time to issues in artificial intelligence. Professor Ludlow has lectured
 at dozens of foreign universities ranging from Cambridge University in
 England to Novosibirsk State University in Russia and has been a visiting
 professor at Cornell University, UC Santa Cruz, Kings College in London,
 and the University of Venice in Italy. He holds a permanent appointment
 at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, but this academic term
 is a visiting professor at Syracuse University.
 
 In Crypto Anarchy, Cyberstates, and Pirate Utopias, Peter Ludlow extends
 the approach he used so successfully in High Noon on the Electronic
 Frontier, offering a collection of writings that reflects the eclectic
 nature of the online world, as well as its tremendous energy and
 creativity. This time the subject is the emergence of governance
 structures within online communities and the visions of political
 sovereignty shaping some of those communities. 

 Bruce Umbaugh is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Webster University,
 and teaches at its campus in St. Louis and online. After earning a BA in
 Philosophy from the Honors Tutorial College of Ohio University, he
 completed his MA and PhD at the University of Maryland, College Park.
 Trained mainly in traditional areas of philosophy like epistemology and
 philosophy of science, he wrote a dissertation on rationality. When he went
 online, he was quickly taken with ways in which traditional philosophical
 issues recur in computer-mediated contexts, and he saw cyberspace as a
 kind of test bed for theories about anarchism, identity, and a host of
 other issues. He has written and lectured on issues such as anonymity and
 Usenet identity, virtual community, WebTV and free speech, the ethics of
 market research, and privacy protection, to philosophers, schoolchildren,
 and geeky computer types. His book, *On Berkeley* (Wadsworth, 2000), not
 only reviews the British empiricist's reasons for saying, "to be is to be
 perceived," but also considered what they have to do with understanding
 quantum mechanics and virtual reality. He is writing a book on cyberspace
 ethics.

 Please join me in welcoming Peter and Bruce to inkwell.vue!
  
inkwell.vue.133 : Peter Ludlow: Crypto Anarchy, Cyberstates, and Pirate Utopias
permalink #1 of 106: virtual community or butter? (bumbaugh) Thu 29 Nov 01 05:24
    
Thanks, <castle>.

Peter, I expect that a lot of folks reading this will be familiar with High
Noon, and somewhat fewer with the newer Crypto Anarchy book. Would you start
by saying a little about your motivations for these books?
  
inkwell.vue.133 : Peter Ludlow: Crypto Anarchy, Cyberstates, and Pirate Utopias
permalink #2 of 106: democracy being a left thing, anyway (ludlow) Thu 29 Nov 01 18:16
    
I was afraid you were going to ask me that.  The sad truth is that I really
don't have a clue why I got involved in these two projects.  They just sort
of happened, if that's possible.  Well..., wait a second... that was
certainly true for _High Noon_ but less so for the _Crypto Anarcy_ project.
The latter was actually spawned some years ago when someone (Brenner
perhaps?) was editing a special issue of the _Fringeware Review_ on the
future of law or something, and I wrote a piece called "Laws IN Cyberspace".
 It was supposed to be about where law was going to be going in five years
or something like that.  The _Fringeware_ people didn't like it, which made
me think I was on to something, so I decided to use that essay as the
backbone for a collection of essays that had to do with the emergence of
online governance structures, issues of the sovereignty of cyberspace etc.
_Crypto Anarcy, Cyberstates, and Pirate Utopias_ was the result.
  
inkwell.vue.133 : Peter Ludlow: Crypto Anarchy, Cyberstates, and Pirate Utopias
permalink #3 of 106: virtual community or butter? (bumbaugh) Thu 29 Nov 01 18:27
    
So you're saying that _Crypto Anarcy, Cyberstates, and Pirate Utopias_
is an anthology, but has a thesis? There's a point to the whole
schmeer?
  
inkwell.vue.133 : Peter Ludlow: Crypto Anarchy, Cyberstates, and Pirate Utopias
permalink #4 of 106: democracy being a left thing, anyway (ludlow) Thu 29 Nov 01 18:47
    
Yah, strangely enough the point came first.  I was pleased to find all the
supporting documentation -- especially the law essays by Mnookin, Post,
Johnson.  Other items I already knew were out there (like Barlow's infamous
declaration of the independence of cyberspace and, of course, Hakim Bey).
Uh, there might even be more than one point to the schmeer and I imagine
some of those emerged as the project took form, but yes, in general, the
project is pointy.  Why else would I do it?
  
inkwell.vue.133 : Peter Ludlow: Crypto Anarchy, Cyberstates, and Pirate Utopias
permalink #5 of 106: virtual community or butter? (bumbaugh) Fri 30 Nov 01 04:27
    
Let's get after some pointiness, then.

The book opens with your essay, that you just mentioned, then offers
up a section on "The Sovereignty of Cyberspace." There we find Barlow's
provocation: "Governments of the Industrial World, you weary giants of
flesh and steel, I come from Cyberspace, the new home of Mind. On
behalf of the future, I ask you of the past to leave us alone. You are
not welcome among us. You have no sovereignty where we gather."

By contrast, David Bennahum puts it to us as a question: 

  will we deal with the real world or retreat into our own
  private delusion--one that places cyberspace above and
  beyond the realities of the physical world?

(And Brin and Barbrook redirect our attention to the social.)

The sovereignty theme is clearly a big deal for the book. The obvious
questions to ask are "Who's right? Is cyberspace independent?" (Feel
free to tell us.) 

But reading the section this week, I was struck by something else.
Bennahum's piece casts the issue as *up to us*, rather than up to
governments or just in the nature of things. Do you think that's so (or
was so in 1996, say)? That users decide whether cyberspace is a
mysterious, separate place, or more connected to the physical world? Or
should we expect there's some brute fact of the matter on those
questions?
  
inkwell.vue.133 : Peter Ludlow: Crypto Anarchy, Cyberstates, and Pirate Utopias
permalink #6 of 106: democracy being a left thing, anyway (ludlow) Fri 30 Nov 01 05:05
    
I'd say that the sovereignty of cyberspace, like the sovereignty of
everything else, depends to a large degree on whether the denizens *want* it
to be sovereign (and, in some cases, whether they are willing to fight a war
to make it sovereign).  Next week Long Islanders may decide that LI should
be a sovereign state.  It's not like their decision flies in the face of
some brute fact.  On the other hand, their decision to withdraw from the US
may have unpleasant consequences for them.  Same holds for the sovereignty
of cyberspace.  Nothing about the idea flies in the face of reality -- it's
just a decision to be made.

That having been said, I think the Barlow mistake is thinking of cyberspace
as a single monolithic sovereignty.  It makes more sense to say that there
are "cyberspaces" and some of those will achieve varying degrees of
autonomy.  Maybe even sovereignty.
  
inkwell.vue.133 : Peter Ludlow: Crypto Anarchy, Cyberstates, and Pirate Utopias
permalink #7 of 106: virtual community or butter? (bumbaugh) Fri 30 Nov 01 05:49
    
" . . . fight a war to make it sovereign."

Is there a war (are there wars) like that going on now?
  
inkwell.vue.133 : Peter Ludlow: Crypto Anarchy, Cyberstates, and Pirate Utopias
permalink #8 of 106: democracy being a left thing, anyway (ludlow) Fri 30 Nov 01 07:45
    
Well, clearly there are wars like that going on in the so-caled real world.
As we've seen, even in the RW, a lot turns on what we mean by 'war'.  I
don't have any problem with saying that there are currently stuggles taking
place for sovereign cyberspaces, although to some degree those are being
fought in courts and through actions like the development of resources for
cryptography.  Think about Wendy Grossman's latest book, where the term
'war' is used in this context without embarassment.
  
inkwell.vue.133 : Peter Ludlow: Crypto Anarchy, Cyberstates, and Pirate Utopias
permalink #9 of 106: virtual community or butter? (bumbaugh) Fri 30 Nov 01 09:53
    
Long Islanders would, I take it, be aided in their quest for
sovereignty by living on an actual island. Likewise, we have Bruce
Sterling's evocative title, *Islands in the Net*.

Long Islanders would be hindered by their various other connections
with off-island entitites, though. Residents commute elsewhere to work,
and mail travels on- and off-island, and there are bridges and ferries
and airports, and people have family members elsewhere, and so on. To
what extent would one have to give up (on) connections with the
so-called Real World in seriously seeking some cyberspace sovereignty?
  
inkwell.vue.133 : Peter Ludlow: Crypto Anarchy, Cyberstates, and Pirate Utopias
permalink #10 of 106: democracy being a left thing, anyway (ludlow) Fri 30 Nov 01 11:41
    
That's exactly right wrt Long Island.  The social, economic, and political
identities of Long Islanders have virtually nothing to do with the physical
geography of where they live.  That's why (or one big reason why) the idea
of a Sovereign State of Long Island sounds so funny.  But now let's consider
the converse case where, say, a group of Long Islanders and a group of
Australians *do* develop regular business and social relations over the
internet.  Let's say they have several virtual corporations and have town
hall meetings on a MOO which is in Palo Alto.  One wonders why terrestial
governments should have any claim over such an emerging online community.
Certain governance structures will emerge organically, and the thought is
that they can and should be taken just as seriously as the laws of
geographically identified states.
  
inkwell.vue.133 : Peter Ludlow: Crypto Anarchy, Cyberstates, and Pirate Utopias
permalink #11 of 106: virtual community or butter? (bumbaugh) Fri 30 Nov 01 14:39
    
What are the enforcement mechanisms available in more-or-less
sovereign cyberspace? In sufficiently discrete environments, some
pretty direct analogs of RL punishments are available: you can @newt or
@toad a MOO character, for example. But in the broader ecology of
cyberspace, enforcement depends on coordinating actions of, say,
sysadmins at ISPs in Australia and on Long Island with the work of
wizards on the MOO in Palo Alto.
  
inkwell.vue.133 : Peter Ludlow: Crypto Anarchy, Cyberstates, and Pirate Utopias
permalink #12 of 106: Bob 'rab' Bickford (rab) Fri 30 Nov 01 14:56
    

   Generally, when I think about the supposed "independence" of cyberspace,
it's more in the sense of making existing meat-space governments irrelevant
and impotent.  The minarchist in me likes that idea a lot, given the huge
history of death and destruction done by those governments, and worries
about what they might get replaced with if people like you start talking
seriously about "governing" cyberspace.  How much does your current book
have to say about emergent norms and non-centralized enforcement mechanisms
and all of the other things that techno-utopians (like myself, I admit it)
have thought about for the last couple of decades?  Are these things just
dismissed out of hand like so many authors have done or do they get a little
serious exploration?
  
inkwell.vue.133 : Peter Ludlow: Crypto Anarchy, Cyberstates, and Pirate Utopias
permalink #13 of 106: democracy being a left thing, anyway (ludlow) Fri 30 Nov 01 14:59
    
The problem isn't finding enforcement mechanisms for cyberstates.  Toading
can be done at a push of a button.  The real problem is going to be finding
recourse for citizens that are the victims of trigger happy sysadmins.

There are two views about this (both considered in the essays by lawyers
Post and Johnson).  On the one hand if you have a nasty sysadmin or an
unhappy rule set you can always join another online community/economic
enclave -- maybe you get a competing marketplace in rule systems.  Right now
that requires moving to another state or country in meat space.  When we're
dealing with cyberstates the move is easier.  Against that, however, there
is the concern that you can build up important social and economic ties
within a particular virtual environment.  In the most simple case, your
customers may expect to find you at that location.  What recourse is there
if a sysadmin boots you?  Right now, you are probably flat out of luck.

In short, finding enforcement mechanisms is the least of the problems.
There are, of course, famous cases where people are toaded and return with a
new account (e.g. the return of Mr. Bungle as Dr. Jest on LambdaMOO) but
this strategy is untenable for situations where your RL identity is
important.
  
inkwell.vue.133 : Peter Ludlow: Crypto Anarchy, Cyberstates, and Pirate Utopias
permalink #14 of 106: Bob 'rab' Bickford (rab) Fri 30 Nov 01 15:09
    

  Do I gather correctly that these essays talk exclusively in terms of
MOOs and MUDs and whatever else they're being called?  I've studiously
avoided participation in any such thing (aside from a few brief and
rather tentative explorations about 1988 to 1990) and so (for example)
I'm having to infer what you mean by "toading".  I do gather that people
really think of these things as communities and so the experience must
be nearly as powerful as the WELL has been for many of us, but frankly
they're mostly just puzzling to me.
  
inkwell.vue.133 : Peter Ludlow: Crypto Anarchy, Cyberstates, and Pirate Utopias
permalink #15 of 106: democracy being a left thing, anyway (ludlow) Fri 30 Nov 01 15:10
    
rab slipped, and with a really good question.

First, just to be clear, I'm not talking about governing cyberspace in the
usual sense (which to me implies ways in which people can govern
cyberspace), but rather with the ways in which governence structures emerge
*within* cyberspace.  Now, the question is, what emerges?  Authoritarian
rule sets or what we might call libertatian rule sets?  Well, maybe you get
both.  In between you have communities like the WELL in which for the most
part enforcement doesn't come out of rule sets or actions by sysadmins but
by group dynamics and peer pressure.  Shunning, if you will.  There are a
lot of people on the WELL who have thought more about this than I have (you
among them, rab) and who know more about the process than I do.  My concern
in the collection was not to dismiss any possibilities but to argue that all
should be taken seriously.
  
inkwell.vue.133 : Peter Ludlow: Crypto Anarchy, Cyberstates, and Pirate Utopias
permalink #16 of 106: democracy being a left thing, anyway (ludlow) Fri 30 Nov 01 15:15
    
more slippage, now responding to rab's #14.

There is a bit on MUDs and MOOs.  Really only two essays, though.  One is a
piece by Jennifer Mnookin on the emergence of virtual laws on lambdaMOO, and
the other is Charle's Stivales essay on the case of SamIam, which spanned
LamdaMOO and mediaMOO.  They provide some nice case studies, but no, to
answer the question, the focus of the book is not exclusively on those kinds
of virual environments.
  
inkwell.vue.133 : Peter Ludlow: Crypto Anarchy, Cyberstates, and Pirate Utopias
permalink #17 of 106: democracy being a left thing, anyway (ludlow) Fri 30 Nov 01 17:51
    
For those who are interested, the introductory chapter is online at...

<http://semlab2.sbs.sunysb.edu/Users/pludlow/crypto.intro.html>
  
inkwell.vue.133 : Peter Ludlow: Crypto Anarchy, Cyberstates, and Pirate Utopias
permalink #18 of 106: virtual community or butter? (bumbaugh) Fri 30 Nov 01 18:04
    
Thanks for that link, Peter. Amazon has a collection of sample pages,
including the table of contents, up as well.

For denizens of cyberspace to secede, it seems it would be helpful to
be obscure, hidden, invisible. Available through pseudonyms, but not
linked to RL identities. Tim May's essays in the book advance this
theory of "cypto-anarchy" -- that "cryptologic methods fundamentally
alter the nature of corporations and of government interference in
economic transactions" and "the wire clippers which dismantle the
barbed wire around intellectual property." (Curiously enough, May's
"Crypto-Anarchy and Virtual Communities" asserts his copyright, over
and above the press's copyright in the collection.)

Can you explain crypto-anarchy for beginners? Is it one of the "pirate
utopias" of the title?
  
inkwell.vue.133 : Peter Ludlow: Crypto Anarchy, Cyberstates, and Pirate Utopias
permalink #19 of 106: democracy being a left thing, anyway (ludlow) Fri 30 Nov 01 18:44
    
Crypto anarchy helps make pirate utopias possible.  In theory, that is.

Crypto anarchy for beginners.  Hmmm, how about this: encryption technology
and related tools (encrypted digital transactions) make it possible for
economies to emerge that are invisible to traditional nation states and thus
escape their control (and taxation).  Some of the emerging islands in the
net, protected by encryption, may form interesting governance structures and
in some cases, mini-utopias are not out of the question.

'Pirate Utopia' is of course a phrase from Hakim Bey's _Temporary
Authonomous Zones_.  Such utopias may be "found out" and squashed out of
existence, but that's just how it is with pirate utopias.  They are supposed
to be creative, fun, and temporary.  In this respect they contrast with
traditional utopias like More's and H.G. Well's _Modern Utopia_.  For Thomas
More, every city looks the same.  Here, every cyberstate will look
different.  If I wasn't allergic to the term 'postmodern' I might speak of
these as being postmodern utopias.  Again, the idea is that encryption
technology will help make some of them possible.
  
inkwell.vue.133 : Peter Ludlow: Crypto Anarchy, Cyberstates, and Pirate Utopias
permalink #20 of 106: Brian Slesinsky (bslesins) Fri 30 Nov 01 21:33
    
Piracy's well understood but does anyone buy the utopia bit anymore? 
There are lots of secret decentralized organizations out there but they
tend to be preoccupied with smuggling of some sort or other, whether
it's music or arms trafficking.
  
inkwell.vue.133 : Peter Ludlow: Crypto Anarchy, Cyberstates, and Pirate Utopias
permalink #21 of 106: democracy being a left thing, anyway (ludlow) Sat 1 Dec 01 04:12
    
It depends on what you expect utopias to look like.  Hakim Bey wanted to
argue that the 17th century Bucaneers had established utopias of a sort --
hidden away, devoted to grim business, but also with some forward thinking
social policies and robust partying.  For example, the bucaneers had a
policy for equitable distribution of booty, equal participation for those on
the margins of society, and a kind of workman's comp system (extra shares
for losing an eye, etc.).  I don't know much about the lives of gun runners
and drug smugglers, but it's hard to imagine that it's utopian in any
interesting sense -- I agree with you about that.
  
inkwell.vue.133 : Peter Ludlow: Crypto Anarchy, Cyberstates, and Pirate Utopias
permalink #22 of 106: virtual community or butter? (bumbaugh) Sat 1 Dec 01 05:14
    
Brian, I think that some of the cypherpunk crowd, at least, are
serious about the utopian angle. The thinking is, roughly, that crypto
allows disentanglement (for some lucky few, at least) from prevailing
Real World institutions and that what arises is a collection of
voluntary associations, each self-governing, interacting only at the
margins.

(Crypto -- and, as Peter notes above, the acts and intentions of users
-- manages this by interconnecting individuals without regard to
geography and in secret (hence, not susceptible to surveillance or to
isolation), allowing economic transactions in secret (hence not
regulable except by consent of parties to the transactions), and
because authentication allows development of robust pseudonyms that can
carry reputations.)
  
inkwell.vue.133 : Peter Ludlow: Crypto Anarchy, Cyberstates, and Pirate Utopias
permalink #23 of 106: Jef Poskanzer (jef) Sat 1 Dec 01 08:32
    
I always think of burning man as a modern-day real world example
of a temporary autonomous zone, although it's getting less and less
autonomous each year.
  
inkwell.vue.133 : Peter Ludlow: Crypto Anarchy, Cyberstates, and Pirate Utopias
permalink #24 of 106: democracy being a left thing, anyway (ludlow) Sat 1 Dec 01 10:33
    
Yah, burning man was a really good example of a TAZ.  More recent burning
man events also show that TAZs don't last forever.  It seems that they
either get squashed out of existence or coopted.  bm seems to be going the
latter route.
  
inkwell.vue.133 : Peter Ludlow: Crypto Anarchy, Cyberstates, and Pirate Utopias
permalink #25 of 106: virtual community or butter? (bumbaugh) Sat 1 Dec 01 13:16
    
It came "out of hiding" or sort of above ground. That maybe happened
to the Internet five or so years ago, too.

I know you've been doing some thinking about the Al Qaida network in
these contexts, too, Peter. What does Al Qaida have to do with crypto
anarchy and TAZs?
  

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