Inkwell: Authors and Artists
democracy being a left thing, anyway (ludlow) Thu 13 Dec 01 05:52
Agreed. No virtual community can last forever against a persistent terrestial power. Or rather, no single virtual community can. At some point there may be more virtual communities than the gov can effectively monitor, and we have probably already crossed that point. Still, a virtual community that invokes the wrath of a persistent terrestial power will find that its days are numbered. This was effectively conceded in the piece by Hakim Bey, in which he notes that these islands in the net (pirate utopias, in his terminology) are not permanent but should expect to be squashed by The Man eventually. Or rather, I should say that they are "Temporary Autonomous Zones" in his terminology (note the use of the term 'temporary'). No doubt a lot of readers of this thread are familiar with Bey, but for those who aren't, here are a couple of my favorite passages from the Bey stuff I reprinted in the book: "The TAZ is like an uprising which does not engage directly with the State, a guerilla operation which liberates an area (of land, of time, of imagination) and then dissolves itself to re-form elsewhere/elsewhen, before the State can crush it. Because the State is concerned primarily with Simulation rather than substance, the TAZ can "occupy" these areas clandestinely and carry on its festal purposes for quite a while in relative peace. Perhaps certain small TAZs have lasted whole lifetimes because they went unnoticed, like hillbilly enclaves--because they never intersected with the Spectacle, never appeared outside that real life which is invisible to the agents of Simulation." "The sea-rovers and corsairs of the 18th century created an "information network" that spanned the globe: primitive and devoted primarily to grim business, the net nevertheless functioned admirably. Scattered throughout the net were islands, remote hideouts where ships could be watered and provisioned, booty traded for luxuries and necessities. Some of these islands supported "intentional communities," whole mini-societies living consciously outside the law and determined to keep it up, even if only for a short but merry life." I love that stuff.
virtual community or butter? (bumbaugh) Thu 13 Dec 01 10:07
I think that some find the idea of utopia being a temporary state hard to take. This week, thinking about this topic, I've been reminded of Tuvalu. Having been granted the way-cool ".tv" country code, but lacking the resources to make much of it, they outsourced the operation to Dot TV, in California, USA. Through its share of domain-name registration fees, Tuvalu raised enough money to pay for admission to the United Nations, as well as loads o' infrastructure improvements in the nation (population about 10k, and about 1/10th the area of Wasington, D.C.). But the elevation of the nine islands ranges from 0 to 5 meters above sea level. Or, it did: sea level seems to be rising (which besides threatening coastline threatens Tuvalu's water table). Earlier this fall, they decided to evacuate the islands, beginning next year. http://XRayNet.editthispage.com/2000/09/11 http://www.tv/ http://stacks.msnbc.com/news/455857.asp http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/tv.html http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,3604,582445,00.html Now, it seems to me, this curiously reverses the usual story about creating a pirate utopia, in which you find an unwanted island (or oil rig) and make it your own, somehow making your way to a kind of legitimacy. (See Thomas Perry's novel, *Island*.) Here, we maybe have a RL nation in position to go virtual.
Kirsten Bayes (kirsten-bayes) Thu 13 Dec 01 16:42
I think a key characteristic of the internetworked world is the effectively infinite number of channels. If a website is taken down, people can move to another, or move to ICQ or mail-list or newsgroup or IRC or any one of multiple services. Given this multichannel environment, States can really only take action against TAZ's by controlling net access itself. For example, in the recent UK Internet paedophile dragnet http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/uk/england/newsid_1680000/1680464.stm the police and media were amazed to find that some of the criminals involved had - shockingly - given a false name to their ISP and so were untraceable. The UK authorities are therefore considering requiring ISPs and net-cafes to check id before granting Internet access. No doubt they will be just as shocked to find out that criminals might use fake or stolen ids to get past this checking. Libertarian governments face a dilemma. In a time of rampant net commercialisation, victimisation and sexual harassment, it must be that privacy (of which anonymity is a central part) is a legitimate demand. Yet if the law is changed to require id for access, privacy could only be achieved through criminal actions. The solution to this dilemma that governments often propose is escrow, yet this simply means people are less able to protect themselves from crime (as their power to choose different methods for protecting themselves online is removed by the State). This in turn means more net-originating crime and more demands on police resources - the opposite of what escrow was intended to achieve. The solution to the problem is boring and real world: encouraging the reporting of crime, the fair selection and real-time surveillance of suspects, rapid apprehension and due process. All of which requires resource. It is a good thing indeed that the populations of libertarian countries keep their governments underfunded, and it is for this reason that TAZs have a future.
democracy being a left thing, anyway (ludlow) Fri 14 Dec 01 06:42
Not to break up the thread, but here's a heads up. Earlier this week I was interviewed by Lew Koch for a program that he does with NPR (I forget the name). I'm not sure when it will air, but will post that info when I get it. The reason this is relevant here is that the interview was about the book, and the questions were of the form "what is crypto anarchy", "what are cyberstates", "what are pirate utopias". I'm usually horrible at these things (the last radio interview I did was sampled for a trance music song by a group called Nocturnal Transmission) but I will say this: it is probably the first time that Tim May, Mark Dery, and Hakim Bey have all been mentioned in the same national media broadcast.
Gail Williams (gail) Fri 14 Dec 01 13:40
Great. Peter, I have a very retro steganography question. I was reading comments in the <attack.> conference about the bin Laden video with the "bad poem." Besides wondering how anyone can tell if a poem is moving or not in translation, I also wondered if the poem might be code. When I first had multiple passwords working at the WELL ten years ago, I had a system of writing "poems" to remind me of accounts and passwords, and I put them inside the back cover of a second had poetery book. For the account "special" and password "xWHYz?!" my poem might have looked like this, bad poetry for some eyes, perhaps but not written for them: Looking for the Special Somewhere a spot is marked x Seekers spy a Wombat distracted from toil and looking for Home that animal might be You happily wild or resigned to your zoo which, dare I ask? think! Or some other system for embedding a password in a "poem" which lived in plain site in a battered poetry book. Just an odd memory to juxtpose with a new newworth poem which might mean more than one thing. Did you have any particular take on that strange fuzzy gloating bin Laden video?
democracy being a left thing, anyway (ludlow) Fri 14 Dec 01 13:58
I'd be surprised as hell if a message was embedded in that video, not least because it doesn't seem to have been intended for release, but of course anything is possible. I know some people that use chess moves for passwords and use famous openings to remember them. I imagine an online chess match could be used in this way.
virtual community or butter? (bumbaugh) Sat 15 Dec 01 08:00
If the group is sufficiently well knit to share the semantics, then a good code can be more effective than a cipher (to rely on an old-fashioned distinction). The code -- where 'secret' meanings are substituted for the conventional meanings of some tokens (words, phrases, chess moves . . . the list is indefinitely long) -- has the advantage that it can be used in the open if designed for that and if members of the group aren't suborned to compromise it. (Or, it can be used infrequently or changed regularly so that capturing a member wouldn't compromise the code for good.)
democracy being a left thing, anyway (ludlow) Sun 16 Dec 01 06:23
All true, but obviously that strategy doesn't scale well. Small tribes can maybe communicate in that way, but it's not feasible for full on cyberstates, where one is not in a position to know all your correspondents, and you want to encourage outsiders to join the group.
Gail Williams (gail) Sun 16 Dec 01 13:00
> you want to encourage outsiders to join the group. Essential for most kinds of groups, or any system where economic survival and numbers are tied in one way or another. But if you are looking at a terrorist, pirate or explicilty illegal gathering, funding might be other than by accepting credit cards or displaying ads. Newcomers might be rare. In a subsidized setting, a group could be secret, and an apprentiship period of getting the jargon could be simply assumed. That includes subsidy of "stolen" unknowing provision of interactive space, of course. Numbers might increase risk, not insure survival. If you join a subculture or gang you may have to learn jargon as well as detect the social structures at work. Anyplace, online or off. IMHO. In a more open group, clues such as glossaries, moderator/guide types and written introductions would attempt to mitigate the jargon barrier, but it is a natural cultural barrier which could slide into a more organized or maybe even frequently updated "code." Signals in baseball are an old example of such a code, right?
democracy being a left thing, anyway (ludlow) Sun 16 Dec 01 13:48
Traditionally, that's been the case. But if folks like Tim May are right, public key encription etc. may mitigate the need for small groups and pre- established "secret handshakes" and whatnot. Why be small and illegal when you can be a global enterprise and be illegal. More likely what we will see is a kind of hybrid organization with international scope, but divided into largely autonomous packets (roughly, the al-Qaida model). In that case we might see cryptographic techniques for communication between packets, but insider codes and jargon within each packet.
Kirsten Bayes (kirsten-bayes) Mon 17 Dec 01 23:27
Although cryptography will certainly be very important, I think these organisations will also make a big use of covert channels. Covert channels are ways of communicating on a network which break its rules. Sometimes this rule-breaking relies on encryption for its success (such as SSH tunnels through a firewall). Mostly, though, covert channels can be achieved by breaking the conventions of the network (or by exploiting the breaks that arise by accident). A classic example is the use of dark space on the Internet. Although most people believe that every part of the Internet is reachable from every other part, on its margins this is not true. To get to some ip numbers, you have to know how to get there. The reason is that routers are tricky to configure - one mistake and a whole set of address spaces upstream from that router vanishes from the rest of the net (even if the people upstream can still see everyone else). Often these mistakes are noticed, sometimes they never are, and sometimes they are quietly created by people looking for a home. This breach of a key convention of the net - "trust the router upstream of you" - gives new spaces for groups to live undetected. I suspect that hidden amongst the pings and datagrams of the lower layers of the net, and in its outer backwaters, entire communities are living quietly unobserved even now.
virtual community or butter? (bumbaugh) Tue 18 Dec 01 05:04
That's an oddly warming thought. I'm wondering whether you can get a cyberstate by knitting together the highly autonomous cells that operate in secret only at the top levels. Does that buy both the scale that Peter seems to think is required for full- fledged statehood alond with the secrecy and freedom to operate for which others are agitating? To some extent, I think this is what La Cosa Nostra is supposed to be. (Or would be if it existed, right?) Also, I've been thinking about movies (for a class I'm working on for next year). There are loads of movies that show information (and other) tech used for totalitarian control and surveillance. There are movies that show tech (or sometimes opposition to tech) used to subvert that sort of control. Is there a movie -- are there movies -- that show the crypto-anarchy / pirate- utopia thing?
democracy being a left thing, anyway (ludlow) Tue 18 Dec 01 08:44
Kirsten, do you have any pointers to discussions of dark space on the internet? Espcially the spaces that emerge by accident. That's a very interesting point! Bruce, I'm trying to think of sci-fi movies that visualize pirate utopias, but I'm coming up blank. Well, Farenheit 451 keeps popping into my head, but it really isn't what you're looking for. Anyone else have ideas?
Kirsten Bayes (kirsten-bayes) Tue 18 Dec 01 22:54
There's an interesting article on the topic of dark addresses on the Register: http://www.theregister.co.uk/content/55/22850.html I like the way a set of addresses will appear, launch an attack and disappear. The study referred to in this article may be found here: http://www.nanog.org/mtg-0110/ppt/malan/sld001.htm
democracy being a left thing, anyway (ludlow) Wed 19 Dec 01 05:54
virtual community or butter? (bumbaugh) Fri 21 Dec 01 04:45
Peter, when you did the High Noon book, you made a rough approximation of the entire book available on your Web site. You discussed your reasons for that, too. Not so this time. What made the difference?
democracy being a left thing, anyway (ludlow) Fri 21 Dec 01 13:05
Lack of time.
virtual community or butter? (bumbaugh) Mon 24 Dec 01 13:01
On the question of scale, once more: can a cyberstate arise from coordination among leaders of a network of relatively autonomous cells? ANd on the question of movies, once more: Anyone else have a film to recommend that shows pirate utopias or the crypto-anarchy thing? (The underground reading groups in Farenheit 451 are interesting, for sure. But surely there's something where pirate utopia is a theme for the whole picture, no?)
democracy being a left thing, anyway (ludlow) Mon 24 Dec 01 13:07
In answer to the first question, I would think yes, it can. Imagine that some interconnected systems formed a federation of semi-autonomous cyber- cells. They might be unified for defensive purposes and might share a single economy and possibly a cross-system dispute resolution body.
virtual community or butter? (bumbaugh) Mon 24 Dec 01 13:11
The idea of "defense" in purely virtual circumstances is pretty interesting.
democracy being a left thing, anyway (ludlow) Mon 24 Dec 01 18:32
Interesting, but very real. They could share info on destructive hacker attacks and problematic clients, and, perhaps more importantly, on intrusive activities by nation states. Another major feature would be the possibility of pooling resources for disaster recovery purposes. Say one cite gets nuked or they feds pull the plug on it. there could be a procedure in place whereby the other cyber-cells could pick up the slack until the target of the attack is back up on its feet. Something like this actually took place during the Italian BBS crackdown back in 1994.
virtual community or butter? (bumbaugh) Tue 25 Dec 01 10:29
Besides back up, there's the matter of retialiation. Retaliation.
democracy being a left thing, anyway (ludlow) Wed 26 Dec 01 06:19
Yah, most definitely, although individual users could retaliate in any case. I'm not sure if it buys you anything in the way of cyberwar to have a site up and running.
Kirsten Bayes (kirsten-bayes) Wed 26 Dec 01 07:55
By the way, I thought you might like to know that the issue of the "dark net" has been picked up by the BBC today: http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/sci/tech/newsid_1721000/1721006.stm and is the subject of a discussion (just getting started) on Slashot: http://slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=01/12/26/158209&mode=nested We say it here, it comes out there, hehe.
democracy being a left thing, anyway (ludlow) Wed 26 Dec 01 14:00
Yah look at that. We're like a whole week ahead of the curve. Well, a week ahead of the BBC anyway...
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