Reply to no neutral ground in the burning world

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Reply to the "No Neutral Ground in a Burning World" lecture

Elaenor and Quinn:

I am grateful for the awesome and amazing the talk you gave us at #30c3, as challenging and provocative as I was expecting from you!

((original ))

I am eager to push this topic even further, by offering you the statements that I did not have time to formulate on the mike:

  • it is important to remember not only history, but PREhistory too
  • "at what price?" (did we built the network that connected millions of people in the last 30 years...)
  • I would like to challenge the answer to "what shall replace the state", which was "i like the roads and water management", which I interpret as "civilization needs to be maintained"
  • chemical weapons vs fertilizers -- only on the very short term is the later "a good thing" compared to the former


I am glad that you have been looking back into the human history, in order to learn from previous examples/mistakes, and use that knowledge to understand present and even predict the future.

However, "the recorded history" is a very short time period in the human existence. We somehow tend to "forget" that fact. Daniel Quinn, in "The Story of B", names this "the great forgetting", and, like you, calls for "great remembering".

"State" is a very recent form of organization of society in the human cultures. First states developed few thousand years BC. There was 100's of thousands of years of human societies and cultures before that. Admittedly, on the short term it looks like "the state" is a very successful model of organisation, that won over all the other models. However, it is successful only on the relatively short term of 10.000 years.

Comparatively much longer period of human existence WITHOUT STATES also offers valuable knowledge about our past and present, and possibly gives us insight into, and alternatives for, the future.

Further reading

1) The Great Forgetting 2) The Boiling Frog 3) The Collapse of Values 4) Population: A Systems Approach 5) The Great Remembering

At what price?

You have stated that "we" have built this amazing network in the last 30 years, that have connected millions and billions of people around the world and offered them possibilities unknown to them before...

... and the question that was burning within me when I heard you say that was "AT WHAT COST?" ??

And was it worth it??

My gut feeling is to say NO! It was not worth it, and the cost is too hight, the cost is unacceptably high!

While building the Internet, we have continued the "growth and progress" myth of the (Western) civilization, and the price we pay is the destruction of environment, destruction of our home planet, while we are needing more and more energy, and more and more resources, for more and more gadgets, more bandwidth, more people...


I personally do not know what to do about it.

You other statement also powerfully resonates within me: "You don't get to choose in what era do you live in".

But I do get to choose what do I learn about the world about me, and my place in it.

And your lecture brings more clarity and more insight into the worlds of those close to me, and myself, and for that I thank you.

Civilization needs NOT to be maintained

When asked "can we build something to replace the state", you replied "i like the roads and water management", which I interpret as "civilization needs to be maintained".

Just like the history did not start with the state or "first written record", so is the civilization NOT the only possible way for people to live.

I would like to challenge the need for roads, or for the managed water supply, as the reason for the existence of oversight institutions, be it the "state" or "liquid democracy" or something yet-not-invented to replace them.

I would like to offer the post-apocaliptic scenario that might be more similar to pre-historic, pre-civilization, pre-state times, where there were no roads and no need for them, and therefore no oversight needed either; where the water supplies were decentralized so there was no need for the management of them.

This unattractive future might be brought up upon us by one or multiple collapses: ecological, environmental, energy or $anything.

If we are to imagine how the world might look like in a 100 years from now, this is something we must consider.

We may not have the luxury to keep the roads.

Further reading

Feeding more people is (only a short term) success

I liked the example of Fritz_Haber for the "unpredictable power of technology" , and the comparing the invention of chemical weapons and artificial fertilizers.

However, I disagree with the conclusion that one of them was "the bad thing" and the other one "the good thing", as implied in the statement that "artificial fertilizers enabled us to feed all these people". In my opinion, having 7 billion people on this planet is not "a good thing".

Even when I am one of them!

It brings again the same question of - "at what cost?" - and for me, the answer is: at the expense of the rest of the life on Earth, at the expense of environment that we are destroying in order to get more food for more people. And finally, it will be - at the expense of our own existence.

In the long term, it is not sustainable to produce excess food to feed growing number of people , on the limited planet.

Addressing the next thousand years

Two most important statements from your talk for me were:

  • how do YOU want the world to look like in 100 years?


  • "... in a Burning World".

However, I find that thinking in the time frame of 100 years ahead is too short.

And I find that the state of emergency on this Burning World requires even more attention, since the fundamental conditions for all life on Earth -- including humans -- might disappear in less then 100 years, and certainly in the next 1000 years, unless we learn from our history & pregistory and take reponsibility over the culture we are living in, which governs the technologies we are deploying and to what end.

I thank you again for brining up these important topics , and I am looking forward to have a discussion in person about it.

My thoughts

I have done research in hackers culture, and looked into these topics myself.

My latest two articles:

  • "Hackers and philosophers building an Utopia together" (December 2013, for Xs4all publication)

BECHA at / @ms_multicolor