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Open Source Everything
June 25, 2014 12:55 AM   Subscribe

The open source revolution is coming and it will conquer the 1%, says an ex CIA spy: The man who trained more than 66 countries in open source methods calls for re-invention of intelligence to re-engineer Earth

Select quotes from the lengthy article:
Today's capitalism, he argues, is inherently predatory and destructive:
"Over the course of the last centuries, the commons was fenced, and everything from agriculture to water was commoditised without regard to the true cost in non-renewable resources. Human beings, who had spent centuries evolving away from slavery, were re-commoditised by the Industrial Era."
Open source everything, in this context, offers us the chance to build on what we've learned through industrialisation, to learn from our mistakes, and catalyse the re-opening of the commons, in the process breaking the grip of defunct power structures and enabling the possibility of prosperity for all.
"Sharing, not secrecy, is the means by which we realise such a lofty destiny as well as create infinite wealth. The wealth of networks, the wealth of knowledge, revolutionary wealth - all can create a nonzero win-win Earth that works for one hundred percent of humanity. This is the 'utopia' that Buckminster Fuller foresaw, now within our reach."
The goal, he concludes, is to reject:
"... concentrated illicitly aggregated and largely phantom wealth in favor of community wealth defined by community knowledge, community sharing of information, and community definition of truth derived in transparency and authenticity, the latter being the ultimate arbiter of shared wealth."
---------

Is this a crisis of capitalism, then? Does capitalism need to end for us to resolve these problems? And if so, how?
"Predatory capitalism is based on the privatisation of profit and the externalisation of cost. It is an extension of the fencing of the commons, of enclosures, along with the criminalisation of prior common customs and rights. What we need is a system that fully accounts for all costs. Whether we call that capitalism or not is irrelevant to me. But doing so would fundamentally transform the dynamic of present day capitalism, by making capital open source. For example, and as calculated by my colleague JZ Liszkiewicz, a white cotton T-shirt contains roughly 570 gallons of water, 11 to 29 gallons of fuel, and a number of toxins and emissions including pesticides, diesel exhaust, and heavy metals and other volatile compounds – it also generally includes child labor. Accounting for those costs and their real social, human and environmental impacts has totally different implications for how we should organise production and consumption than current predatory capitalism."
posted by hippybear (35 comments total) 37 users marked this as a favorite

 
Predatory Capitalism is redundant. If you're not the dog eating the dog, you're getting eaten.

And you won't get far with Open Source while the Copyright Warriors are doing things like getting a takedown notice enforced over the use of the “Houston, we have a problem” quote from the Apollo 13 mission.
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:03 AM on June 25 [5 favorites]


We're reducing the relevance and viability of control over the means of production via technology, but we must do better at influencing adoption of new technologies to erode capitalism, support human rights, etc.

I sincerely hope you've all watched Food Inc. by now. Well, that's what happens when activists depend upon regulators to steward new technologies. Regulators are inherently corrupt, only transparency, ending patents, and more scientifically educated activists could've addressed those problems.

As I noted recently, we failed to bring down capitalism in the media sphere* and the same might happen with the 3d printer movement. At least we fought them though, our current media capitalists at companies like Spotify are far less evil than the technologies the old capitalists kept bringing out.

We've also failed abysmally at protecting the privacy of our activists by allowing tools like facebook and unencrypted email to become ubiquitous. Snowden has greatly inspired the movement to fix that, but they need people.

Also, we cannot realistically prevent companies like Monsanto and ConAgra from controlling critical patents on "smart faming". You want people to eat healthier? Well, fight the secret trade agreements like TTIP and TAFTA that seek to enslave everyone to the U.S.'s corrupt patent system. Otherwise the only legal "smart farming" tools will require poisoning our rivers, ourselves, etc.

* The old capitalists were able to slow adoption of truly open, and more economically efficient, technologies like BitTorrent until new capitalists could create new tools of control, like Spotify, etc.
posted by jeffburdges at 2:39 AM on June 25 [2 favorites]


"Over the course of the last centuries, the commons was fenced, and everything from agriculture to water was commoditised without regard to the true cost in non-renewable resources. Human beings, who had spent centuries evolving away from slavery, were re-commoditised by the Industrial Era."

I'm no fan of predatory capitalism, but what we had before the past few centuries was feudalism, which wasn't a picnic either and was hardly "evolving away from slavery."
posted by tommyD at 3:36 AM on June 25 [3 favorites]


Mentioning open source revolution and the CIA made me think this was going to be about something like John Robb and his work on open source guerilla warfare. That's interesting enough in its own right but I was pleasantly surprised by the breadth of this discussion, and Steele's radical candour and savvy.
posted by forgetful snow at 3:55 AM on June 25 [1 favorite]


Forgotten in the IRS bru-ha-ha is groups which had the words "open source" were also targeted for extra paperwork.

And also forgotten was claims made by the present leadership class about open and transparent they were going to be....in fact President Obama is committed to making this the most open and participatory administration in history. So how does a dedication to the the most open government work'n out when it is tried?
posted by rough ashlar at 4:10 AM on June 25 [2 favorites]


This sounds like new-age management speak to me, interspersed with key phrases from left-wing bestsellers ("shock capitalism," "wealth of networks"). I agree with the broad strokes, but am suspicious of the details.

Actually I saw Robert Steele give a talk more than 10 years ago. Then (as now) he was trying to build out his brand from "open source intelligence" (OSINT) to other topics.

Thing is, he seems to have been right about OSINT. I.e., much of the intelligence that orgs like the CIA have been secretly producing for decade,s can now be reproduced via publicly available ("open") sources. Maybe we can grant that he was a farsighted visionary on this. So the intelligence agencies should be more open to using and trusting OSINT, something that they were reluctant to do for a long time. (Who knows what the current status of OSINT is, inside the intelligence agencies.)

But this is, really, a narrow domain of expertise.

We can admire his thoughts on OSINT. But that doesn't mean we should take seriously his vague, woo-ish pronouncements about the conditions for revolution, capitalism, the environment, etc. On these issues, he's just another bandwagonista trying to be a pundit or prophet.
posted by grobstein at 4:15 AM on June 25 [7 favorites]


We are at the end of a five-thousand-year-plus historical process during which human society grew in scale while it abandoned the early indigenous wisdom councils

Oh yeah, totally.
posted by jpe at 4:33 AM on June 25 [9 favorites]


It's an interesting article because it's dense yet reductive, just not very successfully so. He seems like a very interesting speaker who's been very focused on - things - for decades, but teasing out what that might be is kind of tiring for a news article.

Some of that is self-inflicted; when I saw the "matrix on preconditions for revolution" I had to eye-stretch a little and keep moving. The tone of the article reminded me of Here Come the Zippies!

Heh. Ehhhh. Which is not a bad thing necessarily, just saying let's start with, I dunno, three basic ideas then map those to three things in play now and leave it at that. Maybe plan a part two, or better yet an open-sourced viral puppet show on YouTube. Punch and Judy with Glassholes.
posted by petebest at 5:00 AM on June 25


getting a takedown notice enforced over the use of the “Houston, we have a problem” quote from the Apollo 13 mission.

Execpt there was no "We have a problem" quote from Apollo 13. Let's go to the transcripts.


055:52:58 CC (CapCom Joe Kerwin)
13, we've got one more item for you, when you get a chance. We'd like you to stir up your cryo tanks. In addition, I have shaft and trunnion - -

055:53:06 CMP (Command Module Pilot Jack Swigert, Jr. )
Okay.

055:53:07 CC
- - for looking at the Comet Bennett, if you need it.

055:53:12 CMP
Okay. Stand by.

[LOX tank explosion happens here, at about 055:53:15]

055:55:19 LMP (Lunar Module Pilot Fred Haise, Jr.)
Okay, Houston - -

055:55:20 CDR (Commander Jim Lovell, Jr.)
**I believe we've had a problem here.**

055:55:28 CC
This is Houston. Say again, please.

055:55:35 CDR
**Houston, we've had a problem.** We've had a MAIN B BUS UNDERVOLT.

055:55:42 CC
Roger. MAIN B UNDERVOLT.

055:55:58 CC
Okay, stand by, 13. We're looking at it.

There are many movies where "We have a problem" was used. They are almost certainly under copyright protection, as all scripts are. The lines uttered by Jim Lovell, a public employee, are in the public domain, and you are welcome to use "Houston, we've had a problem."

And, while we're at it, Gene Kranz did not say "Failure is not an option." He did like the sentiment enough to use it as the title of his autobiography, but he didn't say it.
posted by eriko at 5:04 AM on June 25 [7 favorites]


Forgotten in the IRS bru-ha-ha is groups which had the words "open source" were also targeted for extra paperwork.

The IRS was right to do that under current tax law. Look at the first incarnation of Mozilla: it was basically a tech company, getting the vast majority of its income from advertising (or royalties) which it then plowed back into operations.

Ad revenue is business income under the code, and an org that gets a substantial amount of its revenue through advertising will have a problem with exemption.
posted by jpe at 5:31 AM on June 25 [3 favorites]


Something older than most of you - The tyranny of too much data
posted by rough ashlar at 6:12 AM on June 25 [2 favorites]


Yes, but will this revolution have a cloud-based, big data-enabled social layer to stomp out the bourgeoisie? Because I'm failing to see how we can have an LGBTQ society with respect for indigenous peoples unless we take into account a mobile paradigm for our FOSS distribution.

We're making the world a better place.
posted by graphnerd at 6:15 AM on June 25 [3 favorites]


Sounds fanciful.
posted by dfriedman at 6:23 AM on June 25


There are many movies where "We have a problem" was used. They are almost certainly under copyright protection, as all scripts are.

If you actually read the linked article, the takedown notice was issued for the public-domain recording of the mission. And it's not as though Universal Pictures owns the phrase "Houston, we have a problem" and that quoting it or making reference to it is automatically a violation of their copyright.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 6:41 AM on June 25 [1 favorite]


And, per the article, the recording will go back up in a few hours or days once Sound Cloud realizes its error.
posted by jpe at 6:51 AM on June 25


Sounds like the good old Communist Dream that the Reovultion of the Masses is just around the Corner too ...
posted by homodigitalis at 6:51 AM on June 25


Waitasec...we're listening to what CIA analysts say now?
posted by happyroach at 6:52 AM on June 25


It's only fair, they (and their friends) listen to what we say.
posted by oddman at 6:58 AM on June 25 [2 favorites]


"'Open Source Everything overturns top-down "because I say so at the point of a gun" power.'"
I am not sure how this parses with overturning the incumbent 1%. Owners of artificial monopolies and government vendors aside, the 1% would love for the state to lose its point of the gun power. Substituting voluntary fees for service for progressive taxes, property owners associations for local government, total deregulation of employment, etc.
posted by MattD at 7:24 AM on June 25


Steele has been saying this basic mantra for years now.
posted by Agent_X_ at 7:28 AM on June 25


Does this mean 2015 is finally the Year of Linux on the Desktop?
posted by entropicamericana at 8:17 AM on June 25 [9 favorites]


Collective and Commercial Intelligence for Peace and Prosperity

(Steele has 1948 Amazon book reviews and 75 Amazon listmania lists.)
posted by bukvich at 8:19 AM on June 25


It's remarkable how much of this shtick—at least as presented in the article—is simply eschatology,
"Revolution is overthrow – the complete reversal of the status quo ante. We are at the end of centuries of what Lionel Tiger calls 'The Manufacture of Evil,' in which merchant banks led by the City of London have conspired with captive governments to concentrate wealth and commoditise everything including humans. What revolution means in practical terms is that balance has been lost and the status quo ante is unsustainable. There are two 'stops' on greed to the nth degree: the first is the carrying capacity of Earth, and the second is human sensibility. We are now at a point where both stops are activating."
even down to waiting for the kairos, the Tunisian fruit seller. (And frankly, if revolution is the sudden and mass reorganization of fundamental political structures, then I think I'd rather free my mind instead.)
"We are at the end of a five-thousand-year-plus historical process during which human society grew in scale while it abandoned the early indigenous wisdom councils and communal decision-making,"
5000 years ago takes us back to the early Bronze Age and the domination of god-kings, not indigenous wisdom councils. If we go back to the pre-urban period, 10 or 20 or 30 thousand years ago, then we just don't know how collective decisions were made. Either way, maybe Steele has some good ideas, but he doesn't do them any favors by wrapping them up in stories that aren't even wrong.

the 1% would love for the state to lose its point of the gun power. Substituting voluntary fees for service for progressive taxes, property owners associations for local government, total deregulation of employment, etc.

This is true, yes.
posted by octobersurprise at 8:21 AM on June 25 [2 favorites]


create infinite wealth. The wealth of networks, the wealth of knowledge, revolutionary wealth - all can create a nonzero win-win Earth that works for one hundred percent of humanity.

I love the idea of Open Source Intelligence. But this sounds like a Perpetual Motion Civilization. Does thinking "infinite wealth for everyone" can't exist mean I'm becoming conservative???
posted by freebird at 8:30 AM on June 25




OTOH, his review of the Crystal Light Variety Pack seems quite lucid.
posted by octobersurprise at 9:13 AM on June 25 [1 favorite]


tommyD: I'm no fan of predatory capitalism, but what we had before the past few centuries was feudalism, which wasn't a picnic either and was hardly "evolving away from slavery."

Why not? Feudal peasants could not be sold to work other lord's lands; peasant families were not split up forceably under feudalism, and in fact feudalism granted a scant few rights to protection by the feudal lord (more commonly enforced if the vassal was not a peasant, to be sure).

Given a choice between being sold into slavery, or forced to work the land I live on for another's profit and my sustenance, one is definitely preferable.

Society didn't make a quantum leap from abject slavery to free masses; no one believes that.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:25 PM on June 25


octobersurprise : 5000 years ago takes us back to the early Bronze Age and the domination of god-kings, not indigenous wisdom councils. If we go back to the pre-urban period, 10 or 20 or 30 thousand years ago, then we just don't know how collective decisions were made. Either way, maybe Steele has some good ideas, but he doesn't do them any favors by wrapping them up in stories that aren't even wrong.

So are you denying the existence of Native American and other indigenous people's self-reported wisdom councils, or just claiming they aren't that old?

Either way, you're certainly wrong, even if not provably so, since historical records from 5kya are pretty thin. Human society has never been homogenous.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:47 PM on June 25 [1 favorite]


Either way, you're certainly wrong, even if not provably so ...

So I'm certainly wrong, just not provably wrong? There's a nice puzzle for you.

If Steele is saying that "wisdom councils and communal decision-making" generally characterized the decision-making of "human society" during the early Bronze Age, then he either knows something the rest of us don't or he's wrong. The decision-making of the most developed states at that time was lodged pretty firmly with the 1%. Probably more like the .01%. If Steele is merely saying that over the last 5000 years there are examples of polities and groups characterized by varying degrees of communal decision-making, then no, he's not wrong, as such, just incredibly vague. What do you think he's saying?

The trouble with that remark—if you want to call it a problem—is that it doesn't say anything verifiable. All it says, basically, is that humans "abandoned the early indigenous wisdom councils and communal decision-making." That could be some humans abandoning some kind of communal decision-making at some early time. Who knows? It isn't a historical proposition. We could dignify it as a mythical proposition, a fall from grace, but it really just seems like a rhetorical one.
posted by octobersurprise at 1:48 PM on June 25


So I'm certainly wrong, just not provably wrong? There's a nice puzzle for you.

It's certainly wrong, but not provably wrong, to claim:

Child abuse didn't occur prior to 6300 BCE.
There were no partiartchal societies prior to the Mesopotamians.
Fruit sherbet was enjoyed by the Egyptian pharoahs.
God is a kumquat, located in the produce department of an Aldees in the northern suburbs of Philadelphia.
posted by IAmBroom at 1:59 PM on June 25 [2 favorites]


Do you, like, have a point?
posted by octobersurprise at 2:01 PM on June 25


the most developed states

Not obvious to me why "the most developed states" has to be the reference point for this kind of claim. They are the ones we know the most about, but their records don't license the posture that no other then-extant human societies count.

I mean, yeah, this guy is kind of goofy.

On the other hand a lot of researchers think that, within the horizon of behavioral modernity, there was a time when most human societies were relatively anarchistic and egalitarian. Perhaps they're wrong, but they're not "not even wrong" -- they are biologists, archaeologists, etc, working within the scientific practices of their fields.

5,000 years ago may be the wrong time frame for that "most." But I don't agree that any such claim has to be mystical bullshit.
posted by grobstein at 2:04 PM on June 25 [2 favorites]


I plan on teaching about those things in the upcoming two weeks on Coursera. At least on a subset of those issues, as they relate to teaching (I am starting at the beginning!). This is a 3 week meta-MOOC, one week into it. Hundreds of students have been contributing about all kind of issues. It is sometimes said that MOOC professors are supposed to be "rockstars professors". I guess that one had a pretty serious mosh pit in its first week.


posted by b9492e7f929dab23426aa2b344d3d5bef083f7e1 at 12:42 PM on June 28 [1 favorite]


I still can't believe that this thread hasn't been picked up
posted by b9492e7f929dab23426aa2b344d3d5bef083f7e1 at 7:35 AM on July 2


the facebook experiment is a virus, not a meme
posted by b9492e7f929dab23426aa2b344d3d5bef083f7e1 at 7:54 AM on July 2


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