6. Digital Democracies

I spend most of my time assuming the world is not ready for the technology revolution that will be happening to them soon -Eric Schmidt, Co-Founder of Google

As we have seen, the Cartel’s plan for staying in power through the digital era is to create a surveillance state and then equate dissent with radicalism, framing the exposure of their corruption as an attack against the state. The purpose of surveillance is therefore to control enemies of the state, not terrorists. It’s a clever little game, and in many ways the establishment views the digital revolution as a boon to their plan, because the more digitized we are, the more our behavior generates the type of rich data that makes that level of control possible. One example is the system for data mining created by William Binney, who was fired by the NSA and had his home raided by the FBI after raising objections. “Once the software takes in data, it will build profiles on everyone,” says Binney. It was also recently revealed that every single phone call and text is being recorded, and data is being mined from leading Internet firms. Not to mention there has been a massive increase in sheer manpower dedicated to these types of activities:

Some 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies work on programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence in about 10,000 locations across the United States. An estimated 854,000 people, nearly 1.5 times as many people as live in Washington, D.C., hold top-secret security clearances. –Washington Post: A hidden world, growing beyond control

It’s some real Orwellian shit, and I can empathize with those who believe that the Cartel’s global apparatus is sufficiently far along that we’re all completely fucked and doomed to increasing levels of dystopian oppression. Especially since the Cartel has a proven track record of turning new technology to their advantage. For example, radio, and television have arguably worsened the hierarchical structure of information distribution, pumping a singular message into millions of homes simultaneously. And the establishment/military has been helping develop the internet from the beginning.

But that’s not to say they understood the implications.

In fact, I believe the establishment has drastically underestimated the paradigmatic change we are witnessing, and will be unable to stop it from unraveling their empire. Remember, we’re talking about a power structure that has existed for centuries, suddenly trying to negotiate an exponential rate of change to technology which is directly impacting the core social structure they rely upon for power. Obviously I can’t predict the future, but in this final chapter I offer two reasons why the digital revolution presents a vicious threat to the cartel, and why I believe they are doomed to fall from power.

Reason the Cartel will fail #1: They haven’t solved the problem of how to control information

The Cartel’s global empire is heavily reliant on people not knowing what they’re doing, or that they even exist. But suddenly their ability to manage our information is disintegrating, and nothing in their surveillance and intimidation strategy can stop it. Monitoring information is not the same as stopping it from flowing, and removing problematic people is at best a temporary solution because the definition of a distributed network is that it’s not reliant on any particular node or person. Moreover, the technical challenges of broad scale surveillance are massive, and will only become more difficult as digital infrastructures mature. Take for example recent statements from the FBI and NSA that they’re approaching web properties like facebook and google about building in backdoors for surveillance.

The FBI is expected to reveal tomorrow that because of the rise of Web-based e-mail and social networks, it’s “increasingly unable” to conduct certain types of surveillance that would be possible on cellular and traditional telephones. FBI general counsel Valerie Caproni will outline what the bureau is calling the “Going Dark” problem, meaning that police can be thwarted when conducting court-authorized eavesdropping because Internet companies aren’t required to build in back doors in advance, or because technology doesn’t permit it. Any solution…should include a way for police armed with wiretap orders to conduct surveillance of “Web-based e-mail, social networking sites, and peer-to-peer communications technology.” –CNet

But what about the million other ways we message these days? I mean, I could write a messaging system myself in an afternoon. The distributed nature of the web and the independent software running on it means that centralized control will likely go from difficult to impossible over the next decades. Granted, all web traffic does currently pass through the shared “web” infrastructure, which is why the Syrian government was able to completely shut down the internet the other day. For example, this article explains how the data from google, facebook and others could be centrally mined by tapping into strategic shared connections.

By tapping into the connection between the Tier 1 network and the edge connection, the NSA would be able to literally view and copy data transmitted over every single session from a user to an application in realtime, and then stored and processed appropriately. You can’t walk into, say, Apple’s iCloud datacenter and install a wiretap. Apple would notice it. It would have to be done out of band: such as when the data leaves the datacenter and begins its journey on the way to the user sitting at home on their laptop or mobile device.

So in theory right now activity can still be monitored in a somewhat centralized fashion, but there are also major problems with that approach. First, the DIY nature of technology and it’s growth suggests the shared network infrastructure will soon be augmented and then replaced by independent networks. Second, even if you’re able to collect all the data, how do you solve the problem of encryption? Any number of cryptographic methods and software solutions are available to secure the data and mask points of origination, and even a simple SSL page can cause problems. For example, check out this page demonstrating how Tor and Https can cloak your traffic data.

Because Gmail is sent between a user’s computer and Google’s servers using SSL encryption, for instance, the FBI can’t intercept it as it is flowing across networks and relies on the company to provide it with access. …The FBI is not happy with the current arrangement and is on a crusade for more surveillance authority. –FBI Pursuing Real-Time Gmail Spying Powers as “Top Priority” for 2013

For a number of reasons therefore, monitoring all information within the network will be extremely challenging if not impossible, and even if there was a way it wouldn’t really help much anyways. These paradigmatic changes to our brains and to the social structure of our society are not run through individuals- they are rising like a tide within all of us, and it’s far too late to turn off the internet now.

Reason the Cartel will fail #2: Digital systems will increasingly challenge and replace corrupt existing systems

In business, inefficiencies are opportunities, and the rampant corruption of our economic, political and social institutions represents a real opportunity for new platforms to rise up and exploit the inefficiencies being imposed by the Cartel. In particular, I believe digital systems will challenge the following pillars of our society: our news, our money, our elections, our conversations, and our brains.

Digital News
It would be easy to point at corporate news websites and assume the only shift in our news media has been the medium. But to do so would overlook the deep undercurrent of change that so quickly swept away traditional print media. And I say current because this is not one change, so much as a wave of changes that together are fundamentally transforming the information systems of our world. One aspect is immediacy. Information is travelling faster than ever before, and waiting until tomorrow to hear what happened today seems about as strange to the younger generations as waiting months for a letter to arrive by ship seemed to me as a young man.

Another important change is the source of our news. Now that we’re all armed with cameras and social media, reporting is increasingly being done by the person actually there, which means there is less control over the story. Sousveillance is a term that essentially means “inverse surveillance”, and well describes the type of information gathering that is suddenly being done by the masses. Take a look at the picture below, and consider how much more difficult it might be to misrepresent what happened at that event in 2013 versus 2005.

Another important aspect of this process is the transfer of power from small teams of editors to crowdsourced content curation. If you take a look at a news site like Reddit you will notice that the links are submitted by users, and algorithmically published to the front page based on upvotes. On Facebook and Twitter we see things our friends think are important, not what the Corporate media thinks is important. As such, a process traditionally managed by editors is suddenly being replaced by democratic crowdsourcing. And it’s not a small thing- as I wrote in Chapter 3, the importance of media to the Cartel is only second to money because money can buy media. But not anymore.

The percentage of Americans saying they have “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in newspapers dropped to 23 percent this year from 25 percent last year, according to a report on the poll, which was released Monday. But newspapers don’t stand alone. Confidence in television news has also been slipping — it’s tied with newspapers this year at 23 percent, which is slightly up from last year’s all-time low of 21 percent. – USNews and World Report

Losing their editorial levers will have a significant impact on the Cartel’s propaganda machine. With each new platform like Twitter, their ability to dicate and fabricate “consensus” reality is further diminished.

Digital Money

As I’ve discussed in previous chapters, the ability to create money and manage the worlds monetary systems is the lifeblood of power for the Cartel, and the basic mechanism of global oppression. But money doesn’t have to be created by the banks or the government- anything with perceived value can serve as money. And in recent years some extremely intelligent individuals have designed systems for creating digital currencies that have inherent value based on their scarcity and the work necessary to create more. Check out this short video on bitcoin.

The astonishing success of Bitcoin is a harbinger of new days to come. As the Cartel continues to ransack the value of existing currencies with their debt based system, alternatives currencies will increasingly gain traction. To combat this trend and protect their lifeblood, we can expect various attacks on digital currency from the Cartel. The attacks will range from accusations of illegality to manipulating digital markets to make them seem volatile and untrustworthy, but ultimately it’s a losing battle for the Cartel, because the truth is that money has never been anything more than a system of measurement, and our digital tools are quite simply better for things like that.

Digital Politics (quantitative tools), verifying elections


Digital Brains

**In progress…

I leave you with my next big idea…

Digital Conversations

3 thoughts on “6. Digital Democracies

  1. Me says:

    Dude, great read. Of course I need to do some fact checking but if this shit holds up I don’t even know what to say. I see you pointed out a lot of problems, but what about solutions? What can the average person do to make a change. I know, your answer is tell someone. But to what end?

    Also, I spent probably 2+ hours going over this stuff, with breaks of course. Beats a shitty movie.

  2. Me says:

    yep, me again. Mind if I ask if how many people read this? And, in the end of chapter 5, was that you holding the sign?

    • admin says:

      I get a few hits a day. I don’t think hardly anyone actually reads through it all though- so thank you for doing so. I appreciate that. And yes that is me holding the sign.

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