Category Archives: Politics

The Internet can exist because we all dream the same

Inspired by the brain of my friend Emma: the Internet works because (and is evidence that) we all dream the same thing – or, put another way, that our dreams take place in the same dream world.

A contrasting narrative: The Internet is a Thing.  The properties and uses of this Thing are defined not by you, but by the Experts.  By the people who Make Things.

This industrial narrative of the internet is neither new nor unfamiliar to those of us born at a time so as to qualify for dual-citizenship in the industrial and information ages.  It has thus far defined the basis for rational, mainstream, scientific discussion of the growth of network technology in general and the current components of the internet (think www, irc, e-mail, etc) in particular.

However, I have often gotten the sense that the underlying mathematics that make the internet special – that make it a thing wholly different in kind from the industry that appeared to proceed it – are the stuff of everyone’s dreams.  A birthright of sorts.

I have been tussling for the past few days over the phrase “sacred mathematics.”  Most of us have come across the phrase “sacred geometry,” and it’s typically meant to refer in some sense to the psyhedelic: the iterating, the aesthetically remarkable, the difficult-the-explain-without-getting-excited.

In a sense, I suppose that I want to suggest that hashing functions and public-key cryptography share the same sacred status as mandlebrot and julia sets.

For some of us, these are the dreams and the scenes of fantasy.

The odd part – or at least the under-reported part – is that these dreams have such a common and accessible basis.

For example, it’s plain to see that chatting with a next door neighbor via facebook or google chat is wasteful and burdensome.  Instead of having packets leave your house and transit through the air into your neighbor’s window (as with the cup-and-string phone, which Emma and her housemates made this past summer), they instead proceed all the way across the USA (at least) and then all the way back.

Similarly, even those who most fervently identify as “non-techy” among us can see the byzantine nature of media distribution when facing the prospect of downloading a local band’s album via a website (and protocol, and payment method, and file format) of a complete stranger.

Will the internet follow the shape and character of our dreams? 

Particularly in lucid dreams, the industrial world seems trivial. Things can be smashed or made to disappear completely. Distances collapse alternately into miniscule or infinite. Flight of the body – in fact the flaunting of adherence of the body to waking physics at all – is commonplace.

Latency, routing, name resolution, and an overhaul of the transport layer all important metaphorical meaning to the dream space.

In this sense, our dreams are filled already with the fixes forthcoming in IPv6, in Bitcoin, and in mesh networking.  As our species wakes up to these realities, may we be ever more attune to them in our dreams.

Google did nothing wrong by collecting wifi data with the streetcar.

3033520.binCan somebody please explain what Google did wrong?

They drove around with a car, taking photos of the public surroundings of their car (that’s how they make StreetView).  While so doing, they picked up and recorded whatever wireless signals were coming in to their car.

Now people are whining that they are being spied upon.

Does anybody really think that preventing this kind of conduct has anything to do with making our communities secure against unwanted surveillance?  Is this line of defense the best we’ve got?

If you stand at your doorway, yelling at the top of your lungs about many intimate, private details of your life, is it fair to accuse a passerby of illegal (or unethical) surveillance because they happen to be recording their surroundings with an audio recorder?

Do you think that members of congress will rally to your defense, accusing those same pedestrians of spying on you?

There are plenty of very secure options for wireless communication.  If you aren’t using any of them, that’s your prerogative.  If you abstain from secure practices while at the same time communicating about sensitive issues which you bizarrely regard as private, that’s your problem.

On the bigger issue of Google being a scary monster of information collection… Sure, I see your point.  While on one hand, the information they collect is, in every practice I know of, voluntary (search phrases, email contents on Gmail, advertising clicks, cookies, the Google Toolbar, and many other methods), it’s not any less scary that they know more than anybody else about the modern polity.

I’m not usually a defender of google or any other giant corporation – I’ve expressed my fair share of google skepticism.  In this case, I think they’ve actually done wrong by repeatedly apologizing, but I guess that’s a PR move.

Nevertheless, their amazing (and thankless!) gift two weeks ago of releasing the VP8 codec to the public domain under an open source license was perhaps the single most significant act of bolstering independent radical journalism in the (still short) history of website-based video delivery.  Still not as profound as the movement that Miro represents, I’ll grant, but big (and a LOT more expensive).

To my mind, Google gave us as $124.6 million dollar gift, and I think we have a responsibility to accept it in full if we want to take advantage of it. That means in turn taking full responsibility for our network presence.  If your upload stream includes poignant, radical, inspirational content encoded in a free codec for the world to cherish, good.  If your upload stream (and wireless connection) includes unencrypted content that you irrationally regard as private, bad.

Horrific animal cruelty. Oh my.

I only watched the first 17 seconds of this video. I was unable to watch more.


I have emailed Mercy for Animals, the publisher of the video, asking for the names of people involved.

UPDATE:One of those featured in the video is Billy Joe Gregg Jr., who has been charged with 12 counts of animal cruelty. Each carries a measly maximum sentence of 90 days in jail. I can’t find a phone number for this scumbag, but if somebody does, please post it so we can be sure to let him know how we feel.

Eric Sterling at UConn SSDP April 2009

UConn SSDP had a really cool (and under-reported) pre-conference to SSDP’s Northeast Regional Conference in April.

Several of “the usual suspects,” including myself, spoke. There’s no doubt, though, that Eric Sterling stole the show. I have seen him speak 10+ times, and he is one of the best and most engaging public speakers I have ever been exposed to. Fortunately my camera was rolling:

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