THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 808, February 8, 2015
Solved problems are a dire threat to politicians
who subsist on promising to solve problems they
themselves have usually caused.
Attribute to L. Neil Smith's The Libertarian Enterprise
The Internet was filled, today, with news about Barack Obama, Vladimir Putin, and their urgent desire to bring the that system under control, about the FCC (no country with a first Amendment in its Constitution has any use for something called the "Federal Communications Commission) and "net neutrality", whatever the hell that means.
I have previously reported disparaging remarks about the Internet by Hillary Clinton and Jay Rockefeller wishing it had never been invented. Statists hate, loathe, and despise it, and for excellent reasons.
In many respects, we are all the children of Sputnik. Human—or at least Western—Civilization changed forever in October of 1957, when the communists, the Soviet Union, successfully parked 184 pounds of crude electronics (basically, it could generate a beep, used as propaganda and to monitor atmospheric phenomena) into orbit around the Earth.
If you are younger than, say, fifty, it is absolutely impossible to convey to you the systemic shock with which this history-making development was received. It was worse than hearing that Haiti had built its own hydrogen bomb, or that the cure to cancer had been discovered by Nicaragua. The United States was supposed to be the only technological giant on the playing field, with Britain possibly in second place, and the uncooperative French grumbling along behind them.
I have written of the panicked changes this wrought in education. Any of us with I.Q.s above 150 were to be hammer-forged into engineers and scientists, "weaponized" to serve our side of the Cold War. While this heightened my already great interest in science in general and space in particular (we were celebrating the International Geophysical Year—look it up), and Admirals Bird and Rickover were my heroes, it was also the beginning of my resistance to the establishment, which evolved into my life-long total dedication to the principles of anarcho-libertarianism.
Another government reaction to Sputnik was the creation, at the behest of kindly old President Dwight D. Eisenhower, whom many citizens, especially military people and their families (I was an Air Force brat, myself), believed had won the Second World War, of the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network, or ARPANet, as we came to know and love it, later to become DARPA, when "defense" was added to the acronym. It existed to foster research and enhance communications between the government, various defense industries, and the nation's universities.
It was the birth of the Internet, which, like me, is a child of Sputnik.
If Sputnik was the Internet's father, then the mother of the Internet was unintended consequences. None of the brass—Pentagon military officers, heads of corporations, college officials—could run a computer, let alone get it to talk to other computers. There was a sense that it was somehow beneath them, that they were too good for such menial tasks. Consequently, they relied on others, mostly young, anti-establishment technical types who eventually became known as "nerds".
This was very much like the spot the Mongols found themselves in, having conquered China. To rule China, they leaned on people, all of them Chinese scholars, to write orders and keep records. This was a mistake. The Mongols lost their empire because of Chinese literary nerds.
When Nazi Germany conquered Poland, they stupidly used Polish nerds as slaves to build the slightly advanced Radom military pistol for them. When the safety on a sabotaged pistol was applied, the guns often went off, instead, hopefully killing or wounding German officers.
Nerds at DARPA were ordered never to use the network for personal business. Since their bosses couldn't tell what they were doing, they took this order as a license to swap jokes and recipes for marijuana brownies with their colleagues in the Pentagon, other colleges, and corporations. They had invented games—Star Trek, Castle Adventure—back in their midnight time-sharing days, to play illicitly on the establishment's room-filling punch-card and paper tape-fed mainframe computers. Now they played those games over their brand-new toy, the Internet.
Unknowingly, Pentagon officers, corporation heads, and college officials were learning the same lesson the Mongols in China and Nazis in Poland had learned the hard way in their own time, and which has become Rule Number One of technical civilization: Never Fuck with the Nerds.
In the 21st century, thanks to decades of blundering stupidity and malicious mismanagement, the only thing holding that civilization and its economy together is the Internet. But the Internet has had its own unintended consequences. For at least ten thousand years, mass communication has been largely a one-way top-to-bottom matter, the passage of orders to the peasants by the aristocracy. Tribal drums, church bells, naval flags, newspapers, book publishing, network radio and television, the public school system—mostly big, expensive, low-bandwidth, jealously power-controlled methods of conveying imperatives to the lower classes: wake up, go to church, go to work, stop working, go to church, go to bed. There was never any way to talk back.
For the first time in ten thousand years, thanks to the Internet, that verticality and its unidirectionality has ended. The Internet has made communication lateral. No longer do I, the son of a secretary and an aircraft mechanic have to bow, take a knee, or tug my forelock to malignant slime like Obama, Putin, or Michael Bloomberg. Their wealth and power count for nothing, only the clarity and truth of their communication.
If they persist in current attempts to cut off free speech, they will prove to everyone we've spent long, frustrating decades trying to convince that not only is there no legitimate or beneficent use for government, government is the direst threat that the human species has ever confronted. Government is at the top of the food chain, not humanity.
I am not a technical person. I know very little about electronics or cybernetics. I can use the system to do business, visit with my friends, and send out messages like this one. In that sense, I am not a nerd. I am a retired machinist and the author of almost three dozen books. But I know, or know of, at least a thousand nerds who can perform this culture's equivalent of plotting treason in Chinese, hacking pistol safeties, or hijacking a technical advance that will prove to be more important than Gutenberg's invention of the printing press.
In this era of crumbling credibility and catastrophically collapsing institutions, in their ludicrously foolish and suicidal attempts to force a statist collar on the Internet, criminal thugs like Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin are deliberately destroying the last remaining pillar of democracy and the only hope for their own survival.They themselves are bringing about the end of the age of Authority.
Calling all nerds! It is time to save the Internet! But, thanks to you, cyberspace's mighty nerds, who act much like society's white blood cells, and who are well-capable of finding alternative means of communication if you have to—I've seen plans, attributed to the man who more or less invented the Internet, to launch over a hundred shoebox-sized Sputniks to replace the telephone system's role in interhuman speech—the Internet will keep filling our Inboxes with spam.
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