Civil Society

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Title

A Civil Society requires limits on human behavior; the alternative is The Dark Forest.

Context

Recent attempts to determine the future of [1] civil society in the age of social media

Social Structure

The one social structure that can be said to be built into human genes is the tribe. That is where humans learned to cooperate for the Common Good.

The noxious effects of the web have been the subject of books at least since the 2007 publication of The Cult of the Amateur[2] which "exposes the grave consequences of today’s new [in 2007] participatory Web 2.0 and reveals how it threatens our values, economy, and ultimately the very innovation and creativity that forms the fabric of American achievement." So it is hard to understand the 2019 hand-wringing of the pernicious effects of Facebook and Twitter, let alone the outright hate on 8chan.

The Rule of Law

The book Why Nations Fail[3] explains why society cannot be successful without (1)Rule of Law, (2) inclusion of all in the economy and (3) freedom of each to find their own path to success. This is sort of a economic view of the position that John Stuart Mill took in On Liberty[4]. When people do not have the liberty to pursue their own interest, exploitative economies will be created with the greatest reward accumulated by a very few, who then develop an aversion to further progress of the economy. After all, they got theirs, why bother changing a good thing.

Virgil Griffith was a former hacker from Alabama who styled himself a “disruptive technologist” and believed that he was using his data-mining expertise as a force for good. His arrest[5] shows the result of those who move beyond liberty into anarchy. They fall into the trap that if a thing is good, then more of that thing is better. That fails for liberty in exactly the same way that it fails for chocolate or any other valued commodity. Each good must be weighted against all the others. Extreme liberty erodes the rule of law, which results in liberty being taken away with all of the other rights. So Griffith went to North Korea specifically to teach them how to use Bit Coin to launder money, to allow for the free flow of money between North Korea and South Korea. This act of his violates sanction imposed against North Korea, and the U. S. government was not pleased. It is likely he will spend a long time in jail. Expect that many other extreme proponents of anarchy will face the same outcome, or worse, as the more they succeed, the more liberty they will lose.

Now the block chain technology is suggested to enable user's to have a self-sovereign source of identifiers. This is intended to enable users to have complete privacy on the web. But the is an attempt to create a Technology Solution that is completely beyond the rule of law. That means a privacy that is not protected by the GDPR or other privacy legislation. As we have already seen, Bit Coin losses are also beyond the rule of law. If you lose money, for any reason, on a block chain problem, the rule of law offers little redress. So it is natural to conclude that if privacy is lost on a block chain ID, there will be little that any of those laws can offer in the way of Redress.

References

  1. Annalee Newitz, NOTHING LASTS FOREVER — NOT EVEN ON THE INTERNET. New York Times Sunday Review (2019-12-01) https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/11/30/opinion/social-media-future.html
  2. Andrew Keen, The Cult of the Amateur: How Today's Internet is Killing Our Culture (2007-06-05) Crown ISBN 978-0385520805
  3. Daron Agemoglu and James A. Robinson, Why Nations Fail: The origins of power, prosperity, and Poverty. Crown (2012-03-20) ISBN 978-0307719225
  4. John Stuart Mill, On Liberty (1859, original publication) Dover ISBN 978-0486421308
  5. Jan Ransom, He Gave a Cryptocurrency Talk in North Korea. The U.S. Arrested Him. New York Times (2019-12-02) https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/02/nyregion/north-korea-virgil-griffin-cyptocurrency-arrest.html