Infotopia

on . Posted in Γενικά


The road to the sky is open from everywhere (Ciceron)

The sign was saying:
>United world
>Region of Europe
>Welcome to Amsterdam.

He was happy for taking part in this monthly seminar, about the explorations of the Galaxy of Andromeda. Ten years ago in 2065 a manned ship was following the path to the stars. And now they are back. He was following the story every morning, in the news, from his computer. Every bit of information available on space explorations was downloaded in his computer memory, but crucial parts were missing -even though he paid a fortune in News services and Data -Banks to buy this information. But now was his big chance: He could meat the leading actors of this monumental exploration and he could ask everything he wanted. Everything? Almost. Anything that the astronauts could reveal, everything that was not legally bound by the company they worked for. He knew though that always you could count on leaks. Few words there, and few implies in another discussion he could complete his puzzle, about the governing system of the New Worlds.

The seminar in the always beautiful Amsterdam was not a big deal. It was like a big summary of everything he already knew. Nothing more, nothing, less and the leaks few and without substance. What people wear, what they were eating, but something struck him. In every planet they visited, they didn't have the huge inner-city problems like they have in Earth.

In 1992, just before the big wave of rioting in cities began (LA was the first if he remembered right) professor Calbraith published a book called "The Culture of Contentment". He was describing the cities full of poverty and the benefited 1/3 living in houses like castles, with more and more sophisticated alarm protections. And these people were containment.

But he was wrong. It wasn't little islands of prosperity surrounded by poverty and criminality, but big islands of underclass surrounded by prosperity. For example, the Manhattan Island was something like a huge prison. The "Uneducated" as the "Educated" called them were confined there, as in other big cities around the world surrounded by big electrical wires and none was to come in or to come out. The world was separated in two. After the 2030 final unification of the world, the planet was once more separated. There were the people who knew, and people who didn't know.

Outside this cities, people were thriving. The counted population (in inner cities could not be counted - but Darwin's law seem to work fine) was stabilized, great progress was done to restore the environment, after the devastating 20th, people were working as information processors for the 500 big companies, manual work was done by sophisticated robots, and everyone seem to be happy.

There was only one United Region Government (URG), which had to deal more about the inner cities problem, and less in keeping health antagonism in information transactions. The "educated" were voting every two years for president, but they instantly could approve or disapprove a decision by e-mailing, even though that only 60% of them would do so. That was a raising concern for most intellectuals. They couldn't understand why the once 100% participants of educated people, were becoming progressively political apathetic. Another great concern was the continuously raising "Nazi Party" which was preaching for better minds. A few incidents of break-out from inner cities raised concern of a massive escape, and the Nazis were proposing elimination of the "culturally -not genetically this time- defected minds".

Few intellectuals were worrying of what they called progressive disability of the system. They were arguing, that even with computers information processing had a lot of friction. They were saying that this is bureaucracy.

Our story hero, by the name of Sir Tomas Moore, was messing with the crowd in the "Goodbye Party", where he noticed this man again. He was no more than 200 years old, and he was staying in a corner, silent. He reached him and introduced himself.
-Rafael Hythodaeus, he said. Glad to meet you.

Sir Tomas couldn't avoid a light smile.

- Why are you smiling?

- Well, I am sorry, but your name...

- ...In Latin means distributor of foolishness. Yes. I know, but thank Mind, few people study Latin today.

Sir Tomas Moore: Actually is not Latin, it is Classical Greek (Ancient Greek), borrowed by Latin. So fewer people are studying Classical Greek, and you are in no danger. After the LU (Language Unification), I doubt there is anyone remaining to speak "20th Century Greek, or German or anything else" Everybody speaks English.

Rafael Hythodaeus: I am impressed of you knowledge on classical languages. What are you doing here, in a space-exploration seminar?

T.M.: I came here, to learn more on the civilization of the New Worlds. I am especially interested in the form of their political system. But information is quite scarce, even though I am willing to pay well. I just hope we will not make the same mistake as the Spaniards did in America in the "Age of Discoveries" (1500-1600) and destroy their civilizations.

R.H.: Well I wouldn't put it that way. I would hope that they will not destroy us.

T.M.: You mean they are more developed?

R.H.: Technically, no. Socially yes, and it is a matter of time to get ahead in the technical sector.

T.M.: How do you estimate it?

R.H.: I don't. I saw it.

T.M.: You mean you went up there? But how...

R.H.: It is a long story. What are you interested more? My story or their civilization?

T.M.: If I have to choose, I choose their political system.

R.H.: The New Worlds, are actually one planet. They call it Infotopia. It is not bigger than earth, it has the same chemical base for life: Carbon. The evolution seems that followed, less or more, the same path and in the same time period. The specie which is intelligent in this planet, is like human, but more ugly, if I can say so. In general we could say that Infotopia is populated by ugly but good-hurt humans.

Infotopians developed similar technology too. They have robots driven by artificial intelligence and they are aware of the Isaac Asimof laws for Robotics.

Their work is only intellectual too. They have several networks of computers, in fact the whole planet is like a huge network. Every house is also a working place where Infotopians live and produce ideas. This is their only job. Do research and think.

T.M.: This is quite like Earth. You don't make fool of me describing you suburb?

R.H.: No! They have a great difference. Information is for free. They don't pay for acquiring it. Everyone has access on all files of knowledge, and everyone adds to these files.

T.M.: But how they are paid? How they get along?

R.H.: Just like us, except that they acquire everything for free. Material things, like food or clothing, have no value. They moved to an informational society, where robots produce all material things and people all the information. So, people could be paid for what they are producing - information. But they don't, and they have a very simple syllogistic on that.

Information is immaterial, unlike capital and earth. They say it can not become anyone property. It is at least paradox the phrase: I own this information.

To make this more clear, let us imagine a society with two primitive producers. They both work on their field (which are equal in all characteristics) and each one is producing (lets say) X kilos of grain. The society�s gross net production is now 2X.

One of them is inventing the plough and is doubling his production. Nothing has changed in the material world just a new production technique is added, and the gross net production is now 3X. Is there a possible way to prevent the second producer of copying the technique? I do not think so. Sooner or later both they are going to use the plough and the gross net production will be this time 4X.

Information has all, characteristics that the Nobel Prized economist Arrow described, and named public goods with a slight difference. Information is involved in production, not consumption.

They believe that whatever you do, there is no law, no contract, no marketing tactic that can enforce property right on an idea. There was here in Earth, in 1985 a long lasted legal battle between Apple and Microsoft for the operational system "Windows" (pure information, if I can use that term) proved their point. Microsoft copied the philosophy under which the Apple operating system worked. Apple used all it�s legal force to prove what it was obvious. The two systems are so much alike that a small child can see. But it�s property could not be proved in a court of law. That result came just because there is no way to prove that you have property on an idea. Ideas are not something you can catch or use it in hide. Once an idea is in a market it is common property.

Suppose that someone invents the word "monopoly". There is no way to stop someone to invent the word "monotoly" and just mean the same thing.

Once, information becomes common good, everything else becomes common good, for the simple reason that they are invaluable. Information is what counts in modern society, not earth, not gold. What monkeys can do, if they inherit the Earth? Nothing. It is the information about agriculture that gave value to earth. The money we are using is plain paper if they are not symbolic of value, if they don't carry information...

T.M.: Hold it, hold it! What you are describing now is a socialistic society in terms Marx dreamed. This is an 19th century theory for Mind shake.

R.H.: Well, yes and no. Marx dreamed a lot, but his base was on the 19th century society, dominated by factories. Surplus Value or Percentage of Exploitation mean nothing today, because none is actually works to be exploited.

He was right though in one thing. The contradiction of Production Forces (means for living) and the Production Structure (social structure in general).

Property is a production structure of our society. Information is the production force. These two in our society are contradicted.

What is occurring in our world (in an intermediate step, I hope) is an attempt to restrict and control the free flow of information, by royalties, or property in general. This effort is bureaucracy, (private, or state doesn't matter).

Think how much human effort lawyers are spending in protecting information. Think how much effort you lost my dear Sir Tomas by coming over here and learn actually nothing, because these astronauts are legally bound not to speak, not to share information. So you won't be doing your work, and the society in general will lose wealth in form of information. Someone else will not continue your unfinished work and the society will accumulate loses, from the today's lose. Don't think bureaucracy as a state produced phenomenon only. Whenever is friction in flow of information, there is bureaucracy.

T.M.: This is why you said that Infotopians will get ahead of us technologically in the next years.

R.H.: Yes! Bureaucracy has enormous effects in the productivity of a corporation, political system, and the social system in general. The attempt to restrict or control information (so it can be item for sale) has cataclysmic effects to the system. It can not reproduce itself anymore. Look what happens here...

T.M.: What happens then to the market? It is the cornerstone for economic democracy. I hope you remember that the greatest bureaucracy was created in former USSR. The market is the best mechanism for eliminating friction in exchanges. So why wouldn't apply for information.

R.H.: Yes, with limited material resources market is the only answer. With infinite resources, you don't need market, you don't need economy at all. If you remember the neo-classical economic theories that state market as their cornerstone, have one basic assumption. All participants in the exchange mechanism -the market- are perfectly knowledgeable about prices and conditions in the market. They have all the information needed to make the perfect -for them- exchange. If you place a price-tag on information all participants are not perfectly knowledgeable about the conditions in the market, exchanges are not perfect, the notion of the market is mined. So this can become an accumulative process. If you have a lot of money, you can buy more information, make better exchange, earn more money, buy even more information.... and that goes on.

In the political game, Democracy it self is destroyed. Information is a need-substance for decisions. If you have to pay for information, the some people are more eligible for the political game because they can acquire information, and the poor are progressively excluded.

Democracy, this way is misfunctioning.

T.M.: Where was the crucial point in history. What was the turn we lost, and Infotopians took?

R.H.: Well, sometimes, I think that this elitism was born in classical Athens, right after the death of Socrates. A Greek modern philosopher, Kornelious Kastoriades, wrote in 1980s, about a turning point in Athenian Democracy after the death of Socrates. Till then, philosophers were in the cities. They were speaking to people, teaching and learn from them in the Agora. Plato was the first to found his Academy away from the city.

«Socrates, was the last citizen-philosopher, a philosopher that goes to Agora, speaks with all the people ... With Plato begins the Platonic turn, or I could say the Platonic distortion, which dominated philosophy.

The philosopher stopped being a citizen. He goes out of the city to build his Academy. he goes over the city and tells people what to do. This period comes together with the decline of the Athenian Democracy...»

He was right. Intellectuals in the Western World followed this tradition. The abhor people, they had the monopoly of truth. They helped creating the dualistic world we are living now.

But the economy played the main role, on creating this dualistic society. By 1989 Herbert I. Schiller, was examining the effects of 50 years of corporate growth on American Culture, in his book "Culture Inc.". He argued that corporate control over such arenas of culture as museums, theaters, performing art centers, and public broadcasting stations resulted in a broad manipulation of consciousness as well as an insidious form of censorship. He was right. By the time we denied access to culture, for some people (the poor) we condemned them for ever. We denied them access to thinking. This was a big turning point. I would place it in the last two decades of the previous century.

The Infotopians invested in Democracy. Intellectuals reversed Plato's actions and went back into the city. They became citizens again. They started facilitative processes with common people, to solve their problems. This was an idea two Earthians had too, in late 1980's, named Donald Strauss and Jim Rough, but somehow didn't work here in Earth.

Actually the Infotopians invested in people. They saw every person as a unique complex of information not at any case disposable.

They invented a new a new doctrine of humanism on a utilitarian base!

T.M.: How did they achieve participation? Weren't people boring to death in these processes?

R.H.: It may sound fanny, but they enjoyed it. An Erthian (German-American origin) political scientist foretold that long ago. Hanna Arand (1906-1975) was saying that when participation creates real political power, people feel happy. The participants feel a "Public Happiness" which is different than the "Private Happiness". It is the happiness of feeling free person among free persons, regain hope for community, see the public hope become public power.

The crucial factor is today information. To have Democracy, to have economic development, you must allow free access to information for all. There is no way to prevent that, but you can create friction in information flowing. This friction is bureaucracy, and has enormous negative effects in the political game and the economic process.

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BIBLIO[IDEA]GRAPHY
- J. Calbraith: "The Culture of Contentment"
- Isaac Asimof: I the Robot. (GR)
- Herbert Sciller: Culture Inc., Oxford paperbacks, 1989
- Karl Marx: Das Capital (GR)
- Kornelious Kastoriades: Lectures in Greece (GR)
- Newspaper "TA NEA" (GR)
- Discussions in "Democracy in the 21st century", 10/92

Term paper in the class «21st Century Democracy» in New School for Social Research. November 1993 / Eργασία στο μάθημα «21st Century Democracy» στο πανεπιστήμιο New School for Social Research τον Nοέμβριο του 1993