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The internet is a wonderful thing: there are so many people smarter than you, and you can build on their ideas.

Kevin Kelly—unbeknownst to him—has started filling in some of the gaps on the social side of the transition.  In the latest Wired, Kelly argues that technology is driving digital culture towards what he calls the ‘new socialism’.  This new socialism, possibly ‘the newest American invention’, is the outcome of the evolution from sharing to cooperation to collaboration to collectivism, at least of a sort that seems to work and work well. 

The following, from Kelly’s article, shows the elements of change:

The Old Socialism 

The New Socialism

Authority centralized among elite officials

Power distributed among ad hoc participants

Limited resources dispensed by the state

Unlimited, free cloud computing

Forced labor in government factories

Volunteer group work a la Wikipedia

Property owned in common

Sharing protected by Creative Commons

Government- controlled information

Real-time Twitter and RSS feeds

Harsh penalties for criticizing leaders

Passionate opinions on the Huffington Post

Source: (Kelly 2009)

Personally I prefer Virginia Postrel’s formulation of statists and dynamists.  Certainly, there is a strong libertarian flavour to Kelly’s new socialists. 

And I think a number of these elements or trends will evolve further.  For example, what lies beyond Creative Commons? Cory Doctorow’s DIY digital licensing? 

What does the new socialism means for security?  Here’s a few suggestions:

  • The further fraying of the traditional state, as individuals work, collaborate and play without reference to states and state institutions
  • Online vigilantes and counter vigilantes—the rebirth of the citizen army, but one founded on community of ideas, even (worryingly) romantic ideas of the state, place, tribe or belonging, with all the possibilities allowed by cyber-mobilisation (Kurth Cronin 2006) through to Armies of Davids (Reynolds 2006)
  • Increased transparency, as information is uploaded, mashed and blogged yielding deeper analysis and insight
  • An increasing amount of misinformation, as information is uploaded, mashed and blogged with specific, often hidden, intent
  • Trust and reputation become increasingly important for strategic analysis, with policy-makers, advisers and commentators looking to ‘brands’ for synthesis and insight
  • Emerging bipolarity in strategic analysis and policy: a deep conservatism—stick with what you know—risking sclerotic paralysis; and a nervous tick, reacting to every item in the 24 hour new cycle and risking incoherence
  • Community emergency response, as per Ushahidi, competing with dedicated, formal command and control hierarchies 
  • A nation-state counter-reformation, as nation-states seek to re-exert control over activity, work, information and taxable assets and incomes

And possibilities?  How about online red-teaming of the next Defence White Paper, UK Strategic Defence Review or US Quadrennial Defense Review?

References 

Kelly, K. (2009). The New Socialism: Global Collectivist Society Is Coming Online. Wired

Kurth Cronin, A. (2006). “Cyber-mobilization: the New Levée en Masse.” Parameters: 76-87.

Postrel, V. (1998). The Future and Its Enemies. New York, Touchstone.

Reynolds, G. H. (2006). An Army of Davids, Nelson Current.

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