Starting A Revolution

I’ve been thinking for a while that I would like to post something to Slashdot. I’ve been having a hard time figure out how exactly to describe what I wanted to do though. Last night I figured it out. I want to enact a social change in a short period of time, we have a word for that in English: revolution.

It sounds a little odd to say, but realistically what I am trying to do is start a revolution. ☺


So, I wrote up most of the major points in my plan. Before I submit it, I thought I’d run it by people I know and see if they have any suggestions. So tell me what you think of the presentation:

I’m moving to Baltimore in a week. I’m going to try to start a social movement, and I was wondering if anyone was interested in being a revolutionary. I have a plan that is pretty solid.

Phase One: A New Internet (Projects Mímis and Templ)

We create a peer-to-peer pub/sub network of cryptographically-signed XML documents that operates as essentially a massively duplicated distributed data store (Mímis). On top of that we build a template-based XML oriented publishing framework (Templ). We put out the tools to make it simple for average people to create websites that leverages the content in the datastore easily.

This will do two things: 1) it pump massive amounts of data into the system, and; 2) it will create tens of thousands of nodes in the peer-to-peer network that are constantly connected webservers (i.e. well-provisioned for storage and traffic).

Phase Two: Virtual Identities (Projects TagItAll, _______, and Kensho)

On this platform, we release a couple dozen sites for different markets that are essentially general-purpose taggers with authenticity (TagItAll). (We know not only what was said about Bob, but we know that it was Alice that said it.) E-mail addresses become the base identifier that you use to say things about the world and that the world uses to say things about you.

Along with this we launch a site to let charities create volunteer attestations (No Name Yet). Identity verification is essentially farmed out to the non-profits of the world where people pay in physical time to verify that they are the meatspace analogue of a virtual identity.

Finally, we use market algorithms to keep the attestations honest (Kensho). I trust individuals in my online community to tell me who is trustworthy and they work to do a good job by finding charities that are reliable. If a charity cheats and gets caught, they lose their rep and, by proxy, their workforce.

Phase Three: Taking It To The People (Anarchist Grill and Project Dion)

Next, we open a recommender system research lab as a bar (The Anarchist Grill) in DC where the walls are multitouch displays, people are carrying rfid tags, and everything that can be is controlled by an AI (Dion) and subject to feedback.

Every night Dion will be running an experiment in maximizing self-reported happiness, and invitations go out based on the data in the peer-to-peer system (Mímis). The software and hardware designs are all open, so anyone who wants to can open a bar and contribute to the dataset. This will be one of the initial drives for the adoption of virtual identities.

Phase Four: Capitalism 2.0 (The Department of Happiness)

The Anarchist Grill is in DC because the next step in the Revolution is to go on the offensive. All of the profits from the bar go into a crowdsource-distributed funding pool. Now having a virtual identity not only means that you get invited to entertaining parties; it also means you can get money for entrepreneurship.

Since there’s no requirement that all projects turn a profit, this pool would provide reliable funding for open source projects if there are enough geeks involved in the voting.

This further drives adoption of the identity system and brings us to a point where we start to have legal issues that will require political finagling.

Phase Five: The Visible Hand

We start a media campaign focusing on disadvantages to the unlimited growth model that traditional capitalism uses to encourage entrepreneurship. Little 30 second ads that show our landscape stamped with McDonalds and Wal-Marts and note that traditional public businesses are expected to constantly grow.

We couple that with applications for 4G mobile devices that give consumers an in-depth profile of the effects of their purchasing decisions. For example, I’m in the store and choose not to buy a Chinese product because of Tibet. I send a message back along the entire supply chain telling them what I’ve done. My action doesn’t matter by itself, but when 50,000 or 500,000 people do the same thing, it’ll squeeze politics at its base: money.

For the revolution though, it allows us to drive commerce toward profit-donation businesses by letting people know why profit-donation is a good idea and then identifying products whose producers use that model.

Phase Six: World Peace

We will have, at this point set in place a system that should eventually supplant the world economy. Profit-donation funded entrepreneurship maximizes the resource availability for random individual actors. Since those random individual actors are also the consumers, unless there is a hegemonic actor at play to constrain the market, profit-donation should slowly take over.

Imagine that you’ve got a choice of who to fund (or patronize). One business gives the entrepreneur all the profits to do with whatever he likes. The other gives the entrepreneur a fixed amount and the rest goes into the pool where anyone with a good idea can access it. Which are you going to support?

When everyone starts making these decisions, eventually it becomes very difficult to run a total-profit business. The easiest way to get funding is to agree to self-limit and if you do open a total-profit, everyone knows that you’re keeping the profits and are disincentived to give you their money.

It doesn’t limit entrepreneurship because if the original entrepreneur has a new idea, she is completely free to compete in the pool to get it funded, and has the added benefit of a track record.

Since people are self-limiting individually, eventually all the excess resources beyond what’s considered reasonable in the market for supporting life goes into a pool which can eventually be accessible anywhere in the world.

We push for access to the net and the ability to participate in this economy as a fundamental human right. We use the new economic pressures to force governments to let their people participate in open markets, and the pool to fund initiatives to provide affordable access.

Phase Seven: Immortality

Many of the people involved in the preparation for the singularity seem to have overlooked the fact that they exist. They construct a convincing argument that they’re a trick of neurochemicals and then structure their behavior using that argument rather than the empirically verifiable fact of their existence. (As they put it in Zen, they confuse the reflection for the moon.)

Life is not an illusion, it exists and it strives to continue. I know this because I am alive and I have good reason to believe that I am not the only one. As technology progresses we are going to be better able to predict the responses of people. We will essentially be cornering the ghost in the machine, but the ghost is made of something other than the machine and eventually we’ll run up against that boundary.

We can’t get there though until we have a good dataset on human behavior and cognition. Project Mímis is collecting this dataset — years and years of increasingly detailed information about being human through the lens of millions of examples.

World peace is a necessary step to get to the phase seven because only in a world where people cannot expect to increase their life expectancy through lying can they be incentivised to give honest (i.e. realistic) data.

As we refine our understanding of where life comes from, we will be able to leverage that understanding in the software that runs on our super-complex self-modifying systems. This will significantly increase our probability of making it through the singularity without wiping the planet clean of all life.

This sound like an entertaining thing to attempt to anyone else? I like to think of it as social terraforming, instead of coming up with a new social order that you want and trying to make everyone do it, you come up with simple mechanisms that should build that society and then just set them free to do their thing.

I’m going to be in India for most of March, but when I get back in April I’m going to get a site up describing the plan in more marketable detail and setting up a 501(c)(3) (the DoH) to take donations to build the bar.

I’m submitting parts of this idea to the Human Rights Center Mobile Challenge. If I could get third prize that’d give me the money to pay a graphics designer and the hosting space to launch a site that could probably generate the $2.5 million we’ll need to open the doors of the Anarchist Grill within the year and a half I expect it will take to get a first generation of Mímis running.

In the short term, I’m particularly interested in finding three or four alpha geeks in the Baltimore area who would like to get together once a week or so and do a symposium on peer-to-peer technologies. Facebook does a constant 50,000,000 hits per second on their memcache instance. Even distributing it and loosening time-sensitivity, we’re not going to be able to just crank out a pub/sub network capable of that kind of load without some serious work.

Our existing economic systems are taxing the planet. America is currently trying to ramp up consumption so that resources will be distributed properly even though that’s the exact opposite of what we need to do from a sustainability perspective. Our resource distribution (i.e. economic models) have to be brought in line with the fact that we are the only organism on the planet that is responsible for limiting itself.

It makes sense really that the internet ought to be a part of our next big evolutionary step — it’s one of the best tools ever and the monkeys with tools always take over. ☺

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