Andrew Mactier | 13.12.2003 13:43
Andrew Mactier, 17.12.2001 12:44
This could be many things, but basically it's my muse. I think a lot and say nothing and it shouldn't be like this. I have a lot of big ideas. Stupid because I'm not in a big position, but within my philosophy and my belief in how it should be there may be one or two things I want to get involved in. Maybe others will, as well.
A hope, a vision, a small way on. The internet remains intact but spawns an offspring for the real world - the GLAN. By simple design it be organic in nature and remains relevant to its local environment. Instead of the WWW, new machines are made which more or less constantly stay in touch with computers in their area and/or sector whenever they are switched on. They do so by means of communication technology similar to a modem + (mobile) phone. Chat rooms are available limited to the surrounding (large or small) area. The first computers they access in a search are those nearby. 1) Local business could interest and get to know local customers and, more importantly for that business, vice versa. 2) Local people could get to know each other (as far as they want) by perusal of the local homepages. Frexample, you speak French and someone's homepage says they want to extend their basic knowledge. It also says they play the guitar which you wouldn't mind learning a bit of. Arrange some mutual lesson time and you're both getting something you want for free! I think these glob access consoles would run on a flexible kind of Local Area Network, expandable as far as the user wanted or as necessary for the task in hand. It would run on two, overlapping but different strata; geographical and sector. So a computer in a clothes shop would be linked to people, shops etc in the area (geographical), and to it's larger suppliers and clients (sector).
Hopefully as the technology grows the consoles will work more on their own without the need of outside help for the communication lines and so no one has to pay a company to access computers which are all in the near vicinity. Each person or small group looks after his/her own equipment. It's important that computers have their own technology built in for getting them a relevant place in the network. Maybe a small amount of the machine would be running all the time like a signal relay on a telecom network. Each computer would contribute to increasing the overall speed and efficiency of the network instead of costing.
I think the GLAN (Global Local Area Network? The name's open to change) would be much easier to access than the net, in terms of maintenance and information transfer.
Passing on of knowledge - one of the essentially human joys of life. Facilitation of it = bonus. Removal of the ugly money side of it where practical = double bonus (to me). A lot of the cost of money could be removed in this way and who you are and what you could do could take some of its importance. The skills of teaching and learning, sadly devalued in today's society for the simple reason (and chaotic implications) that kids don't want to be in school, would be practised a great deal more to everyone's benefit. People could learn whatever they wanted to learn, however they wanted to learn it. It's big. Ask me.
And so - with scientific knowledge and information being sold for free on the internet (that's what it was for before all), and skills hopefully being shared a lot more easily through organic LANs, how would it continue from there in your mind?
I see moving, organic practicality...
(this 'cosms' part is designed to run alongside government and inside the capitalist system until it (capitalism) becomes obsolete)
Let me show you a microcosm. Kid A doesn't have a guitar but wants one. He goes to Ms B down the road who can make guitars having learned from Master C several years ago. Kid A watches Ms B as she makes the guitar and helps out where he can, picking up general pointers as he goes. When the guitar is finished, she checks it over then presents it to the overjoyed Kid A. If Ms B doesn't think Kid B deserves a guitar for nothing, he could pay for it with a visit to the local forest, where he can do some unskilled work for wood, or to a steel mine for string material or anything else that Ms B wants. Because Ms B makes a lot of good guitars there are quite a few in the area and most owners can play a little so Kid A, through the GLAN or not, can easily arrange lessons even if they are just impromptu. As and when he sees fit, he might want to move away from where Ms B has made her home because his guitar playing is one of his few skills (being a mere kid) and everyone in the area who wants to play, can. He might want to go somewhere where his skill is rarer and perhaps interesting to people living there. Near, say, Complex D, the famous hi-fi production facility where he could trade his skills as an entertainer and guitar teacher for hi-fi equipment or a skill that someone offered to teach him in exchange if he was interested. You have to assume that at any hi tech manufacturer there will by quite a few experts in quite a few things at any one time. Movement promotes life, stagnation stifles it.
Let's zoom out a ways. Middlecosm. Each individual or group's homepage would include a certain amount of statistical information made up by questionnaires and give and take lists. Interests, experiences, excess things, things needed, skills wanted and skills offered, empty houses etc. As much or as little as the individual or group wanted to include. The statistics could be converted to colours and overlaid on maps at the control of the glob user. This would help guide the rolling person. Elite (the game) style trade routes would develop hopefully becoming slowly more reliant on goods exchanges instead of goods purchases but who knows. I wouldn't be in charge (though I'd sure as fuck put in my two cents worth).
Out once more. Macrocosm. How would things traditionally reserved for the big world continue to take place if money lost its appeal? How would we progress, technologically, without money as our driving force and guiding light? This is perhaps the easiest of all three. Basically - say you have an idea that you think is good. No one in your local world can tell you if there's anything wrong with it so you put it out on the network in one or several nearby areas which are currently hot with the big thinkers in the relevant fields, tell them the idea and where it's being worked on and await results. Could be your idea is already being developed somewhere and maybe they'll invite you there. Could be the people who know can tell you why it wouldn't work. Could be you'll only attract a couple of misters and a few kids keen to put into use what they've been learning at the hot spot where they were, but presumably these people who turned up with an interest and ability in this relevant field will be able to develop the idea some way and explain it more succinctly to tempt the masters of the relevant fields. And so it grows.
Background philosophy summary: Exchange of information is unlike material objects or money, it can be offered to unlimited people though benefiting only some. It is now easy and almost free once you can afford to get yourself a computer. Information to be useful usually has to go hand in hand with understanding and, in many cases, practised skill. Knowledge (info + understanding) unlike money has intrinsic worth. Skills unlike money are rewarding and universally beneficial to acquire. People like to be useful and able and will continue to try to be so for the same reason as they do today - in order to pull, you know, a status thing. Money when you've got it is safe and comfortable. Money has never been fair. I'm not proposing to outlaw it because that would be impractical and I think state control should be minimised where possible anyway, I'm just proposing that an alternative existence should be allowed.
As you can see I've taken this pretty far, perhaps a little too far, in my mind. One of the beauties of it is that it would develop according to people without rules but natural guidelines. Hopefully the direction it takes from one year to the next or one location to the next would be unpredictable and varied but here's a couple things I wanted to mention.
As the GLAN becomes more dominant on everyday things over it's big brother, the internet could get back to it's roots, ie become something of an arc containing the sum total of human knowledge. The commercial shit really gets in the way of that.
'What's it all about' is the biggest question of them all. A common answer in this world is money and when people say it they know their tongue is only half in cheek. I'm an idealist but that thought gets me down. It may well be a long time before we can function without money, or without government, but when we do I think we'll function better. The point is that skills would be as attractive a force if not more attractive, than material wealth, because once you have money, all you can do is spend it, and that makes it smaller. Once you have a skill, you can use it, or you can teach it and both these acts would make your world richer. It is more important to gain, give and share non-material wealth because it increases it overall - no one is hurt.
Crime & Punishment
I haven't read a lot of anarchist musings or ideas so if I'm repeating stuff between here and the end that you've read before elsewhere, I apologise. I'm sure other thinkers must have considered these problems in an anarchist context and come up with more eloquent solutions than I, but in the interests of completeness, read on...
Education - I'm sure schools would continue to exist but how they are run is one of the things that is likely to vary from place to place. The format I'm sure would be very different after not very long at all. One thing that I've noticed about teaching is that it seems in many respects to be easier to teach / learn from someone who is near the same level as you, rather than your average professional teacher (today) who has to be able to teach to a wide range of pupils and must know at least a little more than the highest level (s)he'll teach at. Obviously the whole process is massively inefficient when either the student or teacher has little interest. Also, I'm not alone in thinking that today's education system (particularly up to and including GCSE / A-levels) is way biased towards the academic side with little time or effort given to practicable, beneficial skills, ie they teach us shit, but they don't teach us how to do shit. Changing that is one of the main aims of the GLAN system. Personally, I think literature should be discovered when it becomes enjoyable, and discussing it should, again, be something you do if you feel like it - not so your opinion can be judged by someone who is likely to have a very different outlook on life than you and (especially bad in my mind) is likely to think that his opinion or way of expressing it is more valid than yours because of his/her position. All subjects that exist in education do so because some people found them important. As long as opinions don't change, I don't see why any subjects would die off, it's just that fewer people would study those subjects that they don't find relevant, useful or interesting in their lives. There are of course those bigots who think that, because they like a subject, everyone should but I don't want these people in charge of forming my, or anyone else's life. I expect schooling to become as varied as human interest as it becomes less of a cobwebbed institution and more of a result of what people think to be important.
One template for how skills would be taught would be the first thing I hope to set up. A workshop - later factory - putting together the machines that will run the GLAN technology once it has been designed. At first, production will be small and, because a GLAN machine is no more useful than a computer unless it has a network to be a part of, we won't be sending this stuff out to buyers but rather picking a few people that we trust and trying to get them and their world full enough of GLAN machines for it to form a big enough network to become useful. When it does, hopefully word will get around and there a demand will grow. When that happens and we get requests, if they seem to have the right attitude we'll invite people down to do our work for us for a bit once we've shown them how and then send them on their way with one or two computers. The important thing is that they will know how to make them so if they can find the space and parts they'll start building and teaching too. As long as anything is being produced at a place there will have to be people there who can keep it up and running so it will be in the interests of all concerned to teach the necessary skills to those that express an interest.
Healthcare - Anarchy doesn't have a good reputation for things like healthcare and justice but I think that's because of the last wave of anarchists who's idea of being productive was going round spraying circled A's on the wall and threatening to steal everything. Many people have a natural desire to be involved in healthcare and it's knowledge that is damn useful wherever you go. As a bonus, most major hospitals are part of a college/university already. Even doctors in a society as money driven as the USA have trouble with the idea that it should be directly paid for by the accident / disease victim. However, obviously those concerned should be rewarded for what they do. I would hope that when a doctor / nurse / whatever, left a hospital after getting training and practice it would become custom simply to remain affiliated with that hospital. Having those skills would make that person a more valuable person to have around no matter where they went so if he went to work for a production co-operative or whatever, the group would know who they owed. What person and what institute. When the hospital needed something, like with most things, it would put a shout out on the net and those that owed the place something would be likely to be the first to respond. I don't see why it takes government and money to do this these days. If a person goes through life trying to be productive and getting the opportunity to, with all we have technology-wise it's ridiculous to think that that person could possibly get to the end having produced less than (s)he consumed. So the aim would be to get the excess to the places where it would do the most good and hospitals would come pretty high on most people's list.
Crime & Punishment - Most people have a slightly fuzzy idea of right and wrong and only the truly dead inside think that right = legal and wrong = illegal. This is because things in the world of right and wrong can be very subjective, so what will be done about the law? As long as the law does exist, and certain acts are defined absolutely as crimes, I think it would be better if local people had a direct influence through the GLAN of what that law was. Aside from a few of the clearest ones [murder, rape, vandalism (I personally don't think of decent graffiti as vandalism) etc.] there aren't many things that are universally regarded as crimes which is why I think a nationalist approach to the law and legality is not really fair. There will also be problems to overcome when it comes to enforcing it, after all, who in their right mind would want to be a policeman for nothing? It would perhaps get easier to enforce the law when more people were in agreement with it, as the amount of laws decreased and as society became more fair in general but, although I personally am generally opposed to the legal and penal system, in certain cases it would still need enforcement otherwise why bother with it at all. I have high hopes for the GLAN system because I have faith in people and believe that most of those that turn out 'bad' do so as a reaction to bad things around them but I'm not in a position to say that everything and everyone could be beautiful (inside at least). There's bound to be things and people that go wrong so I don't know. In any case, even if I can get the idea off the ground and even if it ever gets far enough for self rule to take over from national government it's not going to be for a while yet so we can get ready to cross this bridge if and when there are indications that we may need to.
Transit - As people become more functional in their own right the need for government and its institutions should decrease. Roads and rail both take quite a bit of maintenance which at the moment are taken care of by these institutions. With roads I would suggest that we leave it to us. When a road gets too bad, those that it affected would do something if they wanted. Rail's different though because it has to be systematically checked or the problem might not be noticed till it's caused a disaster. I don't really know how skilled the work is but the checking itself couldn't be too hard and one possibility is a software programme which could be written fairly easily to run throughout the rail sector network to inform local people when a section of rail has gone unchecked for too long. As the great man says: "I know nothing". The problem's hardly unsolvable though and I'm sure there are a million possible different ways of taking care of things. I'll leave it to the Great Unknown. As people become more sufficient among themselves and begin to take responsibility for their own needs I hope that renewable fuels would grow in popularity as a natural progression. Petrol ain't easy for everyone to come by. The thing about money is that it is easy and to an extent necessary to hoard it. If the goal of life was to acquire the right things, things that were essentially yours and practical for the way you live, hoarding, greed, would no longer be accepted and those that succeeded in hoarding would no longer be admired as they are today. I hope (optimistic?) that trust would grow.
That's it for now. Please add, subtract and change anything as you see fit. Later folks.