Jaron Lanier on Digital Life – Free Ebook

now please join me in welcoming Jaron Lanier and James bridle good evening thank you very much coming welcome to Conway hall if you’d have been here before Conway halls part of one of the oldest surviving free-thinking organizations in the world which makes it a pretty appropriate place I think for tonight’s conversation should be entertaining thanks for coming thanks to this school life for organizing this and particularly Thank You Jaron for being with us here this evening and as I’m sure you’re aware by some Kathy’s introduction and from whatever else he might know in the past John is a computer scientist a musician as you can see from the objects arrayed on the stage with us here he’s an artist and he’s an author his book manifesto you are not a gadget which was published in 2010 criticized the glorification of of the collective over individuals ever individual creativity and individual agency and particularly criticized the way that that glorification is of is often encoded into the digital technologies digital structures that we’re building both in kind of very large corporate settings and in some of the internet sort of more radical libertarian projects his new book who owns the future continues to investigate many of these themes and that’s what we’re discussing tonight both both kind of his view of what’s happening in the world and and what what might be done about it but before getting into that John would like to start with some music so over to you yeah hey thanks for coming out it’s so funny having these sort of lounge chairs onstage I’m just going to feel like spacing out so um yeah so I’m in this weird position of talking about the you know the future of the digital political economy and all that but also playing weird instruments when I do it somehow it all works so I’m going to start with the how many you’ve heard me play this you know this is from Laos it’s called a can I’ll play a little bit of this and then we’ll talk about the ideas haha hahaha yeah you you ah you ah there’s a wonderful story about that instrument which may be all if you can ask me about it in the questions if you remember and they’ll tell you tale about that there’s a good argument that this is the the ancient invention of binary numbers and the digital idea actually but it’s true it’s true it’s the oldest known combinatorial binary object representation that has happened in humanity but anyway let’s get to the new book all right Kyle I will what can I ask you can ask me a question sure I will know this particularly because of your interest in the musical instruments and stuff kind of is one of the themes that runs through several of your books and like your background in a whole range of areas music but also in in computers is kind of one of the things that forms it and I was particularly interested in the as well as in you’re interested in virtual reality which one of the kind of earlier formation parts of your of your areas of interest huh how do how does music and virtuality and things of that form the background to the kind of ideas that we will be bringing I’ve never had an answer to that question it’s just the stuff idea but honestly I mean I wish I had I could spin all kinds of lies about it that would be really entertaining but in truth I just find myself doing these things but respectfully could I can I introduce the new book as a start and I just I’d like to dive into that since we only have a an hour and I just want to so um here to start to explain the new book let me let me take you back about thirty years it’s more than thirty years 32 or 33 years and I was part of a circle of young technical people who were just on fire and enthused about what we were doing with computers and we could see already this very strange property of computation which is sometimes known as Moore’s law and it’s known in various ways but the idea is that computers are going to keep on getting cheaper so therefore there’ll be just more and more of them doing more and more things more and more connected so you can sort of see this weird inverse funnel where every little thing you do will be expanded in multiplied and so back then we could see that that was going to happen and there were these crazy discussions like if they’re billions of little computers where will they be in door knobs that was a joke once and they actually did turn up already decades ago in doorknobs and hotels and so forth and they just would they would pervade everywhere and so in the context of that realization there was this sort of sense of wow you know the world is going to change with the stuff how should it change and there were a number of really interesting ideas in play the very earliest one started before the year I was born actually 1960 the very first person to articulate this was Ted Nelson who articulated one concept of networks and to get to the punchline I believe he turns out to be right but during the 70’s and 80’s a countervailing concept came up which is the one that’s become an orthodox dominant concept now it’s the one expressed by the pirate parties and it’s the one that’s just beaten into us every day by almost every digital pundit it seems and this is the idea that information should be free that there’s that culture should be open and so under this scheme people share the networks gets all this information everybody’s supposed to benefit I don’t want to just talk forever so I want you but the very very quick version of the book is that I came to realize from just observing the results that we totally blew it and that’s completely wrong and the reason it’s wrong is incredibly simple that not all computers are created equal whoever owns the biggest computer on an open network gets to out calculate everybody else and becomes the spymaster who can organize everyone else to their advantage and it doesn’t matter if that’s my master is actually called this why master if it’s a National Intelligence Agency or if it’s a finance scheme that forces austerity on the world or if it’s Google or Facebook or Microsoft or any of the other companies it’s all exactly the same game and it’s not a sustainable game and we need to switch to a different one so that’s the summary of the book ok in the in the book you and you come up with this term for for these various systems or objects they’re collecting up all this information and doing something with them which is siren service and you’ve mentioned a whole bunch of examples there could you give us kind of one example of a siren server in action why why you chose that name for it and what it’s doing and how it’s affecting the world ah sure it was really hard to come up with the name and I still don’t think it’s perfect I went through a bunch of names they were master servers for a while and they had some other names but siren sir were illiterates so it seems okay at least so um I think a good place to start is what happened in finance so financier is discovered computation in the 80s more or less I mean big Network computation and what happens when you have the biggest computer on an open network is you’re suddenly presented with outrageous advantages that you couldn’t even have planned on or anticipated so what started to happen initially in the 80s and then in the 90s a little bit more and then recently even more is that you have the giant computer you gather data from everybody and you say hey I’ll just calculate the perfect investment I’ll calculate the perfect scheme I can predict enough and I can understand enough of what’s going on that I can radiate all the risk and loss out to other people so some of the examples well there were some early ones there’s a thing called Enron you might remember and something called long-term capital remember those guys those were the test runs and and then the current wave of austerity was precisely caused by people sort of getting even better at this and the problem with it the sort of confounding thing is a as I described in the book I know a lot of the folks who are involved in creatively creating these and I don’t think they’re bastards I don’t think they’re creeps I think what it is is that having the biggest computer on an open network provides you with such a huge temptation that it just it’s almost impossible not to just go with the flow and so you you calculate your perfect investment you know the metaphor I like to use is Maxwell’s demon the old teaching tool for thermodynamics so y’all know Maxwell’s demon remember it so if you go any take it we get an intro to thermodynamics class you’ll you’ll meet the demon and the demon is an imaginary creature who’s who’s standing by a little door and if a hot molecule comes by the door it opens the door and the hot molecule goes in if it’s a cold molecule it keeps the door closed and after a while it’s separated out the hot and the cold and then it just lets them run back together and turn a turbine and then it repeats and creates a perpetual motion machine sounds great doesn’t it and the reason it doesn’t work the reason there’s no free lunch is that the very act of discrimination requires power the reactive memory storage to calculate whether particle is hot or cold requires power and so the power to run the door radiates enough waste heat to undo the scheme right and so by the same token all the air conditioners in a hot city make the city hotter even if they might make a few rooms colder right this is the no free lunch principle and so far as we know it’s inviolable and so what you’re doing when you have the biggest computer in the network you get the illusion that you can violate that principle because you can calculate your perfect investment but it means radiating out outward risk and loss to everybody else and you sort of imagine there’s this infinite sized planet that can absorb it all but it can’t and then you need your bailout and the government goes into austerity it’s and it’s exactly the same process and so in the book what I propose is that the current austerity that’s the result of real-estate manipulations is the precise mirror what we’d call an isomorphism in mathematics to what happened to the music business with open sharing and piratebay and all that that this principle this principle benefits you know it gives you quick treats at first like the people who got bad mortgages at first thought they were getting the greatest steal of their lives an easy cheap mortgage or a free music file but it’s part of a process in which a big computer is perfecting its game at the expense of society at a whole until it breaks so then this is a principle you identify not happening just in the kind of big shadowy worlds of finance but kind of in the tools that we use every in terms of social services like Google and Facebook they’re employing the same very large systems of data gathering and this kind of privileged access to data to to do what what are they what are they gaining from us in return well so the way I see it what happened in finance should serve as a cautionary tale for computation in general so in terms of why worried about free research and free social networking there’s some short-term reasons to worry but the bigger reasons are longer-term so in in it’s funny I helped make up the rhetoric about how great free music is like you know when people talk about oh but you can go play live gigs and it’s better and you’re freed from labels and everything I really made up a lot of that stuff I really know it I’m not like some old guy who doesn’t get it you know and the problem I saw with it is that it’s not so much that you can’t make any money as a musician in a world of open copying of music files you know as as often pointed out you can still sell tickets to gigs and all that the problem is that you’re forced into an informal economy in what I call a real time life so you have to sing for your supper for every meal and it’s it’s it’s a way of life that might you might do well once in a while if you’re one of the lucky few but you will never be able to sustain a serious illness raise children or a sick child especially like it doesn’t it doesn’t prepare you for the contingencies of life because it’s only income it’s not well it’s not there’s no there’s no momentum behind it but does that apply to all of us that I mean when someone just signs it to Facebook or uses Google search how are they what’s the value of the the labor essentially that they’re welcomed missing that the problem will become more serious as they as they get older in like 10 or 20 years and specifically here’s here’s I think where it’ll become very serious going way back to the 19th century there’s been a trope that has never proven true which is that automation should kill employment right that was the Luddite dilemma that’s what motivated early early Karl Marx writing and so forth and the way it motivated the start of the science-fiction genre with HG Wells Time Machine and all that and I mean so this has been this underlying fear and it just hasn’t ever panned we’ve tended to end up with better jobs as technology gets better but the thing is this this ideal that we mistakenly committed ourselves to could actually make that trope true and the reason why is simple the more automation there is the more the economy has to become an information economy because that’s what’s left and if we say information has to be free it means that the economy will shrink I mean it you know and that’s that sounds overly simplistic and and it can be stated much more carefully but I believe that fundamentally that dilemma is quite real and so you know the kinds of automation we can expect our taxis and trucks driving themselves to a large degree throwing drivers out of work we can expect manufacturing to become much less labor intent of intensive whether it’s 3d printers or other things and on and on and their demonstrations every day of white-collar jobs educated jobs being doable by by software now the trick is that every time software can do something that people used to do it’s due to what we call big data and big data is just the massive contributions of everybody on the net in disguise so like you know like one example I’ve used is to perform automatic translation and cloud services all the real translations but or the additional translations by real people are gathered together and then your new translation is correlated with those because there’s a lot of little sub examples that can then be mashed together to create a plausible translation so artificial intelligence on the network or Big Data is just a way of disenfranchising or anonymizing people that it’s precisely the same thing I mean sometimes the algorithms are good but fundamentally it’s a rehashing of day different people and by D monetizing all of that data the more automation becomes important the more the economy will shrink so basically every time you use Facebook you’re reducing your employment prospects for the future it’s a gradual no no I mean that shouldn’t sound funny I mean that’s actually a fact it’s just gradual you’re killing your future drip by drip how is the kind of accumulation of information and the wealth that flows from it oh I mean you said that this kind of the echoes of Luddism or the fears of automation stuff have kind of been present with us for as long as there’s been any form of automation how is what the source siren servers and what Google and Facebook are doing fundamentally different kind of previous capitalist accessories like the Industrial Revolution or the enclosures or yeah it’s a great it’s an interesting question because there is this question of how much is really new and how much isn’t and I think there’s a case to be made that some of what I’m talking about is not all that different from what happened towards the end of the 19th century or in the run-up to the Great Depression and so forth in a sense I’m not a historian and I can’t tease that out entirely I do believe there are some similarities and some differences one of the differences is the sort of arm’s length cleanliness of the new way of doing it I mean like I think the old way of being a bad banker let’s say was a little bit more deliberate than the new way of being a bad banker because you can accumulate extraordinary extraordinary wealth to the point of damaging the economy as a whole without intending to it’s almost like this automatic arms like sort of a thing because you are just given such as such advantages because you have the best computation so I think I think the difference now versus then is really a lack of bad intent you know it’s it almost happens automatically and I say that from direct experience of knowing some of the people involved and now maybe it was like that in the past but my sense from reading history is that it was not so this is an intentionality that’s almost being built in by accident into the software that’s kind of performing this a respected of human intention yeah well I mean sometimes it depends you know but I like I think maybe Facebook was intending to play the game but Google wasn’t because I was there I remember it there was out that actually no like people people thought it would be big but nobody understood exactly what the mechanism would be and I think you know theory can only predict so much I think we have to learn empirically by watching this happen a number of times to see the pattern and but the put the problem as it stands now is like there are people inside Google who are where this is a problem and go talks a lot about and I don’t want to single out Google but it’s the example we used for the moment is they you make a lot of talk of being open and not being evil but a lot of what they do remains kind of totally invisible and potala by corporate one of the things that I really want to be very clear about is that I don’t believe in the doctrine of the bad people and the good people so I’m not willing to dump on Google I mean among other things I sold them a start-up and yet and to make things even and their friends you know and to make things even more complicated as a research I’m a member of Microsoft Labs and Microsoft does all the same stuff so I’m totally part of this and I I don’t think there’s this class of bad people you know and I it’s a little tricky because sometimes to get people to communicate a problem the human mind is so clan oriented you want to identify okay it’s those bad people you know those are the bad ones and I think in this case it’s more of a pattern problem than a bad class of people so yeah I think a lot of what Google does really sucks but it’s true for exactly for me you know that’s I’m talking about myself I’m not talking about some mysterious dark other so but if we talk about a a series of kind of things that being built into these systems kind of from the ground up quite possibly by accident then it requires some kind of intervention to to change the course of this ah that’s the book this is this is well this is where yes why you start to look that you recognize that there’s been some kind of fundamental architectural errors into the the software we’ve built and you mentioned already you kind of identified that uh that there were previous better potentials the Internet in the work of someone like Ted Nelson yeah where at what point did it go wrong why did we go down this wrong path and and and what point did you get become really uncomfortable with it okay well I think we went wrong in the 70s and it happened in a strange way part of it was the internet was born in sort of two communities one was a sort of a government military complex and another was universities which at that time was hippies very much and so you could say was sort of a right left collaboration and so in in the United States where the the initial internet start was started to work the the people on the the right-wing or sort of military side were deeply upset in the 70s about something that seems kind of petty at this point but it was a huge cause célèbre which was the fixed speed limit on the highways to conserve oil because there had been an oil embargo and so forth and so to counter that there was this thing called citizens band radio which was that which was sort of the the Twitter of its era or something it was it was more present in the culture probably than Twitter’s today there were songs about it on the radio it was like the this huge thing it’s hard to imagine now and so it would happen ISM people would use this radio while they were driving to tell each other where the police were hiding so that they could speed and in order to do that they had to make up fake handles so that they wouldn’t be arrested and so this created this idea that anonymity is the cool thing and this kind of open anonymous untraceable network is the cool thing meanwhile in the university side I hardly need to explain why they were interested in exactly the same idea it was a drought towards the in the beginning the draft was still active although it ended soon but people were still scared of it so part of it was trying to separate from society because people are terrified of Vietnam and that it might renew and the other thing was drugs I mean I I just think remember one of the earliest computers on the internet also sits waste-heat was a was serving a pot farm illicitly in the basement of a major universities computer science lab and i know i will not state which one but this sort of stuff went on so there was this sort of fantasy that what it means to be empowered as the untechnical person is to be able to escape the view of the man of this central authority which is the fantasy that drove the idea of the open this that’s what drove this idea that anonymity and being able to do think about a trace is one in the same as Liberty online and it all made sense at the time it all seemed to be correct like I say this was I don’t think anybody could have predicted how it would play out and then you ask when I started to feel uncomfortable I can I mean there were a couple of distinct moments when I was in the 90s I had a little startup company that Enron wanted to buy and I started to talk to those guys and I got really creeped out they were just now they’re there there were some bad people actually that was that was bad and they were using networks in such a horrible way and it just disturbed me terribly and then that company ended up going to Google and then I started to watch Google grow and I start to realize wait a second I love the people at Google but they’re actually doing the same stuff that Emma was doing there to see with this email they don’t realize they’re they’re doing it you know and but the thing that really got to me that really got me in the gut was I’d spent so many years proclaiming how horrible it was to have to be to be stuck with a label and a recording contract if you’re a musician and how wonderful would be to just directly give your music away and all that and then what I saw happening is when my musician friends some of whom were very famous and beloved would just get ill or have some issue come up and suddenly their income went away and they we would have to organise benefits so they could get their operation or something remember in the US we haven’t had health insurance so everybody lives on the edge and it just hit me so hard that we’d made a mistake because we were actually hurting the people on the ground we were intending to help now of course if you were 20 and you just wanted to run around on the stinky band doing gigs and promote it online great that works great but it doesn’t work for a life cycle um so if we have these kind of couple of these twin desires which is this kind of desire for anonymity and this desire for kind of things being free whether that’s experienced whether it’s music or any of those things those are the things that then are powerful things powerful servers the siren servers that you talk about but can come along and basically secretly make their own profits off without returning anything back to people who’ve who’ve generated that and we kind of given them that power through demanding well in an Indian thing which happens more forgiving back what they give back token amount so what happens is with every single one of these schemes there’s some people who interact with them who do very well and to me this is the equivalent of what in the 19th century was called the Horatio Alger story so there are always a token few people who do very well your YouTube videos who do very well with their whatever it is their Kickstarter campaigns or something but the thing about it is for society to work and for society to remain democratic economic outcomes for people have to be distributed with sort of a mound like a bell curve or at least some approximation so that the some large bulk of people can outspend the elite otherwise democracy falters and we’ve seen that again and again and people who interact with this scheme some of them do well but the distribution is instead one of these sharp curves where there’s the so-called long tail and then this token peak and and that’s a democracy destroyer it is is this something that only applies to creative people people are supplying musical videos or who are kind of entertaining in some way or the other forms of contributing or being treated about yeah sure I mean for now it’s the creative people or the people you know but but when the cars drive themselves and and and your electronics are printed out you know when labor starts to go away potentially culture should be monetized to make up the difference so that we can still have an economy the only alternative would be some sudden rush into socialism and socialism in the context of these sirens servers would be really bad I really don’t want a socialist committee that’s also the master spy business you know I think I think that would that’s exactly how socialism has failed in the past and that failure would be amplified so I think socialism has to be off the table and the Information Age so you know just it just won’t work I mean it just gives it just because computers aren’t created equal people are born on computers I’d like to come back and bit to that kind of ideas of socialism and of under and it’s the kind of the types of contributions who can make whether creative or otherwise but but let’s turn to in the book what you propose is some sort of corrective measures for a system that we’ve built now so that doing our outline briefly just took a couple of the measures and let you outline in the book that would sure well there are a variety of them and some of them have to do with the architecture of digital networks and some of them get just a little technical and and some of them are just simple so the simplest idea is counter to the most popular idea the idea the pot of the pirate parties and so many other idealist enterprises now and that’s to make information worth something to make it be paid and what I need to say about this is that I think it’s absurd to go around to people who are copying music files and scold them and say oh you mustn’t copy that music file because of copyright or something and the reason why is it currently there’s no reciprocity those very same people are being spied by cameras every time they walk on the street every device they use is logging data about them every single thing they do is going into databases that will affect their future credit and all that and so all this information is being taken from them that really effects them and they’re not paid for that information and now we’re going to complain about them copying a music file so in the context of that incredible imbalance I don’t think you I don’t think it’s easy at least to argue that they should be forbidden from from copying the music file however if there was a case where they were being paid for information as it’s used that turns out to be valuable because of their existence that’s a different story then I think there could be a social contract where they don’t mind paying for the information for the very simple reason that the system they’re paying into also provides for their own wealth and sustenance and the well-being of their their life you know and they’re in and let me give you one example of why I think this idea would bring enough benefits even to bring around the sort of radical left that that might initially resist it the most right now when you walk in the streets of London there’s army of little cameras that are following your every move machine vision is good enough to track you so we’re all being tracked all the time and this is kind of nuts because we have fought very very hard Wars precisely to avoid systems in which people are being spied on all the time and we might imagine today that the people who run the spy agencies or the tech companies or our bankers or lovely sweet young people whatever you think of them the point is who knows we’ll be in that position in the future you know like like a them like this as a setup for big trouble and that’s why those wars were fought and yet we acquiesced to it now now the current response is to try to use law to correct it so you have bureaucrats and brussels and elsewhere gather to say well what should the rules be about this data this is this is I can’t tell you how techies laugh at this process because the idea that bureaucrats can foresee what programmers will do with anything remotely like the speed of programmers as they do it it’s just so absurd it’s just laughable they will never keep up I mean it’s just ridiculous and I could go into some examples of why but it’s just it’s it’s just not the law is not agile and powerful enough almost by definition to address this issue however a combination of law and commerce would so if as information is gathered about you because you’re walking about the government has to spend money on it and they have a limited budget because they’ve had to argue for whatever tax rate they can then they have to make decisions and all of a sudden the path of moderation appears I think the idea see the thing about cloud software and the big data and all this stuff is that it can bring incredible benefits if we could all get feedback about how our life choices are affecting our carbon footprint that might be a great thing that might make a big difference to the climate but that can only happen in the context it has to be calculated as a whole it can’t be just person by person and yet right now to give up that data would be to to feed into the scheme but in a commercial sense it could be moderated and anyway so part of I’m sorry I’m Ted going on no no but I mean I think I think outside life if you could explain a bit more about how that that system of exchange would work so that how people would be compensated okay so so another another thing is some avoid going back to the origins of networking the very first idea for compute for network media and for networked expression and for mashups and all these things that we are familiar with right now goes back to 1960 the first so far as I know there’s no dispute that the first person to articulate this stuff was Ted Nelson and at the time he or at least when I first met him which was in the 70s he was explicit talking about trying to avoid some sort of let it let I’d like future it so that it find waited for money for information to be monetized as information technology would eventually take over the economy so that there could be an economy and a number of the principles I’ll just I’ll just go over a little bit about what an El Sonia Network would be like which is different from what we’re used to one thing is you don’t copy stuff so this is such a weird concept in the early days of networking one of the things that we used to love about it was that you don’t need to make copies anymore because the original is still there because it’s a network and the whole idea of copying is sort of bogus on a network and so if this doesn’t immediately make sense to you think about the phone in your pocket you download apps for it and if the app is updated by the developer yours updates so it’s more like a mirror than a copy right so that’s that’s the way it was always supposed to be and the reason copies came about is just so bizarre but the really influential computer science lab was called Xerox PARC and Zarek’s Park is where Ethernet was invented which is the way your phones are talking to Wi-Fi right now and it’s also where the modern feeling of computers were invented the idea of graphical interfaces and all that stuff came from Xerox PARC and it was sponsored by Xerox which was the preeminent copying machine company and so I remember being there when I was quite young and and all the stuff was happening you know and we would whisper like oh it’s such a shame we have to include copying in this software but otherwise will freak out our sponsors so the very idea of copying on a network which is technically absurd was really part of pleasing a sponsor which ended up not benefiting from the research because I think we were too afraid to tell them what was really going on so so there’s no need for coffee so you don’t impose this artificial idea of copying because it’s it’s stupid it doesn’t copying how car to import in history and in culture in terms of in terms of preservation of culture it does it wouldn’t the kind of absence of copies defeat one of the sort of primary advantages the Internet as we have it now that that it’s resilient the copies of things are saved I’m I just know there’s a lovely line in your book where you talk about this kind of transition that we’d have to make the system we say that you know we lost Rome but you know the Renaissance did kind of turn up eventually and that whole process happened because we preserve copies of things in multiple states yeah no no no no nothing free network is vastly more durable than a copy network I mean so so so here so here’s how it works the very idea of not needing copies was actually born on the same day as I understand it as the idea of the mash-up itself so here’s how it would work let’s say somebody’s made something I don’t know video or something and they post it and now people access it and somebody wants to mash it up they want to take a clip and mash it into something else so they have a reference link to the thing and it’s a bi-directional link so that the original knows it’s been linked to and the person who made the original knows that the things being used and now their new video has a link back to the original and then there can be a derivative video of that one that now has a link back to the original mashup and it can get as mashed as mashed as it likes and there’s bi-directional links explaining the history of how the whole thing came together if you like a little bit like the history on a Wikipedia page but a little bit more detailed and structural and now the beauty of this there are many many wonderful things about this one thing is that meaning is only meaning in context there’s no such thing as absolute meaning oh I don’t think we can argue that if you want but but if there philosophers nettings but anyway just just as a rough cut if we can agree that knowing the context of something helps helps understand what it is so in this case the context is preserved so we have better preservation there’s a balance of Rights of the master and the mash so if somebody wants to represent something in a way that misrepresents it like maybe it’s a clip of a politician that’s selecting just a little bit that creates a misimpression the link to the original is right there so it becomes much harder to do and because of these bi-directional links we can set up an economic scheme so that micro cam payments can can continue to benefit everybody in the long chain of mash up in this and so everybody gains an incentive to keep the thing going so they’re an enormous number of advantages and bi-directional links are sort of like double-booked accounting they actually create a much more robust network so it actually is better at preserving it preserves context well as just content which becomes more more meaningless with time and it and it identifies content with people who are the actual people are the entities that matter not the bits so on many levels it’s more it’s both more durable and more functional it’s also more efficient in the in the large scale I mean what we’re doing now is a massive I mean the carbon footprint of the internet I’ve tried to estimate it but it’s its magnitudes worse than it needs to be because of all the copies in all the lost context it has to be recovered I mean consider what Google does for living mostly is recover the backward links that were thrown away to figure out where things came from what Facebook does is figure out who’s looking at other people and that would also like all of this effort all this scraping of the net all the time is actually unneeded so it’s this giant act of waste and stupidity it’s it’s it’s a profoundly dumb thing that we’re doing um if it’s a profoundly dumping the way doing yeah and that there are technological solutions to it and who can who can achieve those technical article solutions like on it on whom does the burden lie to to change this is this something that kind of that anyone can achieve that governments can achieve was it something that remains entirely the preserves of technologists yeah so um so here there’s two different questions well there’s so there’s three questions raised in the book one is is my diagnosis of a problem here the correct diagnosis that can be argued the second is a proposal of a solution and I go into quite a bit of detail but I also make it clear that I can’t pretend to know everything in advance it has to be approached empirically but there’s a question what the solution is right then the very hardest one is what’s a transition like what how does it work so in the book I outline a variety of different scenarios I could get us there I will say of among people who are aware of these ideas are many who are thinking about the solution and I are a solution and I get emails every day multiple emails from people who have a scheme and a lot of people want a scheme that can create a transition magically fast like in the way that something like a Facebook Rises quickly or Bitcoin or Kickstarter or something so they want some kind of thing that feels like a Ponzi scheme at first and everybody wants to jump in into and then at the end of it is this more sensible expanding information economy I’ve never seen one of those that I think would work but maybe somebody can do it I tend to prefer more deliberative sort of slow approaches so that we can learn as we’re going and we don’t make another huge mistake and so I propose a sort of a spiraling back and forth over a couple of decades maybe more about politics and technical people working together to gradually steer it even though I realize that might be an overly adult way to approach the problem but I think it’s the more sensible one I mean I think we have some time this is not like this imminent catastrophe it becomes a catastrophe when automation becomes very good it’s maybe like the 20 years or something like that Dave meant you’ve mentioned automation being this kind of coming fad and you’ve said how it how it affects people now particularly who are performing kind of creative work and so on but also I can see how your your kind of iterative system of rewarding people backwards over time for earlier contributions to an information economy works for people who who contribute creatively to that network and what happens to people who aren’t creating content if the whole thing is transferred to an entirely information based economy okay the rest of the economy all right so there’s a couple things to say about this we’re used to a sort of a very constricted idea of what information economy can be because the information economies we’ve experienced are all sort of these tree shaped things that feed up to one of the giant siren servers like an Amazon store or something like that or an Apple store and in those cases you get as I was saying you get this distribution of people who benefit with a very thin tall peak and then a long tail and not much in between now there’s another kind of network we’re all familiar with where people’s contact with each other’s information is much richer and generates more of a bell curve distribution if you were to monetize it and that’s a social network so the unmonitored part of say of Facebook say where you connect with each other or Twitter if you look at the distribution of what people do with each other in the information space and if you were if people were getting paid for that it would create a bell curve and that in middle class and so that’s where we find hope is turning information economy into more of this graph webby kind of thing instead of instead of a tree that feeds to a master node now in the context of doing that what will happen is they’ll be they’ll still be stars but it’s just that the the in-between mask the bump in the middle will be able to expend them so that an elite won’t take over the society I mean that’s that’s what you get for that now it doesn’t mean that you don’t have the downside of the curve to of people who make less than average and much less than average and so what you want is to have as few people who do really badly in the information economy as you can or they should be about the same as the number of elites you know sort of you want a symmetrical bell curve and then for people on the bad side of the bell curve the information economy there are two things that can happen one is they can do well in the physical economy which I don’t think will go away completely so I think it’s very unlikely that the information economy becomes everything I mean presumably there will be things that software and robots don’t do we don’t know exactly what they are I mean there’s I have many friends who believe that your massage will come from the ideal robot massager in the future and I described in the book house well it gets really nutty there’s some people who think that that that you know nobody would be foolish to have anything but a robotic sex partner in the future when they’re better than people or whatever you know you know I make fun and something’s up but anyway it’s not important for us to know exactly what can’t be automated yet the point is that it’s very unlike that everything will be automated so there should be a physical economy and many of the people who might be on the down side of the curve of the information economy might find might find success in physicality and here we hear we hit a dilemma that I don’t know how to solve we hit a tragedy that no one’s been able to solve which is that if you want to have a society in which there isn’t an elite that gains power you have to have some sort of bell curve where the middle has the power and out spends the elite but if you have that then there’s some kind of it down at the low end of that curve which is the poor or something like that the people who don’t do as well and I don’t know how to disempower and without also creating that because that’s how statistics work that’s how math works and so so there has to be social services I think in a future in which most people have Liberty and and and that’s those are fighting words in the US where people are sort of super libertarian and an refine Rand oriented these days but I just think the math supports that idea so I think you need to have some form of liberalism to make an information economy work in the future and some but this the main solution you’re proposing or the UFOs in the book for this there’s very much based on this idea of two-way linking and always attributing context and therefore being able to funnel kind of financial transactions through that to kind of support all kinds of work everyday work as well as creative work um it feels like an expansion of the very technological kind of dominance that your critique in the book that you say that we’ve ended up with the system that we have now so very unforeseen unforeseen outcomes from technologies that we didn’t see coming yeah and your solution is to essentially expand the technological right view of the world yeah that’s the human condition the human condition is we make our way and we try to get better at it but every time we do something to try to influence our own fate because we’re these mysteriously free creatures we they’re side effects because we’re not perfect and then we have to undo those side effects and that’s what technology as technology is always undoing the last thing you did because you screw it up you know I mean that’s what it is and it’s a it’s a game it’s a game we entered into leaving the Garden of Eden if you like it’s a game that’s mandatory for us we can’t escape it at this point I get frustrated with it sometimes even though I love technology I sort of wish I could get off the ride once in a while but it’s it’s our fate now it’s what we got and it’s it’s scary you know because you know every disease cured is a new poison or biological weapon and the making every new source of nutrition is a famine in the making potentially it’s what Malthus pointed out every you know we have to learn to get better and better at not screwing ourselves over as we get more capable in general and it sucks but that’s what we got to do we have to grow up it’s hard um we’re going to go to the cute animal I think he wants to play a ball but it close one more oh yeah I’m also from Salinas so we’ve identified that there’s a huge problem there’s an issue here which is based on the kind of technological foundations the way we build things and there are potential ways to change that as well and that we could we architected still feels like something that’s very much the the domain of technologists of people who who can read and act in those systems for themselves but before we go – I love know some kind of things that that people every everyone can do – to slightly change the course of this to address this themselves in kind of these are long-term problems but there must be short-term approach yeah I did have some recommendations about that so one thing I want to recommend is to become as aware as possible of how you fit into other people’s computation schemes so all of us are being tracked by dozens of gigantic hidden computers now all of us are being characterized by dozens of dossiers that will really influence us that will determine whether we get credit who will meet to date where we’ll be employed you know and so and and these like I said these these big computers that have these dossiers are sometimes held by private companies sometimes by national intelligence agencies sometimes they’re in banks or financial schemes of one sort or another I I think the one thing to do is instead of freaking out and going anti and saying all those techies are terrible I think experimenting with your own life by severing ties with different servers from time to time and seeing what happens is one gate is one way to regain some autonomy and also just to screw with the technologists a little bit and and so so and it doesn’t have to involve deep judgments or something so like let’s say you’re in a situation where a particular service of Facebook or Twitter seems essential to you well you know it depends where you are in life I mean if it really is and it’ll it’ll do harm then it to not use it then keep using it but if you’re young enough to be experimental just like you might want to go hitchhiking in some part of the world that’s less developed to just know yourself and know the world directly a very simple thing to do is go off it for six months just try it just just ever go off it not judging not saying that anybody else should do it not saying that you’ll never go back on it not not being a moralist about it but simply as an experimentalist stop using it for a while if you want to play the technical game of trying to hide from the server’s and trying to get better you can read about that there are all kinds of little extra like you can get plugins for your browser that’ll block ads and trackers of that but you have to be vigilant I mean that requires a lot of work I mean even just setting privacy settings in facebook is is something most people can’t do really and and no seriously I mean and and so you know it’ll that takes some work there’s nothing you can do that’s easy you know I mean if there’s somebody if there’s something where somebody says oh you know to get out from under this regime tweet this or you know forward this movie to people I mean if it’s really easy it’s not doing anything I mean just get used to that all right on those approaches though kind of exactly what would be impossible in a more pervasive technological system like the one that you proposes the kind of next step for for kind of freedom in this if everything that we do if every action if every contribution is kind of tracked monitored surveilled and and and put it within a kind of capitalist framework of reward doesn’t the the salute that that approach of cutting yourself off become completely impossible well until we change the system now I mean this is the problems are right now we face these all-or-nothing choices for instance you know this idea of wearing a little display over your eye and seeing extra stuff in the world well i embedded that you know and i built the first one of those and blah blah blah you know years ago and now google wants to bring out their thing Google glass and I’m and a lot of the people on it were from my own startup and I like them you know and I I want them to be successful but the problem is that he used it at all you’ll have to or support as I know you’ll have to line up for Google stuff you know and all the information will be logged from right on your face what you’re seeing you know and the choice of having to either get something like that and submit to acquiesce to being tracked all the time on this very intimate level or not I mean it’s a crazy choice and what you should really have the choice of doing is yeah you can track me but it’s going to cost you and then you set your price and then you decide how much you want to be tracked by that price and if they really you know and you can if you set it high enough you won’t be tracked and most people probably end up somewhere in-between because there’s some value in it but it’ll create moderation that that’s the way up idle not thank you um put you on that note yes okay so I have three more instruments and I’ll play one before questions and then one or two after questions there’s an electric mood middle-eastern instrument there’s a weird double flute thing that has no name that I got from some Hungarian gypsy kids so it’s really cool that’s not not documented anywhere I don’t know what it is and I have a Japanese shakuhachi flute which do you want dude let me hear double Hungarian fluid from the gypsies shakuhachi all right double flip all right so then we’ll do so then I’ll do one of the other ones later so this was um I saw some kids doing this in a train station and they won was when was playing these to distract people because it is kind of mysterious that it works at all and then the other was picking their pockets and the the if you see only one of these at a time that’s a pretty well-known instrument but the pair together has a special trick and I’m not aware of it being documented or named okay all right so question so again take some questions if you overhear I think we’ll start and wait for the mic so we can all hear I’ll be going hello there I’d like to talk about human consciousness so you talked about the music industry for example everything was you know in about 1995 we saw the internet coming things like getting free Napster and so on turned up in nineteen nine we thought it was going to be good you’re saying it was probably bad Apple came along in 2003 with iTunes and the rest is history it’s the largest distributor of music by a long way so what happens with education we’re now looking at digital learning MOOCs Khan Academy or this kind of stuff coming along Harvard MIT and so on or trying to get in that bit like the old record labels yeah you know if the if education isn’t free it’s not available what happens when another Death Star comes in and owns education owns the content owns the assessment isn’t that human consciousness yeah okay so um this idea of leveraging the internet to make education more accessible to large numbers of people was one of the core ideals of the internet from its very birth and I worked very hard myself on schemes like this and obviously it’s essential and and one would have to be cruel to not want to see something happen and yet under the current scheme of information being free it you know it’ll bring in initial benefits to a lucky token for you just like the other digital transitions do but then remove opportunity from large numbers of others I mean this hit me really strong when I you know I remember looking at this really bright young folks entire square who had in part used mobile phones and and the Internet to to help organize a revolution that at that time at least was relatively painless and and peaceful relatively you know compared to many historically we’ll see where it goes now but anyway I remember looking at them and thinking wow this is so great and maybe the technology helped a little bit but you know what are there jobs going to be what they going to do what are the what are their life prospects you know we’re you know and you try to imagine how this technology is really going to play into helping them build lives build families build some build a base build some momentum build something that’s solid to get out of the informal economy and into a formal economy and it’s just not going to happen so you know the problem I have is that we could rapidly create a lot of educated underutilized underemployed people around the world which who would be very frustrated and that would be and that’s what I’m that’s what I feel we’re doing so I’m all for making technology more accessible of course what a lovely thing and yet if we don’t also make wealth insistent and sustenance and an ability to enter a formal economy that’s a fair economy with the middle class that can sustain a democracy if we don’t do those things at the same time we’re just offering the cruelties and we’re screwing over those people so we have to we have to do the whole thing we can’t just do a little part of it so thank you very much I thought that was really interesting I guess I was interested to hear what are your thoughts on kind of seeing the digital and the physical is different I guess namely I’m thinking about digital dualism and you know earlier kind of when you started your talk you said something along the lines of I came to realize we blew it not all computers are created equal and then you I think talked about you know whether or not it was new so maybe you could elaborate on that and how the two interrelate okay all right so a computer is a little pocket of the world a little a little draw a box around a piece of the world and then you manipulate it so that it’s deterministic and predictable you you create a little local local area where thermodynamics doesn’t apply where that’s not entropic where information isn’t lost and all the bits work perfectly and in order to do that you radiate waste heat and randomness into the the rest of the world so overall there’s no free lunch just like I was talking about Maxwell’s demon so every every computer is exact every bits of Maxwell’s demon you know they can only run for a while and at the expense of increasing entropy and the rest of the world so so you know the this this idea of a computer cannot be reality because reality can absorb the waste heat from all the computers they are they’re fundamentally different or else there would be a free lunch and so you have to look at computation fundamentally and you can see that it’s a local illusion that’s created now then another layer to ask about is why did the bits have any meaning at all you know like you could have two computers that do the same thing that were specified by different programs for instance so there’s no there’s no single implied meaning to any set of bits and if you want to get you know to really get into this in detail I go into it a little bit in this book but more in the previous book and you are not a gadget with there’s a thought experiment about an infinite computer store where you take an arbitrary string of bits then you search through this big computer store to find one that makes it operate as any arbitrary program you know and you start to see that there’s a kind of a there’s a there’s a weird thing about computers where there has to be some external force that imposes meaning on the bits and and and so so intrinsic to the idea of computation is a kind of a dualism now whether dualism is right or not ultimately it’s a different question but the very idea of competition has embedded in it the idea that people are different from ordinary mechanism because we impose the the meaning and create this this that we’re able to perceive this local violation of thermodynamics and all that so there’s there’s actually a enormous mystical dualism implied in the very idea of computation to begin with this isn’t this was actually this is embedded in the idea of the Turing test even because it’s a person who’s the judge of whether the Turing test has been passed and and you know and that’s the problem is that it’s a circular thing it always comes down to people judging so so just to answer your question yeah I think people are mystical and different from matter but in particular different from computers and I and I think that not because I know it absolutely but because pragmatically it’s the only way to think that allows me to be an effective computer scientist how does that that separation of humanity and computers is linked that it’s necessary for human involvement to kind of give meaning to the toaster how does that relate to the the idea that we can kind of impose a better humanistic relationships between people through better uses of technology itself no technology can’t make people better and it can’t make really relation like the way I think of it is maybe there’s a fine line distinguishing these things but what I want to do is not have technology make things worse between people I feel like only people can make things better but I think technology can make things worse and I can go into a bit more detail about that I think in the human psyche there’s sort of a what I call a clan switch I think we evolved to be able to be either singleton roamers or members of a clan and when you have a computer network that’s designed to invoke Klan membership then people kind of can align themselves like like photons on a laser and become sort of unified and that’s what happens when things go viral and stuff and it can happen very rapidly and if it’s about a cat video no harm done if it’s about a political idea or dumping on some group or something it’s it’s fascism you know and I really am afraid we’re playing with fire and I think we we see little outbreaks that means stuff online all the time and the problem is could there be a big one yeah there could be and and I concerns me and the you know the point so getting back to you know the monetize Network that’s a graph instead of a tree that I was describing I believe for many reasons would create more diversity of points of view and be less likely to turn that clan switch I would love to try and understand a bit more about do you make you distinguish between a mirrored Network and a copy network right so me remember which which information is shared I guess in a way that preserves it original and a copy network English original is effectively destroyed everything becomes copies and and if I understand the question I’d like to ask is about has to do with abundance you know copy shares the same group term as copious right abundance and part of the argument about I guess a copy based network is that it enables abundance now my question is this are you arguing that the your idea of a mirror network or Nelson’s idea of a mirror network could end up creating more and are you kind of arguing that the copy based network that we become used to we think that there’s a great deal of abundance but it’s at the expense of people like creators getting screws because they can’t get paid for the work it yeah not really is abundantly just to repeat what the gentleman said the benefit of the machines the gentleman asked if the if this description of the mirror network where you can reach out and reach the single copy versus a network where you copy everything if that produces that produces the illusion of abundance the continuous copying but it’s actually kind of shrinking the network as a whole well it shrinks the economy so you know the the more information the more the information economy becomes dominant as automation gets better the economy will expand if information is monetized little contract if information is not monetized I mean this is this is just a very simple thing for instance in in Silicon Valley it’s a common thing for venture capital firms to advertise that they will only invest in a net startup that will shrink markets because it’s when you shrink markets that you’re gathering the power you’re getting rid of what had been monetized which is other people having wealth and you’re concentrating it in your server so the idea is that you’re shrinking the market we’re doing that to the overall economy so the copy oriented network is precisely the opposite of abundance and the longer goes to the future the less abundance they’ll be and the mirror network is is the primary difference is the backward link the idea is that every information has a context it remembers where it came from and that small change makes a huge difference because it does allow for monetization it does put information in context and it ties information to the people who made it so it’s about the people instead of the bits and so that’s the true path to abundance yes so yes you’ve been lied to you’ve been sold a bill of goods I’m sorry I helped do it you described in the book frequently as essentially of what you’re proposing is a more honest accounting whatever he takes everything in well I mean to put it into most brutal terms the very idea of artificial intelligence being able to do something a person can do online like Translate is exactly and precisely an act of bad accounting it’s an act of forgetting to account for where the value came from the judgment done is has Hansen speed I’m a lot of what you’ve talked about and I appreciate I’m a cyberneticist I I appreciate your entropic value perception and your your Maxwell’s demons alignment but a lot of what you talk about seems to promote the fact that there is no positive some economy there it’s always zero-sum economy or negative some economy in the machine world when you when you contribute you have to trade one thing against another and am i understanding correctly that you really don’t think there is a positive some economy there in the machine no what I’m saying is that the Machine network is a negative some economy where the success for the few shrinks the market overall so I’m arguing that it’s a shrinking that the Machine economy is a shrinking economy if you like and what I’d rather see is a growing economy I’m not I’m not saying it’s your sum I’m saying it’s worse than zero-sum and explicitly so I mean that’s what we say when we create startups that’s our logic for deciding which startups to fund so this is not like some I’m not applying some avant-garde you know radical interpretation I’m actually describing the language we use ourselves in how we act it’s actually conventional will in emergent will intelligence emerge from from all of this data and will the internet become intelligent as as the Turing test teaches us the only sense in which intelligence can emerge is if we believe it has emerged and the problem is we can’t tell the degree to which we’ve made ourselves into idiots in order to make that have that perception so therefore we don’t have the empirical basis we don’t have a privileged enough position to answer that question we can only rely on pragmatic considerations to decide and those who think that the Internet can come alive are planning a disruption in our collective memory and in our way of doing things that they call the singularity which would be highly destructive and really stupid but there will never be any resolution about whether our machines become intelligent it’s always a matter of faith just as it is between people so I think we’ve got one more question yes okay I’m interested in the enforcement of the kind of monetized network as you talked about how when in order to transfer something on a network you have to copy it how do you enforce these money flows and given you know everything all the history we’ve seen of how copy-protection schemes work in order to give people the means to view something you have to give the keys to unlock it and those are almost always broken if they haven’t broken already it will be in the future yeah sure okay first of all um I’m trying not to be too technical on this talk so one has to make a distinction between logical copies and so what I’m saying is you don’t need to be any logical copies obviously as a matter of implementation there have to be copies there have to be local caches and bla bla bla just for performance and backup and all that so that that has to be made clear so there’s not there’s not a there’s not like sort of an injunction on moving we’re because it is a network you know but there is an injunction on logical copies and then in terms of the security issue I think ultimately there’s no such thing as an airtight system I mean and if you want to see some people trying to build something like that you could look at Bitcoin for instance where there have been some scandals and some and some problems and I think you can make a pretty good system I think we could do better than Bitcoin maybe we can do twice as good or something you know and reduce the occurrences of people of security holes in it but that can’t be the central point I mean what has to happen is a social network where most people see a value in it and want to follow it and then the exceptions can be a matter for hackers and law enforcement to deal with but they have the exceptions have to be small the only way for society to work is all as if it were to work at all is if the majority of people feel that the system is worth working within right so it’s not that hard to go and break into apartments and cars and steal them I mean I’m sure many people in this audience have the skills to do it if I know my audiences and the reason we don’t go out and do that is we like living in a world where cars and homes aren’t broken into very much right and so that’s a social contract that has to take hold digitally we can’t try to rely on some perfect security system we can have we can have a good one so that because they’ll always be some of the I’ve known some criminals who estimate that five percent of the population is criminal you know that’s that’s a number that one runs across and in in criminology circles as well so let’s say it has to be good enough that for the one out of 20 people who are just not going to like anything it’s at least a little hard and some number of them are catchable and overall the thing works but but but trying to chase the perfect security system of course is impossible like the perfect password can’t be remembered you know that’s just that’s the way it is you can never quite get there and on the note of the social contract we’ve agreed to give time for book signings and so on after this so I think that’s the last question but you would ask to play one more piece first before we give ok I’ll play a couple more minutes bucho Karachi both I don’t know if I can I don’t know if I can do them at the same time is this on you all know what it is right do I need to introduce e it this is my electric good which is I can travel with getting this stuff and it’s it’s at least ha please get up push down on your James

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