Despite blanket media coverage of Wikileaks and Julian Assange, there has been little discussion of the fact that Assange is merely one leader within a large and complicated social movement. The better analyses have found it interesting that the Swedish Pirate Party are aiding Wikileaks; some note links to the German Chaos Computer Club. But only “geeks” and “hackers” (technology workers) are aware that all of these organisations are members of the same movement.
This social movement, which has been termed the “free culture movement”, has a thirty year history. It incorporates elements reminiscent of earlier workers’ movements: elements of class struggle, political agitation, and radical economics. The movement’s cadre, mainly technology workers, have been locked in conflict with the ruling class over the political and economic nature of information itself. As Wikileaks demonstrates, the outcome will have implications for all of us.The free culture movement exists as a consequence of the internet’s political economy. Personal computers have radically transformed the economic nature of information. Before the 1970s, a given piece of information was tied to a physical object - a piece of paper, an LP, a roll of film. Entire industries were built on selling paper, LP’s and rolls of film with particular bits of information on them. Then the personal computer arrived and suddenly information of all kinds could be duplicated infinitely at minimal cost - and distributed by the internet to a global audience. Every human could have a copy of every piece of art ever created for the cost of a broadband connection.
“Where once artificial intelligence researchers proposed artefacts that would win us over with their smartness, designers of these latest machines aim to seduce with sociability. Sociable robots press our “Darwinian buttons”: we respond to humanoid objects that make eye contact, track our motion and say our names as “creatures” with intentions, consciousness, even feelings.
Indeed, when an object reaches out and asks us to care for it, we find we not only want to care for it, but want it to care for us in return. Nurturance turns out to be the “killer app” in our relationships with the inanimate. We are vulnerable to new attachments, seduced by machines that ask for our care. They “pretend” to converse, but do not understand what we say. Engrossed by sociable robots, we are alone yet experience a new sense of intimacy.” [...]
“Alone with robots, we feel connected; together with people but not fully relating to them, we feel alone. We are in the still centre of a perfect storm. I call this the “robotic moment”, a technological moment in which we fear our lives with technology are out of control, and we fantasise, paradoxically, that it is technology that will help us re-establish control.”
Thursday, 6th January, 9:12 AM
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