John Hopkins on Sun, 27 Oct 2013 16:17:25 +0100 (CET)

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Re: <nettime> John Naughton: Edward Snowden: public indifference

Hallo August -

The current challenge, however, is first cultural, economic and
political, then technical. Unless we can set aside some institutional
support to build public electronic infrastructures that cater to users
without the data surveillance and without major pressure from industry
(again, like the internet), then we won't even get a chance to meet
the technical challenge. Under current cultural momentum, this is
unlikely to happen at the government or the University level (like it
did with the Internet). Nor is it likely in the so-called free-market.

I think this is now the core problem -- that constructing 'another' infrastructure (either from scratch or piggy-backing on existing (tottering!) systems) is simply not going to happen. No matter what social entity desires it. Even replacing the (aging) existing one is not possible. I read somewhere that for the US Interstate Highway system to be rebuilt (as it is in desperate need of after much of it exceeding its engineered life already) would have a direct energy cost of the equivalent of all Saudi oil reserves. This emphasizes that any wide-scaled infrastructure depends on the availability of significant (hydrocarbon) energy resources (a fact that, for example completely ignored by the 'hydrogen' economy people!). In a world where the US (or anybody else) was dominant and could gather the necessary energy resources, this was possible (i.e., 1960 USA). But now it is not. There is too much competition for shrinking resources. Even in an optimistic scenario with wide international cooperation (hah!), constructing any social infrastructure of a standardized scale that reaches a majority of the planet's population is not really possible, given basic energy resource restraints.

This energy/resource question is a necessary precursor to cultural, economic, and political considerations and is the primary constraint on the technical challenge. (The issue of, for example, overall energy consumption of 'The Cloud' is going to hit the wall at some point in the (nearer future), an issue that will change that diffuse paradigm into a wet rag, or simply more dramatic global climate shifting...)

As for the indifference, I think Allan touches on some sources. And perhaps indifference isn't quite the right expression. Stunned silence, as individuals in the US are beginning to understand that the juggernaut they have been riding in is not under their ideological control (as land of the free, home of the brave), perhaps never was -- something like Kennedy's riding on the tiger's back... That the platitudes of Amurikan exceptionalism that have bolstered many a citizens self-image are empty of any moral substance.

And we all fall down...

Not with a bang but with a whimper...



Dr. John Hopkins, BSc, MFA, PhD
ensconced, unarmed and dangerous, in an
ultra-conservative stronghold

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