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Re: <nettime> Zittrain's Foundational Myth of the Open Internet
Florian Cramer on Fri, 17 Oct 2008 16:40:41 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> Zittrain's Foundational Myth of the Open Internet

On Friday, October 17 2008, 10:27 (+0200), Felix Stalder wrote:

> On Thursday, 16. October 2008, Brian Holmes wrote:
> > Yes, to my mind, it was the intellectual atmosphere of a period. But
> > that period was very much infused with the economic and scientific
> > liberalism. It is no accident that Popper's book "The Open Society and
> > its Enemies" was published in 1945!
> Of course, it's not an accident. Popper saw the book as his personal
> "war effort" (though it was published only after the war was
> over). And, yes, it's about defending a liberal tradition against
> totalitarianism, but beyond that I cannot see any connection to
> cybernetics. 

But major schools and affiliations of cybernetics, general systems
theory in particular, were exactly about defending liberalism against
totalitarianism on the grounds of scientific models. Ludwig van
Bertalanffy's theory of "open systems", begun in the 1930s and
developed into a universal model in 1949, stated that closed systems
- in a biological, but also political sense - were not sustainable
because they would die of entropy. Conversely, Popper had modeled
the structure of his theory of the "open society" after his own
"Logic of Scientific Discovery" (a book he had first published in
1934 as "Logik der Forschung"), scientific discovery as based on
falsification. Historically, F.A. Hayek provides a link between Popper
and Bertalanffy; they all three were associated to what is often
referred to as the "Austrian School" of liberal economics; and, to
fuel the economical and financial discussion here, Hayek went on to
Chicago where he was involved with the well-known Chicago School of
Keynes and Milton Friedman.

Again, if we were to look into the foundations of the equation
of "open technology = open society", Popper and Bertalanffy
provide strong clues, within a larger field of post-WWII cold war
techno-political discourse. (Perhaps one should also remind Nettime
that its initial meetings were sponsored by George Soros' "Open
Society Institute" which very obviously derives its name from Popper?"
(To quote Geert Lovink from his 1997 contribution to the Nettime
ZKP4: "The Soros Foundation is the money source for the time being,
particularly in the field of culture and media [...] There it became
really visible what the NGO was in essence all about: downsized
government replacing bureaucracies, typical to the post-ideological
times of the digital", http://www.ljudmila.org/nettime/zkp4/11.htm .)

> My main point -- which really is a side point to this discussion -- is
> that one should not see this as the a logical or direct consequence
> of liberalism and lump the entire liberal tradition into that. The
> shift from "arguing" to "steering" as a mode of politics is too far
> reaching for that --

Point taken - but in order to map the whole field and discourse of
cybernetics, one shouldn't be too narrowly focused on the particular
environment and project of the Macy conferences.



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