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<nettime> Ippolita Collective, In the Facebook Aquarium Part Two,
Patrice Riemens on Fri, 9 May 2014 18:02:26 +0200 (CEST)


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<nettime> Ippolita Collective, In the Facebook Aquarium Part Two,


Ippolita Collective, In the Facebook Aquarium Part Two.

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NB: Note on 'libertarism' - continued

The RFC score up to now: 'libertarianism' two, 'libertarism' nil.
There was also a suggestion for 'libertarian ideology' instead of either.
I am sticking to my own neologism (?) for the time being - the issue will
be settled at edition time. And meanwhile I discovered that there is also
'libertarianisme' in French, probably to avoid confusion with - well,
'libertarisme', apparently reserved for the left-leaning 'libertaire'
attitude. Ah well ...
-------------------------------------------------------------------------

(Technological Darwinism from the Paypal Mafia to Facebook: the resistible
rise of anarcho-capitalism. section 3, continued)


Among the sharky characters who started Paypal, all canny financiers,
hard-core coders, slick business people, and all well-versed in the art of
self-promotion, one figure stands out: Max Levchin, the guy who invented
it. 'Mafia' is indeed the right word when talking about him, given the
scorn he haps on the 'laughable' rules & regulations of the liberal market
(and indeed laughable they are, if mostly because they regulate nothing).
(According to him) These rules and regulations have been set by oppressive
institutions in order to restrict the freedom of individuals. The term is
equally pertinent with regard to the firm's recruiting practices: 'Google
may look out for the very best math graduates, we are seeking those who
dropped out because they were too shrewd and too smart, we want people who
work like mad, are free of moral hang-ups, and if possible already know
each other and so jack up the team spirit'. And last but not least the
total opaqueness of financial operations at Paypal cannot otherwise be
described than as mafia-like.

So let's go through the basics of Paypal's modus operandi. When buying
online the simplest and most universally accepted solution is called, well
-Paypal. Right at its inception, Paypal profiled itself as the global
intermediary for (financial) transactions between various credit card
systems. Thiel & Levchin were actually dreaming of a borderless private
(form of) money. One needs only to open a Paypal account, deposit some
money - usually by way of a credit card debit or through a bank transfer -
and hey presto, it's shop till you drop. Paypal takes a percentage (4,4% +
30 ¢, from the seller) on each transaction. And because the seller has to
pay more fees to get the cash in hands, and since Paypal has in fact taken
a dominant position in the world of on-line payments, the money deposited
on active accounts (140 millions at the last count - May 2014) remains
largely virtual. Just as with a high street bank.

Yet Paypal is no bank, at least not in the United States where it is
considered a go-between. In Europe Paypal first registered in the United
Kingdom, in the City of London, but it became a proper bank only in 2007 -
while moving to Luxemburg's even milder fiscal climate in the process. It
has therefore become next to impossible for users to make use of the
services a bank is supposed to provide them according to the current
European rules and regulations. Or to put it differently: no country in
the world can force Paypal to go by normal banking rules - just as if the
firm was a not-for-profit, which it is quite precisely not! Paypal does
not have a customers service department [#*] and rip-offs are frequent, as
usual when money changes hands. Paypal is rather better known for blocking
users' accounts, and hence their money, and this for the most variegated
of reasons (homonymy, fraud, suspicion, or just a glitch). Cryptome's tale
is exemplary in this regard. This site, on the net since 1996, edits and
make accessible a bevy of documents, all downloadable, which governments
and enterprises worldwide are keeping under wraps. In 2010 Cryptome's
Paypal account was suddenly suspended and its funds blocked [18].

The very controversial sale of Paypal to eBay made Thiel and his
affiliates seriously rich. A long string of unbelievably successfull
investments - even to Silicon Valley's standards - followed on this deal.
LinkedIn, Groupon, Youtube, Facebook, Zynga, Diggs, all these ' Web 2.0'
firms got funding from members of the 'Paypal Mafia'. This is public
information, one can check it out on financial sites such as
crunchbase.com - even Wikipedia provides trustworthy sources (articles &
books, audio and video footage etc.) on this going-ons.

And as far as Thiel goes, he has his attaches with most of these
companies, either because he was the founder, or one of the founders, or
because he seats on their board. And the activities of these companies all
tell a story of utopian technology-messianism. Just to name a few,
significant ones: Palantir Technologies Inc. (seat in Palo Alto, Calif.,
founded in 2004), which, incidentally,  is co-financed by the CIA,
develops  tools for analysing social networks traffic, and has branched
into info-war; Geni (West Hollywood, Calif., in business since 2006) is a
social network centered around family genealogies and their recovery. It
aims at building a family tree encompassing the whole planet. Registering
on its site allows for the addition of documents, pictures and videos, and
to research the family history of its millions of users and of their
forebears; Halcyon Molecular (Redwood City, Calif., started 2008) has
(had, see note) 'transforming biology into informatics' as mission
statement. It has developed techniques for accelerating and cheapening the
decoding of ADN [19].

Thiel  also  funds, or has funded, projects which quite well illustrate
his political aims and reveal his network of support at the same time. Two
of these projects stand out in this regard. Patri Friedman, the grand-son
of ultra- liberal economist Milton Friedman [20], and son of the
anarcho-capitalist economist David Friedman - whom we mentionned earlier -
 started the Seasteading Institute in 2008 in order to establish small,
entirely self-supporting communities on artificial islands, moored in
international waters in the middle of the oceans - and hence outside the
purview of any kind of state control [21]. The Singularity University
(formerly 'Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence' - transl),
aims at researching solutions to go at long last beyond the limitations of
the human body and accessorily to solve a few side issues, such as death,
by accelerating the 'natural' evolution towards a new dominant species
which shall arise after 'the Singularity' [22].

(to be continued)
Next time: more on the Singularity (and its discontents).

-----------------
[#*] This does not appear to be true, in a technical sense at last. See
https://www.paypal.com/us/webapps/helpcenter/helphub/home/
- but maybe it's a huge delusion ...
[18] "Cryptome: PayPal a 'liar, cheat and a thug' - Account still
restricted." The Register, March 2010:
http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/03/10/cryptome_paypal/
[19]  http://www.palantir.com/
        http://www.geni.com/
        http://halcyonmolecular.com/  - ha yes, but that one folded in 2012:
http://gigaom.com/2012/08/19/halcyon-molecular-quietly-shuts-down/
(transl.)
[20] Note that Milton Friedman (1914-2006), the ultra-liberal economist
and 1976 Nobel Prize laureate, who argued for total laisser-faire and was
financial counsellor to Chili's dictator Augusto Pinochet, had been
vigorously, and repeatedly, attacked by Rothbard, who considered him a
statist, and rightly so, since Friedman did advocate state control on gold
reserves and currency issue.
[21] See: http://www.seasteading.org/  For a more general introduction on
the 'seasteading' concept, detailing earlier attempts:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seasteading
[22] See  http://singularityu.org/  Singularitarians (followers of
singularitarism - or is it singularitarianism? -transl ;-) form a
transhumanist sect. See Bruce Benderson, Transhumain, Paris, Payot &
Rivage.
(Though the author is American (US) the book was published (and probably
written) in French, and has not been published in English, afaik.
Benderson turns out to be a fan of Transhumanist 'pope' Ray Kurzweil. See:
http://www.marianne.net/philippepetit/Le-Transhumain-se-vend-bien_a95.html
 (also in Fench)
Wikipedia's entry on Bruce Benderson, a colourful personnage, to all
account: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bruce_Benderson
(transl.)


-----------------------------
Translated by Patrice Riemens
This translation project is supported and facilitated by:
The Institute of Network Cultures, Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences
(http://networkcultures.org/wpmu/portal/)
The Antenna Foundation, Nijmegen
(http://www.antenna.nl - Dutch site)
(http://www.antenna.nl/indexeng.html - english site under construction)
Casa Nostra, Vogogna-Ossola, Italy


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