nettime's_31337_h!5+0r!4|| on Mon, 3 Jun 2002 20:19:46 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> ### note to self: digest class <-> hack [hettinga x2, snelson]

"R. A. Hettinga" <>
     Anthropological phylogeny and ontogeny and the Geodesic Society
"R. A. Hettinga" <>
     Re: <nettime> On Empire
"Kermit Snelson" <>
     Re: <nettime> The Hacker Class

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Date: Sun, 2 Jun 2002 16:58:09 -0400
From: "R. A. Hettinga" <>
Subject: Anthropological phylogeny and ontogeny and the Geodesic Society

Hash: SHA1

At 4:23 AM +0200 on 6/2/02, Diana McCarty wrote:

> I'd say the hacker class has done pretty well
> for itself already, but they tended to favor the vectoralist
> position. Or  how many shares does it take to turn a hacker into a
> vector?  Maybe we are  _all_ hackers and we don't know it, but
> _they_ found out first.


If I might be indulged in a little crackpot anthropology :-), think
about these for a minute:


Each represents not only a phyla of modern society -- nothing goes
away -- but also represents a stage in man's cultural evolution.

Currently, we're moving into what I've been calling a geodesic
society, after Huber's observation that Moore's law turns
hierarchical networks into geodesic networks. I claim that our social
structures, economic, force, whatever, map quite nicely to the
whatever our dominant communication architecture is at the time. Our
network evolution follows our increasing social complexity, if you
notice. Scavengers and hunter-gatherers created "star" shaped
peer-to-peer networks. Farmers and hunter-gatherers created
hierarchical networks to operate in the large populations that
agriculture produced at the intersections of agricultural trade
routes. Mechanics increased communication speed, but only recently
were able to reduce information switching costs, so larger and larger
hierarchies evolved as spans of control increased, creating larger
and larger economies of scale. The result was larger and larger
nation-states and multinational corporations until the ultimate
synthesis of both, the totalitarian state, proved that the
mechanically calculated transfer-pricing of assets eventually falls
down without a market in the feedback loop somewhere.

Paradoxically, it was the evolution of markets *towards* this stage
of increasing centralization that caused the literal and conceptual
downfall of states like Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia and Communist
China, and, even, in its own way, the United States, as then
organized by Roosevelt's "New" Deal and Johnson's "Great" Society.

It was the granting by nation-states of monopoly to telephone
switching companies that caused, ultimately, Moore's law, which
enabled the "surfacting" of information into smaller and smaller
bits, moving closer and closer to where it was needed in the network,
all at the very expense of central, even hierarchical, control.

It was also the need to "calculate" the price of an asset on a modern
large-scale organization's books, in order to transfer it to another
place in that organization that caused the fundamental discovery of
modern financial theory: that asset prices can only be *discovered*
in markets and not *calculated* by firms, paradoxically something
that happens precisely *because* of the continual process of
asset-price calculation that every firm in a given market must to in
order to survive.

The synthesis of these two ideas is that Moore's law reduces
transaction costs, which, as Coase noted, reduces firm size, thus
*increasing* the prevalence of markets where asset calculation by
larger firms occurred before. In other words, in a world of
increasing global internetworking, a geodesic market, resulting,
ultimately, in a geodesic society.

In our nascent geodesic society, machines are only just learning to
operate by themselves, and are beginning do most of the work. Soon,
when they learn enough financial cryptography to buy and sell goods
and services from each other without much human intervention, they
will operate as their own economic entities, and firms will continue
to get smaller, with increasingly smaller device size, until some
practical limit to the dis-economies of scale of Moore's law presents
itself. Probably, though necessarily, as a result of the size of the
machinery and facilities necessary to fabricate smaller and smaller
microprocessors, facilities which are currently measured in the
single-billion-dollar range, and not expected to exceed the
hundred-billion-dollar range, some 10 to 15 years away. Of course,
nanotechnology could increase this technology asymptote, with,
ironically, geodesic structures made out of carbon, "bucky-tube"
transistors, named after Buckminster Fuller are proving to be quite
small and efficient, if they can eventually be "grown", near their
point use, instead of built and shipped there from some large
chip-fab somewhere.

Until machines "learn" profit and loss, machines will be, um, lorded
over :-), by mechanics (hackers, of course), who, in this phase of
man's evolution are the people who are experiencing the greatest
increases in income and the people who create the most wealth. As a
result, mechanics are increasingly less "farmed" by people we call
managers, who, in turn, are even less occasionally "hunted" and
"gathered" by aristocrats -- senior managers, asset speculators, and,
of course, modern "princes" in the form of the operators of
nation-states, unions, and various "quasi" non-governmental
organizations, who, in practice, are neither quasi nor
non-governmental. All of whom are followed around by various
scavengers who try to make sense of it all after the fact: the
academy, various bits of the bureaucracy, artists, and, the ultimate
scavengers, shamans and religious culture. Scientists, of course, are
the dominant scavenger in present society, because they're the ones
who teach the hackers how to make the most money, just as bureaucrats
did for farmers, and shamans did for hunter-gatherers.


Version: PGP 7.5


R. A. Hettinga <mailto:>
The Internet Bearer Underwriting Corporation <>
44 Farquhar Street, Boston, MA 02131 USA
"... however it may deserve respect for its usefulness and antiquity,
[predicting the end of the world] has not been found agreeable to
experience." -- Edward Gibbon, 'Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire'

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Date: Sun, 2 Jun 2002 16:00:37 -0400
From: "R. A. Hettinga" <>
Subject: Re: <nettime> On Empire

At 9:15 AM -0700 on 6/1/02, Russell L. Carter wrote:

>  My original comments were directed to the
> assertion that all useful products are produced by large scale hierarchical
> organizations.

Moore's law creates geodesic networks out of hierarchical ones. Apply
Coase's theorem, and stir neoliberally.

Sooner or later profit and loss will slide from the corporate, past the
partnership, through the individual, all the way to the device level.

So much for such cryptofeudal happy-horseshit nonsense :-) as Marx's
"labor" theory of "value".


R. A. Hettinga <mailto:>
The Internet Bearer Underwriting Corporation <>
44 Farquhar Street, Boston, MA 02131 USA
"... however it may deserve respect for its usefulness and antiquity,
[predicting the end of the world] has not been found agreeable to
experience." -- Edward Gibbon, 'Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire'

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From: "Kermit Snelson" <>
Subject: Re: <nettime> The Hacker Class
Date: Sun, 2 Jun 2002 16:47:01 -0700

> Hackers are not 'victims'. This is a complete misreading.
> On the contrary, they, together with farmers and workers,
> produce all there is. Literally -- we produce the world
> as the world. We only have to realise our full potential.
> We have a world to win.

There was probably no person in history who understood the revolutionary
role of intellectuals and artists better than did Karl Marx.  Nor has there
been anyone who better understood the role that abstraction plays in
historical materialism.

That being so, Marx was never vulnerable to the philosophical vulgarity of
lumping artists, intellectuals, engineers and other "hackers" together into
a "producing class" of "symbolic workers."  To imagine that Marx saw himself
as a "symbolic-analytical service provider" is laughable.  Objectively, such
ideas can serve only the current neoliberal project to proletarianize the
middle class.  For an epitome of such ideology, see the writings of both
former US Labor Secretary Robert Reich and of Antonio Negri, who cites Reich
repeatedly and with enthusiasm in _Empire_.

This fact is evidence that the corporate-funded academic Left is now
dominated by ideologies that, exactly like their counterparts on the Right,
have completely misunderstood and explicitly rejected mankind's still-new
experiments with materialism and scientific method.  In other words, the
very innovations that were not only at the heart of Marx's thought, but
which have also been responsible for whatever measure of material prosperity
and physical health a still-small portion of humanity currently enjoys.

Nevertheless, the left and right wings of the academy are now working
together feverishly and ingeniously to end humanity's experiment with
scientific method, modern technology and their political counterpart,
positive law.  In its place, the way is being prepared for a revival of
tribalism, myth, magic, gift economies and other pre-industrial technologies
of social control.  To make such observation requires neither great insight
nor great hysteria; it is obvious to anybody who is willing to read and
understand the vast literature.  Consider this, for instance, from Félix
Guattari in 1991:

     Henceforth, the North-South axis will perhaps function as the third
path/voice of self-reference.  This is what I call "the barbarian
compromise."  The old walls marking the limits of "barbarism" have been torn
down, deterritorialized once and for all.  The last shepherds of monotheism
have lost their flocks, for it is not in the nature of the new subjectivity
to be herded.  Moreover, capitalism itself is now beginning to shatter into
animist and machinic polyvocity.  What a fabulous reversal, if the old
African, pre-Columbian and aboriginal subjectivities became the final
recourse for subjective reappropriation of machinic self-reference!" [1]

How fabulous, indeed.  The ideologies that have buttressed these and other
naive and irresponsible attempts by 20th-century Western intellectuals to
bring humanity back under the thumb of priestcraft are complex and varied,
but nearly all have something to do with reviving pre-scientific conceptions
of form, number, method and measure.  And so it is with the proposal
presently before us, which would add a Keyboard and Mouse to the Hammer and

In saying this, I don't intend to cast doubts on anybody's personal
intentions or good will.  My only aim is to point out that when building a
society based on human freedom and dignity, it is nearly always a bad design
decision to factor out form or "information" as an abstract class separate
from its material basis.  That such a social "design pattern" works only to
ensure poverty and/or tyranny is as evident from logic as it is from
history.  And with respect to our current situation, such an ontology is
much more likely to propel the oncoming, annihilating juggernaut of
intellectual property law than it is to stop it.

Finally, let me say that after the countless abominations and blasted hopes
of the 20th century, it is simply sad that educated people could seriously
propose the idea that a symbol-processing "hacker class" is likely to
achieve "class consciousness" and thus take on a world-historical role of
liberating humanity.  Generations of cafe-district communists have wailed
over their wine glasses how disappointed they are in the industrial working
class for not having adequately performed the historic duty that they had
assigned to it.  I guarantee you that if these disappointed intellectuals
now cast their lot with the "hackers," in thirty years they will have
nothing to show for it except the same seat in the cafe, and perhaps a much
stiffer drink in front of them.

Kermit Snelson

[1] "Regimes, Pathways, Subjects" [in] incorporations
    J. Crary & S. Kwinter(eds.) New York: Zone, 1992. p.18

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