Decentralized/Distributed Technology in a Collapsed World
This manifesto is essentially a perfected version of 'DECENTRALIZE OR DIE!', a piece where I outline the role decentralized technologies could play in the anti-authoritarian world. Like the previous piece, the text presupposes you're are familiar or sympathize with post-civilization ideology. The term "manifesto" is used very lightly. My intention is to flesh out a a set of ideas regarding how anarchists use technology.
Many anti-civ critiques have noted the role technology has played in the oppression and subjuagation of humans in the modern world. In anti-civ spectacles, images of computerized banking systems are often juxtaposed with the devastation of the Earth. Statements like "tech is a cancer" are not cast for fun. The entire technological stack is based on an extensive system of slavery and ecocide. Millions of acres of ancient land are wiped clean to pursue the rare Earth metals, allegedly the true treasure, that rest beneath the crust of our planet. Outside of the comedic anarcho-transhumanists and some marxists, no radical is rushing to tech's defense as a concept. When one considers all of this, it is almost instinctual to see the situation as black and white;but our relationship with technology as anarchists is nothing, if not complicated. Manichaen thinking will clearly not do anarchists any favors when it comes to looking at what our relationship with technology. Despite the ideological baggage, technology still functions as a tool. The usefulness of technology in certain situations make job in writing this a pain in the ass.
So,reductively phrased,the problem is that tech is shitty and un-shitty depending on the situation. Essentially, for anarchists like me, to use technology and to practice anarchy, is to be in state of constant annoyance. After all, most of us use the internet to connect to each other, motor vehicles to move and even solar panels to power our projects. But every single example I just listed, is awful. The entire production process for all of that tech is caked in blood and ecological rape. Yet, we still use tech. The thought of tech's negative impact on both our lives as people and our planet is what pushes alot of anarchists to engaging in a tech malpractice. Fully knowing how the sausage is made, so to speak, leaves anarchists to use tech based on how they feel or to just give up entirely. There's no perfect way to do anything, but it is my opinion that D-TECH is more ideal than current answers to the age old question: "How should anarchists use technology?". The tools we use shape how we think and act, so its time to outline clearly how we want to use the proverbial Pandora's box.
Technology's primary role in our world is to keep people participating in capitalism. When looking at everything from our software and hardware, to our infrastructure this fact is so clear its almost suicide-inducing. Social networking software,to take a particularly awful thing for example, is designed to keep user retention high so that more ads can be clicked and thus more products can be bought. In addition to the ad hustle, the users habits are often tracked to be sold to the frustatingly opaque marketing complex. Many are under the assumption that the main function of such software is to get humans in touch with other humans, but this is simply what is used to attract users. The connection component would be left to atrophy completely if it was not what got folx using these programs in the first place. The design of a computer program like Facebook or Instagram is not geared to what we desire as radicals. Sitting for hours while gazing blankly at the glittering, multi-faceted sides of the spectacle is not the recipe for freedom.
The alienation that requires such absurd software is caused by civilization but this fact does not negate the need to connect to each other. Should we be the kind of anarchists that choose to engage with technology, it would be idiotic not to take the master's tools to build shit that works for us. We must act, while we still have the agency to make alternatives to the commercialized rot! And while I have no illusions that we can transform tech into something that doesn't do a lick of harm, we can look at our needs as anarchists and address them better then what the empire has layed out. We can make good tools that have the form of civlization's technology. Tools that acknowledge our needs as human animals, tools that factor in our organic world and tools that help us fight.
From a purely technical standpoint, D-TECH is distributed or decentralized technology. Rather than having a central point of failure, D-TECH is harder to kill and made by us for us. This is by no stretch of the imagination the final say on how we use our tech, simply a starting point.
But why does technology not being centralized change anything? What gives it place over the tech that anarchists currently use? My firm advocacy for non-centralized technologies stem from their effectiveness and potential, something that originates from their design. And its here I need to make an important statement. A desire for D-TECH is not just the blind hunger for machine systems that are distributed/decentralized in nature. After all, some of the biggest "tech giants" make use of such ideas in their tech. Windows 10 utilizes p2p principles to roll out updates, just to give one example. D-TECH is focused on freedom. For me, having our technology be decentralized is a large part of that, so much so that it is used to name the idea. But the principles of the Free Software Movement, anarchy and Post-civ theory are all heavily considered in what D-TECH is. It is not enough to make some tech decentralized. That technology has to pragmatic, liberating and non-intrusive. The dichotomy that I draw is not "D-TECH v. Centralized Tech" its "D-TECH v. Fucking Garbage". Personally, my only ally is to what works. But lets get back to what makes D-TECH better than regular shit. An excellent place to start is with a software example.
Let's say you wanna watch a brand new documentary. You currently have two options, Netflix or bittorrent. Netflix requires you to purchase a subscription and upon sign-in, greets you with an algorithm designed to suck up as much attention as possible. The software is the one with the goal, not you. Compare this to bittorrent which is *your* tool. You find a magnet link for the documentary, download it and watch. It serves as a means to an end. In addition to the user respect provided by this process, should the state or some other entity find the documentary unsavory; the file is not easily removed as it would be with Netflix. The decentralized nature of the bittorrent protocol makes sure that taking out one node out does not erase the file. Here you can see resiliance, a lack of psychological intrusiveness, practical value to radicals and even ecological benefits(A p2p system is lighter than a massive cluster of servers where the network load isn't distributed amongst nodes). Not to mention that the software can be held accountable due to the open source nature of the code. If you're an anarchist who uses computer software, you'd be a fool to just use some shit like Netflix.
But its not just media distribution, even basic communcations stand to benefit from D-TECH. Current popular methods of messaging people, like discord for instance, are riddled with tracking and dependent entirely on a shady company. Clearly, that is no place to discuss your next attentat or simply to talk without spectator. Not only that, but the quality of conversation is bogged down by gimmicky bullshit crammed in the software. Tech like IRC or richochet.im is simple, straight-forward and built for what most anarchists would want. If your goal is to have a private place for meaningful discussion that is hard to censor or kill, D-TECH is the move. For every software based need, I challenge you to find a way D-TECH couldn't lift that shit up.
Something that is interesting to note is that D-TECH, should it somehow get some adoption amongst anarchists, would change our social models and cultural landscape. Since technology is now inextricably tied to how we connect with each other, reclaiming how our technology is designed will affect how interact socially. Some interesting projects already show this, Secure Scuttle Butt(https://www.scuttlebutt.nz/) for instance is designed to get more meaningful online interaction. And that's just the start! The shit that is coming down the pipeline could really upset the current way anarchists organize and have discourse.
Something that I repeatedly emphasize in this super-serious manifesto is how non-radical tech design fails to consider collapse. Most of tech available could be fucking yeeted by a strong enough storm. Our very internet has gimped itself with its focus on cloud philosophy and grid-reliance.*When* ecological calamity spreads its beautiful wings, one of the main avenues of communcation anarchists use will be useless. D-TECH like mesh-networks,solar tech and compressed air energy storage are far more preferable when you consider collapse. But this is more than just making sure our tools are tough, the natural world we live off of can stand to benefit from the lighter touch that D-TECH could bring. By nature, it keeps the user closer to the impact their behavior has on their greenspaces. Alot of D-TECH forces you to be aware of power usage and other factors that seem like abstract figures when you're deep in the grid. D-TECH can help anarchists keep their respective environments and their Wildness in better shape.
To the programmers, the hackers, the homesteaders, protesters, ecologists, cipherpunks, solarpunks, cyberpunks and anarchists; I suggest you consider this essay into your personal ideas and actions. I'll be waiting for you in eepsites, in TOR and a dozen other places that make my anarchy difficult to snuff out. Make no mistake, the next current of fury and freedom will not be done on a windows laptop.