The Internet as Result of a Negative Feedback Loop Against Centralisation


By Mustela nivalis

In a comment under my post about how it was ‘the internet wot won it’, meaning that it stopped some insane thugs from insanely intervening violently in that nest of vipers which is called Syria, Sean Gabb wrote:
I keep asking myself what would have happened in July 1914 if we’d had the Internet. One thing for sure is that the idiots in charge wouldn’t have had such an easy ride to Armageddon.
The interesting point I think is this: Without WWI and everything that followed there would not have been an internet. There needed to be a longish historical phase of intense worldwide centralization before a decentralizing force appeared.
Remember that whenever libertarians celebrate the ‘libertarian’ nature and effects of the internet, it doesn’t take long for some poor old statist (POS) to point out that it actually was the state that developed the internet. They are wrong in that sense that the market picked up the various state sponsored and induced inventions and gave them legs. But they are right in one sense: The internet’s precursor, Arpanet, was designed by the US government to counter the threat of a ‘decapitation’ of their military’s command structure with a nuclear strike on a few command centres.
The nuclear bomb however is a baby, maybe the most significant baby, certainly the most potent symbol, of the last 100 years of centralisation. The development of the bomb was also the result of a large centralisation of resources – the Manhattan Project. A Germany with a strongly centralized fascist command economy might have been the first, had it not been distracted by fighting with practically everyone else at the same time. Not before the US had become proto-fascist could they seriously start developing the bomb.
Here’s my point though: Intense centralization brought forth an instrument (the bomb) which, due to the nature of the damage it could inflict on the now existing centralised structure forced the centralisers to develop an instrument of decentralisation – the Arpanet. Because decentralisation is by its nature beneficial to human development (see anywhere where a little bit of market freedom is permitted), people started using it for all kinds of other purposes, starting with exchange of research results. Within state funded systems, this usage culminated in the famous CCTV image of the coffee machine down the corridor somewhere.
Anyway, once it escaped the narrow confines of statists’ imagination, the internet exploded onto the world, and today’s rulers are only just beginning to react to what started hitting them two decades ago. The Monica Lewinski case was a first warning shot. There have been many more since. And not just sex scandals that TPTB would rather you didn’t know about. There is the (ongoing) Ron Paul Revolution, the Tea Party, and in the western world in general an initial rejection of left-wing political narratives (though not yet of the more crucial cultural propaganda).
My contention is that all this would not have happened without the bomb. And the bomb would not have happened without the long trend towards centralisation which started sometime in the 19th century. It started as a reaction against those pesky classical liberals whose policy of freeing up the economy meant that people who didn’t know their place could rise up through the ranks of society with impunity. A new stage of centralisation was fired in 1914 and pushed us through the sound barrier of reason all the way to Dresden, Auschwitz and Hiroshima. (I’m not mentioning the Gulag because I’m talking about ‘western’ deeds here.)
This is the good news: it seems humanity is endowed with some kind of negative feedback loop which protects it against too extreme centralisation. Extreme centralisation, leading to the bomb, meant that for the first time since the invention and application of gun powder, political and military leaders were forced back into the front line. No-one can escape the effects of an all-out nuclear war. Therefore, none has happened – so far. But because it could happen, the Arpanet was developed. And the rest is history.
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4 responses to “The Internet as Result of a Negative Feedback Loop Against Centralisation

  1. gerrydorrian66

    I agree about centralisation, but you might also say that the Bomb was another development in the line stretching straight from the French being forced into a humiliating treaty that founded the German Empire at the Palace of Versailles in January 1871, at the close of the Franco-Prussian War. But that war might not have come about had France from Richelieu onwards not pursued such an agressive policy of preventing the German states from uniting. But the internet will soon be bludgeoned into state control, I’m sure, and then the whole process will start again with pamphlets and freesheets.

  2. Re state control:
    Is there such a thing as an accessible and practical uncrackable code for internet users?

    • Probably not, but it may not matter – I really doubt if the authorities are wasting their time on watching us.

    • It’s probably possible to make communications practically obfuscated. The problem is that anyone using such technology is putting up a red flag to the State to the effect that they have “something to hide”, and thus likely to get raided by the boot boys.

      Hindsight is a wonderful thing. Had people in the 1970s known what the internet would become, and cared to make it bombproof, they could have built in obfuscatory protocols from the outset, thus making it intrinsically uncontrollable. But nobody thought of that when it was just a means of connecting some academic computer networks together. And it’s too late now.

      There is a general rule really; anyone with an invention that is liable to be perceived as a challenge to State or special interests needs to recognise that from the outset and have strategies and technologies ready, preemptively, for the assaults which will inevitably come. But they never do. There is too much naivete. People and companies just hope that the Eye Of Sauron will not fall upon them, and have little or no response when it does.

      It is sad to reflect that in the late 90s, and into the 2000s indeed, many people believed that somehow the internet was intrinsically uncontrollable, and uncensorable- there was a nonsense slogan about it “routing around censorship”- and it was even considered by many that ISPs should be seen as neutral carriers not responsible for content, etc. Ten years ago or more I was trying to say to people that this was not the case and the State would come after the internet, in the fullness of time, and neuter it.

      We are now plunging into that stage, particularly here in the UK. It is very sad to be able to say, “I told you so”.