WikiLeaks and open societies

There’s an important article over on the Radical Philosophy website about Assange and WikiLeaks. Besides having interesting things to say about cryptography, slowness, conspiracy, and graph theory, it’s got this really nice summation of what WikiLeaks is really about:

WikiLeaks, in the long run, is meant as a way of filtering good/‘open’ organizations from bad/‘secret’ ones, creating an inhospitable environment in which to be secret, and thereby improving governance. Assange is not the nihilistic wrecker-of-civilization fantasized by the American right (who seem to have at last found the Bond villain their impoverished understanding of the world has led them to look for). His work reflects an attitude of intensely moral empiricism, empowered by a programmer’s toolkit for abstraction and breaking big problems into smaller ones. The politics of WikiLeaks is a cybernetic politics, with built-in, auto-correcting feedback loops that tend a society towards transparent institutions and accurate information, because the cost of conspiratorial secrecy is pushed disproportionately high.

This paper also quotes Assange:

Society has grown beyond our ability to perceive it accurately. Our brains are not adapted to the environment in which we find outselves [sic]. We can’t predict important aspects of our societal environment. It’s not designed to run on our brains. We’re maladapted. In our evolutionary history we spent a lot of time tracking the behavior and reputations of small number of people we saw frequently. If we want some of the social benefits that a small society brings then we need computational crutches so when A fucks over B any C considering dealing with A will know. A society that can ‘think’ in this way is able to route goodness to people who do good and away from those people who generate hurt. The decision as to what is good is too complicated to be formulated in regulation and elections are a very coarse expression of what people think is good. Any paper formulation will put power in the hands of a political and technocratic elite. Robust routing decisions must be made by individuals and individuals need tools to manage complexity enough so they can make them effectively in a modern society. — Julian Assange ‘Transparency in the cold light of Finland’, post on, 30 July 2006.

Which is a really nice recognition for the need for holopticism.

It’s a long paper, but worth the read.

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