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.

A story about expressive capacity

On a community currency related Skype chat that I’m a part of, there’s been a conversation that cycles around now and again about how the various national jurisdictions respond to community currencies, how they are likely to try and shut them down (as they did in the 30’s), and what to do about. Arthur Brock responded saying: “I think the most effective way to avoid being shut down (or even taxed for that matter) by the powers that be is to operate using non-monetary currencies that don’t look like money or compete in the same space as money. We use dozens of these a day and they’ll never be able to even attempt to shut all of these types of things down.”

Synchronisticly I had just seen an article on the “The game-based economy” which I think neatly illustrates Arthur’s point. Look closely at what “gamification” actually means in the case studies. It’s the introduction of wealth acknowledgment token systems that account for the wealth being generated by a “game.” Each one of them is actually a different form of a “current-see,” a formal information system that lets the players see the particular current(s), or flow(s) that they can then interact with in particular ways to generate the overall intended outcome of the game. Who is limited in the creation of such current-sees? Nobody. You just do it. (ie. the true meaning of LETS!) But doing it will be much easier if there is an widespread expressive capacity, i.e. a “meta-language” in which to specify and describe the current-sees. The creation of that meta-language, to my mind, is the task of our movement.

Here’s a little story to explain what I mean about the new expressive capacity (meta-language) that is embodied in current-see:

Imagine it’s 3000 years ago and you hear all this griping about the unfairness of those temple scribes who have control of the pictograms. It’s just not fair! The scribes totally abuse their power, they tax us more and more for each letter we want to send, etc.. But we’ve finally understood that their pictograms really aren’t sacred, they’re just arbitrary symbols, any of us could make up our own set and send letters to our families! We should have the right to to do this without the temple thugs coming to get us!

And then when you dig deeper you do see that, even though they’re an elite class, they do serve an important function (maintaining the consistency of meaning) by keeping tabs on each pictogram and making sure they’re drawn correctly etc. And yeah you see that maybe not everybody should be allowed to create pictograms and write with them. Just imagine all the chaos that would ensue if just everybody created their own different drawings for each word. Because then we have to deal with competing meaning systems and maybe we’d better just have one symbol set to learn because that’s more efficient for the scribes because after all, we can’t all spend the time it takes to learn all 100,000 pictograms for all of our words! That’s why there are scribes in the first place!

So maybe we can just start a complementary pictogram (cp) system for the couple thousand words we use here locally! Yah! Let’s do it! And in some places the local temples are cool with that, and in others it’s O.K. as long as you use them only to talk about non-temple business, an in other places they see any different pictograms as a threat and ban them. So then the talk of the cp movement is all about what the laws are in different temple jurisdictions and how to get people to start signing on to new pictogram systems instead of going down to the temple for all their writing needs.. etc.. etc..

And then someone invents the alphabet, a new expressive capacity that completely by-passes the functional reason for centralizing that power to the scribes in the first place. The alphabet makes it truly practical for everyone to learn to read and write because they only need to learn a handful of symbols. Any kid can (and will) do it.

I hope you see how the story above is almost isomorphic to the current financial situation with its elite. And how many of the questions and concerns that people have about community currency relate: Worries about the nation state thugs shutting things down. Questions about what happens if any individual can issue currency. Anger at the banks for monopoly issue, etc. These are all structurally the same as those worries about the scribes. And for structurally the same reason with the same structural solution. An information system was centralized that no longer needs to be when a new expressive capacity at a higher meta-level makes universal “literacy” possible.

Everybody issuing their own current-sees isn’t like everybody creating their own 100,000 picture pictogram system just because they can. It’s like everybody learning a new “wealth alphabet” in which they can begin to speak wealth-acknowledgments to each other in new useful systemic patterns that reveal the flows in communities that actually build wealth.

Literacy is a necessary precursor to democracy in large scale societies. We live in the age before any wealth-acknowledgment-alphabet exists. Thus the political freedom made possible by democracy is not possible in the economic realm. When the wealth-acknowledgment-alphabet comes into existence, then, and only then, will a new form of true economic democracy become possible.

Amathanga ahlanzela abangenamabhodo

There’s a Zulu saying “Amathanga ahlanzela abangenamabhodo,” which means “Pumpkins also multiply for those without pots.” It means that abundance is the natural state of all human beings, but we have to have belief that it can happen and do everything we can all the time to make it happen. You can achieve the impossible, but to do it, you need to see the invisible. We know how many seeds there are in a pumpkin, but we don’t know how many pumpkins there are in a seed.

Upgrading postgres on Snow Leopard (Mac OS X 10.6)

Well, I too have gone down the rabbit hole of having to upgrade compiled-from-source apps to 64bit architecture after moving to Snow Leopard.  The hardest by far was postgres.  The sad thing is that 32bit version works just fine, but the adapter gems for rails don’t, hence the need for the recompile.

Mostly I followed this blog post, but it assumes that you had previously installed postgres using his instructions for Leopard which I hadn’t.

My previous installation was at /usr/local/postgres and these instructions end up installing it at /usr/local/pgsql, so my task also includes getting the data from my previous installation to the new on.

I also took some some hints from this post.

Here’s the blow by blow:

Make a backup of all my data from the 32bit version:

pg_dumpall > /tmp/32-bit-dump.sql

Switch to super user, make a directory for the source (if you haven’t already), download and extract it:

sudo su
mkdir /usr/local/src
cd /usr/local/src
curl -O
tar -zvxf postgresql-8.3.8.tar.gz
rm postgresql-8.3.8.tar.gz

Now configure, make and install it:

cd postgresql-8.3.8
./configure --enable-thread-safety --with-bonjour
make install

Then I followed the instructions from the above mentioned blog on how to make a postgres user, but I did them in a different terminal window because remember the other one we were logged in as root:

“First, you’ll need to find an unused user and group ID. Use the following commands to list the IDs for the users and groups on your system.”

dscl . -list /Groups PrimaryGroupID | awk '{print $2}' | sort -n
dscl . -list /Users UniqueID | awk '{print $2}' | sort -n

“For the purposes of this tutorial, let’s assume an ID of 113 for both the user and the group. Since the convention is to prefix system accounts with an underscore, use the following commands to create a user called _postgres:”

sudo dscl . create /Users/_postgres UniqueID 113
sudo dscl . create /Users/_postgres PrimaryGroupID 113
sudo dscl . create /Users/_postgres NFSHomeDirectory /usr/local/pgsql/
sudo dscl . create /Users/_postgres RealName "PostgreSQL Server"
sudo dscl . create /Users/_postgres Password "*"
sudo dscl . append /Users/_postgres RecordName postgres

“Then, create the _postgres group:”

sudo dscl . create /Groups/_postgres
sudo dscl . create /Groups/_postgres PrimaryGroupID 113
sudo dscl . append /Groups/_postgres RecordName postgres
sudo dscl . create /Groups/_postgres RealName "PostgreSQL Users"

So at this point the binaries are installed and there’s a user to run it under, but I needed to initialize a new database and copy back in my saved data. First create the data and log directories and set perms:

sudo mkdir /usr/local/pgsql/data
sudo chown postgres:postgres /usr/local/pgsql/data
sudo mkdir /usr/local/pgsql/log
sudo chown postgres:postgres /usr/local/pgsql/log

Then I logged in as the _postgres user:

sudo su
su - _postgres

And initialize database files and start up the database:

/usr/local/pgsql/bin/initdb -E UTF8 -D /usr/local/pgsql/data/
/usr/local/pgsql/bin/pg_ctl -D /usr/local/pgsql/data/ -l /usr/local/pgsql/log/postgresql.log start

Finally I restored the data from my initial pg_dumpall

/usr/local/pgsql/bin/psql -U postgres  -f /tmp/32-bit-dump.sql

I’ve also added these lines into my .profile to add the commands to my path and to simplify starting and stopping the database:

export PATH=$PATH:/usr/local/pgsql/bin
export MANPATH=$MANPATH:/usr/local/pgsql/man
alias pg_stop='sudo -u postgres pg_ctl -D /usr/local/pgsql/data stop'
alias pg_start='sudo -u postgres pg_ctl -D /usr/local/pgsql/data -l /usr/local/pgsql/log/posgtres.log start'

And then finally I could install the postgres rails gem (which was the whole point of this silly excercise):

sudo env ARCHFLAGS="-arch x86_64" gem install pg