Law in the Internet Society

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TheoTamayoFirstEssay 3 - 10 Jan 2024 - Main.TheoTamayo
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Magic, the Mind of God, and Those Who Teach 8th Grade

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Necessary Conditions

 
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-- By TheoTamayo - 13 Oct 2023
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-- By TheoTamayo - 10 Jan 2024
 
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The genre of fantasy excites its audience by offering something that reality does not, or at least does not offer enough of: a tantalizing taste of the impossible, a chance to see, hear, or experience something that does not—and maybe cannot—exist. This offering unlocks in some of us a sense or feeling, ridiculous and unreasonable and usually quickly overtaken by rational thought, that maybe our sense of what is possible and what is real is incomplete, imperfect, or completely wrong.
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Reality is where we live. Fantasy is where we escape. It lets us taste the impossible, experience things that do not—and maybe cannot—exist. And we love it, in large part, because by expanding our conception of things that can happen it challenges our perception of things that do. Our fantasies are where we can dream without limits. The word “magic” describes both an inherently inhuman phenomenon and a quintessentially human feeling.
 
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I do not think a single word can quite capture this feeling, but the ones that come closest seem to be “wonder,” “awe,” and “magic.”
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This feeling is powerful. Ideas that trigger it can change the world. But it is also fragile. When Arthur C. Clarke said that “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,” he identified a necessary condition that underlies our ability to feel this feeling: ignorance. We must lack a complete understanding of how and why things happen as they do. When we understand why amazing things happen, we acclimate to them. Anticipate them. Plan them. Become used to and even bored by them. The magic disappears.
 
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I. Now

Dichotomy

This feeling can be powerful. Works of art that effectively provoke it are praised and prized. Religions that instill it in their followers thrive and expand. Ideas, from political theses to scientific theories, that channel it can and do change the world. But it is also fragile. When Arthur C. Clarke said that “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,” he identified a necessary condition that underlies our ability to feel this feeling: ignorance. We must lack a complete understanding of how and why things happen as they do. When we understand why amazing things happen, we acclimate to them. Anticipate them. Plan them. Become used to and even bored by them. When we understand them, amazing objects and occurrences may still impress us. But they do not awe us. The magic has disappeared.
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I think our reality is running low on magic.
 
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Humanity’s collective movement away from ignorance and towards understanding has allowed us to do incredible things. Because we have mastered fire, most people today do not freeze to death in cold climates. We have put a man on the moon, eradicated diseases, and built roads, cities, nations, and civilizations. In this context, the fact that people are no longer awestruck by the sight of controlled flame seems entirely inconsequential.
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Epics

Humanity has embraced understanding, marginalized ignorance, and created tools, systems, and societies to master our environment. That, in doing so, we have fashioned a world in which those who understand more rule over those who understand less seems to be the thesis of this course. We spent a semester learning not just how people with more knowledge of the tools and systems that became the Internet established a frightening grip over the modern world and those who live here, but also how we can use our own knowledge to resist, undermine, and protect ourselves and our loved ones from this hegemony. It often felt like battle training for a war that we had somehow failed to notice raging around us our entire lives. The first version of this piece leaned into this conflict metaphor, describing a fantastical arms race. The downtrodden masses sought to overthrow their powerful, sinister overlords. The dark magic of surveillance-capitalist technology threatened the world’s freedoms, and only through the light magic of storytelling could we find the strength to prevail.
 
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I have become convinced that it is not.
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But since that draft was written, I’ve decided that I misinterpreted the implications of my own argument. Technology empowering us to affect our world to greater and greater degrees has certainly shifted the power dynamics of our societies in favor of those who can wield these new tools. But I now see the status quo as less a simmering conflict than a tense stalemate and magic as a personal rather than social phenomenon.
 
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Conflict

Our collective embrace of understanding, and our use of our intellect to create tools and systems and societies to master our environment, has created a world in which those who understand more rule over those who understand less. At least, that seems to be the thesis of this course. We learn more and more each week about the ways in which people with more knowledge and understanding of the tools and systems that became the Internet have established a frightening grip over the modern world and the lives of the people who live here. Each class, we learn more about how we can resist, undermine, and protect ourselves and our loved ones from this hegemony by augmenting our understanding of those tools and systems.
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Infrastructure

My about-face comes mainly from another look at the nature of modern software. Though it has established itself as the world’s latest object of paramount importance and value, it draws that value from a different source than oil, bronze, and iron once did. Metals formed basic tools, which could defend against threats and secure prizes in simpler times, until we developed new tools, which tamed nature but made us greater threats to each other than nature had been. Petroleum fueled that next generation, the machines that allowed us to tame that environment and to connect and shrink our world. Software inhabits this new, shrunken world, in which the main source of value is extracted not from the environment, but from its inhabitants. It absorbs information about human behavior and uses it to enhance the quality of the human experience of dealing with this world, and it is valuable because people are willing to pay great prices for that improved experience. Depending on their outlooks and means, they may pay in time, money, or freedom.
 
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This is an arms race. The weapons are understanding, knowledge, and capacity to manipulate the increasingly powerful tools that our accumulated progress has enabled us to invent. The stakes are existential. It’s us, the young and ignorant, against the nigh-omnipotent overlords of the new digital world.
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But the fact that software’s value flows from its capacity to gather, organize, and monetize human behavior reveals its fundamental reliance on humanity. We, not nature, are now the mother lode, and software purveyors must balance tapping and preserving us to continue profiting.
 
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II. Then

Defeat

We are told that by the end of the course we will be better informed and therefore better equipped to deal with the problem than the leaders of the world’s nations. But it seems impossible to escape the sinking feeling that we are hopelessly outmatched. No matter how quickly my classmates and I accumulate understanding, we cannot match the Parasite. No matter how much we come to know about how it works, feeds, and perpetuates, we are no closer to killing it. And no matter how much we sound the alarm, the vast majority aren’t listening and those who are listening have been aware of the situation and have become convinced that this is just how things must be.
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Reflection

We have thoroughly failed to recognize that though this dynamic may be novel, the problems it has augmented are classic. Software uses human experience both as fuel—the more powerful and widespread the experience, the farther it can go—and as a metric of value, measuring market power by degree of influence over human behavior. Because software purveyors exist within the systems of competition that structure modern human societies, each piece of software must compete with others to gather and control this critical resource that is simultaneously an input and an output. Human ideas and actions thus control the fate of software, and its evolution reflects our own attitudes.
 
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The hegemony has divided the world into those who remain ignorant and those whose understanding has eroded their capacity to question and challenge their perception of reality.
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The problem is not that we are losing the fight to protect our freedoms against malicious actors trying to ransom them. The problem is that we have come to value the versions of our experiences that they create and sell back to us more than the experiences we have without their contributions. Invasions of privacy, commercialization of daily life, and increasing alienation of individuals are the consequences of our loss of faith in the inherent value of our identities, experiences, and connections. They reflect the fact that we no longer believe in the magic of normal life, or at least don’t believe it is worth more than what we are being sold.
 
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Victory

The aspect of this course I have struggled with most is the apparent incongruity between the scale of the crisis and the reaction of those whose duty it is to address and solve it. How is it possible that no one in a position of public trust and leadership, who are presumably aware of the situation, is panicking about this? An intermediate answer to this question helps me look forward.
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We cannot fight to protect our freedoms and futures until we believe they are worth fighting for.
 
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But as you see with respect to the problem of climate emergency, there is no reason to expect proportionate response to a problem government policy and the relations of capitalism to technology have fostered. There is an intentional, carefully-engineered "no law" system around the lifecycle of the parasite (of which 230 is an important component, as is the absence of a general federal "data protection" statute). Something closer to the relation of arsonist to fire, then, than panic. This doesn't necessarily inhibit my agreement with your analysis, but I think it's quite relevant.

The last decade has demonstrated that people knowing that some new technology is dangerous does not necessarily lead to them changing their behavior to counter it. Future generations must not only be aware that the Parasite exists. They need to know that it is sinister, that it is man-made and man-maintained, and that it is mortal. They need to regain their ability to be awed, and to pair it with a robust understanding of how dangerous their world is and may become. Knowledge can only provide half of that combination. Conviction, fueled and marshaled by a sense of doubt about things that seem immutable facts of life, must provide the rest.

A little more precision about who "ythey" are might help. Perhaps 13-year-olds don't need to concentrate on the sinister. They might better be motivated, perhaps, by curiosity than fear. Soon enough after 13 I saw the dangers, which were perhaps less evident than they are now, But that wasn't what drew me in, and even now in some sense still isn't.

We cannot win an understanding arms race against the Mind of God. We are very lucky that we don’t have to. Our tasks are to educate those who do not know the danger they are in and to de-convert those who have been convinced that it is unavoidable. We prioritize recruiting 8th grade science teachers for the ripple effect they can have in educating the next generations about this state of affairs. I think we should add 8th grade literature teachers to our list of top priority targets. We need shock, awe, and outrage as much as we need knowledge. To restore our capacity for all three, we need to illuminate the shape and parameters of our reality. I think our best tool for that job might be fiction.

We need to remember how magical our world is. And who better to re-install our sense of wonder than those who teach children how to explore made-up worlds in those soon-to-be-obsolete bindings of paper pages?

I'm not sure where the obsolescence is supposed to come from. If it is through bibliocide, then it is like the obsolescence of an assassinated thinker. My own experience, even teaching law students, even in this class, is that people will read books happily, once the ice on them is broken.

I don't think I know how to make the analysis better, probably because I am too much in agreement with it. I think the writing can be improved by removing decoration: let us try a draft less adorned, and perhaps for that reason a tad more forceful.

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Magic

8th grade science and literature teachers each hold one of two keys to the kingdom because it is easier to instill and preserve that belief than to rebuild it from its pieces. We must overcome our own ignorance and resignation, combined into nihilism. Those who will be adults when the point of no return comes must be sufficiently informed to make hard technical decisions and must believe that their lives, experiences, and freedoms have value beyond what profiteers can capture. Neither mastery of technology nor faith that the free, non-digitally-optimized human experience is worth protecting will be sufficient without the other. Both are necessary.
 
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And I want to believe, and think we should all try believing, that both have some magic in them.
 
You are entitled to restrict access to your paper if you want to. But we all derive immense benefit from reading one another's work, and I hope you won't feel the need unless the subject matter is personal and its disclosure would be harmful or undesirable.

TheoTamayoFirstEssay 2 - 03 Jan 2024 - Main.EbenMoglen
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META TOPICPARENT name="FirstEssay"
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It is strongly recommended that you include your outline in the body of your essay by using the outline as section titles. The headings below are there to remind you how section and subsection titles are formatted.
 

Magic, the Mind of God, and Those Who Teach 8th Grade

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Victory

The aspect of this course I have struggled with most is the apparent incongruity between the scale of the crisis and the reaction of those whose duty it is to address and solve it. How is it possible that no one in a position of public trust and leadership, who are presumably aware of the situation, is panicking about this? An intermediate answer to this question helps me look forward.
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But as you see with respect to the problem of climate emergency, there is no reason to expect proportionate response to a problem government policy and the relations of capitalism to technology have fostered. There is an intentional, carefully-engineered "no law" system around the lifecycle of the parasite (of which 230 is an important component, as is the absence of a general federal "data protection" statute). Something closer to the relation of arsonist to fire, then, than panic. This doesn't necessarily inhibit my agreement with your analysis, but I think it's quite relevant.

 The last decade has demonstrated that people knowing that some new technology is dangerous does not necessarily lead to them changing their behavior to counter it. Future generations must not only be aware that the Parasite exists. They need to know that it is sinister, that it is man-made and man-maintained, and that it is mortal. They need to regain their ability to be awed, and to pair it with a robust understanding of how dangerous their world is and may become. Knowledge can only provide half of that combination. Conviction, fueled and marshaled by a sense of doubt about things that seem immutable facts of life, must provide the rest.
Added:
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A little more precision about who "ythey" are might help. Perhaps 13-year-olds don't need to concentrate on the sinister. They might better be motivated, perhaps, by curiosity than fear. Soon enough after 13 I saw the dangers, which were perhaps less evident than they are now, But that wasn't what drew me in, and even now in some sense still isn't.

 We cannot win an understanding arms race against the Mind of God. We are very lucky that we don’t have to. Our tasks are to educate those who do not know the danger they are in and to de-convert those who have been convinced that it is unavoidable. We prioritize recruiting 8th grade science teachers for the ripple effect they can have in educating the next generations about this state of affairs. I think we should add 8th grade literature teachers to our list of top priority targets. We need shock, awe, and outrage as much as we need knowledge. To restore our capacity for all three, we need to illuminate the shape and parameters of our reality. I think our best tool for that job might be fiction.

We need to remember how magical our world is. And who better to re-install our sense of wonder than those who teach children how to explore made-up worlds in those soon-to-be-obsolete bindings of paper pages?

Added:
>
>
I'm not sure where the obsolescence is supposed to come from. If it is through bibliocide, then it is like the obsolescence of an assassinated thinker. My own experience, even teaching law students, even in this class, is that people will read books happily, once the ice on them is broken.

I don't think I know how to make the analysis better, probably because I am too much in agreement with it. I think the writing can be improved by removing decoration: let us try a draft less adorned, and perhaps for that reason a tad more forceful.

 
You are entitled to restrict access to your paper if you want to. But we all derive immense benefit from reading one another's work, and I hope you won't feel the need unless the subject matter is personal and its disclosure would be harmful or undesirable. To restrict access to your paper simply delete the "#" character on the next two lines:

TheoTamayoFirstEssay 1 - 13 Oct 2023 - Main.TheoTamayo
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META TOPICPARENT name="FirstEssay"

It is strongly recommended that you include your outline in the body of your essay by using the outline as section titles. The headings below are there to remind you how section and subsection titles are formatted.

Magic, the Mind of God, and Those Who Teach 8th Grade

-- By TheoTamayo - 13 Oct 2023

The genre of fantasy excites its audience by offering something that reality does not, or at least does not offer enough of: a tantalizing taste of the impossible, a chance to see, hear, or experience something that does not—and maybe cannot—exist. This offering unlocks in some of us a sense or feeling, ridiculous and unreasonable and usually quickly overtaken by rational thought, that maybe our sense of what is possible and what is real is incomplete, imperfect, or completely wrong.

I do not think a single word can quite capture this feeling, but the ones that come closest seem to be “wonder,” “awe,” and “magic.”

I. Now

Dichotomy

This feeling can be powerful. Works of art that effectively provoke it are praised and prized. Religions that instill it in their followers thrive and expand. Ideas, from political theses to scientific theories, that channel it can and do change the world. But it is also fragile. When Arthur C. Clarke said that “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,” he identified a necessary condition that underlies our ability to feel this feeling: ignorance. We must lack a complete understanding of how and why things happen as they do. When we understand why amazing things happen, we acclimate to them. Anticipate them. Plan them. Become used to and even bored by them. When we understand them, amazing objects and occurrences may still impress us. But they do not awe us. The magic has disappeared.

Humanity’s collective movement away from ignorance and towards understanding has allowed us to do incredible things. Because we have mastered fire, most people today do not freeze to death in cold climates. We have put a man on the moon, eradicated diseases, and built roads, cities, nations, and civilizations. In this context, the fact that people are no longer awestruck by the sight of controlled flame seems entirely inconsequential.

I have become convinced that it is not.

Conflict

Our collective embrace of understanding, and our use of our intellect to create tools and systems and societies to master our environment, has created a world in which those who understand more rule over those who understand less. At least, that seems to be the thesis of this course. We learn more and more each week about the ways in which people with more knowledge and understanding of the tools and systems that became the Internet have established a frightening grip over the modern world and the lives of the people who live here. Each class, we learn more about how we can resist, undermine, and protect ourselves and our loved ones from this hegemony by augmenting our understanding of those tools and systems.

This is an arms race. The weapons are understanding, knowledge, and capacity to manipulate the increasingly powerful tools that our accumulated progress has enabled us to invent. The stakes are existential. It’s us, the young and ignorant, against the nigh-omnipotent overlords of the new digital world.

II. Then

Defeat

We are told that by the end of the course we will be better informed and therefore better equipped to deal with the problem than the leaders of the world’s nations. But it seems impossible to escape the sinking feeling that we are hopelessly outmatched. No matter how quickly my classmates and I accumulate understanding, we cannot match the Parasite. No matter how much we come to know about how it works, feeds, and perpetuates, we are no closer to killing it. And no matter how much we sound the alarm, the vast majority aren’t listening and those who are listening have been aware of the situation and have become convinced that this is just how things must be.

The hegemony has divided the world into those who remain ignorant and those whose understanding has eroded their capacity to question and challenge their perception of reality.

Victory

The aspect of this course I have struggled with most is the apparent incongruity between the scale of the crisis and the reaction of those whose duty it is to address and solve it. How is it possible that no one in a position of public trust and leadership, who are presumably aware of the situation, is panicking about this? An intermediate answer to this question helps me look forward.

The last decade has demonstrated that people knowing that some new technology is dangerous does not necessarily lead to them changing their behavior to counter it. Future generations must not only be aware that the Parasite exists. They need to know that it is sinister, that it is man-made and man-maintained, and that it is mortal. They need to regain their ability to be awed, and to pair it with a robust understanding of how dangerous their world is and may become. Knowledge can only provide half of that combination. Conviction, fueled and marshaled by a sense of doubt about things that seem immutable facts of life, must provide the rest.

We cannot win an understanding arms race against the Mind of God. We are very lucky that we don’t have to. Our tasks are to educate those who do not know the danger they are in and to de-convert those who have been convinced that it is unavoidable. We prioritize recruiting 8th grade science teachers for the ripple effect they can have in educating the next generations about this state of affairs. I think we should add 8th grade literature teachers to our list of top priority targets. We need shock, awe, and outrage as much as we need knowledge. To restore our capacity for all three, we need to illuminate the shape and parameters of our reality. I think our best tool for that job might be fiction.

We need to remember how magical our world is. And who better to re-install our sense of wonder than those who teach children how to explore made-up worlds in those soon-to-be-obsolete bindings of paper pages?


You are entitled to restrict access to your paper if you want to. But we all derive immense benefit from reading one another's work, and I hope you won't feel the need unless the subject matter is personal and its disclosure would be harmful or undesirable. To restrict access to your paper simply delete the "#" character on the next two lines:

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Revision 3r3 - 10 Jan 2024 - 20:41:59 - TheoTamayo
Revision 2r2 - 03 Jan 2024 - 16:21:25 - EbenMoglen
Revision 1r1 - 13 Oct 2023 - 15:49:47 - TheoTamayo
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