Talking copyright, internet freedom, artistic business models, and antitrust with Steal This Show
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August 7, 2018
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«In this episode we meet Cory Doctorow, sci-fi author and co-founder of Boing Boing. Cory’s most recent book, Walkaway, is a story of refusing a life of surveillance and control under a high-tech oligarchy and the struggle to live in a post-scarcity gift economy where even death has been defeated.Over this one hour plus interview we discuss:
- Whether filesharing & P2P communities have lost the battle to streaming services like Netflix and Spotify, and why the ‘copyfight’ is still important
- How the European Copyright Directive eats at the fabric of the Web, making it even harder to compete with content giants
- Why breaking up companies like Google and Facebook might be the only way to restore an internet — and a society — we can all live with.
After taking a detour into Cory’s views on cryptocurrency and Bitcoin’s chances of ”bailing out’ an economy saturated with fictitious money, we move onto discussing Walkaway and a future of ‘Fully Automated Luxury Communism’ versus one of mega-rich plutocrats (think Bezos) controlling the economy — and our lives — via massive machine empires. How do we exit from a scenario in which machines make everything plentiful — but none of them are owned by us?»
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Welcome to steal the show. The podcast brings you a truly renegade look at the information revolution. From pirates and gonzo technologists to media radicals and DIY creators, we report from the frontlines of a digital resistance hosted by me, Jaime King, and presented by Torrent freak.
In this episode, we meet Cory Doctorow, sci-fi author and co-founder of Boing Boing. Cory's most recent book, Walkaway, is a story of refusing life of surveillance and control under a high-tech oligarchy, and the struggle to live in a post scarcity gift economy. We discuss whether file sharing and peer to peer communities have lost the battle to streaming services like Netflix and Spotify; and whether the copy fight is still important; how the European copyright directive eats at the fabric of the web, making it even harder to compete with content giants; and why breaking up companies like Google and Facebook might be the only way to restore internet and a society we can all live with. After taking a detour into Cory's views on cryptocurrency and bitcoins chances of bailing out an economy saturated with fictitious money, we move on to discussing Walkaway and a future of fully automated luxury communism versus one of mega rich plutocrats like Jeff Bezos controlling the economy and our lives via massive machine empires. How do we exit from a scenario in which machines make everything plentiful, but none of them are owned by us?
[Ad and plug for Steal This Show's Patreon]
[02:16] Jamie I'm here with Cory Doctorow. So first Cory, could you quickly introduce yourself? Believe it or not, I told one of my patreons that I was interviewing you and he said 'who's that?', which surprised me. So I have to assume that at least a few people won't know who you are. Can you give us a potted biography?
[02:33] Cory Sure. Well, it's a big world with a lot of people on it. I'm not surprised in the slightest. "Famous for fifteen megabytes", and all that. My name's Cory Doctorow, I'm a science fiction novelist. I am one of the owners of a website called Boing Boing. I work part time for the Electronic Frontier Foundation. I'm a journalist and a pretend academic. I have appointments at Open university and MIT Media Lab and the UNC library school.
[02:57] Jamie One of the things I wanted to just launch off with was something that connects us, you and I, in terms of work we've both been interested in over the years, is around peer to peer file sharing, the so called copyfight, of which you – I think it's fair to say – where more interested in the kind of Creative Commons ideas around authorized sharing and I was more interested in the unauthorized sharing and copying. I'm curious, partially because this is a podcast which is produced in conjunction with TorrentFreak, to know what your take is as of today on file sharing, and peer to peer technologies. Do you still feel like peer to peer file sharing are important in a world where largely Netflix and Amazon and so on has taken over delivering media – and it seems to me that a lot less people are engaging in file sharing, a lot less people find it a critical part of their lives.
[03:53] Cory So I think that this probably should be divided into two separate conversations. One is "what are the benefits of more liberal copyright regime and letting people make works accessible, especially works that have historically been non-acceptable, works that were out of print or circulation, that came back when file-sharing kicked off." You know, there's a wonderful stat that eighty percent of all the music ever recorded was not available in the stream of commerce when Napster started and almost all of it came back, plus or minus, within just a few months. So that's one conversation we can have. And it's one that I think, as an artist and someone who cares about culture, is important.
04:30 But a much, much more important conversation is "given that there is no plausible way that we can reduce how easy it is to copy stuff on the internet, and given that the cultural industries have found themselves with this enormous, outsized political clout, and that they're unwilling to accept that fact, how much damage are we going to do to the nervous system of the 21st century – which is to say the internet – in the name of trying to make copying harder – which is a task that's like making water less wet?"
05:02 Jamie It's sort of one of the problems where the peer to peer and file sharing networks set a bar. They showed what the industry had to do to keep people satisfied, right? They have to give you a kind of spigot of semi decent content available 24/7, much less restrictions, much cheaper and so on. And they did it. And broadly speaking, don't they seem to have won? In the sense that what they've provided has turned a lot of people off file-sharing, off self run networks and back onto something that looks very much like the previous power relation, in terms of being served and grabbing whatever you're given. And then obviates the need for the industry to worry about whether it's in the form of more restrictive network policies, DRM and stuff. Doesn't it look a bit like they've won?
05:51 Cory Well, if they're the victors they're certainly not acting like it. They're certainly acting like there's big battles to be fought. I mean, as we record this in late July we've just come off of this huge, bitter, ugly, terrible fight about the future of copyright in the European Union, that is by no means over. I mean, we won this tiny, little victory, which is the victory of having these drastic changes to the internet debated. Because originally they were just going to be passed without any debate. And we have yet to see what the outcome of that debate is going to be. And given that, for example, Paul McCartney came out and said 'anyone who doesn't side with breaking the internet is anti artist and just wants to make Google as rich as possible' it doesn't feel like the entertainment industry has declared victory and has now ushered in this golden era.
06:38 Jamie That's true. But is that not possibly because the problem has been solved – maybe partially solved – for consumers, who now have access to Spotify. It really is nearly good enough. There's not much you don't get on Spotify. Okay, Netflix is not good enough for me. But the artist is fucked by Spotify. So they're still complaining.
06:57 Cory I think you're frame is too narrow. Here's another version of the story that starts a long time before Napster. It starts around 1980. So around 1980 Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher got together with the Chicago school economists and decided that we didn't need antitrust enforcement anymore. And that the only time we should have antitrust enforcement is when there was price fixing to fix a minimum price. But maximum prices, or market consolidation, all those other things, those are all fine, because they gave consumers lower prices, and that's really the only thing a consumer had an interest in. Not variety, not competition, just lower prices. The only reason we wanted any of those other things was to make prices lower.
07:37 So the industries that existed to that point, including the entertainment industry, were staffed by people whose industrial training had been in an era in which antitrust was meaningful. And they had instincts trained by that era. So whenever someone in the boardroom would say 'I know, let's buy all of our competitors and make just one big company,' they would say 'that's a crazily dumb idea. We'll spend all of our time in litigation with antitrust regulators. We can't do that.' Meanwhile, along comes tech. And tech's boardrooms where full of people who had newly minted law degrees, and had never had the experience of going through a long painful, antitrust inquiry. And whenever their callow 18-34 man-child bosses said, 'hey, let's buy all of our competitors and do a bunch of other really anti competitive stuff,' their response was 'that sounds great to me, let's go do it, why not?' And so it's not that tech was full of people who were greedier, it was just full of people who weren't scarred by effective regulation. And so they didn't have the instincts of drawing back from the limits of where that regulation had been.
08:39 And so here we are, 40 years later. The music industry, and the whole entertainment industry, has basically caught up with tech when it comes to anti competitive behavior – see also Disney buying FOX. The tech industry, after 40 years of lather, rinse, repeat anti competitive behavior, has become one of the most consolidated industries since the railroads. And they're impedance matched. So when the first rules against personal streaming radio came down – you know the early years of personal streaming radio in the US were defined by these very low royalty rates that went straight to the artists and that were designed to encourage a multiplicity of channels. So you had people like David Byrne starting their own channels, just cool, weird music that they had that they wanted to share with other people. When the royalty board sat to formalize the royalty rate that had been set temporarily very low to see what would happen, the record industry successfully pushed for a royalty rate that was so high that it would drive all streaming radio companies out of business, which it did the.
09:36 The RIAA executive that I spoke to about this said, 'our goal is to not have statutory royalty set. Our goal is to take the chaos of the industry now, where you have millions of people streaming radio from their basements, and reduce it to three or four big companies that we can sit with across the boardroom table with and negotiate rates that makes sense for all of us.' Think of it as the last scene from Animal Farm, when you look from the pigs to the men, to the men to the pigs, and you can't tell the difference anymore. That's what's happened with big tech and big content. They're basically the same industry. And so as you say, the artists aren't doing particularly well under this regime. You know, the people who run Spotify and Pandora and the rest will be at pains to tell you, correctly, that they send billions of dollars to the big four record labels every year since the big four record labels trousers[??] at all. And so they've arrived at an arrangement that kind of works for everyone. I mean, obviously the big four would prefer that more billions went to their pockets, and big streaming would prefer that they didn't have to send so much royalties, but neither of them are particularly exercised about whether or not the the artists are getting a share of that money, particularly, except tactically. "Big streaming" wants you to know that when beloved music artists rail against streaming media, that you should be directing your ire at the people they face across the negotiating table from the record labels, and not at them. And the people from the record labels just want you to know that "big tech" is keeping all the money and spending it on hoodies and scooters.
10:59 The [??] needs to be wide enough to admit that there's a thing called "late stage capitalism" here, that is much more significant than whether we have one copyright regime or another, and also is actually a pretty good predictor of why we have one copyright regime or another. If you want to know how it is that copyright emerges, it doesn't emerge in a vacuum, it emerges against this backdrop of power politics.
11:21 Jamie I certainly can see in that set up that the pressure could still come from the artists – they could be radicalized by the feeling, real or imagined, that they're not making enough money pr stream – but the pressure doesn't seem to becoming –At least not to the extent that it was – from rabidly sharing communities of enthusiasts. Whether they were pushing out unauthorized streams or low paid streams, or whether they're sharing their shit on Audio Galaxy. I just have the feeling that that moment has passed.
11:53 Cory I think we can imagine different ways of addressing this, that are not mutually exclusive, but that deal with different scenario. One you might call the 'jam today' scenario, which is 'how can we arrange things so that, given the current power relations, artists have as much leverage as possible to extract as much money as possible from the system as it exists?' And then the next one is, 'how can we be sure that in the future artists have more negotiating leverage and that they are in solidarity with other efforts to reduce the hegemony of a few giant companies?'
12:26 Because the other thing about these companies is that even though they're technically all different companies, they have the same major shareholders. They're not different companies per se. I mean to the extent that we believe in the myth of fiduciary duty and shareholder capitalism, and 'the board is managing on behalf of their shareholders'; they're managing on behalf of almost identical groups of people. It's different factions within the one percent playing off against each other. So let's talk about what an immediate solution could look like.
12:56 So an immediate solution would be one that allowed artists to claim back as much of their copyright from publishers, when it came to streaming media, as possible. For legacy artists, there's actually a really useful feature of US copyright law, which is that after 35 years, regardless of your contractual arrangement, you have the power to revert your music to you. And a whole ton of artists, who got really badly shafted in the early days of iTunes, have figured out how to go back to their labels and get their copyrights back, or even just threatened to get their copyrights back, such that their labels are now forced to cough up a much bigger slice of what's coming out of the streaming media payment pool. That's the thing that can immediately improve the lot of artists, and actually does something to weaken the lot of the big labels. Because to the extent that you have these items making an exodus from the label's catalog, the labels have less to monetize overall.
13:53 But in the long-term, what can we do to improve the negotiating leverage of the artists who haven't made it yet? Because of course, all of these are artists who've already made it. Anyone who's music is still being played 35 years later is in a kind of musical 1% – this almost unmeasurable minority of people who signed a record label deal who's music still has any commercial life 35 years later. How can we improve the lot of musicians early on? Well, there are a bunch of things. You can make inalienable rights, so you can have certain rights that can't be alienated through contract, like a right to collect a minimum percentage of all those royalties. I mean, copyright law doesn't come down off a mountain on two stone tablets. It says whatever we want it to say. So we can write new stuff.
14:31 Jamie I guess what I'm asking is how important is it now? Because if you look at somebody like somebody like Tekashi 6ix9ine or any of the guys who come up on Soundcloud or YouTube. It's just in a different galaxy in terms of the way copyright functions, because they throw their tapes up on YouTube or Soundcloud or whatever, they're copied endlessly, they're played endlessly, they're just not file shared, and then they make money from brand sponsorship and wearing certain clothes in the stream.
15:02 Cory You know, the lesson of the last 40 years is that just because you're on their side, that doesn't mean they're on your side. So these guys may love YouTube and Spotify, but YouTube and Spotify have a purely instrumental relationship with them. If they can figure out a way to squeeze them for more, they will. And also if they have to throw them under the bus to protect their core business, they will.
15:20 Jamie Yes, and that's exactly what Netflix has done, right? It's used the attention that it aggregated based off the work of whatever film directors and producers and companies, and now it's making its own stuff. It doesn't need those production companies anymore.
15:32 Cory Let's take a more immediate example, let's talk about article 13 in the EU copyright directive that was voted on July 5th, and will be voted on again on September 11th. Since that's the thing that people who are listening to this can actually do something about. Under article 13 the big entertainment companies are arguing that anyone who has a platform where the public can make a copyrighted work available – and that is without limitation, that's code on GitHub, that's skins for your MineCraft avatar, that's music, that's video, that's text, that's comments on a message board – you have an obligation to solicit databases of copyrighted works and then to filter everything that the public submits to make sure that they don't appear to be a match or a near match for a copyrighted work and block them if they are.
16:19 Google has something like this, called contentID. It cost them 60 million dollars to build and it only filters the audio tracks of videos. So if you're going to build one for multiple content types, ballpark it at 300 million dollars. So the table stakes for starting a competitor to Google are about to go up to 300 million. and Google first preferences for this is for it not to exist, but their second preference is for it to exist. Because if it exists, then that means that they don't have to keep buying these inconvenient startups that might challenge YouTube, instead those people just have to go and get a job at YouTube and make that a YouTube product from the start. Your ability to play one company off against another goes down the more concentrated the industry is. But more importantly, these automated filters are going to block a hell of a lot of stuff, including anything that makes use of samples. They're not capable of adjudicating Fair Use and Fair dealing. But also they're just going to have false positives like crazy. And if you're Universal Music, you'll have the phone number of a friend at YouTube you can call up to get your false positives unblocked. But if you're some random person in your basement, hoping to someday build a big enough following that you can get that hot sponsorship money, you're shit out of luck.
17:26 Jamie This is slightly out of range, but I've noticed this happening already, obviously on YouTube. These false positives are already there. And there are plenty of content creators, for the both that reason and the reason of just censorship in favor of advertisers preferences, talking a lot about leaving. So you're too right wing, you said 'fuck' too many times, you're using clips of copyrighted content, or a bit of music, or talking about something Google doesn't, like then they shut you down on YouTube, and a lot of guys are talking about moving to other networks. And that kind of interests me, it makes me think – probably this reveals my political preference – but that makes me think 'Ok, if they create a situation that's no longer palatable, then actually you'll get some movement, you'll get some change, you'll get people using tools…'
18:16 Cory Well, that presumes that there's somewhere for them to go.
18:18 Jamie There are places for them to go. There's all these networks that are being built; IPFS and TOR… But nobody's using them.
18:26 Cory Yeah, but there's also some huge problems with them. Like, they are more likely to be blocked by national firewalls. You're calling me from the UK, where they had the great firewall of Cameron, that blocks things that are alleged to be infringing. They're more likely to be blocked on corporate networks. They don't have returns to scale. They certainly don't have a hundred million dollars or 300 million dollars to build a copyright filter if article 13 passes. Nor do they have anyone to send to Brussels to lobby against it. And I can tell you that for sure, because I called all of those people in the run up to the vote on July 5th and said, 'oh my God, please send whoever you've got to Brussels to do something about this before you know, dumb eurocrats destroyes the internet' and they were like 'uuh?' So, yes, but again, that's kind of a 'good jam today' strategy, but our 'jam tomorrow strategy' has got to be to make sure that there's a competitive landscape in which other firms and community projects can come into existence.
19:18 Like what kind of compliance rules can we make? Because I think we do need compliance rules for Google and for the other big tech platforms. Not least about all this account disconnection stuff which now we're saying 'oh, well, you disconnected me for dropping the f bomb too much', but you just had Twitter announce that they disconnected some ungodly number of accounts that they claimed where Russian bots. But there's no due process. We don't get to see their working. And fair enough, if you're a private company you get to decide who gets to use your service. I get to kick people off the Boing Boing message boards for being dick heads. But when you're the only game in town it takes on a different complexion.
19:52 Jamie Exactly. When your service is expanded to look more like the service of the government. I saw one guy complaining he had a shitty Airbnb experience recently. He was complaining that he got kicked off Airbnb for complaining on Google or some such thing – complaining in a forum that he wasn't supposed to complain in – and now he can't use it. And suddenly you reflect 'shit, that wouldn't be great if I could never use Airbnb again'.
20:18 Cory The problem here, as you say, is scale. I always have these imaginary conversations in my head with the people who founded these companies. Some of them are old friends of mine or people who went to work for them early on. And they say 'well, what do you want us to do? You wouldn't tolerate that if it were your enterprise that was being targeted that way.' And my answer in my imaginary conversations is 'you have a choice: you can be smaller, or you can be more regulated.' The king's shilling here is that when we let you get away with the kind of stuff that would historically have been a massive antitrust violation – like growing too crazy scale, like buying all your competitors, like using predatory pricing to force nascent competitors out of the market, and so on – the quid pro quo is that you have to take on some rules. But then the question is, how do we craft rules that don't strangle competitors, potential competitors and non market based, Commons based, peer production actors in the cradle, before they can grow up to challenge the hegemony of these firms?
21:19 How do we stop from ending up in what I call the 'constitutional monarchy', which is when we stop believing that someday we'll have a democracy that will dethrone Google, and instead we crown Google king for all eternity. And then the aristocracy, in the form of the EU or other governments, get together and ask for some minor limits on the otherwise unlimited, permanent authority of king Google.
21:42 Jamie I think that's what the EU thinks it's doing with the copyright directive[?]. They did it with VAT payments, right? They where pissed, quite rightly, that Amazon's not paying any taxes, and they decided to enforce the companies who where selling digital products had to charge VAT in each country. And it was a complete pain in the ass for the platforms. You know, if you're a little platform it was extremely onerous.
22:05 Cory Sure, yeah!
22:06 Jamie The reasons they were trying to do it where legit. Amazon wasn't paying any tax. I wonder if they think they're doing that now. They think they're trying to get at YouTube, and stop them from profiting from the quote, unquote "entertainment industry's stuff". They're not thinking about how it will affect smaller platforms, individuals and communities, I don't think.
22:25 Cory Yeah. This is back to a kind of a 'regulatory capture' story. So Facebook and Google and Amazon's first preference was not to pay VAT at all, but their second preference was to pay VAT in a way that would cost them a few weeks worth of coding, but would cost everybody else the ability to be profitable. So for example, I have an e-bookstore where I sell all my books in e-book form and audio book form on behalf of my publishers. So I trouser the 30% that Jeff Bezos would normally get, remit the remainder to my publisher, they take 25% of what I send them and send it back to me as the royalty. So I'm the retailer and the author. It's a great deal. I don't have to sell a whole lot to make a reasonable amount of money, because I'm getting twice as much money by selling that way than I do selling through Amazon. And I paid to build this store, paid some software developers fair wage. But along comes VAT rule and the VAT rule was so onerous because it had no minimum requirement before reporting. If you collect one pence of VAT in Slovakia, you have to remit a report. So my first quarter, I spent 700 pounds in accounting fees to remit 17 pounds in VAT. And that was a solution that only Amazon could love, because it meant that the only way I could have a profitable business would be to sell my books through Amazon instead of selling them myself.
23:45 So we can imagine rules that would put limits on the power of something like Facebook or Google, or force them to conduct their affairs in a better way, without allowing them to craft rules that drive all nascent competitors and independents out of business. And that's the key. And that's the gloss that's often missing when you hear people say, 'this regulation is crazy'. Particularly in this fight about the copyright directive, there's a lot of like, 'oh, you Silicon Valley libertarians with your California ideology, you just hate regulation.' And we're just saying, 'no, we like regulation that puts limits on the power of giant companies instead of regulations that create these cozy oligarchies where giant companies meet across tables and smoke-filled rooms and make it up.' Because, of course, the reality was that Google and Twitter and Facebook weren't ever gonna build a filter that satisfied all those requirements. What they were gonna do was end up sitting down across the table from News Corp and Disney and the other major rights holders and craft a memo of understanding that would set out their approximation of it. Because the thing that the law called for was impossible.
24:49 Jamie It makes me wonder, I'm sort of a known hammering the same point. I promise I'm gonna move on the minute. But I was making a few videos and experimenting with putting them up on on YouTube. And I realized that you could start to get a feel for what would be a permitted file – What kind of film, what kind of [??] film, made from cut up, would be permitted on YouTube. And it made me think that is the law now. Whatever they've negotiated as the minimum [??]. You could make a film, for sure, and put it on YouTube, and that film will survive and it will not get taken down, and it does not comply at least with a maximal interpretation of copyright law, and I find that pretty interesting.
25:32 Cory I think you're being too optimistic. Because laws are created through democratic deliberation. That's not a law, because the law is subject to change without notice. You will find that exact phrase, "subject to change without notice", in the terms of service that you click through that tell you what you can and can't put up. So if code is law, it's a very different kind of law. Anyone who built a business on Google search ranking, who found that one day, the thing that Google did to up rank you was a thing that they punished the next day knows that this isn't law.
[Note: At this point in the conversation they start talking about crypto currencies in a way that I don't find that relevant. Since there's a million things to transcribe on this wiki, I've chosen to jump over this part. But I've moved the machine transcription of this to the bottom. Feel free to jump down and fixing this part of the transcript if you want!]
36:25 Cory Getting back to the abolition of antitrust. For me, the original sin is not monetarism, it's the elimination of antitrust regulation, because as companies get really big, especially as banks get really, really big; first of all, the only people qualified to regulate them will inevitably have spent a lot of time working for them. Once they're that big understanding their ins and outs requires that you already have been employed by one of the major entities that you're likely to be regulating and also who are going to give you a job when you're out either directly or indirectly. We need to make banks smaller. There's no question about it, and there's actually some pretty good practical regulatory suggestions for that.
36:59 Tim Harford, who does The Undercover Economist in the Financial Times wrote it in a book. He had a suggestion based on the collapse of Lehman where he said it took five years to unwind Lehman when they collapsed. And the reason for that is Lehman was made up of 6000 sub companies in 180 countries, that have been constituted in order to avoid regulation. So he said, 'well, what regulation could we have made that would've made Lehman smaller and more transparent and less powerful and less risky?' And the answer was to impose on every big bank, a capital reserve requirement equal to the number of months we estimate it would take to unwind them based on stress tests. So you send an inspector in and you say, 'oh, it's gonna take five years. You're gonna have to take five years full operating capital and stick it in a savings account at a quarter of a percent interest and leave it there. You can't leverage it and you can't lend it, and you can't put it to work.' And Lehman would very quickly figure out how to be a small, nimble, transparent, easy to unwind company if you gave it those incentives. So that's again back to "jam today, jam tomorrow." That's "jam today" answer that gives us a Lehman and a Bear Stearns and a Goldman Sachs that's much easier to regulate. And then once we have smaller easier to regulate industries, we can start unwinding some of the monetary corruption. We can move towards a more modern monetary theory footing and away from a kind of oligarch monetarism and start putting limits on the power of these industries.
[Note: The rest of the conversation is interesting enough, but is not that relevant for digital rights, IMHO, and so I've decided to not spend the time transcribing it. Feel free to do it bellow if you like.]
Unfinished parts[edit | edit source]
26:07 Moving along to the second thing I wanted to ask you before we get to the book. I just wanted to cook. You ask you because I haven't seen you post a lotta by it, but obviously you did some fiction work around something like a cryptocurrency. Will she in one of the books? And I'm just curious what you think about the state of cryptocurrency. I, the bitcoin theory won't be owned as it relates to the whole question of Piazza Pia production. Just what? What's your take on the state of crypto right now? Well, I think that, like again, this is a question with a bunch of different facets, like how do I think about a technically? Well, I think that there's a lot of technical problems with proof of work as a. Technical idea. There's a British cryptographer works for Google while now he works for deep mind call. Ben is very respected cryptographer who has published a lot of really compelling stuff on why proof of work is not a great idea. And you know, a kind of thumbnail sketch of that argument is that proof of work is about assuming rational, economic actors. So you're saying, okay, no one would spend a million dollars to steal five hundred thousand dollars. And since we know how much computation costs and we know how much the blockchain protects. We can always make sure that it costs more to blow up the blockchain than you could get from blowing up the blockchain. So first of all, all of those assumptions are grounded in a lack of all. Attila that is manifestly not. They're like bitcoin valuation. Like if you look volatility in the dictionary, you find that little picture of a bitcoin, right? So you know from second second minute to minute, the value of owning the blockchain keeps changing then the cost of computation also super subject to change, not least because stealing computation turns out to be a lot easier than anyone expected because they're never been an economic.
00:27:44 Incentive to steal computation from people. And so no one had ever bothered to armor that side. It's like you have an ATM that has steel walls on five sides, and then the other side is just protected by the vault door because it opens straight into the volt. And so you don't have a well there. We just had a guy on the last show token about people doing lush show, but one on bought nets and the crypto, I think cryptocurrency is now the second most used feature of botanists to make money. Right? And then, yeah, someone goes ahead and like removes the vault. And so now you've got an ATM that's armored on five sides with the world's greatest armor. And on the six side, it's just open to the street. Right? And so it security economics, one really. There are lots of parallels to this like the sim jacking attacks that have been in the news lately, you know, phone companies assume that the rational actors who wanted to steal your phone number wanted to do. So in order maybe to make some untraceable calls or a little free long distance, they never understood or assumed or predicted that stealing your phone number would let you intercept two factor authentication codes that would open a bitcoin wallet worth a million dollars. So now they have to worry about adversaries who are willing to spend a million dollars to attack SIMS, which you know they're going to be playing, catch up on that forever. So yeah, there's this dimension. There's volatility volatility in the security picture, and then there's people who have just a completely different set of incentives. Right? So the Chinese government wants to control capital flight by its robber baron class. And you know, eighty percent of Chinese millionaires have a second passport. All of their money is locked up in Chinese banks. They wanna converted to Fiat currencies from outside the renminbi. And so for a long time, a couple of years ago, ninety percent of real money traits with crypto currencies were in and out of renminbi. So people just engaged in capital flight. Well, if you're the Chinese government and you read about trillions of dollars in capital flight, it might be worth spending billions of dollars over the odds to crash the blockchain, right? So again, like the security model, the threat model of proof of work assumes that your adversary has the same incentives that you do. It's manifestly untrue. It also assumes that the value.
00:29:44 Marketplace is not volatile also manifestly untrue. And so those are big problems. Few woods about sponsor. This deal is show private internet access. Now, since you're a listener of this show, you probably know what a VPN is an, you know, you really should be using one to secure internet connection and guarantee all the data you're sending and receiving is encrypted and secured from prying eyes, but have you actually chosen a service yet? Well, check out private internet access. It's one of the most popular VPN's out there, and that's because it's one of the best hackers government spies turns out, we'll these threats are real and not just something we see in the movies PI will protect you from these and also from the mall, Cullman even more annoying threat of overzealous ISP's with high level encryption plus IP cloaking gives you access to the internet uncensored from anywhere. Like I said, I'm a paying subscriber. I recommend private internet access to my friends, and I recommend. It to you private, intimate access dot com. Check them out. So what you think is essentially that would mean as bitcoins functional use starts to provide enough of an aerial target, the government or even a non-state actor that's affected. You know lodge cooperation would have sufficient incentive to pay whatever to take the network down or could write those security model of bitcoin is no one would ever. And so as soon as you get away from no one, whatever into someone might someday, then the security model breaks down and it's like so obvious that someone might someday is a bar that bitcoins adversaries can easily hurdle like we're already there at the someone might someday phase of evaluating bitcoin, right? But then there's like the other questions about like, is there democratic legitimacy in central banking strategies versus blockchain? And can we do public ledgers without blockchain? I think we can do public ledgers without proof of work. One of the things that that Ben Laurie character I was telling you about has done is pioneered a thing that's now in all browsers.
00:31:44 Called certificate transparency that uses a thing called Merckel trees that don't involve burning an entire mountain of coal to create eight hundred dollars worth of crypto currency in order to track every certificate issued by every web server on the internet and immediately catch certificate authorities that are cheating on behalf of governments to help spy on people. And that has resulted in major certificate authorities being struck off by all the browser vendors for engaging and shenanigans. Right? So like, yeah, we can do public ledgers. Sure. Just not blockchain public ledgers. Bram cone is working on one, right? But he calls it proof of time and space. I think it works roughly on storage. Yes. That's interesting. Because what I'm curious about beyond the question of the specific implementation, it doesn't interest you because interests me the idea of just pair up rated money. You and I'm reading this book the moment by Nomi prince collusion that just talks about it's the collusion of the Trump campaign blob is the collusion of the various world financial institutions to massive. Wli over issue money. So you know, massively over leverage by an insane amount. She's an ex Goldman Sachs, you know, whatever establishment type whose basically saying, look, this is out of control and has worse much worse since the last financial crisis and adopt point when you see these people who are supposed to be saying, believe in this money because I tell you to believe in it, you know, believe in it because we're the responsible party standing behind this thing. If it works, it kind of creates a desperate need ride. There's no coincidence the bitcoin, you know, whether it's right or wrong in terms of its engineering implementation bitcoin began that first block with a comment about the financial crisis, chancellor bailing out banks, blah, blah, blah. And it makes me think the need for a pit to pay a currency that is outside lease potentially, outside of those hierarchy problems. Those problems of oligarchy of you know of corruption of collusion. There is a massive new.
00:33:44 Need for it and the it's very interesting that people are kind of enthusiastically tha variant theatrically, attempting to create a system that works well, are they or are they just trying to cash in a bubble? I think there are a lot of greater fools and the bitcoin market who are not there because they have worries about central banking and deeply held beliefs about modern monetary theory versus other forms of monitor ISM, but are there because R Kelly told them that his ICO is going to blow up and it goes to a very important point here, which is that once you say, okay, well, we're gonna use money to keep track of stuff, and we're gonna do that in a world where we already horrifically unequal and where money has created all kinds of problems. Then you are setting the stage for widespread fraud and abuse and exploitation. And you know, the states that are captured by corporations are not good guardians of the public interest, but states that aren't captured by corporate. Nations can be good, guardians of the public interest and weakening states by enabling tax evasion, for example, which is one of the things you often hear people talk about in their ICO's and the values that they embody doesn't produce the outcome in which financial markets are better regulated. It just lets rich people who've already destroyed so much get even richer off. The backs of people who don't know how crypto works. So you think that's the most likely outcome? I think that the causal arrow is going in the wrong direction. I don't think that the reason we have corruption is that financial markets are rigged. I think the reason financial markets are rigged as that we have corruption. And yet when you look at the evidence provided by someone like Nomi prints, what you see is that there's been a kind of complete disconnection of the finance capital of the economy from everything else is just money's just being fed into the system from the top and the way she describes it is they can't stop putting it in because if they stop, you know, like recently they've been.
00:35:44 Trying to quote unquote unwind, right? The payments and sort of celebrated the debt and so on. And they come because if they do that, you know the interest rates go out of control and they, they get scared that it's not going to. And so the pictures she paints is of a system where all the money's fictitious will the large majority of is fictitious and it's not trickling down disconnected. They're not lending to businesses, then doing money is never ever trickled down. Money is redistributed that's how money gets richer. People to poor people is redistributed in the form of social programs. All right, right. But the then not loaning it. I didn't have the impression either that the loaning it to governments to do social programs,
38:20 I think I buy that to an extent intimacy, a role for crypto, sort of the fantasy of sort of sound money. You know the bitcoin maximalist fantasy of, yeah, not a gold bug, so I'm not a cryptocurrency bug either. Right? I believe in modern monetary theory, all money is dead. So first of all, the origins of money are right. The first coin money was not created because people had a hard time making change for cows using chickens. Right, which is. The story you hear, but which as far as anyone can tell never happened, what we know happened is that you had conquering empires who needed to feed their soldiers. And so what they did was they told the farmers whose lands they had occupied, you owe tax and you can only pay your taxes in coin, and then they paid the soldiers using coin and to get the coin from the soldiers. The farmers had to sell them food, right? This is like David grape stuff. Yeah. All money starts with debt, right? Every pound and circulation is a pound that the government is lending effectively, right? It all starts with debt, and so-. Debt is not the problem. The problem is badly regulated at that allows oligarchs to thrive at the expense of everyone else. Right? And the rampant inequality that produces bad regulatory environments that don't reflect the kind of world that is more equitable for everyone. And instead just kind of goes towards this Tori fantasy of, you know, I think it was best said by Boris Johnson in his speech to the city. He said capitalism is like a shaker shaking Cornflake box when you shake the corn.
00:39:44 Like box, the big flakes go to the top and the crumbs go to the bottom and Boris Johnson believes that some people are big flakes and everyone a crumb and his version of a good future adjust future is this kind of, you know, perverse posh version of the Republic where all the golden people are sorted to the top and everyone else all the bronze people are sorted to the bottom and you know, we can't get away from that for so long as a small number of people have this unlimited wealth that they use to distort policy outcomes. So just to conclude this section and crypto writing a book called crypto woes, I am. It has nothing to do with crypto currency. Okay. Not one single thing. Again. Okay. So the crypto wars were fought in nineteen ninety to nineteen Ninety-two and they're being fought again and there about whether or not it should be legal to have working cryptographic tools that allow you to keep secrets from states. Now, hilariously the most prominent veteran of the crypto wars is a guy named that blazing amazing cryptographer public-spirited cryptographer who happened to register crypto dot com. And after turning down and numeral silly offers for it. He just sold it to some blockchain weirdo for bazillion dollars base. My Jamie dot com gal would fifty k. for that once in a while. The next thing I wanted to talk about it was the book which I really enjoyed my brought up in the last show with Primavera defin- ping. Yeah. I like her a lot and we were talking about this concept of full king with relation to crypto. I just been reading Wilco, Wayne. So I was talking about walkaway and the fact that I saw a walking away was kind of the meet space, Bush full king. You know, you don't like it for cough. That's how I wanted to talk about that really is a concept to start with just because you seem to take in so much in.
00:41:26 Gratien from Bunning mind because I've never been to Bunning my night. Just never that interested in going, but I, I know you go, I sort of gleaned that you got some bits of language from it and maybe bits of culture from it that are in walk away, I think. Right. And so I just wondered if you could Toko by dissimilarities with burning man. Like what I'm interested in is this idea of in your book in walk away, does this new kind of? I don't want to call it a frontier, but it kind of is a frontier way you can practice the life you want. You can establish the systems you want. You can experiment with new relation, new social relations, and I just wanted how you see that in relation to something like burning man. Right? Which is sort of like a temporary will tone them zone, and I'm sure you have thought about it in relation to the other kind of new frontier ideas like that was Larry page, right? You said Google wanted to desert and clay where they could explore technological progress outside the reach of the law school. There was. The'll see steadying thing. Oh, like Elon Musk with his off world colonies. Did you think about your walk away territory in relation to those ideas? Yeah, sure. And you know, and reflexively, right? None of that stuff is stuff I'm unfamiliar with, and it's not stuff that I'm necessarily very sanguine about. I'm a great believer in democratic fundamentals and in legitimacy. And I think that legitimacy arises in part from building complex institutions that can offer redress and protect minorities from majorities and all of the other things that states can do that lightly constituted communities struggle with. One of the things about going to burning men is that it, it quits you with real world scenarios where utopian values rub up against some real world problems, not insurmountable, sometimes with surprising and delightful outcomes. And so writing a book in which the, you know this dress rehearsal for a post scarcity society that is burning man is the whole.
00:43:26 The world, it's a fun place to kind of fictionally play out upsides and downsides that you learn when you go to burning man. You know, for me, the thing that's interesting about the walkaway world is that on the one hand, you do have an end of scarcity in the form of all these despoiled brownfield sites that have been destroyed by climate change and by corruption, which climate change was a technical problem at one point. But once the technical problem was well understood. It became merely a corruption problem. We don't really have a technical climate change problem. We have a problem where a small number of people have extremely large privatized gains from climate change and the unbelievably large, socialized losses from climate change are borne by everybody else. And I honestly think that the reason that we have no action on climate change now is that rich people before might have kitted themselves that climate change isn't real, but now they all know what's real, and they just figure that they can buy high ground and survive it. You know, they're going to breed their children by Harrier jets for mountain tops. But the thing is that walkaway people are also. Oh, continuously running up against indigenous people, which you know it's set in Canada and Canada has a long history of declaring the places where indigenous people live to be empty. The Australian version of that is something called terra nullius that it can't be theft because we didn't steal it from anyone because no one is here and by no one, they mean indigenous people. It's a Komen patent, I think, yeah. And so for the indigenous people, the infinitude of despoiled land that nobody wants has a completely different Valence to walkaway people and indigenous people in walkway. People find common cause, but it's not easy and they struggle with it. And that's one of the things that I wanted to grapple with as well. There is always hidden in a story about the scarcity. There's always going to be someone who feels like a thing that you are declaring to be infinite used to be. There's with varying degrees of legitimacy. So you know, I am sympathetic for example to artists who believe that the music of theirs that get sampled that they lose something by it. I don't think they're right, but I'm sympathize.
00:45:26 To it. I understand where they're coming from. Right. And I'm particularly sympathetic to people like George Clinton who got a really shitty deal coming and going, you know, he was ripped off by label and then ripped off by his manager and who tried to make a good. You know Clinton in the nineties, put this three disc set called sample some of disks sample. Some of that where he put all of his best licks his best grooves with a self serve licensing platform. So there was literally a postcard in it and you mail them a check for how you sampled it. And he had a sliding scale for people who weren't in labels and people who work. Here's a guy who's like deeply into the like the rail politique of art. You know, he's really engaging with the world as it is not how he might like it to be sympathetic to is claim. You know that there's like this racial dimension to it. You know, one of the things that I often argue with white copyright maximalist assu have association with the entertainment industry. As I say, you know, when the Beatles recorded our Embi songs, the parts that they took were rhythmic complex poly rhythm, which in the European tradition is not a copyright. Element when the black musicians sampled the Beatles, what they took was the melodic elements which are the parts that are copyright -able. But you know, African music has much more emphasis on complex poly-rhythms than on melody and European music has much more emphasis on melody than complex poly rhythm. And the part that we decided was plumbing that nobody owns is the part that was most closely associated with people who already didn't have social power, you know, and like that's a thing, right? You know, that is a thing that happens in the world. And so you know, all of our stuff about what is and isn't property or proper ties -able. That's like it doesn't exist in a vacuum. I wasn't necessarily talking about the territorial aspects of, although I'm sure someone must have brought that up with away. I think he dealt with it quite well. Yeah. Like what defines the walkaway space, these new spaces that makes it different from what these, you know, like musk, self world thing or pizza deals thing. And I think you pointed to one of the things.
00:47:26 Which is sure I can summarize, you'll steal thesis. If there is one, it's something like networks plus decreased cost of production. So you've got these kind of three d printing type things. But let's just say it's extremely easy in the walkaway world to recreate a machine to reproduce it. And that makes the physical world behave more like the informational world as it is now makes it possible to do things like folk and just say, oh, you don't like the way that I'm running this school. Well, I'm gonna go and make a new one over that and it's doable. And of course, that has been a known going political cumin on the left because the left argue so much, and it's often wanting to folk and it's been tricky because there's sort of sunk costs right in producing a political movement running a school or anything else that if you disagree, it's hard to walk away because you call them just make your own school. You put in your book, everything except people, and at some point, people as well become replicable. Copy -able entities, fair assessment of what it's essentially about. Oh, yeah, you're getting something really important there which is especially when you talk about the left's schismatic relationship with the world. So you know, I was raised in the left. My folks are commies that are trust gifts. You know, there's this old joke that like, you know you've Monty python makes fun of it with the People's Republic Judea, that the person a communist hates. Most of all a communist who believes almost exactly the same things as them, but has you know some minor difference that nobody else can appreciate. But here's another way of thinking about it, which is that when you believe something that's heterodox than group forming is expensive because it comes with risk, right? You might go to jail for professing your belief for for organizing around your belief. You might face social sanction and so on. So people who are paying a high cost for groups who know going in that their group has some irreconcilable difference are unlikely to want to form a group. They face limits on when it's rational to form that group. They are likely to.
00:49:26 To split to schism. But when the cost of organizing a group goes down, right? And that's the thing that networks do. This is why we have Facebook, right? The only reason people use Facebook as it makes a cheap to find people who have the same views or weird trade as you like advertisers like it because it can find people are thinking about buying refrigerators, which is that you do once every fifteen to twenty years and people with diseases like because you know, if you find people who share your rare disease, but it's the same pitch right. When you make it really cheap to form groups, then you can afford to leave the goal of the group loosely defined. And I think of occupy which had all of these critics who said, well, why haven't you crisply defined the goals of occupy? And the answer was that the more crisply we define it, the more people have to leave the square because the fewer points of agreement will have. And so if you can make it so that you don't have to define exactly why you're there than everybody can walk in the same direction until they discover that some of them want to veer off in one place in some the one of your often another, you can form and deform in this very fluid network. Provisional way, right? That's the holy grail really of organization. And so you know, that's the world I wanna build with walkway, right? Yeah. Yeah. And then the other component to is this fully automated.
00:50:39 Communist luxury communists and that's the idea being that we're edging towards a world where automation. Yeah, and I kind of wanted to ask you about this. What you take is on it. You know, we're edging towards the world wet lodge, elements of the production of been taken over by machines or ready and right. More gonna go for show. You know, truck drivers are gonna go taxi. Drivers are gonna go depending on who you believe sooner than we think there's two sides to this coin. It could be a nightmare scenario which is kind of what it looks like. If the people who own the machines don't share on in the mood to shaft, and it's kind of a very tricky situation is developing. Right? And then there's the other side of the coin, which is if only people could be made to see that will look, we've got machines to make everything now and dual the work and grow the crops and build the houses and whatever we can just relax like markses original vision. We can relax and play the fiddle by the river. They could be going towards something super cool and saves like walkaway. It sets the stage for that drama to take place. That's pretty much the dialectic of the book right between the haves you call them deserters, the people who are in control of these machines and the walkaway 's who was saying, no, we can share these machines in common and we donate to suffer under any tragedy of the Commons anymore because we can just produce the Coleman's has become so abundant a connector be distressed. Yeah. I mean, I think that's very well said when Napster kicked off, I used to call Napster the sheep that shit grass where the more you graze that is to say the more things you downloaded the more things you made available. So it was really it was kind of a new thing in the world and that it was a system for allocating resources where the higher the demand was for resource these it became to get it and you know, Bram leverage that.
00:52:38 To make bittorrent right. That was the ethic behind bittorrent was how can we make self supplying demand? And you know, so supply and demand, it is very novel when it's got that automated process. But it's also something that is well understood feature of economies. Anyways, there's this Brexit ish argument that the polls have come and stolen all of our jobs. But the reality is that when poll show up, they pay tax and then they buy things and so they create jobs, right? It's don't like polls are just machines that go to jobs formerly held by Britain's, do the job, take all their pay packet and send it to Warsaw. And then like estimate until it's time to go down to the job site. Again, they're going to the movies and going to restaurants and going to the Polski slap and doing all that. I'm that taking the benefits as well, Corey, that's actually very low consumers of benefits as well. But you know a Connie's do self provision, right? Like demand does generate supply. This is why demand side economics is real. Well, and supply side economics is a way to make rich people unbelievably wealthy. One of the remaining dimensions interested me is safe. We're living in a society of increased abundance then produces high Rockies. There's a series of scenes sets around, I forget the place. It's called the PNB the belt and braces. Yeah, it goes through a bunch of different names. Yes. So in the belt-and-braces which is run on a principle of sort of known hierarchy sharing, no personal property over restrained, personal property. You know, somebody else comes with different ideas. You have this concept throughout the novel VAT, the previous way of behaving previous social relation to previous attitude to property needs to be readjusted in the context of abundance. It's not unfair to say that a lot of the book is people talking about, well, how are you going to behave in this situation? Yeah. So I think scarcity produces Hanoch. Right? Like people horde, when they think that something that is abundant is going to be.
00:54:38 And this is another thing economists talk about in a very noncontroversial way is you know, incentives matter if people think that something is going to change in value in the future, they'll try and get rid of it or try and hang onto it. There's this thing Gresham's law, which is that bad money drives a good that speaking of Fiat currency, that dates to win Newton was running the treasury and started executing people who were counterfeiters because counterfeiting was very rampant as was coin shaving and all the other ways that people devalued the currency. And what Gresham observed is that if you accidents got slipped some bad money with your change, you would preferentially spend it because everyday that goes by, there's a higher likelihood that someone will detect it. It's counterfeit and it will be devalued, possibly zero, which meant that eventually all the money in circulation was counterfeit. And everybody had a mattress full of good money and the bad money was the only money people are spending. And you know a corollary of that or Kerala if you're in the Commonwealth is deflation which speaking of critiques bitcoin when the call. Most of goods relative to your capital goes down day on day. You don't spend right you. You just sit on your money because if you know that the well bitcoin is a really good example. If you knew in two thousand and ten that the pizza that you bought for eight thousand bitcoin that if you'd hung onto those eight thousand bitcoin you would have, I don't know a hundred million dollars. You would never buy pizza. It's funny. You should mention that example, Corey, did you buy a pizza? Let's just say it wasn't a pizza and it wasn't just one. It may have been something I did on this, so cool duck nets. Oh my gosh. You've been buying people to write your term papers again. Haven't you? That's right. And the amount of money I've spent on these ten papers would make your best. The amazing thing is that you're not even enrolled in tertiary institution so wasteful Jamie. So I feel your example very keenly chirp. So you know, incentives matter, it's right. So you do have to adjust supply changes the way.
00:56:38 That we relate to the things in our lives when we feel like things are infinite, we act one way and when we feel like things are scarce, we act another a really, really trenchant and sad example speaking as a parent of ten year old is the difference in a kid when they feel like they have all the time in the world when they start to realize that they have only got so much time when you factor in school and chores and everything else, the quality of play changes that's a point to bring up with you. I'm skipping ahead a little bit, but I wanted because one of the things you bring in the book which is really relevant to technology is developing is this idea of sort of copying your brain states and creating a copy of Avihou if no consciousness, because let's not get into that. Then at least a running version of the khanate you, I'm going to display my prejudice his hip. But anyway, whatever. And what it makes me one done that these functional copies of you. Let's say if people the sense that there is not necessarily a finite quality to life anymore. The when you boaty dies, you'll be reproduced as an informational version of yourself that will go on, and it made me wonder if that was something that you brought in partially because what's the remaining scarcity in a world that is characterized by absolute abundance of sharing the remaining scarcity is life itself you're going to die, and that creates a sort of hoarding of time. And it made me wonder if that's why you. Well, if that was one of the reasons you introduced that the idea of people copying themselves and becoming, let's say, functionally, immortal. Well, you know, there are a couple of reasons for books. Never, rarely have one reason that anyone does anything, right? Yes, yes. You know, one was that I wanted to revisit some ideas for my first novel down and on the magic kingdom, which the whole book is a kind of second look at the ideas from down in on the magic kingdom and another is that I wanted to have a really good first-mover macguffin in the story. So you know, in the story, those auto.
00:58:38 Does the super rich are perfectly happy to let these bohemian walkaway as sort of tinker around on the periphery there. Cute, right? You can go and like, see, hot people of your preferred gender in various states of undress, doing cool bohemian things and steal their fashion choices and their music and commodified it back in the real world. And it's a kind of detente or you know toleration. But then when they realize that practical immortality is not going to be something that only the super rich have, but that everyone has and that they're going to have to hang around with all of us, inconvenient humans who do not fancy ourselves to be masters of creation for all of eternity. That's when that kind of fragile. Peace breaks down and I really wanted to bring that out you the idea that like the one thing that they could never tolerate is having to live with us forever to finally quality the future that they, you know, getting back to this Escott electrical vision of climate change. You know, I really do think the super rich have made their peace with climate change and that most of them view the fact. That it would be a mass extermination event that would kill almost all humans on earth as a feature and not a bug in my DACA moments. I- unmentioned almost exactly what you painted, which is people living in God did compounds the top of mountains in place because I kept wondering why are these people buying houses in New Zealand? Like what's special about museum? And I was thinking New Zealand, you know, it's basically an island, the water levels are going to go up there as well. It's gonna get halter, and then it came to me what it is. It's because you can't get into easily because you, it's in the middle of nowhere and what they want is a place where people emigrate to. They can't get across the border. That's why they're doing it. And also, you know, the other part that I think we shouldn't get short shrift to is the role of science fiction writers in this because I think they've alread John Wyndham, John Wyndham the trope and every frigging John Wyndham novel is that the final survivors are in New Zealand, Australia, Windham. I think that I'm only semi joking. Yeah, no, that makes.
01:00:38 I think that the way that science fiction writers have painted the future in which like first of all, the first thing that happens when the light goes out is that it turns out that your neighbors all along have just been waiting for the chance to come in and they do as opposed to being, you know, this like massively statistically illiterate idea that even though everyone that you know is more or less. Okay. Ninety nine point nine percent of the world or total bastard interest to them? Yeah, that is like a feature of lazy science fiction writing because you've got instead of having to confine yourself to man against man or man against nature. You can do man against nature against man where the to NAMI knocked has down the your neighbors come in eat years. Yes. And I think that that fantasy it's alive and well, you know, the Doug rush cough just wrote this thing that was on medium where he went to this private equity conference where they had a panel about the end of the world and what they're all planning to do. They call it the event. When the event happens, one of the logistical problems they were spitballing on is how do you keep your guards from shooting? You wants money isn't worth anything. And the answer was you memorize the codes. To the food lockers, but you don't write them down anywhere. So if the guards don't want to starve to death, they have to keep you alive. Wow. Yeah.
01:01:46 Like not even good science fiction, plotting because it's like if you never heard of torture, right? Like, yeah, because once I stayed in a nuclear bunker underneath Geneva, do you know they've got a nuclear bunker place. Got them all over Switzerland. There's like one per exactly and I stayed done that for like four or five days or so, you would not recommend something poisonous about the ad. But when we went down there, we realized the whole thing was set up so that the Bunka could be reconfigured into sort of mini little prisons. And while yet, I'm not surprised ahead. They've really thought about is somewhat okay. This room can be locked in this way, and this room can be look and you see like, so those people who thought about it seriously and these Zota's. Don't think in how to know there's a famous story called the cold equations and science fiction. They wrote an essay about a couple years ago, and it's the story about a spaceship pilot who is going to world that hasn't been settled lightly, explored world. Sorry, it has been. It has been partially settled and their explorers on the world, and there's a plague broken out and they have to deliver this vaccine or everyone in the world is going to die. And so the pilots and ship and he's hurtling towards this world and he looks at his fuel gauge, and he realizes that his ship is heavier than it should be. So he starts searching around. He finds a stowaway and it's a young girl whose brother is on this planet and she stowed away and she kind of sheepishly admits to what she's done. She said, you know, I guess you'll have to find me when we get back. But the pilot is absolutely stricken because he knows that she can't let on the ship only he can lend the ship and they don't have enough fuel to land the ship with her in it, and that if they don't end the ship, everyone on the planet will die. And so he realizes he's going to have to push your out of the airlock and the rest of the stories him explaining this God, right. And the reason is.
01:03:29 Called the cold equations. It was written by this guy. Gosh, I'm blanking his name, but his editor, John w Campbell is one of the great enters the field and Campbell insisted that the girl die. The guy had all kinds of ideas for how the girl could live, like the pilot could cut his legs off hit, like all kinds of shit, right. Campbell was insistent that she die and insistent that all of the world be arranged so that she would definitely absolutely no question die and that it would look like it was inevitable. It's like a rational Wicky Powerball, isn't it? Yeah, it really is that it would be inevitable that she died. And the point is that it's inevitable within the frame of the story that she died, but the frame of the story is not inevitable. The frame of the story was chosen by the writer and his editor, and when we say, well, there's not enough room in the shelter. So we have to design the shelter. So it's like a prison so that when we have overcrowding, the sane and rational people can lock up the people who've gone nuts. That is a rational choice, right? If you're all in a shelter and there's not enough space in someone who's going nuts and whatever, you know, you've got some kind of problem. You do need to have to lock people up. Otherwise someone might go on a rampage and kill everyone. The question is how did you arrive at a shelter who size was so small that you couldn't house everyone in? How did you arrive at a situation where you needed a shell.
01:04:44 Her all of those choices. Those are outside of the frame when we talk about what's rational and what isn't. And one of the things about walkaway, what we assume as a starting point and how contingent those assumptions are, how completely arbitrary those assumptions are and what different assumptions we could make. Because as somebody who spent a bit of time living in a, I say, a bits of time almost probably getting on for nearly a decade in some type of community or another without necessarily being commune is I was communal if we definitely explore different modes of behavior with relation to private property. Because as you know, we used to dumpster dive. I mean, we used to feed everybody from dumpster, diving in kind of compact with butter amok, it's actually what I saw was the some people find too easy to change behavior in some dimensions, and some people find it. In fact, it was the person who was the most communist on the face of it. You know the most self-financed democratised who would always. As rush to whatever it been collected from Barra the pallet that we would bring back and take out the choices, Moses and sort of flagrantly consume them as if he would notice or no one would call them on it. Yes, and I'm not saying always want to have a discussion with you buy why it wasn't that sweep the floor. You talk about this a low in, we'll Kuwait. There's a lot of discussion about tempts to motivate one's own behavior attempts to get other people to modify their behavior context of this radical abundance. You know, one of the questions that the walkaway people are grappling with is exactly what are we doing here? Are we trying to make it so that nobody is a greedy jerk what they eventually say, you know, kind of towards the end. And this argument with this guy who's this wealthy greedy jerk is not that they believe that they will eventually eliminate greed and jerky nece, but that they will reduce greediness and jerky nece to a vice instead of elevating it to a virtue. Think of it in the context of another kind of interpersonal relationship. A really intimate one like you in a partner, right? It's unreasonable to.
01:06:44 That you in a partner will never fight. So if your plan for conflict resolution is we just won't have conflicts, your marriage is doomed. But if you have a mode of graceful failure, if you are planning around how you resolve the conflicts, if you can assume, for example, even when you think it's not true, but if you can behave as though everyone is acting good faith and the, the thing that the other person is doing this, so unreasonable is actually just something whose motivations you haven't fully grasped or that makes sense to them than you know, you can find common ground even if that common ground is okay. Well, here's why our marriage is ending. You will find better common ground than you would. If your plan is just we'll just never fight. So we don't have any ground rules for how we're gonna argue. Wondering just when the situation where would actually in which is we've got these machines with developing machines that are producing more and more abundance, and yet what seems to be happening is in the novel, it's dissolved a model so that the smaller and smaller number of people come on ding these machines and taking the profit from them. And as you say, what's being rewarded is an idea of self in which maximal grade is presidential literally presidential, you see it throughout the culture yet from the president of the rappers. So you know, it's, it's brutal out that that sound like an old man, but it's brutal out that what I wonder is without there being a walkaway territory, you know, without that being possible right now, is that going to be a way of changing? You know how we going to escape the situation in which it's like three people on all the world's machines, and you know everything flows up. I mean, there will be some camouflage for that as you say, right those.
01:08:25 Three people will have eight thousand companies, but it was still be old. Everything's flowing up the chain with maybe some Dulles being spewed out of the fed down onto them at the top. That's the world would kinda heading towards and living in them out in compounds. How is that not going to happen? Right. How is that behavior gonna get changed. You know, I think you're mistaking science fiction writers for fortunetellers. I don't know what the future is. Thankfully, because if the future were knowable than it wouldn't be contestable, I think that the future changes based on what we do and moreover that the terrain on which we are contesting the futures adversarial that utopia that I'd like to build is very different from the utopia that someone from Goldman Sachs wants to build. And so any course I chart from Asia's Ed will long before I get to d or e have been completely nullified by changes that my adversaries will have made to the terrain. And so I'm very skeptical of kind of Harry Selden mode of few. Planning where you try to plot a course all the way from beginning to end. And instead I favor thing that computer scientists do a lot of which is called hill climbing. So in computer science, your often traversing unknowable terrain and terrain. Sometimes it's adversary all or at least dynamic and what you do in those situations is you imagine your code is like an aunt. So it has a whole bunch of legs, but it has these forward facing is so it can't look around and see where the high ground is, but it can pull its legs and find out which of its legs is on higher ground and take a step that direction. And it may be that when it arrives at that direction. Another one of its legs is on higher ground, and so it can take a step that way and that stepwise fashion without knowing the whole terrain, the end confined the highest ground available. And a way to think about this and kind of more practical human term getting away from ends is to think of this is hope right. So when your ship sinks in the middle of the sea, odds are that you're going to drown, but you still tread water, not because you have good odds of being.
01:10:25 Up, but because everybody, whoever did survive in your situation, treaded water until rescue arrived. It's the necessary, but insufficient precondition for survival is to take whatever step you can do to materially improve your situation. So I don't know how we get to a better world, but I can look around me and I don't want for affirmative steps. I can take to improve the situation I'm in. I can think of one hundred things I could do. I'm doing about five of them, right? So it's not hopeless because there are things I can do to materially improve my situation and having done them who knows what new terrain might reveal itself to me what I might do, then it's much more useful than optimism or pessimism. You know, optimism and pessimism are foundationally the belief that you can know the future. You know what Dante did to the fortune tellers and inferno. He immersed them in hot shit to their thought is he turned their heads around backwards so that they wept down into their own ass cracks. And he made them Wade through the molten shit while being flogged by demons. I think the fucking fortune tellers got off light. Dante. I think that the idea that the future is knowable is a counsel of despair because it tells you that the future doesn't care what you do, what we do changes, what the future is I take, you know a fan of future? No, although there's a motive what sometimes called forecasting that tends to follow this model, right? Some scenarios where you know provocations but not the pretense that you know what's going to happen. I'm curious what you think about, you know, universal income in not context of sort of doing something concrete that could work. Now you don't taking a step, whatever, clinging to the wreckage Joel treading water to 'cause seems like that's the policy, a possibility that half the people think is hopeless and just prolonging the dukes off the people think it's the solution. I'm pretty enthusiastic about the idea of universal basic income. What's your take on it in this context? Yeah, I'm more or less a fan of it. I worry only that it could be distorted to be like universal credit where they affectively use it as a way to cap benefits instead of extending them.
01:12:25 You know, the promise of universal credit was that there would be more money available for people who deserved it and what you ended up with was just less money all around and more bureau machine, infinite capture by contractors. And I worry that, for example, if like what we're going to say is, okay, we'll finance universal credit universal basic income by streamlining the benefit system than people who do need more benefits than the median right people who are have a disability or who are cares. Disabilities may find themselves on actual reduced benefits instead of in a more comfortable situation. But to a first approximation, I'm in favor of it, makes sense of the thing that could happen the way that the system could get screwed. But the basic idea of detaching the money people receive from the work day able in this society seems like something that might at least full stole a total fucking disaster. Yup. Yup. I'm with you. Sure. Why not? I'm conscious of how much time they've taken an hour and a half hour of your time. So I really enjoyed the novel. It was a lot of fun to read. All glad. I'm so glad to hear that. That's great. Yeah. I had real fun with it. I go back and read down in the magic kingdom now because I never read it. Yeah, there you go. It's a much shorter read any final was use somebody you collect interesting tidbits. I mean, Boeing, Boeing effectively is a directory of wonderful things. Do you have a few things that Rogno you'll personal radar right now that you can share with listen as jumping off points? I the stuff you've talked to buy stuff you didn't talk about and it's just on your mind. I mean, we did hit my big themes here. Right? Antitrust and the role that wealth concentration has played in bad policy outcomes? Yes. And the risk that what that does is that it discredits the idea of policy itself as thing that I really worry about. That's probably a very crisp way of summarizing my concerns about blockchain is that blockchain says, well, states have such bad form for making poor regulation. We should just secede from them by helping people their tax and the reality is that the thing that makes states so bad at all. This stuff is the inequality and the outside power of the few. And that.
01:14:24 That helping people evade their tax and create shadow banking systems only feels inequality. I think that's the way it's shaking down, isn't it? I suspect that the recent fluctuations in bitcoin note being a hold on myself. I'm out of the picture, but the recent fluctuations have kind of shaken out many of the ABA Hodler's and now coming in the, you know, the the old incumbents, the banks and the Goldman Sachs. And I remember who's just switched from saying bitcoin is sitenski's spoon to declaring that that actually Don investment fund based on it. But that seems to be the phase we're in consolidation. The first preference is always volition. The second is control. Yeah, I guess we can always point people to Boeing Boeing field links, but nothing that you wanna point people to. What about interesting fiction people can take a look at Sharon bull or otherwise. I mean, there's something on the horizon which I just announced Comecon. I have a novella called unauthorized bread. That's about people who find themselves in refugee housing in America that's been built inside of a larger luxury apartment block where the developer. Had to build low cost housing as a condition of their permiting, but has built it with a separate lobby and separate lifts that only will open for you if there isn't a rich person in them, and then all the appliances are maximally extractives. So they're DRM's and they only accept bread in the toaster and authorized dishes in the dishwasher, but not long after everyone moves in the hedge funds that bought these internet of things, abusive appliances, all go bust through financial engineering and they all stopped working. So everyone takes it as their cutest, her jail breaking things. But when the hedge funds start to emerge at a bankruptcy, they realized that they're about to get caught and lose their homes and their right of abode in the United States. And then eventually maybe their lives, their deported back to the countries they fled. And so it becomes a race against time to see if you can preserve your technological autonomy before I see deports you to a war zone to be warlords reminds me of when I was squatting absolutely right. When you living low income housing, like council houses in what they used to be co houses in the u. k. we used to squat those ones because they were inefficient.
01:16:24 Gently distributed. Let's say you'd always find these electrodes maters that were coin operated, go down to the fucking petrol station or wherever they were selling these tokens and by the tokens and put them into the meter to make it work. And it was expensive. I swear as more expensive, much more expensive than buying it from the power company as it was then from the nationalized power company. And I've seen the same thing. I'm private houses as well. And actually the landlord has a little. You probably know this already do you, but they have a little dial where they can the back of the machine when they opened up and they can say how expensive they want you power to be. Yeah, they really rape people. You know, the poorest people are the ones who get it and just like you say that used to be this great hack for these meters, which was used to be able to pull the clip a pot of clip a cigarette lighter. But and people don't believe me when I say this by swear to God, it's true. It used to be able to click it and it had a little electric discharge right from the click a little puzzle, electric thing. Yeah. And that if you insert it into the mates strategic point, gold knows who discovered this. It would change the amount of electricity you had vailable to you and it was great. Yeah, that sounds completely plausible. We used to do that with coin-operated payphones where if you on screwed the headset, there were two little screws, and if you shorted them across the chrome on the receiver, cradle you got a dial tone, then you can make limited free calls real nice. They started sealing the handsets after that became widespread.
01:17:53 I bet injection moulding the handsets they did, but you could find older pay phones that work that way still for years and years and then pay phone stopped exists. What's the name? It that November again, it's called unauthorized bread, unauthorized bread and it's not out yet, but we'll be soon. We'll, you know, it'll be out for MacMillan in early twenty nineteen. Thanks to low if you time. No, not at all. Thanks, Jamie. You've been listening to steal his show. Visit us at the Steelers, this show dot com where you can subscribe on June's and Android get involved with the project. Drop me an Email, Jamie at steal this show dot com and massive. Thanks to our executive produces monks. Apple, Eric, botch, Nelson produ, Jorge Alvarez and growth music was by David Triana editing and mixing by me web production and support by Eric botch and welcome to our new producer Alejandra parade as nice to have you on board at one hundred. Thanks for listening. See you next time.