Let down, robbed, even criminalised by it, the internet is no longer our servant, but our enemy. Let’s get started on Internet 2. Our internet.
Written over several years and in different moods, all will be explained.
According to Freedom House, 3 billion people worldwide, almost half the world’s population is under surveillance.
Tomorrow’s star start-up will have to be extraordinarily ruthless and utterly contemptuous of her fellow man. If you are thinking, “well what’s new?” you may be made of the right stuff, but only if you also have the ability to kid even yourself that you are human for a good deal of the time, at least until you are dominating the S&P 500.
Let’s take a look from a helicopter at how opportunity has changed since the birth of the industrial revolution and modern economic theory.
Adam Smith, the father of economics, inhabited a world of feudal lords who held vast areas of the earths crust on lease from some King (war-lord) in return for rent/taxes and providing armed men to support him in his wars. Everybody else was born into a world of abject poverty and lived at the whim of the overlord who worked them to the bone for a safe place to sleep and some meagre food. That is where we were not so long ago.
Capital mostly meant land as it was the one and only resource that could support humans and it was scarce and owned by the King.
The industrial revolution didn’t tackle the obvious flaws in this way of working, it simply created a whole lot of, shall we say, virtual capital that could support people nicely. Fiat Money was a core principal that allowed these Assets such as land and the new asset classes to be represented and swopped without actually having to move land or mills from one place to another. Instead you swop tokens. Modern money is still backed by a bank that has taken charge of real assets before lending money AND it does have some base in real value if not solid gold bars. That is a different discussion.
By American Independence there was already a strong belief that the influence of the previously mentioned feudal lords had gone full circle and colonisation was a step too far. Already the sources of wealth were shifting from the land to the mill and ordinary people, or at least youngest sons of less ordinary people, could access capital via flotation of sorts, new entities (companies) had been created to exploit the fur trade and had taken hold and the influence of the feudal lord was on the way out. The problem was though that like a vicious colt that gets tired, he was just tired, not broken and waiting to kick another day.
Step forward to the 1980s, the defeat of fascism had freed the world of a bad idea and the rebuilding of Europe and growth phase for America created opportunities the like of which had never before been seen or even imagined. This was when the American dream became reality. Hungry immigrants were welcomed to come and help Americans build a new nation free of the constraints of the old regimes. These people worked hard, believed the dream, filled the empty spaces and created wealth and freedom for themselves and many who came after them. This would be a nice time to write the “Happy ever after paragraph”, but by the eighties world leaders urged by experimental economists were releasing all the controls that had protected this dynamic economy and turning the banks loose to dream up new ways of hooking the public on debt and milking them for every last cent.
By 2007, most of the western world was inhabited by people who owned nothing and were in debt to banks for the best part of another years gross income, in terms of net income that meant several lifetimes , since they could make no inroads in the current debt and the charges and interest were ballooning the existing debt on a daily basis. Suddenly it dawned on the world that “Gradgrind” had been replaced by “Diamond” and that the mill of the 18th century was no worse a place than the office of the 21st century. When the banks recognised that their shareholders expected the promises of wealth to be met they simply demanded a bail-out. What that amounts to for the non-economist is: “ We have no hope of collecting this money to appease our shareholders, we need government to do it for us or else the entire economy will collapse and you will be out of a job”. And governments did it all around the globe with only a few exceptions.
That was the point when the errant colt got back on is feet, kicked his rider in the crotch and said, you thought you were in charge did you?
STARTING A BUISNESS USED TO BE EASY
Just a few years ago, I graduated into a tough economy and got my first job. I took a briefcase full of papers and walked around businesses talking my way in to make a presentation and sell them services. That was tough, but it paid my bills. After a few months, I decided my employer was contributing nothing and I wanted freedom to offer better services and sell to whom ever I wanted, so I walked into a bank, opened an account with £20.00 and started a business. I showed them my provisional driving license, was asked and answered few questions other than my business plans. Six months later many of my friends were working for me and life was good for a bunch of youngsters moving from work to party and back, supporting each other and delivering on every front. My bank manager advised me to register for vat so I registered officially and each year I paid my taxes. I ran a substantial overdraft at times with no security requested. All that time though no fault of mine, I was living under a slightly different name. As I lay in intensive care after a car crash my friends identified me by a nickname. It just seemed easier not to argue and it was easier now that the state needed to know of my existence. That was then.
Recently, having held the highest levels of clearance in UK in the meantime, I set up a company for a specific venture. It took several trips to the bank and I provided sufficient ID to enter the Kremlin before I got the bank account opened. The office service I hired for an official business address put me through the same performance and sent a report to the spying agency in UK. I needed that address because nowadays bad people look up directors, find their home addresses and subject them to everything from fraud to hacking attacks.
Now for the challenge of finding customers. Gone are the days when you could walk into reception and ask to see the boss. To find customers I must navigate the deluge of phoney SEO companies and find an honest, but very expensive expert who can get my business onto a few search results pages on Google every day and then spend a lot of money trying to convert enough of these visits to leads so I can make presentations and win a few customers. Behind all of this is a further mountain of work to create a face over social media etc that will satisfy these potential customers before I can even speak to them. If I really were like this persona suggests, I’d a be a dimwit unfit to provide them anything, but I have little say in it all.
The world has drifted into a vulnerable state.
All of this is an enormous and for most people insurmountable barrier to starting a business and it is getting worse daily. The harsh reality is that real estate on Google SERPS is vastly more scarce than farm land was in 19th century Europe, more expensive on a huge scale and all owned and controlled by a small oligopoly that seems to be CONTROLLED BY NOBODY. The power to stop this lies primarily with the man that controls Google. You may say that’s the President of the US, or the boss of the Pentagon, or the CEO of Google, it really matters only slightly to you and I.
The only threat to this group’s world domination is the current rush to try and replace the browser with a personal assistant of some sort, a war they stand as good a chance of wining as any other. One way or another, everybody’s livelihood will be in the hands of a single man. Never in the darkest moments of feudalism was the world in such a vulnerable state.
This is the point where I abandoned the article three years ago.
By the way, more than 30 years ago, I put the ID situation right and carried on with life.
More recently, I took an interest in how the big platforms do their thing and by tracking down people who work in their security and “other” departments and interviewing them, I discovered that all of them share a single spying platform that accesses all the accounts of every user of platforms from Social Media to search and where a huge a file and persona is created and maintained about each and every one of us. Some is simple enough facts like when we logged in from what IP and browser, etc but some is dangerous speculation based on interest we appeared to have, people we spoke to etc. The likelihood of dangerously inaccurate assumptions is very high and we have no access to this data.
What I also learned is that all the US spy agencies such as CIA, FBI, NSA etc access this system and consider it part of their file on all of us. If you are wondering how this came about, just look up the lucrative contracts dished out by US government and especially the Pentagon to people from Microsoft to Amazon, to Facebook to Google and others. I heard unverifiable rumours that others, possibly Five Eyes and maybe Israeli agencies were also accessing this huge covert file of stolen information and conjecture on top of the OSINT dungpile and we know that shady operators like Palantir are deeply involved and have deep ties of their own across social media as well as the spying and military complex.
Not totally verifiable, but enough so to be worth a mention was the strong suggestion based on location of the servers at Langley, that the CIA and not the Ukrainian security services run the Myrotvorets online hitlist database where children, journalists, ex servicemen and even politicians get listed as enemies of the state and many of them meet a mysterious end soon afterwards only to be marked as “Liquidated” on the database.
The two Russian men identified within hours as having entered UK just before the Litvinenko poisoning in London a few years back were identified by using this database. What pricked my ears up is the number of times Ive been challenged by numerous platforms to provide them photographs over the past two or three years. I’ll happily stay off their platforms if they continue with this madness. If I really wanted to spread nonsense online, there are trolls for sale at very little cost, the ones politicians use, that will do the job, why bother? I don’t, I had just hoped to retain a connection with old colleagues and friends via a few platforms.
Now I’m not commenting on whether international criminals should be caught or whether they will, or anyone really wants them caught, but whether anyone has the right to hold information, even safe information which this certainly is not, about any of us even with our permission. I certainly could never agree to such behaviour in a covert manner and the idea of a foreign state doing this would normally lead to expulsion of diplomats and a serious international disagreement and quite rightly so.
In this case, they’re all complicit and that is because they have abandoned the notion of pleasing us to get our votes in favour of deceit. Think that through before you dismiss it. Its easy to see, or look up the right-wing bullies beginning with the Cambridge Analytica scandal then the likes of Bolsonaro, Orban, Trump, Johnson and others and increasing in depravity month by month ever since, or just open your eyes.
Just to put this mass surveillance into context; according to Freedom House, 3 billion people worldwide, almost half the world’s population is under surveillance. See above diagram. Don’t forget that this includes the mass surveillance by the US government described previously.
It matters not how easy-going, or even how lazy you might be, you will surely admit that nowhere in our wildest dreams did we ever agree to being under surveillance 24/7 by our own government, much less by a foreign power with a frankly lousy track record or as the situation seems to be, being fought over by persecutors in terms of who has the right or the power to pull of our fingernails and laugh at us.
While I quote Freedom House above, let me be very clear, Freedom House is simply a mouthpiece for the US government’s determination to place the entire world under surveillance and a blanket of US propaganda. What they and others in their field are effectively doing, far from championing the poor Chinese who are oppressed, is fighting for the opportunity to be the only oppressor and in the process, ensuring that the internet absolutely must splinter into state-controlled networks with minimal global connection. Indeed, as an alternative to what is currently happening, I see that as a welcome transition while we deal with the real problem.
The current state of affairs is that right now in UK and in US we live in an environment where:
1. People can be imprisoned for certain views expressed via the internet and a publisher can go to prison for publishing facts backed with evidence.
When they block an account, they are careful to destroy the evidence so they cant be charged with unfairness. You dont have any evidence that it ever occurred. In fact in some cases, such as Linkedin, you can’t even contact them. They disappear behind a wall of secrecy.
2. Government agencies and contractors are employed full-time in large numbers to take part in and dominate online discussions in order to drive their version of the truth and to spread specific messages designed to go viral and create certain attitudes in society.
3. Political and religious views expressed online can be blocked without explanation and we all suffer it at one time or another, many of us frequently. No explanation is ever given.
4. People are regularly refused access to their social media accounts if they are seen promoting particular opinions. A part of this is challenging them for photos often under the guise of ID, in particular in order to add them to the online database as potential enemies of the state.
5. In other countries, the entire internet is sometimes disconnected to prevent discussion at key periods. I would not rule that out entirely as a possibility in UK or US either.
6. In addition, the expression of opinions is no longer allowed. Ordinary people holding conversations are reported for not having evidence and banned. So ludicrous is this behaviour that often, evidence is impossible, they’re simply having a conversation and swopping opinions, the thing the internet survived its first five years on and without which it will definitely die. Yet thousands have their accounts suspended or blocked daily.
In 2019, 3000 people were arrested in UK for comments they made online.
7. Its no longer possible to set up and thrive with a local business unless you pay weekly money over to a rent seeker in California who owns the one route by which the vast majority of potential customers might find your business. Anyone involved with the local business community knows what it is like and have a list of failures they can trot out. Chip shops, restaurants, Gymnasiums, Clothing shops, if there's even one left, even gardeners and decorators now rely on the guy from California.
Let me be crystal clear about this, just in case you are entirely naïve about technology; there’s nothing provided by Google that couldn’t be done relatively easily without them. They control an oligarchy, not a unique piece of software nobody else could build.
These seven examples are simply intolerable and require no further explanation. As free individuals living in what we were assured in our roles as owners and stakeholders of a democratic state, is a free democracy, we are entitled to better than this and apart from understandable laziness among many, I doubt a single individual accepts this situation.
There are two enemies and they have to be mostly approached via the first.
The first is the local government, in my case the UK. It was a prime and early mover the establishment of armies of trolls, indeed the 77th, part of the UK military, is exactly such.
There are recognisable trolls posting government propaganda every day on platforms like Linkedin and Twitter.
I was employed as a programmer in such a UK organisation more than two decades ago. Ample research shows that such tactics were used to help drive through Brexit, we still don’t know what it is but we have received the bill.
The US owns and controls the internet as we know it.
We either replace it with our own internet, not as difficult as you might imagine and keep spooks off that, much harder to do, but I am very capable of doing it so I imagine others are too, or we take control of our portion of the Silicon Valley one. I’m not at all sure how that might be done other than trust and that’s a word that’s been devalued somewhat. I imagine that renting the platforms, putting them on our servers, doing very substantial code review and testing and then configuring the systems and people to run it our way would be the approach.
What is not optional is to continue with this out-of-control mess run from the Badlands of Silicon Valley via a battle between Capital and spooks.
Is it tempting to accept a promise at some time in the future that the bad stuff is stopping and we are being given control and rights?
If you believe that Ill have to go along with it, but I certainly wouldn’t. Never hand a loaded gun to your enemy.
I fully accept that things will have to become visibly worse, before most people take the situation seriously, but there’s not the slightest doubt that this will happen and then we’ll have to take this discussion seriously. If we did it now we could create a whole new opportunity: Internet 2.