Technology was an omnipresent theme at BIEN 2016, and also the subject of debate. Profs. Inoue, Shinagawa, and Tsuzuki analyze the economic impact of artificial intelligence on employment. Guy Standing may argue that the movement does not need the specter of future job loss caused by automation, but it remains a compelling vision, as evidenced by the “friendly robots” demonstrating in Davos and on behalf of the Swiss referendum. Yet technology is not the enemy, or even a neutral force.
Julio Linares spoke yesterday about the possibility of rewriting financial instruments to deliver direct dividends to citizens; an innovative solution that seems tailor-made for Ether or another cryptocurrency built for the fulfillment of “smart contracts.” My own presentation dealt with cryptocurrency and UBI. Technology is more than a necessary evil to which we must adjust; it is an extension of our selves and our humanity. Often tech lies with within the spheres of corporate or government control, but not always.
As I attend this conference I am aware of the outpouring of rage and grief in the United States over recent police shootings. A sniper who had targeted police in Dallas was killed by an actual police robot. I feel a weird kind of survivor’s guilt. Are our goals here in Seoul too lofty and unrealistic? All I can say is that guns are technology. Cell phones are technology. Fear and hatred are not technologies.
We need better technologies to support activism and organizing outside the corporate sphere. (Ask me how.) Some of these tools may be directly aligned with the goals of universal basic income; others may simply help build a broader political constituency.
To wait for political change before addressing the “how” and the practical dimensions of the change to come, would be a grave mistake. The next BIEN summit, will take place in Finland, birthplace of Linux. It seems a fitting place for advocates of free software, privacy, and basic income to find common ground.
This could be the high water mark of a movement, or it could be the start of something much greater. People have spoken so far from Finland, Mexico, Switzerland, Belgium, and of course South Korea. Auditorium is packed. So far speakers hail from academia and government. Surprised there aren’t more representatives from the tech sector on the schedule. Morale seems high despite the defeat of the basic income referendum in Switzerland last month.
One thing immediately becomes clear: due to differences in cost of living, from a practical and logistical standpoint, basic income is far easier to implement, on a far wider scale, in the Global South than the economies of Europe or the United States. See for instance the upcoming $30m experiment in Kenya, the world’s largest ever.
If predictions about the beneficial societal effects of UBI prove true, this trend could prove a major equalizer between economies of North and South. Perhaps in time, citizens find themselves tunneling under Trump’s proposed wall — in the opposite direction.
Sogang University, Seoul
A few months ago, some friends approached me about a grassroots privacy advocacy group they were starting, known as Privacy Patriots. I was immediately interested. Encryption is a great example of a technology that is understood by few, but has huge implications, for, well, practically everyone. What we’re talking about is not just an algorithm — it’s the toolbox to protect our freedoms and privacy in the online era. For women especially, it’s an essential weapon to fight back against stalkers and harassers on the Internet. I wrote this as a letter to the editor for my local paper. Feel free to copy and re-post, or write your own.
Encryption Keeps Us All Safe
Recently, politicians seeking a scapegoat for terrorist attacks at home and abroad have attempted to pin the blame on encryption. This is a critical error because encryption is one of the most important and widely used tools to keep us safe in the information economy.
Encryption is simply a way to “lock” information so that only those with the proper “key” can access it. Encryption is a powerful tool for whistleblowers and for women seeking to avoid harassment and stalking.
There is no evidence that terrorists in Paris ever used encryption on their phones. In the San Bernardino shooting case, the government was able to crack the iPhone in dispute without assistance from Apple. Apple is correct that our information economy needs encryption to thrive. Our banking and credit card system could not exist without it.
Cybercriminals grow more sophisticated every day. Outlaw or weaken encryption and nobody is safe.
Here the slides from the Lightning Talk I gave at the 32nd annual Chaos Communication Congress in Hamburg, Germany. If anybody is interested in beginning a discussion about open source and design/usability, shoot me an email or find me at @thematizer on Twitter
Open Source and the Right Side of the Brain (Download PDF)