The Irreversible Problem of Dangerous Information
Posted Apr 19, 2008 10 comments
Thanks to my friend Garrett Heaney for the discussion that inspired this one.
With publicly available infomation, self-training and luck, a single human being can have a huge effect on the everyday lives of millions of people. I could be talking about a terrorist attack or I could be talking about a YouTube video.
Here's the problem: there's a very defined vocabulary of destruction available today. Futurists and policymakers are concerned about "SEI" -- Super-empowered Individuals." Power asymmetry is presented as a bad thing, but for us peasants it's a more level playing field.
As you can imagine, that apparently spooks the shit out of the formerly ruling class.
What I'm doing with Skilluminati is codifying technique for solo warfare. Not only because it's a "manual" but also because it's an accurate model of the problem. Personally, I happen to prefer living in a peaceful community, being healthy and not having to carry weapons around. I would imagine anyone reading this feels the same, even those of you enlisted. I am probably more concerned with defending against these tactics than I am with codifying them.
After all, how precise can I be? I need to be at Esozone this year, so I can't get deported until November at least. Check out the John Robb thinkpiece "The Disruption of Saudi Arabia" -- he can only say so much.
I will probably say way more than that, way too often.
The military gave humanity the Brevity Code, and thinking in military terms can be clarifying and useful. For instance, the Pentagon is engaged in ongoing "Information Operations" -- spending billions every year on what was formerly termed information warfare.
It's a small detail, but I bring it up because if online communication, information broadcasting and persuasion is being used as a weapon, where is that "common sense" metaphor actually taking us? The battlefield is "hearts and minds" of civilian "non-combatant" populations, as stated in Joint Doctrine. The insurgents are anyone counteracting military propaganda and gathering intelligence on their interests...you know, most bloggers, probably including you.
Stakes is High
We approach many problems from many different angles. Only a few of them actually work.
I'm a big advocate of trial and error -- in fact, that's the only way to explain most of my conscious life. But it's mostly error, and most of what intelligent humans devote themselves to is fluff.
I don't think where I'm taking Skilluminati Research is irresponsible. I think this is signifigant information, unlike my stoner fluff at Hump Jones. Warfare is just another skillset that future mutants need to learn, and it's a logical application of time, much like martial arts. I'm actively researching it, putting it into practice, and then codifying it for other people.
Back when Skilluminati was running on the regular, way back in '07, I featured an old Kevin Kelly essay title "Information as a Communicable Disease." He was meditating on how experiments tracking the spread of ideas, when graphed, bear a startling resemblance to maps of how diseases spread. As I've implied in the title, dangerous information is an irreveribile problem, from nuclear weapons to improvised explosive devices to pdf maps of electrical grids.
"Information," much like the "electricity" it's based on, is everywhere at once, interacts with everyone and everything, and yet it's impossible to precisely define. When information gets crystalized, though, it's undeniably dangerous stuff -- like the hotel room full of Ricin in Las Vegas, for instance.
There's a lot of good comments in an earlier discussion, Is Secrecy Ever Justified?, that relates to this. I'm definitely still curious what people think. I welcome opposition but tend to delete long rants.
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