On Internet Topology and Sovereignty

What I wish to parse out is this very contentious fault line between eras past and our own. Some people refer to it as the proximity crisis but this is just one aspect of a simultaneous and worldwide collapse of distance. Physical distance was cut down by cars and boats and airplanes, while information distance was cut down by the printing press, the telegraph, and the Internet. Today, the front line in this conflict is found in the world of finance, which resists valiantly against pure submission into abstraction. Money sent by internet is not merely a data packet, it must satisfy complicated and jumbled procedures if it is to be accepted by a reputable financial institution. And only reputable financial institutions are allowed to trade internationally, that’s the rule. International efforts to cut back on money laundering and terrorist funding have slowed the movement of money through digital means for decades now. It is therein that I find the fiercest struggle of state interests against the connective forces of the Internet, the effort to maintain the boundedness and special territorial rules associated with money.

The difference between geographic territory and Internet territory from the perspective of the state is problematic in the sense that it is cost-prohibitive to secure and thus to satisfy traditional notions of sovereignty, which depend on boundedness. Yet in the Internet, which has properties of a scaleless network, fundamental notion of boundary and distinction between two territories is complicated by simultaneous proximity with every other territory, nullifying the notion of distance. A problem that is trivially solved by the dawn of the first city-states: borders, patrolling armed forces, and walls, resists the world’s most powerful and their persistent efforts to secure cyberspace. The reason is that one deals with fundamentally different topological spaces, and these necessarily determine the actions available to the bodies acting on these spaces.

The internet as territory is more similar to multidimensional foam than it is to the plane. This has profound implications for those institutions that transfer or that originate wholly within the space of the Internet. Many studies such as Barabasi’s choose to model the Internet as a network, where notions of centrality and degree of connectivity are more consistent than boundedness and adjacency in traditional 2-dimensional territory.

A corollary of this principle determines the behavior of actors within the system, and particularly that of the state, which is intrinsically tied to the notions of expansiveness and boundedness that I propose to be meaningless in the Internet as territory. With this in mind I set out to outline the topological space of the Internet, and contrast it the understanding that countries have of their territories, as Cartesian coordinates on a plane.

It satisfies to show that in hyperdimensional territories as the Internet carves out, the fundamental problem is not that of demarcation as it is in planar, horizontal, nation-state territory. Indeed the notion of demarcation loses meaning. The fundamental problem is that of search, of finding in what is otherwise radically homogenous and nondifferentiable substance, devoid of intuitively accessible parallels to measurements of distance, scale, color or flag. And while obvious now that Google and a few others (but Google mostly) cashed in on the reward of solving it, the problem is in reality far from solved. The real problem of search is not just determining the path to the many diverse nodes that exist on cyberspace, as we could call websites, multimedia, group chats, servers, etc, but rather that of searching through the flows that transit through cyberspace so that these can be allowed or denied access. And it is in this regard that even basic encryption stymies all but very motivated actors, and even then only in specific instances. Passive enforcement of flows is impossible in this scenario, and this is what is meant by Nick Szabo when he describes the leveling of power that encryption plus internet gives the individual, which is now capable of subverting very powerful actors, such as states, in access and transmission of information, a historical outlier.

Internet topology renders the exercise of traditional sovereignty impossible, which is control of bodies within some defined territory, because territory as such does not translate into this space, and because the space is itself supported by these very flows. To resist against the flows coming towards and away from some arbitrary territory is akin to razing down one’s own territories, for you destroy what was by removing yourself from it. The idea then is not to set conditions for inclusion, but rather for exclusion. That is the difference between a whitelist and a blacklist. One defines a whitelist for a country as the list of people that can get a visa and enter the country legally. A blacklist consists of a ruleset that declares conditions for exclusion, which allows flows to take place without the bureaucratic process that updating a whitelist (or getting a visa) usually amount to. Whitelists are the natural choice in planar space because territories in these spaces exclude by default. In horizontal spaces like the Internet, the blacklist makes more sense. And even then, the problem of search and differentiating between flows one wants to keep out and benign flows remains unsolved in the face of public encryption standards. What was done was instead to regulate that which was most abstract and thus readily absorbed by digital symbolic systems: money. And we see this most clearly at the level where the internet is most subject to our territorial limits today, in its interface with money the power of the state projects as much as possible, and remains a vestigial link to territorial space in the Internet.

The state, however, does not stay still, it continuously evolves and tries to secure ever greater security for its own powers. This is related to the notions of Foucaultian notions of sovereignty, which took a turn in the last century towards one of controlling the bioinformational environment of the citizens as opposed to mere political loyalty.

‘Modern’ governmentality marks a shift in discourses of rule away from the state’s sovereign power–its ability to make life and/or render it bare–and toward its fostering nad regularizing of life in biopolitics. To this end biopolitics requires that the conditions of life of the population be made visible and assayed, and practical knowledge be made available to improve them. As a result, with modern governmentality we see the emergence of both panoptic surveillance and numerous specialized discourses–of education, political economy, demography, health, morality, and others–the effect of which is to make populations knowable and subject to the regularization that will make for the ‘happy life’.

What the hand giveth it also taketh away. Even as the powers of individuals have been permanently augmented thanks to the rising access to incredible information networks, as well as asymmetric encryption tools which render access to this information accessible in practice to nearly everyone already connected. However, we also know that a very small fraction of the population ever takes advantage of this ability, and that most private companies are allied to the general tendency of the state to “make populations knowable,” through expansive and systematic measurement of political will, location, and association, as well as the overarching apparatus of biological control, which includes the healthcare system as well as the control apparatus, understood as education and prison systems. The state has already vastly expanded into the borderless sphere of influence, where the conflicts between states over propaganda serve as proof of the increasing relevance of this theater. I argue that it is primarily financial flows that serve as instrument of capture and control for both citizens and other states.

The flow of money from planar space to hyperdimensional foam is tightly regulated because the primary competitive advantage of those that control the flows is precisely the exclusion of those that they compete against. Control over the Bank of International Settlements, SWIFT, the Petrodollar market, Black Rock, etc etc is more than sufficient to intricate state interests into what otherwise should account to the settling of abstract flows. Usually these are states under sanctions, terrorists, criminals, and the like. And the infrastructure of money is tightly coupled with the state, to the extent that the state gets to write the blacklist as it pleases. There is no neutrality to the system. Bitcoin emerges as a notion of money that is coupled to the hyperdimensional space that it inhabits. By virtue of its residence, bitcoin reproduces through means that are available to individuals and small groups. The language of guerrilla takes over. Bitcoin is a line of flight from planar space into millionth-dimensional space. Money as a vector of individual interests disaggregates from localized bubbles and penetrates and synchronizes with the rest of the world. The key distinction is one of sheer speed, and with competitive edge the incentive to participate in abstract, digital transactions will become more more necessary and take up an ever greater portion of the economy. And for now it will satisfy the elusive dreams of cypherpunks and hippie anarchists: that there may be no borders, that information may travel freely, that people may associate freely and treat each other as equals. But as the state too grows more powerful and adept at countering the release valve of bitcoin and other examples of applied cryptography, perhaps it will only be sufficient to maintain some degree of control over one’s financial future. In a global climate of increasing financial instability that borders on the edge of collapse, there is now more than ever the means of exit and therefore keeping the state accountable. Let us hope that as development and adoption of the technology progresses, we may steal an ever greater sliver of freedom from this growing state apparatus.

The Subjugation of the Third World

The displacement of the political consequences of wage labor relations away from the metropolis is not an incidental feature of capital accumulation, as the economic purists aligned to both the bourgeoisie and the workerist left assert. It is rather the fundamental condition of capital as nothing other than an explicit aggression against the masses. […] Capital has always sought to distance itself in reality—i.e. geographically—from this brutal political infrastructure. After all, the ideal of bourgeois politics is the absence of politics, since capital is nothing other than the consistent displacement of social decision-making into the marketplace [thus depoliticizing it].

Nick Land. Fangued Noumena. Kant, Capital and the Prohibition of Incest: A Polemical Introduction to the Configuration of Philosophy and Modernity.

The modern system of globalized capitalism is the final step taken by the metropolitan bourgeoisie in distancing itself from the proletariat. To the comedic point where the notion of worker rights are exclusively third-world problems, the first-world seems increasingly distinguished by unemployment, distinctly non-worker issues, ironically arising from excess import of pliable third-world labor. An interesting consequence of this externalizations of politics is the rapid devolution of internal politics from the vigorous ambitions of past political projects to a conceited and pathetic politicizing of trivial injustices. One can see that this is by design, since by removing the conditions for oppression one also removes the motivating kernel of politics, real violence.

The search for violence is one that continues to motivate politics, but we seek it instead in everyday motions, empty words and trivial gestures. To wonder at the lost dynamism of politics nowadays is to wonder where violence went. Where you find violence you find real politics. The truly oppressed have no voice and no vote, just as they did in the Ancien Regime, and today slavery is perpetuated by dollar-denominated debt instead of iron chains, as capitalism exploits the loophole of outsourcing exploitation to avoid democratic accountability, in the peripheries the capitalist machine feasts on wage-slave and serf labor, and for close to a century great part of the conditions that led to the developed world’s success were extracted in sub-zero sum outcomes for the Third World.

By removing the source of global demand from the mechanisms of oppression that produce these goods, i.e. by externalizing the political cost of acquisition of material wealth, a stopgap between the elite Imperial states and cheap Third World labor is created. If they revolt, at most they isolate themselves and remove their surplus flows from the feedtube of Imperial consumers–which, depending on the severity, motivates the global powers to push for economic sanctions, “regime change” or war. Crucially, if this happens at the periphery this does not affect supply by much, and these revolutions do nothing to change the conditions that make peripheral country elites eager to extract as much as possible for nice cut. It’s no wonder that developing countries are such hotbeds for corruption, at least if you have the right resources to trade with. And if they have oil or any crucial commodity then you can count on military supremacy. But let’s face it, it’s hardly even necessary. It’s a helluva effective system.

The risk of politics is hedged by exporting it evenly throughout the Third World, from where the seat of capital is insulated from the oppressive conditions of peripheral countries. As examples, all the civil disobedience in Chile, Colombia, and Ecuador all seek to change the circumstances of local oppression, without realizing that by succeeding and redrafting the balance of privilege and justice in their system they will have done nothing to change their condition as competitors in a global labor marketplace, whereby easing economic inequality–the natural consequence of extractive, low value-added economies–all they manage is to become less competitive and thus less favoured by the corresponding feudal lord, mon seigneur. China’s CP and the United States’s FedGov may speak different languages, but they play equivalent games. The very language of democratic resistance used to express the goals of popular politics in Latin America does not satisfy the conditions needed to exit the globalized economy–because conflict is inscribed in dated notions of the nation-state, political processes cannot permeate upwards far enough for the root cause to be affected and thus neutralize through democratic mechanisms. The nation state is obsolescent in an era of enforced interdependence.

On Anti-Rationality

It is useful to begin with a simple syllogism. The Truth, conceived as a set of individual truths, is a vast space that contains every event of the universe, but also all the meaning that could be found in these moments, and the operative logic (or metaphysics) of whatever exists beyond what we call “the universe”.

The set of all non-truths mistaken for Truth shaded in light green.

It is clear that not everything that we know to be true is true, lest there be no further use of men that practice and advance the sciences. Yet clearly some proportion must be true (except under the Gnostic, and most pessimistic views!) and so it follows that not only must we go about understanding the world through apprehension of the Truth, but also by identifying the non-truth taught in our creeds and schools.

It is easy to see why we might regard the truth we rightfully see as True, for why otherwise regard it as such, if only by very fortuitous accident. And similarly it is easy to see that much (if not most) of the Truth is still left for us to find. What I argue herein is that truth misapprehended is fatal; for whatever Truth might hurt you will leave you no better off by knowing it (as in knowing one’s time of death), while in those circumstances where knowing is of any help, it is by contingent causes that one is spared, for the ultimate cause of evil is chance or intelligence itself. And evil intelligence benefits as much by Truth known as wholesome intelligence, and perhaps even more so. But by no means do I mean that Truth should not be sought, but rather that for every Truth sought and found we should purge and drown many (and, I argue, more dangerous) false truths.

Leaving syllogism aside, the reason false truth is such a pernicious problem is that there is much more untruth than truth, and ever more as we rely on truth (as we known to us) to make our judgement we make Reason bear the load of our lives, for it is thanks to reason that the most dangerous type of untruth comes to be, and that is through the misapplication (or suppression of) ulterior Truth by reason.

The difference with competing methods of apprehending truth is stark. One might regard Tradition as a body of knowledge produced by heuristic learning, in much the same way that evolution, or a convolutional neural network, might perform gradient descent, as judged by a given criteria of fitness, towards some optima. The problem with heuristic learning is that it is incredibly effective, but inescrutable. Reason does not benefit from heuristics because reason is concerned not with how things are but with why things are. The collection of data about how things are is of course a necessary first step, but unless one hazards a reason why, then you will discard the data as useless. And therein lies the problem. We have a lot more data than we have use for. And man is entranced by numbers. Numbers make man believe that he can unleash the power of capital S Science when he wishes, by ritualistically applying the necessary statistical formulations and reflecting on the “existing literature”. For these an other reasons, I hold that science is itself cause of its antithesis, and therefore a beast more dangerous than rational reductionists (materialists) take for granted.

Any type of Truth, true or untrue, becomes weighted down by the enterprises and reputations of those that uphold it, it grows with inertia that allows it to overcome stronger refutations. This in itself is not an error, but rather product of the assumption behind statistical sciences: that what we observe as confirming our truth further convinces us of the truthfulness of the explanation we give to some data. Through human enterprise we find ways to make Truth act as wedges, as rudimentary machines that extract utility, but often just profit, from underlying reality, seeking to split it open to look at the undiluted core. The problem, as we will find, is that humans have a way of manufacturing lowercase truth, which is simply by believing in any idea, because so long as enough people believe the same idea, this idea will sustain itself for surprisingly long, therein leading us to appraise it by proxy of historical record. But past results cannot be representative of future results, as every kid today learns when he tries his luck in the stock market.

It is for this reason that great enterprises and even nations collapse due to universal hysteria, because in the exhilarating ride towards collapse, untruth replaces truth in a self-reinforcing descent towards tragedy. And the reason we believe these truths is that when we came to replace Tradition with Science we created an engine that not only sought to dismantle and disprove all that we had come to know, for science is satisfied only by total saturation, but which also created a linguistics, a dialect that if spoken properly, if trained to mimic, could very well create the illusion of truth, not forever but long enough to bring us all ruin. For when the Devil lies it does so with a language we understand and worship even. It lies with statistics and graphics, with emotive but reasonable words, with the replacement of common sense with expert advice. But what do expert concern themselves other than for securing and multiplying their own jobs? And what else will we have left when scarcely a thing is left untouched by the intrusions and polite concern of experts, which are too often cited by far more dangerous types, like politicians?

The [expert -> policy] pipeline is what defines the danger that science poses, because science was never meant to inform politics, since science itself has recognized that it can only track truth by disinterested inquiry, and that very often it will be wrong, for it is by being wrong that it progresses. And this does not mix well with the elaboration and selection of policy choices. Just ask anyone what the LHC was supposed to bring about, nothing would have been better received than results that stymied scientists, for at least this would have amounted to a possibility of progress. But when our system of science, our compendium of useful heuristics, stop being challenged by reality, we know we have hit the hard limit of our ability to more closely approximate truth, for the moment this body of knowledge ceases to be challenged by reality, it becomes Tradition, and therefore we can rest assured that our philosophical and mathematical systems are all in agreement with our beliefs, for the only testament of Truth, as Plato recognized, is timelessness and perfection.

Is it then the case that the sciences, when taken to the limit, amount to tradition? How else would we come to regard the sciences if they had explained all Truth? But did we not define tradition as the culmination of heuristic learning through time? I hope I can convince you, dear reader, that science and tradition amount to essentially the same thing, taken to the limit, for reason is the method and not the result of science, and science taken to the limit is nothing if not just a statistical model of reality. But the question that we sought out to answer, the elusive why remains beyond our grasp. For the why is firmly beyond human understanding, recognition of why’s transcendence is what gives tradition, and by this I mean non-rational systems of knowledge, an edge over science. Because these systems, by recognizing mysteries all around, conceive of man in proper relation to his environs, whereby man is put in proper relation to the supra-human, which can only be called God, that is present in the world around him.

On Paranoia

Why paranoia? Because one must practically apply antisocial standards of suspicion and irreverence towards authority in order to overcome the learned helplessness and narrative capture by the information-industrial complex (the Cathedral). It is not sufficient to apply learned skepticism, because a skeptical deconstruction of the narrative is still subservient to the narrative, insofar as it is concerned with proving or denying constituent aspects of the narrative with independently-sourced facts. But soon enough one is met with the problem that there are simply too many competing narratives. There is no single simple “true” narrative that can withstand scrutiny and is simple to triangulate other than the main, institutionalized narratives. This is not ordinarily a deep take, but this is generally because people just find a “niche” market for their beliefs, which rarely benefit from the transition. This is because all popular media, insofar as it is easy to consume, or capable of passive ingestion, is dishonest. This does not surprise anyone, only when they realize what they too consume lies. Any media that does not challenge you with its intake is likely a form of propaganda, because it is impossible to approach anything vaguely resembling the truth with standard media.

I would posit that there are only two ways of transmitting actual information, which by necessity is complex and nuanced: symbolically, through highly encoded means (hermeticism), or through overpowering (and soul-crushing) detail. Either way, you will not be consuming this casually, which means that unless you are struggling and indeed suffering during your ingestion of information, you are not advancing but receding! Question yourself: why would it be in anyone’s interest not merely to inform you, but to do so for free? Further consider that in today’s media landscape most people don’t even choose to be informed, but are rather shown what their peer group believes, which will only more profoundly enforce in-group mentality. This is only one of many reasons why political factions have polarized than ever before. Hence my paranoid solution: don’t trust anything easy. Don’t trust anything on cable TV, don’t read the news, don’t even try to browse a book published in the last 50 years for God’s sake. Only lay eye on what your network recommends to you. Exercise rigorous informational hygiene. Scrutinize and sanitize all your info stimuli the way you scrub your veggies during the quarantine. Above all, trust only those people that are crazy enough to built their own operating system from scratch, using only the oldest and most esoteric knowledge.