The pirate party is boss! Hacker ethics in parliament!
From running Intersango, I have grown to hate banks with a passion. I honestly believe you do not really hate the banks until you have had to deal with them. Our UK bank for instance has cost us thousands in lost potential revenue, hundreds of hours and damaged our reputation by externalising their inefficiencies onto us.
Falkvinge starts with a history of the Gutenberg printing press. Within two centuries Europe saw the rise of Lutherism (the biggest challenge ever to the catholic church) and dozens of countries underwent huge turmoil and revolution.
Around 1440 the heralding of the Gutenberg press was a turning point in backwards Europe. Books no longer the prestige of the rich and powerful started to be consumed by the common man. There’s a lovely quote from a bishop of the time: “Printing will make reading the infatuation of people who have no business reading!”, I mean hurrumph!. Churning 3600 pages a day, by 1500 presses had already produced 20 million books! Mass communication forever altered the structure of society, circulating ideas, transcending borders, bolstering a new educated middle class, threatening religious and political power… and most importantly directly being responsible for the renaissance; a explosion of cultural, scientific, technological and artistic growth.
I should note with wry irony that such an impactful technology was not popular during Gutenberg’s life. It took a century to become prolific. A court case left him bankrupt and he was buried in a low-brow grave that is now lost.
Artificial scarcity is another misguided attempt to control the flow of information for the benefit of certain parties. I find it sickening this idea of creating scarcity where there is none. Everybody can have the library of Alexandria in their back pocket. Billions of dollars of knowledge.
To attribute a work entirely to a single writer is to deny the past body of knowledge that writer’s work is based upon. Should the writer truly wish to reward the contributors to his work fairly, he would not remain with a single penny! Was it Newton who said “if I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”
Falkvinge compares past examples of technology adoption like email and the postal service, eventually drawing parallels with bitcoin and the banks. Email was largely ignored in the beginning by the postal industry because it was not a competitor. It occupied a niche which was not targeted by postal mail. As with many disruptive technologies, the users of email were willing to sacrifice more time and effort (in the form of learning and understanding this complicated computing technology) in order to send cheap emails- the low end of the long tail which postal mail was not targeting. As email became more popular, it improved and eventually displaced the parent market. This is a very common pattern with industries such as the early digital cameras and film photography, and hydraulic vs cable lifters. We need to find bitcoin’s niche and nurture this fledgling currency before it is ready to challenge the finance industry head-on.
Falkvinge draws parallels between technology adoption timelines. It generally is thought that technology becomes mainstream once it reaches past a critical mass among early adopters, at around 10% on the normal curve. At that tipping point, a technology very quickly enters public consciousness overcoming any friction through popularisation and becoming embedded because of network externalities (like people dependent on Facebook for their communications). From observation of similar size projects to bitcoin like Linux, Wikipedia and Firefox, we can conjecture a decade long growth before bitcoin becomes adopted in any meaningful manner.
We have computer technology, a tool so dramatic and empowering in its nature. Anyone with access to the internet has knowledge and information. Knowledge and information is power. Commercial power. Political power. Power to change things. And this power can be wielded against us if we become too sated or ponderous.
After Gutenberg came the industrial age, atomic age, space age. We are now in the process of a new age, maybe more revolutionary then the previous ages. If part one of the trading of knowledge and culture happened in the 15th century when Johann Gutenberg came up with the printing press, then this is part two: the information age. Information is a commodity we all share. It’s value goes up the more it’s traded. Ideas cannot wear out, they can forever be traded.