Assange: “The internet is a threat to human civilisation”

Here’s an extract from the new book by Julian Assange and friends called Cypherpunks. Buy a copy:

This book is not a manifesto. There is not time for that. This book is a warning.

The world is not sliding, but galloping into a new transnational dystopia. This development has not been properly recognized outside of national security circles. It has been hidden by secrecy, complexity and scale. The internet, our greatest tool of emancipation, has been transformed into the most dangerous facilitator of totalitarianism we have ever seen. The internet is a threat to human civilization.

These transformations have come about silently, because those who know what is going on work in the global surveillance industry and have no incentives to speak out. Left to its own trajectory, within a few years, global civilization will be a postmodern surveillance dystopia, from which escape for all but the most skilled individuals will be impossible. In fact, we may already be there.

While many writers have considered what the internet means for global civilization, they are wrong. They are wrong because they do not have the sense of perspective that direct experience brings. They are wrong because they have never met the enemy.

No description of the world survives first contact with the enemy.

We have met the enemy.

Over the last six years WikiLeaks has had conflicts with nearly every powerful state. We know the new surveillance state from an insider’s perspective, because we have plumbed its secrets. We know it from a combatant’s perspective, because we have had to protect our people, our finances and our sources from it. We know it from a global perspective, because we have people, assets and information in nearly every country. We know it from the perspective of time, because we have been fighting this phenomenon for years and have seen it double and spread, again and again. It is an invasive parasite, growing fat off societies that merge with the internet. It is rolling over the planet, infecting all states and peoples before it.

What is to be done?

Once upon a time in a place that was neither here nor there, we, the constructors and citizens of the young internet discussed the future of our new world.

We saw that the relationships between all people would be mediated by our new world, and that the nature of states, which are defined by how people exchange information, economic value, and force, would also change.

We saw that the merger between existing state structures and the internet created an opening to change the nature of states.

First, recall that states are systems through which coercive force flows. Factions within a state may compete for support, leading to democratic surface phenomena, but the underpinnings of states are the systematic application, and avoidance, of violence. Land ownership, property, rents, dividends, taxation, court fines, censorship, copyrights and trademarks are all enforced by the threatened application of state violence.

Most of the time we are not even aware of how close to violence we are, because we all grant concessions to avoid it. Like sailors smelling the breeze, we rarely contemplate how our surface world is propped up from below by darkness.

In the new space of the internet what would be the mediator of coercive force?

Does it even make sense to ask this question? In this otherworldly space, this seemingly platonic realm of ideas and information flow, could there be a notion of coercive force? A force that could modify historical records, tap phones, separate people, transform complexity into rubble, and erect walls, like an occupying army?

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