Big Brother is Watching: From Surveillance Capitalism to Totalitarian Regimes

Big Brother is Watching: From Surveillance Capitalism to Totalitarian Regimes


good morning everyone very happy to be
here in London and to share some thoughts about democracy and just
talking backstage I was confessing that I feel more pessimistic than ever but
anyway I’ll try to bring here some some ideas of what we have been looking at in
the field of democracy democracy earth is a nonprofit organization we’re a
foundation we build open-source software using peer-to-peer protocols to deploy
censorship resistant democracies over the Internet
I come from Argentina Argentina is a country that is consistently going from
crisis to crisis has a very weak institutional it’s a very weak very weak
institutional model it’s a very weak democracy but still a place where people
are very much politicized and in the streets trying to bring ideas that help
improve society and one of the things about democracy that I’ve learned
throughout the past five years running democracy earth is that ultimately what
we want these systems that are built for deep conflicts I promise that I won’t
mentioned the word breaks it just gonna get that out of the presentation but
they’re you know one of the reasons organizations or communities when they
decide to go out and make a decision with a vote is usually the mechanism of
last resort most organizations and most constituency’s would rather make
decisions through consensus or through common sense but when there’s a
contentious event or there’s something that is challenging a community that’s
when usually people go out for a boat and boats can be this means that
democracies get implemented in context were these are contexts of deep
conflicts these are contexts where there is there’s a very high stakes decision
to be made and usually what this means inner view is that the higher
the risk the higher the need for legitimacy in the decision-making
process and legitimacy is a critical component we want to make a democracy
that works is a democracy were the losing side also can agree with with the
result rather than splitting a society apart or breaking a society apart so
this also brings another problem that when we when we try to implement
solutions in context are facing a deep conflict this means that some parts of
that constituency will try to hijack the system will try to attack the
decision-making system so throughout the last five years in democracy earth we
try to find real context democracies are not surveys they are not polls we want
to find organizations that are facing a deep conflict that are willing to
surrender their decision-making process to an innovative way of doing democracy
either through digital form or through much more interesting rules and just
first-past-the-post voting and throughout these past five years I’m
gonna share with you some of this pilot some of these experiences of that we
have worked with in the past in every single implementation we made we have
been attacked in one way or another and we have discovered one vulnerability or
one weakness of the system we were trying to implement so my my personal
story with with this ideas begins in 2012 back in Buenos Aires Argentina were
with a group of friends and colleagues we started a political party called
partido della red or the net party in english and the whole ideology of this
party was very simple and it can be summarized in a tweet we would put
candidates for Congress that are committed to voting Congress always
according to what people tell them online how to vote that’s the entire
ideology of the party so we run actually for elections in in 2013 in 2013 we run
for our first election an independent party and it was an
incredible experience because for me it was my first time as an activist my
first time working for a set of political ideas discovering a lot of
young people that were willing to start thinking about democracy under in in a
new way using the the language of the digital generation and the experience of
campaigning of going out in the streets of talking to everyone about the
possibility of improving democracy this way it’s a it’s one of the most
fascinating experiences I’ve been through in my life one of the funniest
things we did during that campaign is that we we always talked about putting a
Trojan legislature in Congress that does not look like a real legislature because
in reality he will be simply a puppet of the people being used on that we’ll be
voting over the internet so we literally built four meter tall Trojan horse that
we paraded through the streets of Buenos Aires you can see a picture of it of
that horse there and we always say that we made we make campaigning with a work
of art not marketing but but art so it was incredible you know going through
the streets with Buenos Aires with a massive Trojan horse telling you know at
the the citizens of my city that we were gonna hack the Congress we needed three
percent of the votes to get the Conneaut elected we only got 1.2 but it was
enough to get something started and we started putting more emphasis and more
focus on the software in even though we didn’t get the candidate elected in in
2014 we were able to make the first implementation of her software with the
city Congress of when Osiris where and 16 political parties contributed our
bill each party and 13,000 citizens voted online to decide which bill would
be treated in the floor of the Congress with the official support from the
Congress this was our first pilot making digital democracy our first assumption
was if we make it open source and it’s a software anyone can old it and
contribute to and it’s definitely it was a good first step to to this problem
but very soon we found out when we made this implementation that the Workers
Party they suddenly flooded the system with six thousand fake identities or you
know significantly more identities than the other part is competing in this
process which made us you know when we look at the IPS and and we made that try
to analyze a little bit of the data we realize you know open source is not
enough if the Workers Party can come or any party can come and try to subvert
the system with fake identities then we need to put you know is it we need to
put more emphasis on and try to understand better the problem of how we
give boater rights over these platforms but nonetheless it was a great
experience actually well we have to accept the result that the Workers Party
but it was actually a very good bill about giving bench about the pensions of
the elder in in the city of Buenos Aires not that bill got treated in the floor
they the Workers Party wanted to push that into the floor of the Congress it
didn’t get approved by the Congress later it was a pity but it was a first
pilot the first experience to to to do democracy in a digital way in Latin
America in in South America in my country now there’s a lot I can tell you
also about the dark side of this engaging politics in a country like
argentina was also one of the most terrifying experiences in my life
we had Secret Service agents infiltrating party meetings trying to
sabotage these meetings to scare people away from engaging with a new party like
ours I I had meetings with some politicians and when I go back to my car
I find find the wheels of my car slashed I got asked to bribe a federal judge in
order to run for the next election in 2015 which of course I did not do and I
actually wrote a long article describing the details of how this happened but
it’s it’s really scary when you you know there’s a lot of hypotheses of how
corrupt and how violent the political system is in Latin America it’s even
worse than what I imagined and it was the only period in my life that I
actually faced to panic attacks and you know it made me
really question the if it actually made any sense to go and try to change the
system from within because when I see the politicians and the people that
become successful in that game I wonder if I really want to become one of them
so that really pushed me in the direction of thinking you know if you
try to change the system from within it’s much more likely that you will end
up being changed by the system first so in 2015 we got very lucky and we got an
incredible opportunity that Silicon Valley accelerator called Y Combinator
and they looked at what we did in when Osiris and they invited us to California
to start thinking about democracy from a more global perspective and because it’s
YC it’s a great organization that has a lot of the best software engineers in
the world helping you out we started putting more focus on building
technology and and we went from a philosophy of trying to change the
system from within the Trojan philosophy to a philosophy of
let’s build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete about Minster
fueler like this dome here which is the architecture of Buckminster Fuller
philosophy so in 2015 we started democracy earth as an organization a
nonprofit organization with this first check from Wasi trying to understand how
to build technology for democracy and because I’m from Argentina and and I
come from a country that has the worst currency in the world after Venezuela
probably we I always been very much interested in the world of crypto and
the use of Bitcoin and the blockchain based technology to create systems that
can be censorship resistant so with democracy years the first years we
started looking for context where we can implement a shadow referendums that can
help these movements have a powerful voice one of the most interesting
implementations we did was actually in in Hong Kong with the umbrella movement
and they were doing a voting system over telegram and because the year before
they had been hacked by Chinese hackers they wanted to find a way to store votes
on the Bitcoin blockchain so we started building a system that was able to store
using a Bitcoin transaction technically speaking you include the root of a
Merkel tree which is a tree that has multiple information that are connected
to that bit of strings related and in the tree we would store up to 10,000
volts compress in the root of the Merkel tree which is less than 80 bytes and in
Bitcoin you can include up to 80 bytes of information in a transaction so with
just a few cents of a Bitcoin transaction we could include up to
10,000 volts on the Bitcoin blockchain and we would use that as a way to make
sure that no one is tampering with the servers where the balls are stored in
this selection made for the Hong Kong umbrella movement anyway we still got
hacked they hacked the Chinese hackers tampered with with tile with telegram
and the communication with telegram but you know it was one of our first
explorations on how we can use the blockchain of how we can use technology
like Bitcoin for other than just financial purposes and start using it
for political purposes we also did a liquid democracy implementation which
was a very exciting idea back then for Colombia Colombia was having the peace
referendum in 2016 so we’ve decided to allow Colombian
expats Colombians that were not allowed to vote in their home country because
they were living abroad to vote on this piece referendum in a shallow election
just like we did in Hong Kong which was also a shallow election a shallow
referendum to devote not only over the peace agreement as a whole but on each
article on each aspect of the peace agreement we try the idea of liquid
democracy what we found out is that when the the stakes are very high
people are very opinionated and very rarely are willing to delegate their
vote so we have less than 3% of delegations happening liquid democracy
has other issues which you know if you have multiple delegations it can also
lead to a monopoly or a duopoly and you will end up
having Republicans and Democrats like we see in the in the traditional political
world most most times but it was an interesting experience on the less
because we were able to find the deal breaker of the peace referendum
Colombians pretty much agreed on every aspect of the peace agreement but but if
you look at the official election actually the 51% of the people in
Colombia voted for no to that peace agreement and while we found out in our
own implementation was that the deal-breaker
the one issue where every Colombian was in this agreement with a peace
referendum with a peace agreement was giving political rights to the FARC
giving political rights to the Marxist guerrilla which imply giving them 15
million dollars every years a budget and by the factor five seats in the Senate
without even going to elections so it was a it was an interesting way of
trying to look deeper into the reasons of why actually the no one and in the
official election then in 2017 for the for the party dollar read we had an
internal decision to make to decide whether the party would be allowed to
make alliances with other parties or not in the upcoming election of the year
2017 and my personal position was I was completely against the party making
alliances but of course the other side of the party was willing to make an
alliance because they had something cooked up so we went for a boat and it
was one of the most interesting boats because again it was a very high-stakes
decision and what we found there even though we had a clear registry of who
were able to vote we had the party had 1,200 octal eight members the persons
that were controlling the database they had their own bias in that election and
because they had their own bias they were accelerating certain people to get
the right to vote and delaying other people to get the right to vote and that
single point of failure led to tumbling the outcome of the election by
controlling the timing and when you open the access to to a voter through through
in in the span of that time so that made us realize again how relevant it is to
the way of decentralizing the consensus that gives rights to voters to vote in
the digital spectrum in the in the digital world in 2018 we had for the
first time congressman actually willing to vote
according to the people how the people would tell them will tell him to vote
online and this was a very relevant build it was I would argue the most
relevant bill being ever discussed in at least since I have a memory in the
Congress of when Osiris which was a bill about legalizing abortion obviously a
very sensitive topic something that mobilised all of Argentine society and
is still being mobilized because of this and one congressman decided that he
would vote according to the people’s will online using our software so the
interesting thing here was that he 14,000 people voted in this case it
wasn’t much but you know he tried to keep a tight control over the end he did
a fairly good job on that aspect but he had the even though the general vote
gave 50 to 53 percent were willing to vote for yes to legalize abortion his
constituency which is a province in Argentina tucumán decided 82 to 70 to 80
percent to not vote according to to to to vote for no on the legalization of
abortion and he as a congressman he decided to vote according to his
province crit criteria rather than the general criteria I think that he
actually voted how he wanted to vote personally and he just adapted his
subjective point of view to to how he interpreted the data so again this it
was interesting for us to see what was this idea of having a congressman voting
always according to people’s will online and seeing it in reality at a very high
stakes are very important bill and seeing these congressman’s you know
adapt his subject tivity to eventually vote how he wanted
to vote so and you know these are all lessons that you know we are looking you
know in order to understand how complex democracy can actually be in 2018 we
started focusing working with crypto networks with decentralized networks a
great pilot that we did was with block stack which is a blockchain that tries
to allow developers to build decentralized applications using their
protocol block stack every month gives $100,000 as a subsidy to developers to
fund their efforts and through six months period we use our software to
allow token holders block stock investors to decide how to distribute
this subsidy this monthly subsidy of $100,000 to developers this was basic
participatory budgeting you know people were voting with our tokens how to
allocate a budget and what we found they here even though it worked for the most
part we did find collusion we find Sun Li investors that would take all of
their tokens and put these tokens into a new coming application that might not be
the best application for the platform but it’s something that serves the
interest of those investors so we didn’t find for the most part decisions that
were putting the common good first we find of it which is a rational choice
decisions that were putting the selfish interest of the voters first so that’s
what’s one of the weak points of of how participatory budgeting works but in a
more hopeful note in 2019 and I’m arriving to our present we did this
our last pilot was in for the state of Colorado in the United States and we
implemented a new idea that is quadratic voting quadratic voting is one of the
ideas present on this book written by Len while the book is called radical
markets and is this idea of the tradition of radicalism that is
implementing liberal and leave it all ideas to everything not
just to to markets but to political rights to property to to a lot of
aspects that are not usually put under the lens of liberal ideas quadratic
voting is a very interesting idea because you let every voter gets a same
set of credits or tokens and you can vote on issues but the more votes you
put on a given issue it will cost you exponentially so if you put 3 votes on
an issue that you care about it will cost you to 19
if you put four votes it will cost you 16 tokens so the more you scream you
even though you can scream as loud as you want but you won’t be heard as loud
as you want and this is a kind of voting that prevents zealotry you can you know
you can definitely put all of your tokens to defend an idea but you know
that that strength in that voice won’t won’t be won that economic impact will
be mitigated by the effect of using this exponential quadratic cost and it’s
specific a property that happens with a square root source our powers of two so
the interesting thing about quadratic voting and one of the properties of this
system that I like the most is that the winning idea will also be the idea that
will satisfy the largest amount of individual voters so it will be an idea
that has a high degree of legitimacy and when we look at the data usually in
quadratic votes people don’t go to the extremes and you will find most of the
boats trying to find consensus at the center of things
so usually quadratic boats have a more bell-like distribution of the data
rather than polar polarizing data were you know people either strongly agree or
strongly disagree on something so it’s a very promising new way of tallying boats
and you know the reason we have first-past-the-post voting and the 51%
rule is really an idea that comes from the French Revolution and and this
political economist Condorcet came out with this concept and this concept
legitimized through our boats and political experience the last 200 years
but there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be questioning how Italian how we
compute boats we definitely the purpose of democracy is trying to find some
common good in the experience we did with Colorado we we work with the
Democratic caucus of the lower house of Colorado it’s 41 legislators it was the
legislators that were voting so it was a very curated environment in terms of
identifying the voters that they decided over a hundred and seven bills that were
gonna be using a budget of a total of 150 million dollars of the of the
Colorado House and the interesting thing is that of the 107 bills only five did
not get a single boat and the distribution of votes was very lineal
very very organic were the first winning vote we need the mode the bill that got
most votes was a bill that that was called titled equal pay for equal work
which makes a lot of sense since this was a test made with the cap island made
with the Democratic caucus of Colorado so one of the things that we have been
trying to do is we we know the world of politics because we have started a
political party and we have been engaged with political movements and we know the
world of technology we have seen the rise of blockchain based networks and
the crypto currency and what that can mean in terms of giving power back to
the people so what we find that is an important mission for us coming from
democracies is to build this bridge between Krypton politics and how we can
make politics much more accountable in the way blockchains bring more
transparency and how we can make crypto start facing challenges there are more
than just sophisticated financial tools and start facing some of the issues that
our societies are facing we have seen in the last five years an emergence of
movements and groups across the whole world
that are looking into the world of digital democracy and implementing new
ideas in the in the field of politics there is
really very inspiring we have found organizations like the party revolution
democratic and Chile which was born out of the student movement there that made
it to the Congress the dissident s movement in Venezuela this is an
incredible organization that is using digital technology to help the
dissidents organize beyond the radar of the government and cryptographic sex
tremely relevant for them in a context like Venezuela the radical exchange
movement led by Glenn while the author of the idea of quadratic boating so we
have we have you know addressed some hope that we are seeing a new wave of
political movements and organizations that are willing to innovate in this
field but it’s a challenge it’s a political challenge to engage our
politicians and our political class with these new ideas coming from democracy
earth we we have an open source project called sovereign which is a web
application that serves as an interface with web 3 and blockchain based networks
that allows for the governance and implementing different voting schemes
with using decentralized technology using any kind of ERC 20 token or even
your CSUN 21 tokens and use those tools for the governance of communities we’re
actually working now with decentraland which is an interesting project that is
trying to do virtual reality using crypto and using a USC non-functional
tokens on the helium blockchain to represent property to represent land and
the governance of will to our virtual land it’s an interesting challenge to
looking into and where we can implement some of these new ideas where there’s
real economic interest between the land owners of this built or reality world
but when we look at the problem of governance and trying to project you
know what’s what’s at stake looking into the future and what are one of the some
of the biggest challenges certainly the rise of deep learning or or machine
learning techniques that are able to empower the capacity of misinformation
in society is you know the very meme of fake news
is really a very concerning aspect of democracy one of the challenges of
democracy is not simply scaling the ability to vote but really it’s about
scaling the ability to understand what is being voted and if we have techniques
that can spread a lot of misinformation in society then ability to understand
what is being voted can be hijacked all of these phases that you see here
none of these humans actually exist these are all computer-generated phases
that are you know this is this is a comes from a paper that was released in
December last year that uses a technique called gun or generative adversarial
networks which are competing neural networks where there’s a discriminator
and a generator and they’re able to combine different features and they can
generate fake pictures dip fakes like this ones but they also can generate
fake voices they can emulate voices of other people so in a world that is
deeply driven by the conversations that we see in the media this kind of
misinformation can be a very risky thing if we start projecting what computers
can do looking into the future so how are we gonna deal with deep fakes this
definitely keeps me awake at night another aspect is specific to the world
of lock chain 99.999% of launching projects are fundamentally plutocratic
most of the projects because blocking lacks a formal identity the it’s it’s
not Facebook you don’t have a formalization of human identities in the
world of blockchain this means that most of the governance of projects out there
they are really there are really systems where people vote with their money or or
work with their tokens or work with her with her with their assets and what we
find in some of these boats is that usually there was an interesting case
recently with a network called Aragon were at the very last minute a whale
boat or that holds a large amount of tokens decided the outcome of the
election for everyone else people were voting with their tokens over eight
ten different issues and at the very last minute this whale with $400,000
worth of tokens bought the election by simply looking at how everyone else was
voting and at the last minute allocating tokens in a way that would benefit the
interest of this individual voter and this is the problem with voting with
your money the its it there’s a reason why shareholders of a company ultimately
decide to have a CEO that unde Ella gate all of these are decisions to a CEO
that’s a much more efficient way of making decisions when when the interests
are aligned to the interests of capital so we don’t have a way right now of
understanding how we can formalize human identity over decentralized networks or
how we can give people identity we are without creating all over again a big
brother or a Facebook or a Google how can we give human rights over the
Internet in a way that is not captured by a single Orwellian entity and this is
one of the key challenges that we’re trying to address coming from democracy
earth and from our research so today we’re putting some emphasis on
researching how we can implement solutions that allow for unchained
quadratic voting we find that this can be an interesting mechanism for the
world of law chains were the one of the main political actions that happens in
blockchain networks is the ability to fork we’re a minority that disagrees
with how the protocol behaves or how the protocol works come fork and build their
own version of the protocol and have a community split in two and and break
some of the cohesive and the consensus around a given idea in the world of
crypto so in order to keep communities together we need to find mechanisms that
allow for more legitimacy in the decision-making process where it
satisfies the largest amount of individual voters so we’re looking to
unchain quadratic voting but what we want to use sunchang quadratic voting
for first is to create a system that allows us to validate human participants
over decentralized networks to use quadratic voting in in systems
where we can curate the curators ultimately democracy is really about
answering this question who watches the Watchmen and in order to find a system
that can give human rights that can give voter rights over decentralized networks
we are working on this pilot implementation to understand if
quadratic voting can help us create registries of identities on the
blockchain that that can start giving this this can help people acknowledge
where the humans are in these networks now understanding where the humans are
in a world of AI of machine learning is not easy so there’s a field in
computation that is can be very interesting for this problem that is the
field of Turing tests the Turing test very well known test is a test to tell
humans from robots apart and in the last decade it has been used mostly by Google
and all of the Silicon Valley companies to help to tell humans from robots apart
but with every exercise that we complete doing a Turing test or a reCAPTCHA or
one of those tests we usually are making a test that helps improve their AI that
helps train the REA eye so how can we do Turing tests that cannot be captured by
AI what does a during resistant proof actually mean so in the world of AI
there’s a scope of problems there are AI heart and these are problems that are
not about pattern recognition anything that is about pattern recognition you
just you can put a neural network there and brute force and start recognizing
the patterns on the information so this this needs to be problems are abstract
this needs to be problems that are about more about reading between the lines or
joining the dots than just simply looking at an image and recognizing a
pattern and because this needs to be problems our abstract means that these
problems cannot be generated by an algorithm if something is generated by
an algorithm it can also be exploited by an algorithm so this this needs to be
problems that are human so this is a very incipient field we had
only found one University in Russia that is actually researching this that is
about trying to understand how we can create mechanisms of verification where
no computers are involved and if computers wanted to be involved they
can’t do anything about it a potential format is the use of video
you can look on Google if you if you if you type in Google blockchain that you
will find an article about myself and how I did the birth certificate of my
daughter that is basically a video where I’m doing a video I’m showing my
daughter my wife in the hospital hating me for doing this and the what I have
done is I hunch the video with I generate a code that only matches to the
contents of that video file and I include that hash in a Bitcoin
transaction so at any given point in the future I can demonstrate that the
content of that video are legitimate it has not been corrupted because it
matches this hash that lives on the Bitcoin blockchain and that that video
was shot in that moment in time and the interesting thing about video is that
it’s still a format that is easy for humans to parse and process than for
computers computers and AI really require a lot of training and there’s
some well-known paper called unreasonable effectiveness of data that
demonstrates that the success of AI algorithms is not about the algorithm
itself but about the data that you feed into the algorithm so to train a general
perception of AI is still a long way to go so video could be an interesting
format to do Turing resistant probes so we expect in the second half of this
year to be working on some pilots in relation to test out this this ideas
this models and to explore what what makes us human what what makes us human
what differentiates us from the machines what what our capacities of our ability
to think what fingerprints in our biology what is the stuff that can
really tell the humans from the machines apart and if we are able to identify
some of that stuff what kind of protocols we can build in a world were
computers they in Internet AI become a dominant way of
connecting with each other to finish I would encourage you to research also the
area of quadratic voting there’s a lot of academic work led by Glenn while we
are now working some prospects working after the experience within Colorado
we’re working with the Parliament of Canada and there’s some opportunities in
California but it’s it’s a novel idea an interesting idea to make a voting system
that where the losing side can also agree with the result because it will
put also white on the legitimacy of the decision being made not just on the
economic capacity of the decision to finish I would like to leave you with a
this quote that I really like it’s the very last words of the last article
published by Jamal khashoggi who said through the creation of an independent
international forum isolated from the influence of nationalist governments
spreading hate through propaganda ordinary people in the Arab world would
be able to address the structural problems of their so that their
societies face democracy is definitely not going through a good period right
now we’re being challenged from all different directions and but I would
encourage you that do not lose faith and to keep fighting for something that will
help you know empowers us as members of our society and to start thinking about
the democracy that can go can start looking beyond the limits of the
nation-state we have a world to take care for in this century and we need to
embrace the capacity that the Internet has to build a system of governance for
the planet as a whole and hopefully and you know make make the world a better
place thank you thank you so much Santi the topic of
democracy and human rights is something that we have fabric care a lot about
I’m from Crimea so Russia Ukraine you can imagine no more comments needed
probably max from my team is actually from Romania so he and his family have
experienced the totalitarian regimes two kind of the full extent as well
max will moderate our next panel discussion which will focus on
surveillance capitalism and how we can use technology to move from from don’t
be evil to come be evil when it comes to governments and corporations and I’ll
let max take over and introduce the the other panelists that we have in here that’s great good to see you man
alrighty great thank you a lot for that presentation Santi um so the reason for
which I really wanted to moderate this panel and bring it together is that well
I’m half Luxembourgish I grew up in Luxembourg which is sort of this sort of
small utopian country in middle of Europe I’m also half Romanian and my
family grew up through a communist regime for 40 years and I grew up with
the stories of that regime and when I mean the communist regime I don’t mean
like soda Gummer government I don’t agree with but rather it means sort of
your passports I think getting up getting taken away it means your best
friends reporting on you when the communist regime fell my grandfather got
a stack of 800 pages of documents written by his best friends and
neighbors reporting on him whether he was eating chicken soup or chicken broth
for lunch and whether he was speaking French Romanian on the phone and what
his daughter was his daughter was playing with and when you think about
the fundamental effect of such a surveillance on on humans you get very
close to the ideas of Bentham and foo-foo on optical societies where you
realize that actually observance and the lack of privacy fundamentally changes
how you behave not only now but also in the future and when you consider to
where we’ve arrived today in terms of society you’d consider that we’ve gotten
a lot further we’ve moved away from a lot of these totalitarian regimes and
yet we’ve got sort of the Chinese credit scores that we’re seeing
we also realized that action in the US you’ve got facial recognition at every
single Airport and when you look at the sort of dominant business model of today
for tech companies it’s all about gathering data from its users monetizing
it in some shape or form and probably knowing what you might do in the future
better than you do and so coming to this perspective it isn’t it’s really
important topic to discuss from my perspective not only from the AI stage
but also from the webseries stage and so we have Santi who well by now you know
his background and all the incredible work he’s done in Argentina we also have
you know he’s joining us live as an equally incredible background and I
wanted to give him the microphone to introduce himself and why this base
matters him sure so I’m Vinny Gupta are active in cryptography and civil rights
since probably 97 and I was the project manager for the etherium watch and I
work on digital identities for physical things
but I’ve done what work on trying to figure out what a human rights framework
looks like in an age of digital technology including one very serious
project for the US Office of the Secretary of Defense working on a
genocide resistant biometric ID card standard for use in areas I have large
genocide risk and I kind of come to this space with a much more radical critique
of the problems that we face and which I’ll try and take you guys through as we
move forwards that’s again so I guess to warm up a bit and get
started you’ve both been fantastic quick remand recommender is to me so I wanted
to hear your perspective on what utopian or dystopian novel you consider to be
the closest to the future that we’re heading to today well I I’m a big fan of
Aldous Huxley and I think we are closer to brave new world in many ways that was
a very inspiring book for me and another book that I remember reading a few years
ago that is almost weird in how prophetic it can be is this essay from
the late 90s called the sovereign individual which is known to be Peter
Thiel’s favorite book and it’s a scary book in the sense that it’s it does have
this attempt to imply information theory to understand capitalism and it comes to
the conclusion of what would you know what would happen when we have a
cryptography distributed cryptography allowing us to make transactions that
cannot be surveyed by the government and that you know to read that from a book
of 96-97 and live in the world we live in today with the rise of crypto pretty
much becoming the economic phenomenon of our day it’s really interesting because
it helps to bring some perspective about processes that you know there have there
have been some people thinking about this stuff for a long time for me it’s a book called shockwave
writer written by John Brunner in 1976 and shocker rider represents bankrupt
America dominated by gang violence run by corporations the only thing that’s
holding it together as a cohesive culture is a 3d video phone network that
also serves documents and democracy has been completely subverted by massive use
of internet driven opinion polling I also wrote a novel which are considered
to be pretty utopian although what people call it a dystopia called mother
of hydrogen which to me is the most optimistic possible perspective that you
could have on our future and you can find that online for free just download
off my website and I think that sounds like two books to add to the reading
list and so moving on I guess the title of this panel is surveillance tap from
surveillance capitalism to totalitarian regimes but why don’t we start off by
discussing how surveillance capitalism might affect democracy or undermine
democracy as we see it today so I mean the fundamental problem we have with
democracy is that it doesn’t work right and it doesn’t work in the same way that
horse-drawn carriages don’t work for mass transport yeah we haven’t updated
the machinery of democracy in about 300 years and this idea that your total
democratic representation over a lifetime is basically twelve axis on
pieces of paper like there’s no way that you could expect to run a society at
these kind of paces with these kind of stakes with that kind of representation
for the public um you know there is a saying that you know if voting changed
anything it would be illegal and I think that we can generally speaking see that
that is the case except in very very rare occasions ordinary individuals even
in large groups feel that they have very little control over the direction of the
planet or the direction of their lives and what that is because we just don’t
have anything resembling modern machinery to turn the will for people
into effective action that stuff is all century’s out of date we should have
updated the machinery with every new technology since the printing press it
should have been updated for radio she’d you unfit for television it should have
been updated for the early into it should have been updated for mobile
but because we’ve refused to update the machinery of democracy the actual
functions of democracy have become more and more and more outmoded while the
rest of society is accelerated into a completely different structural form so
I think that this is our first problem is that the existing systems are
incredibly out at 8 the second problem is that they’re also incredibly
vulnerable to high-tech attack and all of the stuff that you’ve seen with for
example creme brulee analytic is the high tech attack where you take 21st
century techniques and use them to attack a 17th century immune system and
you wonder whether problems yeah it’s I definitely agree with that sentiment one
of the things that we try to think about is you know I’m more of the philosophy
these days that I like I mentioned in my talk that you know we need to build a
new model working with the existing model also is dealing with an extremely
corrupt game I think there’s a new generation that is definitely the big
divide of our day and age is the digital divide but it’s a really a generational
divide to have the internet generation and the online generation and the
offline generation so we’re in the in the middle of that transition right now
and projecting the world that were looking into the future you know we’re
gonna be almost an entire species or entire species we’ll be changing the way
we connect in the way we engage with the world and what I wonder is you know what
what would would it mean to be human in that world one of the problems of
identity is that if we try to narrow down an identity into this concept of a
username or a social security number or a phone number if you if we try to
narrow down or identities as this one-dimensional piece of information
that’s a recipe for an Orwellian entity to control us so maybe we even need to
rethink what what we are as what our identities actually are in the political
sense or when to try to think a new kind of concept a political unit that helps
us organize as a society at a at a large scale I don’t have any clear answers to
this and I just can point to some research and some some
are emerging in the field but we definitely need to start thinking
different I think and we are on the web three stage after all so bring it back
to this topic we now are at the stage where we have the ability to have such
primitives as censorship resistant transactions as sovereignly held digital
assets when I talk to to a lot of friends from from Luxembourg where
people from Italy Europe you get the point that these blockchain networks can
be very useful for automated systems for more higher efficiencies for trading
systems whereas when you talk to people either from back home and in Romania
were also from I’m sure from from South America actually the the much more
poignant ideas are around this idea of sovereign and portable money or
sovereign and portable identity and that that actually can keep you from this of
grasps of potential totalitarian regimes from coming together so what are some of
the topics or some of the geopolitical aspects of this web 3 wave that you
think are not being discussed enough and where are we going with that so
something that one of the interesting cases of use of Crypt is definitely
remittances where families are able to send funds back home and one of the most
if we if we look at the statistics of localbitcoins calm it’s interesting to
see for example what’s happening in Venezuela where the rate of transmission
of Bitcoin in this in this network is growing exponentially and we see more
and more money being used through this network from probably from remittances
from family sending money back home but when I talk with julio coco who is this
activist in venezuela he told me something that really shocked me that
was that he said 60% or more of the transactions are happening in local
bitcoins calm it’s actually money being stolen by the corrupt officials of the
venezuelan government and the Venezuelan military and they’re just using Bitcoin
as their new Switzerland they cannot have a Swiss account anymore Switzerland
is no longer thing so you know the Bitcoin is a technology Bitcoin is a
technology and can be used in any way we can use a technology but the the stark
reality of it is that we are also seeing this technology being used in ways that
we probably would you know wouldn’t that there’s
probably benefiting the people that we don’t want to have this technology
benefiting – one of the problems of Bitcoin in Venezuela for example was the
fact that Bitcoin works with this algorithm called proof-of-work
it means that it uses a lot of energy and actually the military that the
dictatorship in Venezuela started looking at the energy footprint in the
electric grid to identify where were were the Bitcoin miners and they
expropriated all of the Bitcoin mining facilities and now the largest miner in
Bitcoin in Venezuela is the government itself no wonder it’s the one government
that tried to launch their own cryptocurrency so it’s it is we need to
address this also like you know the accountability of these technologies
these are technologies are impacting society the latest rumor that I heard in
blockchain week in New York was that Venezuela has seven exchanges and
there’s the main operators of localbitcoins calm is a handful of
Chinese brokers that are making dealings with the Central Bank of Venezuela
allowing to buy believers and then trading the believers back using Bitcoin
and that they have they are managing 30,000 bitcoins which is almost 240
million dollars there are actually money from the Venezuelan people stolen by
Maduro and his cronies and these are all in the Bitcoin blockchain so I used to
be a big con maximalist I love beacon Bitcoin like was an incredible still is
an incredible piece of technology but I I would argue that we need to really
raise the bar of what you know what this technology really tried to think about
the political impact of these technologies not just the greedy
financial aspect of it yeah I couldn’t agree more
couldn’t agree more and I saw talk by mari mccarthy and herbert snorrison who
went on to find the Icelandic pirate party in 2013 an event called Oh hm and
they laid out a case that every new technology in the past 200 years at any
substantial was heralded by classical anarchists as
being a technology of decentralization electric motors motorcars you know
diesel generators solar panels every new technology that comes around
um there’s kind of a political fringe which grabs on to the new technologies
that’s right this will finally be the thing that decentralized his society and
what happens in almost every instance is that once the technology is well enough
established to have proven its utility central powers then look at the
technology and I wonder what we could do with that then and you go from having
something that looks like Bitcoin to something that looks like sesame credit
in China the social credit rating inside of about a generation and this is just a
repeating cycle it happens over and over and over and over again so the problems
that we have here go far deeper than a relationship with an individual specific
technology the problem that we have here is that we
have essentially no human rights right all of that stuff went out the window
after the invention of the nuclear bomb because there’s no framework that you
can imagine for human rights in which giving your government the right to
annihilate all life that we can prove exists in the universe is a sensible
policy option the fundamental compact between human beings and their rulers
was completely annihilated with the invention of the nuclear bomb and we
haven’t managed to replace it ever since right we’re still in a position where we
live in de facto nuclear dictatorships and until we start talking about policy
options which remove the nuclear capacity at the heart of the states and
return us to a condition where the governments don’t represent an
existential threat to every single molecule of life on earth it’s very hard
for us to talk about solving the problems that we have because these
things are sub problems of sub problems of sub problems of sub problems of sub
problems that are all anchored in place by the nuclear weapons stockpile and the
attitude to life that created it so when we start looking at these kind of
solutions you know you have to say okay how do we use technology to create a
world in which the nuclear weapon is no longer a critical power of global
stability how do you use technology to create a world in which people’s on
willingness to be fried in their homes by somebody else’s nuclear bomb turns
into long-term work on policy to eventually get rid of those capabilities
and if we’re not thinking at this scale we’re not talking about having the
ability to handle global warming we’re not talking about the ability to handle
nanotechnology and biotechnology right you’re not going to see substantial
realization of things like the Millennium Development Goals sorry the
sustainable development goals in a world which is basically held together by
nuclear bombs and so to get into a position where we’ve got real leverage
on these kind of issues we have to start talking about how do we design a path to
a post nuclear world in which human beings don’t drive starvation and for
that you have to start thinking about a single global political regime you have
to about start talking about one-person one-vote
for the entire world in a single global polity because that’s the only way that
we can bring down the barriers between people that we’re currently maintaining
with nuclear bombs and this might be a one century to century project but
that’s how long it took to get every single human being of Voe in the kind of
democracy we have now franchise was won by category after category after
category of people over centuries moving from possession where only the elites
could vote where everybody can vote and we need to repeat that process again but
a global scale and that’s not an unrealistic goal it might take us a long
time but if we don’t get explicit that this is the goal what’s gonna happen is
that we will win small victory after a small victory after a small victory but
we will never touch the problems which generate these smaller problems and then
the smaller problems will just reman a fest in different places right you need
an underlying realistic political radicalism you know you need to say look
it’s basically starfleet or bust and if we’re not moving towards those kind of
approaches to a single just global governance framework everything else
will be a partial solution which gets overturned by a higher level of
governance it says oK we’ve had enough of that
that looks far too much like power going into the hands of people that aren’t
supposed to have it and they’ll just flip over the fair
revolutions one a time as we’ve seen happen over and over again in South
America I like it and this is your responsibility to implement and I guess
moving away a bit from this of a geopolitical side and coming back to the
capitalism side if we look at where capitalism today it’s largely a set of
businesses are built based off of open source technology to a large extent
which out of Terius will talk about soon and monetizing users data so gathering
data from their customers and their users and using it in ways that were not
expected before and so the quote Jew Jack in his new book the relevance of
the communist manifesto which Antley recommended we’ve moved away from the
capitalist using forest and work labor to using the general intellect that is
produced by every individual whether it be our data or content or even our
identities that we own and so where do you see the business models of tomorrow
moving to we have a route towards more collective capitalism that can include
some of these technologies to move away from some of these sort of surveillance
capitalistic states that we have today it’s it’s you know thinking about the
business models one thing that I found really interesting in in the world of
crypto and the you know the one you know crypto has a broad range of applications
and a broad range of innovations the one community that I find that it’s most
advanced when it comes to discuss governance and new structures of capital
is aetherium theorem there’s a lot of very exciting innovation of people that
are trying to think new models of companies and when we try to think about
what a digital company can do what is intrinsic about the digital world that
can help us create something better that simply cannot be possibly made in the
world of traditional or legacy jurisdictions so there’s some after the
whole ICO craze that definitely there was a lot of noise in in that and
there’s a lot of scams and you know it was it led to a huge mushrooming of the
perception of the space as a whole but with
we need to improve that a lot and and now there’s some new ideas emerging in
the field of dowse distributed autonomous organizations that can find
mechanisms of continuous racing there’s this concept of continuous organizations
where the model is you pack the profits that an entity generates with the the
share issuance mechanism of that ain’t entity so if the entity grows with
profits it also allows for the issuance of more shares throughout time in an
automated way in a computed way there’s also the concept there’s a very
interesting experiment now going on in in etherium called Moloch Moloch is a
dhow that has 25 members you have to get both in to become a member and there’s a
tribute of 100 eath so you really have to have some skin in the game 100 is
this around two hundred and fifty thousand two hundred twenty-five
thousand dollars it will be 250 maybe one day but an interesting thing about
Moloch Moloch is really four hundred lines of code it’s really simple code
and it has one function which I think it’s a really interesting idea called
the ragequit and if you are dual age quit at any given time you can exit the
DAO with your funds so this allows for the majority of the voters in this now
to make sure that they don’t disenfranchise much the minority on the
votes because at any given time a minority can split and live with their
funds from the organization so this ragequit function keeps the
cohesive nature of the DAO while reducing the risk for investors
investors can join and can live at any given time so these are some of the
properties that thinking about the concept of creating entities or
companies in a digital way looks much more interesting than the way we deal
with risk and assets and investments in the traditional world so what I wonder
is well how can some of these ideas help not only fund for-profit projects but
also fund political movements fund all kinds of organizations are trying to
address challenges in society and apply some of these innovations beyond the
scope of just finance so I think we’re getting exciting tools really powerful
tools to start building an alternative the challenge now is to make sure that
these tools are easier to use that have better user experience and that can
reach anyone from any country I come from Argentina structuring an illegal
company in Argentina is a bureaucratic nightmare but suddenly giving an equal
chance for anyone anywhere in the world through the use of the Internet to
structure companies and to engage with projects in this type of economies
regardless of where you were born I think that levels up the playing field
for everyone so I’m definitely long on the internet and these networks
regardless of how these networks are today exploiting the traditional legacy
politics we have interesting interesting so the the way that I think about this
is from a kind of econ an economics angle we now have the ability to get a
new kind of economic efficiency which I would refer to as economies of our
missions so we’ve got economies of scale which gives you industrialization we’ve
got economies of agility which gives you the start-up world become a visa
economies of omniscience or where you basically know everything about a
situation and then you use it to make optimal decisions in the environment
that we have right now practically the only way that we’re using economies of
emissions is to show people the best possible advert to show them to get them
to buy something right we know huge amounts of information about people but
all we’re really using that information for is targeting adverts and all of our
money is winding up inside of companies whose business model is to target
adverts Facebook and Google and all the rest but there are vastly larger sums of
money left on the table by this approach that are actually extracted by a right
you know the markets that we interact with for our everyday functions are
completely illiquid and completely irrational right probably everybody in
this room has had a nightmare experience trying to
find a place to live in London right whether you’re renting it or whether
you’re buying it and access to information is very poor we walk things
like optionality it’s incredibly difficult to get in contact with people
that might be able to help you so if you take a new job right you really want to
live in a place that has the shortest possible commute to work if you’ve got
kids that’s now constrained because you want to balance school and versus your
commute time and all these things are kind of systems of constraints if we had
access to all of the information about housing in London you could do things
like take a new job and you know 50 people then approach you just swap
houses with you because they want to be closer to where you are you want to be
closer to where your workplace is it might be a four or five person swap or
everybody shuffles around and at the end of it everybody’s got more of what they
wanted for exactly the same amount of money they’re paying that right and the
entirety of society has opportunities like that just lying around and we’ve
got all the information but it’s in the wrong structures for us to be able to
exploit the possibility same thing with allergies right if you
swipe a credit card in a shop and you have say a peanut allergy you ought to
get an automated block on your card that says hey you just bought something with
a peanut in it you know you’re gonna have to confirm that transaction before
we’ll let it happen right you know the manufacturer knows what’s in the stuff
the shop knows what stuff you’ve bought all we need to do is get tell the credit
card company you have an allergy and we could tie those stories together into a
new kind of function so to me there’s a wastefulness of this are driven internet
economy is it it’s totally failed to do fundamental structural beneficial
transformation and it’s left us with a bunch of advertising crap
rather than fundamentally more efficient and more enjoyable lives which is what –
right there on the table and then you look at things like the Chinese Social
Credit System or indeed American credit ratings right it’s essentially the same
system it’s just in America it’s done by private companies absolutely true right
credit rating in social credit it’s the same idea those kinds of systems you
know could be operated for the general welfare right those things could be
those databases could be used to help people find jobs to help people
get appropriate education there’s so much more value in these systems that
we’re not touching because we just don’t have the correct structure or
organization to pull that value out and I mean to me this is the whole sort of
thesis of what I wanted to see from Bob Jane as I wanted to see fundamental
economic transformation at this level of the economies of emissions and the
transfer of the value that was being extracted from those economies instead
of it being held by private companies held by either individuals or by
collectives or indeed by municipalities in even the state so I’m not sure if
such systems fascinate me or scare me if we’re able to use the full extent of
data that is available today I guess we just have to move away from serve as
Google did from their old motive don’t be evil which they recently discarded
but move away to systems that are fundamentally built in a way that they
just can’t be evil no matter how much data they have they can’t be used
against their users and but on that note I think we have to wrap it up I’m
getting signals that we’ve reached the top of our hour so you

3 Replies to “Big Brother is Watching: From Surveillance Capitalism to Totalitarian Regimes”

  1. The bottom line is men and tech nerdy people are winning this war as the
    dumbies with there idumb Apple products are getting picked off. Tech
    nerdies know how to block this tracking. It has been a few years for me
    since I have had any ad tracking so I even forgot all about it. Not hard
    to do for tech savvy people. Women are being hit the hardest by this.
    Poor feminism it can't help you if you have a big woman mouth but
    nothing to back it up. Sorry I still love the ladies.

  2. The bottom line is men and tech nerdy people are winning this war as the
    dumbies with there idumb Apple products are getting picked off. Tech
    nerdies know how to block this tracking. It has been a few years for me
    since I have had any ad tracking so I even forgot all about it. Not hard
    to do for tech savvy people. Women are being hit the hardest by this.
    Poor feminism it can't help you if you have a big woman mouth but
    nothing to back it up. Sorry I still love the ladies.

  3. The bottom line is men and tech nerdy people are winning this war as the
    dumbies with there idumb Apple products are getting picked off. Tech
    nerdies know how to block this tracking. It has been a few years for me
    since I have had any ad tracking so I even forgot all about it. Not hard
    to do for tech savvy people. Women are being hit the hardest by this.
    Poor feminism it can't help you if you have a big woman mouth but
    nothing to back it up. Sorry I still love the ladies.

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