This is an intellectual challenge: how to design a generic, many-to-many communication system that prohibits surveillance entities from proving that you (1) read some website or (2) contributed content to some website, even if they do (1) capture and analyze all traffic on the Internet and (2) can break all encryption that is used for many-to-many communication (practically mostly SSL, which might be broken in many cases by NSA using MITM attacks). The only capabilities that we assume here that the surveillance body does not have is (1) breaking encryption used for local-only storage, such as TrueCrypt and (2) breaking encryption used for one-on-one encrypted communication between parties who know each other personally (which is comparatively simple to achieve with PGP etc.). So we're only talking here about them treating you as part of the big mass of people (one of the many activists out there …), not being one of the select few for which they do "targeted access operations" to infect your computer by software or hardware …

Note that, as we assume that the surveillance body captures all Internet communication globally, Tor can no longer be considered secure as they can then do timig correlations on the whole Tor network at once and with that information (simplified by running some own Tor nodes …) de-anonymize its participants. (For that reason, we cannot use realtime two-way communication at all.)

So: here's my proposal from three hours of thinking on today's evening about this. I guess it's pretty wanky 🙂 Anyway, your feedback is welcome.

The basic idea is to hide reading the website steganographically in reading another unsuspicious website, and contributing to the website steganographically in a botnet infection (and by contributing from public wi-fi only). So the surveillance body would see you communicating, but you can plausibly deny reading and writing on that forbidden website; you just read a photo blog and had a spam virus infection … can happen, right? 😛

Part by part:

Deniable reading: steganographic site-in-a-site

This needs an unsuspicious "host website" with considerable data traffic for every user. For example a photography forum or even a porn site. Being used as a host site could be negotiated in secret with the operators (if you are an activist with a valid cause to which people tend to agree), or the site could also be hacked for that purpose, or a site can be "reused" which happens to be a customer website on a web server you operate. But that's quite evil … . In any case, the site should have a large existing community so that everybody can justifiably claim that they just used the host site and did not know anything about the payload data hidden in its traffic.

So to read the "secret website" you want to access, you do a daily round on this "host website", looking at new posts etc.. You will use a special browser (started from a steganographically hidden and encrypted partition on your computer) with a plugin that extracts the new steganographic payload data from this host website. So every new day of updates on the host website also contain the new day of updates for the payload website. The updates are very compact, compressed, git-style updates, probably just plain text. Also, to make connecting input to users even harder, normally every post in the payload site is anonymous (not even pseudonymous!), but users could identify themselves with transient handles for just a few posts to create necessary context in a thread.

Instead of starting the payload extraction and decryption software from a steganographically hidden area, another alternative is to get it to be part of the basic operating system installation for everyone. Which is then likewise unsuspicious because it provides an alibi.

The payload website would not be encrypted. So the surveillance body would find out about it quickly, and it would take some weeks or months to get the host website switched off or its "infection" with the payload site removed (by choosing a proper jurisdiction for the server location, and by using Tor to hide its location somewhat, it can definitely take that long). At which point the payload site would switch to a different host site. Even better, it would always use different host sites in parallel for redundancy, and switching from one to the other would not need any re-downloading of previous data. Just the new "git commits".

But maybe it is better to have the payload data encrypted – if it helps to keep the "infection" from being detected for a long time, it definitely is better. That however implies that every user has to get their own specialized payload, encrypted with a PGP public key. So the host site cannot be a broadcast type of site (like a forum), but has to provide content to every user (like a PTT voice messaging site for example, since PTT voice messages can well take steganographic payload). The payload site server would also encode slightly randomized payload for the different users, and of course not log the random elements, to prevent the connections between the public keys (on the server) and the user accounts (of the host site) to be made when the server is compromised. Which means that even then, nobody can tell which users got data with payload and which are just normal users. Only when finding the users and seizing their computers one could tell that … but no, not even then, since (1) the users usually cannot be found and (2) their private keys for decryption are steganographically hidden on their computer (see below).

Against breaking communication encryption: anonymity by free wi-fi

There is no issue with encryption being broken (or content not being encrypted at all!) if this still does not give them a hint to your real-world identity. The solution is to not give them any connection between the IP address and personal identities. How to achieve this?

  • Use a mobile device that looks for open wi-fi networks while you walk around in a big city. If it finds one, it will connect to it quickly, send its data, and disconnect again. The data is a git-style, very compact update to the shared content of the website / forum you contribute to. With this method, you can sync to that website 1-2 times a day, which should be enough for most purposes.
  • If your country does not allow anonymous Internet access at all (such as in China), send your data by encrypted e-mail to somebody abroad whom you trust and who will perform the above procedure for you. If you don't have somebody you trust, you are doomed anyway 😉

The security and safety of this procedure can be enhanced by:

  • using directional wi-fi antennae hidden below your clothing (for example in your arm – the system will guide you to point your arm in the right direction to get the best connection to a remote wifi 😉
  • more importantly, by using a new, spoofed MAC address for every connection. Which is important in case the wi-fi network logs the MAC addresses of connections
  • choosing only wi-fi networks open to the general public (in bars, airports etc.), to avoid raising suspicion of the surveillance body against individuals whose wi-fi you would else compromise
  • disguising your optical appearance against face recognition through surveillance cameras etc.
  • unsuspicious behavior, to prevent raising suspicion in surveillance videos etc.; this however is a pretty low-grade threat, as it involes a lot of manual coordination work ("targeted access operations"), which a surveillance body cannot do for its whole population
  • writing from a different device than you use for reading; you would use commands like "reply-to:post452798" for placing your content at the right spot of the website; you would never ever exchange data between the two devices (since then, also data coming from a trojan by which the surveillance body infected your reading computer, could be transferred to your writing computer and could prove that you participate in the website instead of just "unknowingly" getting its data in steganograophic form)

Deniable contributions: a botnet is controlling your device!

This is a pretty funny idea: claiming that your computer (that you use for sending) does stuff that you don't even want it to do is perfectly reasonable. So even if you are caught sending through a free wi-fi network, you still have an alibi. Because there will indeed be a virus on this device, that also has the habit of sending out e-mail spam, but it is special in that you can control it. You can also justifiably deny doing so, since all the programs and data to do so (including your website contributions before being sent) are in a TrueCrypt-style partition with a full filesystem that is steganographically embedded in your personal library of self-made photos. Because these are your own photos (and you did not publish them anywhere!), nobody can claim that you steganographically modify them since they did not see them before.

But we need some more stuff: as spambots usually do, yours will auto-generate the spam e-mails you will send out, including many spelling errors, random input for changes to embedded images etc., "to pass the spam filters". But instead, these changes also allow you to add the steganographic input, which also will look just like random changes, so just like the spambot behavior. In reality, it is encrypted with a public key of the server from the website you contribute to, and as long as that private key keeps private, your alibi is safe. This is actually P2P encryption which we allowed above to be not broken. But even if it gets broken, you're still not caught by any means since you always use the free wi-fi for Internet access 🙂

The e-mails will travel to the server hosting the secret website (or to a P2P encryption connected, befriended server), with the alibi that it is also an e-mail server. The server will however claim that these e-mails are spam, and not forward them to its users. But of course, internally evaluate them to extract the payload data. The private key for doing that, and the whole "secret website" software has to be protected in the server, of course, and has to have "deniable existence". This is possible by, again, using steganographic storage of a TrueCrypt style partition, maybe in the image data of the "host website". When the server is physically accessed, it will quickly unmount that logical partition, delete the access key from its memory, and be just another normal webserver 🙂

Simplifications and optimizations

  • It is not needed to hack or infect a host site to use it for embedding another site. Just select one that allows anonymous image or video uploads. If doing so, it should however be a site where all the steganographic content is downloaded by regular users, too, so the steganographic users have an alibi. For example, a meme collection site that allows anonymous submissions and publishes daily updates is a good choice. Or a site that hosts pirated content or porn. This is much better than "infecting" sites and running a separate server for the steganographics. Since this way, no own server and no infected site can be taken down. All own software runs on the clients (which would have a little configuration file that selects what URLs to download for steganographic content, and which for cover, and a decryption key to access the extracted steganographic information. Depening on how far this key is shared, it becomes any software between steganographic 1:1 communciation or many-to-many communication.)
  • The important point is to make steganographic communication comfortable. Not like e-mail, but like a full forum, even with special features like calendars etc.. Only then one can organize social change with it. The way NNTP (Newsnet) works is a good paradigm: a desktop client software collects message / data packages from somewhere, and provides the frontend locally.
  • For anonymous posting on public wi-fi networks, maybe one can even use little quadrocopter or blimp drones, operating at night. During the day they would hide in some place not at your home, and in passing on your way to work etc. you would transfer the next set of data to upload to them.

So now that we’ve grown up, and started to work for money, we finally start to ask ourselves: Wherefore should we live then? We see most people choose to live for children, and some choose to live for themselves instead. The former have children and no money, the latter have money to spend and no children.

Now, these both ways to live life could not stop the deterioration of Western societies, which started in (say) the mid 1990’s and is in good full swing as of 2011. It’s not the technichal challenges of more scarce resources that we face, or the dangers of unregulated greed (in the financial markets and at home). The real, real problem is that in a land of Cockaigne like this, parents can never succeed to transfer their builder mindset (of postponed consumption, investment, hope, betterment) to their children and grandchildren. These will find out that near everything can be had without work, and will get too comfortable to even be interested, to desire to learn, and to be creative. It’s bad with the children and worse with the grandchildren. Call it decadence.

Now what? Let’s doubt that taking part in decadence is never a life lived for what’s adequate, whether you have children more decadent than you, or no children, being decadent yourself. Instead, there has to be a life to be lived against decadence. Successfully. What do we need for that?

The new, new frontier. The US could only start to become decadent where the frontier for settlement had passed, leaving civilization, but without vision and without tasks. Of course, people found something to improve and to do during some of the following generations, but finally even that faded. There was something like a last try to remedy this by calling the race for the moon the “new frontier”. Nice try, but itself influenced by decadence: Is space travelling really the first thing that comes to mind when you think of “task” and “vision”?

What we need is the new, new frontiere. And then the new, new, new one. And so on. We need eternal pioneering. Look around and see that the world is in nearly no place as it should be. Sahara is a desert, the Congo struck by malaria, all of Africa by Aids, and much of the world by wrong belief systems. Just for the start. And we Westerners dare to say we see no tasks at hand, when questioning ourselves how to recreate vision and zeal in our society, or when questioning ourselves what to do with the >20% jobless in southern Europe? And then people dare to get on the idea that adding another child or two or three to already 7 000 000 000 people on Earth is a proper reason to live for, even though its more-than-apparent that even more people will even intensify the problems and resource conflicts on this planet?

Let’s get practical: we know how to do military operations, with respect to human resources. People get “deployed” in groups of several hundreds to some battlefield overseas, for some 6-8 months maybe. Then they are exchanged by a new group, and themselves go back to their home country to refresh and prepare again for their next deployment in another 6-8 months. Let’s take this over to all kinds of development aid. Because this is attributing the right role to civilization and homes: a place of refreshment and preparation for your “mission”.

Specifically, I propose to create settlements of ca. 4000 people, who travel to overseas development assistance deployments in groups of 1000. As this is no military operation, this can and should include the whole families (children can get schooled underway). The people at home would work to support them, from logistics to medical care etc.. As in military deployments, there will have to be like 4-5 (minimum) immediate support people behind everybody on a mission, and even more so working for money for these missions. But in any case, everybody’s goal should be to go on deployment (and if only for 6 in 36 months), being the reward for year-long support work.

Some ideas for specific missions:

  • Re-afforest the whole of Sahara. Yea, we had that above. Just plant the trees, it’s good for the planet 🙂
  • Build some big islands, or enlarge others. Having more land in nice climate is always a good thing. Why, for heaven’s sake, would people want to live in Siberia while there’s an island waiting for them?
  • Eradicate AIDS.
  • Eradicate malaria.
  • Eradicate hemorrhagic fevers. And all those other infection sicknesses.
  • We want the rain forest back where it was!
  • We want whales back, and the Indian elephant in big numbers, and all these other lovely creatures. Isn’t it somewhat … heavily self-conceited, that we allow 7 billion humans on Earth and reduced many of the other  creatures to just some thousands per species?
  • Yea and finally, once we repaired and tidied up the Earth, there are other planets to travel to. Yet, first things first!

Remember what the Lord God said after the deluge: spread and multiply and fill the Earth. But Josephus says, the people wanted to stay together in one location, building Babylon and its towever as their central collection point. Yet God wanted them to go and colonize the Earth, he wanted them to pioneer – maybe because of the danger of rapid decadence, should they stay together in all their civilization? So he had to mix up their language …

Pioneering never ends. It must not end, as it’s a crucial ingredient for human mental health.

First, head over here and have a look at the picture. Now: can you tell – Hipster or Hobo?

Last Wednesday, I have been to Klassikstadt Frankfurt, in a mobile.de car seller seminar. Well, kind of. It turned out to be more of a sales promotion event for a new type of seller account. But I have been to this Klassikstadt thing anyway – which is a highly stylish blend of an old, red brick manufacturing building, oldtimer cars, oldtimer workshops and companies, catering and event and conference room options for diverse customers.For example, Deutsche Telekom had a little conference or meeting in one of these rooms.

Snacks were served in small white porcelain and glas dishes. Inner walls were unplastered red bricks. Most things looked trendy. Some people looked like nerds in a suit, wearing a stylish edition of hornrims. They had also hired pretty girls to wear the microphones and hand out the name tag. An in-crowd gathering: the whole setting, and many of the people there, contributed to a yuppie atmosphere.

So what is a yuppi, anyway? That’s what I’m talking about, as this event inspired a simple definition in me. A yuppi is a geek with money. Or a nerd with money, does not matter here. These people make their work fun, ideally by choosing what they want to work for (entrepeneurship), and / or by enjoying their work by spending money for a luxury and trendy setting. And, more importantly: while a geek or nerd is laughed at because of his or her strange passions and ideas, yuppies are admired for that. The difference between awkward and trendy is often just the resources available for investing into it. Without money, your individualistic or creative project makes you a nerd, geek, freak or (at best) a poor artist. With money, spent for polishing the project’s outward appearance and outsourcing the actual work, it makes you a trendy person. For example, oldtimers: the poor hobby mechanic who loves his oldtimer but lacks the money to get it into shape is a freak; but the suit-clothed entrepeneur who just buys a car that others worked for, and spends ~180 EUR a month just to store and showcase his car in one of the Klassikstadt glas garages, he is considered trendy. Why?

Now I don’t have something against the yuppies: I like that there are truly individualistic people and passionate people among them. But I dislike our (the society’s) short-sighted judgment over people. Having or not having money is mostly a matter of luck and chance, so should not be allowed to transform a  freak into a yuppie, or vice versa.

Remember my futuristic, utopian blog post about the sovereign community concept just some days ago? Now just yesterday I found out there is one approach for such a high-tech enabled power community underway. I was seriously bedazzled. May I introduce: Factor e. It took me the whole night (literally) to read and watch all the interesting stuff on their website.

Here is the most interesting stuff that I found on the web about them:

The challenge: finances. It is easy to imagine that a not-yet-autarkic community that in addition to autarky first of all needs to acquire autarky by creating the toolbox for it, needs more money than it has itself. While autarky brings independence from money, this is not the case on the road to autarky … . So if you like what they do and share their vision, you can surf over to their “True Fans” page and from there, join their “1000 True Fans – 1000 Global Villages” campaign and join by contributing a monthly USD 10 for two years. If we want to enjoy an open-sourced equipment for autarkic living, we somehow need to make that happen first …

This is another post in a series on community concepts and innovative society concepts. Some ideas are new, some are repeated from earlier posts … I need to combine these posts, I know … bear with me, for now. The good thing is, these ideas get more and more mature, and practical, from post to post. Just some steps to go, and this whole thing can come into being in the real world! If you are interested to join this experiment, contact me.

The Sovereign Community concept

What is this, a sovereign community? It is a small-scale intentional community that lives in a mostly autarkic way. Be it in a remote region or a city or even mobile. And why do we need this? Because in effect, this community is a small-scale solidarity union, comparable to the extended family concept that has died out, but voluntarily and supported by high-tech. As such, these solidarity communities are especially stable entities, being able to outlive deflation, inflation, state bankruptcy, civil war and the like. And as such, it presents an alternative to state-based social security etc. systems. Which we are in need of:

The current danger of state bankruptcy in Greece shows what a state actually is: a closure (as derived from math). A shell, a self-sustaining area for all interactions. That is, it should be … by making debts, it does instead make itself vulnerable from speculative attacks from all of humankind. And this kind of ubiquitous vulnerability is what makes the world such an instable place to live today. But the problem can be solved even in small scale: make your own closure. If you do not depend on anybody from the outside, esp. not on credits, you are effectively your own sovereign. And a true sovereign, not a pseudo one like a state with debts. A community of the size and style proposed here is a self-closured community, a true sovereign. That is, near to that. A little coupling to the state remains, as one needs some little money for some stuff that cannot be dealth with otherwise, and this leads to dependency, vulnerable to increased difficulties of obtaining money (that is, the state of the economy). Therefore, the community must be able to exist without any money for some time, at least three years. Exchanging goods is o.k. of course.

This idea, this concept of founding something that is in competition with ones state, and is even better, was ridiculous just some years ago. The state (at least here in Germany) was so powerful, so reliable that the very thought of outperforming that was wasted. But then, the 2008-2009 financial and economic crisis came. And then, the debt crisis in Greece came. And there are many more candidates for similar stories, and we will hear these stories. Live through them. And their lesson is, you cannot ultimately rely on the state. And, that it is now possible to for a small sovereign community to be more powerful and more reliable than a state, with regard to its members. So in some sense, let’s be glad that this time has come. This will be the rebirth of the extended family concept, in the shape of sovereign communities. And because these small groups are sovereign (which includes, autarkic), the world would be a way more stable place to live if partitioned into such small groups. No need even for states.

This power community concept does not include families yet. Because it seems that it is not powerful enough for that; and we can be happy if we are able to sustain each other and then die gracefully. And serve the people who also die and have nobody who sustains them, to die more gracefully. Now we could see this as a problem: if it cannot support families, it is no concept for a society. But it is. Humanity will not die out, no danger of that. So this is a concept for peacefully reducing the size of humanity, until the worldwide resources are again sufficient for the people on earth (where sufficient means, even though todays current, awfully inefficient and unjust resource distribution systems are in place).

One of the biggest problems in all these late-stage (“decadent”) industrial societies is, effort is no longer rewarded. The probability to have no reward from taking risk and initiative is very high (also because of high tax and regulation load, and because of market saturation); while the social security systems still provide a living, with much less strain. Which means more and more people choose that. While in early-stage industrial societies, there is much less social security, and a high reward for initiative. Means people are motivated, and the society starts to flourish.

There is one important insight behind this: as long as there are some human beings left who can do anything, there is no reason for humankind to falter, God permitting. The question is, how to collaborate so that it does not, or even better, so that it flourishes. It’s all about this social question; because the difference between isolated one-person societies (which are all disasters, materially) and a flourishing society is the better collaboration of human beings!! Centralist systems like large states are way to unstable in a globalized world, prone to corruption, fraud, bankruptcy, costly military games called war. So they are no alternative any more. Long live the sovereign community!
The main idea how these communities can work and be truly sovereign and autarkic without undertaking what they cannot do (raw material production, large-scale mining, oil drilling etc.) is this: use the waste of industrial societies. All the old metal, plastics and stuff; both as semi-finished products for creating own products and modifications, and also as raw materials. In other words, it should be assumed that the stuff that humankind dug up from the earth until now is enough. And of course, a major means would be using other “surface” materials where possible, including cut stones for building and wood for interior. Also, some kinds of products like computers and mobile phones are seen as “ubiquitous” (just go around and collect them), and so can be used by sovereign communities that want to be autarkic.

Life in a Sovereign Community

Of course, life will be different the sovereign community way. As it will be comparable in all communities, and all important parts are managed by the communities (as they are sovereign), here is how it might look in a near-ideal, flourishing community.

The lifestyle in the community is coined by “community hours”, which is the proportion of hours per day that everybody has to dedicate for working for the community. These are tracked time, which means that breaks, times with heavy distraction etc. are not counted. Six hours a day would probably be a good amount; this will decrease, the more efficient the community gets in delivering its services to its members, which also happens due to the increase in accumulated technology. In return for the work, the community grants the following to every member: a place to live, food, health care, tools and facilities (a “hackerspace“), a social community of friends, and even nursing care when getting sick and old. For practical reasons of attracting  members, such a community would not be meant to dominate anything but the six hours of daily work for the community. This leaves enough room for people to enjoy the rest of their life the way they want; they might even get some monthly money for their free disposal.

The main reason for being a community (other than the fun factor of course) is because it enables synergy and specialization. So the community would integrate a lot of different people and facilities:

  • Larger house owned (or built) by the community. If necessary, it can also be erected in improvised, squatter style from found materials, plus vehicles. Which would be a wagon place on occupied (unused) ground, like on abandoned industrial space. The good thing is, it is cost-free living place, and if the community gets chased away, there are always more places to occupy. Until one finally finds legally and at the same time affordable housing (and if that means erecting permanent structures oneself).
  • A large backyard for agriculture. Or in the first time, guerilla gardening anywhere else. Only plants and perhaps small animals would be used, as everything else is not resource-efficient.
  • A super-large hackerspace in the house, which itself includes fab lab style production facilities. Here, all the products for the community are produced. (See also my recent blog articles on the hackerspace and fab lab.)
  • Tight integration of a company, offering a broad range of services, organized in agile, power community style. The company products would also be produced in the hackerspace / fab lab. Having a company is necessary to get “foreign currency”, that is, money, as it is used by the surrounding non-communitarian society. As the community needs very little money, getting it has not to be very efficient. Of course, the community is also glad to offer its services, facilities and machines also in exchange for food, raw materials or anything else the community can utilize … which is pretty much everything.
  • Some people might have an external job, also to get forex, and the hours they work there simply get counted as community hours. But probably, at least after an initial phase, it is enough that the community integrates its own company. Which would be darn cool, as working in ones own company is freedom, really.
  • Permanent optimization of technology and mutual education of the people in the community in personal and technical matters. People would be encouraged to correct each other without taboos, but in good rational manner. This education thing will make people useful for society (i.e. the community) which would be considered worthless in state-based societies. The permanent intensive social interactions and community here perform a character-changing coining.
  • Smartphones for everybody, to be used as the collaboration device, with semi-automatic task prioritization and assignment.
  • The collaboration software would include time accounts to be able to compensate for stressful times when people cannot contribute enough to the community.
  • The community includes a physician, a physiotherapist and the like, who educate themselves via the Internet and internships in various clinics worldwide. So there is no need to pay health insurance, as the community includes its own medical personnel.
  • The community also includes an internal education program, closely integrated with the hackerspace as the experimentation area.
  • The community is very strong in reuse and recycling, and maybe sucks up much of the waste it can get from the surrounding area, converting it to products, building material, heat, and raw materials, all of which can be partially sold to others. The community operates also its own fuel production, growing oilseed rape. As it needs very little money, it pays very little taxes.
  • Production facilities. There is so much one can create from simplest things, and the hackerspace and fab lab movements show how.
  • Of course, information exchange is key. For that, the community uses the Internet, and shares all of its experience and inventions on the Internet, as Open Content and Open Source.

Every kind of desperate people will come in. This thing works only, and as long, as the overall workload to survive as the community (with the people currently in it), distributed among members, is less than or equal to the workload one can cope with while also mainly enjoying life. High fluctuation does not matter at all if this condition can be upheld. The only reason to get kicked out would be not working the 6 daily hours, or working under ones personal capacity.

What should also be clear: the standard of living might be lower than the current average in industrial nations. That’s mostly because the sovereign community lacks the infrastructure support and efficient production facilities that our current society relies on. But no problem … much of our “standard of living” is just luxury that can be easily abandoned. (Using bowls to serve food? Eh. Using pots to serve food? Eh. Eating from the pots, that’s the way.) Another good portion of this is compensated by better, high-tech supported collaboration, and by getting everybody to work:

Taxes are contributions to the community, in this case, of the state. So the equivalent to taxes in the sovereign community is the daily hours of work for the community. The difference is that taxes can only be paid by those who have money, while all the other people are termed “benefit recipients”. There are currently 25 million of tax-paying fully employed people in Germany, paying the taxes of 80 million. Which cannot work. The sovereign community idea is superior to this because it makes everybody contribute. It even can thrive upon “benefit recipient” people who are considered a threat or at least liability in states. Because everybody who enters also has to work. And unlike the economy, unemployment is impossible: there is work for everybody, because the community integrates both the home and the workplace, and every time that is contributed is considered of equal worth. Even the old and sick people need to work; and even if somebody thinks he or she cannot work anything anymore, perhaps he or she can peel potatoes. Nobody is overchallenged, but everybody has to work to capacity in his 6 daily community hours.

Founding a Sovereign Community

How to found a Sovereign Community, realistically? It is best founded be inside the church, as the church is the only thing that can be outside the ubiquitous power / suppression fights that we have witnessed through all history. (It can be outside of that, but is only if it is obedient to Jesus …). So a church should include a flat sharing community group that is dedicated to take anybody in who wants to contribute his work time to the community.

It might also be possible to join an existing project (squatter house, wagon place, a churches open house or something) and start this thing form there.

Also, this community could be realized with students (preferably hackers) in cities with universities.

An even better way to start this is by founding a travel group: everybody who joins gets food, travel expenses, housing and health insurance (cheap, as health insurance for abroad is possible). And in exchange has to work 6 hours a day. And has the rest of the day for himself. This includes doing temporary jobs, as the group will stay some weeks to months at places. In my case, traveling would be done in Africa. This group might evolve then into a permanent community, or better, have such a non-mobile community or communities as its offspring in some places, for those that stopped traveling. Starting with a travel group is really good because people accept less comfort and less money without problems, then. Note also that JPUSA was also started as a traveling group. Working to get money can also include using a fab lab that is transported in the group’s truck. Starting that group can be done like this: hand out fliers that offer an application form; people who fill it out promise to join the group wihin a month from that time that the travel group size is reached (probably 5 people); note that this style of founding a movement is done by a libertarian group in the U.S., searching for 20,000 people to move to New Hampshire (see the Free State Project). Travel preparation can also be done in this community style. People can draw back their application whenever they come into a situation that they cannot leave within a month.

Making it a movement

Ah, and here is the way how to make this a worldwide movement. It’s inspired by the words of Jesus, giving a strategy for taking his message to all of mankind (“Jerusalem, then Samaria, then the rest of the world”). For the sovereign community thing it means: start small, with one community, and build new ones in circular fashion around it. Economy in general is largely depending on infrastructure, so even though the communities are autarkic, there is momentum to be gained from synergistic local collaboration and support. It starts with one community, then one house, one street, one quarter, one city, one area, one country, one world. The best thing will be the relaxing effects on the whole of life for all people in the area covered; which will create a marvelous, lovely atmosphere to live: people have what they need, and don’t want more; and especially, they have people they can rely on; and there is not any danger of any large system to collapse, as there is no large system (or at least, none of the communities depends on it).

Again a post about the group of themes involving society models, autarchy, community, the power community idea, technology for all that, and more. The pieces are coming together now … but slowly.

Here is the problem that has to be solved: it is the one and only, the universal problem of humankind. The problem of how to lead your life. (Of yourse, there is a second, even more important problem: getting to know God; this is tackled in the Second Acts series of blog posts, while we keep here with the earth-bound stuff.) Leading life on earth is quite a difficult thing … for some people it is impossible (those who starve to death etc.), for some it is hard (those in the developing world), for some it is boring and lonely (those in the developed world).

Here is the latest solution idea:

There should be a mid-sized (50-150 people) monastery-style community of hackers anywhere in the developing world. That community gets around loneliness by close monastic living, doing so much together. And it gets around the problems of money-induced captivity, loneliness and mind-dullness (all by the “normal” professional occupation) by being autarchic. Where autarchy is here a quite radical concept, including food supply and even medical treatment. That is because to live freely, one has to avoid close coupling to the captivating, exploiting forces in the rest of society (which is always done by money), and to avoid handling money one needs to avoid also buying food and paying health insurance, pension insurance and the like. It would save some money, however, by community integrated companies, for emergency situations and for buying stuff that really cannot be made oneself. Such a thing has to be started in a developing area, as existing on very little money is possible there because it is the norm (cheap food available, free living space in squatter areas, no complex conditions to meet … perfect for a startup). Another major problem that would be solved by such a community is the ever-increasing complexity of highly-civilized societies, where one regulation (like “overhaul of the financial regulation system”) chases the other, and concepts are stacked in more and more meta levels above each other. On the contrary, this community would be a “basic building block” of society: all the complexity is within it, but society itself (made from multiple such communities) is very simple; and therefore, very stable; it cannot break down like our current society is always in danger to do, last time in the 2008 financial crisis. Ah, not to forget: monastery has nothing to do with celibacy here; the community would embrace romantic relationships and marriage.

Any of the ideas that wants to build society from communities has this insight at its core: essentially all of human activity is directed to “happy private life”, including work in companies (their products are directed to improve private life, directly or indirectly), health care (which in effect wants to improve peoples private life), government etc.. Now the problem in highly civilized societies is that we gradually started to do all these activities in centralized organizational forms, and then these forms developed a life on their own, demanding more from the individual that they grant. For example, working in companies is normally a highly stressful and demanding thing, leaving nearly no room for creativity, and social and spare time activities … and all this just for the sake of some money. The community ideas do invert such a society, because: if the central thing is private / individual life and well-being, this should be at the center, and all other stuff should be integrated into that, to serve that goal. Unlike now, where the the individual serves the stuff in the form of centralized institutions like government, companies, health insurance etc.. In this inverted society, the formerly small elements (family / community) now include and incorporate the formerly large / superior elements (companies, governing people) because living (community, family, well-being, being creative etc.) is much more important than keeping organizations running.

I think that the time is quite mature for starting such a thing, because all the ingredients have come into existence in recent years:

  • The Internet, as the all-encompassing source of cost-free knowledge, so that the community can learn anything it wants to. The Internet, with its current content, is the most important ingredient!
  • A vibrant do-it-yourself community on the Internet, which has created an awful lot of concepts and techniques for producing stuff in autarchy. For example, see my recent discovery of the fab lab idea.
  • Prototype communities with proven concepts, such as hackerspaces; see my blog post on that.
  • Abundant technology of many sorts; for example, cell phones have been produced in such vast numbers by now that they are essentially ubiquitous and cost-free.
  • Medical knowledge all over the Internet, allowing to learn and practice medicine from that, for free.
  • Globalization in general, and of the markets in particular; which enables people to get also very special items in short time, and to sell across the globe for the remaining monetary needs.
  • Technology for computer supported communication. A power community needs computer support to enable its highly efficient work style. (I wrote my diploma thesis about such stuff.)
  • Open Source Software and Open Content. These are the really free resources to build upon as a community that has no money. And it can give back by handing modification results back to the general public.

 

People’s all-time favorite spare time activity is socializing; either in reality (bars and clubs and homes) or in virtual reality (Facebook, MySpace, …). Now many nerds and geeks, like me, have a problem with that: it’s idle, nonsense activity, just about joking and being cool (if not drinking), but without any substance. It’s non-creative.

Here’s the solution: the hackerspace. By definition, a hackerspace is a common facility for all sorts of hacking, something like a third place (the Ray Oldenburg term) for hackers.

But what caught me is the “feel” of it. It’s very close to that of my imagined power community.

NYC Resistor hackerspace in action
NYC Resistor hackerspace in action

The image above is from a stylish Radar nineteen video about MakerBot. Remember, it’s the Open Source 3D printer I blogged about before. Now the about text of that video tells us that “Makerbot came out of NYC Resistor, a hackers collective offering shared knowledge and camaraderie.” Now what is that? And when watching the video linked above, catch the feeling of the hackerspace: nerd-friendly atmosphere, plenty of resources and intelligent people, freedom to create anything you want. Be sure to also watch this video of a Norway fab lab, with the same spirit but even longer. Wow! I am deeply impressed that this world hosts something like a geek community. I marvel at it and I’m happy that this world hosts more than just the scarcity that I experience currently. And even … this stuff is so close to my own community ideals for the “power community” 😉

(Note: This image is a screenshot of a super stylish video about the MakerBot, and is permissible as a small image quotation under Fair Use of Copyright; since MakerBot Industries is based in New York City.)

And it gets even better:

  • Wikipedia gives us a lot of background information on the hackerspace.
  • Wikipedia article on NYC Resistor.
  • There is hackerspaces.org, a global website about hackerspaces, including a global list.
  • And according to that list, there are even some hackerspaces next to where I live and want to live.
  • And there’s a blueprint: Jens Ohlig: Building a Hacker Space.
  • They are reported to offer a broad sense of community, also internationally: when you are a member of a hacker space, you are a member of the worldwide hacker space, wherever you go.
  • There is MAKE magazine, a DIY lecture for hackers (but not overly cool or challenging).
  • There is a market for geeks to sell stuff they make: makermarket.com. And of course to buy other’s. Not yet that cool items on it, but this might develop.
  • Yea, and there are women in hackerspaces! Saw some in the video. That’s an essential ingredient of social hacking 🙂

To conclude, a collection of the best video clips on hackerspaces that I found:

As many hackerspaces use CNC lathes, 3D printers, lasercutters and the like: it seems that a Fab Lab and a hackerspace are largely overlapping concepts! Where hackerspace defines more the social / community side of the thing, and fab lab the technical side (the methods how hackers can make anything they want).