Re: cybercommunist manifesto

brian keavey (
Mon, 13 Sep 1999 20:47:47 PDT

This manifesto talks about an important trend- one that extropians will eventually have to work into the extropian principles in some way- but its author seems to be grasping at straws in suggesting that Marxist ideology is supported by free software, etc. Obviously the trend so far only applies to software & some types of information, but this will likely change.

As nanotech, biotech, intelligent agents, etc. become increasingly available the range of products that can be digitally distributed will increase as well. Furthermore, there will be more and more new modes for advertising, co-branding, etc. It is now possible to get a basic PC for a few hundred $$ and get free email, Websites & Internet access
(ad-supported). Or, commit to paying $20-30 monthly for an ISP & get the
basic computer free. It is also possible to earn money/credits (albeit usually small amounts) for browsing, reading commercial emails, visiting sponser sites, looking at ad banners, etc. And it seems like every Web merchant and her brother offer affiliate programs these days. So, where does this point for the future?

Very likely, to many, many goods & services (largely automated) being offered free or nearly so. People might have a free house grown for them on the condition that occupants and visitors put up with pop-up advertising holograms. Health care might be run the same way(as David Friedman suggested); food and many other "basic" items (which will probably include much that we'd consider luxury) could have ads tagged onto them; people could earn modest amounts of credit for voluntarily viewing additional ads; etc, etc. What that ends in is not Marxism, but a kind of left-libertarianism existing within the free market framework. People might live quite well on open-source goods supported by commercial advertising, perhaps supplementing this with any creative work/sales/referrals they do.

It is also worth noting that, although open-source digital goods are free (or very cheap) service/support for those goods is still a scarce commodity. This may change in the future; nonsentient AI or ad-supported "free" support might develop for many goods/services. It may become possible for those who don't insist on the "latest & greatest" to live quite well with little or no work, without burdening or coercing others. Those who are still inclined to pursue serious work/entreprenuership would subsidize them buying ads in/on their nano-engineered house. Or inside their VR pod. Or their
all-purpose vehicle(good out to lunar distances). Or even their brains
(allow us to use 10% of your grey matter for hosting ads & project them to
others via holograms over your head, & we'll give you these nifty body/mind upgrades for free...).

So, we have a kind of cyber-agorism that contains a significant amount of cyber-anarchism(in the leftist sense) but, no, it isn't "cyber-communism"
(With some of the things he says, I find it disingenuous of the author to
quote Marxists (very selectively) to make his case. Is he really so wrapped up in orthodoxy as not to have heard of Peter Kropotkin? Alexander Berkman? Murray Bookchin? To say nothing of David Friedman...:-) All these individuals (and they're just a few off the top of my head) offer cogent explanations, with varying strengths, weaknesses, and degrees of accuracy, of the kind of "cyber-leftish" phenomena developing on the Net & in the open-source community, and almost certain to continue & intensify as we progress toward nanoengineered "digital matter" and related technologies of abundance.

Brian Keavey
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