Ming the Mechanic:
Baseline technology

The NewsLog of Flemming Funch
 Baseline technology2009-06-16 00:39
picture by Flemming Funch

What is the baseline of technology that can be available to anybody? How can the bar be raised, and secured?

There is a lot of power in being the authority who decides whether people are allowed to have access to a technology or not. A lot of the technology we're taking for granted is very fragile and can easily be turned off. The government of Iran turned off the SMS network during their phoney elections, because they knew that the opposition would use SMS to organize.

How can we organize stuff, knowledge and technology and communication in particular, so that it can't be shut down at the whim of people in power?

We'd like to imagine that the Internet is a thing like that, which routes around damage and which can't be shut down. Which would be nice, but it probably isn't true. They can filter all internet traffic for all of China. They can leave it out altogether in North Korea. And a few backbone providers control the big pipes that it all goes through. None of it would work without the root name servers and the domain registries. It is very far from the grassroots thing we somehow imagine it to be.

But one could as well invent an internet that actually really couldn't be shut down. Something with a mesh network over radio, something that people could solder together even if their government didn't like it.

It goes through all aspects of our society. We're extremely dependent on stuff that is incredibly centralized and outside our sphere of influence. Most of the elements of our civilized existence could be yanked away in anything from seconds to days. By governments or by catastrophe or by business interests.

I'd prefer for our civilization to be more resilient than that. Which it would be if most of us would be able to jumpstart important elements of our existence, in case they are missing one day, for whatever reason.

Food - what would you do if your local supermarket didn't get any more deliveries, or they no longer accepted your plastic card to pay for it? It is quite easy to grow food yourself, but are you?

Communication - if you get locked out of the internet or the phone network, because you downloaded a pirated movie 3 times, or because your government decided it is bad for your morals, or because of some systemic failure - what would you do? Wait until it came back? That's a bit pathetic.

Manufacturing - what could you manufacture if it somehow wasn't available in the store any longer? What could you manufacture if you were stuck on a desert island? Shockingly little. But if you were better educated, you'd get much further.

Buckminster Fuller defined wealth as the number of days forward that you could sustain a certain group of people. A zillion dollars does you no good if the stores and banks are closed. The real wealth is that you can make stuff that sustains life, without needing permission from anyone.

Previously: Immaculate Telegraphy

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16 Jun 2009 @ 01:54 by swanny @ : Health
Not to mention Health and Health Care
Most people don't have a clue when it comes to their own health
They almost act as though its not their responsibility but their
doctors. Not Good and awfully expensive and inefficient and sometimes
ineffective. And yet each body and person is unique so who is the expert?  

16 Jun 2009 @ 07:15 by swanny @ : Baseline Tech Breakdown (Needs Pyramid)
Okay so how do we "organize" the baseline.
I think a good way to break it down and understand it is along Maslows
needs pyramid. This provides thus a priority basis as well that could serve
as the definite "division of labor" categories. As well Afterall at some point people "have" to
come together and work cooperatively and interdependantly to assure their mutual survival. it is perhaps that we have become to complex and corrupted and suspect to basic human nature and greed to function as a viable unit.
Breaking down social functions and duties thus on a needs basis thus creates a value chain as well. Not a satisfaction change perhaps as fufilling basic needs is not terribly satisfying and fulfilling in a cerebral sense but a nessecity in a survial sense. Perhaps thus a pay or compensation structure could be based accordingly with greater compensation to the lower aspects of the pyramid.

link = http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maslow%27s_hierarchy_of_needs

All those in favor of a Needs Pyramid based social structure?



Current Model? The Market....

Does the market though reflect the true reality or is it a function of
Old money and ?


16 Jun 2009 @ 07:31 by swanny @ : Backporting Needs
Now this needs assessment may or probably requires some backporting
and may not really be a pyramid but a interactive circle that we are constantly
juggling and there may be aspects of technology that fufill certain aspects better than before for instance this assessment does not seem to incorporate the necessity of concern for the environment as much as it should nor does it address the preoccupation with money and markets that it has been subcerpted to.

Could some one thus perhaps offer some thoughts on backporting it and drawing
it up as an interdependant continuum or circle?


16 Jun 2009 @ 07:43 by swanny @ : Life stages
As well though in studying needs and the needs pyramid the situation is compounded by ones age and stage of life thus to better reflect our complex reality the needs pyramid must address the stage of life one is at too.
This is addressed by sheeny in her book Passages
link = http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0553271067/qid=1138746441/sr=1-1/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&v=glance&n=283155

is their though an example of anyone that has already addressed needs and stages together. Piaget link = http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean_Piaget made inroads into this but mostly for children but never I don't think came up with or achieved a simple comprehensive and definitive representation like Maslow Needs Pyramids.


16 Jun 2009 @ 08:11 by swanny @ : Medaphor
Interesting I just had a somewhat significant insight that in the Christian ethic the resurrection and ascension may simply be a medaphor and fore shadowing of the transcendence from base human concerns to more benevolant concerns for other and the community and perhaps the environment as well . A shifting of priorities brought up by a new stage of life or life crisis thus the resurrection is not from death but from preoccupation with death and self to concern for the "other" as well, the other being somewhat nebulous.

Sorry Ming hope this is not to much off topic.


16 Jun 2009 @ 08:30 by swanny @ : Alas
Alas though as they say no good deed can go unpunished.
Confusion is king it seems



18 Jun 2009 @ 03:39 by bushman : Hmm
I just wonder how many people there are left out there that still have the ability to "solder something together", :}  

13 Jul 2009 @ 16:49 by a-d : Quite
thought provoking articles here, Ming! THANKS! : ) Maybe looking into what REALLY is demanded when Sustainability becomes a REAL factor for surviving hard times, so to speak. Tons & tons of info on skills even closer to home than building a new Net... http://www.windward.org/ .... though the idea of a People's In-The-Kitchen/ Workshop-built Net IS --most likely-- high on "The People's Wish-List-Of-Recovery- Back-To-Normalcy" ... but so is --or should be-- How To Provide-Your-Family-With-Wholesome-Food-WITHOUT-Destroying-The Planet-In- The-Process-AGAIN!...heheheh....  

2 Oct 2009 @ 18:07 by swiftkick : just putting this out there
as far as the idea suggested early in this article that society could use a more resilient, perhaps more citizen oriented and decentralized internet:

in the USA we recently witnessed the auction of the 700mhz band to verizon and other cellular communications carriers by our Federal Communications Commission, which used to include the UHF broadcast television channels from 69-83.

wavelength is of course inversely proportional to frequency. 700mhz, being a lower frequency than what is used for cellular or WIFI, thus has a longer wavelength. a longer wavelength generally means the signal will travel greater distance for a given input power.

so, government and big business have effectively obsoleted all analog television sets in favor of utilizing this band for new commercial digital communications methods.

but what about the citizens? as it happens, in most countries the citizens have a radio spectrum of their own. in the USA it is called the Citizens Band; US law allows one to transmit and receive analog voice communications license free at power levels up to 5 watts.

the Citizens Band uses a frequency band happens to be centered around 27mhz. CB users transmitting 5 watts at 27mhz with a decent antenna tend to have a coverage area of several miles. This band would ideally suited for the possibility of developing a new citizens oriented public Wide Area Network using digital modulation similar to that used by cell phones and WIFI, over narrowband software defined radio hardware. given that this represents, not so much a LAN or a small extension of the internet, but rather a whole new WAN networking paradigm, the address space would likely need to exist in ipv6 address space to allow room for expansion. i'm betting one could get a raw speed of at least a few megabits over several miles using basic digital modulation techniques. usiong a narrowband software defined radio with a phase shift keyed or quadrature amplitude modulated digital modulation scheme developed to match the propagation characteristics of this frequency band one might be able to get bitrates much higher, perhaps even 10 megabits.

i'm not quite educated enough in radio engineering or digital modulation schemes to work out the fine details, but software defined radio kits such as the Soft66AD http://cgi.ebay.com/Soft66ADH-Software-defined-Radio-2-5MHz-to-30MHz_W0QQitemZ190338566996QQcmdZViewItemQQptZLH_DefaultDomain_0?hash=item2c51100b54&_trksid=p3286.c0.m14 are already appearing on ebay for around $100 fully assembled capable of tuning from 1 to 30 mhz and using an audio demodulation scheme. its inevitable that this technology is only going to get easier to produce by the average hobbyist.

so ultimately all us tech types ought to be thinking about how to construct for ourselves a modern redundant wide area wireless network. some cities have implemented citywide WIFI and this is a step in the right direction. however viewed on an urban level WIFI networks remain a cluster of interconnected isolated LANs that all connect back to the internet, not a new WAN network with its own address space and the possibility for new ways of implementing named addressing for a truly ad hoc network of arbitrarily named and numbered nodes. perhaps such a naming scheme would mimic the two hierarchies on usenet, the "big 7" that was voted into existence and maintained by committee and the anarchic and completely ad hoc "alt" hierarchy. also necessary would be routing agreements between nodes to support something like cell handoff to support mobile nodes. but these things could be worked out as interest in the idea of a citizens WAN grows.

i wrote a blog post about this idea over at evolver, http://evolver.net/user/swiftkick/blog/citizens_band_goes_digital i'd love to hear what people think about this idea, or if anyone has any ideas on specific hardware implementations (such as IC manufacturer evaluation boards) that might allow one to experiment with different digitial modulation schemes in the 27mhz band, feel free to hit me back here or evolver.  

14 Oct 2009 @ 13:24 by ming : Free radio
Yes, that's a great idea, of course. It is kind of ridiculous that we don't already have a grassroots radio network between all of us. We feel so connected now with the Internet and our cell phones, but that connectivity is really very fragile, as it easily can be turned off centrally.

Communication that can't be shut down by a government or a well-placed nuclear bomb is essential. If our societal infra structure received a big hit of one kind or another, how would we communicate? I'm sure radio amateurs would dust off their old equipment, but we could really be much, much more organized than that. Yes, we need a radio based TCP/IP network that isn't centrally controlled.

There are already other initiatives in that direction. I'm not particularly up-to-date on them.  

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2009-06-07 15:00: The Giant in Nantes
2008-10-14 19:56: Money and the Crisis of Civilization
2008-05-08 23:01: Why Denmark is the world's happiest country
2008-02-22 14:42: God talks about Richard Dawkins

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