Linked List: December 2011

A Tale of Two Worlds

The conditions that allow the network to challenge the power of governments and corporations can be traced to the origin of the Internet and the Cold War zeitgeist that made the network we know possible. It was only because Cold War strategists had to narrate to themselves the unfolding of convoluted thermonuclear apocalypse scenarios, a dark art that peaked with Herman Kahn’s surreal book On Thermonuclear War, that a computer network with the characteristics of the internet was implemented.

The idea of imminent apocalypse was so extraordinary that it allowed for the radical thinking that over a decade evolved into the TCP/IP computer protocol suite, a resilient network protocol that makes the end user of the network its primary agent. The design philosophy of the internet protocols represents a clean break from the epistemes and continuums that had historically informed the evolution of Western power, as traced by Foucault and Deleuze from sovereign societies to disciplinary societies to societies of control.

What journalists around the world have failed to narrate is the tale of a network that increasingly challenges, bypasses and outcompetes the global corporate-government complex. This is a struggle about the obsolescence of the very idea of the nation-state, and an almost unanimous coalition of governments, led by the US, fighting furiously to regain control by exerting legal, financial, symbolic and, perhaps most concerning, technical violence on their adversary.