Crypto Currency Alt Coins are Booming

Best period in crypto history ever.

37492118 – big black fish swallowing plenty of colorful fish of different sizes and colors. business or political concept of monopolistic company or union absorbed small companies. career concept of careerist who does not consider interests of his colleagues

Crypto is Now Worth 1 Trillion Dollars and Why -Strangely- It Makes A Lot of Sense to Compare Bitcoin to Gold

Yes, the market cap of all crypto currencies combined has reached 1 Trillion US dollars, see also top line ticker here. I have predicted this 3 years ago, after the market collapsed, and now it is a fact: we are past 1T$, however much market cap valuations of this kind are highly questionable.

Unrealistic inflation of figures reported is common in competitive technology sector: look at all advertisements about speed of computer hard drives… totally unrealistic figures and fake news. However we accept the bitcoin market cap benchmark, simply because everybody uses and understands it. It is a de facto standard.

If we compare it to gold and some bankers actually agree with that, the total market cap of all gold on our planet is about 3 trillion (estimates vary). Gold is also subject to HODLing by US and Russian government etc. A tiny quantity of gold is actually ever exchanging hands: similar to bitcoin. An artificial valuable commodity manipulated by powerful actors.

Conspiracy theories suggest that All Time High (ATH) should happen on 9 January, anniversary of the bitcoin Genesis block, and here we are: bitcoin crosses 40 K exactly 3 years after reaching 20K. This confirms the idea that these markets are manipulated (by banks, governments and rich investors). Market manipulation is basically allowed!

Now both bitcoin and gold are actually valuable BECAUSE these powerful actors care about them and because of their tremendous brand value and popularity. Hundreds of millions have been spent on software development and on mining hardware etc. This alone explains the intrinsic value of bitcoin.

So far as of 2021 bitcoin lags behind gold. 12 years after creation bitcoin is still young. In fact, way fewer investors and bankers believe in bitcoin than in Gold, and it is going to stay that way in 2021. Bitcoin is a hard sell in the world of investment managers but eventually people see that no, Gold is not a great investment either but both can be used for portfolio diversification. We probably need another big cycle, wait until 2025 or 2030 for digital currency to become more important than gold. And the winner will probably not be bitcoin, but something technically vastly superior. The Google of cryptocurrency, doing the job right and achieving worldwide dominance… which has probably not yet been invented…

This will however inevitably happen in my opinion. One day crypto currency will reach 3 trillion and gold will continue being eroded. I can hardly imagine otherwise just for practical reason: digital currencies and gold are simply siting at two opposite sides of the spectrum on practicality and relevance in the modern economy.

In the long run, the winner is the digital currency. It will inevitably take over the world and pass the 3 trillion mark and I expect that this will happen in the next decade: before say 9 January of 2030.

An Anomalous Differential Attack on a Block Cipher

In this attack a differential propagates with difficulty for some 20, 40 and up to 64 rounds. We can say that the propagation encounters some “friction”, because the non-linear functions do not always behave as the attacker would like them to behave. Everything looks normal and this is what happens for all block ciphers all the time.

But then for 65, 80, 128 and more rounds, the propagation becomes easier and easier, the friction disappears, the differentials are reproduced MORE easily. This is for EXACTLY the same cipher spec, with different keys though. At the end of the day we discover that this block cipher configuration is not secure no matter how large is the number of rounds, and for any key.

Interestingly when we study what happens locally, say for up to 32 rounds, nothing unusual is observed and the ciphers exhibits no unusual behavior when the number of rounds is small.

This result was presented at ICISC 2020 in Seoul, Korea on 3 December 2020. We call this type of behavior “Non-Markovian propagation” and it is quite rare.

In addition we are able to transform a bug, or an outlier, something which researchers normally discard as inconvenient and problematic, into a feature. We show that this property helps the attacker, and it helps absolutely a lot, to the point that the cipher is never actually secure.

Some most interesting results in cryptanalysis are when something quite unexpected happens… contrary to the intuition ans contrary to the philosophy of 99.999% of ciphers ever made or studied: where authors systematically and maybe naively assume that probabilities do multiply and that they will decrease exponentially when you iterate the cipher. If so, it is sufficient to test a reduced-round version for high probability differentials. Here the probabilities decrease initially at an exponential rate, but later they behave abnormally and stay bounded by a small constant forever. A cipher can be insecure, even though it has no large probability differentials locally: it is a global long-term property only visible for a larger number of rounds like 64 or more, and only for very few special differences.

Here are the slides presented in normalextended version.
And here is a recorded video of my presentation.

Remembering Val Curtis

With great sadness we are are remembering our colleague professor Val Curtis from London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. She left us on 19 October 2020.

For a long time she was involved in the questions of hygiene and education in developing countries.

In July 2020 she became famous when she has described in an article published in the Guardian how
“the NHS has given up” on her and others, and anticipating that she will be the one of “35,000 extra cancer deaths” of this year in the UK.

She also said that she would like to see a plan for a better NHS, one that does not “needlessly lose lives”.

Val Curtis is no longer here but her ideas and her ideals will live forever.

A teacher who perished on the very same front of global public health to which she dedicated her life. Like French high school teacher Samuel Paty, she was a quiet hero, and then an unfortunate collateral victim on the public education front. They will join a pantheon of great teachers who seemingly are not here anymore, but in fact they taught THE most valuable and important lessons about life. We should never forget them.

Hacking a Linux PC at a Close Distance without Being Connected to a Network

The attack allows the attacker to execute arbitrary code on another PC running Linux. The exploit is possible due to an extremely serious vulnerability in Bluetooth stack inside Linux. The attacker literally can run an application of his choice on the other PC. The exploit was found by Andy Nguyen, a security researcher at Google. More info here.

The attacker can execute anything he wants on a second PC running Linux. It is a zero-click exploit: the victim does not need to do anything in particular, the PC just needs to be on.

What do We Learn From This

I have never EVER in the last 20 years believed that Linux could possibly ever be a secure trusted OS. The ecosystem is basically flawed.

First, it is clear that no security engineer have ever been involved in the design and maintenance of Linux, or it was already too late… Linux lacks any sort of defense in depth, and too many privileges are aggregated in too few places. This is a fatal mix from which it will maybe never recover.

Secondly, it is built around dangerous subversive ideology. It is based on the idea of free voluntary labor, which is in fact entirely illegal in many countries, e.g. in France, but is in fact tolerated (and frequently even promoted). Moreover the developers themselves sometimes behave like total losers. Some developers commit suicide on day one, through terms of various so called free software licenses they accept and promote. Then, all these super naive shame workers are ever asking for, is to be popular and famous, and for their names to be mentioned, which acknowledgment they don’t even get typically, work is just reused and authors are not always cited.

At the same time other people make a lot of money by reusing their work, to build and run powerful computer systems which are at the center of our economy, and which are huge profit makers.

It is NOT true that if I shared knowledge or some code with you I do not lost anything. There is an opportunity cost, human life is valuable, expertise is valuable. Almost every advanced business/tech activity is like this nowadays: it creates intangible goods which COULD be shared for free, or they COULD can benefit from sort of protection against theft and abuse.

In Linux we have an organised theft of intellectual property and it is a conspiracy against the same coders which are making Linux. Developers are tricked into working for some shrewd manipulators without being paid.

Is Open Source Secure?

In fact, possibly the contrary can be claimed. Open source means that malicious code can be injected by anyone. The long history of Linux shows that preventive security engineering failed at all times, and nobody noticed for 10 years or so. See for example here.

The supply chain infiltration is an interesting attack against Linux, against which it is, by design and by ideology, not defended (or not well). We should not and cannot trust open source developers. If they are not paid “officially”, why do they work so hard? One answer is of course, passion and hidden subsidies. But then another answer is that they are VERY likely to be recipients of some dark money from criminal or rogue state sources. Even when they are paid by Google out of altruism, this never was altruism. This was manipulation and exploitation worse than child labour, because in fact this is slave labor in disguise. There is a huge imbalance of power and information and profits made by Google from the tech developed and funded by others are here to prove, that the whole Linux community have probably been abused and infiltrated by influencer developers: Google will contribute a bit but of course they benefit a lot more. Profits or rather social and technical benefits from Linux development are basically privatized, and important work is supported by a larger unpaid community.

Facebook, is a business which is quite recent. It started making money only since around 2005, and not long ago, nobody was quite sure how it is possible that Facebook will ever be profitable. They have succeeded because they have literally hacked our society for their benefit: humans are hackable. They also have hacked our political system (by lobbying politicians behind the scenes) and our legal system (the whole planet was tricked into accepting the T&C based in California or similar). People were tricked to abandon their sovereignty and massively relinquished to be protected by their own governments laws and regulators. Facebook and similar Internet giant corporations have in particular hacked our social instincts and enrolled billions of naive individuals into a powerful money making machine.

In this process they were of course inspired by and imitated Linux! They have simply extended this perverse and subversive model, to a larger ecosystem of voluntary submission, digital censorship, manipulation and enslavement, for the sake of Facebook making a lot of money. Almost every aspect of our life is now prostituted for some Internet data hungry business to prosper at our expense. Transparency, or rather a one way transparency of the underdog population, implies that security such as strong cryptography is problematic, as it could potentially threaten the transparency which is an immense money maker.

Strong cryptography needs to be canalized for the benefit of the rich and powerful, but a larger population should rather be building and running systems which are somewhat rigged. Many open source projects have been built with powerful influencer participation which have worked hard in order to deceive a larger group of contributors and developers about who and how needs these systems and particular features, and who will profit from exploiting them, which is mainly large corporations. Being naive candid and generous contributors, and proud to be so, is at the very center of all this world of community developer tech. The situation is similar with how the press have evolved in the last 20 years. Nearly 100% of the press worldwide is in the pockets of corporate sponsors and journalists have very little freedom. The same applies to the so called benevolent computer tech. We are deceived about what we do, have hidden sponsor participants with deep pockets, and yet we somewhat naively believe that this tech is going to be neutral (and not malicious).

An interesting question is what is the impact of all this on information security. Maybe open source is secure because bugs are likely to be discovered? In fact opening your source code is sometimes just a placebo remedy in the area security. Security bugs are subtle type, and they are fundamentally extremely hard to find, and the amount of code to inspect and its complexity grows every day. We live in the world where a lot is hidden in plain sight and we are given a fake sense of security.

The problem of supply chain infiltration is particularly acute in bitcoin, when we do not even know who the developers are, you go there at your own risks and perils, and no one is blamed when something bad happens. Even though the mysterious Satoshi wrote just 2% of bitcoin code, all major and critical security decisions were made by this anonymous entity.

In reality , open source (e.g IBM PC, DES cryptography, SHA-256 etc) is almost never here for security reasons. It is rather a business decision, which is about managing the supply chain precisely. Open source allows businesses and governments to collaborate. However not all businesses and not all governments are equal, some benefit from this process, other are forced into submission and lose money. The winner takes it all again and again.

More critical discussion of open source, see slides 32-41 here. Open source is THE FAKE security mantra, and the real security principle is open design, [Saltzer and Schroeder 1975] and the two are NOT at all the same, see slide 51 here.

In 2005 Ross Anderson already claimed that open source and closed source are equivalent, see slide 57 here. Today and learning a bit more from history, and all the elaborate security deceptions we have known, and this dumb propaganda saying that Linux was very secure etc, for which have fallen so easily for decades, we should probably be a bit wiser.

Open source software can be truly dangerous, cf. slide 38 here. It makes it very easy to modify the software, which works both ways. It lowers entry barriers for improvement, but also for malicious versions to be produced (for example there have been many malicious versions of TrueCrypt). We help simultaneously those who want to improve security (yet poorly funded) and those who want to degrade it (typically more motivated and better funded). Given the imbalance in funding and motivation, and also because hacking is more fun than just building things, quite possibly, this is a working hypothesis, those who want to degrade the security of various systems will always prevail.

EU Court of Justice Ruling Against UK France and Belgium — and Why This is Not As Great News As It May Seem

Mass surveillance programs run by the UK, French and Belgian governments are simply illegal: this is in essence the new ruling of the European Court of Justice CJEU, as of yesterday 6 of August 2020.

We learn that governments are NOT allowed to operate massive databases of what everyone does just in case some crime would be committed or a terrorist would be identified later. Instead, they are expected to carry out targeted surveillance and data retention – identifying specific people or accounts or phone numbers to focus on. More info about it from register.

This is a small victory. NOT something which will improve our privacy. The highly controversial activity will now shift elsewhere in three ways.

First many of the same data gathering activities is already done, with more secrecy, involving more secret agents, who are now clearly authorized to commit crimes, and are much harder to hold accountable, and this will be a mess.

Secondly some clever privacy friendly technology might eventually be used. For example in the healthcare sector. But there is little hope for that.

Then and finally we have privatization of surveillance: this ruling will further reinforce private mass surveillance monopolists. More mass surveillance will be done by foreign commercial firms such as Google Facebook or TikTok. Eventually by some new emerging more specialized players, such as Palantir.

A Battle which is Lost, Later Becomes Obsolete…

In general the combat against data theft and data sharing is nowadays becoming obsolete in my opinion. Why??? Why governments are not allowed to do what Google and Facebook and so many other do? An interesting question. This ruling will just accelerate the emergence of new monopolists, who will not only steal our data but also exploit it for the benefit of others, while keeping them inside their data centers, secretly, and also breaking the law as usual. Thus further accelerating the deployment of an Orwellian-type Big Brother cloud, which however will no longer share or sell the data easily or cheaply. It will rather exploit the data for profit, sell prediction and influence capabilities, while keeping them and monopolizing them.

Overall the exploitation of our data and our lives by mafias will continue. Why call these mafias? Is it rather a tool and a network benefiting anyone? These are not tools you use, they are using you, striving for your attention. They spent money to buy you, to acquire you and you sometimes we think we have chosen them, but they have rather chosen us. Most businesses nowadays spent money upfront to acquire so called customers, and they intend then to keep these people captive, and treat them very badly. The problem is that electronic commerce and all influencer (e.g. advertising) technology, is primarily acting on behalf business, not individuals, and really with a strong bias towards dishonest businesses and unhealthy dark interests. For example it is about promoting unhealthy life choices in order to sell remedies and promoting consumerism and narcissism. It is about inventing humans new occupations where we create the problem, and cure the problem for profit. It is in general manipulating human race to become weaker more stupid and more dependent on these so called tools. The idea is that humans should return to living like slaves: being perfect employees and buying and doing what is in the interest of the industry and the wealthy elite. Interestingly slavery is nowadays disguised as freedom of choice. However with disinformation and persuasive tech, algorithms always win against humans and people are systematically making the exact choices which do not benefit them.

Again governments are losing control, and losing their ability to collect the same data, and to know what is really going on on this planet. This is potentially dangerous, and the world is moving the the brink where there will be only one center of power: it will be Big Brother system of computers pretending to be at our service, and at the service of business, and governments, but in reality this is simply very clever malware, malicious software playing all sort of games against everybody, basically cheating.

The core of the question is that governments/individuals and businesses do not have the same life cycle.

  • Business are expected to be created and destroyed. They have limited liability. Sometimes they are destroyed because they do some unethical and do harmful activity, and they have perverse incentives. They should obey to laws and regulations, not make them.
  • Governments and individuals are expected to carry on, no matter what, and we have rights, and a political processes which favor this.

Humans have inalienable rights, which Google and Facebook do not have. Governments are expected to fight for these rights and police crime, and regulate companies such as Google and Facebook. Sometimes, we need to break them, as these companies are simply harmful according to many people in US congress. Even when the harm was exaggerated, it is very important that we actually scrutinize what businesses do with our data.

Overall there is no reason to be so happy when governments are further eroded and are losing any type of cognitive ability to understand the world, which might involve gathering data and understanding human behavior at scale. Both individuals and governments are marginalized nowadays, in our mass surveillance-based modern economy. Mass surveillance has become the main thing here, it is simply at the center of the modern economy. Currently we are building highly centralized privately run Big Brother systems, where opaque omniscient data centers are at the commanding heights of the economy. It is easy to see that this is bound to degenerate, into a system of organized oppression of humans and businesses alike, with algorithms and artificial intelligence being smarter than anybody else, or just abusing the transparency and asymmetry of information. Here governments have lost relevance and they are unable to defend us (against this massive scale algorithmic abuse).

A dark cloud is in the making. Literally.

Crypto Mining At Nasdaq

Two stocks related to crypto mining exploded on Nasdaq in the recent days. RIOT is worth 5x the price of March and has doubled since July 2020, and MARA had quadrupled since July 2020 (which was followed by a correction).

At the same time there are countless indicators which indicate that we are in an exceptional moment in crypto currency history:

  • We are in the middle of big wave of appreciation of crypto assets, which has a lot to do with mining reward halving of May 2020. Since May 2020 the hash rate has remained flat and has always remained below the levels of May 2020. However if we predict that the bitcoin price will eventually soar, then a lot more bitcoin miners could be made, and put in active service, which was NOT happening so far.
  • In March, falling bitcoin price halved the daily combined income of miners. Then it recovered and it halved again simply on the day of halving. It is has not recovered yet because the price of bitcoin needs to double for it to recover. As a result many miners do not sell their bitcoins hoping for higher prices tomorrow. This is demonstrated here and here. However, it is easy to manipulate such figures but moving bitcoins to temporary accounts belonging to the same person. Overall it seems that 2 millions of bitcoins are put aside waiting for higher prices to come.
  • Volumes of Bitcoins held on exchanges are the lowest since June 2019. This means that prices are likely to be sensitive to the demand and sometimes will go up due to the shortage of bitcoins (locked at other places).
  • The Fed balance sheet has stopped expanding since approx. May 20 and remains stable, see here. For now we have K-shaped rally with a bifurcation. The bifurcation is that some stocks go north, other stay moderate. The US tech stocks are now bigger than the entire stock market in EU+UK+Switzerland.
  • Moreover it gets even more crazy. As bets against the US stock market are at the lowest level since 2004, markets are able to continue crazy bull run with very high valuations. Many fear that the stock market will collapse.
  • Interestingly that the percentage of amateur traders and investors in the stock market has more than doubled since 2019. The Buffet indicator of stock market cap divided by GDP has reached a higher level than before the collapse of the dotcom bubble in 2000.
  • Gold price passed 2000$, and bitcoin claims to compete with gold and has some correlation to Gold as refuge for investors who cannot find anything interesting to buy.
  • Warren Buffet has surprised the planet: apparently he still holds more than 100 G$ in cash as of May 2020 and still today. He did not buy shares in March 2020 like most people did! It is seems like the biggest mistake he ever made (unless the future events prove him right and precisely shares collapse to yet lower levels than in March 2020).

China is Banning TCP/IP

Arguably an open free and neutral Internet network has never existed and it was all a cynical game of telcos, pretending to obey a bunch of public standards and apply international treaties, in order to expand their monopolistic empires abroad and steal business from other telcos. This world of deception, which also has enabled intelligence gathering at an immense scale, is likely to disappear now.

It is harder to imagine but seems inevitable that everything that we know about industry networking and security standards will become obsolete.

China plans to completely stop using TCP/IP, and replace it by a set of Chinese protocols. These protocols are more centralized and somewhat authoritarian, and are also claimed to more secure (which is very easy). More details here.

We should expect that that tomorrow there will be maybe UK/US networking, and European networking and Russian networking etc. The world is likely to split into loosely connected pieces. This is of course good news for network tech specialists and cryptographers.

Tomorrow there will be more national proprietary cryptography, which researchers will take immense pleasure at studying and breaking. There will be more high profile jobs for crypto engineers, where there will be doing more things which surprisingly, will be actually used to protect real-life communications. However this is bad news for the world, and it seems that globalization of technology standards has come to an end and is going into the reverse. We hear about technology bifurcation etc, end of open standards etc.

Bernard Stiegler will No Longer be Able to Fight Stupidity

Yesterday 6/8/2020, Bernard Stiegler, one of the most influential philosophers of the early 21st century, died, aged 68.

A French author, philosopher, researcher was trying to educate our society on what life in the 21th century is like and what it is about. Probably in vain.

Initially he was running a Jazz café, and was a gangster, a serial bank robber. After his fourth hold up, he was eventually arrested and in 1978 he was sent to prison for 5 years. Or rather for only 5 years: he bragged about having an excellent lawyer. While in prison he studied philosophy extensively: he embarked on a remote course at Toulouse university, and attracted attention of his professors. Respectful of the tradition and history of his field, his own ideas started to take form. He defended his PhD, and later wrote several books. Many years later you meet him as a guru of modern technology, from medicine to blockchain, and director of a research institute based in Pomidou Centre building in Paris.

He wrote about technology, medicine and miracles, disruption and how capitalism has changed, and how democracy is eroded in our times. In 2010 he wrote a book about What Makes Life Worth Living, and his answer is simple: what makes life worth living is the fight against stupidity. Yes we have the right to fight stupidity and we will be eternally grateful to Bernard for establishing and defending this right.

Public education, creation of knowledge in the world of academia, quality journalism are traditional tools in fighting stupidity. New technology helps also: decentralized prediction markets, which work like bets, are a new exciting new tool, potentially highly disruptive, but not very mature.

One precise point is that Bernard did not subscribe to the stupidity of old intellectual elites who frequently claimed that technology is neutral or who consider that we decide what we make with technology. We don’t. In the same way we have been brainwashed to think that money and banking is neutral in the economy. Bernard Stiegler postulated that technology and technological innovation is co-originary with Homo Sapiens. The development of new technology and socio-economical change related to technology, are simply central, the main thing we do, and the driving force in our civilization.

Stiegler is very helpful in order to revisit Marx, and provides a new way to read or re-invent the old fashioned term of “proletariat”. Many thinkers, especially economists, however much Marx was a great economist of his time, have argued that this term is totally obsolete today, and the working class dear to Marx has somewhat disappeared totally. Stiegler gives the word “proletariat” a brand new life. He says that we live a new era of unprecedented threat to the human mind and identity. He claimed that the stakes today are actually higher than they were for Marx in is 1840s, when this term was coined. Proletarianization is no longer a threat posed by capturing human bodies and coercing them or tricking them into physical labour. Today’s proletariat is about enslaving the human spirit and human mind. It can of course no longer be defined by those who are factory workers, and neither as those who have a job with a salary. Not even close, and both forms of life are heavily eroded and tend to disappear. Instead we were enslaved by the Press, then Television, then Football, and now Facebook and so on. We are also enslaved by political parties BTW. All these are sponsored activities aimed at capturing human attention, and are permanently in deep pockets of powerful sponsors, some of which come from Russia. We are also enslaved by banks and computer systems. Facebook is evil, not only when they want to influence a result of an election. They are evil most of the time: their plain everyday commercial activity is largely toxic. Facebook created an ecosystem which is aimed to be harmful, and aimed against the very people or users, who naively have once trusted or used these media. It aims at people being miserable and being enslaved by big business. There is a heavy asymmetry of power information and asymmetry of course in who really reaps the benefits. The problem is that the media and platforms such as Facebook are not neutral, there are abusers trying to be at the center of everything and work for the powerful against the weak. Technology is subversive, malicious and frequently is being built with bad intentions. 150 years ago rich factory owners infiltrated and corrupted the state to benefit the rich, and the police had an ambiguous role: to respect the rule of law (at least for the rich) or to police the discontent (maybe exclusively against the poor). The new regime does not even need to corrupt the state, the state is eroded and Facebook becomes a key player in dealing with the masses, the poor, and canalizing their discontent. Another ambiguity is, if computer platforms are here to order to organize everything, would it be for the benefit of the very few, or much worse. Maybe actually to enslave the human kind at large. A world which is perfectly organized expect that it clearly benefits somebody else, leads to loss of autonomy and alienation, with poor ability of people to make a difference outside of the powerful established circuits, to which they many people not want to submit to. Eventually leading to some degree of collective loss of hope.

He reflected on how risk-taking ethos of modern capitalism leads to nihilistic attitudes: doing harm every day, against the law and morality. He wrote about automation, chaos order and entropy, loss of control and also used the word apocalypse, He called our political and tech elites the (new) barbarians. Maybe because they use technology and collect a lot of data against the people every day. For Stiegler, Facebook and Google are in the “madness” because they feel all powerful, they think they always win. Here he was a bit naïve… and is not helping us a lot, to stop these huge abusive tech conglomerates from breaking the law and engaging in largely unethical activity, meant to dominate our lives and our economy. Our philosopher just died, and less people are likely to call this madness tomorrow. Therefore, as of today Google and Facebook win. Domination of the world by big tech just got a lot worse in 2020, where so called tech firms account now for more than 25% of all stock market capitalization and US tech firms are now worth more than the whole of EU stock markets combined.

Bernard also explained that most thinkers who actually understand technology are not based in France or Europe, but are based at the very places where the whole technological “disruption” comes from, say California. A bit like the cancer and the remedy, or at least some understanding about the illness, originate from the same territory, and this territory is sadly not in Europe. Somewhat in Europe we have a shortage of thinkers who understand anything at all about technology (with few exceptions).

Philosophy at Work or Illusions at Work?

Here we come to a serious problem where Bernard the Philosopher, has not escaped being largely very naïve. In the recent years, Stiegler participated in a large collaborative alter-economy project in Seine-Saint-Denis department, aimed at creation of so called “intermittent jobs”. We have another philosopher in action, a bit like George Soros, except, that this is just another spectacularly naïve attempt to train young people to work differently, inside the so called new economy. The problem is that all this is not that great in my opinion. Do not get me wrong, it is glorious to create any jobs on a territory where many young people are unemployed, such as Seine-Saint-Denis. Even if only intermittent jobs, and it is great when people come together and do things. Most people don’t do any of these, and Bertrand was doing his job of superman here, saving the world, the best he could.

However we expect smart people to do better than this! Our superman does not fly. We have here another super naïve attempt, to just adapt to the loss of permanent well-paid and highly skilled jobs in our economy, and it is not great. It is just again likely benefiting the same empires or centers of power, again say Facebook Google and Microsoft. This is because they are the best and uniquely placed to capture and canalize all this energy, able to give this activity some meaning and publicity, and some social and economical utility. In fact apart from some local impact, maybe Facebook and Google are the only people able to profit from this, well officially. The new “proletariat” here, from an area of France which have high unemployment, and exuberant young people, are not a great beneficiary here. This is somewhat because we operate below recovering the costs. This is for example, when we consider the large subsidies and public education, and say public infrastructure such as trains, which go into these territories, and they do it quite well in France. To say bluntly, the impact is probably not great. Too many so called good intentioned and “good thinking” people (this is from French, ‘bien-pensant’), our intellectual elite at large, are making things worse, with good conscience and good energy, but poor outcomes. All this is actually reminiscent of the French colonial past. It is the same patronizing approach to development, which emanates from Paris. The French have a unique tradition in public education, extremely well funded and developed. France has more professors of philosophy than any other country. Not unrelated there are fewer great professors at business schools and we frequently hear that business and capitalism are dirty foreign ideas and things. It is great that Bernard has just made yet another free online course on philosophy done according to his taste and ideas. In general however we indulge in highly centralized patronizing ways to educate and influence young people from poorer areas of France.

Both Sillicon Valley or software and platforms, and public education in France, operate through centralized technology push. They are efficient and well organised, but are they doing a good job? Are the outcomes socially beneficial? When Sillicon Valley pushes new technology onto us, they win because they do it at scale, and even if we don’t like it, we eventually are forced to use it. When the French state somewhat squanders some serious money on a lot of education at scale, we must consider that — if this education costs a certain (large) amount of money — these costs will only be recovered IF France dares to tax the very tech companies who are the main beneficiary. We all know which places are such that all profits and activity tend to concentrate there.

Interestingly the French do this, they started taxing the tech giants. However in both cases this is just technology push. Education and and philosophy are also just technology: a box with tools which can serve a number or purposes. In all cases we push things down to the larger population, and there isn’t enough “pull” or “demand” or “autonomy”. All this is just two colonial centralized models; old French centralized bourgeois-socialism, with some good intentions and pinch of guilt and shame, but tending to be too cosy and comfortable at the centre, and trapped inside old ways of thinking, and new American Sillicon Valley tech colonialism, certainly a lot more modern, but unhappily also a lot more perverse, and also simply bigger and stronger.

The true problem in my opinion is that taxation is permissive. It does NOT solve the problem that some businesses and some business models are harmful and they should be more regulated. This is the French paradox: the state is strong in the “naïve” roles which simply subsidize (mostly foreign) business, but is weak, permissive and submissive, when confronting major international tax-evading and rent-seeking corporations such as Microsoft. This is of course related to the fact that France is one of the world largest recipients of direct foreign investment and produces a lot of well educated young people, whom logically Microsoft or Apple could employ. Potentially a win-win situation.

The problem is that actually many things the major corporations do in France, every day and 10,000 time each day, are bluntly and totally illegal. Normally the CEO should be in prison, for example for making your electronics self-destroy, to make you buy new gadgets, which is also very harmful for the environment. Instead of regulating big business, which is typically done but not always very effective, and maybe now can only be don at EU level, with loss of sovereignty, we are left with another weaker and timid state-sponsored technology push. This is education and philosophy which goes everywhere, including prisons as we see with Bernard. Good education is a great but remains a weak way to influence the world and is a little bit disconnected from the reality of our worlds. When people study social science topics, see how capitalism changes, they will rather secretly join it, to survive, or rebel in rather ineffective utopian ways. When clever intellectuals confront the real life we frequently get some very wrong conclusions, where the intellectuals claim that they have figured it out and they dominate this game.

They don’t. They are lying to us and lying to themselves. A purely intellectual posture is a weak posture. For example in countries with a certain strong intellectual tradition we are brainwashed every day with the idea that the anglo-saxon capitalism and what they call liberalism is bad, and we need to build some sort of collective and alternative economy. In reality it is just a way to alleviate the pain of being marginalized. I think that the collective part is great, this is the French genius, but the alter-capitalism at large, is in my opinion perverse and essentially fraudulent. It is about creating illusions and alleviating the pain. It is cheating the public about what we do.

In fact humans do no longer run economy, not even when they are capitalists and a lot of money is at stake, or not even when they are philosophers and they cultivate a posture where they are pretending that they know the answers, and they want to be recognized as leaders of social change and social mobility. In reality humans have poor control of the economy, it is more algorithmic and lives an independent live, and powerful unstoppable forces such as technological disruption are at work. The huge risk is when politicians and philosophers alike claim that they are going to help us is the risk of living our lives with eyes closed: in ignorance about technology and how our economy works and how it changes. Claiming that capitalism is an ugly monster makes people reluctant and ill-equipped to understand the world in which we live, and therefore essentially transforms us into slaves, working for people who have figured everything out, albeit at our expense: ill-intentioned politicians, Facebook, Amazon and other omni-scient business.

We need to open our eyes and here philosophy helps, but only if we apply it to study our world, our reality, not a fictional reality we create to delude ourselves. Then, going one step further, forget philosophy. We need to regain and claim our place in the mainstream economy. We need to regulate big business, and re-establish public authority over the tech sector. The French method here exists. Just look like the France has tamed the Church and have expelled it from the center of public life it used to occupy. The state and laws should be placed, once again above, what Facebook decided the French people should think and do. The superiority of the French and EU law must be upheld, and it should be above any clause consumers would agree with when clicking or signing a contract put forward by Facebook or Google. This is missing, to simply defend our legal rights like Max Shrems does. Instead, we ignore our rights, pretend that capitalism is bad and build alternative economical circuits which are a distraction and are a dangerous illusion. We are training people to accept to be the proletariat, to be just slaves in the new economy, where the only real beneficiaries are the big tech companies. At least if you look at the stock market, to the point that real business which actually makes useful things is abused and marginalized, and has relatively small market caps, at the same stock market. It takes a lot of stupidity and it is suicidal to later claim, that the stock market valuation of Facebook should not matter to people in France. It does because it is proportional to how many innocent lives worldwide Facebook, has been able to enroll inside their ecosystem, to work for them, and to make huge profits for them.

In Europe so many smart scientists educators and yes computer programmers worked for free (e.g. in Linux) or for a tiny salary. Many were funded sponsored by the (super naive) taxpayer, or some bloated R&D budgets. In contrast, in other countries these same sorts of people, geeks, hackers and Computer Scientists, have created empires and become super rich. Even though officially in France it is not legal to work for free, free software and free medias and platforms flourish. These are the worst things capitalism have ever produced: we build empires but the contributors are not paid, precisely in France (and overall). Yet these activities like Linux, are publicly promoted. Yes free labor has many defenders and promoters. Servitude Volontaire is the French word for it and it has a long tradition. When well educated quite capable young people work for free, the ultimate beneficiaries of a society reshaped by code, data and computers are large tech corporations. It is no longer the state or the society, and not even the capitalists as owners of some larger tools useful in the process of production. Production is obsolete, distribution also, and even advertising is obsolete. In 2020 even the powers of bankers and stock markets are also eroded. Even stock markets themselves are tiny companies which Facebook can buy tomorrow, and people at Google surely think they could be on the top of this game too, which is after all another computer game. The commanding heights of the economy have now moved elsewhere, to controlling everything through computer platforms. The Macron tax on big tech is a tiny, just 3%, tax on the actual masters of the universe, to which every human and almost every business are now subordinated. The state, even when it taxes the tech, remains largely inferior in asymmetry of power and asymmetry of information. If tomorrow Macron decides to increase the tax, Google and Facebook will destroy his political career in 5 minutes just by publishing all his emails. Here is the situation.

We arrive at a grave complaint here: in Europe we are educating young people to be somewhat enslaved. We are simply populating this new proletariat even more. Desperate and not knowing what to do, we educate and help young people be mentally enslaved in the new economy. We create new type of cannon fodder, and philosophers are not helping or not enough. Not even when they actually study the technology. It is not enough for an atypical insightful thinker to escape from his prison cell, and challenge our inadequate ideas about life. Life is stronger and it moves faster, eventually our teacher dies, and we are left alone. We need more actors on the stage: we need millions of people to study and embrace science and technology as a career choice, and we need to be more technology aware.

We need also to fire all politicians who do not understand the technology, as they, as a logical consequence, essentially do not understand the economy, and therefore the society, and therefore they simply misunderstand just everything.

Stop ignoring the tech as the most powerful force in the universe, which evolves and lives alongside humans, and is a proper and primary development partner of Homo Sapiens. Stop building a different planet, pretending that tech empires do not exist, or that they are neutral, or avoiding that dirty capitalism made by these foreign people, the thing which comes from the others, the evil being those other people (Sartre). Stop building tech instruments to brainwash and manipulate the human population at large, not even in order to fight the established economic order. The French education is also such another tech instrument, less harmful, but also very monolithic and uniform, with too much monoculture. Education also produces harm, this is when it lets us down, and we feel that we do not own our future anymore, but rather it owns us and we lose influence or are unemployed or poorly paid. Long time ago we had learned how to revolt against factory owners and against the Church. We now need to develop yet a lot more immunity to influencers, medias and platforms. Play with the tech, but do not let the tech mess with us. The tech is expected to be neutral and respectful of human values identity and even of human imperfection. Deny them the right to cheat, for example using human weakness or human laziness to abuse customers and make a lot of money. Facebook teaches fellow humans a lesson about whatever is free or sponsored and well organised, is not good for you. We need to unfriend Facebook, this is the right thing to do, and this is the right moment. 10 years ago we unfriended the bankers, and 200 years after people started revolting against factory owners.

There are enough prison cells for philosophers, yet philosophers do not belong there. However in fact there aren’t enough prison cells if most of our businesses leaders, our technology and service provider business elite, are all harmful for us. Not enough, if the whole economy and money making algorithms and machinery are not fit for purpose and mass produce socially undesirable outcomes. The tech dystopia, ahead of free market and capitalism dystopia, with a bit of alleged madness with disorder and deterministic unstoppable forces at play, should be the real preoccupation of our times. These things are simply stronger. Then we should worry about crime and human nature: things such as hate and racism. Human nature is also about lying to ourselves every day about why we are unhappy. It is simply wrong, to believe that cause of our social and economic problems is politics, capitalism or how the society works, and that technology is primarily a subservient and a tool for evil doers. I propose to deny that bad intentions or corruption come first. Technology is corrupting our economy from the inside and creates opportunities which potential wrongdoers simply cannot resist. We have to recognize that the old capitalism and how society and politics works, are now secondary and subservient forces. They are a matrix, an abstract space which Facebook alone controls and dominates, and therefore we don’t, and so we are left in a weaker position. Also the state and the capitalists themselves are in a weak position, because Facebook and other software platforms are not just a businesses. They are greedy monopolistic centers of power, and engage in illegal and unethical activity every day.

If the economy is working against us, and Facebook got the job of taming our souls for the benefit of some money making algorithms, we need to first question the role of the whole of Facebook, the new kid on the block making huge profits in 2020, and not really the capitalism at large. We had methods of oppression and making money in 1840s, which same things are making a loss most of the time now. We need to think about how to regulate algorithms and make them, well obey laws, however crazy this seems. Invent new laws and regulations where humans come first, algorithms need to adapt. We are weaker and marginalized, because of technology, and because human spirit and mind is weak, compared to automation and algorithms. No longer because some rent-seeking fat cat owns a factory.

Our minds and spirits are the new frontier for the colonial empires of our times, and old fights to control the labor and the industry are obsolete, and these things have simply lost their prominent position. With the new economy comes a new form of connected hyper slavery, and both people and businesses alike are enslaved by Facebook, Google and alike. The idea of “capitalism” where the ownership of means for production means little and ability to make profits is in decline, not only for workers, but also for most other actors, including the state, and essentially the whole main street industry, which is also marginalized and unable to defend itself against a predatory tech sector. The tech sector is the only one able to make profits no matter what, and which organizes production at a different levels, without owning the means of production which are subservient entities meant to be engaged in fierce competition and deprived from being paid decent wages for their work. Yes capitalists are also deprived on decent wages and business are frequently just destroyed and everybody loses except in the tech sector which is growing all the time, like cancer inside human body.

If owning means of production means little, what do the bit tech firms own? They master primarily the data, without really owning them legally, because in fact they have stolen these data from us and also from businesses under false pretexts. Then, they own algorithms, and complex networked computer systems with vast capacities. Finally they somewhat own the so called network effect, the immaterial wealth created by platforms. This is the new imperial infrastructure, which we need to challenge: legally, humanly and politically. We need to reestablish the human rights against the algorithmic tech masters of the world.