Spitfire List Web site and blog of anti-fascist researcher and radio personality Dave Emory.

For The Record  

FTR #867 Because They Can, Part 3: Fireside Rant about Technocratic Fascism as “Cyber-Crowleyism”

Dave Emory’s entire life­time of work is avail­able on a flash drive that can be obtained here. The new drive is a 32-gigabyte drive that is current as of the programs and articles posted by late spring of 2015. The new drive (available for a tax-deductible contribution of $65.00 or more) contains FTR #850.  

WFMU-FM is podcasting For The Record–You can subscribe to the podcast HERE.

You can subscribe to e-mail alerts from Spitfirelist.com HERE

You can subscribe to RSS feed from Spitfirelist.com HERE.

You can subscribe to the comments made on programs and posts–an excellent source of information in, and of, itself HERE.

This program was recorded in one, 60-minute segment. 

Is this Julian Assange?

Snowden unplugged

Introduction: Reinforcing and clarifying a topic analyzed in recent broadcasts, we ruminate about the subject of what Mr. Emory calls “technocratic fascism.”

The underlying ethos of “technocratic fascism” might be called “Cyber-Crowleyism”–“Do as thou wilt.”

Once again, the world of technocratic fascism should be viewed against the background of a vitally important article by David Golumbia. ” . . . . Such tech­no­cratic beliefs are wide­spread in our world today, espe­cially in the enclaves of dig­i­tal enthu­si­asts, whether or not they are part of the giant corporate-digital leviathanHack­ers (“civic,” “eth­i­cal,” “white” and “black” hat alike), hack­tivists, Wik­iLeaks fans [and Julian Assange et al–D. E.], Anony­mous “mem­bers,” even Edward Snow­den him­self walk hand-in-hand with Face­book and Google in telling us that coders don’t just have good things to con­tribute to the polit­i­cal world, but that the polit­i­cal world is theirs to do with what they want, and the rest of us should stay out of it: the polit­i­cal world is bro­ken, they appear to think (rightly, at least in part), and the solu­tion to that, they think (wrongly, at least for the most part), is for pro­gram­mers to take polit­i­cal mat­ters into their own hands. . . First, [Tor co-creator] Din­gle­dine claimed that Tor must be sup­ported because it fol­lows directly from a fun­da­men­tal “right to pri­vacy.” Yet when pressed—and not that hard—he admits that what he means by “right to pri­vacy” is not what any human rights body or “par­tic­u­lar legal regime” has meant by it. Instead of talk­ing about how human rights are pro­tected, he asserts that human rights are nat­ural rights and that these nat­ural rights cre­ate nat­ural law that is prop­erly enforced by enti­ties above and out­side of demo­c­ra­tic poli­tiesWhere the UN’s Uni­ver­sal Dec­la­ra­tion on Human Rights of 1948 is very clear that states and bod­ies like the UN to which states belong are the exclu­sive guar­an­tors of human rights, what­ever the ori­gin of those rights, Din­gle­dine asserts that a small group of soft­ware devel­op­ers can assign to them­selves that role, and that mem­bers of demo­c­ra­tic poli­ties have no choice but to accept them hav­ing that role. . . Fur­ther, it is hard not to notice that the appeal to nat­ural rights is today most often asso­ci­ated with the polit­i­cal right, for a vari­ety of rea­sons (ur-neocon Leo Strauss was one of the most promi­nent 20th cen­tury pro­po­nents of these views). We aren’t sup­posed to endorse Tor because we endorse the right: it’s sup­posed to be above the left/right dis­tinc­tion. But it isn’t. . . .

Drawing together a number of seemingly disparate analytical and ideological trends, we note the similarity in the corporatist, free-market ideology of Edward Snowden with the Republican Party and its Tea Party faction, the advocates of digital currency and the financial institutions that helped engineer the 2008 financial collapse.

Advocating their right to privacy in the wake of the Snowden “op,” the major players in the 2008 collapse are collaborating in a new, end-to-end encryption messaging service.

” . . . . The company’s back­ers include a who’s who of Wall Street finan­cial com­pa­nies: Bank of Amer­ica Mer­rill Lynch, BNY Mel­lon, Black­Rock, Citadel, Citi, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, Gold­man Sachs, HSBC, Jef­feries, JPMor­gan, Mav­er­ick, Mor­gan Stan­ley, Nomura and Wells Fargo. . . . .”

The Symphony service may well permit them to circumvent regulation.

“. . . . The New York Post has previously reported that Symphony deleted a video from its website that bragged its software could help banks avoid billions in fines by making data deletion easier. . . . Our government officials are concerned that their inability to monitor end-to-end encrypted devices inhibits their role in keeping America safe. Conversely, Americans are concerned about preserving their right to Privacy, and encryption helps individuals enforce that right,” read that post. . . .”

Much of the program details the political reality of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government.

 In FTR #795, we noted that Narendra Modi was politically evolved from the Hindu nationalist/fascist milieu of the RSS. (An “alumnus” of that political environment murdered Gandhi.)

In addition, we have seen that Modi’s election was heavily buttressed by Ebay’s Pierre Omidyar, who has underwritten Glenn Greenwald’s recent journalistic ventures and partially bankrolled the 2014 Ukraine coup that brought the heirs of the OUN/B to power.

Modi is implementing the laissez-faire agenda favored by Omidyar, a cynical “corporatist” agenda that is poised to restore child labor in India.

The laissez-faire/corporatist agenda championed by Omidyar and Morsi is at one with the “austerity” doctrine promulgated by the GOP, Germany, Edward Snowden, Julian Assange, the IMF and the Underground Reich.

“Get to work, kids! And be sure to bring your wages home to your [unemployed] mom and dad.”

In FTR #866, we examined Silicon Valley’s extravagant, almost erotic celebration of Modi, whose political career and BJP Party are inextricably linked with the RSS, a Hindu nationalist/fascist party.

Underscoring the hypocrisy of the “libertarians” who fawned over Modi and the moral, philosophical bankruptcy of their orientation, we note what Modi is actually dong in India.

In Modi’s India, anyone taking issue with the Hindu nationalist/fascist dogma of the RSS, BJP and Modi himself faces potentially lethal censorship.

We note that, just as political dissidents and civil libertarians are being murdered in India by the political forces empowered in part by EBay’s Pierre Omidyar, Ukraine is being beset by political murder as well. (Omidyar helped finance the Maidan coup in Ukraine, as well as the political ascent of Modi and his BJP.)

Program Highlights Include:

  • The murder and persecution of Indian Muslims over alleged slaughtering of cows (which are sacred to Hindus.)
  • Discussion of Snowden’s espousal of, in effect, getting rid of what the Nazis called “useful bread gobblers” and Assange’s espousal of the importance of his passing on his superior genes as embodying two facets of the Nazi eugenics policy–the T-4 euthanasia program (Snowden) and the Lebensborn breeding program (Assange.)
  • Review of the remarkable capabilities of the “smart contracts” being developed by Ethereum.
  • Discussion of the potential application of the Symphony service’s software to other industries, potentially shielding them from regulatory scrutiny.
 1. In assessing The Adventures of Eddie the Friendly Spook [Snowden], WikiLeaks and the operations of Big Tech, it is vital to remember the ethical and civic considerations of what “coders” and their allies are doing.

For openers, these people are not “whistle blowers” by any stretch of the imagination. If someone, in or out of the military, sees something illegal being done and alerts the press and/or the “proper authorities,” THAT is whistle blowing.

Bradley Manning was no “whistle blower.” He arrogated to himself the right to purloin 700,000 secret intelligence files, which he could not possibly have had the time to read. That is, in and of itself, reckless. He gave those to WikiLeaks and Julian Assange (more about him later.) THAT is not whistle blowing.

Assange and his close associate Holocaust-denier Joran Jermas (aka “Israel Shamir”) arranged for WikiLeaks to be hosted on the Pirate Bay site, financed by prominent Swedish fascist Carl Lundstrom, part of David Duke’s milieu. Does THAT seem responsible?

Edward Snowden purloined 2.7 million secret files about the NSA, which he could not POSSIBLY have had the time to read. THAT is not whistle blowing. He then gave them to Nazi fellow-traveler Glenn Greenwald, as well as WikiLeaks. That is extremely reckless.

What is fundamentally missing here is responsibility–Assange, Snowden et al embody what might be termed “cyber-Crowleyism.” “Do As Thou Wilt”–that was Crowley’s ethic and it seems to have been adopted by the coders, from Assange et al to Big Tech.

Who vetted Snowden, Assange and Greenwald et al? What oversight do they have?

2. Worth noting for our purposes is The Family’s emphasis on a quasi-Nazi, eugenics-like emphasis on “breeding.” (As discussed in FTR #724, Assange appears to have been a member of this cult.)

Unseen, Unheard,Unknown by Sarah Moore.

. . . . I suspect perhaps that there were more sinister motives than these alone. Some of us had multiple birth certificates and passports, and citizenship of more than one country. Only she knows why this was and why we were also all dressed alike, why most of us even had our hair dyed identically blond.

I can only conjecture because I will never know for sure. However I suspect that she went to such great lengths in order to enable her to move children around, in and out of the country. Perhaps even to be sold overseas. I’m sure there is a market somewhere in the world for small blond children with no traceable identities. If she did it, it was a perfect scam. Many ex-sect members have said that they were aware that Anne was creating children by a “breeding program” in the late 1960s. These were ‘invisible’ kids, because they had no papers and there is no proof that they ever existed. Yet we Hamilton-Byrne children had multiple identities. These identities could perhaps have been loaned to other children and the similarity of our appearance used to cover up their absence. One little blond kid looks very like another in a passport photo. . .

. . . We were to be the ones who would carry on the work of the sect – we were a direct reflection on her – so she was intimately concerned about our appearances. She used to talk a lot about “breeding” and talk about us being from the “right stock”. . . .

3. Assange, himself, seems to possess a Darwinian world-view  (and perhaps a reproductive instinct) that is consistent with what is taught to The Family. (This was discussed in FTR #745.)

Inside WikiLeaks: My Time with Julian Assange at the World’s Most Dangerous Website by Daniel Domscheit-Berg; English translation copyright 2011 by Crown Publishers [Random House imprint]; ISBN 978-0-307-95191-5; p. 211.

. . . We often discussed the theory of evolution. If he did have faith in anything, it was the theory of evolution. Julian thought that the stronger members of the species not only prevailed, but produced heirs who were better able to survive. Naturally, in his view, his genes particularly deserved to be reproduced.

Often, I sat in larger groups and listened to Julian boast about how many children he had fathered in various parts of the world. He seemed to enjoy the idea of lots and lots of little Julians, one on every continent. Whether he took care of any of these alleged children, or whether they existed at all, was another question. . . .

4. Excerpt­ing some of Snowden’s 2009 online musings–crafted dur­ing the same time period in which he decided to leak NSA documents–gives us insight into his true nature. We’ve men­tioned Snowden’s embrace of the gold stan­dard, belief that we should elim­i­nate Social Secu­rity and deep affin­ity for Ron Paul. Per­haps exam­in­ing his actual pro­nounce­ments will prove educational.

“Would You Feel Dif­fer­ently About Snow­den, Green­wald, and Assange If You Knew What They Really Thought?” by Sean Wilentz; The New Repub­lic; 1/19/2014.

[Snow­den is post­ing under the moniker “The True­HOOHA”] At the time the stim­u­lus bill was being debated, Snow­den also con­demned Obama’s eco­nomic poli­cies as part of a delib­er­ate scheme “to devalue the cur­rency absolutely as fast as the­o­ret­i­cally pos­si­ble.” (He favored Ron Paul’s call for the United States to return to the gold stan­dard.) The social dis­lo­ca­tions of the finan­cial col­lapse both­ered him not at all. “Almost every­one was self-employed prior to 1900,” he asserted. “Why is 12% employ­ment [sic] so ter­ri­fy­ing?” In another chat-room exchange, Snow­den debated the mer­its of Social Security:

<TheTrue­HOOHA> save money? cut this social secu­rity bullshit

<User 11> hahahayes

<User 18> Yeah! Fuck old people!

<User 11> social secu­rity is bullshit

<User 11> let’s just toss old peo­ple out in the street

<User 18> Old peo­ple could move in with [User11].

<User 11> NOOO

<User 11> they smell funny

<TheTrue­HOOHA> Some­how, our soci­ety man­aged to make it hun­dreds of years with­out social secu­rity just fine . . . .

<TheTrue­HOOHA> Mag­i­cally the world changed after the New Deal, and old peo­ple became made of glass.

Later in the same ses­sion, Snow­den wrote that the elderly “wouldn’t be fuck­ing help­less if you weren’t send­ing them fuck­ing checks to sit on their ass and lay in hos­pi­tals all day.”

5. Symphony’s tune might res­onate with a num­ber of indus­tries besides the financial industry that would also like a super-encrypted com­mu­ni­ca­tion and col­lab­o­ra­tion plat­form and expand­ing into other sec­tors was always part of the plan. Note that the institutions involved with Symphony reads like a “Who’s Who” of the financial institutions that precipitated the crash of 2008!
“Wall Street-Backed Sym­phony Wants To Rev­o­lu­tion­ize Finan­cial Ser­vices Com­mu­ni­ca­tion” by Ron Miller; Tech CrunchFeb 21, 2015

Symphony, a com­pany backed by some of the world’s elite finan­cial insti­tu­tions, was cre­ated last fall with a mis­sion to trans­form the way Wall Street shares and col­lab­o­rates around con­tent — and it has set its sights set on some of the world’s most estab­lished con­tent and com­mu­ni­ca­tions tools.

The company’s back­ers include a who’s who of Wall Street finan­cial com­pa­nies: Bank of Amer­ica Mer­rill Lynch, BNY Mel­lon, Black­Rock, Citadel, Citi, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, Gold­man Sachs, HSBC, Jef­feries, JPMor­gan, Mav­er­ick, Mor­gan Stan­ley, Nomura and Wells Fargo.

Last fall, these com­pa­nies con­tributed $66M to finance Sym­phony, and using that money, pur­chased Perzo, a com­pany that was build­ing a secure com­mu­ni­ca­tions plat­form. After the pur­chase, they named Perzo founder David Gurle as Sym­phony CEO.

Gurle, whose back­ground comes right out of busi­ness soft­ware cen­tral cast­ing with stints at Microsoft Lync, Skype and Thom­son Reuters, would seem uniquely qual­i­fied to build such a prod­uct. Symphony’s back­ers have been using a vari­ety of secure com­mu­ni­ca­tions appli­ca­tions and con­tent tools, but that frag­men­ta­tion was becom­ing a huge problem.

They were look­ing to con­sol­i­date on a sin­gle, secure plat­form, and they cre­ated Sym­phony to replace many of the estab­lished play­ers — whether that’s Microsoft Lync or AOL (TechCrunch’s par­ent com­pany) or Yahoo! instant mes­sag­ing in com­mu­ni­ca­tions or Thom­son Reuters and Bloomberg in finan­cial con­tent. The goal from the start has been to become the de facto tool for com­mu­ni­cat­ing, col­lab­o­rat­ing and shar­ing con­tent in a finan­cial ser­vices setting.

“Those com­pa­nies that invested in Sym­phony real­ize they can’t live in a frag­mented way for­ever. It’s not good for busi­ness,” Gurle explained. “They put their money in to make the busi­ness suc­cess­ful and to make Sym­phony suc­cess­ful. You don’t see this align very often,” he said.

Can They Pull It Off?

R Ray Wang, prin­ci­pal at Con­stel­la­tion Research describes Gurle as a vision­ary and believes that Sym­phony is cre­at­ing an entirely new cat­e­gory of soft­ware.

By tar­get­ing the finan­cial ser­vices indus­tries first, they show to every other indus­try from gov­ern­ments to retail that here’s a way to bring these sys­tems of engage­ment to cre­ate dig­i­tal dis­rup­tion in the mar­ket,” Wang told TechCrunch.

“When the orig­i­nal design point is about secu­rity and com­pli­ance to some of the strictest stan­dards set by gov­ern­ments on finan­cial ser­vices, that’s no com­par­i­son to com­pa­nies adding secu­rity on as an after fact,” Wang said.

He added that the core prod­uct Perzo was built for mas­sive shar­ing of mas­sive amounts of infor­ma­tion at financial-services secu­rity scale. He believes Sym­phony has the poten­tial to cre­ate pri­vate col­lab­o­ra­tion net­works and even­tu­ally per­haps even pub­lic ones.

As for that con­tent com­po­nent, Wang says that could be the tough­est part to pull off. “The goal is to be able to burst con­tent with heavy con­text. They have the tech­nol­ogy, but I’m not sure if they have the con­text yet. That takes time,” he said.

Look­ing Ahead

While today the prod­uct focuses pri­mar­ily on the needs of finan­cial ser­vices, Gurle says over time, the con­tent can adapt to the many dif­fer­ent content-centric indus­tries such as life sci­ences, med­i­cine, ship­ping, man­u­fac­tur­ing, account­ing, legal and energy.

For now, Gurle wants to get the finan­cial ser­vices piece right, then he sees going after adja­cent mar­kets like legal and account­ing. After that, per­haps they can begin to go after other indus­tries, but the roadmap is in place now.

The plan is even­tu­ally to cre­ate an open source ecosys­tem around Sym­phony, but Gurle says how that will work and which com­po­nents will go into open source is still very much being debated internally.

The prod­uct has been in Alpha since Jan­u­ary with the 15 fun­ders and a thou­sand daily active users, pre­s­e­lected from pub­lic alphas appli­cants. It plans to go into a wider Beta release with 10,000 users in April and to become gen­er­ally avail­able by the end of June or early July. By that point, the com­pany will have a bet­ter sense of which pieces they will put into open source and which they will con­trol. It could poten­tially oper­ate like Piv­otal, which open sourced pieces of its Big Data Suite last week, while hold­ing other parts back for the com­mer­cial ver­sion, but how it will work with Sym­phony is still being decided.

6a. No one familiar with the nature and behavior of the institutions involved with Symphony would trust them NOT to use the end-to-end encryption to evade regulatory scrutiny and engage in the type of behavior that produced the 2008 financial crash. They now may be able to do that with perfect impunity.

“Wall Street’s New Chat Service Is Deleting Problematic Messaging” by Francine McKenna; MarketWatch; 8/14/2015.

For start-up that says it’s focused on secure messaging, Symphony has been deleting a lot of its own messaging to the public about what it provides for its financial services clients. The firm has been editing out references on its website to data deletion and its ability to help banks keep their data away from the government.

The New York Post has previously reported that Symphony deleted a video from its website that bragged its software could help banks avoid billions in fines by making data deletion easier. Continuing its efforts, Symphony has recently deleted a section about data security from its website and additional references that emphasize more privacy via data encryption and permanent data deletion capabilities.

These were among the removed comments: “End-to-End Encryption: Symphony is completely private. Your data is 100% protected by encryption keys known only by you, never by us.”

“Guaranteed Data Deletion: Symphony has designed a specific set of procedures to guarantee that data deletion is permanent and fully documented.”

A blog post from July entitled, “To Encrypt, or Not to Encrypt?” is also now gone. That post included a passage touting its encryption capabilities as a way to protect firms’ privacy. “Our government officials are concerned that their inability to monitor end-to-end encrypted devices inhibits their role in keeping America safe. Conversely, Americans are concerned about preserving their right to Privacy, and encryption helps individuals enforce that right,” read that post. . . .

. . . . Symphony is no longer promoting messaging security features as a way to prevent the government from getting banks data. Instead, text describes “an ‘end-to-end’ security capability that protects communications from cyber-threats and the risk of a data breach—while safeguarding our customers’ ability to retain records of their messages.” . . . .

. . . . The New York Post report raised some eyebrows. The New York Department of Financial Services’ acting superintendent, Anthony Albanese, sent a letter to Symphony Chief Executive David Gurle on July 22 asking for more information about the video. On Monday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren stepped up the pressure on the firm, as the Massachusetts Democrat sent a letter to six financial regulators raising concerns about Symphony’s description of its new system, “which appear(s) to put companies on notice – with a wink and a nod – that they can use Symphony to reduce compliance and enforcement concerns.” . . . .

6b. Potentially realizing the economic wet dream of fascist/libertarian elements, cryptocurrency may subvert the ability of nation states to tax–a function central to the very concept of civic existence! (We discussed Bitcoin, in FTR #’s 760764770785.)

“Cryptocurrency Taxation May Subvert National Collection” by Travis Patron; Diginomics; 9/06/2015.

As the age of cryptocurrency comes into full force, it will facilitate a subversively viable taxation avoidance strategy for many of the technically savvy users of peer-to-peer cryptographic payment systems. In doing so, cryptocurrency use will act to erode the tax revenue base of national jurisdictions, and ultimately, reposition taxation as a voluntary, pay-for-performance function. In this post, I’d like to cover some of the benefits such a strategy will have for cryptocurrency investors, why our notion of taxation is ripe for disruption, and why cryptocurrency taxation is enabled by default.

Although investors have been lured by the siren song of tax havens for as long as governments have existed, none have existed with the legal and structural characteristics such as those found in cryptocurrency. By operating behind a veil of cybersecrecy, it is reasonable to forecast the impracticality of systemic taxation on these types of financial assets from national jurisdictions. Individual enforcement of taxation is likewise impractical due to ideological backlash governments would receive for targeting individuals who avoid national taxation via information technologies. Even so, many jurisdictions have already declared digital currency transactions (something which occurs between consenting parties on a network which no one owns) to be taxable under current legal frameworks.

How can the state lay claim to the right to tax that which they do not issue and cannot control?

Running The Numbers on Cryptocurrency Taxation

It has been said that compounding interest is one of the most powerful forces in the universe. When we apply the black magic of compounding returns to the profit-maximizing actions of consumers, we see quite clearly why every user aware of the benefits of using cryptocurrency, even if only for the tax-savings, will opt to do so over traditional fiat money. The allure of avoiding the clutches of national taxation is strong enough that any rational consumer will make cryptocurrency a portion of their financial portfolio given they have the sufficient technical understanding.

James Dale Davidson, co-editor of Strategic Investment

“Each $5,000 of annual tax payments made over a 40-year period reduces your net worth by $2.2 million assuming a 10% annual return on your investments,” reports James Dale Davidson in The Sovereign Individual: Mastering the Transition to the Information Age, “For high income earners in predatory tax regimes (such as the United States), you can expect to lose more of your money through cumulative taxation than you will ever earn.”

As we explained in the report Bitcoin May Become A Global Reserve Instrument, never before has there existed a tool that can preserve economic and informational assets with such a high degree of security combined with a near-zero marginal cost to the user. This revolutionary capability of the bitcoin network does, and will continue to provide, a subversively lucrative tax super haven in direct correlation with its acceptance on a worldwide basis.

Government Response to Cryptocurrency Taxation

Many government agencies have already cued in to the tax avoidance potential of bitcoin and cryptocurrencies. However, it would seem that they misjudge this emerging threat looming over their precious tax coffers. The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network in the United States (FINCEN) for example, has already issued guidance on cryptocurrency taxation, yet makes a false distinction between real currency and virtual currency. FINCEN states that “In contrast to real currency, “virtual” currency is a medium of exchange that operates like a currency in some environments, but does not have all the attributes of real currency,” and later “virtual currency does not have legal tender status in any jurisdiction.” What these agencies fail to realize, is that cryptocurrency is not virtual in any sense of the word. Indeed it is as real, and perhaps even more real, than traditional fleeting fiat currencies.

Bitcoin and cryptocurrency offer a near perfect alternative to traditional tax havens which are being tightly controlled by the new laws associated with the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA). In his report Are Cryptocurrencies Super Tax Havens?, Omri Marian makes clear the pressure for financial institutions who interact with the US banking system to hand over account holders, and for a crackdown on offshore tax havens with the enactment of FATCA in 2010.

Tax policymakers seem to be operating under the faulty assumption that cryptocurrency-based economies are limited by the size of virtual economies. The only virtual aspect of cryptocurrencies, however, is their form. Their operation happens within real economies, and as such their growth potential is, at least theoretically, infinite. Such potential, together with recent developments in cryptocurrencies markets, should alert policy-makers to the urgency of the emerging problem.

– Omri Marian, Are Cryptocurrencies Super Tax Havens?

Current payment processors such as BitPay have recently revealed that government agencies are watching cryptocurrency transactions through the bottlenecks and exchanges where it can be tracked and traced with a high degree of transparency. It should not come to anyones surprise that governments are watching cryptocurrency nor that companies are complying with their laws, but understanding why national governments require users of the bitcoin digital economy to cut them a slice of the pie while they contribute nothing to the operation, and in many cases, hinder the adoption of this technology, remains a callus mystery.

Governments initially attempting to control cryptocurrency taxation through the businesses and bottlenecks which it can be monitored through will meet with as much success as they have limiting file sharing, illegal downloads, and Tor operations. Cryptocurrencies have an inherent regulation, that of the law from numberTruly, bitcoin is code as law.

Old laws seldom resist the trends of technology. The attempt of government agencies to levy taxation on cryptocurrency transactions directly is as futile as sweeping back waves of the ocean. No matter the size of broom, state actors will be overrun by continuously expanding waves of cryptocurrency adoption.

In the 1980s, it was illegal in the United States to send a fax message. The US Post Office considered faxes to be first-class mail, over which the US Post Office claimed an ancient monopoly … billions of fax messages later, it is unclear whether anyone ever complied with that law.

– James Dale Davidson, William Rees-Mogg, The Sovereign Individual

Cryptocurrency Taxation By Default

What would you say if you were told cryptocurrency taxation occurs on every transaction by default? In the realm of digital currency, the transaction fee which the user decides to (or decides not to) attach to each payment represents the taxation. This user can decide to attach a large fee or no fee at all. In doing so, the miners of the network will choose preference for the transactions with a larger fee attached, and will work to confirm these payments sooner than those with smaller fees. This transactions queue represents a voluntary, pay-for-performance taxation structure where the performance derived from the system is dependent upon how much taxation they pay.

Algorithmic Regulation

Cryptocurrencies have regulation built into the very nature of their existence, just not through our conventional ideas of human intervention. Because of the technological nature of cryptocurrency taxation, judicial regulations bestowed upon these types of systems will always be, to a large degree, futile. Cryptocurrencies have established their own set of rules and guidelines through the source code they are built upon, forcing legal frameworks on this type of 21st century innovation will only cause friction during its adoption phase.

The only choice of regulation we have in terms of cryptocurrency taxation is not to try and fit it inside some existing doctrine, but to abide by their laws of finance and information freedom. We must be the one’s to conform to the regulation, not have it conform to our conventional beliefs. Bitcoin is a system which will only be governed effectively through digital law, an approach which functions solely through a medium of technology itself. It will not bend to the whim of those who still hold conventional forms of law-making as relevant today.

For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled.

– Richard Feynman

Conclusion

When we come to understand the systemic resilience to judicial intervention, it becomes quite clear that cryptocurrency taxation will remain a voluntary, pay-for-performance function of the network itself. No longer will taxation be enforced through coercion, but become a voluntary act towards increased system performance.

Make no mistake, in a crypto-anarchist jurisdiction where there is no means to confiscate or control property on behalf of another individual, the need for the state will cease to exist. Mass taxation on digital currency is not feasible through judicial enforcement while individual enforcement is bound to prove ineffective. You, or anyone motivated to retain their net worth, will find a subversively lucrative tax haven in the realm of cryptocurrency.

6c. The rise of “smart contracts” may not only enable the successful perpetration of numerous kinds of criminal undertakings, including the assassination of public officials, but may replace the use of attorneys to draft contracts. It is not only low-wage workers who face unemployment realized through technological replacement! Actually, Bitcoin’s Dark Side is pretty damn dark, as we saw in FTR #’s 760764770785.

“Bitcoin’s Dark Side Could Get Darker” by Tom Simonite; MIT Tech­nol­ogy Review; 8/13/2015.

Investors see riches in a cryptography-enabled tech­nol­ogy called smart contracts–but it could also offer much to criminals.

Some of the ear­li­est adopters of the dig­i­tal cur­rency Bit­coin were crim­i­nals, who have found it invalu­able in online mar­ket­places for con­tra­band and as pay­ment extorted through lucra­tive “ran­somware” that holds per­sonal data hostage. A new Bitcoin-inspired tech­nol­ogy that some investors believe will be much more use­ful and pow­er­ful may be set to unlock a new wave of crim­i­nal innovation.

That tech­nol­ogy is known as smart contracts—small com­puter pro­grams that can do things like exe­cute finan­cial trades or nota­rize doc­u­ments in a legal agree­ment. Intended to take the place of third-party human admin­is­tra­tors such as lawyers, which are required in many deals and agree­ments, they can ver­ify infor­ma­tion and hold or use funds using sim­i­lar cryp­tog­ra­phy to that which under­pins Bitcoin.

Some com­pa­nies think smart con­tracts could make finan­cial mar­kets more effi­cient, or sim­plify com­plex trans­ac­tions such as prop­erty deals (see “The Startup Meant to Rein­vent What Bit­coin Can Do”)Ari Juels, a cryp­tog­ra­pher and pro­fes­sor at the Jacobs Technion-Cornell Insti­tute at Cor­nell Tech, believes they will also be use­ful for ille­gal activity–and, with two col­lab­o­ra­tors, he has demon­strated how.

“In some ways this is the per­fect vehi­cle for crim­i­nal acts, because it’s meant to cre­ate trust in sit­u­a­tions where oth­er­wise it’s dif­fi­cult to achieve,” says Juels.

In a paper to be released today, Juels, fel­low Cor­nell pro­fes­sor Elaine Shi, and Uni­ver­sity of Mary­land researcher Ahmed Kosba present sev­eral exam­ples of what they call “crim­i­nal con­tracts.” They wrote them to work on the recently launched smart-contract plat­form Ethereum.

One exam­ple is a con­tract offer­ing a cryp­tocur­rency reward for hack­ing a par­tic­u­lar web­site. Ethereum’s pro­gram­ming lan­guage makes it pos­si­ble for the con­tract to con­trol the promised funds. It will release them only to some­one who pro­vides proof of hav­ing car­ried out the job, in the form of a cryp­to­graph­i­cally ver­i­fi­able string added to the defaced site.

Con­tracts with a sim­i­lar design could be used to com­mis­sion many kinds of crime, say the researchers. Most provoca­tively, they out­line a ver­sion designed to arrange the assas­si­na­tion of a pub­lic fig­ure. A per­son wish­ing to claim the bounty would have to send infor­ma­tion such as the time and place of the killing in advance. The con­tract would pay out after ver­i­fy­ing that those details had appeared in sev­eral trusted news sources, such as news wires. A sim­i­lar approach could be used for lesser phys­i­cal crimes, such as high-profile vandalism.

“It was a bit of a sur­prise to me that these types of crimes in the phys­i­cal world could be enabled by a dig­i­tal sys­tem,” says Juels. He and his coau­thors say they are try­ing to pub­li­cize the poten­tial for such activ­ity to get tech­nol­o­gists and pol­icy mak­ers think­ing about how to make sure the pos­i­tives of smart con­tracts out­weigh the negatives.

“We are opti­mistic about their ben­e­fi­cial appli­ca­tions, but crime is some­thing that is going to have to be dealt with in an effec­tive way if those ben­e­fits are to bear fruit,” says Shi.

Nico­las Christin, an assis­tant pro­fes­sor at Carnegie Mel­lon Uni­ver­sity who has stud­ied crim­i­nal uses of Bit­coin, agrees there is poten­tial for smart con­tracts to be embraced by the under­ground. “It will not be sur­pris­ing,” he says. “Fringe busi­nesses tend to be the first adopters of new tech­nolo­gies, because they don’t have any­thing to lose.”

Gavin Wood, chief tech­nol­ogy offi­cer at Ethereum, notes that legit­i­mate busi­nesses are already plan­ning to make use of his technology—for exam­ple, to pro­vide a dig­i­tally trans­fer­able proof of own­er­ship of gold.

How­ever, Wood acknowl­edges it is likely that Ethereum will be used in ways that break the law—and even says that is part of what makes the tech­nol­ogy inter­est­ingJust as file shar­ing found wide­spread unau­tho­rized use and forced changes in the enter­tain­ment and tech indus­tries, illicit activ­ity enabled by Ethereum could change the world, he says.

“The poten­tial for Ethereum to alter aspects of soci­ety is of sig­nif­i­cant mag­ni­tude,” says Wood. “This is some­thing that would pro­vide a tech­ni­cal basis for all sorts of social changes and I find that exciting.”

For exam­ple, Wood says that Ethereum’s soft­ware could be used to cre­ate a decen­tral­ized ver­sion of a ser­vice such as Uber, con­nect­ing peo­ple want­ing to go some­where with some­one will­ing to take them, and han­dling the pay­ments with­out the need for a com­pany in the mid­dle. Reg­u­la­tors like those har­ry­ing Uber in many places around the world would be left with noth­ing to tar­get. “You can imple­ment any Web ser­vice with­out there being a legal entity behind it,” he says. “The idea of mak­ing cer­tain things impos­si­ble to leg­is­late against is really interesting.”

 7. In FTR #795, we noted that Narendra Modi was politically evolved from the Hindu nationalist/fascist milieu of the RSS. (An “alumnus” of that political environment murdered Gandhi.)

In addition, we have seen that Modi’s election was heavily buttressed by Ebay’s Pierre Omidyar, who has underwritten Glenn Greenwald’s recent journalistic ventures and partially bankrolled the 2014 Ukraine coup that brought the heirs of the OUN/B to power.

Modi is implementing the laissez-faire agenda favored by Omidyar, a cynical “corporatist” agenda that is poised to restore child labor in India.

The laissez-faire/corporatist agenda championed by Omidyar and Morsi is at one with the “austerity” doctrine promulgated by the GOP, Germany, the IMF and the Underground Reich.

“Get to work, kids! And be sure to bring your wages home to your [unemployed] mom and dad.”

“The Modi Gov­ern­ment Is Send­ing Mil­lions of Kids Back into Exploita­tive Labour” by Rashme Seh­gal; Quartz; 5/4/2015.

An amend­ment to the Child Labour Pro­hi­bi­tion Act pro­posed by the Naren­dra Modi-led gov­ern­ment is about to undo years of hard-won progress in the area of child labour—and con­demn mil­lions of kids to exploita­tive employment.

The amend­ment will allow chil­dren below the age of 14 to work in “fam­ily enter­prises”—a euphemism for indus­tries such as carpet-weaving, beedi–rolling, gem-polishing, lock-making and matchbox-making. The new norms will also apply to the enter­tain­ment indus­try and sports.

The amend­ment flies in the face of the Right to Edu­ca­tion Act (RTE), 2009, which guar­an­tees edu­ca­tion to every child. After the RTE came in, child labour dropped from 12.6 mil­lion in 2001 to 4.3 mil­lion in 2014. The amend­ment will undo much of that progress. It will also be a seri­ous set­back to all the work done by activists, such as Swami Agnivesh and Nobel lau­re­ate Kailash Sat­yarthi, to res­cue chil­dren from bonded labour and exploitation.

Mirzapur-based Shamshad Khan, pres­i­dent of the Cen­tre for Rural Edu­ca­tion and Devel­op­ment Action, calls the move “retrogressive.”

“All our cam­paigns to end bonded child labour, start­ing from the eight­ies, will go up in smoke,” Khan said. “Schools will be emp­tied out, and poor chil­dren in states like Bihar, Jhark­hand and Uttar Pradesh will be back to work­ing in sheds and makeshift fac­to­ries that will all go by the nomen­cla­ture of ‘fam­ily enter­prises.’ The worst-hit will be the chil­dren of Dal­its, Mus­lims, tribal fam­i­lies and those belong­ing to mar­gin­alised communities.”

The amend­ment can also be used to deny edu­ca­tion to the girl child, who will be sucked into all forms of house­work. Accord­ing to gov­ern­ment sta­tis­tics, male lit­er­acy lev­els in 2014 stood at about 82%, while female lit­er­acy lev­els were as low as 64%. The school drop-out rate for girls is almost dou­ble the rate for boys.

An uncon­sti­tu­tional change

Ban­daru Dat­ta­treya, India’s min­is­ter of labour and employ­ment, announced in early April that the gov­ern­ment planned to intro­duce amend­ments to the Child Labour Pro­hi­bi­tion Act in the cur­rent ses­sion of Parliament.

His min­istry, while seek­ing the amend­ments, said the Act will not apply to chil­dren help­ing fam­i­lies in home-based work, and espe­cially fam­i­lies work­ing in agri­cul­ture and animal-rearing. The objec­tive of these amend­ments, accord­ing to min­istry offi­cials, is to help chil­dren nur­ture a spirit of entre­pre­neur­ship. They will par­tic­u­larly help chil­dren of fam­i­lies cur­rently liv­ing at sub­sis­tence lev­els, the min­istry claims.

Child rights activists say the move will ben­e­fit fac­tory own­ers in India’s cow belt. Their prof­its will esca­late four­fold as chil­dren could be made to work longer hours and paid less than adults.

Enakshi Gan­guly Thukral of HAQ Cen­tre for Child Rights believes this is an attempt by the Modi gov­ern­ment to ensure a size­able chunk of the pop­u­la­tion remains in the infor­mal sec­tor, deprived of min­i­mum wages and social security.

“The gov­ern­ment is not in a posi­tion to pro­vide jobs for mil­lions of young peo­ple,” said Thukral. “Such a ret­ro­grade step will help ensure mil­lions of kids remain illit­er­ate and, there­fore, unemployable.”

Bad old days again

Major cut­backs in the 2015 bud­get in the areas of health, women and chil­dren, and edu­ca­tion will fur­ther com­pound this prob­lem. Thukral said labour offi­cials are already guilty of under-reporting child labour. “But once child labour is per­mit­ted under one guise or the other, then even a min­i­mum [level] of account­abil­ity will cease to exist,” she said.

Labour offi­cials at the dis­trict level are empow­ered to file cases against employ­ers hir­ing chil­dren but few employ­ers are ever con­victed. Sta­tis­tics from the labour min­istry for 2004–2014 show that there have been 1,168 con­vic­tions for chil­dren employed in haz­ardous indus­tries with about Rs83 lakh col­lected in fines. This money has been des­ig­nated for the reha­bil­i­ta­tion and wel­fare of child labour. How­ever, in this period, only Rs5 lakh was dis­bursed from this fund.

Khan recalls the period before the RTE Act, when dalals (touts) openly knocked on the doors of rich seths (mer­chants or busi­ness­men) to sell traf­ficked children.

“In the eight­ies, kids were being paid a daily wage of as lit­tle as Rs4 per day,” he said. “We kept up pres­sure on the gov­ern­ment, insist­ing that all out-of-school kids be cat­e­gorised as child labour. This open traf­fick­ing of kids declined sharply with the RTE Act. If the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) suc­ceeds in intro­duc­ing such a dan­ger­ous amend­ment, we will be back to those old days.” . . . .

8. In FTR #866, we examined Silicon Valley’s extravagant, almost erotic celebration of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose political career and BJP Party are inextricably linked with the RSS, a Hindu nationalist/fascist party.

Underscoring the hypocrisy of the “libertarians” who fawned over Modi and the moral, philosophical bankruptcy of their orientation, we note what Modi is actually dong in India. In Modi’s India, anyone taking issue with the Hindu nationalist/fascist dogma of the RSS, BJP and Modi himself faces potential lethal censorship.

We note that, just as political dissidents and civil libertarians are being murdered in India by the political forces empowered in party by EBay’s Pierre Omidyar, Ukraine is being beset by political murder as well. (Omidyar helped finance the Maidan coup in Ukraine, as well as the political ascent of Modi and his BJP.)

“India’s Attack on Free Speech” by Sonia Faleiro; The New York Times; 10/02/2015.

In today’s India, secular liberals face a challenge: how to stay alive.

In August, 77-year-old scholar M. M. Kalburgi, an outspoken critic of Hindu idol worship, was gunned down on his own doorstep. In February, the communist leader Govind Pansare was killed near Mumbai. And in 2013, the activist Narendra Dabholkar was murdered for campaigning against religious superstitions.

These killings should be seen as the canary in the coal mine: Secular voices are being censored and others will follow.

While there have always been episodic attacks on free speech in India, this time feels different. The harassment is front-page news, but the government refuses to acknowledge it. Indeed, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s silence is being interpreted by many people as tacit approval, given that the attacks have gained momentum since he took office in 2014 and are linked to Hindutva groups whose far-right ideology he shares.

Earlier this month, a leader of the Sri Ram Sene, a Hindu extremist group with a history of violence including raiding pubs and beating women they find inside, ratcheted up the tensions. He warned that writers who insulted Hindu gods were in danger of having their tongues sliced off. For those who don’t support the ultimate goal of these extremists — a Hindu nation — Mr. Modi’s silence is ominous.

This is a turning point for India, a country that has taken pride in being a liberal democracy and that often adopts a high-minded tone when neighbors fall short of the same standards.

When the liberal Pakistani politician Salman Taseer was assassinated in 2011, the Indian journalist M. J. Akbar, now the national spokesman for the Bharatiya Janata Party, or B.J.P., chided, “If Salman Taseer had been an Indian Muslim, he would still have been alive.” In the run-up to the 2014 general elections in Bangladesh, India expressed concern over the future of the country’s democratic institutions.

We should be worrying instead about what’s happening in India, and recognize that it could go the way of the very neighbors it criticizes. As Nikhil Wagle, a prominent liberal journalist based in Mumbai, told me, “Without secularism, India is a Hindu Pakistan.”

The murders in India share striking similarities with the killings of four Bangladeshi bloggers this year. But while there was a global outcry over what happened in Bangladesh, India is hiding behind its patina of legitimacy granted by being the world’s largest democracy.

Like the murdered bloggers, the Indian victims held liberal views but were not famous or powerful. Mr. Kalburgi had publicly expressed skepticism toward idol worship in Hinduism, but he didn’t pose a threat to anyone.

While the authorities are pursuing the culprits on a case-by-case basis, the overarching attack on free speech has not been addressed. The threats and killings have created an atmosphere of self-censorship and fear.

Some of the killers are still on the loose, and while in one hand they wield a gun, in the other they wave a list. On Sept. 20, Mr. Wagle, the journalist, learned from a source that intercepted phone calls had revealed that members of yet another right-wing Hindu group, Sanatan Sanstha, had marked him as their next victim. The extremists who celebrated the August murder of Mr. Kalburgi were more direct: They used Twitter to warn K. S. Bhagwan, a retired university professor who is critical of the Hindu caste system, that he would be next.

The goal of transforming India from a secular state to a Hindu nation, which seems to be behind the murders, is abetted not just by the silence of politicians, but also by the Hindu nationalist policies of the ruling B.J.P.

Over the past few months, the government has purged secular voices from high-profile institutions including the National Book Trust and the independent board of Nalanda University. The government is not replacing mediocre individuals: The chancellor of Nalanda was the Nobel laureate Amartya Sen. It is replacing luminaries with people whose greatest qualification is faith in Hindutva ideology. The new appointees are rejecting scientific thought in favor of religious ideas that have no place in secular institutions.

One of the government’s chief targets is the legacy of India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, who laid the foundation for a secular nation. Last month, having nudged out the director of the Nehru Museum and Library in New Delhi, the government announced plans to rename the museum and change its focus to highlight the achievements of Mr. Modi. This is akin to repurposing the Washington Monument as an Obama museum.

In addition to erasing the contributions of long-dead liberals, B.J.P. leaders are busy promoting violent Hindu nationalists. Sakshi Maharaj, a B.J.P. member of Parliament, described Nathuram Godse, the man who assassinated Mahatma Gandhi, as a “patriot.” Although Mr. Maharaj later retracted his statement, his opinion is shared by many of his party colleagues. Gandhi’s assassin was a former member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, an armed Hindu group, with which Mr. Modi has been associated since he was 8 years old.

THE B.J.P.’s efforts to reshape institutions that embody secular values — values they dismiss as “Western” — was certainly anticipated. It came as no surprise when the culture and tourism minister, Mahesh Sharma, recently promised to “cleanse every area of public discourse that had been westernized.” Mr. Sharma is well aware of the connotations of the word he used.

It’s also not surprising that Hindu fundamentalists would feel empowered in the shadow of a Hindu nationalist government. Still, few expected that freedom of speech would become a contestable commodity and that some who exercised it would lose their lives.

The realization has made for decisions that were once unthinkable.

Last December, the acclaimed author Perumal Murugan informed the police that he’d received threats from Hindu groups angered by a novel he wrote in 2010. Extremists staged burnings of his book and demanded a public apology from him. The police suggested he go into exile. Realizing he was on his own, in January Mr. Murugan announced the withdrawal of his entire literary canon. On Facebook, he swore to give up writing, in essence apologizing for his life’s work out of fear for his family’s safety.

It’s hard to accept what is happening in India. It is easier to ignore or dismiss the attacks and the threats as a liberal persecution complex or a phase that will last only as long as the B.J.P. is in power. But the country is undergoing a tectonic shift that will have long-term repercussions.

The attacks in India should not be seen as a problem limited to secular writers or liberal thinkers. They should be recognized as an attack on the heart of what constitutes a democracy — and that concerns everyone who values the idea of India as it was conceived and as it is beloved, rather than an India imagined through the eyes of religious zealots. Indians must protest these attacks and demand accountability from people in power. We must call for all voices to be protected, before we lose our own.

9. Further evidence of the nature of Modi’s governance:

“India Politics Are Backdrop In Mob Attack” by David Barstow and Suhasini Raj; The New York Times; 10/05/2015; p. A4.

The vigilantes from Save the Cow sprang into action the moment they heard a rumor that a cow’s slaughtered remains had been found near an electrical transformer looming over the heart of this village. They quickly raised the alarm through text messages and phone calls. A local Hindu priest was asked to alert villagers from his temple loudspeaker.

Soon, about 1,000 men had gathered by the transformer. There was no sign that a cow, a holy symbol for Hindus, had been slaughtered. Nonetheless, the men proceeded through zigzagging alleys to the home of the suspected cow killer, Mohammed Ikhlaq, one of the few Muslims living in this village about 30 miles east of New Delhi.

Mr. Ikhlaq and his wife, Ikraman, were on their second-floor patio, dozing after dinner and prayers. Suddenly their home was swarming with men. Mrs. Ikhlaq heard someone shout, “Kill them.” She, her husband and their son Danish, 20, retreated inside, behind a thick wooden door. The mob shattered the door.

“What’s the matter?” Mrs. Ikhlaq cried out. An incredulous voice replied from the dark, “After slaughtering a cow, you are asking us what’s the matter?”

Men began to paw at Mrs. Ikhlaq, so she bit hard into a sweaty hand, broke free and fled downstairs, “too scared to even breathe,” she said in an interview. Upstairs, the mob bludgeoned her husband with her sewing machine and smashed her son’s head with a brick. Then they dragged Mr. Ikhlaq down 14 cement steps and out to the main road by the transformer, where he was left for all to see.

Mr. Ikhlaq was declared dead early Tuesday morning, hours after the attack; his son remains in critical condition. But in interviews last week, more than a half-dozen members of Save the Cow expressed little remorse for what happened at the Ikhlaqs’ home. Instead, they blamed Mr. Ikhlaq for inciting the mob’s fury by slaughtering and eating a cow — an allegation dismissed by the Ikhlaq family and the police, who have filed murder charges against 10 men. . . . .

. . . . Many leaders of Save the Cow here are also prominent local organizers in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, or B.J.P., which is vying to oust the socialist party that leads Uttar Pradesh, a vast northern state with more than 200 million residents, including the 20,000 in this village. Mr. Tomar, 24, for example, is the general secretary of the local B.J.P. youth wing. Mr. Nagar, 33, is the state secretary of the B.J.P. youth wing.

By week’s end, they and many other B.J.P. leaders were blaming the governing party in Uttar Pradesh for the attack in Bisada. . . .

. . . . Save the Cow and B.J.P. leaders here have also roundly condemned the decision by the police to bring murder charges. In their view, the death of Mr. Ikhlaq was at most the unintended byproduct of a chaotic, highly charged situation of his own making. “He slipped and his head hit the road and he died,” Mr. Tomar said, adding: “These things happen. It’s a mob.”

Mr. Modi’s culture minister, Mahesh Sharma, who represents this area in the Indian Parliament, went so far as to tell The Indian Express that Mr. Ikhlaq’s death “should be considered as an accident.”

 

 

 

 

 

Discussion

2 comments for “FTR #867 Because They Can, Part 3: Fireside Rant about Technocratic Fascism as “Cyber-Crowleyism””

  1. Here’s a reminder that the “Uberization” of work is currently going global. But unlike services like Uber, where the global race to the bottom consists of a global series of local races to the bottom by non-employee contractors driving down each other’s wages, the next phase of the Uberization of work won’t just include all those local races to the bottom. For tasks that can be done over the internet it’s going to be one big global race to the bottom:

    Financial Times
    The human cloud: A new world of work

    Sarah O’Connor, Employment Correspondent
    October 8, 2015 6:08 pm

    Nestled in his “man cave”, a room crammed with cardboard boxes and fishing lures in his Rhode Island home, Set Sar is earning money by letting a company track the tiniest movements of his eyeballs through his computer’s webcam.

    About 10,000 miles away, Adi Nagara is hiding from the heat in his air-conditioned bedroom in Jakarta, researching an Indonesian industry for a consultancy firm. Though they are doing different tasks for wildly different sums on different sides of the world, the two men are connected. They are both members of the “human cloud”.

    Employers are starting to see the human cloud as a new way to get work done. White-collar jobs are chopped into hundreds of discrete projects or tasks, then scattered into a virtual “cloud” of willing workers who could be anywhere in the world, so long as they have an internet connection.

    Some of these tasks are as simple as looking up phone numbers on the web, typing data into a spreadsheet or watching a video while a webcam tracks your eye movements. Others are as complex as writing a piece of code or completing a short-term consultancy project.

    The uniting factor is that these are not jobs but tasks or projects, performed remotely and on-demand by people who are not employees but independent workers. Much of it is, in effect, white-collar piecework. Employers spent between $2.8bn and $3.7bn globally last year on payments to workers and the online platforms that act as intermediaries in the human cloud, according to a recent Staffing Industry Analysts report.

    To its champions — the people who run platforms and others who believe we are on the threshold of a flexible work revolution — the human cloud promises to eliminate skill shortages, ease unemployment black spots and create a global meritocracy where workers are rewarded solely for their output, regardless of their location, education, gender or race. Some even say it could return us to the age of the cottage industry, before we crammed into factories or offices and lost control over our work.

    “What we see today is people taking ownership again of the means of production, because you just need a computer, your brain and a wifi connection to work,” says Denis Pennel, managing director of Ciett, the international lobbying organisation for private employment agencies. “So actually, Marx should be very happy!”

    Critics turn to history for their analogies too, but they talk of dead-eyed operatives on production lines, not happy artisans. In the human cloud they see a wild west of unregulated virtual sweatshops, breaking down service sector work into its constituent parts, making people compete in a worldwide race to the bottom. “It makes Adam Smith’s famous division of labour in pin-making look modest,” says Guy Standing, an academic and author of several books about the “precariat” and the growth of insecure work.

    Turkers and nerds

    Whether the human cloud is more utopia or dystopia depends, at least in part, on where exactly in its hierarchy you find yourself.

    Mr Sar is near the bottom, as he readily admits. “We’re just getting crumbs as far as what we’re getting paid for it,” says the 29-year-old from Providence, capital of America’s smallest state.

    He joined the human cloud through Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, a site run by the online retailer where “requesters” pay “Turkers” to do simple microtasks that humans are still marginally better at than computers, such as transcribing audio clips, filling in surveys or tagging photos with relevant keywords. The name Mechanical Turk refers to a fake chess-playing machine from the 18th century that fooled onlookers into believing it was an automaton when in fact there was a person hiding inside. Amazon — whose tagline for the platform is “artificial artificial intelligence” — calls the jobs on offer “human intelligence tasks”, or HITs. Many of them only pay a few cents apiece.

    On a good day, Mr Sar would earn about $5 to $7 an hour by doing batches of HITs in his free time (he also has a job in a warehouse). But after Amazon increased the fee it charged “requesters” to post HITs to 20 per cent of what they pay workers, he says HITs dried up and pay rates dropped. “Now we as workers have to be competing against other workers to grab these good HITs.” Lately he has discovered a newer site, Sticky Crowd, which shows him videos and web pages and uses his webcam to track exactly what he looks at and what he ignores — useful information for advertisers. The pay is better: a dollar for every 2-3 minutes of eye-tracking.

    Not all the work on offer is so futuristic. Take the cloud call centres that assemble armies of “independent agents” who work from home, pay for their own phone and internet, and only get paid when they are actually on a call. The average “talk-time rate” at one large cloud call-centre is $0.25 per minute, though some clients also offer sales commission.

    Further up the hierarchy are platforms like Upwork, Freelancer and People per Hour, which feature more skilled tasks such as copywriting, IT and design work. Upwork, formed last year by a merger of two large platforms, is now the behemoth of the human cloud, processing about $1bn worth of payments from employers to workers last year (of which it takes a 10 per cent cut). The company took 10 years to reach $1bn, but reckons it will reach $10bn in another six. “It’s a thing that takes a long time at the beginning,” says Stephane Kasriel, its chief executive. “Then at some point it hits a tipping point, it becomes mainstream.”

    Some of these sites invite workers to “bid” for the tasks on offer — specifying how quickly and for what fixed price they could do the work. Others offer payment by the hour. In most cases, employers and workers give each other star ratings after they finish a task, much like on eBay or Airbnb, allowing them to build a track record. Reputations are important: human cloud platforms know they need to link employers with good workers to encourage return visits, so many are starting to use “big data” algorithms to recommend certain workers for certain gigs.

    People per Hour has set up a sister site, SuperTasker, which uses a smaller group of pre-screened workers to do fixed tasks in a fixed period of time for a fixed price: a 400-word blog post delivered in three hours costs $45, for example. Xenios Thrasyvoulou, the company’s founder, calls this “SKUs for work”. SKUs are stock keeping units — retailer shorthand for indistinguishable products.

    Yet at the top of the human cloud’s hierarchy, “standardisation” is a dirty word. “It’s not a commodity — clients don’t choose on price,” says Daniel Callaghan, chief executive of UK-based MBA & Company. His platform, like US rival HourlyNerd, links companies with “consultants on demand”. Other specialist sites include Topcoder for computer programmers and Upcounsel for lawyers.

    Consultants on MBA’s platform charge between £250 and £4,800 a day (then MBA adds its fee of 20 per cent). Mr Nagara, who is 30, is one of the platform’s consultants; he used to work for Australian investment bank Macquarie but moved back to Indonesia for family reasons. He reckons he earns more from his daily rate than he would as a full-time employee — though he sacrifices the security and benefits, a trade-off his parents do not understand. “They stayed with one company for decades, so when they see me being unemployed every two months they think ‘Jesus!’ They probably think I’m a disaster!”

    Opportunities and costs

    While many workers on these specialist sites are young and fleeing the corporate grind or topping up incomes, others are capitalising on a lifetime’s worth of knowledge. Nasa, the US space agency, once posted a challenge to find an algorithm that could predict solar flares: the winner (who Nasa paid $20,000) was a retired radio frequency engineer.

    It is not hard to see the promise of the human cloud for employers, who frequently complain about skills shortages and a lack of skilled migrant workers.

    Mr Callaghan says the human cloud will make such problems disappear. “You can now get whoever you want, whenever you want, exactly how you want it,” he says. “And because they’re not employees you don’t have to deal with employment hassles and regulations.”

    That is particularly useful for fast-growing start-ups. Dom Bracher, a 22-year-old founder of UK-based mobile marketing company Tapdaq, uses developers and designers in Scandinavia and central Europe. “There’s no need for someone to be in the same city as you,” he says.

    The other consequence of work moving online is that more people should be able to do it: the housebound or people in locations where job opportunities are scarce.

    The flipside is that workers in places where the cost of living is lower can undercut their peers in more expensive countries. “You can have someone in Gothenburg competing against someone in Dakar,” Prof Standing says.

    Plenty of IT and call-centre work has been outsourced to countries like India but Prof Standing believes the next wave of “silent offshoring” will be more devastating for wages and conditions in the developed world.

    It is hard to test this hypothesis, since most human cloud platforms are not listed and only disclose their data selectively. Still, a lot of work appears to gravitate to low-cost countries with skilled workforces: Upwork’s biggest markets after the US by worker earnings are India, the Philippines, Ukraine and Pakistan.

    But Mr Sar and Mr Nagara are evidence that the picture is complex: low-paid work does not always drift east and high-paid work does not always drift west.

    Contractors or staff?

    Perhaps the thorniest problem of all for the human cloud is one that has also plagued Uber, the taxi app: when should an independent worker actually be classed as an employee?

    Human cloud platforms usually classify workers as self-employed, which frees them from the requirement to pay minimum wages, employer taxes and benefits like sick pay.

    But lawyers and workers are challenging them: last year a cloud platform called Crowdflower offered more than $500,000 to settle a US class action lawsuit from workers who said they were really “employees” and were therefore owed the minimum wage.

    Most countries’ legal systems are struggling to keep up with these new forms of work. “In these arrangements, there’s really more than one employer — the law can’t grapple with this,” says Jeremias Prassl, a law professor at Oxford university.

    Jonas Prising, chief executive of ManpowerGroup, an employment agency, predicts policymakers will impose more regulations on the new platforms soon.

    “Who is taking care of these individuals? Who is providing the security in terms of taxation and social security? Who is doing the work is not known, who is paying the tax is not known, the age of the people doing the work is not known,” he says.

    For all that, it can be a false comparison to contrast “insecure” human cloud work with “secure” traditional jobs — particularly at the bottom of the economic ladder.

    Mr Sar has a job in a warehouse, but like many low-paid employees in developed countries, his rights and protections have been hollowed out. He is employed arm’s-length by an agency, which means he can be fired on the spot and is ineligible for many benefits. In the warehouse he wears an earpiece called “The Jennifer unit”, a robot in his ear that tells him what to do and tracks his performance and his downtime.

    The human cloud might not pay much, it might be monotonous, but it gives him a sense of control. “Growing up through the years I’ve always worked for someone else. You’re treated as a number and not a human,” he says.

    But his work in the cloud is different. “I can stop whenever I want. I can take a break, or eat something,” he says. “The idea of being my own boss is what really attracted me.”

    As we can see based on Mr. Sar’s experience, in the future that we’re all pathetically creating there will be no escape. You can be an underpaid, abused employee or and underpaid, abused non-employee contractor working in the “human cloud”:


    Whether the human cloud is more utopia or dystopia depends, at least in part, on where exactly in its hierarchy you find yourself.

    Mr Sar is near the bottom, as he readily admits. “We’re just getting crumbs as far as what we’re getting paid for it,” says the 29-year-old from Providence, capital of America’s smallest state.

    He joined the human cloud through Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, a site run by the online retailer where “requesters” pay “Turkers” to do simple microtasks that humans are still marginally better at than computers, such as transcribing audio clips, filling in surveys or tagging photos with relevant keywords. The name Mechanical Turk refers to a fake chess-playing machine from the 18th century that fooled onlookers into believing it was an automaton when in fact there was a person hiding inside. Amazon — whose tagline for the platform is “artificial artificial intelligence” — calls the jobs on offer “human intelligence tasks”, or HITs. Many of them only pay a few cents apiece.

    On a good day, Mr Sar would earn about $5 to $7 an hour by doing batches of HITs in his free time (he also has a job in a warehouse). But after Amazon increased the fee it charged “requesters” to post HITs to 20 per cent of what they pay workers, he says HITs dried up and pay rates dropped. “Now we as workers have to be competing against other workers to grab these good HITs.” Lately he has discovered a newer site, Sticky Crowd, which shows him videos and web pages and uses his webcam to track exactly what he looks at and what he ignores — useful information for advertisers. The pay is better: a dollar for every 2-3 minutes of eye-tracking.


    “Who is taking care of these individuals? Who is providing the security in terms of taxation and social security? Who is doing the work is not known, who is paying the tax is not known, the age of the people doing the work is not known,” he says.

    For all that, it can be a false comparison to contrast “insecure” human cloud work with “secure” traditional jobs — particularly at the bottom of the economic ladder.

    Mr Sar has a job in a warehouse, but like many low-paid employees in developed countries, his rights and protections have been hollowed out. He is employed arm’s-length by an agency, which means he can be fired on the spot and is ineligible for many benefits. In the warehouse he wears an earpiece called “The Jennifer unit”, a robot in his ear that tells him what to do and tracks his performance and his downtime.

    The human cloud might not pay much, it might be monotonous, but it gives him a sense of control. “Growing up through the years I’ve always worked for someone else. You’re treated as a number and not a human,” he says.

    But his work in the cloud is different. “I can stop whenever I want. I can take a break, or eat something,” he says. “The idea of being my own boss is what really attracted me.”

    Yes, compared to his work as an employee in today’s global employment hellscape, being an underpaid “human cloud” worker is sort of an improvement and gives him a sense of control compared to the hollowed out rights and protections he now has as a low-wage employee in the developed world. This is the awesome future we’re creating for everyone in the global meritocracy that the “human cloud” is helping to create: sure, your employment prospects might be getting increasingly bleak, and if you are employed it’s probably under far worse conditions than are really justifiable, but at least you’ll be able spend your off time earning a little extra as an underpaid “Mechanical Turk” or something which might increase the sense control you have over your life. Of course, it’s not just increasing your control over your life:


    It is not hard to see the promise of the human cloud for employers, who frequently complain about skills shortages and a lack of skilled migrant workers.

    Mr Callaghan says the human cloud will make such problems disappear. “You can now get whoever you want, whenever you want, exactly how you want it,” he says. “And because they’re not employees you don’t have to deal with employment hassles and regulations.”

    “You can now get whoever you want, whenever you want, exactly how you want it,…And because they’re not employees you don’t have to deal with employment hassles and regulations.”
    Yes, the “Human cloud” will increase workers’ control over when they work while employers get more control over things like pay and job security and everything else as we all get ushered in to the great global race to the bottom. The future we’re creating isn’t exactly going to be cloud nine.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | October 10, 2015, 6:07 pm
  2. Imagine that: Modi’s surprise plan to ban high-denomination bills without the government actually warning anyone that this massive new change is coming turned out to be a social and economic disaster and no one id clear on why it happened in the first place:

    The Los Angeles Times

    People are dying because of an audacious cash policy that India says will modernize its economy

    By Shashank Bengali and Parth M.N.
    December 30, 2016, 3:00 AM, Reporting from Mumbai

    Usha Boinavad, a farmworker in western India who underwent a heart operation as a teenager, began suffering from chest pains this month. A doctor advised the 26-year-old to seek heart valve surgery in the nearest major city, 200 miles away.

    She immediately ran into another problem: cash.

    The procedure would cost at least $1,500, far more than what she and her husband had in their bank account. But with India in the grip of a severe currency shortage since the government invalidated 86% of the cash in circulation on Nov. 8, the couple couldn’t scrape together even $100 for transportation to the hospital.

    Banks in their farming region have been slow to receive new bills, dispensing at most $30 to a few customers before closing their doors, leaving masses to walk away empty-handed. Like most rural Indians, the couple did not possess a checkbook or debit card.

    Boinavad’s father decided to sell his two buffaloes, but the buyer asked him to wait a few days because he couldn’t find cash either.

    It didn’t come in time. Boinavad’s pain worsened for several days until she died at her parents’ home Dec. 13 in Nanded, 300 miles east of Mumbai.

    “If not for demonetization” — the name for the government’s policy — “she would still be with us,” said Boinavad’s cousin, Sanjeev Halde.

    Few peacetime episodes in India’s 70-year history have proved as contentious or chaotic as the currency ban, which has unleashed tragic consequences across this cash-dependent economy and stained Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s reputation as a capable administrator.

    Nearly two months after Modi canceled the value of the two biggest bills in circulation — worth about $7.50 and $15 — cash remains scarce and scores of people have reportedly died while waiting in line at banks and ATMs. Modi had said the “pain” would end by Friday, but fewer than half of the country’s 200,000 cash machines are working and strict limits remain on how much currency can be withdrawn from bank accounts.

    The misery has also taken subtler forms: migrant workers unable to send money home to their families, small businesses forced to close, a slowdown in sales of everything from SUVs to spinach. Foreign banks have slashed their 2017 growth forecasts for India, which has been the world’s fastest-expanding major economy.

    Modi’s government has struggled to explain why the policy, crafted in near-total secrecy, has been implemented in such a disorganized way. The central bank — the Reserve Bank of India, whose well-regarded Gov. Raghuram Rajan resigned amid disagreements with Modi’s government in June — has found itself becoming a national punchline as it issues rule upon rule on deposits and withdrawal limits, some conflicting with one another.

    Last 43 days have seriously undermined whatever credibility the RBI had built up over decades. Now laughing stock — Reverse Bank of India.— Rahul Kanwal (@rahulkanwal) December 21, 2016

    Within two short months, the RBI has lost credibility and legitimacy built carefully over decades. Will take a long time to restore— Sidharth Bhatia (@bombaywallah) December 21, 2016

    “It is unfathomable why some of the smartest minds and most competent officials were unable to see that the currency transfusion will be a complex, difficult, painful process full of unintended consequences,” said Nitin Pai, co-founder of the Takshashila Institution, an independent policy research organization.

    Modi has offered alternating explanations for why he took such drastic action. He initially said his target was tax evaders who had supposedly stashed away large hoards of undeclared wealth — forcing them to deposit it in banks by Friday, where it could be audited, or watch its value evaporate.

    But 80% of the canceled bills were deposited in the first three weeks. Some experts said that indicated there was less so-called black money in the market than the government expected — or that much of it had effectively been laundered into legitimate accounts and would escape scrutiny from India’s much-maligned tax authority.

    More recently, Modi has emphasized the need to reduce India’s reliance on cash, encourage more people to use bank accounts and electronic payment methods and modernize the economy.

    In that case, analysts said an overnight currency swap was too extreme.

    “The shifting goal posts are a sign that the authorities are desperately clutching at straws to justify their terribly flawed decision on demonetization,” said Meera Sanyal, an opposition politician and former chief executive of the Royal Bank of Scotland in India.

    Meanwhile, Indians have been outraged by stories of law enforcement agencies uncovering huge quantities of the otherwise scarce new bills. Tax inspectors in the eastern city of Chennai reportedly seized more than $5 million in new notes in a series of raids on well-connected businessmen, including $45,000 found at properties used by the state’s top-ranking civil servant.

    Modi has expressed regret for the inconvenience but cast the policy as a nation-building project. One of the government’s top economic advisors compared the disruption to Hurricane Katrina’s effect on New Orleans, saying the economy would eventually rebuild.

    “I know that my people have suffered,” Modi said Dec. 19 in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, where upcoming elections could serve as a referendum on his policy. “But this is for the country, so you will not be disappointed.”

    Within two short months, the RBI has lost credibility and legitimacy built carefully over decades. Will take a long time to restore— Sidharth Bhatia (@bombaywallah) December 21, 2016

    Modi, elected in 2014 on promises to boost economic growth, remains popular, partly because of the shambolic performance of the political opposition. His Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP, performed well in a pair of local elections in northern India this month, suggesting that many citizens are willing to tolerate the turmoil if it results in reforms.

    “I think [Modi] must have thought it through,” said Sayyad Jamal, a Mumbai furniture seller who pleads with customers to pay cash but ultimately supports the policy “if black money is being eradicated.”

    Experts say there is a powerful feeling of schadenfreude among the general public: a hope that India’s highflying, tax-dodging one-percenters will suffer more if the economy is cleaned up. But that could have limits.

    “If their inconvenience does not diminish faster than their schadenfreude, the mood will turn against Mr. Modi,” Pai said. “It all depends on how quickly the [cash] transfusion can be completed.”

    An analysis by IndiaSpend, a news site, suggested that the earliest that government printing presses could replace all $210 billion that was withdrawn from circulation is April 2017 — five months after the policy was introduced.

    It could take even longer for sufficient quantities of bills to reach the two-thirds of Indians who live in rural areas and remain tethered to cash. Only 2.5 million rural Indians had enrolled in cashless systems in the six weeks after the announcement, according to a government task force assigned to increase the use of electronic payments.

    Modi’s government has struggled to explain why the policy, crafted in near-total secrecy, has been implemented in such a disorganized way. The central bank — the Reserve Bank of India, whose well-regarded Gov. Raghuram Rajan resigned amid disagreements with Modi’s government in June — has found itself becoming a national punchline as it issues rule upon rule on deposits and withdrawal limits, some conflicting with one another”

    Yep, the rational for this massive society-changing surprise policy was also

    More recently, Modi has emphasized the need to reduce India’s reliance on cash, encourage more people to use bank accounts and electronic payment methods and modernize the economy.

    Well, if that explanation is an accurate and this really was all about “modernizing the economy” by reducing India’s reliance on cash, it definitely gives us an idea of who may have been lobbying for this move:

    The Financial Times

    India’s high tech strategy for inclusive growth

    Roopa Kudva, Omidyar Network
    Sep 28 2015 16:18

    This weekend Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister, came to Silicon Valley to promote his Digital India initiative. His trip signals that the Indian government sees technology as critical to delivering on its development goals. One example is a programme called Pradhan Mantri Jan-Dhan Yojana (PMJDY), which Modi launched to ensure that all Indian citizens have access to financial services.

    In the last year, the government has opened 175m bank accounts under the scheme, with deposits totalling more than $3.4bn. This progress is already a triumph of technology.

    Most of the new accounts are linked to Aadhaar, the government’s equally ambitious program to ensure all 1.25bn Indians have a government identification document, including a large illiterate population, using a unique biometric method of identification. Riding on Aadhaar’s infrastructure, the government is also facilitating the process for banks to open accounts with an e-KYC (Know Your Customer) portal.

    Once their account is open, holders can deposit and withdraw cash using their fingerprint as a second authentication factor, on top of regular PIN numbers, at a growing network of merchants and micro-ATMs. Many new account holders also receive a RuPay debit card for electronic payments, and access to credit, insurance, social benefits, and pensions.

    This makes PMJDY the largest financial inclusion programme in the world. By ensuring that all Indians have proper identification and access to financial services – including the ability to save, send and receive money safely, and have access to affordable credit and insurance services – the government is giving its people the tools to protect themselves from economic shocks that can send them back to poverty, and build assets to invest in their future. By helping its citizens to take their rightful place in the formal economy, these policies are driving inclusive growth on national scale.

    The Modi government is now looking to double down on its technology-driven strategy. The government recently announced a commitment, through the UN-housed Better Than Cash Alliance, to accelerate the availability of digital financial services throughout the economy.

    Digital financial services, particularly digital payments, make it safer and more convenient for people to access and use their funds through these new accounts, saving precious time that would be spent on a journey to the utilities office to pay a bill and delivering the needed peace of mind of not carrying large amounts of cash around.

    It also increases efficiency and saves the government money. Governments are the biggest generators of payments globally, and shifting these sums from cash to electronic payments builds a market for digital money. India’s fuel subsidy, one of the main social benefits and the world’s largest cash transfer program, saved $2bn by paying users of cooking gas directly into their bank accounts. When Indian government officials made social security pension payments through digital smartcards instead of manual cash payouts at the village level, there was a 47 per cent reduction in bribe demands.

    On the private sector end, digital payments significantly reduce the cost of delivering vital services to the underserved population and spur innovative business models that would not have been profitable before, such as pay-as-you-go water and solar power or micro-savings and insurance.

    Through this technology-driven framework, the government of India is kicking off a virtuous cycle: by ensuring citizens are armed with proper identification, it enables financial services providers to open accounts for them; which in turn makes it cheaper and more efficient for the government to deliver benefits payouts and for companies to provide needed services to lower-income citizens in an affordable manner.

    By leveraging technology and the new, low-cost services it can deliver, India can bring millions more people into the formal financial sector in a few years. As more people in the economy gain access to financial services, they will expand the frontiers of growth in a country that is already the fastest-growing major economy in the world for a second straight quarter.

    Roopa Kudva is a partner at Omidyar Network and managing director of Omidyar Network India Advisors. She was among the first investors in the Better Than Cash Alliance, along with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, The Ford Foundation and others.

    “The Modi government is now looking to double down on its technology-driven strategy. The government recently announced a commitment, through the UN-housed Better Than Cash Alliance, to accelerate the availability of digital financial services throughout the economy.”

    As this piece from the Omidyar Network represent reminds us, the Modi government announced a commitment to the “Better Than Cash Alliance” agenda back in 2015. And who is behind that alliance in addition to the UN? USAID, the Omidyar Network, and a bunch of large credit card companies. Of course:

    About The Better Than Cash Alliance

    The Better Than Cash Alliance is a partnership of governments, companies, and international organizations that accelerates the transition from cash to digital payments in order to reduce poverty and drive inclusive growth.

    Based at the UN, the Alliance has over 50 members, works closely with other global organizations, and is an implementing partner for the G20 Global Partnership for Financial Inclusion.

    The Alliance is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Citi Foundation, Ford Foundation, MasterCard, Omidyar Network, United States Agency for International Development, and Visa Inc. The United Nations Capital Development Fund serves as the secretariat.

    The Alliance is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Citi Foundation, Ford Foundation, MasterCard, Omidyar Network, United States Agency for International Development, and Visa Inc. The United Nations Capital Development Fund serves as the secretariat.”

    Mystery solved?

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | December 31, 2016, 4:01 pm

Post a comment