by Michael Krieger, Liberty Blitzkrieg:
As longtime readers know, I believe we are at the beginning stages of what will be historical paradigm level change across the planet. We sit on the precipice of the self-destruction of almost all the dominant institutions we’ve been accustomed to throughout our lifetimes. To borrow a bit of played out and painfully clichéd Silicon Valley lingo, everything is on the table for “disruption.”
Naturally, this doesn’t necessarily mean the paradigm that follows the current one will be materially better, but I am personally optimistic about what will emerge following a period of considerable confusion, hardship and conflict. In order to tilt the scales toward a positive outcome, those of us who wish to usher in a world characterized by human freedom, decentralization, self-government and kindness, need to recognize the most likely avenues we have to get there. Technology is obviously extremely important, as a recent move by Whisper Systems to thwart censorship demonstrates.
As Wired reported last week:
Any subversive software developer knows its app has truly caught on when repressive regimes around the world start to block it. Earlier this week the encryption app Signal, already a favorite within the security and cryptography community, unlocked that achievement. Now, it’s making its countermove in the cat-and-mouse game of online censorship.
On Wednesday, Open Whisper Systems, which created and maintains Signal, announced that it’s added a feature to its Android app that will allow it to sidestep censorship in Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, where it was blocked just days ago. Android users can simply update the app to gain unfettered access to the encryption tool, according to Open Whisper Systems founder Moxie Marlinspike, and an iOS version of the update is coming soon.
Signal’s new anti-censorship feature uses a trick called “domain fronting,” Marlinspike explains. A country like Egypt, with only a few small internet service providers tightly controlled by the government, can block any direct request to a service on its blacklist. But clever services can circumvent that censorship by hiding their traffic inside of encrypted connections to a major internet service, like the content delivery networks (CDNs) that host content closer to users to speed up their online experience—or in Signal’s case, Google’s App Engine platform, designed to host apps on Google’s servers.
It goes without saying how critical technology such as the above, combined with dedicated activists such as Moxie Marlinspike, will be to making the world a better place. Beyond that, we also need to understand what our adversaries will do. I define such adversaries as the defenders of the status quo, who will do whatever it takes to retain power and influence in the face of their increasing irrelevance. As it becomes more and more obvious to people that these legacy institutions have become so corrupt and bureaucratic that they do far more harm than good, their leaders are likely to resort to more and more authoritarian tactics in order to defend their untenable position. This is where we need to see opportunity as opposed to cowering in fear.
We are on the right side of history, while the old institutions are simply living on borrowed time. We must be smart about how we see the world and understand that Donald Trump is likely to react to such a situation quite similarly to a Barack Obama. Whoever’s in charge of the government will by definition work to preserve the power of government as opposed to the liberty of the citizenry. This goes for pretty much every political leader and government worldwide. As such, we must assume government will lash out in increasingly irrational and authoritarian ways in the coming years, as the old paradigm becomes unglued.
As I mentioned earlier, when a government reacts in an absurd and harmful way, we need to see this for the opportunity it presents as opposed to becoming overcome with fear concerning its inevitable near-term harm. A perfect example is the recent extremely destructive decision by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to unilaterally scrap old 500 and 1,000 rupee notes, which merely represents a particularly egregious move within a broader push by elitist and status quo bureaucrats across the world to ban cash. As disruptive as this move has been, it also carries with it a significant silver lining. For example, it’s causing us to ask the really big questions we need to be asking.
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