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The Telecom Revolution Is Mostly Authoritarian

2018 January 3
by Ian Welsh

All major communications advances have had both liberating and authoritarian uses. And, I believe, every one has been stronger on the authoritarian side than on the liberating side.

Writing improved access to knowledge, but it was primarily used by nobles and temples to track slaves, debt, and workers wages (in grain.) It enabled centralized states and a vast web of debt-slavery (with interest rates in Mesopotamia often at 30 percent or so.) Without writing, centralized states always amounted to feudal states; with writing, central administration, and bureaucracy were possible.

Taxes could be tracked, property assigned, and citizens could, in effect, have files (and very often did.)

The telegram, which triggered the real beginning of the modern telecom revolution, centralized control in capitals. Viceroys and governors lost power, rebellions were more easily crushed (because news could travel fast) and companies could be run from HQ far better.

Each continued step in the electronic telecom revolution has continued the centralization, and the invention of recording devices and video cameras made possible a type of surveillance not possible before.

The problem with prior surveillance states was that they required a lot of people. They were inefficient. Paying everyone to watch everyone else has sharp limits. It also doesn’t record everything: What you were doing 14 years ago at 2:17pm in the afternoon is not usually available to be used against you now, when circumstances have changed, and something “on you” is needed.

Modern computer networks, which allow files to be easily shared, mean that your life is available to anyone with access, which increasingly, due to all the leaks, means anyone who really wants to know.

These records already control a vast amount of your life: Your credit score is used not just to determine how much money you can borrow, but often by landlords to see if they will rent to you, and by companies to decide if they will hire you. A criminal record makes almost all good jobs unavailable, and you can’t just “leave town” to avoid that.

China is putting together a central scoring system which will give every single citizen a number. Spend a lot of time playing computer games? Lower score. Have friends who say bad things about the government online? Worse score. And so on.

Meanwhile, the combination of security cameras everywhere and biometric recognition systems based on face, gait, and even infrared profile, means that combined with AI, where you are all the time can be tracked and stored. Cameras increasingly have audio attached.

And heck, most people in the first world now voluntarily carry a phone with them which acts both as a tracking device and a bug (turning the microphone on to listen to you is trivial).

Online, everything you do is tracked: where you go, what you buy, who your friends are, what sort of words you say, what your political opinions are, and so on. This information, while it still misfires often, can generally tell if your sick, what you’re sick with, what you want to buy, how your finances are doing, if you’re pregnant or have a young child, and far more besides. It will only get more all-encompassing as AI and algos improve, and as more information is hooked into the web.

It takes quite a bit of work now to go dark, and a great deal of work to leave your past behind. Even faking your death is harder than it used to be.

Further, computer networks make centralized control far, far easier. Even telephones in the age of expensive, long distance calls were not as good as what we have now. You can run Shanghai from Beijing or New York: or New York or San Francisco from Shanghai.

There has been a liberatory effect, best understood by those of us old enough to remember before the internet was widely available: It amounts to “information at our fingertips,” and it is far more a good than a bad. No longer, if we don’t know and don’t have a book at our fingertips, do we have to find an expert or run to a library for most inquires. If we want to learn about many things, including advanced topics like engineering or law, we need only an internet connection.

This is a real increase in freedom from experts.

But this is outweighed by the horrors of close supervision, as in Amazon warehouses, where workers are tracked not even minute by minute, but in seconds per task, by remote electronic supervision.

This is hell. This is the sort of supervision that could be used only rarely, at great cost, in the old world, because the supervisor had to be right there, with you.

Meanwhile, drones assassinate people in every continent but Australia (I think) and Antarctica, from central control in America. This easy assassination is something no one could do 30 years ago.

This is technology with hellishly authoritarian potential, and history tells us it will be used that way. The printing press may have broken much of the power of the Catholic Church, but it also led to states we still call absolutist.

The same will be true of these telecom technologies, especially combined with AI behavioural pattern recognition.

The bet, on the part of elites, is that this tech breaks the inefficiency problem of classical authoritarian surveillance states: only a few people, comparatively, are needed. It will require a few percent of the population at most, not the previously necessary twenty to thirty percent for true comprehensive surveillance (with all the possibilities of petty corruption that then ensue: The USSR’s surveillance was extensive, and eventually worthless.)

There is a widespread myth in our society that Progress is always Good.

It is not. Sometimes it is good, sometimes it isn’t. Generally, it is mixed, with bad dominating.

Right now, in much of the world, the good of the telecom revolution seems poised to be swamped by the bad (and this is without even discussing the data coming in showing that the more time you spend on your phone/computer, the unhappier you are. This data is not mixed, it is virtually all bad.)

Technology which can be used by elites to make other humans inferior, will be. It always has been, and it always will be, and the only way that is challenged is by commoners rising up, often violently, to insist otherwise.


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57 Responses leave one →
  1. January 3, 2018

    Great read, so I’ve done the right thing and dipped into my pocket, as should we all!

    Only gripe, due to over-refreshment or cognitive febrility I struggled with the para that starts,
    “But it is outweighed by the horrors of close supervision, as in Amazon warehouses”.

  2. realitychecker permalink
    January 3, 2018

    The tech revolution was always going to be about control of the population as well as increased efficiency.

    And we rushed into it like lemmings, with the false promises of simplicity and anonymity.

    The good science fiction writers saw the future.

    Why were the rest of us so oblivious, one wonders.

    Now, they’ve got us by the gonads.

  3. Willy permalink
    January 3, 2018

    Tech is a great tool in the right hands. But the wrong hands are better at gaining power. It seems the libertarian answer is that things will magically work out in the end, when Commander Rule Of Law flies in to save the day. Watch out for those kryptonite drones, Commander.

  4. January 3, 2018

    Facebook Says It Is Deleting Accounts at the Direction of the U.S. and Israeli Governments

    https://theintercept.com/2017/12/30/facebook-says-it-is-deleting-accounts-at-the-direction-of-the-u-s-and-israeli-governments/

  5. subgenius permalink
    January 3, 2018

    Deleting accounts =/= deleting valuable data from their stash.

    It is only the direct access to others on the platform, via the platform.

    Expect it to stratify further.

  6. different clue permalink
    January 3, 2018

    I am but an analog refugee in this digital world. So my thoughts are those of the analog end user.

    It is certainly worthwhile trying to seek legislation and regulation and etc. against the omni-total data surveillance state. In the meantime, one might as well give up on “living with caution” and “living in fear”. If one feels personally guiltless, one might as well do whatever one wants to do on the internets.

    Perhaps people can live a “partial sabatooge” lifestyle. Lying on netsites and websites. Corrupting data right from the source. Adopting face-disruptive fashions that make facial recognition difficult. Etc.

    And in the meantime, there may be a slow renaissance of webless, netless standalone personal computers with great personal powers. People wishing to communicate through the fog of censorship may well work out ways to Catapult the Samizdata. Are thumb drives light enough for carrier pigeons to carry them? Can disks and drives and what-not be mailed through the US Postal Service? Etc. etc.?

    And what if millions of Latter Day Irish Monks get millions of desktop two-sides-of-the-page printers and acid-free paper and all start copying/publishing their own “best of the internet” collections of material? To save it for when the WebLords begin mass-deleting tens of millions of pages in a determined drive to exterminate all this information from existence?

    What knowledge and information is worth preserving through the coming Digital Dark Age to the unknowable social and cultural terrain which lies beyond?

  7. Hugh permalink
    January 3, 2018

    Running things from a distance is how American companies get formaldehyde in their wood products made in China. It is a prime reason why so much of what is offshored is so crappy. On the other had, it’s great if a chic trendy brand doesn’t want to know how dangerous and ghastly the working conditions are in its contractors’ sweatshops in Bangladesh. There is also the mindboggling pollution of ships burning bunker fuel transporting all this cheap crap.

    Long supply lines are fragile supply lines. Globalization as ideology and business model is existentially at odds with a world, much of which is going to fall apart in the coming decades due to the consequences of climate change and overpopulation.

    I like keeping and maintaining my own offline digital libraries. I used to like a paper library too until it got flooded out. I like to limit the points of access to my online presence. I am kind of horrified by how laid back and oblivious millennials and the smartphoned of all generations are to their online data and usage. On the other hand, if there ever is a revolution, I see much of it, at least initially, being organized through social media.

    Overall though, in a system as corrupt as ours, I agree that both corporations and government will seek to use our data for corrupt and authoritarian ends. So far they just aren’t very good at it. This is not to say that they aren’t trying.

  8. different clue permalink
    January 3, 2018

    I still have a bunch of paper books. Its not organized enough to call it a library. Its just a bunch of books.

    There are some things in books which haven’t been digitized and will never be digitized. People with bunches of books will want to figure out how to save them from fire and water. Houses in fire ecology regions will have to be fireproofed to new higher standards. This means ember proofed and infra-red heat-blast proofed as well. Anyone with a house with books in it will have to think about whether the house will get flooded if a harvey-day load of rain falls on it. Or two harvey-day loads. Or three harvey-day loads.

    In the global warming future, millions of people will discover that millions of houses sit within their very own tiny little floodplains. How to create a Book-Ark inside the house? A submarine-quality waterproof Book-Ark which can withstand the pressure of tons of water pressing in from all sides.

  9. Willy permalink
    January 3, 2018

    At least technology can instantly tell us about the latest feud or fire from our nutjob leaders. We can’t let that go away.

  10. zotter permalink
    January 4, 2018

    Thank you for the article Ian. One correction:

    “A criminal record makes almost all good jobs unavoidable”

    I think you mean “unavailable”. If felonies made getting good jobs unavoidable, our society would be vastly different 😉

  11. January 4, 2018

    Zotter:
    Not all criminal offenses are felonies.
    There are plenty of misdemeanor offenses that can get one “permanently banished to the forest” if “found guilty of”.

  12. S Brennan permalink
    January 4, 2018

    Worth repeating because this is far beyond what Orwell conjured.

    “The bet, on the part of elites, is that this tech breaks the inefficiency problem of classical authoritarian surveillance states: only a few people, comparatively, are needed. A few percent of the population at most” – Ian Welsh

    I add all of this was done with the knowledge, consent and hidden hand of Bill/Hillary Clinton; Bush (the 2nd); Obama. If you think think the McResistance’s call for a change of “leadership” or party will have any meaningful effect, YOU are the problem.

  13. Willy permalink
    January 4, 2018

    It’s hard to change an entire culture, but that may be where it’s at.

    Ever wonder how Jamaican team sprinters have dominated in that area? It’s a poor tiny island nation that owns short distance racing worldwide. Statistically, the odds should be favoring places like the USA, Brazil, or even Nigeria. Statistically, Jamaicans shouldn’t even have a chance. It can’t all be Glen Mills, or the jerk chicken.

    Culture is a powerful thing. That’s probably what the PTB fear more than anything, that their cultural division tricks won’t work anymore and common citizens will unite to fight them.

    Maybe we need to know more about what those tricks are, and discuss how to fight them?

  14. gnokgnoh permalink
    January 4, 2018

    @S Brennan. It perplexes me why every thread is populated by this insistence, this strange automatic assertion, that our leadership has been continuously moving in the same direction, as if anyone is arguing differently. You then reflexively equate the resistance with the status quo. I am intrigued – do you have a friend that thinks an alternative leader might actually help make some positive changes, and this really annoys you? Why is this such a bugaboo?

  15. F.S. permalink
    January 4, 2018

    I’d recommend anyone here to watch Psycho-Pass (an anime) which envisions a dystopian society where everyone is monitored by their capacity to commit crimes.

    If their “crime co-efficient” rises above a certain level, they’re stigmatized as latent criminals and put under heavier surveillance/detainment. It’s like a Minority Report-augmented version of China’s scary Social Credit System.

    Also, everyone uses data-tracking devices (similar to FitBits and the like) in their everyday life for almost every task.

    Fair warning: the show has some extreme content and gets really dark at times. But it’s amazingly prescient and the most likely vision of a tech authoritarian future I’ve seen.

  16. gnokgnoh permalink
    January 4, 2018

    @Hugh. +100
    It seems that the increasing complexity of tech is also its greatest fragility. Another example is blockchains, for which the computing power and electrical usage of each transaction is massive. Networking technologies can be amazing, but they are extremely vulnerable to surveillance, theft, attack, and increasingly to failure due to resource depletion and climate change. The analogies to shipping, an over-extended, complex network, are useful.

  17. BlizzardOfOz permalink
    January 4, 2018

    gnok – here’s a hint: your #resistance includes the last 4 US presidents.

  18. S Brennan permalink
    January 4, 2018

    BOZ;

    A very succinct reply to nknh feigned ignorance of McResistance’s DNA but it’s kinda…

    “difficult to get a man to understand something, when his income depends on his not understanding it.” – Upton Sinclair

  19. subgenius permalink
    January 4, 2018

    Simple complexity (monocultures) produces only fragility

    Complex complexity (ecosystems – as in nature, not the tech bollox) are multiply redundant and self-supporting, producing great resilience.

    The panopticon will fail because of this. It will probably be quite horrific, because of the mis-allocation of resources to apply enormous pressure in entirely the wrong directions.

    For every force there is an equal and opposite reaction, as it were.

  20. atcooper permalink
    January 4, 2018

    The trade off is still there – it’s just being ignored. It’s not unlike climate issues that way. They’ll still need data centers, they’ll still need power grid infrastructure. Materials. Any disruption in that chain brings big brother to his knees. One tactic would be to increase the cost of securing that critical infrastructure.

    The recent nasty fault discovered in intel chips is a great illustration of the fragility of these systems.

  21. V. Arnold permalink
    January 5, 2018

    There are still a number of things one can do to avoid tracking.
    Cell phones are easy to block from being tracked; wrap them in aluminum foil (a double layer); a poor man’s Farady Cage.
    Don’t get or use credit cards for purchases; don’t use debit cards either; pay cash for everything.
    Avoid all social media; the revelations of the last few months should be ample evidence of their deciept and bad intentions.
    Do not use public wifi or bluetooth.
    Avoid malls and city centers; camera’s all over hell and gone.
    Do not leave microphones and camera’s plugged into your computer; if it’s a notebook you’re pretty much screwed (you can cover the camera; but not block the mic AFAIK).
    A notebook can also be wrapped in foil when not in use which blocks remote activation.

  22. January 5, 2018

    The recent nasty fault discovered in intel chips is a great illustration of marketing and planned obsolescence. They can’t sell new chips until they convince everyone there’s something wrong with the chips they’ve been using for seven years. To your average consumer slash computer user the fault is a nothingburger. It’s been a dependable platform until now.

  23. atcooper permalink
    January 5, 2018

    Bears, the consumer will see the costs downstream. To my still dim understanding, the slow downs will happen at some of the worst bottlenecks of the internet, your databases, the high I/O throughput, that’s what will be affected.

    So it’ll be a slowdown in fetch time for mail. That sort of thing. And it will definitely cost

    So much of the fragility is in the relatively narrow range of options. Eighties computing was a far more diverse field than what we have now – more processor types, more experimentation with other models. VonNeumann did not have to win.

  24. Herman permalink
    January 5, 2018

    Great piece. This is why the Luddite position is starting to seem more and more sensible to me. It is too risky to let certain technologies out of the box and just hope that we get good elites who will use tech for good and not evil. This rarely ever seems to work out in reality. Even if you manage to get a good generation of leaders there is no guarantee that the next generation of elites won’t use tech for evil or that the good leaders won’t be defeated and replaced by bad ones.

    Plus even the more innocuous uses of tech often have very bad results as you point out with the issue of screen time and unhappiness. Tech is not just a value-neutral tool, it brings with it profound changes that are often outside of the control of even the elites who dominate the system. They too are trapped by the logic of technology.

    I would much rather forgo some of the possible benefits of future technology in order to save what we can of human freedom and dignity. Even if we could make everyone feel happy with a mixture of drugs, bio-engineering and electronic entertainment that is not a dignified life in my opinion.

  25. johnm33 permalink
    January 5, 2018

    One of my greatest fears, for humanity, is that we succumb to the same social structure which the social insects have gamed and arrived at their own versions of. Briefly a self serving blinkered center obsessed with management of the ‘hive’, surrounded and supported by a fawning elite to serve every whim. Protected by a psychopathic warrior caste against internal and external threats, and served by a neutered slave class who are coerced to operate against their best interests. Electronic surveillance facilitates that, but we’ll really need to worry when universal compulsary forced medication and food full of oestrogens become the norm, because the next step is only approved individuals being allowed to donate sperm to maintain an otherwise doomed population.

  26. Hugh permalink
    January 5, 2018

    As usual I don’t have a good place to park this, but re the December jobs data:

    In real, as in seasonally unadjusted, terms, the the private sector lost 62,000 jobs in December as compared to a 93,000 loss in 2016 and around 100,000 gains in 2014-15.

    January to December the private sector created 4.550 million jobs compared to 4.414 million in 2016, that is 136,000 more. This is still 661,000 fewer than my benchmark year of 2014. You should keep in mind that the private sector is set for a usual end of the year loss in jobs of around 2.5 million

    So the private sector in 2017 did moderately outperform 2016. However, when we look at total nonfarm jobs (private and public sectors combined), 2016 and 2017 are a wash due to 2017 job losses in the public sector. 2017 did a very statistically insignificant 3,000 jobs better than 2016: 5.073 million compared to 5.070 million. The expected end of the year job loss for total nonfarm jobs should be around 3 million. These losses will show up in next month’s report covering January.

    Some good news is that for the bottom 80% (actually 81.78%) Dec.-Dec. the work week increased 0.2 hrs, and wages in nominal terms increased 2.96%. The monthly report on real wages won’t be out for another couple of weeks.

  27. wendy davis permalink
    January 5, 2018

    @ Hugh we always wonder what sort of jobs, what wages, bennies, etc. as in: how many must one have to make close to a living wage?

    but may i ask, please, are you the self-same Hugh on EW’s ‘why i quit the intercept’? if so kudos, and yes, there may be many ‘Hughs’, but that Hugh featured a great bullshit detector, causing me to wonder. if not, sorry to have intruded/bothered you.

  28. Max Osman permalink
    January 5, 2018

    Problem is that data can be easily collected by machines , but information has to be either analyzed or collected by a human being.

    Most major intelligence agencies are drowning in data.

  29. Charlie permalink
    January 6, 2018

    Subgenious,

    Deleting those accounts means they’re not so concerned with the loss of data, since they become the new “felons.” Meaning not getting hired for jobs, endurance of law enforcement visits, etc. Who needs due process when the internet mob convicts you?

  30. Hugh permalink
    January 6, 2018

    wendy, that was me at EW. I seldom go there and will go there even more rarely in the future. bmaz and I do illustrate the divide between liberals and progressives. I’m not sure why bmaz was insistent on defending Greenwald when it is pretty clear he did not stand up for Marcy. I think if Greenwald had wanted to be in the loop he would have been. I am sure that sites like the Intercept and its employees have all kinds of back channels that they can and do use. As for Greenwald and the Snowden files, his initial work was courageous but he never gave any convincing explanation why even years on now they should be kept secret, why no effort was ever made to do what was needed to get them ready for publication, and why he should not be criticized for so clearly parlaying his control of them to further his own career.

    My rule of thumb for a living wage is one beginning at $40,000 for most areas. The idea is an income that covers basic expenses and still leaves a fair amount of discretionary income, and when combined with a second such income would be enough to afford a house and start a family. You can come up with your numbers and inputs. While full time work is defined as 35 hours a week and up, I often use 40 hours a week and 50 weeks in the work year. This equates to 2000 working hours and at $20/hour would come to the $40,000 I mentioned above. At 35 hours a week, the hourly wage would need to be around $23. Then add in if we had a Medicare for All universal single payer healthcare system and either cheap or free post secondary college and vocational education. Thinking about things this way helps us focus on where we want to be going as a society but it also underlines how far we have to go when the big push now is a $15 minimum wage. A $15 /hour minimum wage at 35 hours a week for 50 weeks only produces an income of $26,250 ($30,000 at 40 hours a week). Hillary Clinton’s $12/hour wage would produce a $21,000 income at 35 hours a week and $24,000 for a 40 hour week. None of these proposals come close to a living wage, but when we get caught in debates like $12 versus $15 it does show how we can get distracted from a meaningful discussion on one. The bottom line is a living wage should be sufficient to give us the resources for a meaningful life.

  31. Peter permalink
    January 6, 2018

    @Hugh

    You must realize that to pay $23/hr a worker must produce more than that amount for the employer which is not possible for most of these low skill jobs. Otherwise the $23/hr pay would require the product, say a burger be priced at at a high enough level to pay the $23.

  32. wendy davis permalink
    January 6, 2018

    thanks, hugh, and again: well done. ‘cottage industry’ and ‘by now obsolete’: yes to both. but not only have the files been published at the NYT, WaPo, etc., GG makes sure that the federal government (arguably the epic gatekeeper) makes the decisions on what not to print, what to redact, etc. remember when GG wouldn’t name afghanistan? and assange did? the rationale was that zeroing in on the cell phone data might have made it harder for the Good Guys to direct their assassination drones? thing is, wikileaks has erred on the past, but at least they collectively are anti-imperialist, anti-war.

    i’d just done a series on the current iteration of good whistleblowers/bad whistleblowers, after the intercept, daily beast (by way of spencer ackerman and a pal) hits on assange. the whole deal was (allegedly) centered around whether or not the freedom of the press foundation should stop accepting donations for wikileaks and funneling the bucks to them anonymously, which was one of the key advantages. of course they did in the end, but from the DB, the FPF (prez snowden) had said:

    ““Much had changed since the foundation was formed. Today it has a $1.5 million annual budget and a staff of 15. Taking donations for WikiLeaks and other groups has become only a tiny part of the foundation’s work. In 2013, for example, the foundation took over development of SecureDrop, an open-source tool designed to make it safer for whistleblowers to submit information to reporters. Under the foundation’s stewardship, SecureDrop today is running in dozens of newsrooms, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Associated Press, and Bloomberg.” later GG added politico and another few places (guardian?) to the list on twitter. yeah, what does that tell us? pffffft.

    ha. when wikileaks began publishing the CIA vault 7 and vault 8, emptywheel noted with pain that ‘that will seriously weaken the CIA!’ remember that until all this mueller investigation, even libruls loathed the spooks?

    i sure did ♥ your response to bmaz the grouch’s: “Hi Hugh, long time.
    Release the entire Snowden material? THAT was your wish, and plan??
    That is just stunning. Must be nice to so play with the lives of Snowden, Greenwald, Laura Poitras and MacAskill.

    What other lives in the breech are you willing to play with from your comfy chair?”

    guess he could have reminded readers that TI had opened an honest-to-goodness ‘reading room’ to peruse the files, as long as they were ‘approved’, of course. anyhoo, i should get on my pony and ride. sun’s almost up. but thanks and also for your living wage calculations. ‘fight for fifteen’; yeah, how sad in a way, when so many in the US are hovering at, or are, well below the official poverty line, and have either zero wealth or negative wealth. homeless, oh, my, and there will be millions more soon.

  33. Peter permalink
    January 6, 2018

    @WD

    I was wondering how the environmentals were digesting the great news that Mnsanto’s Roundup doesn’t cause cancer. The data and conclusions seem well researched but will that be enough to break down the fear and ignorance that surrounds anything Monsanto?

  34. Willy permalink
    January 6, 2018

    Everybody sane prefers important things to be “well researched”. I’d sleep better knowing the EPA is still the EPA, and that smart people can assure me that the EPA hasn’t been compromised as “a hoax” and are still protecting citizens.

    I’ve witnessed safety compromises under PTB pressures. A neighbor working in a different discipline at a much higher level, saw the same happen in his arena as a direct result of government austerity. Many lives were at risk.

    Personally I like glyphosate. It makes killing weeds easier. But if I started to look like Steve Bannon, and Roundup was proven to be the indisputable cause, I wouldn’t like it anymore.

  35. Hugh permalink
    January 6, 2018

    On the one hand, American business men and women boast they are the best on the planet. Then they say they will go under if they can’t create monopolies, ship jobs to China, pay their employees still here shit wages, escape even basic regulation, and receive government subsidies and tax breaks out the kazoo.

    We have this vampire class of the rich which sucks the blood and money out of the middle class and then acts like paying workers a decent wage would kill the country and/or the companies they own.

    What we need to stay focused on is that we do have the resources still to take of our own citizens, provide them with a strong social welfare system that takes care of their healthcare, education, and retirements, and pays them a living wage they can build a life on. It is a question of will and moving the resources around to where they are needed. Those who for whatever reason still defend the current corrupt, insanely unequal system will go, but, but, but your burger might cost a little more, ditto your lettuce. Better to stick with the system you know even if it is destroying you, then build something better.

  36. Tom W Harris permalink
    January 6, 2018

    Authoritarianism is only a (relatively benign) by-product of the near-total exterminationism that drives the current wave of universal automation. Having concluded that they don’t need most of anymore, our overlords intend to kill us off, worldwide.

  37. Tom W Harris permalink
    January 7, 2018

    don”t need most of us anymore

  38. different clue permalink
    January 10, 2018

    @Willy,

    Don Huber, Professor Emeritus of Plant Pathology at Purdue University, Indiana has been studying the glyphosate situation and the GMO situation for some years now; both together and separately. Why should you or anyone care what Don Huber has to say about glyphosate? What standing and credibility-credentials does he have anyway?

    Well . . . . here is a website which explains some of that.
    http://www.nvlv.nl/downloads/Dr_Huber_bio.pdf

    Dr. Huber has become concerned enough about the glyphosate problem and the GMO problem, both in their separate spheres and in their zone of overlap, that he travels to various conferences and meetings giving lectures and presentations about what he and others have come to know. He also gives interviews.

    Here is a sample interview.
    https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2013/10/06/dr-huber-gmo-foods.aspx

    Here is a talk he gave to an organizational gathering in New Zealand.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H_rizhVz9y4
    (I heard a similar version of this same talk given by Don Huber at the recent Acres USA conference in Columbus, Ohio. I believe it is worth watching/ listening to the entire talk. It is better to see the talk than for me to try synopsizing bits of it in a thread comment.)

    I will just mention that Dr. Huber has been consulting with sugar cane growers in Central America and Brazil about how to transition away from using glyphosate as a pre-harvest dessicant spray for sugar cane. Why would the sugar plantation owners in these places want to replace glyphosate for pre-harvest desiccant dry-down spraying of sugar cane? Because many hundreds of their skilled cane harvesters are dying from fast-progressing terminal kidney failure brought on by exposure to glyphosate sprayed on the sugar cane. They don’t want to start running out of cane harvesters, so they are switching to non-toxic alternatives which Dr. Huber has already helped some of them find, thereby turning glyphosate into a “sunset product” on its way out in the sugar cane fields.

  39. Peter permalink
    January 10, 2018

    @DC

    Dr Huber should hurry if he is to help these poor cain choppers because Brazil is rapidly moving to mechanical cain harvest and they will be out of work permanently. The dessicaion and burning of the cain fields was necessary to remove snakes and killer bees so hand harvest could be used.

    If there was much glyphosate remaining on the cain after breakdown and burning studies at Cornell university show that glyphosate passes through the human body nearly uneffected. It is excreated quickly and has no affect on organs such as kidneys. It is a mildly toxic herbicide with proper use warnings and has no mutagenic effects.

    Dr Huber might investigate what kind of rotgut cain moonshine these cain cutters were drinking to discover what destroyed their kidneys.

  40. different clue permalink
    January 11, 2018

    @Peter,

    I was hoping Willy would watch/listen to the whole lecture and decide whether or not to rethink his position on glyphosate. And I hope some other people decide to watch/listen to it too. But that is his choice, and anyone else’s choice. Or not.

    “Mutagenesis” was not one of the big problems with glyphosate gone into by Professor Huber. There are other problems, which are carefully laid out over the course of the lecture. But as long as you decide not to watch/listen, you will never know what those problems are and/or may be. And that’s okay.

    Given what I have been reading/ hearing over the past few years, I have decided to keep the glyphosate out of my life as best as I can. That of course means using zero glypho around my little yardlet and garden. It also means ingesting as near-zero as possible foods that carry a glypho residue. If you wish to be part of the “experimental population” with regard to glypho, that is your free right in a free country. I choose to be part of the “control population” on this one, to the best of my ability.

    I think growing numbers of enough other people are coming to share this view to the point where glyphosate may begin to lose trust, and then respect, and then market share. Monsanto may begin to suffer due to its brand-identification with glyphosate, as well as its sinister presence in the field of GMO.

  41. realitychecker permalink
    January 11, 2018

    @ dc

    It’s a waste of effort to try and enlighten a lazy mind.

  42. different clue permalink
    January 11, 2018

    @realitychecker,

    I know. But Peter is not the only person reading this thread. Many other people have read/ will read this thread. Maybe several hundred. And maybe several tens of those people will go on to watch/listen to the lecture I linked to. And maybe some of them will look up and read/watch other material by Huber and by others about glyphosate and about GMOs separately, and about glyphosate and GMOs together.

    As to those of lazy mind . . . . let them eat Roundup.

  43. realitychecker permalink
    January 11, 2018

    @ dc

    No, no, amigo, I did not mean Peter; whatever issues one might have with his various positions (and I have a bunch of my own), there is clearly nothing lazy about his very alive mind.

    I meant the other guy, who demonstrates his lazy mind on almost every issue. I mean, I have opened many thought-doors for him over the time he has been here, and he never crosses the threshold to see what might be there to think about.

    He would rather be spoon-fed everything, which I won’t do for him, because, like Socrates, I don’t believe anybody values anything they have gotten for free and have not worked for themselves. Free lectures are quickly forgotten, unlike thought processes one works through on his own steam.

    Also, laptop keyboards, with their damned errant cursors, are a very tiresome and time-consuming way to fully flesh out all the complex thoughts and observations that pertain to any serious issue. And I don’t work for him, as much as he seems to think I should. 🙂

  44. Peter permalink
    January 11, 2018

    @DC

    It’s sad to watch as you and others cling to fear and ingrained beliefs and reject reality. I too believed much of the propaganda acvtivists created about Roundup but we now have long-term large professional studies showing no cancer being caused from using this chemical. The earlier studies using high doses of glyphosate also showed little or no effect on internal organs so Dr Huber is chasing a chimera in the Brazilian jungle or a paycheck.

    You and other fearful believers are free to reject using Roundup or any of the many other chemical herbicides available. That isn’t a real problem but when politicians start to pass laws based on lies and beliefs about this product, as happened in calfornia, it might affect Monsanto’s profits and the ethanol burn cleaner and production of a bumper corn crop that helps feed the growing world population.

    Monsanto’s reputation as a ruthless capitalist corporation may be deserved but the people who are fixated on destroying them don’t seem to even think about what that would mean. This is especially true now that Bayer is buying Monsanto so the target for destruction is growing.

  45. different clue permalink
    January 11, 2018

    @Peter,

    Do you feel that I am unfairly maligning glyphosate? Or unfoundedly fearing it? Do you believe that the makers of glyphosate deserve some support to cheer them up amid all the opposition and rejection?

  46. Peter permalink
    January 11, 2018

    I think you choose fantasy beliefs over evidence based science in this instance which is dangerous. Not you particularly but when enough people believe this way politicians can do some real damage with that support. You’re not being unfair just to Monsanto but to logic and rational thinking.

    I’m sure the many people at Monsanto who spend their life work developing products to help feed the growing world population would be cheered up by a little respect for their efforts even if the company is run by greedy capitalists.

    Roundup is just an ag tool needed to continue improving yields and I am delighted it was found to not cause cancer or kidney damage. Banning it would require depending on possibly more toxic chemicals and could slow the worldwide crop yield increases needed to avoid starvation.

  47. different clue permalink
    January 12, 2018

    @Peter,

    Years ago, when Monsanto first invented and patented various GMO crops as a weapon of class war in its drive to dominate agriculture and practice monopoly rent-extortion from every farmer in the field, I swore this oath: I will live to see Monsanto die. And I will.

    When it comes to understanding agronomy, glyphosate and bio-physiological systems; I have to admit that I am but a lay amateur science buff. I have to compare present-day-aquired information against what I remember learning in high school and college. Even so, I feel confident that I am the reality free-baser and you are the dweller in clouds of hopium-smoke fantasy. But if you can point to any particular thing that Huber says in this lecture while giving me a time-stamp from the running time-bar at the bottom of the You Tube screen so I can go right there and compare his statements with what you offer as being your correction to those statements, I will certainly go to whatever time-stamped particular part of the lecture you direct me to and compare it with your offer of correction to it. If you can convincingly demonstrate to me that you know that particular aspect of the subject better than Huber knows it . . . as demonstrated in the particular time-stamped part of the lecture you direct me to in order for me to compare it with your correction of it, then I will change my mind on that particular time-stamp-locatable part of the lecture and the information presented therein.

    In the meantime, since I still hold myself true to my oath that I will live to see Monsanto die, and since I still wish to see its malignant chemical product glyphosate banned from use, I suppose you will either decide to ignore my efforts . . . or oppose my efforts.

    And since I wish to be big about this, I will even suggest to you a way that you can oppose my efforts most directly. And that way would be this: to support the people who use glyphosate by buying as much of their product as you can realistically use. And since the best way to guess how much glyphosate was used on an agricultural product is to know how much glyphosate residue remains in that product; the best way to support the heaviest users of glyphosate is to base your diet on the food items which contain the highest residues of glyphosate.

    But how can you find this out? One very preliminary thumbnail way is revealed in the Huber lecture itself . . . . at ” TimeStamp 50:47″ which means ” 50 minutes and 47 seconds” into the lecture. It can be seen at the bottom of the screen under the red timeline. What is revealed at TimeStamp co-ordinates 50:47 is a small list of legally and/or regulatorily permitted glyphosate residues in various foods. If you eat the foods with the highest glyphosate residues, maybe you are rewarding and supporting the growers who use the most glyphosate. I don’t know if that is so, but you might consider it worth a try.

    Also, if you eat meat/milk/eggs, make sure they are conventional mainstream, NOT organic, because orGANic meat/mild/eggs are from animals feed on zero-glyphosate feed. And that is no way to support the users of glyphosate. And make sure to eat the concentrated feedlot/megabarn/battery meat/milk/eggs, because the high-concentration animals are the ones which are fed on glyphosate-enriched corn, soybeans, etc. And since every pound of meat/milk/eggs takes 7-10 pounds of corn/soy to produce , if you eat conventional meat/mild/eggs you are helping get 7 times more glyphosate-enriched grain eaten than if you tried to eat the corn and soybeans directly. So the more conventional meat/milk/eggs you can eat, the more glyphosate usage you can support.

    So attaboy, go go go, keep the faith, and I wish you luck.

  48. different clue permalink
    January 12, 2018

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H_rizhVz9y4

  49. Peter permalink
    January 12, 2018

    Just as I expected you display like a denied commie SJW tilting at windmills. You and your band of Bolsheviki warriors were close to doing some real damage to Monsanto here and in Europe but this ‘no cancer from roundup’ finding undercuts all the years of phony causation claims.

    Monsanto when combined with Bayer will be one of the three major players in the seed, GMO and ag chemicals business. They are located in Chins, Europe and the US. They manufacture the chemicals and grow the GM seed they sell which isn’t rent seeking it’s just consolidization and dominance in their industry based on production.

  50. realitychecker permalink
    January 12, 2018

    @ Peter

    I gotta say, what about the fact that you can no longer get seeds that produce more seeds?

    You think that kind of control is good for society at large, or for regular folks in general?

    The big corps are clearly trying to corner the market on food AND water. I don’t think their motives are benevolent.

  51. different clue permalink
    January 12, 2018

    @Peter,

    If you ever decide to point me to an actual statement or set of statements in the Huber lecture to which you can offer better fact-supported counter-statements for me to consider, please let me know. I showed you exactly how to do it. If you ( yes you) are too lazy a thinker to be bothered to do the work involved, ohhh wellll . . . .

    And I also showed you how you can suPPORT BayerSanto and how you can suPPORT glyphosate. Are you too lazy to even do that? Here, let me spell it out for you as if your mind were as small and simple as President Trump’s mind is. I’ll use small words, and I’ll type real slow . . . so you can keep up.

    Glyphosate is used for two things nowadays:
    Thing One: as an herbicide for weed control.
    Thing Two: as a pre-harvest desiccant to get all the plants in a field to ripen up their seeds all at
    once for ease and convenience of one-pass harvest.

    It is Thing Two which is injecting so much glyphosate residue into today’s mainstream conventional food. So if you want to support MORE glyphosate use in order to counter my efforts to support LESS glyphosate use, you need to eat more food from the people who use more glyphosate on their crops. Eat more cheerios. Eat more of the other things that contain the most glyphosate as revealed the chart I pointed out for you so easily you don’t even have to do any work to see it. And most of all, eat as much beef and dairy from conventional cattle as you can possibly stand. They eat 7-10 pounds of corn/soy for every pound of meat/dairy they finally yield. That way you can “eat” 7-10 pounds of glyphosate-enriched corn/soy for every pound of meat/milk you are actually eating. That means that you are supporting 7-10 times more glyphosate use by eating meat than you could support by eating glyphosate-enriched plant-based foods directly. And that allows farmers to spend 7-10 times more money on glyphosate every time you eat meat than if you had eaten plants.

    Oh, and also . . . if you use sugar, don’t use cane sugar. Dr. Huber and others are sunsetting the use of glyphosate in Central America where the harvest remains done by hand as well as in Brazil where you say the harvest will be mechanized. If you eat sugar, insist on sugar BEET sugar, from sugar beets. The sugar beet growers use lots of glyphosate on the GMO sugar beets.
    Using sugar from strictly and only sugar BEETS means that EVen your SUgar consumption gives money, comfort and cheer to the maker/sellers of glyphosate.

    There! See? I’m on YOUR side. That’s why I have offered you FRIENDly HELP on how you can eat MORE glyphosate in your food so as to show your effective opposition to to my Bolsheviki SJW commie windmill-tilting. You DO want to opPOSE my EFForts, DON’T YOU?

    By the way, you are starting to smell like a self-wetting bed. Am I the only one who notices?

  52. Peter permalink
    January 12, 2018

    @RC

    I don’t know where you get that idea about no seeds from seeds. Perhaps it’s confusion about not getting hybrid seeds from hybrid seeds. About 95% of corn grown in the US is hybrid which does not produce true, it reverts back to its components and loses the hybrid vigor. It’s still corn that grows and produces just not worth using when the highly productive and localized hybrid seed is available.

    Questions about control and what’s good for society are important phylosophical

  53. realitychecker permalink
    January 12, 2018

    @ Peter

    I was told about this in the 1990’s, by a friend who has a small farm. She’s usually pretty up on this stuff, and I have not researched it myself. But I think it is common knowledge now.

    The idea is that farmers must come back to Monsanto every year and buy new seeds. When you hear the term “heritage” connected to seeds, it refers to older types that will turn to usable seed in its turn.

    Now you’re gonna make me check it out, but I think I’m right.

    And I KNOW I’m right about corporations trying to corner the market on potable water, Nestle being the leader, with lots of company. This I knew about twenty-five years ago.

  54. Peter permalink
    January 12, 2018

    CONTINUED

    Questions about control and what’s good for society are important philosophical inquires but so are the food needs of a growing world population. This type of centralization and integration is probably the only way to meet the demands 10 billion people will make on agriculture.

    Most all of the arable land in the world will need to be planted and producing high yields and Monsanto and other big Ag will make it possible along with many other smaller seed producers. This is the ultimate economics of scale and companies like Mansanto will prosper by dominanting their industry with their new useful GM products. The only power these companies have depends on their continued production and improvement of seed and chemicals.

    It’s a business empire that should keep them busy for the next fifty years so I doubt they will have the time to act on other motives.

  55. realitychecker permalink
    January 12, 2018

    Peter, I can’t get into this now, but a quick look yielded that there is a Terminator gene that Monsanto owns the patent on, and also that if you use hybrid seeds the next crop will be varying and markedly inferior. Aside from that, I may have overstated the case in my admitted personal ignorance on this issue. There’s a site that has Top 5 Myths about GMO seeds, that lists my assertion as a myth with the info I supplied above.

    Heritage seeds may not be the correct term, might be a different H word (heirloom?)

    I’ll see what my friend knows when I get a chance.

    But, I think I know enough to know you are being too sanguine about Monsanto’s benevolent intentions toward the food supply. And Nestle’s re water.

    I could never trust major soulless corporations the way you do.

  56. Peter permalink
    January 12, 2018

    @RC

    The heirloom seeds you mention are the source of many of the traits that are used in hybrid crops like corn. There are over fifty different landraces of maize grown in Mexico that may not be suited for mass cultivation but contain many useful genes for hybrids.

    That huge seed storage facility in the arctic is there to protect the seeds of old varieties of many plants for future use in hybrids. Monsanto GM corn is based on hybrid corn but the GM is a different seperate modification for insect control and resistance to Roundup. They are introducing a new RNA based insecticide genome into sweet corn to treat the persistent rootworm problem Bt couldn’t handle.

    The terminator gene was a clever PR salvo aimed at farmers trying to avoid the use contracts they signed to get Monsanto GM corn. It was never used only threatened if farmers continued to steal from their seed supplier. The farmers must have thought getting the GM part for free by planitng seed from their harvest outweighed the reversion of the hybrid to inferior parents. Monsanto moved quickly to file suits against the small time seed cleaner operations that these farmers depended on for this scam which saved them much hassle by not going after indiuvidual but numerous farmers.

    The only thing I trust about Monsanto or soon Bayer is that they will work hard to grow and make profits. They can only do this by producing more and more useful advanced products that are needed to feed the world along with supplying industrial feedstocks. It’s ironic that all of Monsanto’s hard work, research and developement made them a target for being eaten whole by Bayer.

  57. realitychecker permalink
    January 13, 2018

    Peter, I just don’t have time to get into this issue right now. Maybe later.

    But I really think we just have a fundamental disagreement about the nature of big corporations.

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