Taking them down

How to take the identity capitalism complex down

I’m currently at RightsCon in Tunis, speaking and exchanging with a lot of different actors around tech and human rights issues, from state to civil society to Facebook (because it seems shame is dead). And I talk to a lot of people (except Facebook ones, they’re scary as hell), and the conversation inevitably lands on what we’re doing at LQDN, and the short answer is We’re out to get the GAFAM down.

And then, they ask me how are we going to do that, what are the next steps, what’s the plan to destroy those hegemonic capitalistic system whom promotes hate speech ? And the thing is, we do not know, because it haven’t been done since the internet exists (except some anti trust cases, but even then, Microsoft survived for instance).

We know ways to not do that, to not harm them enough to destroy them. Using the current system of laws and regulations, including anti trust and anti monopoly laws, have only limited results. Even if it’s an interesting way to achieve some results, in the mid-term (four to five years), corporate monsters will spend billions of dollar on lobbyist money to change the law, as is happening with e-Privacy.

Boycott doesn’t work. Or only on insane scales. And it kind of makes it a personal choice, or issue, while the GAFAM are a threat to society. Their goal is to make money, not to protect their users. And they make money by selling to advertisers a closed list of identities that can be targeted by ads, they make money by turning what you read and write, what you are and what you like, into promotional content and user engagement. And if your identity does not suit the social vision of what the GAFAM can and will tolerate, then you’re erased from this catalog of ID, and you’ll be targeted by ads which will shape you in something else.

Also, promoting and monetizing hate have impact in everybody’s life, wether you’re on Facebook or not. The fact that neo-nazis, nationalists and identitarians are pushing their ideas without being demoted by the platform, gives them legitimacy and the strength to take their hatefull goals and ideas in the street and push it on anyone which they see as an ennemy.

This is why, even with decentralisation going forward, destroying mono cultural hegemonies is still required. You cannot just boycott Facebook, you need to destriy them, split their body in parts which can then be incinerated, salted and sent into the sun.

Having your own safer space, is akin to boycotting Facebook and the likes. It’s important that you have the capability to do it, but it will not makes the GAFAM go away.

Taxations and regulations are other ideas which I see a lot being suggested. It could work, at least it could probably reduce the harm their doing to our society, but we all know that they’re quite good at hiding their money away from national taxes system.

Regulation is kind of bad too. A lot of them requires to have some resources to spend on regulation conformity, and to have lawyers that are competent, trained on the subject and able to defend yourself. It cost money, money being the thing that GAFAM have in stupidly high amount, they can follow regulation quite easily, while most of all the small actors probably can’t afford it. Or GAFAM will not comply and pay bills. Or they’ll make proposals, produce white papers, grab a share in multi-stakesholder system to push their view in the regulatory body. They’ve done it before (look at how it became stupidly insane to setup a mail server or how they pushed to have DRM implemented in HTML specifications), they’ll do it again, they can wait five years paying bills in the tenth of billions of dollars without really being at risks.

So, what works ? We do not really know. We do not know how to take down a GAFAM, and that’s why we try a lot of different things. And that is why we also needs to find how other people did against similar systems.

Because we had this kind of system before. Systems who were pushing their ideology and cultures on anyone, in an intent to maximise the profit, while denyin minorities or locals to exist in a way which do not suit them. Those system were the colonist nation-state and private trade company (such as the Dutch East India Trade Company or the British India Trade Company).

So yes, we need to use anti-colonialism tactics and strategy. Some of them implies getting the heck out of the toxic space those corporations to organize, we need to promote alternate cultural and ideas, we need to make association with the GAFAM as toxic as we can, for any one who would want to negociate with them to be publicly exposed and shamed as a white supremacist promoters and accomplice.

This is what everyone who want to give back control to societies and communities should do. None of the GAFAM are your allies, or ever will be your allies. They might provide some opportunistic help, but I really think that, in the longterm, it deals more damage than it create goods.

I’m not sure where I’m going with this, I’m in criticial lack of coffee and there’s too many people here. The only thing I know is that we do not really know how to destroy the GAFAM, but that doesn’t means that we should not try anything. Or talking to activists who’s been fighting oppressive corporate and nation complex for decades. And supporting them wheneever you can.

The long year

Or a little bit more than a year

It’s been a year for me, one in with a lot of stuff happened, some good but a lot of bad and harsh. I’ve been recovering from a burnout since February 2018, and I’m now finally back at work at La Quadrature, where a lot of changes are underway.

During this time, I spent more than six month experimenting different prescriptive drugs, trying to find a balance that would finally enables me to feel normal emotions, not the huge exhaustive and destructive tsunamis of rage, or the infinite pain of just being in pain.

Experimenting with your brain homeostasis is kind of a weird process. It changes the way you think, the way you perceive the world, the way you define yourself. It questions your free will, it questions your world, It questions who you are. And, in the end, am I just more than the serotonin neuroreceptor inhibitor drug that I take daily, or am I something different ?

The fiction I’m reading again has always at its core this notion of identity. It’s the basis of all the CyberPunk movement, and it should be at the center of Transhumanism too. Yes, queer politics are also about identity, as well as all politics in the end. And my identity has been fucked up by depression and traumas. I’ve built myself around a seed of anger, buried under layers after layers of insensibility, sarcasm and individualism. That’s how I survived until ten years ago. Got no choice, my socialization as a teenager has been adversarial and I had to weaponize it.

This seed of rage turned into a full blown sinister tree of depression, deploying its root in each aspect of my life and the way I relate to other, burying me under big black rotting leaves of melancholia and existential crisis, ornamenting the abysmal depth of despair with beautiful flower of exhausting emotional burst, lots of them were rage. Some others were dried by suicidal thought and morbidity. Other were flower of pure joy, turning despair in seconds, because it made me see the darkness I’m leaving in.

So yeah. Depression sucks. ADD make things worse. But back to the pills. What they do, basically, is giving me future and prospective. It’s helping me to get out of the fight or flight mode I’ve been in for years. It’s giving me the ability to plan for the future. Or the next two days, which is a huge improvement.

And yes, it is an emotional prosthetic. I see it that way. There’s a non zero chance I’ll take them until the day I’ll kill myself, or that a car decided that I should have stopped my bike in time and rode over my disarticulated body. It is part of me. The depression tree has been tamed a little bit : I still have those emotional burst where I have to fight myself to not jump on someone and turn his face in a bloody pulp with my bare hands. But they’re manageable, I can channel them a bit now. It’s still exhausting, and I’ll have fucked up night after that, despite the pills who are supposed to help me rest when I sleep, but at least it only last a few minutes, not hours or days as it used to.

You have to understand that those pills, are the only things that can help me to get some stable ground. Maybe after years of therapy I won’t need them, but for the foreseeable future, they’re part of me. And they allow me to shift my identity away from the rotten tree of despair to somewhere else. To a place where I can enjoy being with friends and lovers without blaming myself after that. To one where I can manage some social stress, even if being in a room with more than ten people is still tough for me. To a place where I can dance the stress and anxiety away. Where being sober among drunk and high friends is not stressful. Where I can admit that shit might hit the fan and that there’s probably nothing I can do to avoid that. The thing you call getting over stuff I think.

I’m still bad at it. I never learned to manage my feelings, and to accept them as not being alien, implanted in me by a fucked up chemistry, pushing me in the backseat of myself. But I think I’ll get there. At least I’m getting a little less shy about it.

But depression is always there to sucker punch you the second you stop paying attention. I can’t forgot the pills. If I forgot them for twelve or more hours, I’m getting suicidal. Fast. I need to be sure that I have them with me in case I’m not sleeping home. Getting arrested at a protest, even only for twenty four hour, is dangerous.I have to think about it every day, all day and it doesn’t help to see my progress.

So, I started to log my feelings. A small app, that will pops some time in my day asking me how I’m doing and what I’m doing. Something proactive, which will interrupt my train of thought and forces me to think about how I feel. Even for only ten seconds. It’s not like keeping a journal, which would require me to take an action, to think about logging and, being ADD, forgetting about it two seconds after thinking that I should do it, postponing it forever.

And yes, maybe this free apps is riddled with advertisement (I could pay to get rid of parts of it) and is built on GAFAM tech. But, as a lot of assistive tech, it needs to exists to make my life a bit easier, to rely a bit less on others, to stop feeling like I’m a burden to others. But this software, those data, are part of who I am. They record my past, and gives me agency. I can look at it and see that yesterday I was quite happy, and that all things considered it’s getting better. The same way the molecules I ingest daily patch my homeostasis, those assistive apps patch my moods.

It doesn’t tells me how I could be more productive. It just tells me how I am outside of now. But then, I’m hearing people, allies or friends, telling me that assistive apps are bad, that they’re only used to gather data about me, profile me in order to deliver targetted ads. Yes that’s true. The same way pharmacological companies tries (and succeed) to profit of every pills they make.

But rejecting this, rejecting the assistive tech part is the same as refusing people with diabetes to monitor their glucose level and to adapt their insulin intake, giving them autonomy. Or refusing access to glasses or hearing aids. Or prosthesis of any kind.

I have the right to help myself with external apparels, and to alter my self using anything available. And I have this right either because it’s a necessity to adapt to this crazy and destructive world we live in, or because it’s fun. Or both. The issue is that we’re monetizing the data about us, about our lives, not that the data exists. Those data are parts of me, they helps me understand myself. They helps you understand me. They helps me understand you, and the world we share.

End of Transmission

I have to write this down. Now. I have to do this. Now. Why ? Because I’m experiencing some clarity right now, and it will not last. It might looks like a hasty decision, but it is something I’ve been torturing myself with for months now.

I quit twittering. Or micro bloging. I’m going to close my twitter account (or accounts, you’ll never know) and I’m not transferring it to another micro bloging platform.

There’s some issue I’m having with micro bloging, and the web of notifications as we know it. Most of them are due to the fact that it’s not a form of socialization that gave me enough space to breathe and to get on with my life.

ADD does not help. Depression does not help. Having followers liking your calls to help without investing themselves much does not helps – that’s also something I’ve stopped doing.

Getting my fix of data is the first thing I do in the morning, right after snoozing my phone’s alarm, before getting out of bed. It’s like listening at the radio or watching TV in the morning before breakfast I guess. And it’s OK for a lot of people, and it’s fine. But in the end it kills me.

It’s been almost ten years since I’ve been pushing bits around here. I’ve seen twitter without retweets or faves. Or likes. Or quotes. Or algorithmic filtering. I’ve been in touch with people who radically changed my life, in ways they do not suspect, thanks to this blue bird.

But things changed, and some of the dilemma I had, related to this platform, are less and less dilemmas. And this is were I’m going to throw a bit of politics in the mix. I’ve made a mistake for years, and this mistakes was thinking that the user base can change the platform. It was thinking that platform owner, even hegemonic capitalist monsters such as Alphabet, Amazon, Apple or Microsoft, that platform owner did care about letting minorities exists in the fringe of those platform.

It was thinking that me, being and acting on twitter, was bringing more to communities than being out of twitter. It was mistaking the potential reach for the actual impact i could have on the world.

I’m thinking a lot about hypercapitalism and how social interactions and reputations are more and more slowly becoming a currency. And how the value of this currency is less and less representative of the work done to get there. I could elaborate on this. And I will, but not here, not now. I need to mature this a little bit more.

The short story is that I’ve been entrapping myself in a permanent performative version of me, to which I’m not even sure to subscribe. Or to understand. Most of my feelings and moods are alien to me, I do not understand them, and it’s partly because I’m too much in the now, not enough in the later. Which cannot helps me to get better.

It also puts me under a microscope. And I’m a white male, I cannot relate to the perpetual figth it is to exist online for visible women. Which brings me to the next point. My mistakes was thinking that it is possible to have different culture coexisting close to each other, sometime interfering — for better or for worse — but most of the time minding their own business in the inifinite space of information that the cyberspace is supposed to be.

I really think that we need a diversity of culture, that we need to let our own cultures to evolve and change, to be influenced by others, to develop themselves and crawling out of our lives, making us bigger than our individual selves. That we should nurture them and experiment with them.

But you cannot do that on homogeneous platforms and protocols. You cannot do that in the perfect hypermnesia of the advertising driven surveillance system. You cannot do that using less than ten platform. We cannot because, on those platform, the mainstream culture, the one that is amplified, developed, reinforced and marketed as the only culture that exist, is the one of the entity who have power on the infrastructure.

Which means that the only cultural choices you have is the one that those people are willing to give you. As Audre Lordre once wrote, « The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House. »

You can’t fight racists and homophobic people on a platform which actively support them, and makes money out of them. I used to think that, by being there, I could convince more people to try to take the power back, but the reality was that it was convenient for me. Enjoying my bit of celebrity to compensate cognitive dissonance. Persuading myself that using a platform which actively hurt people I care for, or myself, might be worth it in the long term.

It’s not, I was wrong. I want to get better, to get rid of this ghost of me that’s on my shoulders. I want to take time to write, read and think about the word. I want to go back at being active in a community instead of pretending I care and burning myself tweets after tweets.

So this is it. This is the end of me. It’s not an easy decision, but it’s a long thought one.If you want to get in touch, feel free. You have ways to reach me somewhere, or you’ll figure out. Or you’ll accept that I’m not that important in your life, and it is perfectly fine for me.

So long. And thank you for the tweets.


Yellow Vest : The great debacle

So, second post about the Yellow Vest movement in France. In the previous one, I tried to give a little bit of context on this movement, and how other political blocks tries to gravitate around it.

Since then, there’s been quite a lot of things. For one, there’s an increasing number of violent act done by the cops. If you want to be exhaustive, you should have a look at the work done by David Dufresne. On his — very graphic so be warned it might hurt you— page ¨Allo place Beauveau ?¨ he document most of the wounds and mutilations caused by the cops and their use of the now infamous LBD40 flash ball and GLI-F4 grenades.
We’re getting to the XIVth act meaning it’s the XIVth week of nationwide mobilization on Saturdays.

And the government is trying to react to it (about time would say anyone) by spreading wildfires about Russian interferences, and organizing the great debate using Cahiers de Doléances, yeah, like in 1789. But more on that later.

What I want to write about first, is the changes going through this unique movement. And how it is organized (or disorganized), and tries to resist to interfering. So, here we go.

Roundabouts and Cabins

The Yellow vest, as said before, gathers weekly onto roundabouts, or other places where they can locally block the traffic. Every Saturday, people gather to places — using last minutes messages to spread information about the how and where making it hard for cops to block them. And they talk. To each others or to anyone willing to talk rather than staying blocked in traffic jams on a Saturday.

And what happen then, should be no surprises. Since people are talking, not trying to win a debate or to score some points, they get a better understanding of their situations, their places in a society and that they do, eventually, share a lot of ideas with each others, building a class awareness on those roundabouts

Going a step further, some local groups started to build cabans on their place of protests. It’s easier to get people to come on a Saturday morning while the temperatures are freezing cold, if you have a bonfire, and things to eat and drink with you’re fellow yellow vests, it’s much easier to get people coming.

And some groups are going hardcore on this. For instance, in Saint Nazaire, they’re squatting a former Pole Emploi building, renaming it Maison du Peuple (People’s House). Or, on the other side of France, at Commercy, they built a cabin and have daily meetings, embracing the organizational ideas of Libertarian municipalism, preferring a decision making process based on collective discourse than one putting individuals forwards.

They even publish calls to actions on a regular basis. They also call for each groups to find way to organize themselves, for way to share between them and with other groups what’s they’re talking about, and how they take decisions. They even call for a general national assembly of all groups who wanted to join them, which resulted in interesting discussions about the place of the fascists among the Yellow Vest (and for once, they’re talking about it, which is more than I can see on other political groups and organs), how they position themselves with mainstream unions, political game or other issues (yes, they’re talking about feminism, racism and homophobia. Again, it’s more than I can see on some self proclaimed allies).

In short, they’re doing street politics, far away from the political organs, denying any public relationship person any power over them, trying to stay away of the political game as much as they can, trying to (re-)discover horizontal ways of organizing. Far away from the Parisian political apparel or from the last big movement Nuit Debout.

They use Facebook a lot to organize themselves one would say. I personally think they’re using Facebook mostly as a way to share information, not for organizing. Most of them don’t trust mainstream medias, for good reasons. Or perceived reasons. That s why they rely alot on Facebook groups to share informations.

One could think it then leads to disinformation, conspiracionism or worse, but I do not believe that there’s more flat-earthers among them than in any other social groups. They do use a lot of self-organized media to host their communications and informations (websites such as https://manif-est.info/, or https://paris-luttes.info/). Some of them are working to build a webradio. They are their own medias, they are doing what we — hackers and stuff— have been pretending to do with more or less success.

So, let’s take a look at what their opposition is doing, namely the government.

The great debacle

In order to give the impression that M. Macron is listening at them, and in an attempt to sway the yellow vest opinions away from the road, they created a Great Debate Committee. Which is going absolutely fine. They even have a second website. Of coure, it blew up.

Ms. Jouanno, former head of this committee, resigned — or got fired — because of the clear willingness of the executive power to use it to push their personal agenda. I really think this is because M. Macron have never been elected on his proposals but because he wasn’t Ms. Le Pen, and, since then, he’s been trying a lot of things to find public support for his personal neo-liberal agenda.

When a subset of the questions — on the first website — leaked, it was clear that this debate would be an interesting attempt at manipulating public opinion. I have to credit them for trying new way to push propaganda, it is interesting.

For instance, they understood that, if they want to touch a public they usually evade, it would be interesting to have Ms. Schiappa, a state secretary, to co-animate a TV show with M. Hanouna on Direct 8 — a media own by M. Bolloré. M. Hanouna is known for he’s daily TV Show, pushing public humiliation at a new level, and his public does intersect a lot with the 18-25 subforum of a big video game forum, known for their harassment tactics ant anti-feminist positions.

I guess that, wanting to prove that Yellow Vests are fascists pig which wants to debate immigration politics, M. Macron thought that this could be a good idea. So, they did a talk show and asks people to vote for some proposals. And if you want to see someone feel alone while shit hit the fan, I suggest you to look at the State secretary face as the 7 most voted propositions are revealed.

For the record, I’ll retranscript them here:

  • Suppression of VAT on product of prime necessity
  • 2 to 4 % increase in hospital budgets
  • Re-instantiation of the ISF (Tax on the Fortune, a bit like what Ms. Cortez is proposing in the states)
  • Analyze and question the utility of all the tax niche
  • Jail time for tax frauders
  • Tax credit on innovation and competitivity reserved to the small businesses
  • Change the police time of policy

So, basically, except for the last one, people just asked to the government to undo what they did the last two years. And it was an attempt at swaying Yellow Vest movement toward immigration and identity politics. It blew up in interesting proportions.

Since then, we didn’t hear a lot about our president. He’s probably busy trying to find way to exerts control on M. Benalla — this scandal keeps on giving — and then he decided that he should probably write us a letter. It did not get well received.

So, now he’s talking to the press — after pushing them out of the presidential palace and tried to keep them under control by choosing which journalists would be allowed to follow him — and it’s wild. He claims Russian influence is behind the Yellow Vest movement, that there’s only extremists (from the left to the right) on-line, that there must be a hierarchy of speech (his own speech should be above elected representative which should be above media and the above educated people and then everyone else).

And that is not really compatible with the way Yellow Vests are organizing, since they never endorse leaders, or think that there’s no negotiations to be done. The Yellow Vests are preparing themselves for a long run, and that’s why they gather on Saturday instead of going on strike. It’s because they can afford it. They do not care if it take them a year of protesting, they do not want crumbs and leftover given to them through unions, they want all the cake and to share it with everyone.

And yes, I said it before, it’s not a perfect movement, it never will be because there’s no such thing. But they did dedicated one act to women, this saturday they’ll dedicate the act to the wounded by the cops, there’s talk about feminist issues — and no, they do not want to reopen the debate on assisted reproduction or mariage for everyone as some conservatism tries to imply.

What I see, from where I stand, is that all the people who abstained themselves from voting because they were disappointed by elective representation are now the Yellow Vest. They’re building, experimenting or re-discovering street politics tactics. And yes, it gives me hope that there’s more decent people out there than non-decent one.

The Yellow Vest Movement explained to my non-french friends

So, for those of you who have been living under a rock the last two months, there’s a social movement in France which manages to organize actions and protests for the last nine weeks (yes including the weekends between Christmas and the first of January). They’re easy to spot since they wear the yellow vest that everyone is supposed to have in their car.

Disclosure and acknowledgments

I’ll try to explain what I see and understand of this movement from where I am. I do not have a definitive opinion about them, and I do not think anyone can have one, even among the Yellow Vest protesters. I also have to add that I cannot goes in those extremely violent protests, I’m not stable enough in my feelings to be able to go there. I also acknowledge that this movement changes and that a big chunk of people who are now involved in the movement were not in the beginning, and that a lot of skepticism and criticism made toward the movement are not necessarily valid anymore. I’m not a social scientist and I also have some bias toward mob mentality and howling with the hounds phenomenon. I’m genuinely terrorized by crowds, but I’lll try to keep that at bay. So, enough with disclosure and let’s start.

Context (little bits of)

The political left (yes, including the France Insoumise (FI) movement around JL. Mélenchon) is in dismay. What left of it have exploded after the mandate of F. Hollande. The Parti Socialiste (PS) is clinically dead, leaving a lots of space for the FI. But even then, they have a hard time to make proposals that appeal to people. The big unions have found themselves inefficient at a national level. Their tactics of ordered protesting and trying to sit at the table of the government have been proved inefficient since labor laws have still been passed, independently of weekly protests last year. During the last presidential elections (there’s archive of what I think of it in the #DrunkDebate and #WTFrance hashtags), we ended up having 10 millions people voting for Marine Le Pen in the second turn (7.6 millions in the first turn). For the record, JM. Le Pen who also achieve to pass to the second turn of the 2002 French presidential elections, had 5 millions of vote in the second turn,and 4.8 in the first one (you can probably add the 600k voter for B. Mégret, he was a fork of Front National) (yes, half of what his daughter would do fifteen years later). And we have Macron because we didn’t want Le Pen,not because people agreed with his electoral promises, which were quite shallow, but, after all, they’re electoral promises. For the record, French registered voters is 47 millions of people. Last year was the fiftieth anniversary of Mai 1968, a huge social movement gathering workers and students which would lead, some years later, to the resignation of Gal. De Gaulle from his position of republic’s president. It was a movement in which most, if not all, of our current political “elite” started their career. It has been fantasized to the point that most unions where hoping for another May 68 to happen, so they just set-up protests to fight labor reform laws, instead of launching a global strike and factory occupations as the students did last year. Since he’s been elected, E. Macron did push a hardcore neo-liberal agenda. For instance, he removed the ISF (tax on fortunes, instated by F. Mitterand in 1989). He also stopped the funding of social securities by collective earning to replace it with a state controlled taxes – the CSG – that everyone would pay (which have a huge impact on jobless and retired people). And the list goes on. During 2016 (yar of the election year), another movement started, Nuit Debout, which gathered a lot of people to talk about politics. The biggest thing which came out of it is a development of the FI, but – a bit like Occupy – the movement would show to people that they should politicize themselves. Last year, a big student movement started in May in reaction to the ParcourSup debacle and a new law which would instantiate a selection at the entry of University. Universities – and some highschool – have been occupied, but the movement lost momentum with the summer break. So, this is bits of contexts. It is a complex one, we, French, love our protests. If you want to get a bigger understanding, you need to study French history since the fifteens, when big suburbans area have been converted in concrete blocks to host the working class. Or when coal mines and most of the steel industry moved out of France in the 90’s.

Who are the yellow vest ?

In reaction to a speed limit change on roads, and to a new tax on gas, a movement started on Facebook calling to block the country by going on roundabouts and block the roads there. This movement has spread through Facebook. At first, medias defined it has a “periurban” movement, a movement from the countryside of France, the “lower france” to quote M. Raffarin, former prime minister. But I think that it’s partial, a bias due to the fact that most – if not all – national medias are based in Paris and do not really get out of Paris in densely populated area. It’s been worse since their funding is going down, losing local correspondent and replacing them by columnist, creating a divide between those who reads the press and those whose medias speaks about. My understanding of where the yellow vest come from is, in part, due to two sources. First this good article wrote by cartographers and sociologists, which show that it is, in fact, the middle class, leaving in suburbs or big urban centers, not people leaving in the country. The second source is my personal experience of those suburbs, since I grew up there. Most suburbians areas in France are build around two class of population. The middle class who cannot afford to live in the center, and then lives in residential area that we call dormitory city. Middle managers, engineers, leaving in cheap houses massively built, office workers needing a car to do anything, because the commute system is not designed for that. Teenagers who drive drunk home because they don’t want to end up in their family house at 11pm because there’s no way back home, and no place to party nearby. The other one are the big projects, build in the sixties to house migrant workers. And that the state will stop worrying about. I suggest you to read about SONACOTRA to understand what’s been happening in the projects since the 80’s. So, you basically have two kind of people living in suburbans area. The one who can afford one or two car, and have no other practical solutions because everything is closing around them (from post office to hospital). And the one who can’t, leaving in old building, the lower class, mostly non white people. What defines the yellow vest is, at its core, their link to cars. The protests started in reaction to a speed limit reduction, which was perceived as yet another caprice of a government which is perceived has an urban elite which do not care about anything except their bank accounts. Those protesters depends on their car and, a lot of them – if not most – are in a precarious situation. If they can’t pay the gas of their car,they can’t go to work, so they’re going to lose their jobs, which will lead to difficulty to pay back the house mortgage, etc … This particular form of precariousness is called energetic precariousness. They’re not the lower class, the lower class leaves in projects and cannot afford a car, so they use public transportations to work, when they have a job at all. They’re the one who, taxes after taxes, are paying more for less. Their earning taxes rises while the level of public services goes down, creating a feeling of unfairness among them. More than the National Front votes (sorry, Rassemblement national nowadays, RN), I think that what defines them is the abstention.

Politics of the yellow vests

I do think that, despite the fact that 30 % of the population votes for the RN, most of the yellow vests are not fascists thugs. They’re the one left out by Nuits Debout, by the union, by the government and they think they only got themselves and their Facebook friends to rely on. It is a class which have been depoliticized, because they were taught that politics are only about elections, and they’re now finding ways to do politics outside of the big political organs. It is a resilient movement, quite effective at resisting political entrism and recuperation. Yes, there is RN voters among them, and yes, at least when they were building barricades on the Champs Élysées, fascists thugs from GUD of Action Française (or, well, royalists) were presents in high number. But nine weeks later, I think that most of them are gone. Yes there are racism, sexism and islamophobia in this movement. But not more than what leaders of the France Insoumise do. Or not more than what LREM (Macron’s political apparatus) does. Those issues are present in all classes of French society, and at all levels. I’m not saying that they should get a free pass, but maybe if we were tackling those ideas in our own court yards, then the Yellow Vest would have less racism, sexism and islamophobia behavior. And, well, there’s women march among them, in non-mixity. Not perfect it still is a mostly white movement, but it’s better than anything I’ve seen in big unions led protests. And they have some specific issues toward single mums. The Justice pour Adama Traoré collective, a suburb movement, fighting against racism and cop violence, called to join the Yellow Vest at the start of December. They supported, and sometimes joined, the climate march. Students have also joined the movement, bringing their concern about the bac reforms to the already long list of demands. So, after nine weeks, what are their demands ? They’ve published a list of forty demands, some of them are listed on Le Média, I will not details them one by one, you can read them (or translates them). There is some ugly ones, especially toward migrants. But that’s not worse than what I read in the France Insoumise agenda (it does not makes it acceptable, I’m giving you context), but there’s some interesting in how they want to regulate incomes of elected officials for instance, or re-instantiate the mutual benefits for social security of retirement plans
One of the key issue is the RIC (Referendum d’Initiative Citoyenne / Citizen initiated Referendum). It’s kind of a petition, the idea is for people to start by themselves a vote on ideas, not to wait for national inquiries. It’s one of the key item in the France Insoumise agenda, and they try to get a law on it, and it sparked a lot of controversy since A. Corbière, elected representative of the FI at the National Assembly, said that the RIC could be used to question the marriage for everyone law. The thing is, most of the French population is in favor of this (around 62%), so the only purpose of this question is to debate of something that’s already been debate, to promote conservative views. But this is not an issue specific to the Yellow Vest, as you can see, we have our own brown-red elected representative.

Medias and the yellow vest

Yellow Vest so not like the mainstream press. I won’t say it’s well deserved, but that was expectable. A non negligible part of national medias only spoke of the degradations made during the protests. Or present people as official spokesperson while there is no such thing. Yes, some right wings thugs have been depicted as spokesperson by some medias, and they were not disavowed immediately by the Yellow vest, which has been used to classify them all as RN supporters, using the classic trope of workers disappointed by politics voting RN by despite. However, I think that, in a quest of selling advertisements and clicks, there’s a trend around riot-porn in most of national medias, showing only pictures of electrical scooters burning or of barricades. Focusing on the violence of the protests instead of the reasons of the protests (that is not something new though). I also perceive some contempt from the intelligentsia of columnists toward the Yellow Vest. Especially because they’re not the public of those medias. When a leftist writes an oped for Valeur Actuelles, in the hope to appeal to the Yellow Vest which might read this Christian conservative weekly magazine, it shows that those same medias or politicians do not understand the Yellow Vest. Valeurs Actuelles, is read by the bourgeoisie, not by the Yellow Vest. Middle-class voters, like a lot of people, get their news from either the TV, or from Facebook. Not by those newspaper tailored for the upper class. There is also an expectation on the way to express yourself from the news outlets, which will display people who don’t use the correct code as being uneducated, violent, hostile or closed to negociations. For all those reason, there is a defiance toward the press by the Yellow Vest, feeded by confusionism and a little bit of conspiracy theories, some spread by elected representatives. I’ll modulate a bit this, because it’s all about nuance. The local press is covering the Yellow Vest and, being local, they’re kinda better welcome. There’s also some press outlets – the one perceived as not owned by the government – such as mediapart, which are covering the Yellow Vest in a less biased way (and well, they do cover also the Benalla stories, but that’s for another topics). Last but not least, most of the TV news journals, or even some of the news only channel such as BFM – are quiet on the police violence, not speaking about it at all, focusing on the degradations, damaging even more the already bad relationship between Yellow Vest and the press in general.

Cops and the Yellow Vest

The movement started rather peacefully, locking roundabouts and tollgates. For a good part of 2018, they tried to establish a dialogue with the government which just ignored them, not even feigning to speak with them. So starting on November, they planned protests every Saturday, with the intent of messing with the government, starting by building barricades on the Champs Élysées. And yes, protests on the Champs Élysées is a symbol of right wings extremists (and unauthorized cops protests). The first ones started wildly, with first fights between cops and Yellow Vest (and, at the time, a lot of fascists on the barricades) as soon as 11:00 AM, before first coffee break. You’ll see a lot of devastation on the avenue, but it is mostly due because to some public works on the avenue, something related to bike lanes. The protesters were met by a lot of cops violence. Water canon were used, but also LBD and stun grenades. There was basically no reactions from the government. Since the the situation got worse. But some of the Yellow Vests have found interesting way of scaring the governments. One of them implies declaring false protests, or protests on a different place than the one they actually wants togo. They usually try to targets what they perceived as place of power, meaning that, in Paris they’re protesting on unusual path (mostly in the west and rich part of Paris, instead of te classic République – Nation – Bastille triangle). They do not hesitate to take on cops. Sometimes using what they found on the street, such as heavy machinery to push back the cops. As a result cops are now loose, they use and kills people, including bystanders who just happened to live in a street where protests were taking part. Or by humiliating teenagers during a police raid in a school, which will fuel their anger, and have them join the YellowVest. DavDuff is keeping tabs on mutilations by cops on his website, and Libération published a stunning infography on the 82 mutilations caused by cops (yes, that’s roughly 10 per week, so 2 per days). And that’s only mutilation, it does not take into account everyone who’s only been beat up by cops. And it does not include Benalla’s related stuff. SInce reporters are now clearly shot on sight by cops, the coverage of the movement did change, and I really think that the defiance between the yellow vest and the French press is changing.

What of it ?

I do think Yellow Vest is important, because, first, it’s a movement coming form a class of people that used to be quiet and misrepresented (or they perceiv they are misrepresented). Yes, there is issue in this movement, including sexism, homophobia and racism. However, I’ll nuance that by the fact that most of those issues are present in classic left wing protests. And we need to come to term that a third of French population votes for the RN. I do think the government is scared, they’re incapable of reacting to this kind of movement and the usual tactics they used have failed, or made things worse for them by fueling the outrage and the being despised feeling and resent they have toward the people in power. Yellow Vest is different of what we used to have here in France. It is far from perfect, but it brings the political debate in the street, where it belongs.

My vim setup – with some rust specifities

So, I’ve got this thing called a sick leave due ti my depression. It means I have a lot of time to do whatever I want.
It includes writing stuff here, making the garden and wait for plant to grow, spend countless hours on Crusader Kings 2 et Europa Universalis 4 (my life is now gone), and to do computer related things that I wanted to do.
So, among things such as setup a pam-ldap configuration and documentations for a reset project, I’ve started learning Rust. Mainly because it is interesting. It’s nice and good, but it’s a bit hard, lots of concepts are different form my habits with Python. Anyway, I wanted to have a little help provided by context in my vim7 setup.

My previous config did worked quite well for python, but there was a lot of heavy duty plugins on opening files, which led me to have to wait some seconds when initially starting vim. And this is where my quest began. I wanted to do some things from vim (I never really bothered on compiling tasks or ctags for instance, since python or bash do not require them). I spent most of my last week to understanding vim, reading vimscript, finding plugins etc.

Continue reading “My vim setup – with some rust specifities”

Security and Safety

There’s something on my mind that’s been going on for a while. Well, another something going on in y mind.
And it’s about security and/or safety and how those concepts are used today. Or how they’ve been twisted. So, let’s start with what I mean by those terms. They’re often used as synonym for each other, but I keep thinking that they’re not meant to be.

Security, as I see it – at least in the uncountable use – is a concept related to peace of mind (even the latin form securitas is about peace of mind). It means it’s something you do not have to pay attention because it cannot hurt you. I think it’s linked to avoiding accident and incident, to put the potential cause of accident away. That’s the reason we have more and more automated features in cars, like ABS or ESC, who tries to manage traction for you to not care about traction loss (and control loss). They’re meant to avoid accident. Or to significantly reduce your exposure to the risk of an accident. Those are called securities for a reason, they make you able to feel secure while you drive half a ton of metal and plastic at high speed along other people doing the same thing while hopping no-one will fail to avoid collision with each others.
Peace of mind requires to reduce or negates the perceived risks to work. You must been aware that you were exposed to risk and then to be aware of something which allow you to think that perceived risk has been acted upon and that you’re now able to stop being worried about it. Feeling secure is something deeply rooted in most of animals, it meant to have certainty about the fact that you can eat, drink, and not being killed by something while your asleep. It means taking step to ensure that you’ll have that tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that, until your death.
Security is being addressed in our communities by laws and regulations. Whether they’re explicit or implicit doesn’t really matters. They’re made to ensure that, at the end of the day, all member of the community can stop thinking about the daily threats they’re facing daily. Security implies rules which purpose is to control behaviors that the community perceive as an existential risk, it also implies active measure to protect one self from them which leads to either individual arming themselves to defend themselves, or giving this power to a group of people devoted to maintain security and to control behavior. And this group of people must display that the rules are enforced, because if they’re not, then they’re not devices for peace of mind. To elaborate more on this, there’s whole segment of philosophy dedicated to it (Foucault’s “Surveiller et punir” being one of them, but 1984 by Orwell or Best of Worlds by Huxley do address this).

Safety is, on the other end, everything that exist to reduce harm done. It’s the plan B, it’s what happens when shit finally hit the fan. To stay on the car analogy, safety are safety belts and airbags. They exists only because there’s a risk of accident that have not been nullified by security measures (laws and regulations). And that is why self-driving cars is such a hard problem to solve, because you can’t have a null risk’s probability.
Safety is what allows Security measures to fail without doing much harm to everyone. It’s not really peace of mind systems, because they only exists because you’re exposed to a risk. When you put a helmet on before riding through whatever traffic with your bike, you become aware of the risks you take, and you try to reduce the harm you’ll suffer when someone you’ll eventually be thrown on the ground in the middle of a street because someone didn’t looked before opening their car door. Safety is knowing that if someone enter your house while you’re in it, you’ll have a place and space to recover and people to provides you what you’re missing.
Safety is not about control of behavior, it is about caring for others. Is is not peace of mind but it is acknowledging that you cannot achieve perfect security, and that you need to accept some harm. It is about recovering, learning, growing up.

Why do I talk about this? Because I hear a lot about (cyber)security, and not about (cyber)safety. Security being about perceived risk, and applying behavior control in a way that will be perceived as a reduction of this risk, leads to the current regime of mass-surveillance we live under.
I’ve red a Story about Jessica a while back. And I think it address the fact that we do not have (cyber)safety, that the infosec community have no clue about safety and what it means. The security focused industry means more surveillance (logging) and behavior control (don’t click on links, upgrade, choose a stronger password, don’t publish your key, and many of the do and don’t prevalent in the infosec community).
In computer science, the safety of the software an entity have to manage is, however, quite pregnant. You’ll have backup of the data, backups of the infrastructure, disaster recovery plans, etc. But this is only about the safety of the software. It is not about safety of users or the people who maintain it. If you cannot achieve software security for your company, you’ll probably end up fired at some point. All the on-calls procedures are just means of maintaining a software in a safe state (alive and running, or at least partly running after a crash).
However, users of the software are not protected by those technical safety solution. What will happens when users data will be leaked? What steps are you taking to reduce the arm being done to them? You must be able to answer this question. It could be providing legal counseling, or collaborating with law enforcement (not that I’m a big fan of cops). It could be being proactive and warn them as soon as you find out something bad happened to their data, and try to provide them assistance in recovering access to your software for instance.

Holistic security goes a deep further into control. It is based on the fact that achieving full security requires you to have a specific mindset, and that you must take care of you in order to achieve security. I find it interesting to link way of life to exposure to perceived risks. If you sleep well, you’ll be better at security. Too bad you suffer from depression and insomnia, meaning your last good night sleep was ten days ago, and it was drug induced. Holistic security tends to be, form my point of view, ableist. If you’re not emotionally, physically and socially fit, you can’t hope for security. You cannot get your mind of all the stuff that’s forbidding you to achieve security. It is, in the long run, blaming the victim. You didn’t took care of you, ergo your security has been breached.
I’m not saying that we must get rid of security. It is important to reduce risk exposure. But it has a cost: surveillance and behavior control. I’m saying that we must focus more on safety, on what happens when the cops gt you during a protest with your unlocked phone (or they unlock it using your face). What harm will you be facing when someone is black mailing you over the nudes you got in your Direct Message – or stored on your computer.
This is the question asked in the stroy about Jessica. And I didn’t find a lot of answer since this been published. Facebook tries to help with revenge porn, and there’s a lot of things being done here (go have a look at what BADASSis doing for instance. And this is an issue where technology can’t save you (it is, again, something that provide surveillance and control behavior). Safety means there’s something to take care of people and to help them to recover. It means about caring about people (not software, their just maths, they can’t be in pain), it means trying to make everyone life better (and not easier). For instance, Code of Conducts are security measures. And they’re important because they allow people coming to your community to know that they’re not at risks. Until you do not enforce your own Code of Conduct for instance.
Having a post-harassment process to help the victims, and the harasser (yes, I mean that), to understand what happened, to document it, and to provide support for the victim is safety. That is what safe space should be about. Not space where you won’t be hurt, but space where, when it happens, you’re allowed to take less harm than if you were alone. It is also a space where you’ll be told something you’ve done did hurt someone – not that you broke a rule. It is a space where people will address your behavior and helps you to stop it, not by expelling you, but by a process. It can mean that, for sometime, you cannot come in certain places. It depends on how your community provides safety.

Safety is feeling welcome, feeling belonging to something, knowing that you can make mistakes, own them, and grow out of them. It is not something you can code in your software and, in fact, a lot of the time, your software works against safety.
If your data collection algorithm can be used by cops to identify perpetrators of a crime, it can also allow anti-gay bigots to identify gay people in their surrounding. It can be used by an abusive husband to identify where’s the woman he lived with as fled. It can be used by adults to expose teenagers sexting each others. It can be used to locate where a camgirl lives to stalk her.

And what’s the perceived risks you’re collection of data is protecting users against? You have to wonder if people can conduct drug traffic or do sex wok using your software, and if, by using your data collecting software, they put themselves at risk if you cooperate with cops. Security, in this case, would be to not use your data collecting software. If you value the possibility for law enforcement community to identify sex workers more than you value their safety, it means that you’ve got a political motivation for keeping several years of activity logs.

Keeping data about people is collaborating with cops, harassers and stalkers. It is not about safety of your users, it is about security and control. If you want to do cyberSafety, then it must be impossible for cops to identify anyone with the data you got. It means that you must not be able to identify formally your users. It also means that you must not do ad tracking. It means that the well being of your users is important for you, whatever they do in their life, whoever they are.
Stop logging, start caring.

C10H12N2O

It’s been a while. I mean, my last posts are translations of things I wrote on LQDN website. Since the last post, there’s been some changes (for instance, I finally installed something a little cleaner for people to read here without having too much to do on my side (yes, it means it’s an extremely basic wordpress).

Also I did burn out. And I do not think those word does even starts to explain what it’s been like. It’s not my first burn out. In fact I’ve got one at each places I worked, whether it’s a public administration, a big company, a startup or an association. It’s a constant in my life. I get a new job, and then I burn out.

It’s not sane *insert sarcasm and captain obvious related meme here*. But still, it happened to me at each job I took. Even if it’s for an association. I could say that it’s inherently linked to my professional specialization, but I’ve been working anywhere between an RJ45 cable and a chair. I’ve done architectural systems, Level 1 to 3 helpdesk, tutoring, devops, writing software, writing about technology and society, talked to a lot of different people abut technology, tailored databases, modeled applications. So, either it’s an issue with a whole industry (there’s some issue yeah, nut they’re systemic and related to capitalism), or it’s an issue with me.

Which brings me to this. I’m not sure I want to write more about the way hackers tends to think of themselves as  a Turing machine, but we’re not. Turing machine allows for extremely fast computations and near instant and perfect recall function, while our brains suck at it, but allow us to have insights. But I’ll keep this for another day.

I want to talk about transhumanism. And depression. For two reasons. First, is that I’m sick. I’ve got a severe depression disorder, among other mental health issues – and there’s a 7% probability that this sickness will kill me. Probably a bit more, because my others conditions will raise this (I’ve  been diagnosed with ADD and HQI, and I suspect I’m also borderline but it’s hard to diagnose while depressed so I’ll probably never know).

What transhumanism have to do with depression ? Science. Transhumanism is looking for ways to go beyond our humanities. Nietzche developed the Übermensch figures for it, but basically it’s the same. It’s a concept that transcend morality, as a tool used to divide the self into a good and a bad part (vices and vertues), and opposes nihilism, which states that this life – this world – is useless, since the only important thing is what’s after, becoming a Saint or mythological Hero.

Depression, and a lot of others mental illness, is tied to our experience with society (but this alone is not the only reason for depression, it seems there’s biologic and environmental factors too), it’s tied to stress, which is – basically – failures at communicating something to others or too understand what’s happening. We all faces stress, in different amount, and we probably all have ways to cope with it.

The thing with depression is that your train of thought is hijacked by existential crisis. It’s being in a perpetual state of fight or flight. It’s being unable to handle even the smallest emotion. People says that I’ve got a bad impulse control. It might be true. I’ve always got burst of rage which led me to, for instance, throw a desk at someone in elementary school. Because they cheated at a game. But now I have a way better impulse control. I’ll clamp my fists and probably get outside to walk and hit a wall until physical pain kills the anger. Yes, it explains some scars on my hand.

It requires all my energy, which does not allow me to build happiness. Every single day I wake up, doesn’t recognize me in a mirror, and go through the day while thinking about killing myself. Those are the good days. The worst one is me having daydream, with an excellent precision, of me hitting someone skull repeatedly with a metal bar or whatever I can get my hands on until my rage leaves me. I’ll usually manage to walk away (and yes, it happens regularly, to a point I’m now good at anticipating that and living a place before I end up stuck in a bar fight), pushing those impulse down inside until I can let go without putting anyone at risk. It’s not the impulse control which sucks, it’s the mood systems which are fucked up. And it scares me.

I’ve spend most of my life with this depression. It took me a while, and a lot of drugs, to be able to remember a chronology of episodes. For a while, I’ve pinned it down to my father incarceration, but I think it started before that.  But I know that at least since August ’97 I’ve got depression episodes of different magnitude. We’re in 2018now, so it’s been 21 years. And I’m not 42 years old yet. So yes, it means that most of my existence as an adult have been lived through depression, and hiding it to everyone because you cannot understand what it is.

It’s also, since not a lot of people want to talks about that – especially due to some extremely toxic tropes such as “Boys don’t cry” – you can spend a lot of time wondering if you’re alone, or if everyone feels the existential dread and collapse you feel everyday. You don’t know who, likes you, have to wear a social mask to hide their pain.

Add that to a total absence of bisexuals positives representation in the mainstream medias, especially during the 90’s, or positive gay representation, then you’re quickly lost, wondering if everyone is in pain, or if it’s only you. And if it’s you, why do you feel like that? Where does it come from?

The end of the 90’s, and of the century, was also when I learned that your friends will turn on you for no reason, except the fact that they wanted to have fun at your expense. That’s what boy-scouts taught me. You can spend weekends and a lot of time in a small social cell, supposedly trying to work together, in solidarity, but as soon as the other member of your cell will see a crack in you, they’ll rush into it, blow it open and will left you out to dry.

I’ve been evacuated from a camp, in tears, in 1997. Something like 6 month after my father had been incarcerated (it doesn’t helps when the joke is about family). And probably five days after some boy kissed me for the first time. Not out of love I think, but to check if I was drunk.

It cost me a lot. I’ve always been quite introvert, I’ve basically stopped trying to be friend with people. I’ll do like anyone else, tag along and, as soon as I can, I’ll crush them to get on top of them, since this is how I’m supposed to behave, I’ll become that.

It’s also at this time that I dig a little more into Science Fiction, and especially the Cyberpunk movement. And role playing games (first game of Shadowrun was in 01). Those books, especially the neuromancer, probably helped me a lot and saved me of all the incels tropes. I was in boys only classes, not because it was a non mixity school, but because I was interested in industrial machinery and computers and society teaches us that it’s not what women should do.

The fundamental thing in the CyberPunk movement is two fold. First, there’s a globalized society which provides instantaneous access to all informations, and such information is used by global construct to force humanity in its own view. Then, the stories in CyberPunk are not about heroes, but about marginalized people, ostracized person because they did not fit into the globalized capitalist society, and about how they dwell in society, how they use their environment to augment themselves and to reach capacities beyond their reach.

CyberPunk taught me that, the way our bodies and our mind are seen, generally through the spectrum of vices and virtues, is fundamentally obtrusive of collective freedom and reinforces individualism, you need to be more virtuous and less of a sinner – the vice and virtues being the 10 commandments, the amount of things you own, or what you share on social medias doesn’t really matters. Using vices and virtues to qualify people is flawed in about all the way we can imagine.

For once, because there’s a lot of people who either don’t understand those rules, or can’t abide to them. And then because they drive people to measure themselves on a moral scale, which is neither related to their personal capacities nor to their expectations of life or their experiences.

CyberPunk movement is about existing outside of the society, outside of the narrow definition of what is human. It is questioning what’s defining us and what’s human. In those universe, there’s always people who have been augmented. Either because they needed it – an amputee can get a leg back for instance – or because they wanted it.

Most of them are stigmatized for this. They’re considered as freaks or outlaws and they’re merely tolerated because they can do jobs that no one want to do. They can do that mostly because a lot of them lives at the margin of society, out of this globalized society tightly bound by a social contract (has Hobbes defined it for instance).

And the best part is that most – if not all – of the CyberPunk stories are about the collaboration of different kinds of freak. One CyberPunk character alone can’t survive. They survive because there’s other people at the margin of society, because they have developed the skills which allows them to use what they have to do what they need. It’s the kind of thinking hackers are supposed to have, It’s the ind of thinking that makes you see a bomb in a phone battery, which can be easily detonated which a phone.

It is the kind of thinking which leads you to question identities – individual or collective ones – and to accept people as they are. CyberPunk is not about fiber optics hair or glow in the dark eyes. It’s about the questions raised by those.

What’s a mind?, what’s a body? Can one exists without the other one? Are they tied to the social contract of society? Or does the existence of a free person is enough to destroy this social contract? All those questions are what you need to find in CyberPunk movement. It’s not really about the technology, a lot of this shared information storage has been depicted in a lot of ways (cultural hallucinations, loas who possess bodies, whatever abstraction one can find), it’s about how the technology shape the society and how free individuals can go beyond the morals of the society.

Which is what leads to transhumanism. How do we transcend our humanities to coexists together on this shared amount of resources that’s our environment. Transhumanism question the notion of identity or self. It is a movement which allow us to think beyond our currents mindset and body. It allows for people who can’t communicate with other to find ways to do it which does not involve pain. It allows for people who have a broken body to go around into another one. It allows for you leaving a lot of experiences at the same time, and then integrating them back into one self.

And the thing is, to do what I just described, a lot of people thinks we need some magic nanite stuff. We don’t need that, because we already have them – at least partly. The meds I take to put my mind in a less painfull state are just that. I’m eating carefully crafted proteins made of only 4 elements (Carbon, Hydrogen, Oxygen and Nitrate) which are shaped in a way that would allow my brain to get out of this fight or flight state he’s in, allowing me to have a wider range of emotions and to be able to enjoy things and explores my memories without rewriting them as painful one.

And doing that changes a lot of things. I’m not used to it, I’ve never really learned how to feel or express those feelings, but now, by using a daily dose of this synthetic pharmaceutical assembly of elements, I can at least have a possibility at that, at understanding where the pain is coming from and to address it.

I’m patching a flawed consciousness processor with what it needs. I’m altering the biofeedback loop which my conscious then use to helps me makes non random choices. And this feedback loop which helps us to not walks blindly in a complex and fragile environment, this feedback loop is what makes a system a cybernetic one.

We’re not Turing machine. We’re something else. Going further implies using cognitive science- which intersect in an elegant ways with mathematics and philosophy.  There is a theory (Information Integration Theory) which defines what a conscious is, and then tries to create a system that could be support consciousness. Just dig up wikipedia or the intertubes if you need more info. But we’re far away of a sentient artificial systems, since the computation complexity required by such a daunting task is crazy. I’m not even sure that we can grasp our own mind around such a concept. Which is kind of fun in some ways.

I’m patching my thought train the same way drug users messed up with their cortical systems. In fact some effect of drug use can emulate temporarily state of depression. Some of the MDMA withdrawal do looks like a depression state. Those of you who experienced it can probably start to grasp what it means to be depressed, but you’re lucky, it stops when your organism find its balance again. MDMA have even been used in therapy before it lands in our raves party, and researcher are still trying to find out if it could helps in treating PTSD.

We’re already augmenting our minds. Either to be more productive (Ohai caffein users) because we have to, or because it’s fun and some of us wants to go beyond their normal thought systems. And those two examples illustrates perfectly the main issues which people see in transhumanism.

When you talk about transhumanism, they think of ElonMusk, Lary Page, Jeff Besos or Eric Schmidt. Multibillionaires who are killing the world trying to make an escape pods for themselves only. It’s true that a lot of the Transhumanism movement is presented as coming from Silicon Valley multi-billionaires liberals, as they wish – like old Egypt Pharaoh’s – to live for eternity, finally overcoming death, allowing them to isolate themselves in gilded sarcophagus, their agents continuing to pillage resources for the sake of (hyper)capitalism, while hopping to be buried next to their god-like masters, or to be elevated to their level.

But this is not about transhumanism. It’s a god complex, born out of the virtues/vices dichotomy which leads most of the humanity to a harsh and violent life in a cybernetics world which only uses wealth (and then promotes greed) as a feedback loop. It’s not transhumanism, it’s dehumanism. It is turning human into simple machine that will maximize the output of the system, granting the immortal hypercapitalist pharaoh more and more power upon our lives

Humans are individual. Society usually tries to bend those humans into a more abstract concept, which can be monitored and acted upon. It allows – and promotes – some variations,  but only to a certain point. The dream of an internet who would – in the end – gives individuals more information about their environment to helps them find a place in the world that would allow them to be freed from pain, has been violently destroyed by the cultural globalization promoted by western capitalists.

And refusing to fut in makes you a freak, a marginal, a danger to society. And now we have to find answers to existential questions, the same way CyberPunk characters have to. We cannot fit in this world, we can only survive at its fringe. And destroy the foundation of it from where we are. This is transhumanism, and the übermensh as theorized by Nietzsche (not the totalitarian eugenic nightmare of the nazis). It is about doing with what you have, it is about taking pleasures in our life, not feel guilt for it. It is about cooperation of different individual for them to go further in the exploration of consciousness and the unknown, not about conforming to a hierarchical caste system as all the singularitionist from the silicon valley dream of.  It is finding strength into the difference, not into uniformity.

And this is why I so much love Queer politics. Because Queer politics is about getting rid of identity, stopping using where we were born and what society forces us to be, to defines us. Or, has FM-2030 said it : “Conventional names define a person’s past: ancestry, ethnicity, nationality, religion. I am not who I was ten years ago and certainly not who I will be in twenty years.”

It is embracing individuals as they are, with what we see as flaws, and give them the capacity to experiment with themselves, to explore what it means to go beyond society and beyond identity. It is about having a space where you can take risk knowing that, in the worst case, there will be harm reduction made. It’s accepting the fact that people need a prosthetic mood system, or leg, or want to have a tail, or the tongue of a snake. Or fork their consciousness to drift into the data flowing all around us.

Transhumanism isn’t about eugenics. It is about life, about making it enjoyable. It is, at its core, anticapitalists. It is queer. Don’t let the neo-liberals uses it against you.

I think I’m done. I just hope it made sense. Kinda. It’s thing that were on my mind since a while now, now it’s there. Hope you have questions and/or comments (hey there is a comment system now :p). Have fun. Go transhumanist.

[Repost] Google, Amesys – même combat

So, I’ve changed things around here and I’m trying to get some writing done soon. In the meantime, I’ll repost here an oped I wrote at la quadrature du net (From which I’m currently off due to mental health issue, more on that later), so here the original text, in French and, of course, there’s more on LQDN website

Du 21 au 24 novembre dernier, à Villepinte (région parisienne), se tenait le salon Milipol (pour Militaire/Police), « l’événement mondial de la sécurité des États ».

En plus des habituels trafiquants marchands d’armes qui font la fierté de l’industrie française (ayons une pensée émue pour Michèle Alliot-Marie qui exporta en Tunisie notre savoir-faire en matière de maintien de l’ordre), il y a, depuis quelques années maintenant, des marchands de matériel informatique et de solutions de supervision des populations.

Vous avez forcément entendu parler d’Amesys, de Qosmos, de Palantir et autres Hacking Team qui se sont spécialisés dans le développement de solutions clef en main d’espionnage et de surveillance de la population. Et, les affaires étant les affaires, la plupart d’entre eux vendent à toute personne désirant acheter du matériel, qu’il s’agisse des dictatures libyenne ou syrienne, ou des démocraties sociales occidentales compatibles avec l’économie de marché (France, Allemagne, Royaume-Uni). On parle dans ces cas de capitalisme de la surveillance, c’est-à-dire de mesurer la valeur des choses grâce à la fonction de surveillance.

La surveillance se base sur la connaissance. En épidémiologie par exemple, c’est connaître le vecteur infectieux, le documenter, savoir comment il se propage et se transmet, mesurer son temps d’incubation éventuel, déterminer ses symptômes pour comprendre son fonctionnement et trouver éventuellement un remède.

Dans le cadre de la surveillance des personnes, cela se traduit par la connaissance de ces personnes, leur identification dans le temps et l’espace, connaître leurs habitudes et leurs façons de réagir, mesurer leur sensibilité à telle ou telle idée. La surveillance c’est la connaissance. Et la connaissance c’est ce qui permet de définir les choses, de les identifier. Le capitalisme de la surveillance est donc un capitalisme de la connaissance, de l’identité. Ce que vendent Amesys, Palantir ou autres à leurs clients c’est l’assignation d’une identité définie par eux ou par leur client à un groupe de personnes en fonction de mesures et d’observations, i.e. de données.

Dans le cas des États, cette assignation identitaire amène à des conséquences qui peuvent être extrêmement violentes pour certaines populations, amenant à des répressions fortes, une suppression d’un certain type de personnes d’un certain quartier, à de l’injustice prédictive basée sur des statistiques biaisées par des biais racistes – le racisme structurel – et qui donc ne peuvent que renforcer ces biais. Les smart cities, dans leur version la plus extrême, sont les étapes finales de ce processus, l’identification permanente, fixiste, en tous points de tous les individus, l’impossibilité de bénéficier des services communs et publics sans révéler son identité, sans donner aux surveillants encore plus de connaissances sur nos vies et nos identités, pour leur permettre de mieux définir nos identités, de mieux vendre aux États la détermination, l’essentialisation, la réduction des complexités de nos vies à des étiquettes : terroriste, migrant, réfugié, musulman, femme, queer, bon citoyen.

Dans cette analyse qui est faite, on parle très vite, très souvent d’algorithmes ou d’intelligence artificielle. On les accuse de tous les maux, d’être racistes, de faire l’apologie du génocide, d’être sexistes, de censurer les discours d’éducation à la sexualité, d’invisibiliser les minorités sexuelles, comme si les intelligences artificielles, les algoritmes, disposaient de conscience, émergeaient de nulle part, avaient décidé d’être néo-nazi. Pardon, alt-right. Mais, au final, personne ne dit ce que sont les algorithmes, ou les intelligences artificielles. On va commencer par la seconde. L’intelligence artificielle est un algorithme doté d’une grande complexité et utilisant de grosses quantités de données pour donner l’illusion d’une intelligence, mais d’une intelligence ne comprenant pas ce qu’est un contexte et non dotée de conscience. Reste à définir ce qu’est un algorithme donc.

Appelons le wiktionnaire à la rescousse. Un algorithme est une « méthode générale pour résoudre un ensemble de problèmes, qui, appliquée systématiquement et d’une manière automatisée à une donnée ou à un ensemble de données, et répétant un certain nombre de fois un procédé élémentaire, finit par fournir une solution, un classement, une mise en avant d’un phénomène, d’un profil, ou de détecter une fraude ». C’est donc une formule mathématique, ne prenant pas en compte les cas particuliers, et qui a pour but d’analyser des données pour trouver une solution à un problème.

Ces algorithmes ne sont pas en charge de collecter les données, de définir le problème ou de prendre des décisions. Ils analysent des données qui leur sont transmises et fournissent une classification de ces données en fonction de critères qui ont été décidés par les personnes qui les écrivent, qui les configurent et qui les utilisent. L’ensemble des problèmes sur la reconnaissance faciale qu’ont rencontrés la plupart des entreprises de la Silicon Valley résulte du jeu de données utilisé pour identifier une personne et la reconnaître, car il ne contenait que des images de personnes blanches. Le chat bot de Microsoft – Tay – s’est avéré tenir des propos négationnistes ou appelant au meurtre et à l’extermination. Non pas parce que Tay a une conscience politique qui lui permette de comprendre les propos qu’elle tient, mais parce que des personnes l’ont inondée de propos racistes ou négationnistes, fournissant un corpus de données servant de base aux interactions du chat bot, l’amenant donc à écrire des propos racistes et négationnistes. Microsoft a rapidement retiré ce chat bot de la circulation et l’entreprise a depuis promis d’être plus « attentive » .

Parallèlement, nous entendons également, et de plus en plus, parler d’économie de l’attention. De capitalisme de l’attention. Ce qui aurait de la valeur serait ce à quoi nous faisons attention, ce que nous regardons. Sous entendu, nous, utilisatrices de ce système, sommes capables de faire le choix de ce que nous voulons regarder et lire, de faire le choix de la connaissance à laquelle nous avons accès. Internet permet, en théorie, un accès non discriminé à l’intégralité des informations et des données, et donc de la connaissance, du savoir. Après tout, la connaissance est une information à laquelle j’accède pour la première fois. Et cette acquisition de connaissance me permet de comprendre le monde, de me positionner par rapport à lui, et donc de me définir et de le comprendre, exactement ce que font les systèmes de surveillance massive utilisés par les États.

Réguler l’accès à l’information et choisir quels contenus montrer à quelle personne permet donc, également, de contrôler comment vont se définir les personnes, comment elles vont comprendre le monde. L’économie de l’attention est basée sur ce principe. Pour garantir que vous interagissiez avec la connaissance qui vous est proposée, qui est la façon dont ces nouveaux capitalistes mesurent la valeur, il est important de vous surveiller, de vous mesurer, de vous analyser, de vous assigner des identités. Et donc de contrôler la connaissance à laquelle vous avez accès et celle que vous produisez.

Les gigantesques plateformes financées par les GAFAM1 servent exactement à ça. Facebook vous empêche activement d’accéder à l’ensemble de l’information présente sur leur réseau, vous demandant de vous connecter pour accéder à d’autres plateformes que la leur, ou vous pistant partout une fois que vous êtes connectés, leur permettant ainsi de récolter encore plus de connaissances à votre sujet, d’augmenter leur capacité de surveillance et donc d’identification et de contrôle. Remplissant dans ce cas exactement la même fonction que les systèmes répressifs des régimes étatiques.

Notamment car Facebook, Apple, Google, Amazon, Microsoft décident ce qu’il est moral de faire, quelles identités doivent être renforcées ou au contraire dévaluées. Par exemple, Youtube, en supprimant la possibilité pour un contenu parlant de sexualités de rapporter de l’argent aux créatrices, envoie un message assez clair aux personnes faisant de l’éducation sexuelle, ou parlant de problématique touchant les personnes queer : votre production de connaissance n’est pas bienvenue ici, nous ne voulons pas que des personnes puissent s’identifier à vous. Il en va de même avec Facebook et son rapport à la nudité ou Apple qui filtre également tout ce qui pourrait parler de sexe, quitte à censurer le contenu des musées. En dévalorisant certaines connaissances, en la supprimant de certaines plateformes, les personnes à la tête de ces entreprises permettent d’effacer totalement de l’espace public des pans entiers de la société, de supprimer les voix des minorités, d’empêcher la contradiction de leurs valeurs et permettent donc de renforcer les biais des personnes consommant la connaissance disponible, amenant à une polarisation, une simplification et à une antagonisation du monde.

Alors effectivement, Facebook en soi ne mettra personne dans les geôles de Bachar el-Assad, du moins pas dans une complicité active, mais l’entreprise fait partie d’un système disposant de deux faces. Une face violente, répressive, alimentant les délires paranoïaques des États d’une part, et une face « douce » et insidieuse, utilisant les publicitaires et la restriction de l’accès à la connaissance pour permettre aux entreprises conservatrices de nous imposer leur vision bipolaire du monde, renforcement les sentiments d’appartenance à un groupe identitaire, avec les conséquences violentes que l’on connaît.

Et pour s’en persuader, il suffit de regarder les liens entre ces deux faces. Peter Thiel, fondateur, avec Elon Musk, de PayPal et qui détient maintenant 7% de Facebook est également le fondateur de Palantir Technologies, entreprise qui a, notamment, obtenu le marché public des boîtes noires en France, tout en étant aussi l’outil officiel de la NSA. Thiel a également participé aux nombreux procès qui ont fait mettre à Gawker la clef sous la porte suite à la révélation de l’homosexualité de P. Thiel par Gawker. Thiel, enfin, est l’un des influents soutiens des républicains nord américains, il a notamment participé à la campagne de Ted Cruz avant de rejoindre l’équipe de Trump et de participer à la transition à la maison blanche. Il a de fait nécessairement discuté, échangé et parlé avec Robert Mercer, l’un des directeurs de Cambridge Analytica, une entreprise dont le but est de cibler les électeurs grâce à de nombreux points de collectes, principalement récupérés par Facebook afin de pouvoir les cibler directement et influencer leurs votes.

Alors oui, lorsque l’on pose la question de démanteler Google, la question de démanteler Palantir se pose aussi, et celle consistant à vouloir privilégier les seconds car ils représentent un danger plus important pour la sécurité des uns et des autres. Mais sans l’omniprésence des systèmes d’identification, sans les exaoctets de données récoltées sans notre consentement dans le but d’individualiser le contenu auquel nous avons accès – selon des critères sur lesquels nous n’avons aucun contrôle – la mise en place de la surveillance et de l’identité devient complexe, coûteuse et impossible.

Il faut démanteler les systèmes capitalistes identitaires si l’on veut détruire les systèmes d’oppressions basés sur l’identité ou sur l’accès biaisé à la connaissance. Il faut s’affranchir des moteurs de ce système que sont la publicité, le pistage et l’identification permanente. Il faut questionner et démanteler le racisme, le néo-colonialisme, le sexisme des entreprises de la Silicon Valley au lieu de s’étonner que leurs algorithmes soient racistes. Car ils sont devenus omniprésents et nous empêchent de nous définir, de vivre, d’exister comme nous l’entendons, avec nos cultures complexes et nos identités changeantes.