Power Is Necessary

Exolymph
Exolymph
Jan 21, 2016 · 2 min read

“No freely occupied and used commons extends endlessly where human societies are involved.” That’s Doctor Chris Demchak, quoted in an article about LUElinks, which is an invite-only forum similar to Reddit. LUElinks was created in 2004 because another forum called GameFAQs banned a user named LlamaGuy for posting Goatse. (Do NOT search “Goatse” on Google Images.) LUElinks has never been as lawless as 4chan, but it was specifically created to escape rules. Recently — twelve years after the community’s inception — a high-profile user was banned for calling the cops on another user. (I know this because I’m friends with a longtime LUEser.)

As Doctor Demchak said, rules will always develop. Even if they’re not spelled out at first, community norms usually transition from implicit assumptions to specific codes of behavior, often written down. Controlling groups emerge — cliques, elected officials, or charismatic dictators. It’s impossible to escape power structures; the best anyone can manage is to pretend that they don’t exist (which is a bad idea). Human nature makes these dynamics unavoidable. Jo Freeman wrote a very insightful article on this topic called “The Tyranny of Structurelessness”. Bitcoin developers and community organizers should all read it.

Cyberpunk fascinates me as a genre because it explores the way technology manifests and accelerates human power differentials. The gadgetry is cool, but the political ramifications are deeply engrossing. (For the record, I am not a libertarian or an anarchist, although both philosophies appeal to me. Fundamentally I am a cynic/pragmatist rather than an idealist. Utopia is unachievable.)

Image for post
Image for post
Image by fusion-of-horizons.

The Palace of the Parliament in Bucharest, Romania. Flickr user fusion-of-horizons wrote an interesting caption:

“I feel like rioting when I remember how the statist world I was born in tried to destroy any place of personal freedom including organized religion and private property. Constructing the palace in this image and the huge remodeled area around it called The Civic Center required demolishing much of Bucharest’s historic district, including 19 Orthodox Christian churches (plus 8 relocated churches and monasteries), 6 Jewish synagogues, 3 Protestant churches, and 30,000 residences. Even the army was mobilized to build this and many soldiers and workers died during construction because safety was regularly sacrificed to increase building speed.”

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