Some Personal Observations Regarding the CopySouth Workshop:

Trivandrum, Kerala, December 2008. Trevor Batten,  Manila  January 2009

SECTION 2.  Political Economic Contexts:

1.0  An Unfortunate Global Socio-Economic Model?

The Paradox of Control:

No open, non-moribund system can operate without changing its environment in some way. In turn, "evolution" seems to be driven by the orgnism's (or organisation's) need to adapt to a changing environment. This means that all entities will iether be non-sustainable -and therefor liable to entropic decay -or will need to develop the ability to adapt to the (partially self created) changes in their environment. Attempts to fully control the environment are not likely to succede -because it would reduce the creative adaptability of the system to virtually zero -while still being unable to prevent evolutionary consequences of "cause and effect" operating within the system and its environment. In order to survive -any system therefore needs to be (to some extent) able to programme itself to develop and adopt a flexible creative response to the changes that unescapably produces within itself and its environment. Clearly, the slower the changes in the environment changes the more time the entity can take to adapt.

One way to avoid the changes is to keep moving (Nomadic existance) -but patterns of (land) settlement can make this increasingly difficult. The more closely interconnected the various components of the environment become, the more difficult it becomes to avoid the consequences of actions taken in that environment. When the speed of change speeds up -it becomes difficult for the whole system to adapt at the same pace. Differential development can be a powerful creative motor -but also a cause for social disorientation and conflict. In a commercial based system -the solution of problems caused by the system itself can also be a source of revenue by providing temporary solutions at a price. Permanent solutions are not only impossible (due to the process of evolutionary feedback) but would also limit economic activity -because there would be no pressing needs that  warrented payment for their satisfaction.

Privatisation and Control:

Privatisation appears superficially to create social and economic freedom through competitive choice. However, practical experience shows that without public control the focus on short-term gains undermines the long-term efficiencies of the system. The recent problems in the commercial financial system clearly demonstrate that long-term sustainability is impossible without some "balancing" mechanism (theoretically, the "free-market itself-although the evolution of giant global corporations undermines completely the possibility of markets operating as a self-correcting mechanism -due to the control such giants can excercize over both their customers and their suppliers).

Open and Closed Systems:

Open systems are weak in internal connectivity -and so the feedback created through "action and reaction" is reletively weak. If one tries turning up the heating in a room with open windows then the temperature will probably hardly rise, despite the large amounts of warmth (and energy) being pumped into the room. However, if one closes all the windows then even a small amount of heat (such as the body temperature of the occupants) will cause the temperature in the room to rise.

In an area with a low level of population, "slash ans burn"  farming techniques will probably allow land areas to recover when the temporary settlement is abandoned.However, in an area with high population densities -it is likely that the land will have insuficient time to recover before being resettled. The "low-density" populated area thus operates as an "open" system with little noticable effects as a result of the human intervention -while the high-density population area acts as a closed system where the effectsd of intervention create a noticable "feedback" which will require some form of remedial action if the system is to remain sustainable.

Neo-Colonial Abstraction and the Creative Industries:

In an economy based on a localised system of capitalised (mass) production of material goods -the finished goods must (due to production costs) logically always be more expensive than the materials from which they are made. So the producer of expensive finished products always has the financial advantage over the supplier of cheap raw materials. Exploiting ownership of the finished physical goods can be a profitable source of income -but ownership of the the factory can be even better -while ownership of the capital that finances the production can be even more profitable (provided the company being bankrolled does not collapse).

However, in an economy based on the global outsourcing of the production process, the danger of unintended "technology transfer" is always present. The design of the product and its production process needs to be revealed to the producer -but this also opens up the possibility of the finished product being sold by the manufacturer -to the detriment of those who initiated the process. Without the protected "ownership" of the design -it is difficult to claim "ownership"  of the finished product when produced by a third party who is outside the system of direct ownership. Under such a system, the economic value of the ownership of the product becomes subsidary to the economic value of the "ownership" of the design (as well as the investing capital). Outsourcing therefore forces a dematerialisation of ownership -away from the product and towards the capital and knowlege required to produce and market the product. It as if the "design" and not the physical production process has the ability to "reproduce" the finished product. The introduction of the computer into the production process only reinforces the process-because control of the production is then "outsourced" to a machine (which can be located anywhere when connected to a telphone line). This "digital" outsourcing is cearly more powerful when not only the design but also the finished product can be transmitted electronically. At this point -it should be clear that of the design has a higher economic value than the product itself -then the owner of the physical production process becomes analogue to the owner or producer of raw materials (under a system of localosed production). In other words, when the maximum value of the product is embedded in the design and not the finished object -then the manufacturer becomes simply the producer of raw materials for the marketing process. Under these conditions -all the owner of the manufacturing process remains just as subservient to the owners of the capital and the design as the owner of the raw materials and components was to the owner of the finished goods within the traditional industrialised production process.


2.0  Exploitation of the Meta-system:


The shift away from manufacturing and towards outsourcing implies a logical shift from a practical productive mode of operation to a more theoretical and supervisory one. This jump to a higher (meta) level of abstraction is part of a common pattern that is absolutely fundamental to western thought and practice.

Traditionally, universities were concerned with "educating" a small elite to deal with general abstractions so that they could operate creatively in innovatory situations which were "outside" normal conditions. Situations where the "operating conditions" were still unknown. It was their job to formulate the procedures required-and not simply to operate them.

This capability for abstraction has many practical advantages -but also its disadvantages. It offers a path to understanding -but can be abused:

An understanding of the "higher levels of abstraction" (meta-systems) aids the manipulation of all sorts of control and signal systems:
Use of false signals to "signify" things that are not true
-Financial fraud
-Artificifial (simulated) flavours
-The marketing of "disinformation" as "knowledge"
-"Democracy" as a control mechanism

  • The Higher the "abstraction" the more removed it becomes from its original context
  • When people forget the origin of the abstraction, they lierally no longer know what they are talking about
  • The discussion is then based on "transcental nonsense" with the arguments becoming increasingly self-referential and increasingly less relevant to any practical problem
  • The resulting discussion keeps people busy, provides professionals with an income, but solves no practical problems

Common Applications of Meta-Language:

Information and Disinformation:

Light pollution forms 'eco-traps'
By Mark Kinver , Science and environment reporter, BBC News

Some species confuse large glass buildings with bodies of wat
An international team of researchers has found another form of light pollution that could have an adverse effect on wildlife.

The scientists showed that as well as direct light sources, polarised light also triggered potentially dangerous changes in many species' behaviour.

They added that road surfaces and glass buildings were among the main sources of this form of light pollution.

The findings appear in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.

Co-author Bruce Robertson, an ecologist from Michigan State University, US, said polarised light from structures within the built environment overwhelmed natural cues that controlled animal behaviour.

"Environmental cues, such as the intensity of light, that animals use to make decisions occur at different levels of severity in the natural world," he said.

"When cues become unnaturally intense, animals can respond unnaturally strongly to them."

As a result, the false cues could create an "ecological trap" for species attracted by the light.

Double vision

Insects, such as stoneflies, lay their eggs on asphalt instead of water

Dr Robertson said that water was the primary source of horizontal polarised light in the natural world, and that many animals - including birds, insects and reptiles - had highly developed polarisation vision.

This particular form of light played a key role in the animals' lifecycle, such as finding breeding and feeding sites, he added.

A well documented example is the way that baby sea turtles rely on the direction of starlight and moonlight reflected off the water's surface in order to help them find the ocean when they emerged from their nests.

Yet, there are examples of turtles in urbanised areas heading towards the brighter buildings and street lamps.

Dr Robertson said that expanding urban areas meant that there were more structures and surfaces to confuse wildlife.

"Any kind of shiny, black object - oil, solar cells, asphalt - causes problems," he explained. "The closer they are to wetlands, the bigger the problem."

"Light from the sun is vibrating in all possible directions, but after bouncing off smooth flat surfaces, like water, it only vibrates in the horizontal direction; it has become polarised.

"This is why polarised sunglasses make it easier for us to see on a bright day - they remove only the horizontally polarised light that reflects off water and roads," he told BBC News.

If Animals get confused by "disinformation" can we expect humans to be immune from it?

Understanding the Meta-System:

Within the context of a "dematerialised" economy, based on the exploitation of "higher" levels of abstractions the computer is an ideal medium. One which through the division between "software" and "hardware" apparently fits in with a long standing belief in  the mind/body duality (and the supremacy of the latter).

The cultural tradition that separates "science and technology" from "art and design" is another useful marketing tool -because it allows the computer to be marketed as a "technological system" that can be used by non-tednical people without the need to understand the inner workings of the machine.

However, it seems that in practice, technology is itself a form of "language" -and that by encouraging only a few people (required to develop and maintain the system) to understand that language -the rest are open to commercial and ideological exloitation -due to their lack of understanding of the fundamental principles (and languages) which underlie the machine they are so dependant on. This process is self-reinforcing, because the deception can never be understood from within the conceptual confines of the conceptual context provided -which is largely based on such binary divisions as "form" and "content", "technology" and "language" and "science" and "art".


3.0  The Shift from "Process" to "Information":

A Clever Trick?

It seems to me that it is the artificial separation of "information" from "process" (by "information Society propagandists and theorists) that creates and perpetuates the conceptual climate in which it is difficult to sort out the mystifications which have undermined our traditional defences against political and economic exploitation.

"On ARPA's 50th Anniversary and the Internet"  is a critique of the article "ARPA's 50th Anniversary and the Internet, A Model for Basic Research"> In this article I wrote:

"Indeed, it has been the shift (lauded in the ARPA article) from the image of the computer as a complex (algorithmic -rule based) simulation system to a simple communication device that has enabled the computer to be commercially and politically exploited as a (postmodern) propaganda machine. The self-reinforcing nature of this paradigm shift has allowed the change to take place without most people understanding the power of the system to actually question the "information" being distributed by that system.... The knowledge that these research projects developed has not been shared with the people (generally) -but to the contrary, the people (via the academic system) have been told (outside a few specialists) that such knowledge is not interesting -while the products of that knowledge has been used to enslave people further. This has been done by creating and commercially exploiting "intelligent" systems which people generally cannot compete against, but they are encouraged to use -even though they have no understanding of how they work. In other words The product of this US government funded research has been commercially exploited by US companies to make it almost impossible for non-specialists (worldwide) not to become clients of the companies involved (this is called "customer binding" in the trade). I call it 'Digital Feudalism'."

Process and Information:

In my experience, the conceptual shift from "Process" to "Information" is rather subtle and not easilly understood  without a more detailed understanding of the nature of "systems"and "information":

Basically, a "system" is a set of dynamically changing relationships which form the specific context within which any event takes place. Clearly, systems can from complex hierarchies -for example "baseball" is a "system" of rule based actions which take place within a promotional "system" that operates within the socia-economic "system" known as America. "Information" informs us of the current behaviour of some aspect of a selected "system" which provides the context. The "information" is useless (and/or misleading) unless one undertands the context. Knowing a baseball score might inform one that one's favourite team has won the league competition -but it might also suggest fraud (if the result is unlikely) -or provide information regarding the likely mood of one's partner.

Treating "information" as a value free "objective" fact -destroys awareness of its contextual nature -and encourages unconcious acceptance of its implied context. By making the technological. economic and social context implicit (and invisible) it remains outside concious discussion. The concept of "process", on the other hand, makes the nexus of contexts explicit and therefore open to interrogation.

It is an understanding of the "connectivity" of "process" (as manifest in dynamic systems but not in static, self-contained, objects) that allow us to understand that every action leaves a "footprint" which can be forensically traced. In order to interpet the evidence correctly, we need to understand the nexus of (physical and conceptual) languages through which the evidence manifests itself in our sensory and conceptual system. The search for this coroborating evidence protects us from the confusion of "anything goes" which has been promoted by "postmodern" propagandists.



4.0  The self-sustaining Industrial-Military-Edutainment Complex:

Based on creative, symbiotic (and partially self-generating) interactions between military and civilian (commercial) research and marketing systems -(conciously or unconciously) promoted by the educational and entertainment business, which provides both knowledge based resources, the required social conditioning to encourage consumers to maintain the system and the funds to financially sustain the total nexus.

Basically, the system knows three modes of operation:

1. WAR:
The destructive use of superior armaments and/or propaganda in destructive war against all those who oppose the hegemony of the system.

A post-war reconstruction -which is supposed to provides captive consumers for the victorious nation, grateful citizens in the defeated nation -and a warning to those who still wish to oppose the system.

A stabilised "maintenance" mode -in which commercial. political and military hegemony is used to maximise profits to sustain the system and fund research in support of the above two modes.

For optimal results, all three components (Commercial Production System,  Military System, and Communication System) have to interact in a synergetic way so that each component supports the operation of the others:

Is "Logically self-sustaining" also "Materially self-sustaining"?

In order to remain self-sustaining, the system is self-promotional and supported by vested interests (stakeholders) operating within a "democratic" system which allows individual choice within the parameters set by "doctrine"

(Doctrine is defined by the US military as a conceptual system that allows personal freedom of choice within the limits defined by the command structure -without the need to consult a commanding officer)

Do those with the most power to make changes within the system also suffer the consequences of those changes as much as those with less power to make such changes?

The self-referential and tautological nature of the nexus makes the entire system very difficult to oppose iether in practical or ideological terms. The system has a raft of people working to produce and promote ideas that make it seem very attractive to friend and foe. It can use its wealth to co-opt potential dissidents and, if required, can use physical force to great effect if all else fails.

Certainly, the propaganda system seems to have effectively created the conceptual environment within which the Industrial-Military-Edutainment Complex appears completely sustainable. However, although based on a commercial exploitation of "dematerialisation" -the system itself, the rewards it provides, the environment in which it operates and the humans who are part of the network (in any way) have not (yet) been dematerialised.

Presumably, any system that operates in a physical environment must be compatible with that environment. In theory, the Industrial-Military-Edutainment Complex seems invulvarnerable (until recently at least). In practice, it may prove that the unknown factor of "physical reality" cannot be ignored -and the system may prove to be unsustainable in the physical universe.

It is one thing to win the War -but can one also win the Peace?