Figure 1: Social Networks and Decentralization

KAWSANKICHU. Although I cannot see you with my eyes, I want to thank you for your presence.



Figure 2: Hello, I'm hellekin, wearing my hat of GNU consensus maintainer.

Hello, I'm hellekin.

I want to thank you for your attention, and the ASLE for inviting me to speak today in the annual Minga of the Free Software Association of Ecuador. It's an honor for me to be given the opportunity to address members of the society of Ecuador in the heart of their National Assembly, and I deplore not being able to be present in Quito to reply to your questions and share conversation beyond these thirty minutes.



Figure 3: Would you please shutdown your machines?

I have an important and complicated message to give. I'm thus kindly asking that you please do not use your machines during this presentation.

I won't take questions now, but yes I will be present in the #consensus-quito IRC channel in Freenode, and other places as well during the pause, the rest of the day, and the following days.

I'm going to leave a moment for you to put your machines aside.



Figure 4: In memoriam José Isidro Tendetza Antún


This man was yet another silenced victim of the savage progress of an ideology that spreads across cultures, on the whole planet. He was murdered by the same forces that I will try to characterize in this presentation, with a focus on free software and social networking. Keep it in mind.



Figure 5:
1. What is the GNU consensus?
2. Technology and social project
3. How to reach the consensus?

When I'm about to give a technological course, about free software or technology, I see an attentive audience, staring at me, with their fingers on the keyboard ready to take notes ; and the first thing I do as I introduce the objective of the course, is to impose them to shutdown their computers.

Usually I'm faced with incredulity and opposition. But when listening with full attention, one can understand better the complexity of the subject, as well as the nature and the objective of free technology, and especially social technology.

1. GNU consensus


Figure 6: What is the GNU consensus?

The GNU consensus project gestated between 2010 and 2011, in the social movements. It was born out of conversations around the importance to accompany the creation of alternatives to corporate services to social networks, and the will to push for the development of free and encrypted solutions for private communication and decentralized collective organization.

It's defined as an umbrella project to coordinate the development of free software for social networking. It's manifested through a singular look at technology, and three tasks.

1.1. A look at Technology


Figure 7: A perspective on technology

We'll come back later on this point.

1.2. Three Tasks


Figure 8: Three tasks: observe, orient, coordinate

1.2.1. Observe


The field of free software for social networking is too vast for any single person to study. Projects come and go, of variable quality, and with very different objectives. It often happens that programmers who are working on very similar projects don't know each other. Or that someone comes with an innovative and wonderful project… That already exists. So technological watch is an integral part of the GNU consensus project.

1.2.2. Orient


With such knowledge it becomes possible to delineate trends, recognize patterns, and use these to orient people to find what they want. A software developer who's looking to contribute to a project, a designer who's willing to help, a user who cannot find a way to that needed functionality, or a collective researching how to organize without depending on surveillance systems.

1.2.3. Coordinate


Figure 11: To coordinate in harmonious relations and actions

Normally when talking about coordination, we think about a conductor, or another form of top-down coordination. We're doing it the other way, from the bottom to the top. We'll see that a bit later, in the third part.

2. Technology and Social Project


Figure 12: Technology and Social Project

When we talk about technology, we generally consider those technological products invented by corporations to change the behavior of their consumers. The functionality of a cellphone allows to shrink space and compress time between people. Many technologies display that functionality of reducing space and time, that is to amplify and intensify human activity.


Figure 13: Is technology neutral? A product? A tool?

What is Technology?

The dominant discourse presents technology as vested with the sanctity of knowledge and science, heir to its alleged neutrality. Technology would be the adequate present from qualified experts to the public through the gift of the corporations' products, generous middlemen between the creative genius and an avid consumer. It would be a tool to emancipate mankind from their mediocre position of struggle and survival in nature. The myth of technology goes back to the Antique Greeks with Prometheus bringing fire to mankind and steering us out of ignorance. The Luciferian image–of the bringer of light, crosses the ages until now, through colonization, including the centralized forms of power, or nationalist education.

2.1. Technology Is Not Neutral


Technology is never neutral. "Technology is a social idea realized" said the philosopher Edgar Morin. A surveillance camera says it all. A fragmentation bomb says it all. A 1.5 tons car for a single person most of the time, with a noisy explosion engine, poorly effective and barely efficient, says it all. A credit card, made of plastic and certified future, says it all.

2.2. Technology Is Not a Product

When we open the box of an electronic device, say, of a cellphone, we contemplate the result of thousands and thousands of hours of work, accumulated by thousands and thousands of people in thousands of places. This product comes from dozens of universities, laboratories, and also from sea and air transports, factories, mines, cities, slums, from war zones, from the exploitation of slave work in Africa and Asia, etc. To create this product, many people thought about it, spent (part of) their lives on it, or maybe killed themselves working for it; waste piled up; waters were contaminated, etc. When we don't use it anymore, where does it go?


No, definitely, technology is much more than a product, a process.

2.3. Technology Is Not a Tool


Although a hammer is a tool: an extension of the body's capacity; or a telephone is an instrument: an extension of the capacity of perception, long ago technology went far beyond the status of an extension of human capabilities. Although this pot the child is bringing to the river to drink from is a tool, the environmental pollution that shows in the this picture demonstrates that technology is not only a tool, but it changes the nature of nature. Moreover, technology changes the nature of mankind itself.

Who got stuck without cellphone battery, or without an access to the Internet for a while knows it well.

2.4. Technology Is a Transformative Process


Figure 17: Technology realizes a social project that replaces nature.

Technology meets a project of society, and influences that society and its projection, in a circle that can be virtuous, or vicious. Technology is never neutral. A society working in panic mode, insecure, lacking an including vision, is being defensive, and produces the fruit of its terror: it becomes reactionary and produces a project that distances itself from its human heart, and develops the justification for its drift towards violence; a society in a hurry, divided, reveals its internal contradictions through its politics, and through its technology.

2.5. Technology Cannot Fix Everything


Figure 18: Free knowledge for the common good: technology cannot bring solutions to dissociation, the lack of ethics or sensibility, nor sociopathy.

There's a very strange point in the technological myth: it seems that technology could solve anything. If there's a problem, there's a (technological) solution! I don't know if they reached here, but The Shadoks use a lot of funny aphorisms, and one of them says:

If there's a problem, there's a solution.  If there's no solution,
then there's no problem.

And frankly, it seems that using four times more resources than what the Earth can deliver does not seem so problematic to techno-scientists, captains of industry, or politicians.

There's a fundamental issue that technology cannot–and in my opinion, should never be able to–solve, it's impunity; it's the social issues, of dissociation, a lack of empathy, a lack of consciousness of the living being, of the planetary being.

2.6. Ethics and Responsibility


Figure 19: Technology may not be a product, but it does have a cost, including human. Chevron's contamination of the Amazonian rain forest in the national park of Yasuní, Ecuador is 30 times larger than the Exxon-Valdez's.

When a representant of the State, during the opening discours of the University of Yachai, pronounced that Ecuador was to "get away from mediocrity", he was revealing an insecure position, divided from the national identity, from traditions, a loss of trust in a cosmology that only existed in this region of the planet, for being that singular place, with a unique environment of so much diversity, and this unique history shining from so many human values that have already disappeared from many other places.

Listening to that sentence was for me a shock, constrasting with my lecture of the Constitution of the Republic of Ecuador, 2008, subtitled with infinite love. How can it be, I wondered, that a country endowed with such a Constitution would feel such a strong rejection of its own genealogy?

2.3. Privacy, Freedom, Diversity


Figure 20: Reading the newspaper vs. reading news online.

Coming back to our (electric) sheeps. Technology transforms the human, and eletronic technology transforms absolutely our environment. There's a form of technology that supports mind control: propaganda or, "seductive coercion" as Heather Marsh calls it. The so-called corporate "social networks" are more precisely "surveillance services of social networks". They are propaganda laboratories, observatories, experimental venues, and places of contention of humanity, something approaching the "Human Park" of Peter Sloterdijk.

We can consider two aspects of privacy. First, the defensive vision, which is the most common. It concerns defending from global surveillance, from the thought police, to protect one's freedom by hiding, for fear of being attacked or killed. The other is less visible, but could become much more used, from a legal perspective: we have a right to privacy, and corporations are violating it. Both points are valid.

Neverthless beware, the latter form, although summoning the masses, calls for the reform of corporations: but they are already preparing the End of Rights, with the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) that simply grants power to corporations not only of a person's rights (which we already know), but over nations, allowing them to impose their power to the States.

3. Towards a Consensus


Figure 21: How to reach consensus?

I will now quickly proceed to describe the means to reach the objectives of GNU consensus.

3.1. Listen and Share


Figure 22: All the time: listen and share

The first point is sensible: I already said there's more to know than any single person can bear. Therefore we adopt a humble position, and listen to our best to the needs, the specialists, the experiences, the doubts, the enthusiasms, etc.

3.2. That is, Rough Consensus


Figure 23: When consensus works, prefer rough consensus (and working code)

We work a lot with small groups, individuals, and when we can, seek consensus. We're not looking forward to a global consensus, but to a diversity of co-existing systems. Better a local consensus that may bear fruit, than no consensus and no fruit.

3.3. Facilitate Stigmergy


Figure 24: Most of the time: facilitate stigmergy

Most of the time we use signals left by anonymous people, to amplify a movement, or to connect people to each other, or to other signals. Cohesion emerges at the peripheries, where common affinities overtake dividing differences.

3.4. Vanishing Points

3.4.1. LibrePlanet

We have a wiki to organize what emerges from IRC or the mailing-list. We still didn't use it much, but there are some plans. Contents developed in the wiki can end up in our Web site. An interesting task to do now would be to write a new actualized version of the Manifesto.

3.4.2. #P2PNames

The deeper work to date, that we've been supporting for more than a year already, and we're about to deliver a new version these days, is a consensual collaboration between GNUnet, Tor, I2P, and Namecoin to obtain the recognition of the domain names used by these peer-to-peer systems. We'll be using the #P2PNames hashtag to promote it.

3.4.3. The 3 T: Tor, Tox, and Twister


Figure 27: Tor, Tox, and Twister.

Finally I want to sketch three applications worth using, testing, and better: the indispensable Tor, Tox that I'm using now, and Twister.

I'm using a development version of Tox, the free software project to replace Skype. The client is used "muTox" and I recommend it vividly.

Twister is a system that cleverly and elegantly combines the best of Bitcoin, Bittorrent, and HTML5 to offer a Twitter clone that is completetly decentralized. A huge advantage of it is that private messages are actually private, encrypted, and not readable by third parties contrary to the case of corporate services.

There's no need to introduce Tor, the system to anonymize your connection and blocks surveillance of the local ISP, the destination site, and indiscreet intermediaries.



Figure 29: Technology amplifies and transforms social networks. We need technological sovereignty to fight ideological control, corruption, and impunity, but those are social issues before technical ones.

Social networks existed before the "new" technologies. Technology amplify them, and transform them radically. Only a free technology can allow transforming them towards freedom.

Decentralización has good and bad aspects: good to impede an oligarchic power source to seize control of the network, and bad when criminal entities can do whatever their like with total impunity.


Figure 30: Thank you! You can reach us on IRC #consensus, via the mailing-list, follow !consensus and !fediverse on GNU social, or follow the author on Twister: @eisos.

In memoriam José Isidro Tendetza Antún

Barely we know where we live In what world do we want to die?


Figure 31: In memoriam José Isidro Tendetza Antún

Author: hellekin

Created: 2015-01-10 Sat 17:35

Emacs 24.4.1 (Org mode 8.2.10)