From: Richard Barbrook
Sent: Tuesday, July 25, 2000
After a translation of part of my cybercommunism article recently appeared in 'CompuTerra', a reader sent the web address of your site to me. Having now read your novel, I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed your text. I was particularly pleased to see that you preempted my arguments about the communist logic of the Net...
My only complaint would be your claim that Andropov - the butcher of the Budapest proletariat - was really dedicated to liberating the working class!
Dr. Richard Barbrook
Hypermedia Research Centre
School of Communications and Creative Industries
University of Westminster
HARROW HA1 3TP
Hiya, Dr. Barbrook.
>Andropov - the butcher of the Budapest proletariat
"The butcher of the Budapest proletariat", huh? So that's how the man is remembered in the West? Interesting. But when I was writing "The Nanotech Network" it never even occurred to me that the man had been the Soviet ambassador to Hungary at the time of the 1956 uprising. As it so often happens, a same historical figure may stand for very different things for people at home and abroad. I don't know whether he was personally responsible for the bloodshed in Hungary. Some historians say that he was actually trying to prevent it. I'm not going to take sides in this academic dispute, but assuming that these historians are right, it seems that the bloodshed was inevitable, and, therefore, any person who would have happened to fill the post of the Soviet ambassador to Hungary at that time would have been remembered now as "the butcher of the Budapest proletariat".
Anyway, the reasons why I chose Andropov to be the General Secretary to whom Levshov comes with his ideas, have nothing to do with the events in Hungary. First of all, it's the result of a simple elimination of the alternatives. Levshov couldn't have come with his ideas to Brezhnev - any suggestion that there was anything wrong with the orthodox Marxism, and Levshov would have ended up in a psychiatric asylum. The GenSec who succeeded Andropov was Chernenko. That guy was so senile, he didn't even seem to be aware that he had been elected the General Secretary, there is no way he could have grasped any of the Levshov's ideas. Once again, the probability of Levshov ending up in a madhouse would have been very high. That leaves us with only two possible choices: Andropov and Gorbachev. Gorbachev, as it eventually turned out, is not a communist at all, he is a social democrat (the party he heads now is actually called Social Democratic.) That leaves us with Andropov. Could he have jumped at Levshov's ideas, had such ideas been presented to him? I think he could. He was deeply committed to the communist ideology, but at the same time he understood that some of the official communist dogmas of the time were obsolete. It is a historical fact that he tried to start a reform of the official ideology by publicly proclaiming that we've got to go back to our ideological roots, back to Marx. At the time, it was a very bold move because it tacitly implied getting rid of some of Lenin's and Stalin's ideological legacy.
Andropov's call for an ideological reform didn't go unheeded. Levshov is not entirely a figment of my imagination, at least as far as his ideas about communism are concerned. He had a real-life prototype. Born in 1949, he was an engineer in defense industry, a graduate of the prestigious Moscow Physical and Technical Institute (PhysTech). Maybe "prestigious" is not quite the right word, what I mean is you really had to have brains and work very hard to graduate from PhysTech. After the Andropov's call in 1983, seeing that the official communist ideologists could not come up with anything new, he started writing up his ideas and sending memos to Kremlin. I don't know whether he actually met with Andropov, but he did meet with some very high officials in Andropov's administration and his ideas were well received. When he died in 1986, his friends collected his notes and published them in 1989 in Moscow in the form of a book under the penname of S.Platonov, without disclosing his real name because he was a hush-hush scientist and even as late as 1989 any state secret was still taken very seriously. The book's title is "Posle Kommunizma" ("After Communism"). I don't know whether you can read Russian, but I can't recommend that you read this book anyway, because it is written in an almost incomprehensible Marxist gobbledygook. No doubt, the author had to couch his strikingly new ideas in outdated Marxist jargon in order to avoid the wrath of ideological hardliners, for whom the form was so much more important than the content, but this makes the book almost unreadable. I myself have not been able to read it through, but looking through it, I came across some absolutely amazing nuggets. How, for example, do you like this one, on page 178:
"It is at the highest phase of communism that a transformation occurs of the production and technological complex into a self-reproducing artificial Nature, the fruits of which are thenceforth used on an individual basis without mediation of society.".
These words were written back in 1985, one year before the publication of Eric Drexler's "Engines of Creation", and a decade before Internet became a household name, but if you re-read this sentence very carefully you'll see that what he describes here is actually a kind of Nanotech Network. If you don't agree with such interpretation, here is another, more explicit quote from page 174:
". the communistic integrated automatic production, which completely supplants human labor, is not a productive force from the standpoint of political economy. It is a force of Nature, of an artificial Nature, which will be created by man during the communistic era, which will completely satisfy all of his needs, and for using the fruits of which he will no longer need any mediators, be that productive forces or production relations. During the two eras, the mankind will re-create the Nature, making Her into a truly humanistic one, that is, one which can be a basis for activities to realize the Humanistic ideals."
In that book he also said that communism is a return, on a higher plane of evolution, to the society of primitive prehistoric gatherers, and that ultimately, in the future, the basic difference between capitalism and communism would not be a difference in the economic systems, but rather in the fact that capitalism is an elitist society, as opposed to egalitarian communism. Much as I would like to take the credit for all of the ideas in "The Nanotech Network", I have to admit that I borrowed a lot of ideas from the book of this author, whose real name we'll probably never know, and who was inspired by Andropov's call for an ideological reform.
So, the first reason why I introduce Andropov as a character in my novel (without making any "claims" about his "dedication to liberating the working class") is because it's historically correct (as far as a science fiction novel can be historically correct).
The second reason is that in the minds of the majority of the population of the former Soviet Union (with the exception of professional dissidents) Andropov is something more than a real man of flesh and blood, as the other GenSecs were. He is a mythic figure, a folk hero, the great and tantalizing "What-If" of the Soviet history. What would have happened had he lived not one year in the post of the General Secretary, but, let's say, ten years? During that one year that he was in office the rate of Soviet industrial growth increased for the first time in decades, but it started to go down once again as soon as Andropov died. Would the growth have continued, had he lived? Before becoming the General Secretary, Andropov was the Chief of the KGB, the intelligence-gathering organization, which gathered information about what was going on not only in the West but inside the Soviet Union as well. That meant that he was well informed about the actual situation in the country in contrast to Brezhnev, who was kept in blissful ignorance by his retinue. He knew that the power of mafia was growing, and he made several arrests of corrupt officials at the very top. Would mafia have been able to take over and destroy the country in December 1991 as it actually did, had he lived ten years more? Would he have succeeded in breaking the backbone of the mob? Having been a KGB chief also meant being wise to the ruses the West employed in the Cold War in order to bring the Soviet Union, "the evil empire", to the "ash-heap of history". Would he have succumbed, as Gorbachev did, to the western advances? Would he have allowed the break-up of the Soviet Union?
We'll never know the answers to these questions, and this greatly adds to the mystique of that historical figure. Adding this mythological character to the story lends it a dreamy, mythic dimension, which, I'm afraid, is completely lost on readers from abroad.
So, the second reason is an artistic effect, which only works on people who can distinguish between real-life Andropov and mythic Andropov, and realize that Andropov in my novel is the mythic Andropov of the lore, rather than the real man.
The third reason is to try to make the prejudiced people start thinking. The thinking process of a prejudiced man is very simple: "KGB is bad, Andropov was the Chief of KGB, therefore Andropov was bad". What I'm trying to say to these people is that in real life, as opposed to Hollywood movies, there are no good guys or bad guys, there are only good ideas and bad ideas. Analyze ideas, not characters, disregard the labels of "good" and "bad" that were drilled into your brains by propaganda, start judging ideas on their own merit - that's what I'm trying to say to my readers. In a way, Andropov in the story is a test of the reader's ability to think logically, rather than emotionally. I was perfectly aware that the name of Andropov has the same effect on some people as a red rag on a bull. I must admit that I thoroughly enjoyed tweaking their noses (figuratively speaking) and I don't repent, because I think they deserve to suffer the rage they feel for not willing to think logically.
Excuse me for going into such details on the subject of Andropov, but I just got tired of hearing complaints similar to yours, and I thought it's high time to explain myself. So much for Andropov. Now, let's get down to business.
>you preempted my arguments about the communist logic of the Net...
I didn't mean to. In fact, I'm surprised that you could read something like this into my story. There is nothing communistic about the Internet per se. Internet has potential for both communistic and capitalistic development. In fact, as long as people need to eat food, and the food costs money, the capitalistic potential of the net is much greater than communistic one. Only enthusiasts can hold two jobs - one in real life, where they have to earn their bread, and the other on the Net where they work for free as if the communism has already arrived. The developers of the Linux operating system have successfully demonstrated that production organized on communistic principles - work for free, give away you products for free, no bosses, only coordinators, self-organization, etc. - can generate products that are at least as good as those produced by capitalistic enterprises (notably Microsoft Windows). But we should not be too carried away and forget that these people still have to earn money somewhere, that is, they still have to be a part of the capitalist system and generate some income, otherwise they starve, and they won't be able to pay phone bills to connect to the Internet. It is only after we add to the Net the universal self-replicating nano-assemblers, that the programmers will be able to start writing for themselves and for other people programs that assemble bread and communications lines, making people independent of bakeries and phone companies. But even that may not be sufficient for completely liberating people from the capitalistic system, because the nano-assemblers will need power to assemble things, and power may still cost money. In "The NanoTech Network" I, rather optimistically, assumed that cold fusion is feasible. But if it is not, we'll have to develop a nanotechnology-based infrastructure for power generation, accumulation and transportation. And to be able to distribute that power for free, we'll need to have a very abundant source of power, which probably means that the power-generating part of this nanotechnological infrastructure will have to be grown (grown like a plant, out of asteroid or lunar material) outside Earth, out in space, collecting all that free solar energy, packing it into nano-organisms that will be continuously re-entering the Earth atmosphere and bringing the power to end users. If you can read Russian, I can give you the URL of a short article that I posted on the Russian part of my web-site a couple of years ago, describing a possible space infrastructure for the nanotech network.
So it's a long way from the Net, as it is now, to communism. On the other hand, bringing capitalism to the Net is relatively easy (compared to the mammoth task of building the nanotech network with a space infrastructure). The only thing that is needed to make it capitalistic is to turn it into a virtual police state where every file transfer is supervised by the Big Brother, always watching to make sure that no intellectual property rights or licenses have been violated in the file transfer and that virtual money have been properly transferred to a virtual bank. Capitalism is actually easier to achieve on the Net than communism, but we'll have to pay for this ease with the loss of our privacy and freedom. The big question is whether we are willing to lose them.
From: Richard Barbrook
Sent: Tuesday, August 22, 2000
Sorry for the long delay in replying to your wonderful email. [...]
>it seems that the
>bloodshed was inevitable
This was always the excuse of British imperialists when faced with resistance from the occupied!
>Anyway, the reasons why I chose Andropov to be the General Secretary to whom
>Levshov comes with his ideas, have nothing to do with the events in Hungary.
Thanks for this explanation of your choice. I'm amused by this observation:
>Gorbachev, as it eventually
>turned out, is not a communist at all, he is a social democrat (the party he
>heads now is actually called Social Democratic.)
Until after the October 1917 revolution, there was *no* difference between being a communist, a social democrat or a socialist! What interests me is how the Bolsheviks used the rhetoric of the socialist revolution to justify their failure to realise the most basic achievements of the bourgeois revolution: the rule of law, free speech, regular elections, etc., etc.. As Marx pointed out in his polemics against Bakunin, these are the preconditions for workers' self-organisation...
>Levshov is not
>entirely a figment of my imagination, at least as far as his ideas about
>communism are concerned. He had a real-life prototype.
You should add this background material to your site. It's wonderful stuff.
>The book's title is "Posle Kommunizma" ("After Communism"). I
>don't know whether you can read Russian, but I can't recommend that you read
>this book anyway, because it is written in an almost incomprehensible
Although well-trained in Marxist gobbledygook, I unfortunately can't read Russian.
> "...the mankind will re-create the Nature, making Her into a truly humanistic one, that is,
>one which can be a basis for activities to realize the Humanistic ideals."
Fantastic! Your mystery scientist must have read 'The Grundrisse' at some point. Henri Lefebvre says that the purpose of modernity is to build "anti-Nature": a space which is wholly human.
>Andropov is something more than a real man of flesh and blood, as the other
>GenSecs were. He is a mythic figure, a folk hero, the great and tantalizing
>"What-If" of the Soviet history. What would have happened had he lived not
>one year in the post of the General Secretary, but, let's say, ten years?
Could the system have been reformed without the delayed bourgeois revolution? I have a Chinese comrade who knows ex-colleagues from Beijing University who survived the Tiannamen square massacre and yet are now convinced Deng Xiao-Ping was correct to smash their protests because of the disaster which overtook the Soviet Union. He strongly disagrees with them, but understands their position...
> Andropov in my novel is the mythic Andropov of the lore, rather than
>the real man.
Aren't you simply reviving the old myth of the "good emperor" as opposed to the "bad emperor"? Personally I think that we should be against *all* emperors. Off with their heads!
>I was perfectly aware that the name of Andropov has the same
>effect on some people as a red rag on a bull.
That's why I like annoying Americans by praising them for building the only working model of communism in human history: the Net!
I'm incorporating your nano-communist vision in a longer remix for publication as a booklet (a sort of homage to those old Progress Publishers pamphlets which we read as students in England).
>The only thing that is needed to make it capitalistic is to turn it into a
>virtual police state where every file transfer is supervised by the Big
>Brother, always watching to make sure that no intellectual property rights
>or licenses have been violated in the file transfer and that virtual money
>have been properly transferred to a virtual bank.
Some of my techie comrades think that this digital Panoptican is already obsolete. I've reproduced some of their arguments in 'The Regulation of Liberty' article[...]
Vive la [cyber]revolution!
>>it seems that the
>>bloodshed was inevitable
>This was always the excuse of British imperialists when faced with
>resistance from the occupied!
As I said in my first letter, I'm not a historian and I don't want to take sides in the dispute about whether the bloodshed could be avoided.
But I don't think that historical parallels with imperialist wars are valid in a situation of the Cold War. In an imperialist war we have an imperialist power confronting oppressed local population, while in the Cold War situation we have two superpowers confronting each other and randomly choosing third countries as their battlefields (Korea, Hungary, Vietnam, Nicaragua, Afganistan, etc.), with local populations serving as proxies for the superpowers who are unwilling to engage in a direct military conflict with each other. When one looks at it this way, the question of whether the bloodshed in Hungary in 1956 could have been avoided, effectively boils down to the question of whether the superpowers could have selected a different battlefield in 1956. And I don't think that such selections were made at the ambassadorial level. This decision belongs to a much higher level (for all we know, it may even be beyond the level of mere mortals :)
>Until after the October 1917 revolution, there was *no* difference between
>being a communist, a social democrat or a socialist!
But there is a huge difference now! Communism in Russia evolved along a very different evolutionary path as compared to socialism in the West. When I say that Gorbachev is not a communist, I use the word "communism" in the sense in which S.Platonov (the author of "After Communism") used it - as a word describing a society based on a much higher level of technological development as compared to capitalism. Western socialists seem to believe that one can make people's lives more comfortable by redistributing the wealth that is already being produced using the existing technologies. Therefore, the socialists emphasize social change. But the Soviet communism, as it came to be understood by the 1980s, emphasized technological change (It was the soviet communists who coined the expression "science as a productive force" - see the official documents of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union of that period). Figuratively speaking, in contrast to the rich West, in the poor country of Russia the socialism was not (and could not be) about sharing the pie, it was about baking it.
Although this difference (communism as remodeling Nature vs. socialism as remodeling society) became absolutely obvious only by the end of the 20th century, its origins can be traced back to the late 19th century. What was later to become the Soviet Communism was born in tsarist Russia, an agrarian country lagging behind the West in its industrial development by a few centuries. 90% of the population of that country were illiterate, but there was an educated minority, who were very much aware of the lag, and what that educated minority wanted was a great technological leap forward. From the very start, the social change was not for them an end in itself, but rather they viewed social revolution as a means of achieving this technological leap forward. Do you remember Lenin's equation: "Communism is Soviet power plus electrification of the entire county"? He was fascinated with the work of the late 19th century French science fiction writer and artist Albert Robida, especially with his "La vie electrique" (1883). Lenin started implementing his "electrical" dreams as soon as he came to power (the so-called GOELRO plan). Whatever the failings of the man, he did manage to put Russia on the path of scientific and technological development, and in less than half a century the Soviet Union did manage to catch up with the West in many areas of science and technology. (Some Western historians even went as far as to call the Soviet Union the first technocratic state in the history of mankind - and I tend to agree with them.). Of course, there have been many disproportions - technologies for consumer goods were lagging far behind military technologies, but this could only be expected in the Cold War environment. What we needed by the mid 1980s was continuing on the path of technological progress and correcting these disproportions.
Instead, Gorbachev let go of the technological dream of Soviet Communism and chose the socialist path of redistributing the social wealth. In Russia, where there is not much wealth to go around, this is a sure recipe for disaster - any redistribution of wealth here produces general panic (In 1991 in USSR it certainly felt like being on a sinking ship) and, as a result, the most unscrupulous inevitably grab it all and the rest of the population are left out in the cold.
>Fantastic! Your mystery scientist must have read 'The Grundrisse' at some point.
I don't know what he read, but I know that he explicitly formulated what had been implicitly assumed in Soviet communism from its very inception, namely, that communism means, first of all, technological transformation of Nature, and only then, as a consequence, a social transformation.
>What interests me is how the Bolsheviks used the rhetoric of the socialist revolution to justify
>their failure to realise the most basic achievements of the bourgeois revolution: the rule of law, >free speech, regular elections, etc., etc..
I don't think we should judge them by their failures. I don't believe that any political force - socialist, communist, or any other - could have succeeded in instituting overnight "the rule of law, free speech, regular elections, etc., etc." in a country with four centuries of despotic political tradition (starting at least from the rule of Ivan the Terrible) and a predominantly peasant population which is 90% illiterate. To expect them to succeed in these tasks would be unrealistic. They only did what was humanly possible to do, namely, they turned a nation of illiterate peasants into a nation of almost 100% literate town-dwellers. In so doing, they laid the foundations for gradual introduction of a more civilized society by the mid-1980s, the time when the majority of the population became aware of the advantages of the rule of law, free speech, regular elections, etc., etc.. History presented Gorbachev with an opportunity to create such a civilized society - and he blew it. Instead, what we have now in Russia is the rule of mafia, government-controlled media and regular but manipulated elections.
>You should add this background material to your site. It's wonderful stuff.
I'll publish excerpts from our correspondence on my web page. And in the future, I'm planning to write and to post there an article "Fact and Fiction of the Nanotech Network", which will give the readers not only ideological and historical backgrounds to the story, but scientific and technological backgrounds as well.
>Could the system have been reformed without the delayed bourgeois
The system could not be reformed, but it could evolve. Indeed, the whole history of the Soviet Union is the history of continuous evolution. The Soviet Union under Stalin was very different from the one under Khruschov, Brezhnev's USSR was different from Kruschov's, and Gorbachev's from Brezhnev's. With each new generation the country became more and more industrialized and the standards of living were slowly rising. Population became more and more educated. The country was slowly evolving towards a civilized state, but one very different from the western model. It was on a different evolutionary path, and eventually it might have produced a civilization very different from the western civilization, but no less vibrant and technologically powerful, and maybe even more humane. But it couldn't be reformed, any attempt at reform was doomed to end in extinction of its whole population, and that's exactly what is happening now - the population of Russia has been rapidly shrinking (by almost 1 million a year) ever since 1991. As a result of what has happened, planet Earth will be one civilization poorer.
>I have a Chinese comrade who knows ex-colleagues from Beijing
>University who survived the Tiannamen square massacre and yet are now
>convinced Deng Xiao-Ping was correct to smash their protests because of the
>disaster which overtook the Soviet Union. He strongly disagrees with them,
>but understands their position...
I don't know much about the Chinese, but it looks like they are building a civilization of their own. Obviously, they are not trying to mimic all of the aspects of the Western life, and that's probably why they are so successful. By crushing the pro-western forces they have managed to save their country from extinction. Your Chinese comrade may disagree on moral grounds, but I don't think that he can deny an obvious fact: the comparative history of Russia and China in the last decade has convincingly demonstrated who was right and who was wrong. The system cannot be reformed to fit the Western model, it can only evolve or else the whole of the country will go extinct.
>Aren't you simply reviving the old myth of the "good emperor" as opposed to
>the "bad emperor"?
I hope not. In my opinion, every emperor, "good" or "bad", is, first and foremost, a hostage to his own power, and that was the impression that I was trying to convey in the episode with Andropov. I was not trying to make him look particularly "good", I was just trying to portray an ailing old man entrapped by his own dangerously high political position (there are still rumors floating around that he did not die a natural death) and desperately looking for a way out. I was trying to show a man who, over the course of his life, had undergone an amazing transformation from a young, starry-eyed poet to the chief of the secret police who, among other things, was supposed to persecute young idealistic poets and artists (but who, as it turns out, was saving them by banishing them to the West). Good guys and bad guys exist only in Hollywood movies. Real-life people are more complex than that. And that particular man was certainly complex as hell. In that short episode I was just trying to hint at the complexity of the character, not at his "goodness".
>Personally I think that we should be against *all* emperors. Off with their heads!
I wish I could agree with you, but I know from the history of the French and Russian revolutions that once you behead an emperor, it's impossible to stop. Beheadings continue for decades, until the emperor's beheaders themselves are beheaded (along with millions of innocent bystanders).
>I'm incorporating your nano-communist vision
I strongly object to the term "nano-communism" (or for that mater "cyber-communism"). These terms imply that one can build communism based on one particular technology (like Internet) or a family of technologies (like nanotechnologies). In fact, no one single technology or family of technologies guarantees communism. In my previous letter I already started explaining why I don't consider the Net as inherently communistic. I want to emphasize my main argument: as long as food and shelter are not free-of-charge, people will continue living in a money economy and the gift economy will remain, at best, a supplement to money economy, a luxury indulged by those who earn money outside the gift economy, since people who can't pay their phone bills cannot participate in the Net. And only people who already have money can afford to give information away for free, because otherwise they would starve in our world where food costs money.
In contrast to information, food can never become absolutely free-of -charge (although its cost may significantly drop with the introduction of new technologies). As opposed to information, food is material. There is a fundamental difference between material things (like matter and energy) and immaterial things (information). Information can be reproduced in potentially infinite number of copies, and, therefore, constitutes an unlimited resource, which you can give away as much as you like. On the other hand, there is only so much matter and energy within a closed system (the Earth-Sun system can be considered a closed system because Earth receives most of its energy from the Sun, the contribution of other outside sources is negligible). Matter and energy in a closed system constitute a limited resource, and limited resources have to be managed and valued. If you have a certain limited amount of resources, you cannot give them away for free, or you'll run out of them pretty soon. You can only exchange them for something of equal value. For this purpose, you need to have a way of measuring their value. In other words, you need money. Money will exist as long as there remains at least one limited resource that can be of use to mankind.
That means that communism, as an economy based EXCLUSIVELY on the gift principle, can never be achieved. And I don't think that trying to make economy completely money-free and exclusively gift-based is a worthy goal. Such a goal is just as absurd as the goal of building an economy based exclusively on state ownership and central planning without any market (or, for that matter, as absurd as an economy based exclusively on market forces and private entrepreneurship without any planning). I think we should stop trying to define a perfect society in terms of a desirable economic model, and start thinking about how we can define such a society in terms of a desirable way of life.
I suggest that we define communism as such a way of life where people, instead of competing with each other for scarce resources, cooperate in trying to make these resources more abundant.
When thus formulated, communism becomes a difficult, but noble and worthy goal, even if it can never be achieved with absolute completeness. Although we can never make all the resources absolutely unlimited and infinitely available, this does not mean that we should not strive towards such a goal. We can approach it, to use a mathematical term, asymptotically, that is we can forever draw more and more closely to it every day without ever actually reaching it.
Thus formulated, communism becomes an ideal that can guide our actions, making the world we live in, little by little, better with every passing day. It should not be considered as a certain final objective, which, as soon as achieved, puts an end to the process of mankind's self-improvement and progress.
There are many obstacles to achieving a freer state of the world, where resources would be more easily available and people would be less restrained in their actions by the state. You seem to assume that there may only be one reason for Earth turning into a huge police state (what you call "Panoptican"), namely, the outdated tradition of protecting intellectual property rights, which artificially makes information a limited resource. But there are other reasons: 1) finiteness of material and energy resources of the isolated planet Earth, which necessitates rationing; 2) environmental problems, which necessitate mandatory downgrading of living standards; and 3) overpopulation, which necessitate strict population control. The "Panoptican" will inevitably arise, if only to enforce rationing, preservation of environment and population control, even if we manage somehow to get rid of intellectual property rights. Limited resources, environmental problems, overpopulation and copyright issues might have a synergetic effect of turning Earth into a global police state. The ONLY WAY to avoid scarcity of materials, environmental disasters and overpopulation WITHOUT SACRIFICING FREEDOM is to end Earth's isolation and start using material and energy resources of the outer space. What this means is that you cannot have "cyber-communism" and "nano-communism" without "space-communism". (See "The Significance of the Martian Frontier" by Robert Zubrin for a brilliant analysis of what will happen to the Earth's social institutions if we fail to expand into space. The article is a classic, and it is available, for example, at http://spot.colorado.edu/~marscase/cfm/articles/frontier.html , along with at least a dozen other sites)
That is why I prefer the term "techno-communism", which only implies that communism can be pursued through comprehensive technological development, without singling out any particular technology.
A short and probably incomplete list of "communism-enabling" technologies might look like this:
- Networking and Communications Technologies: to enable free access to information
- Transportation technologies: to enable easy access to limited resources - living space, raw materials, energy.
- Space Technologies: to make limited resources - living space, raw materials, energy - into almost unlimited resources, and alleviate environmental problems by moving industry into space (expanding "environmental' resources)
- Fusion Power Technology: to make energy an almost unlimited resource.
- Technology of Immortality: turning the most limited resource - lifetime available to a human being - into an unlimited resource (This is very important! Mortals compete with each other because they cannot wait for their turn to use a limited resource - they just don't have enough time to stand in line. Real communism will probably only begin after the introduction of immortality. This is not as impossible and far-off objective as one might think. There are already people among us who have a good chance of becoming immortals. See a description of a possible technological shortcut to immortality in my paper on the Modular System of Immortality at http://technocosm.narod.ru/e/wg_e.htm.)
- Nanotechnologies: to make all of the above technologies freely available to the general public.
>Vive la [cyber]revolution!
I have lived through a sort of a revolution (Yeltsin's coup d'etat of December 1991), and ever since then I have felt an aversion to revolutions of any kind. Revolutions bring out the worst in people, and destroy culture, and common decency. The old civilization gets ruined, and a new one takes decades to develop.
["The Nanotech Network"] * [Alexander Lazarevich's home page]