Military Determinism

“That rifle on the wall of the labourer’s cottage or working class flat is the symbol of democracy,” wrote George Orwell. This is a familiar — and important — argument. (ESR rehearses a slightly different version of it here.) A powerful case can be made for the printing press as the catalytic technology of modernity, but it is the musket that most unambiguously obliterated feudal power at its core, ushering in the age of the armed citizenry — nationalism, revolutionary armies, and the popular will as a matter of serious strategic consideration. Democracy smells of gunpowder.

This raises, by implication, the suggestion that the gathering sense of democratic crisis is a symptom, whose underlying cause is a transition in the military calculus, no less profound than the one that convulsed the world in the early Renaissance. If the infrastructure of democratic advance is the strategic centrality of the armed populace — as epitomized by massed infantry — its horizon will be marked by the technological disconnection of military power from ‘the people’. What are the features of the political landscape opened by the rise of robotic warfare?

Robots are capital. They consummate a trend that has bound hard power to industrial capability throughout the modern age. As they become increasingly autonomous, the popular-political matrix in which they have emerged is increasingly marginalized. Loyalty — a deep place-holder for the assent of the citizenry — is formally mechanized as cryptographic control. The capital autonomization that has spooked the modern world for centuries escalates to a new, immediately self-protective, and ultimately sovereign stage. Mercenaries have always required an ancillary political binding, because people are only weakly contractual, and loyalty cannot — in the end — be purchased. Robots present no such restriction. They conform to an order of unbounded techno-commercial power.

Whether one approves of the Ancien Régime‘s demolition by gunpowder matters little (if at all). The case of impending robotic warfare is no different, in this respect. The strategic dominion of the people is entering its twilight. Something else happens next.

March 20, 2015admin 51 Comments »


51 Responses to this entry

  • Henry Dampier Says:

    Oh, finally.

    Robots and UAVs are just part of the mix, but not the only thing. What matters more is the disproportionate effectiveness of highly trained military groups, aided by advanced technology. The writing has been on the wall since the end of mass conscription in the US.

    van Creveld is essential reading on this. It’s his argument.


    admin Reply:

    Sure. Also (another post) during the transition period the second great age of the mercenary will over-awe the strictly autonomous weaponry effects. History takes time.


    Carl Reply:

    Did we read the same book? Post WWII the story has been the rise in effectiveness of non-state, low technology forces that more effectively utilize the moral level of war. The centralizing tendency of advanced technology is losing to the social technology of 4GW.

    I certainly hope we can maintain pockets of high-technology order, but that will require giving up the dream of universal democracy and equality and other prog nonsense.


    R. Reply:


    Has anyone even who has access to ‘highly trained soldiers’ and ‘advanced equipment’ waged war in the last 30 years against non-joke opponents?


    Hegemonizing Swarm Reply:

    That sounds like a point, but don’t forget that the enterprise of war has changed since the cold war (and nuclear weapons). ‘Highly trained soldiers’ are effective at taking out single high-value targets, or sabotage in the midst of the other side’s territory. Apart from that, there are many proxy wars. Fought out through (cyber)sabotage, blockades, digital colonialism, propaganda, pressure to accept vaguely defined ‘trade agreements’ as well as other economic means. Aimed at increasing power of certain groups without too much collateral damage to people and capital.

    Modern civilization is centralized and thus all but robust. A full scale war would likely take it down completely, forever. Multinational companies have people all over the world, people have connections all over the world, consider just the impact on supply chains if one’d bomb any large city. It’d be irrational.

    States must retain the capability for deterrence. That may be another reason to commodize and automate the weaponry – maintain it at reduced costs. Most of the real fighting is necessarily hidden to us, and consists of surgical operations.


    Posted on March 20th, 2015 at 4:15 pm Reply | Quote
  • Adam Blackstone Says:

    Thanks for the link.

    Regarding “The strategic dominion of the people is entering its twilight. Something else happens next.”, I respectfully disagree.

    Robotics and computers are even more democratic (ruled by the people) than muskets. Women and smart minors can learn to code and encrypt just as well as any 6’3” male soldier, and the drone attack is thereby just as deadly. Technology is being consumerized at increasing rates. The basic technology in a smartphone can be leveraged for smart weapons, and already has been. Drones can be purchased off Amazon. 3D-printed weapons can be made in any garage and Arduino is available to everyone. Smart rifles run Linux.

    Robots are also susceptible to new kinds of attacks. The loyalty of human troops, as you say, cannot be purchased, but a hacked crypto key can cause a robot army to turn its guns the other way en masse. Uh oh! Robot loyalty only lasts as long your Firewall, and that’s assuming no OpSec blunders leave the door wide open in the first place.
    I’m comfortable with the assumption that fully autonomous weapon systems will be limited in use and deployment. At least until we have Strong A.I. running in an air-gapped brain.

    Adam Blackstone


    admin Reply:

    I was hoping that citing your fascinating post would open these arguments (although I too, respectfully disagree). Neither crypto-competence not advanced technological machinery lend themselves to egalitarian leveling.


    Adam Blackstone Reply:

    On the contrary, weaponized consumer technology has never been more available!

    I’m not making the argument that everyone and their mom will be a drone-pilot super-sniper. Some people just don’t have the chops. But consider how effectively a rag-tag collection of Sunni “militants” in central Asia and the Middle East troubles the world’s greatest military and subverts local governments. And they don’t even have anything fancier than cell phones and AK-47s. Meanwhile my neighbor bought a drone off Amazon, learned how to program it at StackExchange, how to build add-ons at Instructables, and is taking lessons on how to fly it on YouTube. You used to have to be a member of the military to get that sort experience.

    The core of my argument is that the potential to weaponized competence is much greater than the current level of social training. A society that decided that these skills needed to be broadly held could form a tech militia. Even if that’s only 5% of the population, it would be a very effective 5% that outnumbered professional military 30:1. Even the US Military would quickly collapse in the face of a popular uprising of that size. For one thing, a lot of the soldiers would side with the population, and the others would starve once food and gasoline shipments to the bases were interrupted. Etc.


    admin Reply:

    I agree with much of that. It seems to me, though, that you’re articulating the emerging environment over against the established institutions of the present order — and then re-animating the democratic war-cries of modernity to accentuate the point. The alternative is to counterpose your smart hackers and micro-military entrepreneurs to the standardized mass formations of modern warfare, in which case the assumption of leveling becomes far less persuasive. Anarchy and upheaval we will have, but those who emerge with the new capabilities in their hands will not be the masses.

    Hegemonizing Swarm Reply:

    > Neither crypto-competence not advanced technological machinery lend themselves to egalitarian leveling.

    When I was younger and idealistic I would have wanted to disagree with you there. Nowadays I have more of a firsthand view of things, and tend to agree.

    Yes, computer technology changes the power landscape.
    Yes, smart women and smart minors have an edge over “dumb macho men”.
    No, this does not bring any kind of democratic or egalitarian tendency. There are many smart people, but they will always be outnumbered by the less smart.
    -> The new boss looks slightly different and is smarter, on average, than the old boss.

    Barring uplifting, you cannot expect the masses to be adept at computer hacking (or drone building) suddenly. Paradoxally if ‘the people’ were that smart and educated, I’d expect some form of democracy to actually work. But that’s science fiction. In practice, most people don’t understand the technology they use at all, aren’t even interested in learning, and if they would they wouldn’t grasp the logic and mathematics involved.

    > Anarchy and upheaval we will have, but those who emerge with the new capabilities in their hands will not be the masses.

    Right. Elitism outside the estabilshed order is still elitism. Information is more broadly available, but that doesn’t mean everyone is just as effective in using it. The useful information is drowned out in much more popular cat videos and celebrity gossip.


    Posted on March 20th, 2015 at 4:19 pm Reply | Quote
  • Military Determinism | Neoreactive Says:

    […] By admin […]

    Posted on March 20th, 2015 at 4:20 pm Reply | Quote
  • Adam Blackstone Says:

    “Anarchy and upheaval we will have, but those who emerge with the new capabilities in their hands will not be the masses.”

    If you mean whoever emerges next won’t be the 95%, I agree. It never has been. Old elites are always replaced by new elites.

    The difficulty for the “what’s next” government won’t be the 95%. It will be that they cannot control who the 5% are. The current military does a pretty good job of controlling who has access to the nuclear weapon codes. It does a lousy job of controlling who has laptops and “consumer-grade” drones, weapons, and sensors. And thanks to decentralized and encrypted communication networks (like mesh networks, Tor, ProtonMail, and Signal), that control will never materialize.

    The only long-term strategy for any “what’s next” government is to implement policies that keep any potential tech militia content with the current regime. Part of that could be a cynical bread & circuses program, but remember that any potential tech militia is (by definition) on the right-hand side of the IQ bell curve. They can see through obvious ruses. This will impose a check on just how bad any future government can get (“bad” as subjectively defined by the 5%. Certain 5% groups may consider non-Sharia governments to be bad, but democracy is about process not outcomes).


    admin Reply:

    This is all on our jagged diagonal of perfect agreement — except that the final invocation of ‘democracy’ confuses me.


    blogospheroid Reply:

    @Admin @Adam

    There is always peril in interpreting other’s thoughts , so with that caveat, I think what Adam is alluding to with the “democracy, process and outcomes” comment is that a regime where all “contributors” are fairly treated would be a very high probability outcome. This would be because the coders and the makers would be very vary of anyone claiming superiority or status, without showing clearly superior work to justify the same.

    It’s similar to the comment I heard on the social matter podcast -we talk of hierarchy, we don’t practise it.

    Hoppe considers monarchy a degradation of aristocracy. What Adam is describing is a new aristocracy, whilch I believe will be the case until the creation of AI, where it becomes a theocracy, not ruling in the name of god, rule by an actual god.


    Kgaard Reply:

    “The difficulty for the “what’s next” government won’t be the 95%. It will be that they cannot control who the 5% are.”

    Been ruminating on this for a day or two. Very profound concept. Seems you are saying that the 5% (or .005% for that matter) could in fact achieve some sort of Bond Villian-y control of the world via technological means — thereby upending or overthrowing the entire architecture of power that now exists.

    What would a radically new power architecture even look like? The last change was from brawn to brains. Or, to refine that a bit, from brawn to some combination of brains, charisma, smoothness and ability to work human relationships (as exemplified in the Davos/Bilderberg elites).

    But this new leader or cabal of leaders … what will they have? Certainly brains. But as for the rest, hard to say. Probably just a whole lot of brains combined with some degree of psychopathy.

    How would such a person go about overthrowing the entire world power system? I can’t imagine the process would be anything other than cataclysmic.

    This is where the doom and gloomers at ZeroHedge sort of have a point. It’s not that the existing debt-based global financial architecture doesn’t work. (It sort of does.) It’s that if you blew up all the computers nobody would know what the hell anyone owned. All debts would be erased. All capital would be erased.

    It would be back to the stone age for everyone in about 10 minutes. My personal worst-case scenario is having to stock shelves at Wal-Mart. But this would be much worse.


    Posted on March 20th, 2015 at 4:56 pm Reply | Quote
  • scientism Says:

    Robots make super-empowered institutions and individuals. At the limit, you’re looking at an individual with a vast, disperse robotic ‘exoskeleton’. Once you achieve closed-loop automated manufacturing, the limiting factor is control over resources (since labour is no longer an issue). However, since robots aren’t as restricted as human beings in terms of the environments they can operate in, it would make more sense to expand into space than fight over our crappy planet with its limited supply of metals, irritating gravity and inconvenient, energy sponge of an atmosphere. Once you’ve got closed-loop automated manufacturing set up off-planet, the main cost of space-based industry – getting stuff up there – is rendered irrelevant (provided it can self-replicate, you only need to send commands) but the benefits are great. So private super-powered institutions and individuals are probably geopolitically irrelevant in the long run: they’ll go upwards, not outwards. Maybe we’ll have ultra-wealthy space entrepreneurs living on Elysium controlling giant mining and manufacturing operations and engaging in the occasional space-based conflict, while the rest of us live on Earth and take turns serving each other for a living in ever-changing hipster enclaves made possible by cheap and flexible manufacturing (imagine the material world being as faddish as the Internet), while automated armies maintain the boring old geopolitical boundaries, simply because world domination is no longer interesting to those with the expertise and capital to attempt it.


    M Laurel Reply:

    You’re wrong about the last part. World domination, domination of any kind, is always interesting. Don’t expect war to stop because we don’t need it. It’s human nature to love power, after all.


    R. Reply:

    Love of power over others is not universal..


    Jesse Reply:

    So would you consider yourself a neoreactionary? This is something I’ve been wondering whether neoreactiories have thought about–wouldn’t closed-loop automated manufacturing, i.e. self-replicating robotic factories, tend to hugely drive down the price of all manufactured goods, and make it easy to have a guaranteed basic income that would give everyone a comfortable middle-class lifestyle without the need to work, without being any significant drag on the economy? If so, doesn’t this undercut one of the big neoreactionary arguments against democracy, that it allows people to vote benefits for themselves that neoreactionaries think are either unsustainable or at least significantly holding back the economy?


    scientism Reply:

    I suppose we could all live on welfare and not work if the state owned the robotic means of production, but I don’t see that as desirable or without consequences. In a market economy, the service sector will continue to expand as the number of people employed in manufacturing decreases. This will be supported by the falling cost of manufactured goods, which will enable new kinds of human-service-based enterprise as both the goods those services use and the cost of living falls. Mutually beneficial exchange isn’t going to go away just because we have robots. People imagine that automation will lead to a world without work where we’re all consumed with ennui, but, were that true, it would just mean there’d be a market for ennui-reduction and we could exchange ennui-reduction services with one another.

    Personally I think there are many things that can’t be automated because they’re based on inherently human-to-human status relationships, and automating such things amounts to tricking people, which defeats the point. People buy expensive coffee in coffee shops that have human service rather than use a vending machine, even though I’m pretty sure it’s technically feasible to build a vending machine that can produce a decent latte. They will continue to do so. A vending machine that looks and acts like a human being is at best a novelty (robot baristas would probably attract the same clientele as maid cafes). Of course, there are circumstances where computerised service wins out (such as ATMs), but it’s far from all circumstances.

    Regardless, I don’t think automation will lead to a monopoly on the design and manufacture of goods or change the nature of entrepreneurship, so socialism would have the same negative consequences for the economy. It’s not like fully automated manufacturing is the last thing we’ll ever need to do. It’ll open up new opportunities and a market economy will be just as essential for exploiting them. Employment in manufacturing and associated areas will be reduced, but it won’t disappear, and the various entities involved would still be buying and selling goods. It’s as big a leap from that to socialism as it is from our economy to socialism. As always, it would necessitate confiscation of property, draconian laws and bloodshed.


    Jesse Reply:

    Why should the state need to own the robotic means of production? The point is just that self-replicating machinery would cause the price of all manufactured goods (along with other items that could be machine-constructed, like houses) to drop to only slightly more than the cost of the raw materials and energy that went into making them, because of competition between different robot factory owners who can all make a profit as long as they charge just a little more for goods than the cost of the raw materials/energy that they had to feed to the robots to make them (and the cost of energy and raw materials could also drop significantly if you could have things like self-replicating robot factories churning out huge numbers of ultra-cheap solar panels, mining facilities where all the physical labor was done by robots, etc.) Do you disagree with that idea? If not, it seems that this would very likely mean that the cost to give every person in the country a comfortable middle-class lifestyle (by modern standards) would be significantly cheaper than the present cost to support the fraction of the population that lives on welfare, and this cost could be covered by fairly modest taxes on whatever fraction of the population was still earning money (I agree there will still be a fair number of jobs that can’t be automated, at least not until we have full humanlike AI, and that people doing those jobs will be paid for them).

    Of course, the state *could* also own a significant number of robot factories of its own if desired, without needing to nationalize any existing ones–the point is that anyone who can afford to buy a single self-replicating robot factory, whether a government or a private firm, can then have an exponentially-increasing number of them for only the cost of the raw materials, energy, and land needed to make additional factories (which can be paid for by the profits made on the other goods churned out by each factory). If the time needed for a robot factory to build another robot factory is half a year, say, then if you start with one, in 10 years you can have over a million, in 15 years over a billion, again assuming the profits from each factory are enough to cover raw materials/energy/land costs for each new one.

    scientism Reply:


    Ah yes, I see what you mean now. I’d say there are two problems with this scenario. The first is that the cost of goods has already come down. What you’re saying is already true of our current situation: people can afford to live very well on welfare now compared to the way we all lived in the past, with more consumer goods, etc. Presumably expectations for what constitutes a middle-class lifestyle will rise, though, and there will be new, more costly goods that people will want. So the fact that it’s comfortable middle-class lifestyle to us might not mean much. It’s hard to know what people will demand for themselves in the future. Secondly, the problems with welfare have to do with more than its being a drag on the economy, it also creates dependency, lack of appreciation for property, breaks up families, etc. In my opinion, if your scenario came to pass, and the government could provide a wage at a satisfactory level for most people using a minimal tax base, that wouldn’t be much better than the present situation. Perhaps it would be economically sustainable, but I think it would have terrible consequences for society.

    Posted on March 20th, 2015 at 5:10 pm Reply | Quote
  • Mark Minter Says:

    But, at this very moment, I am considering, literally having some tabs up, drones in agricultural mapping. It is a project I have been working on for a bit. We currently have some sensors that are fixed to vehicles that move through the field and measure InfraRed to determine chlorophyll content. We can do some math to determine crop yield. Then these IR values can be mapped so that in a digital map, like Google Earth, the values can be visually rendered using graphics to scale to values using colors, i.e very Red could be the low Chlorophyll readings and very green could be very high.

    The point is to make this all very cheap “very democratic”. And in the future, this means robotic vehicles and robots, all integrated into the “field”. I envision some looking like r2d2 like this project called “Wall-ye” that is in work in France, now. And then others that are adapted ATV based things. I could see VR headsets in play soon. None of this is science fiction. There are numerous projects in work in universities right now.

    My mission is to use “clouds” to turn the software “mind” of these systems into a very accessible service even to the smallest farmers. The tabs I have up are for commercially available drones to map fields. One researcher merely mounted the sensors on a cheap commercial drone for a total costs of $2500. The drone was 900. The sensor is made in a university lab plugging in some commercial parts and could be much cheaper. You would assume 1000 in just a few years for the whole thing.

    My mission is to create a cheap SaaS service much like Google Maps with super high Res that allows the grower to zoom in a single pant using an “OrthoMosiac” map that is created from daily flights. And to begin to create a “digital field” containing LIDAR data that can control robots and self-driving farm machines. This data would be like what Google cars use in conjunction with real time radar to “know” where fixed things like a street or stop sign, a mailbox, a light pole, so that this data can be discriminated from pedestrians, pets, other cars.

    The problems of climate, mobility, mesh networks, solar power or fuel cells, all outdoors are being solved as we speak.

    Just like cell phones got incorporated into IEDs, this tech will find its way into 4th gen war.


    Posted on March 20th, 2015 at 5:32 pm Reply | Quote
  • tg moderator Says:

    This is a pair of topics that deserve a lot more thought. The printing press is often sited as a technology that lead to the protostant reformation, and populist democracy. As communication technology has evolved the printing press has declined in power. For a while control of the TV airwaves was the ultimate power. We live in an age where control of the narrative is the power to rule. Thus we have a synopsis and a cathedral. Some had hoped that the development of the internet would be a game changer that took power from today’s cathedral in the same way that the printing press took power from the Catholic church. This has not happened. Our society is ruled by propaganda. (Propagarchy?)

    Militaty technology has progressed a lot since 1860. The repeating rifle made the cavary charge obsolete. Armor made rifle and trench warfare obsolete. All weather air power limits the effectiveness of armor. Scissors, rock, paper. USGs best drones and tanks have been defeated by ragtag bandits with IEDs and cheap rifles.


    Posted on March 20th, 2015 at 6:59 pm Reply | Quote
  • Military Determinism | Reaction Times Says:

    […] Source: Outside In […]

    Posted on March 20th, 2015 at 7:55 pm Reply | Quote
  • VXXC Says:

    How about the Historical norm of any particular people with more tech tools?

    But moving away from the bankrupt Statist model with it’s fantastically bankrupt mega-states.

    In America – and a more normal Anglo society – this will indeed have some form of local militia, indeed in America it never went away really.

    Once the huge convulsions [or not so huge] associated with the death of the New Deal Mega State [which includes EU and postwar Japan] then you’ll be looking at more decentralized historical norms.

    China may always have a Mandarin state, India a caste system.

    I’m glad I’m American. I’m not sweating the robots, if and when they exist we’ll deal with it.


    Posted on March 20th, 2015 at 8:14 pm Reply | Quote
  • VXXC Says:

    “protostant <<== reformation"

    Is God telling us something? Or Gnon?


    Posted on March 20th, 2015 at 8:15 pm Reply | Quote
  • VXXC Says:

    “USGs best drones and tanks have been defeated by ragtag bandits with IEDs and cheap rifles.”


    Not military defeat. Name the battle. Hell hard pressed to find skirmish.

    Us giving up on making them White without killing and fucking them that way was the defeat.

    Political defeat, that was pre-ordained in any case and defeat is defined as impossible social engineering goals of turning Afghans and Arabs into SWPLs.

    We can make them SWPLs, but we’d have to stay, kill them and fuck them that way…and worst of all educate them that way. It does work if you stay long enough. See Europe. Or perchance…Japan. God have mercy on us.

    Look ye at the Samurai’s grandchildren and despair.


    Posted on March 20th, 2015 at 8:19 pm Reply | Quote
  • La Fayette Says:

    Ancien Regime still has the Ultima Ratio:
    ability to kill millions in half-n-hour. Plus tactical nukes, effective counter-insurgency warfare (no civilians – no insurgency).

    But. AR lacks the will to use it (which we see all the time). Not because of some humanistic mumbo-jumbo, but because the Establishment is grown without “the balls”.

    With mid-20-century technology being avaible for anyone with several hundreds mln $$ and some STEM-students, we see a new possible way of warfare: old established powers (Iran included) with drones agains half-starved “states” with nukes.


    Posted on March 20th, 2015 at 8:37 pm Reply | Quote
  • E. Antony Gray (@RiverC) Says:

    Robots make it worse of course, since as a commenter noted, the chance to hack the entire army and take it over exists. For this reason, I would predict very limited use of robots in the reasonably far future, something which will proceed AFTER the extreme overuse of robots in combat.

    Far from being ‘leveling’, this situation means that the superior man, singular and cunning, might by his wits alone take hold of all of the power in the world. The extremity of not merely inegalitarian but anti-egalitarian possibility is hard to fathom at the moment.

    Also hard to fathom for most at the moment is the extreme liability reliance on electricity and everything that uses circuits is. All it takes is a little advance in ECM to make this apparent. It is a well known fact that most ‘developed’ countries’ electrical grids are an unspoken achilles’ heel.

    My thought is that the endgame is not really robotic armies, but rather, smaller groups of human enhanced by robots, which is generally the future imagined in Japanese Animation. The ability of the controller to simply hard reset the crypto / control prevents (or highly mitigates) the vulnerability to takeover. It truly culminates in the era of the ‘superman’, even if he is just a smart guy with a neural interface.


    Posted on March 21st, 2015 at 12:34 am Reply | Quote
  • Benedict Says:

    Industrial power has been more important in warfare than manpower since the first world war, and I’m not sure how switching from victory being determined by who can build the most ships, tanks and planes to who can build the most autonomous ships, tanks and planes will make that much difference.

    An angry mob isn’t going to be able to do much against a drone gunship, but it couldn’t do much against a T-54 either.


    admin Reply:

    The greatest flourishing of the age of propaganda — i.e. popular mobilization — coincided with that of the T-54.


    Benedict Reply:

    There’s a lag to these things. Ideas about divine right of kings and virtue of noble blood were at their peak when wars were determined by massive pike and shot formations (and knights were militarily almost worthless).

    Also, the states producing all that propaganda about the divine right of mobs regularly crushed actual mobs with tanks.


    Posted on March 21st, 2015 at 12:50 am Reply | Quote
  • Chris B Says:

    The weak point in all of this is still the human (putting aside the question of AI for now.) Putting hopes in crypto control/contracts is hyper liberalism – rule by law. Carl Schmitt covers a lot of this in his writing on Sovereignty. In present systems, this only works in the presence of a normal environment where the rules cover eventualities. When events occur which nullify this norm, then rule by law collapses and real sovereignty is consulted (those who can make the decisions in the exceptions.) Who is the real soverign in the rule by cyrpto contracts in this instance? and I will take invoking an Anisimov AI as cheating, so it must be acknowledged to be a person.


    admin Reply:

    (“Anisimov AI” is good.)

    If cryptosystems are hyperliberal, anyone who isn’t a hyperliberal is an idiot, and is probably going to die.


    Chris B Reply:

    The cladistic links on this are clear. The idea of putting the question of sovereignty to law and contracts is central to liberalism. It is part and parcel of the idea that ultimate sovereignty can be tied up and put against itself. These P2P arrangements will push government out of vast areas of life if they go the way they seem, but the ultimate question of sovereignty is not resolved by them(again, leaving the idea of a sovereign AI that can decide on exceptions.) This is surely where the question of clear territorial ownership comes into focus and therefore the question of who is sovereign in a given area. As I see it, you are still coming back to a person or persons being sovereign.


    Hurlock Reply:

    Rule by law is hyperleftism?



    Alrenous Reply:

    Isn’t he referring to classical liberalism?


    Hurlock Reply:

    Sure, but if rule by law is hyperleftism then Aristotle was a hyperleftist, Cicero was a hyperleftist, the medieval scholastics were hyperleftists, etc.

    Also not every classical liberal was a hyperleftist.

    I am just protesting the superficial and quite silly generalizations a lot of commenters around these parts seem to love.

    Chris B Reply:

    @Hurlock “hyperleftism”? I typed “hyper liberal” and yes, the concept of rule by law is quite central to liberalism. If you think that is a superficial and silly generalization, then you have extreme standards of analysis. The entirety of liberalism has been rule by law as opposed to rule by person. The whole reason for the US constitution is to tie sovereignty into a legal system. It is one of the defining characteristics of liberalism. It just a giant evasion and act of self-delusion in respect of the question of sovereignty.
    This is all a central aspect of Carl Schmitt’s criticisms of liberal democracy.

    blogospheroid Reply:

    In the bitcoin world, atleast, if a code change is not accepted by the miners, it leads to a fork with all those with one code version on one fork and the others on the other.

    So, does that make the developer or the miners the sovereign? I’m not really sure that question is meaningful in a purely virtual mechanism like bitcoin. With what is being talked about here, maybe whoever gets his code into the drones or crypto locks wins.


    Chris B Reply:

    @blogospheroid Im not sure the blockchain issue you cite is remotely relevant. I can see why you raise it, and why you might think it is, but this is part of my above criticism.The question of sovereignty still remains. I have been putting some thought into this in the past couple of days, and I am wondering if what we are going to see is a breakdown in law between territorialised law and ownership, and de-territorialised law and ownership.

    Territorialised law would pertain to simply territory. Territory must have a sovereign (it is conserved.) this will be whoever has final say in the geographical space. This will be familiar with what we see as law today. On the other hand, de-territorialised law will be legal systems created by distributed networks in which P2P law is enacted. The ability of territorial entities to intervene in these de-territorialised systems will most likely be limited due to a number of factors, but they should still be able to have final say in some instances. For example, a P2P contract might have an automated punishment in the form of automatically enacting a repossession agency to take security. The ability of the agency to collect on this security will be limited by the ability of the agency to enter territory owned by a sovereign. If this isn’t an issue, then the agency themselves are clearly the sovereign.

    Of course this is rampant speculation and is not taking into account the current messy situation vis a vis the above and current states systems. I’m trying to envisage how it will fallout eventually. Either way, hoping P2P, Blockchain/ distributed networks themselves become sovereign seems like techno-Whigism.


    Chris B Reply:

    Seems Nick Szabo’s covered some of this ground –

    Chris B Reply:

    and here is a paper.

    Posted on March 21st, 2015 at 1:17 am Reply | Quote
  • Stirner (@heresiologist) Says:

    AlFin has has a bankshot commentary on this discussion:

    Automation, drones, and robotics may be the MacGuffin of our theorizing. The real center of strategic gravity in the era ahead may be the development of Infrastructures of Decentralization. War is won and lost on the basis of logistics, and even a 21st century Bond Villian has many logistical dependencies for his drones and lazer-equipped sharks.

    Perhaps true sovereignty in the years to come with be the means for groups and communities, and eventually regions to be able to disconnect from their logistical vulnerabilities and be able to resist both direct and indirect efforts to curb their autonomy.


    E. Antony Gray (@RiverC) Reply:

    This seems to be the story of the “dark” ages (so called to make the Enlightenment seem brighter) vis a vis Rome.


    Posted on March 21st, 2015 at 1:41 am Reply | Quote
  • The Art of Peacefully Overthrowing Governments | al fin next level Says:

    […] future wasteland, and one must stay on one’s toes. But not stand still, never stand still. An interesting look at the role of robots in future wars — Robots, drones, and remotely controlled mechanisms may be one of the most important […]

    Posted on March 21st, 2015 at 12:46 pm Reply | Quote
  • Hurlock Says:

    @Chris B

    Sure it is central to liberalism, but it was central to all these other political philosophers throughout history who had nothing to do with liberalism as we know it today. They might have influenced some classical liberal (I very much doubt that any of them influenced modern liberals) but does that make them hyper-liberal? Hardly.
    So, sure the concept is central to liberalism, but it was also central to all these other very different political theories too. So it is a very broad and imprecise generalization to say that rule of law is just “hyper-liberalism”.


    Chris B Reply:

    I think maybe we need to be a little more clear on what I am saying. I am referring to the belief that sovereignty can be codified and set in law (for example – a constitution) and become above the political.

    In fact, I will go further and quote MM.

    “A Sovereign operating under the rule of law is not, contrary to several centuries of Whig horsepuky, a sovereign bound by the rule of law. It is a sovereign which chooses to abide by the rule of law. It declares a consistent and stable set of rules by which everyone in New California, Dictator included, can live and work and play nice with each other.” (Secession, Liberty and dictatorship post.)

    This post also has the reference to Wu Wei which still needs major exploration in relation to the usage of (again) deeply Whig negative rights.


    Posted on March 22nd, 2015 at 3:50 am Reply | Quote
  • SanguineEmpiricist Says:

    Curt tells me rule by law is pretty much the main reason for western rates of advancement and there’s a good reason to believe him.


    Posted on March 22nd, 2015 at 4:25 am Reply | Quote
  • Beyond Dungeons and Drag Queens and Toward the Jacquerie | Aryan Skynet Says:

    […] forbid – actually enjoy? Mon Dieu, l’horreur! Très démodé! Better to write about the unbounded techno-commercial power of immediately self-protective and ultimately sovereign capital au…. But deigning to mention Baruch Goldstein, Dov Zakheim, or Irene Zisblatt? Why, that could lead to […]

    Posted on May 9th, 2015 at 7:30 am Reply | Quote

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