It far from my intention to deny the possibilities of non-linear systems and all that. Multiplicity of info-lines, a wide variety of articulations, the velocity of communication... all those things are good news (I have studied them in my book Chaos AD, using complexity and chaos theories). Interconnectedness and mixing are always good things (let's have in mind Brazilian women:-)
But, unfortunately, that is not the question. From a technical point of view, it could seem that this new "modus vivendi" works. Sure, it works. Equally, a nest of ants works with similar technological perfection - even while "squandering" drones for "state reasons". This kind of technologically perfect organization is likely to be reached. But, finally, what does it mean? Are we just "zoon organizaton"? Obviously not. For sure, we have an organizational urge, but is that all? In spite of the pseudo-Nieztschean "creative destruction" of Schumpeter (which is so handy at justifying our acts while destroying nature) and of the invisible hand of Adam Smith´s, if we organize an egocentric pillage, we will reach nothing but organized pillage.
Moreover, all those new theories and dreams are just worthless documents. These technologists fatally ignore the fact that all those arabesques of their spirit are possible precisely due to the centralization of the state (military power). That famous de-centralization of industry is just an appearance. One ought to examine "true" business, things that link to life and death: chemical corporations, oil companies, the weapons industry, etc. All of them are growing. Corporatism is the future. Silicon Valley is the Hollywood of the 90s: the city of Dreams. Who placed trans-oceanic cables? Who has channelled the underground? Novell? Intel? Sun? Of course not. This (seemingly) paradoxical situation was resolved by Romans with the Imperial model. But this takes us too far from our subject. Let's simply remember that interconnectedness is a good idea, as far as things go normally. If things fade to black then interconnectedness means that our head is automatically/technically at "disposal".
To keep to the subject of secrecy and power: it seems that secrecy is one of the archetypal differences. Covering, secrecy, obscurity were seen by the people of the West as contrary to their ethos. The Greeks, for instance, had only one imposition of secrecy, that of the Eleusian Mysteries. It is interesting to note that Greek priests had no hierarchy and were independent. By comparison, oriental priests (and here we can include, in some way, Catholicism) practice secrecy and had an hierarchy and exerted power.
Someone could trace an analogy between Greek priests and the new prophets of non-linear technology, and so it is, but, we must remember that the Greeks, apart form being democrats, were tenacious warriors. To use computers is a fascinating job and we can do a lot with them, but when the Gestapo knocks at the door, computers disappear like smoke. And the worst thing of all is that our neighbour is to busy with his "PlayStation" and doesn't hear our screams:-)
Some of our readers can argue that we are in a global world - and so these differences are exceptions. Indeed, we are in the global world of machines. But, with these "west and east" distinctions I am not only referring to geographic places but to psychic states (all of us have an internal Gordian knot).
Dear, dear Roberto,
You should have known better than to mention Brazilian women ...:o(( How do you expect me to concentrate now and to respond lucidly to your trans-oceanic cables and Greek Priests? Moreover, the surrealistic vision of the neighbour, his "PlayStation" and the Gestapo is really too distracting (might the neighbour believe that the screams are coming FROM his PlayStation?).
Well, back to the tired old staff of historiosophy, secrecy, codes and power. (Brazilian women... ah ...Hmmm....well, here we go:)
This week the Dow Jones Industrials shed a few "brick and mortar" companies in favour of the likes of Intel and Microsoft, which are now part of it. This, I think, is ample proof of the overwhelming and growing importance of the "New Economy" of electrons and cyberspace. One might object to this argument and say that the gap between the world of finance and the world of bytes has virtually vanished lately and that inflated paper values of companies such as Microsoft caused this mass abandonment of trans-oceanic cables and petrochemicals by the hallowed stock exchange index. But this argument precisely proves my point: ideas, virtual reality, information are the commodities of the present.
Secrecy is, therefore, doomed to die a slow and agonizing death because it is counter-productive, it hinders the efficient allocation of economic resources. It cannot and will not be tolerated by the markets, which demands transparency and efficiency (=immediate dissemination of all available information). The state is now, once more, an instrument of the market. Historically, the modern state has always been an instrument of the market, except for a brief break between 1920 (the rise of Communism, Fascism and Corporatism) and 1989 (the end of Communism). Once seminal instruments of governance, ciphers and secret services were the intelligence and counter-intelligence of the old state. Today, it is the dissemination of information that is the preferred mode of manipulation of the masses. Information is "mass customized" and distributed through infinitely versatile channels. This decentralization indeed does not imply that the state is dead. It only means that it is transforming. The individual will still be crushed but this time by a million other individuals rather than by faceless, Kafkaesque bureaucrats. The state is metastasizing. It is infecting its own citizens, creeping through 100 million modems, penetrating firewalls, seeping through cable TV set-tops. It is atomized, it is devolving into ethnicities and tribes and urban villages. It is a horror movie with a digital face. No longer the conspiratorial-paranoid post-Watergate and post-CIA octopus. No more the beast the anarchists so wished to vanquish and replace. Indeed, the anarchists won a pyrrhic victory - for, today, we live in anarchistic states - modern, surrealistic monstrosities which place the might of whole communities at the disposal of individuals and, at the same time, appropriate the freedom of action of the individual to themselves. How did YOU call it? Ant-hills, indeed. We live in insect colonies. Metterlinck has demonstrated more than 7 decades ago that in a beehive there are no secrets - all information is immediately made available universally.
This is the result of the greatest discovery of them all: that the most secure cipher is a public one, that abundance of information leads to mass ignorance, that superstition thrives on excess "education" propagated through "mass" media, that paranoia breeds on accessibility, that fear is the outcome of responsibility and authority. In an ingenious manoeuvre, the state dissolved itself and recomposed itself even as dissolving. From solid matter it became a gas, from vertebrae it evolved into amoeba, it hid itself completely by sharing everything and attained an omnipresence by disappearing altogether. In this miraculous "dance of the scarves" it was aided and abetted by big business, by its defence establishment, by intellectuals, by the scientific establishment and by the doom-laden sentiment of the "end of history".
Of course, the USA is in the lead and others trail and follow - some with heavy breath and some with bated breath. But the phenomenon of de-centralization and reinvention of the state is universal. In Zair, in the United Kingdom, in Canada, in former Yugoslavia, in the rump of this epitome of centralism, the USSR - the winds of change are unmistakable: devolution, decentralization, eerie transparency. And very little remains secret for long, ciphers or no ciphers.
I think we all have our "East", contrasted with our derided "West". The Beatles went to India, you dwell on Greece. But the model was uniform all over. Here is an excerpt from the "Encyclopaedia Britannica" (even this venerable resource ignores the fact that the first codes were the alphabets which later were the vehicles of enlightenment and knowledge):
"People have probably tried to conceal information in written form from the time that writing developed. Examples survive in stone inscriptions, cuneiform tablets, and papyruses showing that the ancient Egyptians, Hebrews, Babylonians, and Assyrians all devised protocryptographic systems both to deny information to the uninitiated and to enhance its significance when it was revealed. The first recorded use of cryptography for correspondence, however, was by the Spartans, who as early as 400 BC employed a cipher device called the scytale for secret communications between military commanders. The scytale consisted of a tapered baton, around which was spirally wrapped a strip of parchment or leather on which the message was written. When unwrapped, the letters were scrambled in order and formed the cipher; however, when the strip was wrapped around another baton of identical proportions to the original, the plaintext reappeared. Thus, the Greeks were the inventors of the first transposition cipher. During the 4th century BC Aeneas Tacticus wrote a work entitled On the Defense of Fortifications, one chapter of which was devoted to cryptography, making it the earliest treatise on the subject. Another Greek, Polybius, devised a means of encoding letters into pairs of symbols by a device called the Polybius checkerboard, which is a true biliteral substitution and presages many elements of later cryptographic systems. Similar examples of primitive substitution or transposition ciphers abound in the history of other civilizations. The Romans used monoalphabetic substitution with a simple cyclic displacement of the alphabet. Julius Caesar employed a shift of three positions so that plaintext A was encrypted as D, while Augustus Caesar used a shift of one position so that plaintext A was enciphered as B.
The first people to clearly understand the principles of cryptography and to elucidate the beginnings of cryptanalysis were the Arabs. They devised and used both substitution and transposition ciphers and discovered the use of both letter frequency distributions and probable plaintext in cryptanalysis. As a result, by about 1412, al-Kalka-shandi could include a respectable, if elementary, treatment of several cryptographic systems in his encyclopaedia Subh al-a'sha and give explicit instructions on how to cryptanalyze ciphertext using letter frequency counts complete with lengthy examples to illustrate the technique.
European cryptology dates from the Middle Ages, during which it was developed by the Papal States and the Italian city-states. The earliest ciphers involved only vowel substitution (leaving consonants unchanged). The first European manual on cryptography (c. 1379) was a compilation of ciphers by Gabriele de Lavinde of Parma, who served Pope Clement VII. This manual, now in the Vatican archives, contains a set of keys for 24 correspondents and embraces symbols for letters, nulls, and several two-character code equivalents for words and names. The first brief code vocabularies, called nomenclators, were gradually expanded and became the mainstay for several centuries for diplomatic communications of nearly all European governments. In 1470 Leon Battista Alberti published Trattati in cifra, in which he described the first cipher disk; he prescribed that the setting of the disk should be changed after enciphering three or four words, thus conceiving of the notion of polyalphabeticity. Giambattista della Porta provided a modified form of square table and the earliest example of a digraphic cipher in De furtivis literarum notis (1563). The Traicté des chiffres published in 1586 by Blaise de Vigenère contains the square table commonly attributed to him and descriptions of the first plaintext and ciphertext autokey systems."
Sam Vaknin is the author of Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited and After the Rain - How the West Lost the East as well as many other books and ebooks about topics in psychology, relationships, philosophy, economics, and international affairs. He served as a columnist for Central Europe Review, Global Politician, PopMatters, eBookWeb , and Bellaonline, and as a United Press International (UPI) Senior Business Correspondent. He was the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory and Suite101. Visit Sam's Web site at http://samvak.tripod.com You can download 30 of his free ebooks in http://www.narcissistic-abuse.com/freebooks.html.