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The Organic Internet

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A very long time ago, almost forty years I had a mentor whose name was Arthur Felberbaum Arthur is probably best known as the founder of the Brecht Forum here in New York City Arthur used to say that intellectuals, analysts people who are looking at things theoretically and analytically have to abstract. Which means, create models based on that which is occurring. Organizers have to extract. Which, for him, meant taking a look at a situation you're in and involved in and pairing away everything that is replaceable and remaining with the irreplaceable (staying with the irreplaceable as we say in Spanglish). He said revolutionaries, what makes a revolutionary is the ability to do both. You never get to that stage, obviously, it's very difficult to be able to combine both of those things and I've been trying to do that for many years, all these forty years. That is the standard that we work against... a standard of perfection, as it were. We've come kind of close with the concept of the Organic Internet. In all of my years in the movement, I have never come upon a concept that is at once so simple and, on the other hand, one that people find so difficult to grasp. It actually is a deceptively simple concept. There is a lot of complexity to it, but it's pretty simple to understand right off the bat. The way we explain it is If you take in the Internet everything everything that can be replaced take it away strip it keep that which is irreplaceable that is the essential quality of the Organic Internet. So, taking a look at the Internet, what is it that is replaceable? Well, we know just about everything that people typically refer to as the Internet is actually replaceable. We know that because over the years over the life of the internet, almost all of it has been replaced. The protocols, the software, the hardware. People call the kinds of computers we have here in the office by the same term as that which I started using, let's say, thirteen or fourteen years ago. But it's inconceivable that these things can be considered the same thing. While there is some basic similarity as there are, say, similarities between ourselves and all the other living mammals on Earth, there are so many differences, that we would have to consider it different. Our hardware has changed. Software that runs the Internet, although many of the people listening to this may not realize this, has changed dramatically and radically in so many different kinds of ways. The software that is running your Internet currently although still based on the same kinds of software that originally ran the internet is wildly different, radically changed much more powerful, and in many cases does things that are different, with a logic that is different than the software that was originally developed. It's all changed. What hasn't changed in the Internet is one thing people communicating with people. With the specific way we communicate and the specific needs that we have that are answered by that communication. The Internet is over a billion human beings. And when we talk about the Organic Internet, we're not talking only about the fact that it's irreplaceable component is actually humans we're talking about the way that humanity effects the way the Internet acts and develops. This is important for a bunch of reasons. To understand the Internet very clearly, we have to understand what drives it. And what drives it is the human need for interaction and collaboration. Never before in history has the need for collaboration been greater. We're living in a period where many people in the world believe that the systems that have gotten us to this point, that have brought the human race to this point in history, have actually failed us. We are living in a world in which the wealth of the world has never been greater. For the second year in a row, we have a surplus of farmed, produced, and grown goods. Of food that comes from the Earth, a surplus. And this very year, for the first time in human history, according to the UN, more than a billion people on this Earth are starving to death. This compounded immorality that is, in fact, the systems that have governed us, gone out of control and become useless, is what makes the collaboration of the human being absolutely essential. And humanity has always invented stuff when that stuff has proven essential. When humanity sees a need, perceives a need, it meets that need. And collaboration is a fundamental need of the entire human race. We say collaboration rather than communication. People come up to me and say "well you've always had mass communication or have for a long time you have the telephone, you have this you have that" The telephone does allow conversation and communication. But the Internet provides for a level of interaction and collaboration that has never been known in human history. Using the Internet, not only can we communicate with each other, but we can actually share our lives. I was looking at a website from one of our members, who made a website for his young son. And the website traces the development of that child's life into his fourth year. Now, that level of intimacy is not always what we do on the Internet. I don't have that kind of website, for example. But you can. The point is, for the first time in history not only are we allowed to say, express, and show what we want of our lives, we're able to make choices as to what we think is important in our lives. And that kind of liberation brings with it an enormous amount of freedom of thinking about what's possible and confidence in doing what's necessary to make those possibilities realities. It's for that reason that the Internet has actually actively changed much of the world. I don't think that the President of the United States would be a man of color without the Internet. I know that many of the struggles that are going on the world, that are supported from this country that are supported from other countries, would have been impossible without the Internet. The Internet is the collaborative tool of the human race. And it's primary collaborative tool. And we have created that. As we change as a human race, we alter our perceptions, we alter our interactions so we alter the Internet. Because the Internet is in itself it's not only a collaborative tool, but the tool itself is a collaboration. In developing the Internet, the human race collectively identifies what it needs. Any software developer will tell you that he gets his or her ideas from the interaction with whole bunches of people. "We need this or we need that." That software developer then reaches out to many many other software developers to collaboratively begin developing that software. And after a version of that software is developed that can be used it's released to the public and massively tested in a collaborative fashion by the Internet itself by the people and the movement that we consider the Internet. That's how software is produced in the Internet. All software is produced that way. And one of the great myths of commercial software that we'll talk about in another part that it's actually different from the production of free and open source software. All software is produced by the same process. Capitalism has never produced a thing in its entire history. All it does is expropriate and sell things that are produced by people. All of this collaboration massively done over a billion people, by a billion people, by 1.3 billion people all over the world makes the Internet the largest mass movement in human history. The Internet is humanity's attempt to collaborate, to save itself and its world. There is no other explanation for it. No one can explain how, in such a very short time, one billion people can end up doing the very same thing and talking and communicating with each other. As we develop in the Internet and develop our perceptions, so does everything associated with the Internet develop. Its technology changes based on our needs. Its protocols change based on our needs. Its rules change based on our needs. And at the same time in reaction, our needs change based on what we're capable of doing. It is in this interaction between ourselves our needs, our capabilities, and the collaborative product that emerges from those things it's that interaction that makes the Internet organic. And when we talk about the Organic Internet, we are talking about not only an abstraction, a model for what it is in fact, but an extraction an extraction for what is important and irreplaceable. That's the human beings that interact through the technology of Internet.

Video Details

Duration: 11 minutes and 19 seconds
Country: United States
Language: English
Producer: May First/People Link
Director: May First/People Link
Views: 166
Posted by: ohmallory on Jun 25, 2009

Alfredo Lopez, Co-director of May First/People Link, introduces the Organic Internet.

The Internet is one of the largest and most international mass movements in history. Its spectacular growth raises questions for our political movements: How and why did it happen? Why is it that over a billion people have invented, continuously developed, defended and protected this technology?

MF/PL is an organization of progressive people who use the Internet. We have joined together to pool our resources to assure ourselves quality equipment and staff support and to improve our access to the Internet, enhance its function as a tool for mass communication and organizing, develop new technologies and uses for it, and help social justice movements use it effectively to collaborate.

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