X-Message-Number: 8867
Date: Sat, 29 Nov 1997 10:17:33 -0800
From: Peter Merel <>
Subject: A kind of anarchy

Thomas Donaldson writes,

>Immortality may actually give us a practical possibility of
>a kind of anarchy --- one which has failed in the past, and would still 
>fail now, because some men and groups decide that they can escape any 
>retribution from others that they dominate. If both parties are immortal,
>then late or soon that retribution will come -- and so the urge to form any
>kind of government based on force will become less and less the longer we
>live. This would not be perfect: what if such governments decided to kill 
>people, and thus prevent that retribution? 

Well, if they really are immortal, that government's out of luck ...

I don't buy that immortality can lead to pure anarchy. Although we expect 
the acceleration of technological progress will lead to an explosion in 
resource availability, and our physical capabilities in general, at the 
forefront of this progress we'll need to make engineering and aesthetic
choices that affect more than one individual. If a society of immortals is
not to dissolve into eternal violence or total homogeneity, they'll need 
a formal protocol with which to sort out these choices. 

Whether such a protocol will involve what we think of as a government is a 
fair question. Thus far, no one has established a way to make syncracy or
direct democracy scale to govern more than just a few people. This has not
been for want of trying.

It's obvious, however, that many of our present endeavours - those that 
approach cost-free digital transmission, replication and authentication 
of resources - are no longer bound by the economics of scarcity and politics 
of delegation that have hampered earlier efforts. We already have an arena 
in which Thomas's "kind of anarchy" could develop. Why doesn't it?

I think that in fact it is developing in groups like GNU and devices 
like USENET, but that its possibilities are implicit, confused, and 
often ignored. People aren't used to organizing themselves on terms of 
maximizing mutual opportunity and spontaneously establishing harmony, 
and have no ready tool with which to attempt to do so. What's needed for 
Thomas's "kind of anarchy" is just such a tool.

As some here know only too well, building a technology of syncracy has been 
the focus of my speculations for the last couple of years. I now feel I've 
got a consistent specification of general utility to do this, and I'm 
setting out to actually implement the thing, which is called "The Stone
Society", after the pieces in the Japanese game of Go. 

Folk who are interested in this will do well to start with 


A discussion about integrating Stones with the WikiWikiWeb is at


And speculation about the application of Stones to a Nanotech world of
plenty is at


Peter Merel.

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