Like many of Curtis' previous works, the documentary explores and connects various topics such as individualism, collectivism, national myths, American imperialism, the history of China, artificial intelligence and many others, all beautifully made using a great soundtrack where you can find many great musicians including tracks by Aphex Twin.
Curtis highlights the failure of technology to liberate society in the way technological utopians once hoped it could. While we believe it's too early to make such a statement, the examples in this series demonstrate how great ideas are drowned in the old structures of power.
It inspires us to dig deeper and understand this vision of early computer pioneers and reasons why these dreams have not been realized - what technological design choices and limitations prevented this vision from manifestation, and what can we do about it.
Curtis raises the point that we currently live in a world devoid of meaning and emphasizes the absence of a positive vision for this world. We cannot agree more. Nevertheless, we believe that with further advent of new technologies, it is now possible to construct a better, more cooperative world - the vision of such a world and realization of it we put as our main objective.
While the rule of law as an idea appeared many thousands of years ago, the Magna Carta was a revolutionary document that established the principle “The governor is not above the law” (in this case, the king and his government are not above the law). This is the bedrock on which the Bill of Rights, the Declaration of Independence, etc. are founded.
Today, the world of bits is governed by software companies that assume a position of unparalleled power akin to the monarchs of the past. Yet, the legacy of the Magna Carta imparts a resounding call to action, reminding us that even the mightiest ruler's grasp can be loosened - just as the power of today's digital behemoths can be diminished.
This timeless document serves as an inspiration and motivates us to deeply consider the design of governance of networks of people. Taking into account all these lessons, we now can design new governance mechanisms for computer networks - as the world of bits is defined by new possibilities not possible in the world of atoms.
The main insight from Sapiens is how stories helped an ordinary species to take over the world. Up until we humans figured out how to use language to build an intersubjective reality that allowed us to cooperate better, we were just an insignificant species in Africa with 100,000 of specimens.
The invention of stories such as religion, money, limited liability companies, code of law, and countless others allowed humans to cooperate flexibly with an uncapped number of others. Thanks to it we have achieved everything around us. This inspired us to think of a new story tailored for the world of bits, that would foster cooperation and tackle most of the risks outlined by Harrari in Sapiens and his later works.
Another great theme from this book was how the Agrarian Revolution influenced the lives of homo sapiens. A technology that brought more food and resources (an absolute advancement from a pure resources standpoint), led to a much more centralized society where humans started to work more, take on boring occupations, have more kids, and relinquish freedom, while great hierarchies were built. The agrarian revolution also led to advancement of art and sciences, as some people could now specialize in it. Knowing this, we’re reminded to dig deeper and understand the second order effects of social and technological innovations, actively designing them.
We love the insight that before the agrarian culture of stability and hierarchy, our hunter-gatherer ancestors lived much more creative and full lives.
Humans at scale were able to live in a world of uncertainty - where they didn’t know what exactly tomorrow would bring, but were creatively ready to explore the patterns of nature and live in an unpredictable world. We see it as an inspiration that we can have a new kind of culture of the post-agrarian world - where risk, creativity, and skin in the game will become a more natural way of living that allows for creative cooperation and fuller lives. It gives us hope that an entrepreneurial culture can be a social norm.
We happened to discuss Sapiens at the same time as we were pondering distributed ledger technologies. From these discussions, we derived an insight that a single source of truth, controlled by no single party, is one of the pieces in the puzzle of how to foster cooperation tailored for the world of bits. This new tech stack of peer-to-peer tech, public key cryptography and distributed ledger technologies can be a ground on which we can craft new stories to cooperate better without relying on building the power of centralized actors (the problem of the Leviathan).
This book led us to see how returns on violence are a driving factor of socio-economic formations. That is an insight of such significance, that we need to look at it - as otherwise any great story or innovation can bring not a utopia, but a dystopia - if returns on violence and monopolization of violence are not taken into account (we call it - the problem of the Leviathan).
Where we agree with “The Sovereign Individual” is that the advent of digital technologies is of the same significance as the Agrarian Revolution or the Industrial Revolution. It took thousands of years for the agrarian revolution to take place. It took several centuries for the Industrial Revolution to have its cumulative effect. The digital revolution is still happening. After that the information society will be completely different.
Up until now, instead of decentralization we see the rise of tech giants. Instead of political failure of welfare states, the convolution of Tech and State, instead of decentralization, the push towards even further centralization.
While the predictions of the book are currently unfulfilled, we believe the cause is current technological design decisions. We hope to learn from the choices that were made, rebuilding the web from scratch and changing our way of software development, moving to an open source code and a business model that would allow for innovation level comparable to proprietary software.
Finally, we agree with the authors’ thesis on the effect of the information revolution on old structures of power. We think the impact on modern states, cities, communities, families will be of a similar scale to that of the Industrial Revolution. Yet, we think the envisioned future represents an anarchist world. We believe a different future is possible. We believe that a society can become even more cooperative if fundamental digital freedoms and digital autonomy become the foundation of it.
For us, digital sovereignty is the most interesting realm of sovereignty because many people can become digitally sovereign at once, and the effect of this will be unparalleled. We think that digital sovereignty means having fundamental digital freedoms. Having fundamental digital freedoms, a person can be considered ‘free’ in the world of bits.
“The Sovereign Individual" imagines the future in which information technology has spread, and it has led to a crisis of the welfare states and the re-emergence of archaic power structures. The book examines the role of the Sovereign Individual in this change. This is a radical view on the effect encryption, cyber money and the internet will have on society where the problem of the Leviathan exists. The book argues that the Leviathan is lazy, inefficient, centralized, yet very powerful because of the positive returns on violence. It shows how the interests of the state are misaligned with those of economic actors, and how the state’s focus on populism destroys this balance even further.
By democratizing software development, HyperCard empowered individuals to express their creativity and ideas without extensive coding knowledge. Its hypertext-based structure allowed for nonlinear navigation and information exploration.
Rumors circulated that this software was intended to transform the Finder on Mac OS, replacing the metaphor of files and folders with interconnected web-like cards.
At Anytype, we draw deep inspiration from this groundbreaking software that was truly ahead of its time. In many ways, Anytype pays homage to HyperCard. We incorporate the local-first approach of HyperCard and combine it with a peer-to-peer networking stack, taking the concept of DIY software to the next level.
Studying the impact and capabilities of HyperCard can inspire individuals to reflect on technological progress, acknowledge the contributions of early pioneers, and consider how past innovations can inform current and future developments. HyperCard's legacy serves as a reminder of the transformative power of visionary ideas and their lasting influence on the evolution of technology.
This short video by Werner Herzog beautifully presents Ted Nelson's personality and his ideas about interconnections, which served as the foundation for his computer work. Although Ted coined the term "hypertext," he was deeply disappointed by the state of the web today. He strongly believes that Tim-Berners Lee has made the wrong implementation choice.
Nelson's rebellious personality, abstract thinking, and clear approach to visualizing complex ideas have deeply inspired us to further advance them. At Anytype, we are striving to push the idea of hypertext even further by proposing not just the inclusion of links, but also the integration of bi-directional relations. This enables us to create a graph - a universal data structure that uncovers new dimensions of user experience.
Engelbart's vision of augmenting human intellect through technology was revolutionary. The demo emphasized remote collaboration, bringing people together regardless of distance. It reminds us of the transformative potential of innovation and the importance of designing technology with the user in mind. This event serves as a source of inspiration for current and future innovators, encouraging us to explore new possibilities and strive for transformative change.
This demo inspires us to think big, challenge norms, and push the boundaries of what is possible. It highlights the power of collaboration, communication, and user-centered design in shaping the future of technology.
The "Mother of All Demos" is a testament to the progress we have made and the potential for continued advancement in computing and human-computer interaction.