SingUlarity Aliya Prokofieva

From Homo sapiens to Homo cosmicam: the stages of a great journey

SingUlarity
Space invasion is not a dream, the journey’s started
From Homo sapiens to Homo cosmicam: the stages of a great journey

What does a man need space for when he is not given eternity? - Salvador Dali asked sorrowfully. I'll try to console the classics: it is quite likely that it will be eternity that will be the result of a large space expedition of mankind. And this will be the process of settling the universe, long and extremely fascinating.

In my opinion, the key concept for understanding this process is autonomy. It is up to autonomy to determine this in the first place, according to which canons the relationships within the space settlements and between them will be built, how links with Earth will change. How, in the end, the very human essence will change.

A lot of analysis, a little imagination- as a result, these were the consequences.

Stage 1. Low autonomy

From this stage, we are separated by a maximum of several decades. It will begin together with the creation of orbital stations with artificial gravity and inhabited bases on the Moon and Mars. Three factors will play a key role in the formation of the system of public relations of the first non-Terrans.

First, in the initial stages, assembly of modules, installation and testing of equipment happens,  the living conditions of the settlers will be Spartan, the risks high and responsibility beyond the bounds. Accordingly, internal relations in the team will have to be built on the basis of a rigid vertical power: the station said NADO, the astronaut replied that it exists. Later, when life is adjusted, and security is ensured, there will be a smooth rollback to democratic values.

Secondly, at first cosmic settlements will be completely dependent on the earth. They can not survive and develop without regular supplies of resources and mechanisms, without the import of new knowledge and technology. Therefore, strict control and management of processes from the terrestrial control center will initially be taken for granted.

Third, with a high degree of probability, the first permanently inhabited bases will be created on the principle of "one state - one station." De facto, they will become space enclaves of the terrestrial powers: in the territory of Martian New Beijing or the lunar New Moscow, the systems of values, laws and social relations adopted in the metropolitan areas will operate.

Stage 2. Average autonomy

Self-sufficient inhabited settlements are created on all suitable for life planets of the Solar system. Landing expeditions are prepared beyond its limits. Technologies of construction of space cities have been worked out and widely available. On the planetary and orbital bases, the first generations of settlers born outside the Earth grew up.

There are non-state space cities, founded not by terrestrial governments, but by groups of like-minded people. Their participants determine the rules of the social system together, which the society will adhere to. Prototypes of such communities already exist: for example, the cosmic state of Asgardia or the concept of the orbital city "Ether.”

The connection with the Earth is still maintained, but the dependence of settlements on alma mater (translated from Latin- the nursing mother) is falling rapidly. From the center of human civilization the blue planet turns into its ordinary stronghold. Formerly established bases gradually abandon the status of terrestrial enclaves and move on to become self-government.

Diplomatic and economic ties are established between the space cities. The exchange of information and technologies, as a rule, takes place on a mutually beneficial basis, but increasingly on a non-reimbursable basis. Cultural integration is growing: today is the tour of the composite orchestra of Phobos and Demos on Jupiter, tomorrow is the week of the Martian ballet in the asteroid belt.

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Stage 3. High autonomy

Mankind has finally transcended the solar system and is actively developing planets that revolve around the nearest stars. People still remember that the Earth is their ancestral home, but they perceive it as an ordinary historical fact. This is how we treat Mesopotamia today, which is considered the cradle of the earthly civilization: yeah, so what?

The centers of public life are self-sufficient city-states scattered around the most suitable for life planets.

Around such cosmopolises an infrastructure is created from planets-farms, planets-mines and planets-workshops, functioning without human participation. The most likely form of social organization of such entities is a direct social contract regulating what is possible and what is not possible within each particular policy. Now the state is not a regulator, but a set of service functions that are almost completely automated.

It is impossible to deny the possibility of manifesting the remnants of the past. For example, the emergence of a military dictatorship aimed at forcibly seizing neighbors and creating an empire ruled from a single center. Or the formation of a hoard of cosmic nomads living at the expense of raids on prosperous planets. Particularly zealous futurists predict the probability of even slave-owning cosmosocieties. Which, in my opinion, completely no longer makes sense: to whom and why are slaves needed when all production processes are automated and robotic? Unless only in a harem…

Stage 4. Very high autonomy

At last, everything was accomplished, this is what modern science fictionists only dream in their wildest dreams.

The principles of movement in space are opened, allowing to move between the stellar systems with minimum energy for a few days/hours/minutes. Intergalactic spaceships for a man of a new era is the same as a car for us.

Compact generators have been created, which allow producing any volumes of energy from nothing.

In everyday life included the distant descendants of a 3D printer, allowing you to change the properties of matter and create anything from anything. For example, convert stellar dust to spare parts for a star. Or in works of art. Or pies with jam.

Humans are now completely self-sufficient units. Collective activity ceases to be a necessity, society loses the basic unifying functions. Nobody controls anyone, nobody obeys anyone.

People settle in the Universe individually, families or small groups "on interests." The possible options are:

● "private household": one person - one planet,

● "cobbled cottages": several people populate the planetary system and maintain good-neighborly relations,

● "communal": one planet is divided into residential areas between several tenants.

Autonomous resettlement does not mean that people will completely abandon communication with their own kind. Certainly, they will support communication through social networks of the next generation on an ecumenical scale. And on a conditional weekend fly from neighboring systems to a particularly picturesque asteroid to have a barbecue, drink beer and exchange news. And, of course, gossip: for example about how the Ivanovs from the XQ4981 system flooded the planet, and now, as plumbers drain the oceans, they moved to a summer cottage on an artificial satellite.

Stage 5. Absolute autonomy

In the famous "Monday starts on Saturday" Strugatsky characterized man as an intermediate link necessary for nature to create the crown of creation: a glass of cognac with a slice of lemon. All jokes aside, the principle is absolutely correct. Sooner or later the little man as a biological species will reach its limits, and something new will come to replace it. Crown of creation. Superman.

Homo cosmicam from the conditioned cocoon, inextricably linked with the material shell, will turn into a butterfly- a disembodied energy essence. Konstantin Tsiolkovsky called this energy radiant and the new community- radiant humanity.

Objects and technologies are no longer needed- all the necessary super-people are directly drawn from the surrounding world. Life expectancy is eternal. Moving to any point in the universe is instantaneous. Communication- at any distance. The remaining possibilities of energy entities can only be guessed. As well as the forms of their social order, if this can still be preserved.

It's a pity that you will not have to live beautiful at this time, neither to me nor to you.

SingUlarity
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Сreative Сommunities in Space and Crypto Give Shape to Future Social System

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Equality based on trust and mutual respect is a viable prototype of democracy 2.0
Сreative Сommunities in Space and Crypto Give Shape to Future Social System

Aliya Prokofieva is founder of the international space company “Galaktika,” space exploration visionary and active public speaker. She writes for U.Today on the cutting edge tech and disruptive projects that may change the life of billions of people.

Whatever sociologists say about the growing popularity of individualism in the modern world, man was, is and will be a social being. Without denying the importance of individual genii, it is necessary to recognize: it is collective actions that ensure the progressive development of our civilization.

A notable phenomenon of modern social life is communities, the new forms of social groups that Thomas Hobbes defined as "a certain number of people united by a common interest or common cause." Compared with formal teams, they are much more effective and mobile, more focused on the outcome, and reveal the individual capabilities of participants better. It is communities that have all the chances to become a link between the traditional forms of social order that prevail today and those that will replace them in the future.

Working in various projects, I was able to observe the activities of such communities and identify the criteria that they must meet in order to become successful.

image

What makes communities effective

Here are the conclusions I came to:

1. The community needs a goal.

It does not matter what it will be: taking care of homeless animals or finding solutions to the Navier-Stokes equations. The main thing is that

a) it is clear and concrete,

b) it had high value for a certain circle of people.

Communities without a goal or with unclear targets are not viable- this is easily seen from the example of today's Internet. Instead of interested participants, they attract a crowd of trolls, ready to kill any idea. The exchange of views on such sites quickly gets sidetracked from the means of achieving the goal itself. The result is a massive outflow of capable members and the sudden end of the community.

2. Community members should be associated with joint activities.

Groups, united by the exchange of information or the discussion of common interests, have the right to exist, but they look like blank cartridges: from what they are, the surrounding world is neither hot nor cold. Here everything is simple: if nothing is done, nothing will happen.

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3. Community activities should be of public benefit, i.e. not limited to solving the personal problems of its participants, but to project the result into an external society.

The more people outside the community that feel the positive effect of his work, the higher is his social value.

For example, the social significance of a group of volunteers who decided to equip the courtyard of an apartment building will be limited to the circle of its tenants. However, if after this, volunteers take care of neighboring yards, attract new participants, embrace other areas, they will soon become a significant public force citywide.

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4. The task of a result-oriented community is not to suppress, but to promote the individuality of participants.

Equalization in such social groups is similar to death: it sharply reduces the level of responsibility of members of the collective. As a consequence, the effectiveness of joint activities will be zero. The maximum benefit to the community will come from a participant who can say to himself: this is mine, here I will be able to realize my abilities to the maximum and get a worthy reward (not necessarily material).

5. Full participation in decision-making is a distinctive feature of a properly organized community.

Social groups built on a tight vertical of power have no future. In the modern world, fewer people are ready to be content with the role of a pawn in another's game. A joint search for the right solution; the ability to listen and adequately assess points of view that are different from one's own; the willingness to accept a collective verdict, even if it does not agree with their ideals, is a consistent step on the road to a new type of democracy.

6. Trust is the ultimate catalyst for any community.

Communities in the past had to live, and many still do, on platforms that are not transparent in how they operate and the commoditization is obfuscated. Decentralization and the Blockchain technology are changing that. Blockchain transparency is what will shoot communities to the next level. The essence of the immutable ledger is that your every action is always yours. The Blockchain is for you, the individual. This forms trust. There are projects like U°Community that build a transparent community platform with dynamic reputation.

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The "Ether" orbital city

These considerations were fully taken into account when forming a group of like-minded people united by the idea of ​​creating the orbital city "Ether.” The result was a project that met all the criteria of a successful community, which could well become the prototype of a new model of social structure.

First, it has a well-defined goal, understandable to the participants and having a significant value for them. The idea of ​​creating a city in orbit with a population of several tens of thousands, equipped with an autonomous life support system and its own biosphere, is a powerful unifying force.

Secondly, the "ethereal" community is capable: it includes many high-level professionals competent with various fields of knowledge. But even more enthusiasts, keen on the grandiosity of the goal and ready to learn in the process of achieving it, improve themselves and make a feasible contribution to the common cause.

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Thirdly, the community's activities have a high social value: its result will be a breakthrough not only for the participants but for the entire population of the Earth. The engineering and social technologies obtained in the process of working on the project will become the property of not a narrow group of people, but all of mankind, and will bring the day when we begin to consider outer space as our second home closer.

Fourth, the scale and level of complexity of the tasks to be solved are such that there is space for self-realization for everyone. The theoretical physicist and engineer-designer, power engineer and biotechnologist, space designer and city manager- practically any professional experience multiplied by the ability to generate non-trivial ideas, will be in demand and appreciated.

And, finally, at all stages of joint activities, from the development of the concept to the full settlement of the station, key decisions affecting the future of the "Ether" are done collectively. Each member of the community has the right to vote, and every voice will be heard. Equality based on trust and mutual respect is a viable prototype of democracy 2.0.

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How We All Go Into Space: Aliya Prokofieva Has Mission Under Control

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U.Today spoke with Galaktika’s CEO about why it’s worth reclaiming our passion for space travel
How We All Go Into Space: Aliya Prokofieva Has Mission Under Control

Aliya Prokofieva doesn’t look like the usual suspect for the founder of a private space initiative, but upon closer inspection, it’s evident that this destiny was inevitable. Having grown up among the astronauts, engineers and sci-fi writers who were part of the community at the famous Pulkovo Observatory, she caught the space fever as a child and carried it, with purity and dedication, to the establishment of her company Galaktika.

In the last few decades, the incredible advances of technology are showing us more and more than anything is possible, but it seems we tend to be over-focused on the way new tech can improve our screen resolutions and scrolling speeds. Aliya intends to shift that focus where it belongs– space, the final frontier. U.Today spoke with Galaktika’s CEO about why it’s worth reclaiming our passion for space travel, not only for the opportunities it will create in the space cities but for the way it can change human society here on Earth.

Drops of Jupiter in her hair

U.Today (Katya Michaels): Aliya, in the last couple of years you have become a prominent player in the private space development industry, but I wanted to start at the beginning – both your mother and your aunt were astrophysicists?

Aliya Prokofieva: Yes, that’s correct. My mom was not only an astrophysicist, she was also chief constructor for the Pulkovo Observatory, one of the biggest and oldest observatories in Russia. She also worked on the observatory in Norway’s Spitsbergen and many others.

UT: That must have been a strong influence on your path as a woman in tech, having these amazing role models.

AP: Of course, although as a child I didn’t dream of being a scientist or an engineer. I am more interested in culture and society, specifically the way scientific discoveries can serve humanity. From the beginning in this industry, I have been more focused on creating something that will help people, that will endure after I’m gone and contribute to sustainable solutions that will be applicable all over the world.

UT: Did your mother also believe that it was possible for humanity to colonize space in your lifetime?

AP: You know, it’s interesting – my mother was born, grew up and worked in the Soviet Union. When she was 19, Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space.

It was 1961 and everybody really thought, both in the Soviet Union and the US, that people would be living in space by the millennium.

There was this absolute confidence that the next decades would see massive and fully scaled space development. Not only my mother, but many scientists and engineers in the Soviet Union thought that this would be a reality. If you were to ask some of the old NASA guys who remember those times, they would say the same. So, my childhood impressions were a melding of the engineering facts of space exploration and the romantic-scientific idea of the imminent reality of life in space.

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The nearness of stars

UT: I feel like the archetype of the romantic scientist is a uniquely Soviet phenomenon, in many ways exemplified by the sci-fi works of Strugatsky brothers, and that it doesn’t really have parallels in other cultures… Do you think that’s true?

AP: I don’t believe it’s unique, because international sci-fi authors like Isaac Asimov and Arthur Clarke were at that time writing the same kinds of stories as Arkady and Boris Strugatsky. However, what really is different about the Russian approach to space is the background philosophy.

Space was first explored not for the explicit purpose of scientific discovery but approached as a source of spiritual development for humanity.

The philosophy is called Russian Cosmism. It’s a phenomenon that appeared at the end of the 19th century, counting among its proponents such distinguished writers as Dostoyevsky. It was not about technology – Cosmist thinkers explored what space could mean for the human soul and eternal life, in a metaphysical way. In fact, Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, one of the founders of cosmonautics and space travel, was inspired by the philosophy of Russian Cosmism to work on his scientific and engineering discoveries.

Swapping space travel for VR

UT: What do you think happened since the 1950s to the way space travel is viewed? It seems that humanity was dreaming of flying cars and space cities, and instead got smartphones and virtual reality. Kids used to dream of being astronauts and now they want to be Instagram influencers.

AP: I think that the main reason for the change is the fashion for particular heroes – what we are shown in social media, in films and so on. Although I don’t agree with you that kids don’t dream about being astronauts. I know lots of young people, both in the US and in Russia, who are really passionate about space and would like to have access to more information and opportunities.

I suppose what I’m trying to do is create a fashion for space – for going there and being connected with it. That’s why I decided to create this community and this space movement.

It’s not so much about technology, but about creating a real community of people who will be supportive to each other to make space real. That’s my mission.

Space playground

UT: Do you meet with a lot of skepticism? How well informed are people generally in terms of the realities of modern space technology?

AP: Generally, people think that space is something that is very far and not relevant to them. They are taken by surprise when I tell them that we are actually all living in space, already. We have the technology, but it doesn’t have the mass reach of cars or airplanes. There isn’t enough information out there, and it’s part of my mission to educate people. I mean, if you and I were chatting in the 1950s and I’d tell you that it would be possible to converse on video from any location, over any distance – you’d think I was crazy. The same thing is happening with space development, it’s just a question of greater scale.

UT: A big part of what you’re doing to make people more aware of the possibilities of space is an educational initiative here on Earth. Could you elaborate on that?

AP: That effort is in two parts. One is a virtual community platform which is a combination of social networking, project collaboration, an incubator, and a funding structure. It will also give users access to lectures, educational materials, films.

The second part is a space city prototype on Earth, an edutainment format that will be a mix between Universal Studios and the Guggenheim Museum. We are currently creating multimedia and interactive materials for the project. The goal is to make visitors really feel what it would be like to live in space.

UT: Where would this center be located?

AP: Currently we are thinking Switzerland, a location with an area of about 30,000 square meters. We would also have an area nearby for a Mars or Moon safari theme, where visitors could test real equipment. Hopefully, this kind of science center will demonstrate that space is not something distant or fearful, but engaging and fun.

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Off-world equity

UT:  Private space initiatives get investments from the big players, but when will it be possible for everyday, small-scale investors to get into the space game? What kind of returns could they hope to see and in what kind of time frames?

AP: We are in the process of creating tools that will make that possible. It’s something that I have often faced during my space journey – the financing problem in the market. Space companies are either very small startups or established giants like Space X and Blue Origin.

As a result, many great minds don’t have access to financing because most investors think space technology is really remote and risky.

In fact, space investment can be less risky than many IT startups or real estate projects.

Space technologies can be used both in space and on earth– to name just one example, solar panels were originally a space technology and are now a major part of sustainable solutions on Earth.

In our project, the fund structure is a combination of classical venture capital and investment capital instruments, accessible for institutional and large private investors, with a cryptocurrency crowdfunding framework. I discovered that there are so many people who are interested in making their impact on the future of space exploration, whether through intellectual contribution or financial investment.

We also feature different investment categories, with short-term returns within three or four years, midterm returns in five to seven years, and the long-term over ten years. Our management team can work with investors, linking different projects and bringing stable returns of at least 25-30 percent within two years, and those are conservative figures. We are implementing Blockchain and smart contracts to make these investments safe and transparent.

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May the forces be with each other

UT: We’ve been discussing private companies, but of course there are government space programs as well. Do you think private and government sectors will combine efforts? How will they work together?

AP: I believe everyone will join forces. Even now, NASA and the European Space Agency are very supportive of private space initiatives. The future will favor projects that join together public and private efforts–  governments can provide the infrastructure, and private companies contribute a solid business approach since they are understandably motivated by returns on investment.

UT: What about collaboration between nations? When you talk about your project in Russia and in the US, do you feel that there’s a remaining competitive feeling left over from the Cold War? Or is that completely in the past?

AP: I think that in general it’s gone – as you are well aware, what you read in the newspapers is usually someone’s biased agenda. In the space technology, everybody understands that countries should be supportive of each other. What I find interesting is that people are really prepared to collaborate and create joint projects, such that every country’s and every company’s competence is employed to the fullest for the common good.

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Making Marvel comics real

UT: One of the most fascinating questions about space colonization is how it will change human society, both in space cities and here on Earth. You have written about relative autonomy of space colonies as the variable that will determine community development. The first stage is a very demanding survival mode– do you think modern residents of developed countries, used to comforts, are ready for those kinds of sacrifices?

AP: I see that people are searching for something interesting, and their reaction depends on how information is presented to them. If you focus on details of technology development, financing issues and challenges that astronauts face, that can get boring and seem like it’s very far away. When you show how space directly affects people’s lives, show them space as a source of inspiration– their eyes light up.

This is especially true when they realize that they can influence this process– intellectually, financially or by direct participation. It’s like making Marvel comics real! If they can be a part of it, they are eager to step up to the challenge. The space colonization endeavor is really a new, unprecedented type of collaboration.

I think people are tired of the emptiness of social media. What’s the point of showing off and getting a few thousand followers, if that’s all that will be left after you’re gone? What they really want is to make an impact on the future of humanity and the planet, something that will last for generations.

The space city itself is more than a technological challenge. On the one hand, it’s a new economy that will provide a unique professional opportunity for every field– medical, engineering, technical, entrepreneurial, cultural. On a different level, it’s a metaphor for a new era in human evolution, a new purpose for people’s lives.

Independence from Earth

UT: You wrote that at the later stages of increased space city autonomy, these city-states will gain independence from Earth governments. Do you believe this will be a seamless process? Won’t the mother countries fight to retain their space colonies?

AP: I believe, and this is one of my goals as well, that there will be a shift in the mindset. We are still living in a very competitive society, but transitioning to a contributing society. We are used to saying, ok, these 100 acres are mine and these are yours. It’s amusing when people try to apply this dealing to space, which clearly belongs equally to everyone.

I hope that countries will be united in space, regardless of religion and politics, but the way this will turn out depends on us  – whether we’ll be entrenched in colonies separated by borders, or sharing space as human beings who are citizens of one community.

Don’t panic

UT: What is your personal dream of space?

AP: My personal dream is to inspire every human with the vision of life in space and to build the first space city. I want to make space travel as easy and approachable as buying a ticket from New York to London.

UT:  What are your favorite portrayals of space life in books or movies? Something that really reflects the way you imagine space.

AP: Actually, I am currently writing a script for my own space film, as well as a fiction book about a girl’s space journey. What I don’t like about most sci-fi movies is that they portray space as a harsh and hostile environment, while it’s a source of great inspiration and value for humanity. My favorite ones are still Star Wars and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. They are closer to my idea of how life in space could be – not always friendly, but exciting and adventurous.

Here, you can listen to the Technotopia talk with Aliya Prokofieva.

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Thought provoking entertainment based on alternative history and science fiction is enjoying somewhat of a renaissance, with video platforms like Netflix and Hulu releasing entire seasons of new series what seems like every month. Aside from aspiring to and, arguably, in some cases succeeding with, intriguing premises and smart scripts, these modern depictions of imaginary realities often feature the obligatory mind-altering twist ending.

The twist ending boasts an impressive cinematic history– from the Statue of Liberty in Planet of the Apes to Kevin Spacey’s feet in the final scenes of The Usual Suspects and Bruce Willis’s bloody shirt in The Sixth Sense, just a little bit of contradictory information can reveal exactly how much we’ve been taking for granted all along and turn our understanding of the circumstances upside down. Given our enjoyment of edifying perspective flips in fictional works, it’s ironic how rarely we take the trouble to adjust and rethink perspectives in our daily lives.

The most pervasive alternative reality of modern life, the virtual space of social media and Internet transactions, demands a critical look that is long overdue. It’s time to examine where we really are, trace the garden path that led us here and envisions solutions that will work in the context of our new-found awareness.

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The other place

The New Yorker cartoon “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog” was published in the summer of 1993, when barely anyone had daily access to the web, but it turned out to be an uncanny portent of the age of online dating, Internet profiles and digital fraud.

The Internet discovered and filled a need for venturing beyond the reality of one’s life to explore situations and identities that would be otherwise inaccessible. Our online lives became both a reflection and a distortion of real lives, a space with its own rules, a world within a world– a heterotopia, as defined by philosopher Michel Foucault in the 1960s.

In Foucault’s vision, a healthy society would have room for many heterotopias, providing a means of exploring perspectives and experiences that differ from the dominant reality, as well as a way to escape authoritarianism. However, as a representation of alternative, transgressive, contradictory or transforming values, a heterotopia can become both a utopian vision and a dystopian perversion.

So what are the rules of the Internet heterotopia in which we spend so much of our time? What are its governing principles and economic realities? Most importantly, how does it now affect our real spaces?

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The infinite scroll

In another throwback to the pre-Facebook era, a 2002 commercial of a high-speed Internet provider features a web surfer who, due to the superior download speeds offered by the advertiser, reaches “the end of the Internet” because he has “seen everything there is to see.” Obviously, the punchline would fall flat now, because the amount of new content contributed by online users on a daily basis is staggering.

Human beings have a natural inclination to take pride in their achievements and to share important events with their social circle, but the real driver of user-generated content is the validation provided by the community’s response. In this respect, the world of social media seemed to be a forum for self-expression unlike anything that existed before– an addictive, infinite experience that was offered to us free of charge.

The consumer or the consumed?

We jumped at the opportunity to make our opinions heard and our existence recognized, contributing to the immense accumulation of visual and textual data about ourselves and our closest connections. In 1967, French philosopher Guy Debord’s work The Society of the Spectacle expressed concern that genuine activities of life were being supplanted by the spectacle– a space where human relationships are mediated by an endless mass of images that preclude real experiences and thwart critical thinking.

One of his observations, “All that was once directly lived has become mere representation,” is such a compelling critique of today’s Facebook and Instagram culture, that it’s difficult to believe he was writing these words half a century ago.

As experiences were taken out of real spaces and deposited into the heterotopia of the Internet, they became commodities– and as these commodities were fetishized, they came to govern the consumers of the content rather than being governed by them.

Where there are commodities, there are profits and who are the beneficiaries? Not the producers of the commodified content, as it turns out.

The users’ experiences and the community’s engagement with those experiences have been commoditized and monetized by the spectacle’s platforms– until recently, without the users’ awareness. Instead of being an escape from repression, the heterotopia of social media revealed itself as a labor camp.

We thought our online presence gave us a way to protest the machine peacefully– instead, our resources have been feeding its furnaces. As we are using online services, the products of our social activities are consumed by third parties. The camera zooms out to show that the users are actually the workers, pulling at the harness of the spectacle engine while transfixed with the imagery in their phones. It’s a blockbuster-worthy perspective flip– we should be paying attention.

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Interrupting the spectacle

As revelations of privacy violations by major social networks and commercial platforms come to light, user response seems underwhelming. Many are still unaware of the scope of commoditization of personal data, and others feel that the costs of transitioning away from existing online interaction models is too high.

Even the trigger that usually moves people to action, the realization that they are quite literally being swindled, seems weak in the face of the spectacle’s power.

Debord believed that the only way to interrupt the flow of the spectacle was by using stronger spectacular images– situations that would bring about a profound disruption of the existing processes of life, politics, economics and creativity. Perhaps Blockchain technology can be that disruptor– a way to give content ownership back to the users. Although the society of the spectacle may not be entirely interrupted, the alienation it perpetuates may be healed by refocusing on the true value of individual contributions to the community and redistributing compensation where it’s due.

Foucault’s heterotopias are necessary for a diverse and liberated society, as they provide refreshing contexts for our interactions in real spaces. We have seen how the internet’s transfiguration from a heterotopia to a dystopia has soured our belief in human dignity and progress.

It’s our responsibility to give some thought to the ways Blockchain technology– transparent, secure and based on a belief of fair and equal participation– can shift the Internet community toward a utopian state.

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A Case for Reddit, Billy Milligan, Facebook, Gmail, and Cryptocurrency

SingUlarity
Evolution of communities puts self-governance on top
A Case for Reddit, Billy Milligan, Facebook, Gmail, and Cryptocurrency

Reddit

Back in 2005, Alexis Ohanian and Steve Huffman — two undergraduate students of the University of Virginia and dormmates — had an idea for a food ordering app that they pitched to a computer scientist and entrepreneur Paul Graham. Paul Graham liked the idea and told Alexis and Steve to pitch it to Y Combinator — a startup accelerator that Paul co-founded that same year and that’s one of the most successful today.

The pitch didn’t go well with the Y Combinator investors and was rejected, but they liked Alexis and Steve as a team and told them to come up with something else. The two undergrads quickly came up with the idea of Reddit that Paul Graham immediately called “the front page of the web.” Reddit was given funding, developed in a very short period of time, and went online in June 2005.

At first, the new social network was very barebones with very few users, and to create the effect of a crowded house so that it would show some activity on the website, Alexis and Steve started registering fake users and submitting news and links worth of attention through different names. This way of attracting new users can be crudely called the Billy Milligan effect. Alexis and Steve had to pretend they were a number of different people who used the website until they reached a critical mass when Reddit would be able to function on its own.

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Facebook

A year before Reddit, Mark Zuckerberg launched a universal student directory at Harvard called TheFacebook. The directory was a centralized place to keep all student photos and basic student information. TheFacebook, unlike Reddit, was launched to an existing userbase — Harvard students — and within the first month more than half of the undergraduates registered on Facebook. Facebook was initially restricted to Harvard.

Gmail

Gmail was launched in 2004, but due to the limited infrastructure to support the users, Google decided to make Gmail invitation-only and limited the invitations to 1,000 opinion leaders and their friends and family members.

Gmail invitations, due to the closed nature of the service, became highly demanded and a market was quickly formed around them. Regular invitations were selling on eBay for $150 with some accounts soaring to as high as several thousand dollars.

As Georges Harik, product management director for Gmail at the time, puts it: “The limited rollout had been born of necessity, but it had a side effect. Everyone wanted it even more. It was hailed as one of the best marketing decisions in tech history, but it was a little bit unintentional.”

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Blockchain

Reddit, Facebook, and Gmail happened well over a decade ago, and the Blockchain technology and interest have advanced and spread in the meantime. Getting early in a product, project, or a service poised for success is always an advantage, be it a cool name on Gmail, the account age on Reddit, or making use of Facebook monetization.

With Blockchain and cryptocurrency, as the latest years show, getting in early is a solid advantage, and due to the decentralized nature of the technology, this can be a life-changing experience. It is to many.

To quote Michael del Castillo of Forbes:

“By giving early adopters of a budding social network like Steemit access to a token that potentially appreciates in value and gives them access to the service, developers could create an incentive to join long before the actual network effects are competitive with established centralized social networks like Facebook and Twitter.”

Community support through getting coins of a new service shortens the period necessary to reach the critical mass to not only keep the network going but letting it truly flourish on its own. With Blockchain and crypto, no longer does a project need to play Billy Milligan or simulate an elitist characteristic of an invitation-only service.

The service has to be good though, and decentralization allows it to be self-governed and ready for the community embrace, for the Blockchain protocol and algorithm are transparent and independent — the complete opposite of being centralized. You can’t pull a Billy Milligan on it or switch it to a doors-shut exclusive place. The protocol and the decentralized nature of Blockchain make it completely community-owned.

But again, the service has to be good.

The U°Community platform is not yet another social network on Blockchain just because of Blockchain. It’s an integral part of Blockchain and an interface to it.

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The Egg of Andy Weir

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Blockchain and sharing economy went public in 2009 and are a total success
The Egg of Andy Weir

If the name of Andy Weir does not sound outright familiar, then the movie The Martian will. Andy Weir is the novelist who wrote the book in 2011 that was made into the eponymous movie in 2015.

Weir’s most famous short story, however, that went through another round of popularity with the movie release and that he published on his website back in 2009 is “The Egg”. Tallying at around 1,000 words, the story has been translated into over 30 languages by readers and is still bringing today around 100,000 visits to Weir’s website monthly.

The gist of the story is this. A man dies in a car crash and emerges in a place of nothingness where he meets God. God tells the man he will be reincarnated as a Chinese peasant girl in 540 AD. Not only that, but that the man is constantly going through reincarnations through time and that every person the man ever knew directly, including his wife and kids, by proxy, or indirectly like Hitler and Jesus — they have always been reincarnations of this very man. Every person that ever existed in the universe is this man.

If you haven’t read the story, read it, it’s likely to be worth your time.

The quote of particular interest is where God explains to the man why the universe exists the way it does:

I looked you in the eye. “The meaning of life, the reason I made this whole universe, is for you to mature.”

“You mean mankind? You want us to mature?”

“No, just you. I made this whole universe for you. With each new life you grow and mature and become a larger and greater intellect.”

“Just me? What about everyone else?”

“There is no one else,” I said. “In this universe, there’s just you and me.”

You stared blankly at me. “But all the people on earth…”

“All you. Different incarnations of you.”

“Wait. I’m everyone!?”

“Now you’re getting it,” I said, with a congratulatory slap on the back.

“I’m every human being who ever lived?”

“Or who will ever live, yes.”

“I’m Abraham Lincoln?”

“And you’re John Wilkes Booth, too,” I added.

“I’m Hitler?” You said, appalled.

“And you’re the millions he killed.”

“I’m Jesus?”

“And you’re everyone who followed him.”

You fell silent.

“Every time you victimized someone,” I said, “you were victimizing yourself. Every act of kindness you’ve done, you’ve done to yourself. Every happy and sad moment ever experienced by any human was, or will be, experienced by you.”

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Sharing economy formation

Again, the “The Egg” is Weir’s most famous story and it was relatively popular before the book and the movie The Martian. Why though? I am going to try and give this a little perspective and whether it’s a stretch, of course, entirely up to you, but it might be worth a little ponder-over.

Andy Weir published the story on his website in 2009, and the date is almost at the crest of the wave of the sharing economy formation as a concept and roughly at the foot of the sharing economy implementation in various models.

The term ‘sharing economy’ started appearing in the early 2000s and some sources attribute the first use of the term in public to professor Lawrence Lessig.

Sharing economy was a novel idea and required a leap of trust that took a lot of people to make, and it took years for a lot of users and investors to grow on.

What’s interesting though is that the concept took a firm root around the same time when the global financial crisis peaked in 2008. When the trust went away from the vertical structures — institutions — and splashed into the state of distributed, social, and horizontal.

If we list a few examples of companies that immediately come to mind when we talk sharing economy, the dates of when they started are telling:

  • Kickstarter — founded in April 2009

  • Uber — founded in March 2009

  • Airbnb — founded in August 2008

  • Indiegogo — founded in 2007

  • BlaBlaCar — founded in September 2006

With the collapse of the vertical trust flow came the great new realization of distributed trust models in which people made the great leap and started trusting each other — allowing complete strangers into their apartments, sharing long-distance car rides with someone they never knew, and giving money to people through a website simply because they liked the idea of what was promised and didn’t need or want corporations to shove a new product down their throats.

Did people shortcut the empathy distance and realize they were all more or less similar and closer to each other with the rise of the sharing economy? They arguably did.

This was the time when Andy Weir published “The Egg”, the story that says:

“Every time you victimized someone, you were victimizing yourself. Every act of kindness you’ve done, you’ve done to yourself. Every happy and sad moment ever experienced by any human was, or will be, experienced by you.”

What’s extremely interesting is that the Bitcoin network went live in January 2009. It’s fascinating how much time the humankind and the ideas move in unison and do so without realizing it. The implementation of Blockchain, a trustless public ledger, that should be — or already is, depending on what project you follow — the backbone of the distributed, social, and horizontal trust happened at the same time that the implementation of the sharing economy started. Both the Blockchain technology and the sharing economy became a success.

When you check the timeline and put “The Egg”, the collapse of vertical trust, the sharing economy, and the Blockchain technology in the same row, you realize we are talking the same thing. U°Community believes the next wave of development and progress is in establishing transparent and immutable paths for the flow of the energy of trust for the communities — which are the now of the world progress — to truly thrive.

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