Our homework assignment from last week was to distill “what is AxisOfEasy?” into something relatable and concise. We came away from this episode with:
Exploring alternatives and seeing beyond the frame …in a world gone full cyberpunk.
But if we had to distill today’s episode down it would be the rise, and possible downfall Neo-Feudalism. Maybe we finally have a descriptive term for our perennial question of “what comes next?” now that this age of Nation States is coming to an end, and Jesse came up with “The Network State”. I think that might actually have nailed it. Under this new structure the means of production become organized around the flow of data. The new nobility have names like Lord Zuckerberg and Baron Bezos.
As Charles notes, the conclusion of every era where the incumbent institutions break down is defined by a decent into feudalism wherein the peasantry (this means you), loses their rights that were previously, at least nominally, enshrined in law and protected by the central authority of the day. At the end of the Dark Ages the serfs eventually ceded their right to own land and traded it for the base survival and security accorded by the friendly neighbourhood nobility.
Today, as our day-to-day lives come to more dominated by algorithms and platforms, our lives are less protected by what may be codified in our charters or our constitutions as much as they are subject to the myriad EULAs and Terms-of-Service of the platforms we are increasingly dependent on.
In Jesse’s mind, China is already there, functioning more as a Network State than a Nation State and the global conflict over… TikTok of all things, gives us a glimpse into the nature of network power and conflict in this oncoming era.
This also brought us to another recurring theme, of platforms vs protocols. As I typed the earlier paragraph about EULAs and ToS, I realized a crucial distinction: platforms have Terms of Service, usually of the “take-it-or-leave-it” variety. Protocols by contrast have specifications. An entirely different relationship exists between the participants under both configurations.
Salon Transcript: AxisofEasy-12_transcript
- The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Middle Class, by Joel Kotkin
- The Sovereign Individual, by James Dale Davidson and Lord Rees-Mogg
- Empire and Communications by Harold Innis
- The Inheritance of Rome by Chris Wickahm
- Wall St. and the Bolshevik Revolution by Anthony C Sutton