AIME 4: Vad menas med att TEC föregår mänskligheten med hundratusentals år?

Jag chattade lite med monki och följande citat kom upp i anslutning till de teknologiska varelserna:

“Ah, you mean that there are technicians, engineers, inspectors, surveyors, intervention teams, repairmen, regulators, around and in addition to material objects? In short, humans, and even a ‘social context’?” “No, I didn’t say anything of the sort, for the good reason that technologies precede humans by hundreds of thousands of years.

Det låter ju galet, i vår antropocentriska världsbild, att teknologier kan finnas hundratusentals år före Människan har börjat vandra på jorden. Om man slår upp detta stycke i onlineversionen av AIME (kräver att man skapar konto), får man dock lite mera information om vad som egentligen menas. Klickar man på citatet får man följande förklaring:

What renders the theme of the “Homo faber” so irrelevant and, more generally, any idea that there is a sort of virtual Engineer in command of the evolution of techniques, is that there exists a gap of hundreds of thousands of years between the emergence of the first tool kits and the proliferation of hominid lineages. If anything, humans — contemporary modern humans, as they are called by paleontologists — emerge from their uses of techniques. So, all the notions like author, maker, artisan, engineers, with the cognitive skills that they imply, follow and don’t precede the emergence of operational sequences. This an essential point for the inquiry: in the same way as the knowing subject follows the development of referential chains [REF], technical skills follow the development of operational sequences.

Homo Faber är Människan som tillverkar teknologier. Det gör hen. Men människan blev Människa (homo) genom att teknologiska varelser [TEC] först hade verkat på hominiderna. De första teknologiska varelserna, som vi bland annat kan se på bilden nedan, uppfanns ej av homo, utan av hominidæ.

Den arkeologiska termen för detta är Oldowan-verktygen. Om vi vill förenkla det hela till en slogan: Ge mig en flintasten och jag ska skapa människan!

Men, riktigt så enkelt är det ju inte. Detta får konsekvenser för vad den konventionella domänen Teknik(tm) innehåller. Många teknikkritiker, som i varierande grad inspirerats av sydtyska filosofer, analyserar ju teknikens väsen som någon ”anti-mänskligt”, som något som förskjuter och destruerar det mänskliga. Arkeologin talar dock emot denna filosofi.

För det andra tolkar jag Latour som att teknologiska varelser [TEC] som just existensmodi har samma effekt här och nu, som den hade för 2.6 miljoner år sedan, även om effekterna har ett helt annat uttryck. Alltså, [TEC] är en integrerad del av kvasi-subjektens tillblivelse. Vi blir till genom våra teknologiska varelser, som en rekyleffekt. Våra kroppar formas om, vårat tänkande får nya banor. Just detta senare, tänker jag var en av Kittlers stora insikter, att framförallt medieteknologierna hade förmågan att radikalt förändra hur vi tänkte.

Bunkermentalitet

Söndagen tillbringades med det på hösten återkommande besöket på Aeroseum. Första gången jag kröp in i bunkern var enligt bloggdagbokens arkiv år 2008, tillsammans med bland annat Johan och Kalle, som båda loggade händelsen. I år tog jag fram kameran och filmade lite som ni kan se ovan.

I somras besökte jag även ubåtsbasen i Balaklava på Krimhalvön. Både flyget och u-båten konvergerade under kalla kriget med bunkern. Oavsett om man befinner sig på Krimhalvön eller på Hisingsön finner man slående likheter i hur man byggde bunkrar. Att gräva ett gryt på femtiotalet innebar en flykt undan det förödande luftangreppet, en möjlighet att bygga upp det som Virilio kallade för en fleet in being.

Vi skulle alltså kunna tänka oss studieområdet ”komparativ bunkermentalitet”.

Networks and democracy – a true paradox

This is a post based on the panel talk in Cairo this weekend on the Swedish embassy, which I participated in. I came a bit overprepared for the discussion, and time constraints made it impossible to cover all lines of thought that I intended to express. But, that’s what blogs are good for, I guess.

It is a common conception that the Internet in itself, as an ever more efficient and widespread technology, is a source of democracy and citizen emancipation. This type of argument not only reduces democratization to a simple matter of hardware and software, but it also fails to recognize that the Internet can be many different things, depending on what we do with it as a collective. From the flickering web pages of the web, to the deep undersea fiber cables, the Internet was built by societies, for certain purposes and under special conditions. The Internet as we know it, and live it, emerges in the intersection of technical networks and social networks; and it immediately displaces and transforms both of them.

Social networks, more commonly known as social media, are one of several ways of using the rapidly expanding technical network of the Internet to shape networks of people. These networks have the potential to transgress the confinements of other political arenas, such as political parties, institutions, or for that matter, cafés and squares in a city.

The possibility of mediating democratic change on a global level seems to be in reach, as we follow for example the circulation of news and updates across the recent events in the Middle East and North Africa, where the uprisings have seemed to spread almost virally from country to country. At least from a safe distance, the global arena has shrunk to a few milliseconds from corner to corner. Simultaneously the importance of physical places never seem to have diminished, except in the cyber-utopian dreams of corporate solutions.

This phenomenon, exemplified with let’s say the Tahrir Square in Cairo, operates not only on a symbolical level; the power of a physical place to serve as an intensifier of protests should never be underestimated. Rather, what we need is a wholly new terminology for thinking the connections and interfaces between the ultra-fast digital networks and places bound physically to time and space. The philosophically ‘dualist’ version of a real space and a virtual space has already crumbled (both the utopia and the dystopia). We are now talking instead of these relations between spaces in a much more ‘monist’ fashion, studying the connections in qualitative terms, to see how they enforce and weaken, open and close boundaries, make new events happen that were impossible yesterday etc.

Returning to the Internet and its possible ‘democratization effect’, we must first of all recognize its dependence on non-democratic entities. The services we use for creating social networks, in such services as Facebook, Twitter and Youtube, are served by large-scale corporations, whose definitions of a common good remain opaque. Secondly, the Internet-mediated social networks are not yet for everyone, but depend heavily on income, education and language skills. We are not yet in a place where the Internet is for everyone, even less where everyone has equal access to it.

But on a more profound level, that of the ‘protocol’ of the network (technical or social), the internet has never been democratic (and consequently has Facebook neither been democratic, ever). The technology that drives the Internet, called packet-switching, was made in the 1960s for surviving nuclear attacks, then later on for resource sharing of expensive computational power. It was never built with any of the features of democracy as we know it in mind. Social network services, such as Facebook or Twitter, neither have much democracy built into them. They are commercial services, made to facilitate social relations which are primarily based on nepotism. It seems that we are using fundamentally anti-democratic means to pursue democracy, and this is why it sounds quite childish when people complain about ‘censorship on Twitter’. You can’t have censorship if there wasn’t any freedom of speech to begin with, and there never was in those services.

But, it could also be the other way around; maybe we aren’t using social media to make democracy, but instead, we are using democracy to be able to be anti-democratic, to be able (and have the right) to nepotism. The primary task of a totalitarian rule, to simplify a little for the sake of argument, is to destroy all social networks, except the ones that can be formalized within the State, to erect yet another ”democratic peoples republic of the people”. In a liberal line of argument, it would be rather logical to use democracy to be able to shape non-democratic networks, perhaps this is even desirable.

Instead, I think it is more useful to think the Internet, concerning its different services and networks, as things that necessarily need to be displaced before they can work in the service of democratization. Democracy is an ideal vision that we pursue by political practices, usually in the forms of constitutions, elections, and institutions safeguarding this ideal. This practice is always situated and mediated through different (non democratic) communication interfaces; be it squares, cafés, schools or Facebook. But we can not by definition invent a technology that is democratic in itself. A machine of democracy instantly turns in to the opposite of democracy; autocracy, or even technocracy.

When using the Internet for political struggles, these limitations should be kept in mind. But even more importantly, we should all reflect on what we want to create in the future. Who will control the services that we use in the future? Who controls the infrastructure? And, who decides what is a legitimate expression and what is not? When I visited Tahrir Square, there were protests and minor clashes with the police. The struggle over the square seemed, at least on the surface, to be an even fight. Protesters advanced and police retreated, and vice versa.

However, when it comes to Internet access, it is the one who controls the cables, the antennas and the protocols for routing traffic, that has a much more asymmetrical power. In comparison, it only takes a few of keystrokes to shut the Internet down, but it takes hundreds of police officers to get a few protesters to leave the square, even for a brief moment.

Will the next revolution be ”tweeted”, or will it be sparked by yet another Facebook group? We couldn’t really tell, because services come and go on the Internet. But most certainly it will be preluded by, and mediated through, the Internet. Exactly how this will be done, we do not know yet. But it is a matter of concern for all of us, and we should make sure that the possibilities global networks bring are not vaporized from our hands, but instead, that the control over them comes closer to the people using them. Only when we recognize that the most important nodes of the networks are the collective societies that we make up together, not computers or commercial services, we can maximize the political potential of a networked future.

Why technological concepts are smarter than sociological ones; interfaces I

A key question in philosophy and civil sociology (as opposed to the ordinary State sociology) is to grasp how entities and objects communicate, interrelate and every now and then shape new emergent bodies.

Engineers already have one such brilliant concept: interface. But before elaborating on that, let us see what happens when an average sociologist ”borrows” the terminology of technology:

/…/ interface analysis grapples with ‘multiple realities’ made up of potentially conflicting social and normative interests, and diverse and contested bodies of knowledge. It becomes imperative, then, to look closely at the question of whose interpretations or models (e.g., those of politicians, scientists, practitioners or citizens) prevail in given scenarios and how and why they do so (Long 2001: 88)

In two sentences much of the world disappears and we are left with the ”multiple realities” of human access, where there is nothing but ”social” and ”normative” interests. And the only objects connecting are ”politicians, scientists, practitioners or citizens”. What a weak interface! No wonder sociologists never seem to find the missing masses.

To understand concrete things and events, such as workplaces, scientific laboratories, parties, infrastructure and telephones, we are far better off by turning to computer science or industrial design.

Interfaces can be made of hardware or software, of object-oriented code, or in the case of soft humans; by places, protocols and translations.

We take the average desktop computer. It has multiple hardware interfaces, some of them on the outside such as USB-ports, VGA screen connections and ethernet plugs. These in turn follow specific protocols to interface with other devices, such as keyboards, screens and the internet (TCP/IP is (one of) my religions <3). Besides these pretty blackboxed protocols (to hackers and programmers they are gray or white) there is usually a GUI (graphical user interface) and/or CLI (command line interface). The average Macintosh user only uses the GUI to render advanced computing understandable to his or her performances. Different interfaces enables you to do different things, with different speeds and accuracy, and a computer off the shelf can thus be many different things. The same hardware interfaces can be configured to be either a web server, a crypto-device or just a word processor for someone writing a novel. This is one example of the fantastic power of interfaces and their ability to make things multiple!

But it’s not only computers and state of the art technology that comes with interfaces. Take a library. It also has plenty of hardware and software interfaces. There is a catalogue of thousands of books, there are chairs and tables for interfacing with books that you pick off the shelves, and if the library is nextlevel, it is equipped with a café where humans can interact using the protocol ”language”.

Once you study one of the interfaces closely, you can find even more interfaces. The library catalogue is programmed with lines of code that interact with computer hardware, which in turn synchronizes data via the network interface. The books in the shelves are usually in the standard ink-on-paper GUI, with exception of tactile alphabets and audio books. And the café interface of interacting humans may be configured to promote people sitting together, excluding perhaps certain people by adjusting the price of coffee, etc.

Interfaces are always created with a certain degree of plasticity, so that they are able to go beyond a single-purpose link. The USB-port is able to talk to thousands of devices, linked in a serial fashion. The Tahrir square is able to host millions of people overthrowing a dictator, and my notebook allows me to scribble down text in all languages, and as a bonus feature I can draw pictures, diagrams and funny cats.

But the plasticity is always conditioned and configurable. My firewall prevents malicious code from entering my network interface, the electronic gates of the library tries to stop book-thieves, and by using academic jargon in the pub, I can in a very unsympathetic way exclude people from entering a conversation.

But on a philosophical level there is a more profound feature of interfaces. They seem to interdefine sensible objects. With a few keystrokes on my command line interface I can turn an old half-wrecked computer into a web server, that can be reached and interacted with over the internet. By hanging out in cafés talking about cool clothing, aesthetics and trendy cigarettes, I can turn myself into a hipster, and by reconfiguring a street with concrete barriers the local municipality can change the identity of a noisy traffic-saturated street to a posh walk for window-shoppers (gentrification).

These are only a few preliminary thoughts on the roles of interfaces and objects. Perhaps more will follow another day.

Tillbaka till Framtiden: Analogisering och digitalisering

Det är dags att återvända till ”Framtiden”, som har sporrat dels en intressant diskussion hos Rasmus på Copyriot, samt en intressant reflektion av Anders Mildner (även om boken inte hänvisas till explicit, se nedan).

Diskussionen hos Copyriot handlar om vem som egentligen ”Framtiden” polemiserar emot. Vi tar ett citat ur boken:

Precis som 1900-talets futurister var 2000-talets nätsvärmare besatta av hastigheter, flöden, affekter, massbeteenden och ny teknik. Precis som futuristerna vägrade nätsvärmarna att se världen som oföränderlig. De var övertygade om att samtiden bara kunde förstås genom berättelsen om den konstanta utvecklingen. (56)

Problemet är att ”nätsvärmare”, ”nätaktivister”, ”pirater” osv. är beteckningar som minst sagt är svåra att definiera, lokalisera och polemisera emot. ”Framtiden” är förvisso en essä i ett romanformat, så att stoppa in en fotnot skulle göra våld på formatet, men kanske göra väl för argumentet.

Det finns nämligen god grund för att argumentera det rakt motsatta. Nätaktivister är, och har varit, några av de främsta digitaliseringskritikerna, främst på området personlig integritet/självbestämmande. Exempel: Datalagringsdirektivet innebär en digitalisering av människors rörelsemönster, kontakter och sociala liv. Denna digitalisering får, enligt många nätaktivister, inte ens äga rum från första början. Ett annat exempel är hur köttslig tillvaro på hackerkonferenser ofta innefattar ett digitaliseringsförbud (inga foton, inga videokameror).

Och ett tredje exempel är den ganska konsekventa kritiken mot panspektron, som jag diskuterar i Det Nätpolitiska Manifestet:

I vår samtid är det inte längre den optiska blicken som övervakar oss, utan istället databaser och loggfiler, datorer och mobiltelefoner. De skapar en ny form av visibilitet bortom det mänskliga ögat. Panspektron markerar således de nya frontlinjer inom vilka breda spektra av analoga signaler kan göras digitala, och därmed synliga, på ett mycket mer omfattande sätt an tidigare.

Tvärtom är det främst företag och stater som vurmat för en ”ökad” digitalisering, och kommit på förvirrande begrepp som ”digitala ekonomier”, ”Svenska ambassaden i Second Life”, ”e-legitimationer” osv.

Det stora problemet med ”Framtiden” är dess monolitiska syn på internet (med pyramiden som monolitiskt figurativ), i kombination med den fenomenologiska blick som strålar ut från en metropol i ett högindustrialiserat land i norra Europa. För att ta det enkelt: Internet är inte samma sak i SoFo som det är i Kairo eller Xinjiang. En bred civilisationskritik, kan inte ha en så smal utgångspunkt, och kan inte heller skrivas med Washington som utgångspunkt, även om det är en vanlig föreställning att politik har sitt epicentrum på sådana platser.

Anders Mildner skriver en ganska träffande reflektion över detta i SvD:

Ur medieperspektiv var så klart omsvängningen mot ökad internetskepticism väntad. I ett samhälle som är så starkt genomsyrat av medielogik som vårt, kommer det som en gång höjs till skyarna så småningom obönhörligen att plockas ned på marken igen. Där är vi i dag. Internetdiskussionen i samhället skiftar just nu fokus. Kultur-, delaktighets-, och demokratisnacket är på väg ut. Det är inte särskilt svårt att räkna ut vem som glädjs över den utvecklingen.

Denna tråd förtjänar att spinnas vidare på. Utgångspunkten ”vårt samhälle” håller inte för internet, eftersom internet aldrig har varit ett samhälle. Analogisering – Digitalisering – Analogisering är tusen olika saker: I vissa fall, ganska få rent numerärt, är det kanske en protest i Egypten (analogisering) som digitaliseras, laddas upp på Youtube, och återanalogiseras på hundratusentals skärmar. I många fall, rent kvantitativt, sker denna transformation i långt mer vardagliga sammanhang. Jag sitter och fikar, twittrar ut ett foto med GPS-metadata, och nån som följer mig på Twitter återanalogiserar informationen i ett försök att slå ihjäl lite tid på kontoret. (total nollintensitet)

De båda händelserna är teknologiskt sett mycket lika varandra, analogisering-digitalisering (plus metadata) – ackumulation av arbetskraft hos ett storföretag (Google, Twitter) – återanalogisering på en annan plats i nätverket (plus koldioxidutsläpp).

Just på grund av dessa händelsers perfekta individualitet (deras status som haecceiteter och händelser) är de långt mera autentiska, mänskliga och egentliga än en universalistisk fenomenologi av fötter i gräs eller doften av hav. Mitt vardagstwittrande och en egyptisk youtubeuppladdning kan inte tänkas genom samma register. De är förvisso tekniskt nästan identiska, men de är fundamentalt olika som existensformer.

Vardagstwittrandets tvång, oket av att kolla sin Facebookstatus, livskrisen inför informationsöverflödet, ensamheten som uppstår när man har addat ytterligare en ”friend” men ändå känner att det var mera autentiskt på åttiotalet när man satt och hade tråkigt lyssnandes på ett blandband eller tittade på Vetenskapens värld, är förvisso en intressant analys av en modern ångest som kanske drabbar och passiviserar ett och annat barn av IT-bubblans frammarsch. ”Framtiden” gör helt rätt i att kritisera detta tillstånd, och slå hål på dess frihetsmyt.

Men ett sådant scenario utspelas inte i samma pyramid som en krypterad tunnel ut ifrån Kairo, en chatt genom The Golden Shield, eller nedladdningen av konfidentiell data från det militärindustriella komplexet. I dessa fall finns inte ”digitalisering” som en övergripande samhällsförändring, utan endast som ytterst konkreta överväganden. Vad hamnar i loggfiler? Vad kan knäckas av någon som lyssnar? vem kan ta ned torrent-filen?

Internet undflyr på så sätt själva tanken om att vara något tekniskt, att ge upphov till ett Gestell, ett tillstånd som villkorar existensen. Jag har alltid brottats med att försöka förmedla denna tanke om radikal heterogenitet som den enda vägen till en trovärdig analys. Jag har använt obegripliga uttryck som ”minoritetfraktal”, ”panspektron” och ”haecceiteter”, teknologisk ”fylogenetik” och ”chiffrets fjärde parameterrymd”. Allt för att destruera de gamla registren: ”Teknik – existens – essens”, ”cyberrymd – real life”, ”demokrati, medborgarskap – transparens”. Begripligheten i dessa manövrar har på sin höjd lett till förvirring, och det är förvisso en effekt som inte ska underskattas.

Uppmaningen är dock densamma: ”Ta din dator, tunnla dig runt en diktator eller en fångstapparat, ta kontroll över tekniken och böj och bänd den tills du kan koppla om till något bättre!”.

Framtiden


Nätet och pyramiden, aldrig långt från varandra. Är det en konspiration, eller är det den abstrakta formen på internäten?

Jag fick ett exemplar av Boken Framtiden i brevlådan, och jag satte mig genast och sträckläste den från pärm till pärm. Som läsning betraktad är den mycket angenäm. Det tjocka och skrovligt sega omslagspappret ligger fint i handen, och när man har passerat förordet fastnar man lätt i en sekvens av tre nivåer, kanske fler. Efterordet består av en utförlig samling referenser som är väl kommenterade. Men jag läste som sagt från A till O, och det ger effekten av att man känner sig hemma i argumentationslinjerna (givet att man har ett hum om medieteori och civilisationskritisk litteratur, detta är dock verkligen inget måste).

Förordet postulerar att boken är skriven i en slags omvändelse, eller kanske insikt om att utgångspunkten var fel från första början. Från att ha börjat som ett digitaliseringspositivt projekt, får man intrycket av att en bismak, en hård och kall existentiell kris har inträffat. Den allt snabbare digitaliseringen av världen har börjat skena – accelerationism – och konturerna av en framtid präglad av ensamhet, tomhet och ekorrhjulsliknande bekräftelsemekanismer sveper in, som ett stilla vemod.

Boken inleds med en scen som lätt för tankarna till filmen Koyaanisqatsi, där naturen överkodas av maskiner, som exploaterar energin, och sakta förvandlar människan till en komponent i ett större maskineri. En yttersta punkt definieras:

De kilowattimmar som skärmen och datorn förbrukar är bara toppen av en pyramid av energi. Knapptryckningen är den sista utposten i ett världsompännande nät av brummande fläktar, flimrande skärmar, brusande serverhallar och translatlantiska kablar. Kopplingpunkterna och de fjärran lagringsplatserna är otaliga: internet är ett vibrerande spänningsfält. (21)

Filosofiskt ropar min hjärna FEL. Det här är ju antropocentrism! Varför skulle fingret mot knappen vara en sista utpost, varför skilja människa från maskin? Flöden som flöden! Osv. (you know the drill). Men, det kritiska tänkandet är grovt överskattat, så jag ska inte vara filosofiskt kritisk här. Istället finns här en oväntad parallell: Detta är ju cyberpunk! Precis som Koyaanisqatsi är en 80-talsrulle, är köttet och tekniken en neuromancig 80-talskritik. Parallellerna är dock många fler.

Genom boken figurerar en geometrisk figur: Pyramiden. Denna spatiala figur för att beskriva internet har jag inte sett sedan William Gibsons romaner om Matrisen. När Bobby Quine och Automatic Jack sänder ett ryskt virus in i bankernas säkerhetssystem är geometriska tredimensionella figurer det sätt som intrånget beskrivs på. Och där utanför, i köttvärlden, råder en kall och dystopisk tillvaro, långt ifrån de perfekta matematiska konturerna. Sen kom nittiotalet och allt blev ”kod” igen. Kod som skulle avslöjas. Kod som skulle hackas.

Man kan säkert läsa ”Framtiden” som en civilisations- och digitaliseringskritik. Själv nickar jag instämmande till alla (nästan ironiska) kängor som delas ut till de naiva teknikoptimisterna. ”Allt som kan digitaliseras kommer att digitaliseras! Så löd er övertygelse” (54). ”Till slut glömdes även piratflaggan bort – den hörde inte längre till framtiden”. Det är en helt korrekt iakttagelse att nätaktivister gärna lånar sig till denna form av strategisk teknikdeterminism. ”Filer vill bli kopierade, information vill vara fri, censur är bara ett routingproblem” etc. Men det är kanske inte naiviteten som står i skottgluggen, snarare den potentiella medskyldigheten till undergången. Detta gillar jag verkligen med boken, undergången. Det svårt att undvika att tänka på George Orwells begrepp Newspeak. För Framtiden! och Snabbare! är slagord, bedrägliga sådana, som ”Framtiden” hela tiden återvänder till.

Vissa passager närmar sig primitivism:

Den verkliga bilden av hur en intelligens växer fram är inte en svart låda som programmeras av ingenjörer. Det är inte heller ett nätverk av brummande servrar som får eget liv. Den korrekta bilden är ett spädbarn som rotar runt på marken och stoppar sand och grus i munnen för att smaka. (106)

Återigen drabbas jag av NEJ-tankar. Vad hände med den fina posthumanismen, om distribuerad intelligens? Utan artefakter kan vi inget veta, utöver grottmänniskans primitiva drifter och krälande livsform. Upplysning är det tillstånd då människa och maskin blir ett! Det är logiskt omöjligt att förkasta teknikdeterminismens optimistiska sidor, och sedan mura in människan i en lika deterministisk stålbur (i formen av en informationspyramid). Men när jag skriver så, placerar jag in mig precis i den position som ”Framtiden” beskriver som översteprästerna i Babylons torn (pyramid).

Men, även om jag nu är starkt kritisk till de filosofiska implikationerna, så är jag än mer fascinerad av hur positionen utanför pyramiden görs möjlig i ”Framtiden”.

I en tid där sociala medier görs till var människan högsta självförverkligande, ett måste för att vara någon i världen, den enda möjligheten för en ”vanlig människa” att få femton kilobytes of fame, så är denna andra position helt nödvändig i debatten (även om jag inte håller med om den).

Friedrich Kittler sade nånstans att det var först med televisionen som vi såg texten (boken). Där av framväxten av ”poststrukturalismen” som idehistorisk inriktning. Jag är skeptisk. Men ”Framtiden” återkommer ständigt till en bild av nakna fötter i gräs, som sakta hårdnar, blir till jord och kall asfalt. Jag tror förvisso att detta bara är en av tusen bilder som internet frammanar. Men det är en uppfriskande bild, långt från alla positivt-tänkandeklyschor i mitt twitterflöde eller bloggreader.

Således. Läs den, även om du är skeptisk. Det är en mycket viktig bok som tar sig an nätet på ett mycket intressant sätt!

Uppdatering: Fick syn på ytterligare en recension av Jens Liljestrand i SvD. Hade även missat att läsa Andreas Ekströms recension i Sydsvenskan samt Leo Lagercrantz i Expressenz.

Tågradio

Som bekant är ju InterCity-tåg ett centralt objekt i mitt filosofiska reflekterande över teknik, samhälle och natur. Länge har vi sökt historiens mönster i mänskliga minnen, länge har vi försökt förklara Sanning med Förnuft, men den approach som jag lärt mig av hackare är att gå till sakerna själva.

I samband med utflykten till Grimeton kom vi över de här donen, för 50 spänn stycket. Även om de inte skulle fungera, så är de så snygga att de givetvis bara går att betrakta som teknokonst.

Teknik på en bokhylla är dock som en oöppnad bok. Man kommer, så att säga inte vidare i friforskprocessen. Dessa enheter är rätt gamla, och bara en av dem laddar ordentligt. Alltså står vi inför några frågor som kanske en SJ-medarbetare eller en radioamatör kan besvara. Eftersom vi bara fått igång en enhet, är det lite svårt med trial and error innan vi fått tag på batterier. Kanske kan dessa bilder locka någon att fylla i luckorna. Några frågor:

1. Var får man tag på batteripack? (Detta går ju att lösa med generiska batterier, men originalfästen är att föredra).

2. Ryktet säger att de på kanal 8 och 9 fungerar som vanliga komradios, men att de andra kanalerna är specialnätverk.

3. Hur funkar knappsatsen?

Här kommer en serie bilder. Kommentarer mottages varmt!

Uppdatering: Startade en tråd på postvagnen.com även.

Uppdatering 2: Postvagnen gav genast resultat. Signaturen Hyena skriver:

Motorolas äldre komradio brukar operera på 9.6V. Så länge du inte tänker sända med dom räcker det med en vanlig batterieliminator på 500mAh för att driva dom. Skall du sända får du ha batteri/eliminator som levererar ca 2000mAh SJs driftradionät är fortfarande igång även om det inte används lika frekventerat idag som för 25år sedan och finns på 468MHz. Det finns även simplexkanaler på 160MHz som används vid klart/avgång på bla nattågen.

Finns det någon modellbeteckning/serienummer på baksidan? Med hjälp av den kan vi lista ut vilket frekvensband de rör sig inom.

Uppdatering 3: En till post på Postvagnen, av Anders Olsson:

Bangårdsradio låg/ligger i det ”vanliga” landmobila 400 Mhz-bandet alltså runt 420-430 Mhz.

Några duplex- och några simplexkanaler.

Men det är ju ett par år sedan så jag vet inte om det är någon aktivitet nu.

Uppdatering 4: Letade upp serienummer. Själva etiketten fanns bara kvar på två av enheterna. Den ena lyder 579AHE0053 och den andra 579AHE0592.

Uppdatering 5: Got this fantastic reply a bit later on. Pasting all of it for the sake of archive.

SJ-radio (Allmänt)

av mrk ⌂ @, Portland Oregon, USA (West Coast), torsdagen 7 juli 2011, 04:50:29 @ chrisk

So, those old 1980’s vintage UHF radios work, COOL! Our police department in Portland Oregon used UHF bricks like these, but without the DTMF keypads.

What were the exact frequencies used in them? 458.xxxx ?? Did you have a frequency counter to determine them?

The list I have for SJ in the 458/468MHz area is:

458.000 SJ Malmbanan, Sö-tälje, Upplands Väsby
458.025 SJ Tullinge
458.050 SJ Kungsängen, Sthm Södra (Tunnel), Tungelsta
458.075 SJ Karlberg, Nynäsgård, Sthm Södra (Tunnel)
458.100 SJ Huddinge, Järna, Malmbanan, undbyberg
458.150 SJ Märsta, Mölnbo, Sthm Södra (Tunnel)
458.200 SJ Sthm
458.225 SJ Sthm
458.250 SJ Segersäng, Sollentuna
458.300 SJ Skogås
458.325 SJ Malmö, Mjölby, Märsta, Nynäsgård, Nässjö, Sthm Södra (Tunnel), Sö-tälje
458.350 SJ Sthm
458.375 SJ Bollnäs He.borg Hä-sand Sollentuna Sthm Sundsvall Tullinge
458.425 SJ Hallsberg Järna Kallhäll Mjölby N-köping Sthm Södra Ulriksdal, Uppsala-norr
458.450 SJ He-borg N-köping Skogås Sö-tälje Upplands Väsby Vingåker
458.500 SJ Sthm
458.525 SJ Sthm Älvsjö
458.550 SJ Bollnäs Huddinge Karlberg Ånge
458.575 SJ Karlberg Mölnbo N-köping Segersäng
458.600 SJ Sthm Södra (Tunnel)
458.625 SJ Bollnäs Järna Kungsängen Sundbyberg Tungelsta Ånge
458.725 SJ Bollnäs Ånge
468.000 SJ Malmbanan Sö-tälje Upplands Väsby
468.025 SJ Tullinge
468.050 SJ Kungsängen Sthm Södra (Tunnel) Tungelsta
468.075 SJ Karlberg Nynäsgård Sthm Södra (Tunnel)
468.100 SJ Huddinge Järna Malmbanan Sundbyberg
468.150 SJ Märsta Mölnbo Sthm Södra (Tunnel)
468.200 SJ Sthm
468.225 SJ Sthm
468.250 SJ Segersäng Sollentuna, TV Bildk.S41 K-TV
468.300 SJ Skogås
468.325 SJ K-krona Malmö Mjölby Nynäsgård Nässjö Sthm Södra (Tunnel)Sö-tälje, Tr.hättan
468.350 SJ Sthm
468.375 SJ Bollnäs He-borg Hä-sand SollentunaSthm Bas Sundsvall Tullinge
468.425 SJ Hallsberg Järna
468.425 SJ Mjölby N-köping Sthm Södra Ulriksdal Uppsala-norr
468.450 SJ He-borg N-köping Skogås Sö-tälje Upplands Väsby Vingåker
468.500 SJ Sthm
468.525 SJ Sthm Älvsjö
468.550 SJ Bollnäs Huddinge Karlberg Ånge
468.575 SJ Karlberg Mölnbo N-köping Segersäng
468.600 SJ Sthm Södra (Tunnel)
468.625 SJ Bollnäs Järna Kungsängen Ronneby/Karlshamn Sundbyberg Tungelsta Ånge
468.725 SJ Bollnäs Ånge
469.000 SJ

Also, I have been searching on the net for a while and can not seem to find the frequencies SJ uses for their on board radio communications. I have seen photos of long distance train conductors using what appears to be newer Motorola VHF handhelds. But again, searching a lot of radio frequency databases I can’t seem to find it. Perhaps not SJ but a contractor company for the train?

Anyone know the answer?

Thanks!

-K

Grimeton SAQ 17.2 Khz.

Since I am very interested in the early innovations of electricity and radio, I finally paid a visit to the Grimeton Radio Station with my friends on the West Coast.

Today, it is namely the Alexanderson Day, in memory of Ernst Alexanderson who invented the alternator (below). It is celebrated by actually broadcasting from the only electro-mechanical alternator of the kind. Radio amateurs around the world don’t miss this opportunity, and at least some reports about received signals reached me during the visit (via internets).

I’m not gonna go into details about the Grimeton VLF Transmitter. Wikipedia already did. But I can provide some pictures, a video and some soundscapes!

When you enter the area, these fine antennae are in your sight.

The Alexanderson alternator. Steampunk!

Man in uniform fine-tuning the broadcast. The noise is alarming!

Action shot of the actual broadcast.

One more picture of the alternator. All pictures are here.

Soundscape

I brought my sound recorder as well, so, well… Download and do whatever, if you feel like it. (no copyright BS, but you need to use port 9002).

The workshop ”En Strålande framtid” (8mb)

Starting the alternator (18mb)

Alternator running (13mb)

Alternatorn broadcasting (16mb)

Burrowing paranoia

Burrowing birds. Making holey spaces in the ground.

This is a long essay in English that I am submitting to the Apocryphal Machinery of Ciphernautics, which also you can contribute to by using the Gitorious archive, just like any other software project.

Introduction

It is another average day and you boot up you computer. Lately a certain worrisome feeling has started to creep into your mind. It is the feeling of someone watching you. Every move, and every conversation, seem to disappear out on the networks. Perhaps there is someone copying your messages, then reading them, and to you anger there seems little that you can do about it. A common reaction is then to build a burrow.

Earlier this week you wanted to tell your friend something secret. It wasn’t really anything big, just another thing that you wanted whisper instead of saying it out loud. Also, there were some files on your hard-drive that you wanted to keep secure. What if someone stole my laptop? What if someone tried to copy my files? In the corporate networks of today, under the jurisdiction of States willing to listen in on the bits and bytes sent across the networks, this emotion is for everyone and nobody. You will have to deal with it, one way or another. Paranoia will enslave you or liberate you, depending on how you handle it.

To understand the future of the Internet and how to cope with its problems, we need to consider at least three different modes of thinking. Actually, they don’t necessarily have to be three, but could be multiple. Reality has an infinite number of modes; modi multiversum – practica ciphernetica.

First we draw from literature and philosophy, then we move on to zoology and biology, to finally return to the computer science of ciphernetics to revise and refine our tools of enciphering the world.

Kafka and the burrow – the political literary model

In his short story der Bau (the Burrow), Franz Kafka describes the productive element of paranoia, through a burrowing animal that devotes its life to building a secure home in the underground. The animal spends most of its waking hours building and securing an fortress, through walls, tunnels and passages. The burrow must stay hidden at all costs, and nobody else is allowed to know the existence of the secret passages. One day, the animal starts hearing noises in the ground, as if another animal, maybe even a monster, was digging a competing system of tunnels, which would breach the security of the Burrow. The poor animal becomes obsessed with the noise, and even though there is no conclusive evidence of a terrible monster, the threat becomes very real in the paranoid mind of the animal.

From time to time, the burrowing animal reflects upon its life. From the English translation of the Burrow:

I almost screw myself to the point of deciding to emigrate to distant parts and take up my old comfortless life again, which had no security whatever, but was one indiscriminate succession of perils, yet in consequence prevented one from perceiving and fearing particular perils, as I was constantly reminded by comparing my secure burrow with ordinary life.

First and foremost, paranoia is something that will consume a lot of energy. It is a whole psychic machinery of obsessive emotions, fueling themselves recursively without any type of finite rationality. There can always be another escape-tunnel, another fortification in the walls, another exit point hidden from the wild beasts of the surface. There is never enough. The paranoid machine of the unconscious connects it flows to your hands, your whole body only enjoys silence and satisfication as long as you keep improving the safety. From time to time you are able to imagine the ”ordinary life” of the surface dwellers. The first symptom is however a lack of trust in others. Who are they? Where did they come from? What are really their intentions?

The second iteration of paranoia is that you stop trusting your own senses, your own body. You start asking yourself whether your memory was right. Desperately you start writing down things. You never know, sometimes you might have to check. You start double-checking the quality of the tunnels, then triple-checking, then all of a sudden you find yourself chokingly checking over and over again until you get too tired to check once more. On the Internet, this ritualistic behavior goes by way of checksums, certificates, encryption passwords and constant lookups of your IP-number. There can be no mistake, one insecure connection and you are trapped! You slowly march into a state of solitude. Kafka again:

If I only had someone I could trust to keep watch at my post observation; then of course I could descend in perfect peace of mind. I would make an agreement with this trusty confederate of mine that he would keep a careful note of the state of things during my descent and for quite a long time afterwards, and if he saw any sign of danger knock on the moss covering, and if he saw nothing do nothing.

The loss of your friends is the reason for why the paranoia of the burrowing and solitary animal will always fail. There is no longer anyone out there to break the flows, the repetitions. You slowly end up digging tunnels for yourself only, and while you isolate your mind it slowly turns inwards. There is a black hole inside your own mind, which slowly consumes all the little particles of yourself into a point of no return. There is no longer chaos, but a slow order, brought about by your own gravity field. No matter how safe your tunnels are now, no matter the strenght of you ciphers or the depth of your secret passwords, paranoia has a power takeover.

To flee the solitary paranoia, we must find a model of thought which is collective in nature. Thus we turn to the multiverse of the animal world.

Burrowing animals – recordings from zoology

Rabbits are burrowers. So are frogs, amphibians, reptiles, even some birds and dinosaurs. There are burrowers of the sea, burrowers of arborescence, and burrowers that live in entire queendoms. Burrows have the primary function of protection against predators, but may also include the building block of societies, shelter for reproduction and storage facilities for food. There are even cases of burrowers in human bodies; The scabies may use your flesh to burrow, causing a major itch.

Burrowing animals may be divided into two major psycho-political categories; suicidal and kamikaze. These two modes of operation are wholly different in nature. While Kafka’s animal turned inwards, only to be trapped in the black hole of paranoia, there are other species willing to offer another model of death. Death-drive, this concept of a final solution, is the cutting edge of paranoia, and must be understood before we are able to move on again.

There is an absolute difference between foxes, which may become may become an heroes, while termites self-sacrifice:

In cases where the intrusion is coming from a breach that is larger than the soldier’s head, defense requires special formations where soldiers form a phalanx-like formation around the breach and blindly bite at intruders or shoot toxic glue from the nasus. This formation involves self-sacrifice because once the workers have repaired the breach during fighting, no return is provided, thus leading to the death of all defenders.

Arborescent termite tunnels. Your protection on the vanilla Internet.

Far beyond the lonely mammal-burrower, the termites organize their tunnels according to various functions, a multitude of milieus, creating whole societies on infrastructures that are not only witty and clever, but also include a division of labor, and a hierarchic mode of organization (we even call some of their structures ”cathedrals”).

You can kill all the foxes on the countryside of England, yes, you can even make rabbits an extinct species. But you can not get rid of termites, no matter the poison you apply. Because of their intrinsic structures, the propagation of a hive-mind in a collective assemblage, their communicative adaptation, they have rendered themselves near nuke-proof. The exit nodes of their tunnels are protected by soldiers willing to take their lives in order to keep the network up an running, without breaching security. The burrow is composed of an absolute trust, and paranoia is counteracted with a much stronger emotion of de-subjectification. We are no longer individual termites, we act as one and thus we take over the forest and the desert!

Rabbit burrow. The exit node is a dangerous place.

The Technological burrow

Let us return to the notion of the panspectron: It entails three types of data for surveillance; content data, traffic data and meta-data. These are all a threat to the burrow.

By content data the actual payload of our traffic is designated and targeted. It consists of files. To prevent anyone from reading our files we encrypt them, for example with GPG. Cryptography comes in various shapes, strengths and weaknesses. The method of deciphering is called cryptoanalysis, and is a task for the mathematician. Cryptos may also have flaws in security that depends on key- exchange, human error and sloppiness, or other design errors and unforeseen events. When burrowing a file in crypto, it is not to be confused with burial of a file. To kill a file you need to shred it, not merely delete it. Alternatively, you destroy the storage medium.

By traffic data we mean the additional data used in computer networks to navigate where content data is supposed to go. In distributed packet-switched networks such as the Internet, traffic data is defined in the Requests for Comments for the TCP/IP suite. Traffic data reveals parts of your identity when moving around in the plain-text open networks. It is a very handy tool for the technicians and engineers of the networks, since it makes analysis, debugging and statistics an easy task when automated. However, traffic data is hazardous for the burrowing internaut, since it produces an entire cartography of its setups, movements and destinations.

Surveillance of traffic data is circumvented by the tunnel system of the burrows. The most basic setup is to hide your actual location with an escape tunnel that exits elsewhere. An old corporate product, the Virtual Private Network is one method, another one the proxy server. Single tunnel escape routes pave way for a primitive burrowing, and their downside is the fact that a single tunnel may be compromised by the wolves of the vanilla Internet. Also, clever predators may listen in on several locations of the Internet, and slowly finding out to where the tunnel leads by analyzing traffic patterns.

A more refined way of burrowing is to join in on an already existing meshwork of tunnels. Tunnels inside the tubes, which almost randomly and with additional stealth technologies provide a network inside the network. Such examples are the TOR and I2P darknets. They allow internauts to create hidden burrows called ”hidden services” or ”tunnel destinations”. The burrows are protected by network algorithms that produce tunnels that begin and end with ”hops” which are irreversible in nature. This way, you are not able to trace exactly where the burrow is located, since you instantly keep forgetting the path that took you there. All you need to navigate is a mathematical number, consisting of an encryption key, or a hash-sum of the encrypted key.

The third form of data is the meta-data. It consists of descriptive data which is always added to existing data. Lets say that there is a file consisting of an image. If you add a description to the image, lets say the name of the person on the photographic picture, you have added meta data. Meta-data modulates analogue traces into digital constants. It gives names to the world, just like the system of nature of Linneus, who created an entire cartography of the animal kingdom.

Designating meta-data can be performed my humans and machines. The computer is unable to initially know the name of a person on a photograph. However, if this information is added by a human, the computer can then calculate the properties of the persons face, and then recognize him or her in another photograph by statistical variations and mathematical associations.

As computers are rapidly becoming more and more ubiquitous, larger quantities of the spectrum is becoming attached with meta-data. Every day hundreds of thousand of images, maybe millions, are designated with proper names on facebook.com. The names we were given by the family or the pack offline, in modern states also by States, are in turn over-coded by the gigantic human-machine assemblages of the web 2.0 economies. Your face is now a unit of measure, a distinct absolute in the vanilla networks. You are supposed to feel comfortable about it since it now has become very easy to associate you with others. The picture no longer shows plain waves of light in the spectrum, but entire associations of communities of people. The name-tag is not worn on clothes, but worn in databases. ”On December the 1st Jane Doe attended the housewarming party of James Doe. Also attending were Cameron, John-Henry and Catherine”.

The smiling faces on the picture are baptized in the river of data. In a near future more things will be modulated. The brand of the sofa, the location of the party via GPS satellites, the place to buy the music online which is played in the background. Still, it is not a question of realism. It is not about providing detailed representations of an event. It is rather on the conditions of accumulating the lives of consumers, collecting their little traces of living, consuming, associating. Meta-data adds information, it takes nothing away. It captures by copying and generating. It starts to know by means of prediction. When will Jane and James throw another party? Based on previous patterns sometime in February. If we know this in advance we have captured the moment of proto-consumption. What wines are they planning to buy? Maybe they would like to eat roast chicken? A targeted advertisement in the flow of information hits the rabbit in flight on the vanilla Internet. Only a burrow can save it now!

Lessons learned

Burrows must be built and expanded. However, burrowing in solitude is never a good idea. It sooner or later leads to the black hole and implosion. Instead, burrows should be built as infrastructure. On the vanilla networks, users are unprotected and have little chances of escaping the wolves of data retention, data mining, data wiretapping, etc. Then we need to build entry- and exit holes, a collective assemblage of tunnels, for the safety of netkinds.

Why end-to-end encryption is important

During 18 minutes earlier this year, 15% of the worlds internet traffic accidentally or intentionally passed through China. This has upset mainly Americans since it may have included some military traffic as well.

These types of disruptions aren’t really disruptions, since routing traffic on the internet is not bound by geographical location. You may send an e-mail to your neighbor, still it may be routed around the world without you noticing it.

However, in effect, the Chinese incident may also be labeled as a man-in-the-middle-attack. Really, it is rather a machine-in-the-middle, since the wires of the internet are connected via lots of computers. If traffic passes through my computer, I am able to copy it.

If this happened in the Chinese case, perhaps 15% of the worlds internet traffic was copied for 18 minutes. Strategically, this makes a perfect case for eavesdropping and analyzing the traffic.

Now, there is another twist to it. From National Defense Magazine

:

McAfee has briefed U.S. government officials on the incident, but they were not alarmed. They said their Internet communications are encrypted. However, encryption also works on a basis of trust, McAfee experts pointed out. And that trust can be exploited.

Internet encryption depends on two keys. One key is private and not shared, and the other is public, and is embedded in most computer operating systems. Unknown to most computer users, Microsoft, Apple and other software makers embed the public certificates in their operating systems. They also trust that this system won’t be abused.

Among the certificates is one from the China Internet Information Center, an arm of the China’s Ministry of Information and Industry.

This is exactly why we should not trust corporate encryption and certificates. When traveling around the world, we may at any time access our ”secure” services. But the one controlling the computers in between cables may at any time insert a fake certificate, since these are sold, bought and sometimes stolen. Even the Stuxnet virus infecting nuclear power plants ran as ”legitimate” code on the infected computers, since even stolen certificates are trusted blindly by computers.

The only way of solving this problem is to make your own certificates. The OTR-tutorial that I wrote contains two such procedures. First you manually verify the telecomix XMPP server’s certificate, then you manually verify your buddies OTR. You will thus be alerted to whether the server is hijacked or not, and even if this is the case, you have forward secrecy. Even if the traffic is intercepted, it will still be encrypted.

My GPG-tutorial contains another method of securing end-to-end encryption. With GPG you verify the certificates of your friends manually, preferably at key-signing parties.

The Chinese routing error may have been accidental, or it may have been planned. It doesn’t really matter. The important thing is that we learn end-to-end encryption, because there is always someone listening in on the traffic.