Thursday, 14 March 2013

Iktomi: The Zeitgeist of the Third Wave

As the Third Wave crashes into a sickly and dying Second Wave system, a mythological entity may be worth revisiting. Iktomi was a spider-spirit of Lakota folklore. He was a bringer of technology, and also a trickster. An accomplice of Coyote, he would often give people new technology. Sometimes, the technology itself is a trick, a method of distracting an unwary victim from seeing the true purpose of it. Iktomi was believed to have a hold over European and American settlers, who inadvertently spread Iktomi’s web (telegraph lines and railroads) across the land.   
Iktomi is also correlated with communications, like Mercury. Like the Norse Loki or African Anansi, he is a trickster. The trickster archetype was correlated with hackers in recent decades, and some parallels with Iktomi are fairly logical. Both manipulate lines of communication to play tricks. Both bring novelty and new technologies. 

Hacking and cyberwar have been on the news recently. However, much about cyberwarfare is fear-mongering. Military and technological secrets tend to remain secrets for a very short time, especially in the present. Cyberwarfare favors the defender, and each cyberattack is often a single use weapon. After a cyberattack, security holes that led to it are typically the first things that get closed. Types of cyberattackers range from cyber-criminals (who merely seize something and run), cyber-spies (looking for intel or doing counterintelligence), cyber-terrorists (seeking a target of opportunity), and cyber-warriors (seeking to actively disable another network/system). Cyberweapons, such as Stuxnet and Flame, can easily be reverse engineered by their former targets. The political chiding to “improve cyber-security” may very well be a mandate to spend more on overpriced, under-efficient “security” software. Once again, the “security theater” replaces the rather boring reality. Many of the folks hawking “cybersecurity” products are the modern analogs of Basil Zaharoff.  

But to return to Iktomi, let us examine a cyber-attack as a form of combined arms. Even non-state actors could combine multiple vectors of an attack or plan to accomplish their goals. This process does not necessarily have to involve violence, destruction, or even illegality. An activist group could release leaked documents at the same moment a video goes viral. Iktomi may parallel the cypherpunk culture. As more things become networked, it becomes harder to completely shut down the internet, even if there is a “kill switch” (or more mundane power failures).

The technologies that thrive as Second Wave nation-states and corporations recede are decentralized ones. Permaculture and aquaponics may remove (or at least reduce) the need for food. Makerspaces allow for relocalized manufacturing. Solar panels and DIY renewables (such as homemade biofuels on a number of farms) could replace faulty power grids. Encrypted cybercurrencies like Bitcoin could act as a metric for a number of local currencies. There would be less need to rely on dying, stodgy bureaucracies. Iktomi would have the last laugh.

No comments:

Post a Comment