Counter-mainstream, new commune and blockchain: a movement spanning 60 years

After writing the previous article, I thought that the blockchain's ins and outs were finally cleared up: the earliest participants were a group of programmers, so it showed a religious culture of the community.

This religious culture has witnessed two important technical movements in the history of programmer struggle, one is the free software movement and the other is the open source movement. At the same time, the open source movement was forked from the free software movement.

The visible starting point of the blockchain should be born from cryptopunk [1] , which is equivalent to a continuation of free software, and blockchain is another continuation of the open source movement.

For blockchain, the best destination is to become an open source movement in the new era-open source new fields, such as the traditional financial industry. At the same time, these new areas include public goods that were previously outsourced to governments, institutions, and giant companies, such as currency, law, markets and social platforms.

Got here, then what? Another voice in my head asked me.

Is free software the starting point for all this?

Obviously not. If you have read the first article of this series [2], you will find that when Richhar Stallman set up the GNU project to launch the free software movement, that is, in 1984, people in the computer field were keen to engage in another protocol war. : The Internet Protocol Battle between TCP / IP and OSI. OSI was once considered the winner of this war because of its near-perfect design and support in various fields, but the TCP / IP protocol, which believes in pragmatic spirit and flat structure, finally won the victory with a dark horse.

On TCP / IP, there is also a cultural blood flowing similar to the free software movement. They have some of the same attributes. I do n’t know what this attribute is. But I am vaguely aware that it should not only be the result of being in the same era background, it may reflect that both come from the same origin. In other words, they have the same ancestor. This ancestor is also the ancestor of the blockchain. It's just that I don't have enough information, so I can't pull this line out and connect all the stories.

You may ask, is it important to understand this source? How does this help the blockchain industry? I believe that if we can trace back to the correct source, we can examine the technological change of blockchain with a more unified and larger perspective. And this is good for us to grasp "how the blockchain will move forward". Knowing how we got here today is to better meet the future.

When I read the book "Digital Utopia: From Counterculture to Cyber ​​Culture" [3] , the looming white line seemed to be finally pulled out. This book answers a lot of my doubts, and it has given me a more macro perspective of a shift in social models that has lasted 60 years. From the bottom of my heart, I believe that blockchain is the latest progress of this change.

Next, I will repeat this change as simply as possible, so that everyone can better understand the ins and outs of all this. Many of these ideas and theories are derived from the book mentioned above, and it is recommended that you read the original. Many people who want to learn about open source culture should have heard of "Cathedrals and Bazaars" [4] , but I think this book is a better complement to the non-technical level.

Changes in computers as a metaphor

The story begins with a university in 1964.

In 1964, students at the University of California, Berkeley participated in a free speech parade. Many of them wore FSM (free speech movement) and Strike on blank computer punch cards and hung them around their necks to express contempt for centralized bureaucracy and authority.

Berkeley students protest
Punch cards had to be programmed on a computer at the time. Punch cards [5] were also hand-written machine codes and had no high-level language. At this time, IBM was the leader of the computer industry and the actual standard for making punch cards.

So what were these Berkeley students opposed and struggling for during the parade? In addition to freedom of speech, many students at the time put off the micro-chest on their chests, and wrote in the tone of the punch card instruction manual,

I am a student at the University of California, please do not fold, twist, twist or destroy me.

So for these American college students who lived in the 1960s, computer as a metaphor was seen as a machine that squeezes humanity. Just like the machines of the Industrial Revolution assembly line, annihilated human personality. At this time, the computer was an anti-human technology, representing a centralized bureaucracy.

This metaphor is very new to us today. When talking about computers today, what was our first reaction? Computers represent freedom, personalization, and virtual communities, point-to-point connections, and the liberation of individual productivity. As Jobs said in the slogan of Apple Computer, the computer is the bicycle of the human brain, The bicycle of your mind.

If we compare humans with other animals, we are not as fast as leopards and not as strong as lions, but we humans know how to make bicycles and cars to help us outperform leopards and defeat lions. At this time, as a metaphor, the computer has become a tool for extending human thinking and creativity, and it is also a weapon that we as individuals can hold in our hands, like printing presses and guns.

The idea that Steve Jobs injected into Apple Computer did not come out of thin air, it also has an earlier historical source. This historical source is also called hippie culture, and it may be traced back to anti-Vietnam war, rock music, the new commune movement, the counter-culture movement, and even the military engineering laboratory. These historical sources actually explain why computers as a technology will change from this metaphor in the 1960s to another metaphor in the 1990s.

Without looking at these historical sources, many people would interpret this metaphorical change from a relatively one-sided technical perspective. For example, there is an explanation point like this:

Before the 1960s, computers as a technology appeared in the form of mainframes. It was large in size and needed to fill the entire room. At the same time, it was very expensive. Only government and university organizations can afford it. Individuals are Unreachable. After the 1970s, microcomputer technology has begun to emerge, and computers have become computers that can be placed on the desktop, so it is no longer a privilege and can be used by individuals.

This view makes sense, but ignores cultural factors. For example, a smaller computer does not mean that it is a "personal" technology. A television can also be used on a table, but it carries the attributes of a public medium from beginning to end. How a person feels about the computer as a tool, how does he understand this technology, these will not be completely changed because the size is reduced. In addition, many people can be connected through the network, which does not mean that we must become a virtual community.

The idea in the book Digital Utopia is the deep-seated reason for pursuing this metaphorical change from the era and cultural level. These are the earlier historical sources we mentioned above. So, let's go back to the United States in the 1960s and see what the state was like at the time and what happened at the time, which made computers undergo such a change.

Counterculture and Cyberspace

Some people think that after the end of the Second World War, the 1940s and 1950s were gloomy times for the American people.

On the one hand, because the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union began in 1947, they were often confronted with each other. On the other hand, during the Second World War, the United States established a wartime economic system and proposed an organizational structure centered on the military, industrial, and scientific complexes, also known as the "military-industrial complex". This coalition played a very powerful role in wartime, but after the end of World War II, it gradually evolved into a strict social rule and bureaucratic organization. It produced nuclear weapons and dragged the United States into the Vietnam War In the mire. To the people, the military bureaucracy is equivalent to an authoritative and oppressive shadow.

So the 1960s became an era of personal exploration and political protest. The 1960s coincided with the spread of television media, and the Vietnam War became the first modern war to be broadcast live. Various protests and anti-war activities broke out in the United States soon. Most people put themselves on the opposite side of this authority, hoping to overthrow the bureaucracy of the Cold War military industry. As mentioned above, the University of Berkeley's freedom of speech movement is one of them.

If you were a young American who grew up in the 1960s, especially a young white male, just finished college, what was your biggest worry at that time? In fact, will the Soviet nuclear bombs be thrown directly tomorrow? In addition, in 1961, the United States began to send troops to the Vietnam War. At that time, many young Americans held this eschatological argument, and they felt that they would be the last generation of humans in this century. The entire American society is also shrouded in such a fear of war and the destruction of nuclear bombs.

And at this time, after the American middle class experienced the Great Depression, personal wealth has slowly returned, so many young white men have relatively rich living conditions, but are psychologically controlled by the fear of nuclear bombs all day. Therefore, more reflections appeared in the spiritual world. They did not want to enter the rigid system and become screws and tools after graduation. At the same time, they did not know where to go. It was tantamount to falling into a whole generation of confused emotions. A movie released in 1967 called "Graduates" [6] reflects exactly this mood of the times.

Stills from the film "Graduate"

Steven brand is one of these tens of millions of young people who are lost. After retiring from the army in 1962, Brand was eager to find an outlet for the depression in his heart. He embarked on a six-year travel experience and tried to find a new way of life wherever he went.

He soon came into contact with an art organization called USCO. This group has gathered many artists on national tours and lived together for several years. Their performance is very special. Instead of conveying information to the audience on the stage, they invite the audience to participate, arrange various strange scenes, and let the artist and the audience experience and complete a work together. USCO likes the concept of technical mysticism, and is also deeply influenced by Cybernetics. Under the background of the workshop, it advocates cross-domain and multi-disciplinary collaboration. For example, they will introduce many electronic technologies and industrial products to decorate the scene, such as flashlights, light projectors, tapes, slides, and even psychedelics, marijuana, and LSD. These small technologies and tools are used as a tool to explore new lifestyles and experience a new spiritual world.

Brand works as a photographer at USCO. Here he was exposed to the earliest neo-communist movements. Many young people in the United States also lived together like them. In order to escape the bureaucratic machinery of the government, the army, and large corporations, many young people went to the countryside to establish communes to practice their ideas and religious beliefs in the form of collective life. They built their own homes, houses, water, electricity, art, and defense. All of them were self-sufficient. They hoped to create an equal and hierarchical community.

In the previous two centuries, Americans created a total of 500-700 communes. During this period, tens of thousands of communes were established and about 750,000 people lived together. The members of the commune consider themselves modern cowboys and Indians. They want to explore the frontiers of the United States, head for the open plains, and look for a better life. It is interesting that at the time, there was also a movement to the mountains and the countryside in the Eastern World, which corresponded to the return of the Western World to the soil (although the two have completely different connotations).

Commune in the 1960s

In 1966, Brand realized that it was possible to publish a book that provided a commune of diasporas with a catalogue of tools and a survival guide. More importantly, provide spiritual nourishment to those who practice commune life. So, with scissors and glue, he and a group of like-minded friends began editing the first Global Overview. The book was called Google of that era by Jobs. Information technology occupies an important place in the Global Overview. The catalog includes not only industrial products and craft supplies, but also mechanical and electronic devices, such as HP's desktop computers. Like the art organization USCO, participants in the New Commune movement believe that small technologies, including computers, can be used to explore new lifestyles and experience new spiritual worlds. It will also change individual consciousness and social operating models. The Global Survey also sees small technologies as a means for individuals to obtain freedom.

This spirit was passed on to hackers and programmers. At the last stoppage party of the 1971 Global Survey, Brand invited more than 500 people to participate in the end of the magazine publishing project. He took out a 20,000-dollar bill, invited everyone to come on stage to talk about their dreams, and then took some cash to realize their dreams. The remaining $ 14,905 was handed over to Frederick Moore. The money ended up missing. But Moore and another friend co-founded the Homebrew Computer Club in the spring of 1975. Members of this club include Jobs and Wozniak. Brandel also helped to prepare for the first hacker conference, and the participants were Richar Stallman.

Final issue of the Global Overview

The impact of Global Overview is huge. It inspires young people not only Steve Jobs, but also Kevin Kelly, and engineers at Xerox Palo Alto Research Center who invented a series of technologies such as graphical interfaces. These people later became very important figures in the industry. Some of them became great entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs, some became hackers who launched the free software movement, and some became important reporters like Kevin Kelly. , Promoted "connection" magazine. In the end, these people collectively gave birth to today's Silicon Valley culture.

In addition to the Global Overview, another important thing Brand did was to launch the WELL online forum. In 1984, cyberpunk novelist William Gibson published the novel "Nerve Rover", coining the term "cyber space" for the first time. In 1990, based on his experience at the WELL Forum, computer critic Barlow proposed the term "cyberspace" to describe the emerging intersection of telecommunications and computer networks.

This new cyberspace is represented as an "electronic frontier." Just as members of the New Commune Movement in the late 1960s attempted to create a utopian community in the American countryside, Cyberspace was also imagined as a new society advocating equality and freedom. In this sparkling electronic universe, they are trying to abandon government, law, and force to build a new order. Barrow declared, "None of your legal concepts of property, expression, identity, migration, and their context apply to us (cyberspace)."

Same mental core

If we want to summarize this series of history, its most essential spiritual core is expressed in one sentence:

With the help of personalized technology and tools, individuals are liberated from rigid social systems and icy state machines, freed from slavery.

This personalized technology and tools includes both a backpack and a tent, as well as computers and the Internet.

It's worth noting that this kind of personalized technology and tools often doesn't come out suddenly, it just happens to be the opposite of struggle. Both the Free Speech Movement and the New Left in the 1960s were confronting the military, industry, and academia of the United States. Technology optimism, information theory, and the culture of cross-border cooperation emerging in the field of research by the military-industrial complex during the Cold War.

In fact, the most important argument raised in the book Digital Utopia is the counter-culture movement and the subsequent cyber culture. Their earliest seeds also originate from the military research culture that they oppose. It was in the earliest research on military collaboration that a group of interdisciplinary and interdisciplinary people were gathered. Scientists, engineers, university professors, and entrepreneurs are in an environment where there is no hierarchical system and they can communicate and collaborate freely. Created a number of technologies affecting the world: nuclear weapons, radar, the predecessor of the Internet, ARPANET, computers, Cybernetics, Information Theory, and more. Despite opposition to icy military machines, students of Brand's time were deeply enamored with the intellectual product of military collaborative research.

Young leftists grew up in the shadow of nuclear bombs and war, but they also grew up in a rapidly growing American society. When college students involved in the free speech movement attacked factories, these factories were also producing products that meet the various needs of young people. While opposing mainstream culture, the New Commune Movement and the Global Survey showed another way out: young people can use the products of an industrialized society as a tool to transform their thinking and consciousness, and to change the operating model of a collective society .

This method uses Cybernetics and Information Theory as the common language and guiding ideology. It emphasizes a more free community, respects personalized tools and technologies, and encourages interdisciplinary collaboration. It originated from the military research culture of the United States during World War II, but with the reconstruction of the post-war order, the military-industrial complex gradually became a rigid bureaucratic structure and eventually became the target of the counter-culture movement. This is why the computer, as the most important tool from the 1960s to the 1990s, will eventually change from the metaphor of "the extension of the power of the state machine" to another symbol of anti-institutionalism and individual rights.

Therefore, it is not difficult for us to understand why religious culture is popular among programmers and hacking communities today. For the programming languages ​​and editors they use, they will fall into endless worship and struggle instead of treating an ordinary Objects treat it like that. Because a long time ago, tools were really more than just tools for them.

In this part of the history since the 1960s, tools and techniques have been firmly tied to "changing ideology" and "exploring new ideas." This spiritual tradition slowly flowed from the young people in the New Commune movement to hackers and programmers, integrated into the free software movement and the open source movement, and crypto punk was born in the cyberspace. Finally, this part of the spirit was passed on again. Blockchain body.

Yes, of course, I would like to believe that blockchain is also such personalized technology and tools. It is a small technology that helps us to build a new home. It can change the thinking and consciousness of individuals and change the mode of operation of collective society. All aims are to free individuals from rigid social systems and icy state machines, to be free from slavery.

Today I see people in the blockchain industry creating DAOs, building DeFi, and seeing countless free market people using Bitcoin as a decentralized currency or digital gold. All this is the same as those who looked at "Global It seems that the young people who run to the Rural Construction Commune are no different. In order to grasp their private assets and write down the private key of Bitcoin, there is no essential difference between the behavior of building a house and building a grid dome in the commune.

Our time

As I write here, another question that comes to my mind is, what will happen in our time?

Looking around, we owned Bitcoin in 2008, Ethereum in 2014, and then built a series of infrastructures for the crypto economy: DeFi, DAO, Web3, NFT … this new electronic universe Grows quietly. And beyond this independent world, a larger world is also undergoing drastic changes.

From the "New Cold War" symbolized by the Sino-US trade war in 2019 to an unprecedented viral crisis spreading across the globe in 2020, populism and anti-globalization trends have accompanied the rise of the new financial crisis. People call this year a The worst year of the past decade, but also the best of the next decade. At the same time, the traditional Internet world is already highly developed and full of giants, but the development of Cyberspace has not made people more free as envisaged. Instead, it has promoted the development of monitoring technology and created prism gates and ring prisons.

Similarly, I can't help but think of China's own situation. This high-speed train is running forward at a rate of 10% per year, and it never stops. Until the 2020 epidemic presses the pause button, people can finally stop and think about "where are we going?"

In the past 20 years, a Chinese young man's best job is a civil servant; 20 years later, he becomes a video UP master. How did these newly graduated young people know this country in the process of growing up, and how should they revise their past understanding after being suspended and decelerated?

After experiencing the rapid growth of social wealth, welcoming a future that will only worsen, will we let a new group of young people fall into a pessimistic argument. In the face of increasingly powerful state machines, do they also fear "being part of this huge system" and question whether the hierarchical structure will destroy individual spirit? Especially when the entire country itself needs to deal with the deterioration of the international situation and external challenges.

Will China also have a counter-culture movement? What small technologies can people use as personal weapons and tools? The only thing I can think of is the blockchain. VR and 3D printing may be part of it, but they haven't developed yet … Hot AI should even be on the opposite side.

When issuing the Cyber ​​Space Declaration of Independence in 1996 [7] , Barrow concluded:

We will create a spiritual civilization in the network. Hopefully, she will be more humane and fair than the world your government has created before.

This sentence today is also worth giving to all the practitioners present here.



[1] Password punk: [2] The first article in this series: = & mid = 2450143058 & idx = 1 & sn = 34eceb133986e096162e348b094259ed & scene = 21 # wechat_redirect

[3] "Digital Utopia: From Counterculture to Cyber ​​Culture":

[4] "Cathedral and Bazaar":

[5] punch card:

[6] "Graduate":

[7] Cyberspace Declaration of Independence:

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