A Declaration of ‘Cloud’ Independence

One of my current research obsessions is exploring the intersecting of anarchism and technology, or more specifically, the ways in which ‘The Cloud’ is a space ripe for the construction of Temporary Autonomous Zones/Pirate Utopias and for offering alternative social, political, and economic structures of engagement and participation. Mark Van Steenwyk suggested in his book, That Holy Anarchist,  that “One of the central challenges of forging peace, justice and freedom in our time is to experiment with political models that promote the dispersal, rather than the increasing concentration, of power.” I believe that the ‘The Cloud’ and all its inherent potentialities offers just such a platform for exactly this kind of experimentation and dispersal. I’ve recently written two previous posts dedicated to this idea,which you can read here and here.
The two works that primarily incited me to make this correlation was Kester Brewin‘s recent book Mutiny! and the Cloud Surfing by Thomas Koulopoulos. I have since been investigating this notion further and in the process began reading a book edited by Peter Ludlow entitled Crypto Anarchy, Cyberstates, and Pirate Utopias. This text is a culmination of essays from various contributors, all of which are intended to explore the immense innovation and creativity taking place within the Cyber world, especially in regards to the formation of autonomous communities and spaces that are ultimately seditious and defiant of the normative governance of the nation state. Though this work was originally published in 2001 and the Cloud had not achieved the still burgeoning maturity that it currently has, the text is still unwaveringly relevant and applicable. In the book’s forward Edward Barret correctly predicts that “We are witnessing a profound revolution in communication and learning in a post-Gutenberg world” (xiii). Thus, Ludlow accurately surmises that “the reason that anarchy becomes a topic of interest in cyberspace is simply that with the widespread availability of various technologies it now appears that certain anarchist ideals may be possible, if not inevitable” (xvii). For instance, Ludlow highlights that “traditional nation states have no legitimate authority over cyberspace” (xviii). This is seeming to be more and more the case with the rising prevalence of the Cloud and all that it offers.
One of the first essays of the book comes from John Perry Barlow, which was written as an email in 1996 in reaction to the Telecommunications Act of 1996 and then widely distributed by Barlow. The work was entitled “A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace” and was intended to be a scathing statement to not only the United States Government but, to governments of the world that Internet is not held with any of their borders and is thus outside all of their jurisdictions and exempt from their authority. I found Barlow’s declaration is to be incredibly poignant and it has lost none of its teeth. Below you’ll find excerpts from Barlow’s original paper crafted together in such a way so as to serve as means announcing same kind of radical, subversive, and disruptive independence that is ‘The Cloud’.

Governments of the…World, you weary giants of flesh and steel, I come from [the Cloud], the new home of Mind. On behalf of the future, I ask you of the past to leave us alone. You are not welcome among us. You have no sovereignty where we gather.

We have no elected government, nor are we likely to have one, so I address you with no greater authority than that with which liberty itself always speaks. I declare the global social space we are building to be naturally independent of the tyrannies you seek to impose on us. You have no moral right to rule us, nor do you possess any methods of enforcement we have true reason to fear.

Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed. You have neither solicited nor received ours. We did not invite you. You do not know us, nor do you know our world. [The Cloud] does not lie within your borders. Do not think that you can build it, as though it were a public construction project. You cannot. It is an act of nature, and it grows itself through our collective actions.

You have not engaged in our great and gathering conversation, nor did you create the wealth of our marketplaces. You do not know our culture, our ethics, or the unwritten codes that already provide our society more order than could be obtained by any of your impositions…

We are forming our own Social Contract. This governance will arise according to the conditions of our world, not yours. Our world is different…

[The Cloud] consists of transactions, relationships, and thought itself, arrayed like a standing wave in the web our communications. Ours is a world that is both everywhere and nowhere…

We are creating a world that all may enter without privilege or prejudice accorded by race, economic power, military force, or station of birth.

We are creating a world where anyone, anywhere may express his or her beliefs, no matter how singular, without fear of being coerced into silence or conformity.

Your legal concepts of property, expression, identity, movement, and context do not apply to us. They are based on matter. There is no matter here…

In our world, all sentiments and expressions of humanity, from the debasing to the angelic, are parts of a seamless whole, the global conversation bits. We cannot separate the air that chokes from the air on which wings beat…

in our world, whatever the human mind may create can be reproduced and distributed infinitely at no cost. The global conveyance of thought no longer requires your factories to accomplish…

We will spread ourselves across the Planet so that no one can arrest our thoughts.

We will create a civilization of the Mind in [the Cloud]. May it be more humane and fair than the world your governments have made before.

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