[ExI] Wired: The New Socialism: Global Collectivist Society IsComing Online

Emlyn emlynoregan at gmail.com
Mon Jun 1 02:40:19 UTC 2009

2009/5/28 Damien Broderick <thespike at satx.rr.com>:
> At 04:51 PM 5/28/2009 +0930, Emlyn wrote:
>> It looks to me like the leading slope of the singularity, one
>> based on intelligence augmentation and borginization. The progression
>> must be roughly, this communal improvement loop continues and
>> accelerates, at some point we begin as individuals to augment for
>> closer connection to the group (always on, less latency, higher
>> bandwidth information processing abilities, entirely new social
>> communication channels), this all continues in a giant feedback loop
>> until what?
> This is pretty much how Vernor Vinge described the run-up to his singularity
> (and vanishment of humans from Earth) in his 1986 novel MAROONED IN REAL

Another data point:

On the Street and On Facebook: The Homeless Stay Wired

SAN FRANCISCO -- Like most San Franciscans, Charles Pitts is wired.
Mr. Pitts, who is 37 years old, has accounts on Facebook, MySpace and
Twitter. He runs an Internet forum on Yahoo, reads news online and
keeps in touch with friends via email. The tough part is managing this
digital lifestyle from his residence under a highway bridge.

"You don't need a TV. You don't need a radio. You don't even need a
newspaper," says Mr. Pitts, an aspiring poet in a purple cap and
yellow fleece jacket, who says he has been homeless for two years.
"But you need the Internet."

Mr. Pitts's experience shows how deeply computers and the Internet
have permeated society. A few years ago, some people were worrying
that a "digital divide" would separate technology haves and have-nots.
The poorest lack the means to buy computers and Web access. Still, in
America today, even people without street addresses feel compelled to
have Internet addresses.

New York City has put 42 computers in five of the nine shelters it
operates and plans to wire the other four this year. Roughly half of
another 190 shelters in the city offer computer access. The executive
director of a San Francisco nonprofit group, Central City Hospitality
House, estimates that half the visitors to its new eight-computer
drop-in center are homeless; demand for computer time is so great that
users are limited to 30 minutes.

Shelter attendants say the number of laptop-toting overnight visitors,
while small, is growing. SF Homeless, a two-year-old Internet forum,
has 140 members. It posts schedules for public-housing meetings and
news from similar groups in New Mexico, Arizona and Connecticut. And
it has a blog with online polls about shelter life.

Cheap computers and free Internet access fuel the phenomenon. So does
an increasingly computer-savvy population. Many job and housing
applications must be submitted online. Some homeless advocates say the
economic downturn is pushing more of the wired middle class on to the

Aspiring computer programmer Paul Weston, 29, says his Macintosh
PowerBook has been a "lifeboat" since he was laid off from his job as
a hotel clerk in December and moved to a shelter. Sitting in a Whole
Foods store with free wireless access, Mr. Weston searches for work
and writes a computer program he hopes to sell eventually. He has
emailed city officials to press for better shelter conditions.

Lisa Stringer, who runs a program that teaches job and computer skills
to homeless and low-income residents, says some students who can't
even read or write save money to buy computers at Goodwill. "It's
really a symbol in today's society of being OK and connected," she
says. She sometimes urges homeless students to put off buying laptops
until their living situations stabilize.

Staying wired on the streets takes determination. Electricity and
Internet access can be hard to come by. Threats, including rain and
theft, are a problem.

Robert Livingston, 49, has carried his Asus netbook everywhere since
losing his apartment in December. A meticulous man who spends some of
his $59 monthly welfare check on haircuts, Mr. Livingston says he quit
a security-guard job late last year, then couldn't find another when
the economy tanked.

When he realized he would be homeless, Mr. Livingston bought a sturdy
backpack to store his gear, a padlock for his footlocker at the
shelter and a $25 annual premium Flickr account to display the digital
photos he takes.

One recent morning, Mr. Livingston sat in a cafe that sometimes lets
customers tap its wireless connection, and shows off his personal home
page, featuring links for Chinese-language lessons.

Mr. Livingston says his computer helps him feel more connected and
human. "It's frightening to be homeless," he says. "When I'm on here,
I'm equal to everybody else."

For Skip Schreiber, 64, an amateur philosopher with wispy white hair
who lives in a van, power is the biggest challenge to staying wired.
Mr. Schreiber tended heating and ventilation systems before
work-related stress and depression sidelined him around 15 years ago,
he says.

For his 60th birthday, he dipped into his monthly disability check to
buy a laptop, connected it to his car battery, and taught himself to
use it. "I liked the concept of the Internet," says Mr. Schreiber,
"this unlimited source of opinion and thought."

Mr. Schreiber later switched to a Mac because it uses less juice. He
keeps the fan and wireless antenna off when possible and cools the
laptop by putting it on a damp washcloth. He says that by using such
tricks, he can keep the laptop battery going for 16 hours, if he
avoids videos.

In the van, stacked with toolboxes, electric gear and bedding, Mr.
Schreiber shows the contents of his laptop, including the complete
California legal code and files on thinkers from Thomas Aquinas to the
psychologist Philip Zimbardo. Mr. Schreiber says writings about human
behavior and motivation help make sense of what has happened to him.

"No one creates themselves as a homeless person," he says. "We make
the choices we can with what we're offered."

Michael Ross creates his own electricity, with a gas generator perched
outside his yellow-and-blue tent. For a year, Mr. Ross has stood guard
at a parking lot for construction equipment, under a deal with the
owner. Mr. Ross figures he has been homeless for about 15 years,
surviving on his Army pension.

Inside the tent, the taciturn 50-year-old has an HP laptop with a
17-inch screen and 320 gigabytes of data storage, as well as four
extra hard drives that can hold another 1,000 gigabytes, the
equivalent of 200 DVDs. Mr. Ross loves movies. He rents some from
Netflix and Blockbuster online and downloads others over an Ethernet
connection at the San Francisco public library.

One evening recently, Mr. Ross lay down on his sleeping bag and
watched an X-Men cartoon on the laptop, listening through headphones
over the roar of the generator. When he travels downtown, he takes all
the gear with him for safekeeping. His backpack bulges with cords and
bubble-wrapped electronic gadgets. Mr. Ross says he doesn't notice the

Mr. Pitts, the poet who lives under a bridge, keeps a mental list of
spots to charge batteries and go online, including a deserted corner
of a downtown train station and wired cafes whose owners don't mind
long stays and lots of bags.

When he was evicted from his apartment two years ago, Mr. Pitts says,
"I thought: My existence and my life don't stop because I don't have a
place to live."

He bought a Toshiba laptop. When it died, he bought a used Dell. Last
month, that one expired, too, with a cracked screen. Now he checks
email and posts to his Internet forum on homeless issues, from
computers at libraries, college campuses and a laptop stashed behind
the counter of a coffee shop by a friend.

Before the Dalai Lama visited a soup kitchen here a month ago, Mr.
Pitts researched the Buddhist leader on Wikipedia and copied the text
onto his iPod, to read in bed under the bridge. "I'm under my blanket,
under a tarp, reading Dalai Lama this, Dalai Lama that," he says.

Mr. Pitts expects to soon scrape up the money for another computer. He
figures he can get one for less than $200.


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