"Infosocialism's success is predicated on its memetic virility, not the leadership of any one nation. Communism was the first memetic power bloc on Earth, but failed because it was centuries ahead of its time."
This was a political philosophy developed (under the name "information socialism") by the Australian academic Kyle Porter in the first half of the 21st century. Originally from the left-anarchist tradition, Porter felt that the vision of a pure anarcho-socialist society was unrealistic. Nevertheless, he observed that although modern civilization was utterly dependent on information technologies, the central notion of "intellectual property" often gave rise to significant injustice. He called for the state to seize ownership of all copyrights and patents. He believed that only the state could properly reward innovation, while still distributing the benefits of such innovation fairly to all. Infosocialists began with the premise that "information needs to be free" but redefined the nature of freedom as the nationalization of intellectual property and its distribution by the state. Thus, patents are not awarded, but research and creative endeavor is subsidized. This is less absurd when one imagines a "university" rather than "corporate" model of research and development.
Tenets of Infosocialism
The original formulation of Information Socialism argued that information has several properties that make it fundamentally different from "normal" material goods:
- it is non-tangible, usually thought of as meaning primarily digital, although Porter used the term to refer to information as being conceptual rather than physical;
- it is infinitely replicable, meaning that information can be copied any number of times without reducing its inherent use-value to the original possessor;
- and it is socially constructed, as all ideas, even new ones, are fundamentally based upon other people's ideas, which in turn are based on still other people's ideas, and so forth.
Porter then argued that, while markets for scarce physical resources can theoretically lead to optimal distribution, markets for information tend inevitably towards dysfunctional monopolies, as the nature of information makes it impossible to treat as a scarce but tradable object.
In classic infosocialism, then, the role of the state is to act as the "social monopolist," having ownership of all intellectual property, but making it freely available to all parts of the society. Porter claimed that innovation would still happen, as there would still be traditional markets for the physical goods and services derived from public intellectual property, and that a "reputation market" would emerge to promote the creation of new ideas. Infosocialism, as defined by Porter, is focused narrowly on the control of pure information, and leaves physical goods to whichever market distribution methods were preferred by society. Porter thought that a true abundance society would require the rise of nanotechnology in an already-infosocialist society, which in turn could only happen in heavily-networked advanced technology nations.
Much like communism, infosocialist doctrine failed to take hold in the developed nations of the day and instead got picked up by less developed nations, many of whom felt they were exploited by wealthier corporations locks on major genetic patents and software systems. One of the policies of inofsocialism was an end to enforcement of things like international copyright agreements and trademarks. This had a side effect of leading to a huge upsurge in piracy, especially of pharm animals, drugs, and nanoviruses.
The resulting international sanctions helped weld the nanosocialist countries into a tighter (and increasingly paranoid) block. While it was not one of the causes of the Nanotech War, it was a noteworthy contributing factor.
Even thousands of years later, infosocialism remains an important factor in post-Diaspora politics, with Unified Interstellar Socialist Alliance (UISA) on the scene, as well as infosocialist parties and sympathizers in most civilizations.
Because of these beliefs, infosocialists tend to flout patent laws and frequently come into contact (and conflict) with patent inspectors.
While the Unified Interstellar Socialist Alliance looks like a unified ideological front to the outside world, the reality is somewhat more complicated. Unlike the ideological pacts of the past, there is no clearly dominant powerful state leading the UISA. The member nations of the UISA have little in common with each other culturally other than a political ideology. Even this memetic linkage is somewhat tenuous, as the diverse implementations of infosocialism among the Alliance members has often led to strained relations.
The UISA does not have a formal leadership or command hierarchy independent of the constituent states. The closest to an official body is the Coordinating Committee, which seeks to align the foreign and military policies of the UISA nations. Representatives are appointed by each state, and are usually active members of the national government; the Speaker of the Committee is elected annually by the representatives, and is usually a good indicator of which faction or constituent holds political sway. The Coordinating Committee does not have the power to enforce its decisions, but so far in the brief history of the UISA there has not been a coordination crisis.
Aside from the Coordinating Committee, the only other clearly-defined UISA structures are the Directorates. Each Directorate claims responsibility for a particular function or activity; participation in a Directorate is voluntary, although the primary Directorates do have representatives from each UISA nation. For the most part, Directorates are tied closely to an individual state's government, taking advantage of its resources and heavily influenced by its policies. It is not unusual for a small Directorate to only have participation from one or two UISA states; it is not unknown for certain Directorates to be kept secret from other UISA members.
Key Directorates in the UISA
Acquisitions: The Acquisitions Directorate is responsible for bringing in ideas, designs, software, and other information from outside of the UISA. This is the largest of the Directorates, and the primary target of many of the Alliance's enemies. Some Acquisitions agents specialize in entertainment content; others specialize in classified military designs. The Directorate is omnivorous and indiscriminate, consuming everything that gets sent its way. There are rumored to be tens of thousands of Acquisitions operatives , a number that's multiplied when it includes the local hackers, smugglers, and casual pirates whose efforts often end up in the hands of the UISA
A sub-department of the Directorate, Recruitment, works to expand the number of information sources for Acquisitions, whether conscious or unwitting. Recruitment suffers the highest losses of all of the operative agencies, as it cannot be passive. Recruitment agents must seek out likely candidates, thereby putting themselves at risk.
Defense: The Defense Directorate attempts to coordinate military activities among member nations. Although it is responsible for turning political goals into military strategy, it spends most of its efforts on logistics. Defense only focuses on physical military preparations, as the Intelligence Directorate (Internal) has responsibility for network and memetic defense.
Distribution: Working closely with Acquisitions, the Distribution Directorate comprises independent Directorates in each Alliance nation. Each Distribution Directorate chooses how best to make the acquired intellectual goods available to the country's citizens. Differences in distribution policies is one of the main sources of friction between UISA members.
Innovation: Although the UISA has a reputation as intellectual property thieves and scavengers, the Innovation Directorate provides substantial support for the research, invention, and development efforts inside of the Alliance. Much of the innovation has historically focused on better decryption and network intrusion tools, but this appears to be slowly changing. In 2099, the UISA released a new economic modeling application, designed using Innovation Directorate funding, that does successful demand-projection for non-market economies.
Intelligence (Internal): The Internal branch of the Intelligence Directorate also deals with threats to the UISA, but focuses on rooting out spies and defending the various information and communication networks from attack. As with External, most of the popular non-UISA representations of Internal are incorrect; Internal does not operate as a secret police force, as each Alliance nation has its own local version. Internal Intelligence works with national, regional, and local law enforcement departments to search out and eliminate threats from within. This does not mean dissenters or political activists; the Intelligence (Internal) Directorate focuses exclusively on counter-espionage and counter-terror, and has built up an impressive record of arrests. Internal Intelligence uses the most advanced technology of any of the operative Directorates.
Intelligence (External): The Intelligence Directorate is a group that coordinates the disparate intelligence and espionage resources of the various Alliance members. The agency focuses on espionage and memetic warfare. Contrary to many InVid thrillers and virtual worlds, External does not deal with acquiring intellectual property. External is concerned only with potential threats to the survival of the UISA.
Intelligence (External), conversely, tends to use whatever technology is needed to get the job done. Its agents around the world must be scrupulously careful to avoid any connections to the Alliance, and build up substantial alternative identities to mask their true activities. External Intelligence agents are considered heroes in UISA propaganda, but are never identified. It's rumored that even the Coordinating Council cannot access the identities and locations of External operatives.
Simulations, Modeling and Planning: The Simulations, Modeling and Planning Directorate has primary responsibility for Alliance-wide economic issues.
Theory and Praxis: Of all of the UISA's directorates, Theory and Praxis is perhaps least known outside of the Alliance. It is, ostensibly, the center for ongoing development of the theories of Information Socialism, and it produces an abundance of articles, manifestos, including declarations on the legitimacy of various forms of political expression, uses of new technology, desirability of foreign entertainment and research notes, some of which get re-published in the mainstream world (and generally ignored). Theory and Praxis also enforces ideological purity across the Alliance. The Directorate also serves as the UISA's secret police, monitoring dissent, making troublemakers disappear, and carrying out elaborate memetic rehabilitation on those who it deems threatening to the long-term survival of the Alliance. The power of Theory and Praxis has grown considerably in the last several years, and it has become quite influential in the Coordinating Council. A recent drop in Acquisitions activity, which some UISA opponents had claimed was the result of internal power struggles, was actually part of a careful plan Theory and Praxis devised to shift the Alliance's overall strategic position. Theory and Praxis considers itself the last line of memetic defense for the UISA.
Networks and Monocultures
The chaotic internal structure of the UISA Infosphere is entirely intentional. One of the fundamental tenets of infosocialism is that well-connected diversity is a source of strength. By limiting access to information or ideas, a nation or company acts to undercut its own long-term power. Similarly, by forcing adherence to a particular standard, an organization (whether government or commercial) runs the risk of being defeated by an attacker who knows the standard's weaknesses. In this logic, the Alliance's combination of deep connections between states, a lack of top-down hierarchy, and diverse set of methods and tools is the key to its ongoing success.
As a result, it is nearly impossible for an outside power to "decapitate" the UISA by eliminating the a key member. While the network structure of the Alliance does lead to haphazard initial responses to threats, it also allows the UISA to be highly strategically flexible, able to adapt to changing conditions in ways that ensure its continued survival.
The UISA has actively avoided settling on a single design for its weaponry, information and communication networks, even for its methods of production. This, too, is intended to keep the Alliance alive when threatened. Even the best-designed or optimally-emergent system can have weaknesses, and relying wholly or even in large part upon a single system would leave the UISA open to attacks on that weak point. By mandating system diversity, the Alliance sacrifices efficiency and convenience in pursuit of robust security.
UISA Member Civilizations and Their Politics
NuevoPaz: Multi-party Democracy. NuevoPaz is decidedly focused on internal development, going so far as to avoid participation in Alliance-wide military exercises.
Erusea: Single-party Authoritarian, local democracy. Infosocialist party came to power in free elections, but used various crises as justifications for canceling elections. Regional and local elections involve multiple candidates from state party.
Osea: Military-Authoritarian. Possibly the most brutal dictatorship in the Alliance.
haqIslam: Military-Authoritarian. The coup brought in the current regime, whose power rests on a combination of military force and broad populism. Wealthy elites were driven out by the coup, and haqIslam now has one of the highest average standards of living in the UISA.
Minerva: Military-Authoritarian. The current government was installed in a military coup. The continued strong military presence is due to the ongoing conflict with guerillas.
Donegal: Multi-party Democracy. Donegal became a nominally nanosocialist state in 2086, and the subsequent elections have largely been competitions between rival hard-line and moderate nanosocialist parties (referred to sarcastically as "Reds" and "Whites"), with a few other parties winning local seats.
Horthval: Military-Authoritarian. A military coup in brought the current regime into power. Radical and assertive, it seeks to become the leader of the UISA. It has recently butted heads with HyBrasil over Alliance military policy.
HyBrasil: Single-party Authoritarian, local "party guided" democracy. The infosocialist party came to power in a broadly popular revolution, and it remains well-supported in both rural and urban areas. The HyBrasilean party is both the most radical in its infosocialism and the most populist in its message, and has won the affection of the populace with its noisy condemnations of the other UISA countries.
Deisho: State of Emergency. The infosocialist party came to power in a free election, and was promptly set upon by rebels. Horthval and HyBrasil have provided military aid to the beleaguered regime, which promises a return to democracy once the uprising is successfully defeated.
Mordovi: Possibly the most democratic and infosocialist members of the UISA. Democratic from the beginning, it joined the UISA and has contributed ever since. It has the highest standard of living of the UISA, but is frequently criticized for not sharing its progress with other alliance members.
Maldanado Republic: Military-Authoritarian. One of the oldest members of the UISA, it was originally a democratically elected government, but the military staged a coup over a lack of ideological purity by the government. Today, it suffers from an internal rebellion and can barely contribute to the alliance.
Economics and Politics
"Information is power, in the most fundamental sense. It flows, yet it must have a medium through which to flow or it dissipates. It makes all action possible, yet it cannot do anything on its own. Nothing is possible without information. Those who forget that information and power are one and the same do so at their own peril."
–Kyle Porter, What Is To Be Done? (v2.0)
Although most UISA opponents consider the Alliance to be a monolithic ideological whole, there is actually considerable diversity within the coalition regarding politics, economics, and the implementation of infosocialism. Member nations came to Infosocialism through a variety of means – from coups to popular election. Infosocialism is a populist movement, and pundits frequently neglect to mention its continuing popularity in most of the UISA states.
Economically, the Alliance members are all socialist in the broad sense, but with varying types of internal markets. In most UISA states, services such as power and web connections are state-funded, while agriculture and consumer products tend to be more market-driven. Horthval, HyBrasil and Minerva are aggressively statist, down to giving production quotas to individual farmers and small manufacturers. Donegal and NuevoPaz fall closer to the classic infosocialist model, only having state control of intellectual property distribution and basic services, while leaving most production decisions to a lively internal market. The development of demand-prediction software has helped to better synchronize Alliance-wide supply and demand, and most member countries are able to manage their economies without causing the economic meltdowns that socialist nations in the 20th century often faced.
There is also considerable diversity in the manner in which technology is distributed by the governments. Despite being the cornerstone of the infosocialism concept, the free availability of intellectual property has proven to be a controversial topic even within the UISA. In some countries, all citizens have full access to the UISA Library, from popular entertainment to weapon design; in others, citizen access to the Library is restricted, limited only to pirated Bollywood musicals and escapist InVids. The divide between free-distribution and controlled-distribution states falls along the same axis as the split between democratic and authoritarian UISA nations; in short, it comes down to whether or not the government trusts its people.
Unsurprisingly, the UISA is highly factionalized. Since its inception, it has seen the loss of founding members in a interstellar war, continued brushfire wars along its borders, and relentless propaganda. Intelligence and covert operation attacks against its survival by leading nations. How to respond is the crux of intense ongoing debate within the Alliance.
While the inter-member conflicts are highly visible, and many have deep historical roots, the cross-civilizational factional conflicts have a greater influence on the ability of the UISA to respond to crises. Each faction is able to bring supporters into the streets to rally for or against government policies, and each claims a seat of official power that prevents the others from moving decisively against it. Factional rivalries can be brutal; there have been hundreds (if not thousands) of assassinations of factional leaders and notable activists since the formation of the Alliance. In some cases, the factions themselves are split between those who favor central control and those who wish to expand citizen participation in the evolution of the UISA.
Hard-liners: Cooperation with the Corporatist world is inevitably a mistake in their view. While many tend towards authoritarianism, a substantial minority believe that the only successful revolutions will come with full citizen support. Ideologues can be found in much of the national leadership, and the Directorate of Theory and Praxis is an important center of power.
Philosophers: A younger generation of infosocialists see the ideology as an evolutionary process, not a rigid dogma. They are dedicated to the philosophy, but want to make it work in a changing world. While they disdain compromise for short term gain, they are not as stubborn as the hard-liners. In factional conflicts they tend to be balancers and subtle politicians. Their primary approach is to look at "big picture." The are a small but influential faction, primarily found in the Innovation Directorate.
Pragmatists: The so-called Pragmatist faction is willing to do whatever is needed to keep the UISA going, even if that means sometimes compromising on principle. Many of the side-deals cut by the UISA (for wormhole connections, or 3He, inversion beams, or medical supplies) were carried out by Pragmatists. They are found throughout the Directorate of Intelligence (External), but are also visible in Innovation and in Acquisitions. Most tend towards a democratic approach, especially those in Innovation, but a strong minority are happily authoritarian as needed.
Revolutionaries: The Revolutionaries are hard-liners; unlike the older faction, they tend to be aggressive about the need to export infosocialism to the Corporatist world.. Most Revolutionaries are younger citizens of the UISA. The new generation claims to have learned the lessons of the past, but still brooks no dissent, especially any that suggests that the UISA will not eventually lead a interstellar revolution. They are often found in Acquisitions, especially in recruiting, but are also common in Theory & Praxis.
As a result of its commitment to systemic diversity, the UISA's military is quite haphazard. Member nations use a wide range of equipment, much of which is derived from the weaponry of the other civilizations, usually with local variations. This chaotic situation is made manageable by the widespread deployment of replicators, allowing a single supply unit to provide ammunition and spare parts for every weapon and piece of equipment.
At their worst, however, UISA military forces are more delicate and require substantially more maintenance than their counterparts in other militaries. While replicators allow for the supply of diverse units, it often takes upwards of several hours to produce the correct pieces of equipment, making "on-the-fly" re-supply a dangerously slow process. And when Great Power opponents encounter UISA weapons based on their own designs, they're often able to attack based on their classified knowledge of system weaknesses.
The UISA Infosphere
In comparison to the infosphere as seen in developed civilizations, the UISA Infosphere is wildly outdated. Little of it is fully-immersive, and vast sections still rely on ancient protocols. As with many of the UISA-wide systems, however, the UISA Infosphere is designed to value robust flexibility over elegance and control. The network has proven to be remarkably resilient, staying available to most of the Alliance even in the face of massive infrastructure attacks.
Once completed, the UISA Infosphere was connected directly to the interstellar one. The Alliance's opponents quickly cut connections to the UISA, however, trying to prevent both Alliance piracy of material on the and mainstream access to already pirated material. When this happened, hackers on both sides worked to re-establish links. This cat-and-mouse game continues to the present, often with the unwitting cooperation of transition nations.
The ability of the UISA Infosphere to remain usable even when routed across networks of dubious reliability affirms the decision of the designers to focus on robust simplicity. Complexity was only added when needed; the UISA Infosphere was originally planned to be open to the world, but later updates cordoned off a section limited to internal communication. Another addition allowed individual national governments within the UISA to cordon off certain sections, restricting citizen access to the material.
With the connections to the outside, of course, comes regular attacks by opposing governments and hacktivists. An Alliance report once claimed that the UISA Infosphere has been subject to a greater volume of hostile activity than any other network every created, and few disagree. In the first several centuries of the UISA Infosphere's existence, it was regularly brought down by hackers. Over time, the UISA Web's defenses grew stronger, and there hasn't been a successful denial-of-service attack on the network in decades.
Not all of the attacks come from outside, another factor in the UISA Infosphere's current stability. A substantial number came from within the UISA – not from spies or dissidents, but from curious (and sometimes vaguely malicious) young adults, seeking to explore the limits and weaknesses of the UISA Infosphere. The network's defenders quickly learned to counter all manner of threat, and claim, with some justification, that the UISA Infosphere may be the most secure open network in the world.
At present, the UISA Infosphere provides access to a broad range of intellectual property. Some of it is original to the UISA, some is public domain or open source, although much of the content, from entertainment to genemod designs and software, is pirated. Some of the material has been hacked to take out content-rights management routines, but a surprising amount has not. The Directorate of Acquisitions often simply posts new content directly to the web; many unwitting would-be-pirates have been caught using downloaded material still fully protected by CRM code.
As throughout the rest of the universe, replicators, minifacs and 3D printers are wildly popular in the UISA. They are still relatively few in number, however, so most are controlled by national governments, which tend to give the military priority. Numbers are steadily increasing, and UISA leaders have realized the political value of their greater distribution. Unlike in much of the developing world, the cost of product design licenses will not deter the rapid growth of minifac use in the UISA.
Authoritarian UISA nations tend to rely on cheap to implement, highly efficient large-scale installations such as 3He Fusion plants, satellite power stations, and multi-acre (or mile) solar arrays.
The power networks being built in low-authority UISA states are heavily distributed, with many small plants and very few major installations. As with other elements of the Alliance infrastructure, diversity and redundancy are seen as key features. Solar arrays and fusion plants have been supplemented, even replaced, by so-called "micro-generation" systems, which often use older but still useful technologies: vehicle-sized fuel cells powering buildings, gas turbine engines powering neighborhoods, high-efficiency solar cells used as building exterior material and more recently, small inversion powered power supplies. Member states are also taking advantage of regional resources where possible, such as tapping geothermal energy or tidal power.
Common Name: Infosocialists
Emblem: Hammer and helix.
Inspector Status: None. Patent Office has no official relations with the UISA and is considered an “enemy of the state” by most of its member civilizations.
Benefit: All members of the UISA are able to access items and services that individuals normally could not. For purposes of these rules, they can buy moderately expensive items without concern, or highly expensive ones by getting the appropriate permissions.
Core Value: Infosocialism and Self-reliance
Infosocialism – that the market distribution of information and its products tends towards dysfunctional monopoly and therefore states should act to distribute information, making it freely available, while subsidizing research and innovation.
Self-Reliance drives the moral center of the Infosocialists. It’s what makes them eschew the tech they'd have to buy from outside powers, and what makes them turn down offers of alliance from other civilizations. It generally makes life harder for the Infosocialists, but to them it means that they’ll sink or swim on their own merit, not because of others. This CV also led to the UISA’s non-standard infosphere which poses a problem for both ordinary travelers from other civilizations and Independents away from home.
I'm not sure about the fit of the Infosocialists in the setting, but I figure some sort of opposition to the T's and the Patent Office should exist. Anyway, they're intended to provide 'repeat offenders' for a game, and more credible than the New Republic and with more oomph than the Darwinists or a Nihilist society would.
Any comments and suggestions on improving them would be appreciated.