Simplicity and the threat of a Vectoralist Hacker

August 7, 2006

In the intervening month or so I had been reading and relaxing. The literature at hand was, in order; Social Theory and Social Change by Trevor Noble, The Laws of Simplicity by John Medea, and A Hacker Manifesto by McKenzie Wark.

Social Theory and Social Change is, to put it succintly, brilliant. Noble does an amazing job of synthesizing numerous social change/movement theories as well as perceptions of how to view society appropriately. At times it is a struggle to read but the writting is for the most part immediately understandable. However, there are sentances with unnecessary wording. The phrase “social morphogenesis” is brief and thus “simplistic” but the obscurity of the term results in confusion.

The Laws of Simplicity by John Medea is 100 pages of philosophical parsely. It’s a nice try at bringing someone to an introduction to simplicity in terms of design by suggesting short rules on may abide by, but not much beyond that. I really did like it, however, and always will. Medea has never let me down. But I think that a manifesto of sorts about the concept and methodology of simplicity is yet to come. That manifesto is something I’d love to write.

A Hacker Manifesto. This book should be read by everyone that it pertains to within the next decade as it will become more and more important in understanding the “new conflicts” of age-old actualized property problems versus new-age intellectual propery problems and the classes involved in these conflicts: producers, hackers, vectoralists and others. I won’t go so far as to say the book is “prophetic” because a prophecy needs to be fulfilled and a prediction needs to be made in order for that to be so. An example of a prophetic book is most definitely The Treason of the Intellectuals where Benda explicitly suggests that current ideological trends were going to culminate into the “greatest war.” They did and the war was World War II.

The simplicity book that I hinted at that I wanted to write would, nay, should be made in an identical fashion as A Hacker Manifesto was. A Hacker Manifesto contains no page numbers rather it has numbers for each paragraph, or maybe I should say each almost self-contained thought which are themselves contained within a subject-chapter. For instance, the statement “Information wants to be free but is everywhere in chains [126]” starts off the subject-chapter: Information.

What I realy adore about the style is that it tends to leave out the expository technique of “explanation through example.” The reason I like it is because that type of explanation is bloated. You should be able to express an idea without having the ride on the coat-tail of some previous event. Wark tells you what his ideas are. He doesn’t “describe” them. In the subject-chapter Representation he makes a bold statement (at least to me at the time):

“All representation is false. A likeness differs of necessity from what it represents. If it did not, it would be what it represents, and thus not a representation. [208]”

The few books I’ve read on simplicity rarely practice it themselves. John Madea’s book does, but I feel that his method of utilizing simplicity is superficial. Although, he does use a slightly different definition of what simplicity means. To me, simplicity is about the minimum of necessity. To him, simplicity is about “subtracting the obvious and adding the meaningful.” So to me, a book of 100 pages only seems minimally necessary but once you read it there are numerous angles he could’ve touched on. The book was a mixture of definitely necessary ideas, unecessary explanations (some via example), and sometimes irrelevant information. If a book titled “the laws of simplicity” requires more absolutely necessary ideas then write them down and put them in the book. The rule to have 100 pages is not simplistic in the philosophical sense. It is simplistic in the visual and design sense only. And for that, I absolutely approve of Medea’s decision for his book is on simplicity in design and business. Not simplicity in a deep philosophical sense.

The other book I briefly checked out was “Simplicty and Complexity: Writtings in Literature, Painting…” I forget the rest of the title. Nonetheless I quickly returned it when I immediately noticed that the author conflated simplicity with order and complexity with disorder. That’s fallacious. For example (dammit! I’m doing that!), a computer is complex but HIGHLY ordered while this website: http://plw.media.mit.edu/ is both simple and disordered. Despite some very interesting subjects described in the book (like chaos and information theory, Gallileo’s conversations between Simplicio and Sagredo) I couldn’t proceed with a book based on a false premise much less a false premise that is ubiquitous throughout the book.

Well anyways, that’s a long digression. Since I just finished A Hacker Manifesto (I know I’ll return to it soon) one thing that bugged me was that Wark defined a hacker as somewhat of a person that could be anyone. But that it was someone with an ability to ‘virtualize’ the ‘actual’ of necessity and whatnot. And that a vectoralist, mainly being someone who controls the means through with information flows. However, a vectoralist who is also a hacker would almost have absolute power. While their ideologies certainly contradict (hacker favors information freedom while a vectoralist is concerned with “information as a commodity”) one who is greedy enough to selfishly control information as well as informed enough to exploit the vector infrastructure to his own bidding can do quite a lot damage. In this sense, he could do anything from removing the power of the vectoralist class (and all subclasses) as well as create a new class for himself. This would certainly have to be a somewhat crazed individual and realistically I’d assume his attempts would be foiled by the powerful vectoralists and intuitive hacker class. But nonetheless, I’d assume that a vectoralist hacker devoid of the morals and ideologies shared by the other classes would have a very opportune ability to truly exploit both systems.

For the most part, however, I think that a vectoralist hacker would almost always be more of a hacker than a vectoralist. The reverse seems contradictory. A vectorlist who is slightly a hacker would abstain from hacking because it would directly undermine the vectoralist’s ability to control information as property. However, a hacker who has the means of influencing vectors favors the spread of information, but because he is slightly vectoralist, he’d favor the spread of information into his own control.  I’m really just brainstorming here, I do feel there is some inconsistency here that is going unnoticed by me but it was just a few thoughts I had. The book tends to run a dichotomy between them when, I feel, it isn’t absolute.

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2 Responses to “Simplicity and the threat of a Vectoralist Hacker”

  1. There is certainly a fantasy at work about the vectoralist-hacker, who transforms the world and get’s stinking rich doing it. What i was trying to do in AHM was to drive a wedge through that ideology. The commodification of information reduces it always and everywhere to the same measure. Anything really different escapes it. Thus the vectoralist wants what s/he can’t have.

    Thanks for the comments on the writing style, which are spot on.

  2. paintist said

    Oh my, thanks for dropping by and clarifying things for me. I was really just juggling with the terms rather than making any sort of critque about AHM. Thanks again McKenzie :)

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