2013 – Open Society vs. The Closed System

Post in Futurology

In the last few years there has been an acceleration of what I call the Open Economy; the opening of all levels of society to the visibility and participation of the connected global community; an internet connection being the only requirement to get stuck in (give or take your country’s specific censorship laws).

In case the concept is new to you The Open Economy is powered by Social, Mobile and Location based technology or So-Mo-Lo and the Open Innovation, Open Data, Open Communications Movements born from it that have facilitated the following:

– Open Media (Where people’s news source is derived less and less from the established mainstream channels and more from their peers and citizen journalists)

– Open Education (Access to the best education is only limited to connectivity)

– Open Business (Businesses look outside their organisation for innovation)

– Open Government (Governments look externally to engage citizens in decision making, innovation and action, championing transparency where permitted)

– Open Society (Activists using social media to drive international attention to forcibly open traditionally closed institutions or processes)

– Open Finance (Peer-to-peer lending for Start-ups, SME’s and individuals as opposed to traditional closed high-finance institutions)

What’s been unique about 2012 in this story is there has been a shift from being fringe to becoming a popular movement fuelled by global discontent at both economic and societal levels. The Open Economy has now become a popular demand and its constituent parts are beginning to converge to build strong powerbases which will be hard for mainstream politics and media to ignore.

I believe in 2013 we will see a wide-scale shift from a fundamentally Closed Society (one that happens behind closed doors, is elitist and hierarchical) to an Open Society (that is open to all, is democratic, bottom-up and leaderless). What will be most interesting is the escalation in clashes between these two opposing systems as one begins to replace the other. If the reactions to the Arab Spring, Julian Assange, Russian Pussy Riot and Chinese Zhai Xiaobing, are anything to go by 2013 is going to be a bumpy ride for those leading Open…

Why a clash?

Put simply there are those people, functions, and institutions that have developed over time that continue to prosper, or in some cases can only exist, in a Closed Society and by their nature resist anything that threatens or undermines their system and place within it. Their system operates under certain rules (be that moral or other) and so the agents of a new Open Culture will seem immoral or abhorrent by deliberately breaking them and playing to a different tune. Just look at how the Establishment has gone after Assange who is seen as a terrorist without equal by the US. This is not about any kind of conspiracy theories just the natural laws of what happens when new social systems clash with old ones that you can see played out throughout history and even in biology.

It may sound dramatic, perhaps even fantastical, to think we are witnessing such a shift but below I’ve listed some of the powerful and converging movements that are gaining increasing momentum as we speak and who clearly articulate Openness as their stated aim:

Hacktivist Movement

So Assange is holed up and seemingly out of action, although recently promising over a million leaks in 2013, but you only need to see the Anonymous logo to understand the hacktivist movement has no head to cut off. If anything they are now collectively stepping up their activity and recently began Operation Tyler (named after cult hero Tyler Banks of Fight Club) on 12.12.2012 which is calling upon a guerrilla movement of operatives to download their evolved and honed new malware via USB and upload it into the IT systems of their place of work… ideally the world’s major corporations. Their ambition is to continue the work of Wikileaks to unveil the world of corporate and political lies behind the Closed System.

#Occupy Movement

The occupy movement is maturing into a permanent fixture in global politics getting closer to developing a clear purpose beyond simply protest that can potentially be articulated to the masses. All it lacks is an effective spokesperson at the helm but a book, called Debt 5000 Year History (which I highly recommend you read), by one of its founding members David Graeber shows a possible candidate and well respected anthropologist who debunks almost all of the market fundamentals that today’s Economists have built their flawed principles on. Deep moral questions are now being asked about the need for a redefinition on the role of the state, corporations, institutions and citizens play in ‘markets’. Mainstream news is trying to marginalise the occupy movement as lost and without cause however this seems less important as increasingly the political agenda is being driven by the internet.

 Empire Fights Back

It would appear the Closed System has naturally begun to fight back at the highest levels possible to be able to gain greater controls of the open web at the recent WCIT Conference. Because technically governments do have the power to simply switch off or censor the Internet as they have regularly done in the Middle East and China. This represents a significant challenge to the emerging Open System. In just the last two years governments have enacted 19 new laws threatening online free expression and 42 countries regularly filter and censor content. Things look so serious Google weighed in using its reach to engage Internet users with the facts and directly lobby the UN in advance of The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) which saw regulators from around the world re-negotiate a communications treaty.

We only have to look at Assange to see that the Closed System and its constituent parts are actively trying to shut down this counter culture; firstly through blocking donations payments and now through criminal courts and good old honey traps.

I would expand Closed System to Closed Systems as it is not just a Western phenomenon; In China, which now has more Internet users than any other country, the government recently introduced new “real identity” rules to tame the activist blogging scene. In Russia, there are continued calls to rein in a blogosphere blamed for fuelling a wave of anti-Vladimir Putin protests and it has been reported Iran is planning its own closed internal “national internet” from this summer.

Some have likened this battle between systems to a birthing process. There is a lot of blood and screaming before something beautiful is born. I would say it’s no surprise that Establishment Institutions from MPs and expenses, Police and Bribes, Big Media Hacking & Corruption and now even The BBC are falling one by one as we enter a more Open Age. This isn’t always being driven directly by the Open Web but seems to be due to the very intimate network of inter-relationships these closed organisations have is causing a domino effect as each one becomes opened to public scrutiny by a more open society.

But guess what Openness just got Radical

So no doubt The Open Society fuelled by an Open Web has its opponents and things will only get bloodier but destiny would appear on its side. The truly mind blowing levels of technological innovations that happen to connect us to one another to share these revolutionary ideas and challenge the status quo are also, at least in the West,  the only real new and significant drivers of economic growth. So even if the Closed System could find a way to shut it all down the current economic climate and it’s pressures would make it impossible.

I close off with this truly inspiring video on ‘Radical Openness’ by Jason Silver.

“RADICAL OPENNESS” – for TEDGlobal 2012 by @JasonSilva from Jason Silva on Vimeo.



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  • Anonymous

    Hanoi government employing 1000 under cover bloggers bit.ly/V2LmG2 #closedsystem #opengovt

  • Anonymous

    Aaron Swartz major force behind the open web who pushed for #openeducation harassed to suicide http://www.latimes.com/news/nation/nationnow/la-na-nn-aaron-swartz-funeral-eulogy-father-20130115,0,648108.story

  • Wikileaks Says Aaron Swartz Was a Possible Source http://on.mash.to/UHbupd #openweb #working4open