I have this emerging model of an alternative social computing metaphor, or goal, in my head. It’s still very tentative and prototype-like, but I thought I’d get it out here while I’m still turning it around in my head

It’s mostly formed from Seth Schoen and Cory @doctorow ‘s idea of adversarial interoperability, Joanna @rootkovska’s Qubes, and @mntmn’s Interim and Reform projects

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with also (in a way that I haven’t been able to entirely compose together) CHERI cl.cam.ac.uk/research/security , and @cwebber ’s work on Mark-Miller-like capabilities.

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So most of our radical ideas about empowerment through digital technology so far have benefited from the general uplift of the last few decades of Moore’s Law and the spread of near-ubiquitous general purpose computing

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The energy of that propagation has ebbed in the last decade, and has actively begun to work against those ideals (I have only an intuitive idea of those ideals so don’t press me on that — assume for now they’re your most favourite and inspiring parts of the digital environment)

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We have giant abstraction stacks of mostly frozen complexity, with only a slowly moving froth of innovation on top. And it’s mostly proceeding in a direction of increasing complexity, at the behest of the groups whose interests are aligned with the conservativeness of the underlying stack

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Sorry, that sounds conspiratorial and I didn’t mean it to. What I mean is that a successful tool or service builds on the browser, or Android/POSIX say, or inside Twitter or Facebook’s ecosystem. Those environments are rich and complex and provide coherent and comprehensible abstractions for doing almost everything that their creators and sponsors want to do (and would like you to do) in the world

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Any attempt to provide an alternative vision has always had to be able to offer that alternative while not re-inventing too much of the existing stack. Windows pushes DOS out of the way, but only because they were both balanced on top of the IBM PC

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GNU/Linux could build those same IBM PCs but built its new abstraction stack on Unix, the web browser grew up inside the 90s desktop GUI, etc. But you can’t uproot too much of the stack! Some of it is permanently caked-in, too many floors down.

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This is the pathos of communities like Lisp, or Plan 9, or Xanadu or Smalltalk :: to even prove they could succeed, they would need to dig down to deep, and then recreate everything above them — it quickly becomes too much work on both the computing and the cultural sides

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In earlier years, we were lobbying and picking and working on the abstraction towers we hoped would lead to a better world, but now it feels like those directions have been buried by the buildings built above them: you can think of this as co-option, but another way may be a narrowing of options after a period of abstractions that tended to general innovation - a post-Cambrian winnowing? Sorry for all the metaphors I’m still trying to name and frame this

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I should speed up, this is all stuff you know so far. So the choices you have, I guess is to create an alternative top-of-the-stack or *emulate* bits of the stack below (there’s some thinking to be had here about the reasons why one might want to emulate, and its failure states but moving on...)

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I don't know the name for this act, but adversarial interop will do for now. You wire yourself up to the existing abstraction framework, and pull it in a new direction. But you only do that to the degree that the abstraction fails to be able to stop you, and to the degree that you can comprehend what the abstraction presents

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And we're now at a point where the abstraction tower is entrenched in ways that are difficult to circumvent, and we can't dig back down to the strata where we had some other directions we could go. (The image in my head here is when your game of Tetris is going *very badly*)

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What I propose (finally!) is a project which is more dedicated to allowing us to dig deeper, and uproot more, rather than alternatives on the top of the present, or trying to roll back in time to a more pliant, simpler, stack.

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@mala Some general thoughts:

- Selling the notion that existing infotech stacks are excessively complicated isn't a hard sell. Don't linger on that long.

- Defining what specific _elements_ of that stack you're concerned with, somewhat more so. Are you tackling the whole shebang, or only parts?

- "Social computing" strikes me as a vague or poorly-known term, something of a shibboleth or blind reading, filled with meaning supplied by the reader, but not necessarily the same by all.

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@mala You might want to use a more concrete term, define what you mean, or link a standard definition.

- How your inspirations (Seth Schoen, Qubes, Interim/Reform) fit in here isn't clear. Spend more time on that (or find better examples?).

- Defining a goal, and sorting How to Get There From Here is a good practice. So I'm on board with that. Might specify the goal a bit more clearly.

Defining what you want to be able to do (or you want the computing environment to provide), for ...

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@dredmorbius Doc thank you for your advice, but I think you're confused about what I'm doing here. I'm not explaining, I'm speaking my thoughts out loud to see if anyone is already on the same wavelength.

@mala And I'm telling you that yes, there are people on this wavelength (or at least similar ones, based on uncertainty of message).

The ideas are worth developing. Developing and expressing them more clearly would help.

The stack _is_ too complex and will likely collapse (I'm getting to that in my main thread).

But yes: good ideas, shared concerns, and probably useful.

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