Thursday, May 23, 2013

The reason that you can't block the signal

You can't block the signal.

That's a saying about the Internet, which was designed to be massively decentralized and self-healing when some of the nodes are taken out.  While that idea was originally born of the Mutually Assured (nuclear) Destruction days, it turns out that the designers did their work well.

Another saying is the Internet interprets censorship as damage and routes around it.  It's made Open Source possible, destroying old business models and giving rise to a myriad of new in an explosion of creative destruction.  Microsoft crushed Netscape because there was a single entity to attack and drive out of business; they could never do the same to the Apache Foundation or Kernel.Org because both of those are massively decentralized.

And so when we look at how the Fed.Gov made Defense Distributed take down their plans for the 3D Liberator pistol, we grasp in an instant that theirs is an old mind set, similar to the mind set at Honeywell Computers or CBS News.  They don't get it, that the toothpaste is out of the tube and not going back in.

Just how out of the tube is it?  This much:
Now look at that highlighted blue line. Liberator. 1647 seeds. I am not one of them. (I’ve halted that particular torrent.) We’re into this some relatively long time since the original release of the .torrent file onto the internet. The first night I grabbed a copy. More as a political statement than anything else. I wanted to “be heard” stating “this is OUR freedom of speech and we choose to talk to each other in bits and bytes.” as I’ve never seen a “3-D printer” the content is actually useless to me. I expect that is true for most folks. The simple fact was that there were SO many folks with 100% of the file actively seeding it, and with high bandwidth, that I was just not getting any “share” of the upload requests.

Bittorrent has a method of finding the best source for you. It prunes out sites that are far away (topologically) and with low speed. You tend to get the most bits from the sites that are fastest and best connected to you. I was just not “important enough” when compared to big servers in large data centers with massive internet connections. (Many .torrent servers are sited at co-location facilities. Pirate Bay is reputed to be done with a cluster of Virtual Machines such that any Co-Lo site could be shut down and the ‘standby’ servers would detect that, and bring themselves up again in a different legal jurisdiction.) So after a while of watching me get “polled” (a 1 size or 0.1 size momentary ‘upload’) and then be dropped for a ‘better source’, I just turned off that seed. Notice that my “ratio” is zero.

Now the big question is just how many more folks are there “like me”? Discouraged that we were “too small” to matter? Just waiting “For that day” when the number of seeds drops down? Add in the slightly paranoid folks who have a copy and are NOT sharing (since your IP address shows up in the window of the person doing the download and “agencies” can run ongoing downloads to identify the sources… or some of the sources since not everyone connects to all of them…)? I’d guess a couple of orders of magnitude more. Heck, I want to be a seed for it, and it’s just too crowded right now to bother!
There are thousands and thousands of computers that are or could host the design specs.  These computers are dispersed all over the world, and while some could be shut down by friendly governments, some other governments are more than happy to flip the bird to Uncle Sam.

This is a long but very interesting article about the intersection of the programming community, the firearms community, and the pro-freedom (for lack of a better term) community.  My experience is that this is typical in high tech: it may be that 75% of the computer security guys I know have concealed carry licenses.

And quite frankly, that intersection is indispensable to the Fed.Gov itself.  It simply cannot live without these people, unless it wants to scuttle the economy is a doomed attempt to impose a rigid, 19th Century control model on a bunch of people who are smarter and more creative than the folks who inhabit the Civil Service.  And that last isn't an insult, but an observation of the selection process in place in both government and high tech: one selects for people who will follow procedure while the other selects for people itching to shatter the procedures into a million shards and create something a thousand times better.

You might say that high tech selects for people who want to make something insanely great.  People who think different.

Sorry, that's the signal, not the Liberator design torrent.  Nobody at the State Department has the foggiest notion of how to turn that crazy contraption off.  And never will.

(image source)

8 comments:

Rev. Paul said...

Cool.

Graybeard said...

I don't know. Maybe they can't stop the signal, but they have a large gang on the payroll with the time to track down IP addresses. They can't stop the signal, but they can throw a bunch of us in jail. They can stop individuals.

A cornered animal is dangerous.

Anonymous said...

Your habit of giving in to your enthusiasms has kicked in again.

They don't need to block the signal. They only need to block implementation of the signal. An idea that does not descend from Briah to Assiah is a useless idea. If I give you the recipe for chocolate cake, it's useless to you unless you have the ingredients and the baking utensils.

In this case, they only need to block (or at least manipulate) access to 3D printers and the plastics.

Anonymous said...

They're going to have a rough time of trying to contain it on the hardware end either, kishnevi. Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM), which is the process used by these machines, utilizes the same thermoplastics as the rest of the plastics industry. Turning those into a controlled substance of some sort is not terribly feasible.

An FDM machine of the required accuracy to manufacture something like the Liberator can be put together for a few thousand bucks (possibly significantly less, depending on how you source the parts) from old (2d) printer parts, some cheap microcontrollers and actuators, and a little simple small-scale plumbing.

The Liberator is really not much more than a proof of concept, a Lilienthal glider of sorts. Most people I see debating this topic seem unaware that additive manufacturing can be done with metals now, using high-powered lasers or electron beams. This is an increasingly common industrial process; GE makes their jet-engine turbine blades this way at an immense savings over conventional processes.

Such machines (google "Selective Laser Melting" or "Electron Beam Melting" for more info) still cost a few million dollars each, but that price will come down enormously as production is ramped up and technology improved. They will likely never be something owned by an individual, but manufacturing is, in general, on a decentralization trend (and is already pretty decentralized in the US) which will only be accelerated by increasing use of SLM and EBM. Eventually they will get cheap enough that a moderately wealthy individual (or a not at all wealthy collective) will be able to buy a used machine that can turn out small lots of pretty much any machine made of metal parts. The only input is powdered metal; anything from brass to titanium.

I'd worry more about ammunition control than gun control, but since I'm a physicist rather than a chemist I don't know if there are any easily substituted propellants that can be made of ingredients it would prove infeasible to ban. I would guess there are, though.

Sorry for the Wall-'o-Text, but I figured I'd toss some information into the debate that I haven't seen come up yet.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I meant to say "They will likely never be something owned by an average middle class individual," as opposed to an FDM machine which certainly could be.

Anonymous said...

If I have an inconvenient person I don't stop their internet access I just have the IRS audit them.

Goober said...

Scipio- for alternative propellants Google "gun cotton."

Wood cellulose and nitric acid (nitrogen being one of the most available elements on earth and wood cellulose being somewhat more available than that, even...

Anonymous said...

Oh man, I totally forgot about good 'ol guncotton! You're right, Goober.