: On Courage
I wanted to talk on the the importance of courage for having a entertaining life, for having a fulfilling and inspiring life, for having fun with the various organizations that have done bad things that we have exposed. Most of them in the business are trying to instill fear into people. They don't actually need to be able to carry out their threats, they just need to have people believe that there's a serious chance they might, and that's I think a very very important lesson from this.
My experiences and the experiences of the rest of our staff over the last eight years show that actually there's an attempt to use my situation as a general deterrent, which I'm not very happy about, but I want to put it in perspective.
So how much risk is there 'being WikiLeaks', or 'working for WikiLeaks', or visiting me here at the Embassy, or donating to WikiLeaks, or to its legal defense, or supporting us. Videos like the one you saw suggest that the the risk is unlimited, but in fact the number of people that have been in prison, who work for WikiLeaks, is just me - first for 10 days, then I had very severe house arrest for five hundred and sixty days, and then about 2000 days in this embassy with an ongoing battle with the British government, which spends about 5 million pounds a year in a type of hi-tech siege around the embassy. But I haven't been killed, I haven't been assassinated, no one else working for WikiLeaks has even been arrested, no one has been prosecuted for supporting us. It hasn't come about not because all those threats are completely empty, it's come about because we have intelligently managed those threats. Despite the difficulties of my personal situation, which is physically adverse in various ways, we're able to continue publishing. And we have published on average a million documents every year, and continue to do the very meaningful and significant work that makes life satisfying. So I think that is the first step in a genuine courage - that actually there's not much courage needed to act in a way that appears to be courageous, because authorities who are attempting to stop people - in our case knowing the truth, but in other cases secure liberty for one group or another - first look to create perception of fear in people. And they have become extremely skilled at it. And the more developed the society and the economy, the more skilled in installing that fear without resorting to assassinations.
There are of course circumstance which arise, as they have in Syria and Libya and before that Iraq, where the desire to install fear is actually backed by serious military force and people are killed. But for most of us that is not the case, and for those of us who have the luxury of living in countries which have not fallen into war, I believe it is our duty, it is a weight on all of us to try and use our luxurious position in the West to see through the illusions of fear, in order to ensure that those people in other countries don't face the reality of war.
And we have made some significant contributions to that of which I am proud. So that's my thesis - that most fear is installed in people by those in power looking to dissuade them from actions that they can actually more or less safely take
. Economy of money, reputation, attention
Every movement needs an economic basis. The proper economic basis of the left in history has been unionism, occasionally there have been churches and sometimes mass membership in political organizations and their membership base. But now we are in a situation where broadly speaking in the West there is no economic basis for the left. There are connections to political parties and government for patronage that comes from it. That of course refers to all parties that might getting involved and the jobs they can hand out. So without an economic basis one is left with a subsidiary motivation and that is reputation. The reputational economy is based on another economy which is the attention economy. The attention economy is a zero-sum game - there's a finite amount of attention and for you to get some, you have to take it from other places. WikiLeaks is famous for being persecuted and for its publications. It has a lot of wealth in the attention economy and I personally have a lot of wealth in the attention economy, but my wealth is being famous for being severely persecuted. Within the left there are some who are all about - in their view - equalizing disparities in wealth and the particular wealth that they have been going for is this reputation economy wealth. So because the mainstream press is always looking for ways to attack WikiLeaks and to attack me because of its coupling to existing security and big business establishments, those who are after attention are able to get themselves get re-eported by the mainstream press by attacking me. Information sphere and AI
The issue of our information sphere, our information universe that we have to deal with as human beings is [...] a much a much bigger problem [...], I think it's our greatest challenge now. If we look at the direction of AI and the automation of the production of information that flows across - political information, cultural information - then we're heading into a very postmodern world
. A little bit like the transformation from classical physics into a quantum description of reality - a slightly blurred, unpredictable reality that human beings can't possibly assess and therefore make determinations on. That is a very serious problem that all human societies will have to face, and it is politically used by Facebook, Google and their other intermediaries as their excuse as to why they should manage the information space of human civilization.
They're not just simply robber barons that can sit by. Rather, they have become in some sense kings of our information space and they have the obligation of the nobles to intervene and to manage human perception on broad scale. But that is truly a threat to everything that everyone does, because everything that you do is based upon your perceptions. There's nothing else to base it on other than what you perceive, and if your perceptions are being changed on mass in bulk by artificial intelligences that we have a very hard problem perceiving, and that move at speeds faster than we can understand them, then human politics as we know it is over, and human culture as we know is is gone, and the human management of human affairs will be nothing like what we are familiar with.
[...] [This] negative message is really important. The information space will be dominated by artificial intelligences and that means the end of human politics as anything that we can conceive.
But on the other hand child mortality is decreasing. -- It's not a joke. There's a lot of longed-for statistics about the human condition which are improving and have been improving over 40 years, and they continue to improve. But how much influence we're able to maintain to pursue our shared interests, is I think questionable when we are no longer in control of how we perceive the world.
[...] We had our battle with the NSA. I've been having battles in relationship to cryptography since 1990s and we won repeatedly important parts of those battles. The battle against Orwellian state control that the National Security Agency threatened - the answer is cryptography - and it's not a complete answer, but it's a substantial answer. The battle against artificial intelligence is not feeding the damn thing, it's 'stop feeding Google'. It needs to train on what human beings do, so when human beings give over their lives, document their lives, to information services that are accessible by Google and Baidu and so on, we are laying the foundations for our own predictability with the erection of artificial intelligences which can operate within the human space. Not runaway killer robots, but rather runaway giant corporations that have that tremendous capacity. And they will use it like corporations have always used these advantages compared to others, to extend their domain of domination over others.