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Open Source Warfare

Even though he might be stretching the term “Open Source” almost to a breaking point, John Robb does have some very interesting things to say about a phenomenon he calls “Open Source Warfare“. This is a phenomenon where the dynamics of open source software development are used in restructuring global guerilla warfare. Struggles are not for a unified cause, but interact in unforeseeable manner, rapidly dispersing and converging, the operations are decentralised, utilize swarm intelligence and target other networks, and their “systempunkt”, vulnerable points: especially the strategic networks of communication, electricity, oil, other valuable raw materials, etc.

One thing Robb’s intriguing analyses suggest to me, with regard to OSS and the hacker ethics is, once again, that a modus operandi does not yet say anything about the positive or negative value of what is being done. To do something in the spirit of “hacker ethics” does not by any means say that that something is “good”. I think this is something we need to keep in mind while thinking about the extremely high hopes that sometimes get attached to new emerging modes of social interaction: I’m thinking of Hardt & Negri, for instance. Scott Lash in his Critique of Information has already pointed out that networks of excellence and multitudes of particularities present a good model for different types of criminal and paramilitary action: it might even be the unofficial side of the economy that pioneers many of the most effective disorganisational techniques. A mode of organization is different from the actual content of what is being done, celebrating the former should not happen on the expense of the latter.

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