"Building Societies: Lessons Learned from the Internet" by Smári McCarthy

Human civilizations are roughly a hundred times older than the Internet,
and have emerged as the result of a complex system of interactions between
humans. The Internet on the other hand was designed for the explicit
purpose of facilitating interactions between humans. Both have benefits and
flaws, but now we see modern nation states having to deal with large scale
problems such as poverty, hunger, corruption, financial turmoil, war,
failing infrastructure and increasingly unstable natural habitats. It might
therefore be prudent to see if these emergent systems may have underlying
structural flaws that might be fixed by learning from the Internet. It is
possible that the Internet, for all its youth and arrogance, has little to
provide at the end of the day. By applying abstract cybernetic models
provided to us by Beer, Ashby, and von Foerster, we can reduce both the
Internet and human societies to information-flows, we can analytically
discover what the Internet really does have to offer societies.

In my talk I shall introduce some key aspects of cybernetics and
infrastructure organization, and then use those tools to systemically
explore the structural problems in existing human societies and compare
them to their counterparts in the digital realm, starting with political
structure, financial systems, and moving on to resource management,
disaster response, and system robustness.

Finally, I mention numerous projects which are further exploring these
concepts and attempt to suggest a general set of guidelines that can be
applied to modern civilizations in order to draw high level benefits from
our interactions with the Internet.

Keywords: Civilization, cybernetics, robustness, infrastructure, Internet