On the edge of the mesh

A “professional n00b“: that’s how I introduced myself at the OHM2013 convention last year, and ever since that’s how I’ve taken to introducing myself whenever I encounter a gosu. My hacktivist colleagues tell me that I’m being too hard on myself, since I do have a determination to learn (albeit in fits and starts, time and money permitting). However, I do actually see it as something good, since it’s people like me who have an interest in cutting through the technical arcana of engineers in order to bring important digital and technical tools to journalists, entrepreneurs, and the general public.

My life as a professional n00b began in the summer of 2011, shortly after the mysterious explosion of Abadan in Turkmenistan. I was approached by some, let’s call them helpful folks, who wanted to know whether mesh networking, or “meshing” for short, would be a useful way to circumvent surveillance and censorship in the country. Oh boy.

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What if the USA collapsed instead of the USSR? (что было бы, если бы вместо Советского Союза распались Соединенные Штаты Америки?)

[Нажмите “Read More” для русского языка.] While I was on my tour through Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, I thought of what could be a really fun premise for a story: what if the United States broke up instead of the Soviet Union? The story would follow an alternative reality version of myself, namely, a young Soviet Kazakh journalist in charge of newamerica.net (instead of neweurasia.net), who has just written a book about post-US North America using the blog posts from the region and goes on a tour of independent New York and Pennsylvania to promote his work. I might want to add some political intrigue or a murder mystery to the plot, but essentially it would be a road trip tale.

Obviously, the story would be very much a satire. Instead of ex-KGB oligarchs, Chechen and Uighur rebels, Uzbek-Kyrgyz strife, and authoritarian presidents, there would be ex-CIA robber-barons, Native American rebels, Mexican-American strife, and New Media-based autocrats (Obama as the Turkmenbashi of Hawaii, his home state? Bush as the president of an Uzbekistan-like Texas?) I imagine that what is today the Midwest would break down into a kind of Afghanistan: without the strong federated American state to maintain irrigation and borders, it would devolve into a war-torn wasteland as the Soviet Union, Canada and Mexico vied for dominance in a new Great Game. The coasts would probably be the most stable areas.

Beyond North America, I imagine that the European Union would be a stronger and more socialist confederacy (but it would probably be struggling to absorb Italian and Irish returnees from America, the inverse of what happened to the Volga Germans and other Western ethnic groups from Central Asia). Africa would still be a mess, while Australia and New Zealand would be some of the world’s last capitalist countries, and Afghanistan and Pakistan would be a hybrid Marxist-Islamist republic; I have no idea about India, China, South America or the Middle East. Radical Christianity, instead of radical Islam, would be the new ideological scourge confronting the world. Technologically, global warming would probably be incredibly worse, but we would probably also be mining the moon.

But these are only tentative ideas. I’d love to hear from you, my readers: what would this alternative world be like? Also, try to imagine little details. For example, what would movies be like (would we be watching Standartenfuhrer von Stirlitz movies instead of James Bond?) and instead of China, where would cheap, shitty plastics and textiles come from? Leave a comment on this blog post in whichever language you feel most comfortable.

Continue reading “What if the USA collapsed instead of the USSR? (что было бы, если бы вместо Советского Союза распались Соединенные Штаты Америки?)”