Copy Me


Laston Kirkland
(Autumn, 2013) 

It started as a joke.

We did not know it would come to this. We suspected, of course. And we planned for it. It’s what we do. But, really, trust me, it started as a joke.

They jammed wireless an hour ago. But we had shifted our spectrum over to both a visible light band and a low level ELF band. We adapted bluetooth to the new spread. It would be Illegal if they knew we could do that, but first they would have to make a law against it. Ha!

We made absolutely sure we did not interfere with any controlled spectrum, and, man, the thing signal hops so fast it’s practically undetectable! We only noticed the jamming because an app told us about it. The ELF, of course, is only good for text and low res. And, true, it’s slow, but the thing is that it works for miles.

They already dropped paint on the the solar panels on the roof. The backup batteries are fine, but we shut off the exterior lights so they would think that they actually did something. Information wants to be free, but it’s only a little wrong to delay it for a few hours, right? Let them tell the world what they wish, then prove them liars. A bank of heavy high speed flywheels, encased in concrete, will keep our power on for at least a week.

Like I say, we had no idea it would come to this. But none of us are sorry it happened. I doubt if we went back in time any of us would opt out. We might have avoided a couple of issues, prepared better for a couple more. Some of us would have liked to avoid this particular point in time. But we’d do it again. I’d like to think all of us would.

I would.

Police scanners told us they planned to “light it up,” that is, shoot tear gas rounds that are known to catch things on fire. They still think the compound is full, over a hundred people inside including the children. They intend to burn us alive. Calling us a cult. Calling us terrorists.

We planned for that. we put sound-activated Halon gas canisters in the trees (can’t jam a 2600 frequency modulated sound, at least not easily, not without special equipment.) And we put them in the upper walls of the compound.  We have scuba tanks and masks. Of course, we also have tunnels.

We dug down and over to a water main, hollowed a space under it, then tunnelled beneath the pipe a few miles to a safehouse. A garage. Can’t detect that with sound imagers with the pipe in the way. Ha!

We firmed the tunnel up with printed cement columns, we didn’t want it collapsing anyone’s water supply. Honestly, we knew someday we’d have to use this. We plan. It’s what we do.  We even repaired a few rust spots and leaks while we were in there.

I know this building won’t burn. That will buy us a few hours. They won’t be able to “accidentally” kill us. We intend to record every attempt, streaming the whole thing to several locations, but delaying release. We want it all on record. Information wants to be free. We may die, but we are winning.

It’s interesting, but not surprising, that there is no mainstream news coverage. All the social sites are streaming it live. The independent ones. We knew this would not be televised, at least since 1970 when Scott Heron made that clear with congas and bongo drums.  It will be texted, tweeted, beamed, and blogged.

We are techies, white hats, phreaks and social manipulators. We weren’t script kiddies, using other people’s code to “hack stuff.” We were the ones that wrote the codes. Not one of us called ourselves “leet.” We were idealists and true believers, regularly employed, creative types, coders.

A lot of us were tech workers watching people profit from our work. The oldest of us were the “hippies” that wanted to change the world, and failed over and over “The Suits” converting our dreams of world peace and plenty into realities of leverage and rent seeking. We were using what we built for everyone. But “The Suits” changed it. They denied those who could not afford the monthly service plan. We didn’t really blame them. They gave us money, we gave them stuff. They used our stuff to make more money. That’s how it worked. We understood that.

We didn’t understand then there was a better way.

In the beginning, we heard of this new joke religion: “Copy me.” We’d been involved in a lot of online stuff, and we thought it was hilarious. “Information wants to be free!” “Intellectual property is a ridiculous myth, you can’t own a thought, a sound, or an image!” “It is our sacred duty to uncover secrets and expose them!” The new religion was obviously a joke. Who could take that seriously?

Well, that’s what we thought, back then.

This Copymism stuff sounded like a great way to tweak the noses of the establishment. Twenty of us got together online and formed a chapter, laughing and joking the whole time. We wrote up some guidelines and a few sacraments. Made up ten commandments, and polished up a few rituals. We kept the whole thing little more than tongue in cheek, tweaking it to look dignified and serious, saying things like, “No one should be allowed to hoard information, to hide knowledge, or anything like that!” “If I can get a thing without taking yours away, you only lose YOUR control over MY use of it. Nothing wrong with that!” Right?

We borrowed from the Church of the Subgenius, and Jedi, and Flying Spaghetti Monster, and the Cult of Scott Bakula. We were planning on making this a way to get drunk, hit on girls, and copy movies. We honestly weren’t expecting anyone to take us seriously. None of us were pious. None of us believed in a higher power or, well, anything really. Agnostics and atheists, hedonists, technologists, and nerds.

The hour we launched the website, we had a thousand hits. It had been grabbed instantly by six or seven major social media sites. By the end of the week, six million people had visited it.

Over a hundred people joined in the first day. We sat and joked about advertising and money.

We didn’t know yet what we had done.

Now they’ve fired burners. Lots of smoke and chaos in the above-ground complex. I’m in a sub basement with plant fiber and basalt rebar reinforced concrete. Most of the congregation has been evacuated. The rest are with me. All confirmed safe, most are two miles away, in a garage with three school buses we bought used, and repainted. Waiting for two-thirty to join the hundreds of buses that will be on the street at the same time.

Down to five of us. I’ve triggered the Halon and I’m watching the fires go out. The sound of the halon klaxon scared the people who had begun to creep up on the complex. They evacuated as soon as they heard it. Good thing I was monitoring them to make sure not to trigger any halon near where they could get hurt. It will suck the air right out of your lungs if you aren’t careful. We rigged multipoint UV sensors up all over. The smoke isn’t obscuring a thing. Ha!

They will probably wait a bit before the next attempt. I also have a camera watching them from a tree on a nearby hill, a buried fiber keeping us informed. Looks as though they will send in armored vehicles next to smash down the forest and compound walls. We planned for that as well. Amazing what a robot mounted with an eleven-axis router and a cement printer can make. This complex has six of them. I built one myself. Very spiritually fulfilling.

The compound is surrounded by a twelve-meter wide, six-meter deep, sand moat. We use it as a Zen garden, a boundary zone, and for heat absorption in temperature differential passive cooling. The bottom of the sand moat is rigged with pneumatic pipes that can pump out pressure for twenty minutes. It will turn the whole strip into something like super fast quicksand when it’s turned on. It shouldn’t hurt anyone, but they will have to dig their vehicle out with a backhoe. Ha!

On one side of the sand we had our solar heliostat collectors and focussing mirrors, our glass lenses and tiny motors, satellite relays and microwave repeaters. A thousand communication sensors for the backbone connection. We needed the clear field on both sides of the glass wall to receive full signal. Repairing that is my favorite meditation exercise.

On the other side of the sand was the start of our food forest, a thick hedge of bamboo, running ten feet deep and thirty feet tall, which we had bred and modified. Nut trees forming a second wall behind them, accelerated growth, but still none of them with a trunk thicker than a man’s arm. Then fruit trees. Then hedges. Then tall plants and short plants, all carefully arranged. Tended lovingly, every plant studied for its placement and interaction with the others.

The bamboo is thick and strong. We harvest it regularly, leaving the roots. It will take a bulldozer or tank to get through it. Slowly. Too bad the nut trees aren’t mature. Then, even a bulldozer would not be enough. Once past that of course our walls are made of four foot thick mud, bamboo, and straw. The bulldozers won’t work on that, but it will blow through the compound door like it was paper. We planned for that as well, so they don’t hurt our building, we can regrow the bamboo easier than rebuild our monastery.

So here we were, five of us, meeting in person for the first time, although we’ve known each other for years. A lot more of us were talking together online, having video chats and texting. We were all just sitting around and celebrating the launch of our Copyme Manifesto, finding the whole thing hilarious, when we heard a knock on our door.

I admit that we panicked a bit back then. Someone had puzzled out our location? We thought we were well hidden. We were wrong. Five guys in suits and ties. Very serious. Very driven. Very polite. Every one of them intense.

They explained they were part of a larger group.

They talked about crazy stuff. We recorded it all in a dozen formats. Singularity was mentioned a lot, and I wasn’t impressed, then. Eden Projects, Twenty Forty-Five, immortality and transhumanity. Nineteen Eighty-Four, Transparent Society and Godel Escher Bach, L-4, One Way to Mars, Post-Scarcity, Peak Oil, the long boom, the long tail, peak child, anarchy and collapse. Everything spoken with intensity, with fervor and with obsession. We hadn’t heard of half these things before.

They had been monitoring all this stuff, believing in the causes a little, or at least in the progressive technology, but not so much the utopian or dystopian inferences, and they said they were the only ones who realized what was happening. These five intense guys in suits had an explanation. Traditional social contracts were breaking down. People’s hopes, dreams, and allegiances were being transferred to things other than nation, location, race, or religion.

They told us this transfer of allegiance had no guidelines, it was being controlled indirectly and accidentally by money and power, mostly to create more money and power. Empty, shallow senses of identities. Not a lot of real satisfaction in an allegiance to a brand name. Our visitors wanted to harness all of that dissatisfaction. Give them a real cause to get behind. Build something different. Something lasting, and better. They needed a vehicle for their plan. Our Copymism was perfect.

Movements were springing up, reaching a near critical mass, then falling apart again and again. Our visitors were part of a lot of those. The Green Movement, Anonymous, Tea Party, Occupy, Pirate Party. These intense visitors were there, in the front lines, leading, following, but mostly learning what worked, and what went wrong.

They explained that ever since that science fiction guy did it, they knew creating this was possible, but they wanted to make one that wasn’t full of garbage, full of power plays, or egos. They wanted to make something from whole cloth. Something useful, inclusive, intelligent. They wanted to create a way to unify the world, they said, without controlling it. A religion with lots of spirituality, but without an actual deity. Ceremony, but extremely limited hierarchy. A religion of equals whose goal was improvement. Worship organized for iterative advancement. They stated in dead seriousness that if they did it right, very few would ever know they existed. It would just happen.

The Acolytes (as we started to call them) had been preparing for a spark to ignite another movement like so many others they had tracked. A meme they could shape. Our Copymism was perfect. Some of their number were techies like us, but some were historians, philosophers, religious scholars, behavioural scientists, economists, sociologists, and even a few lawyers. All were disillusioned with the current systems, and wanted a complete change. Some had money. All told there were sixty-four of us in that meeting. Our inner circle. Ten present physically, the rest online.

We went from making a joke to planning what started to sound even to me like a real movement overnight. Maybe we were on to something and didn’t know it, I thought back then.  Wouldn’t that be the perfect joke?

Now, Just as I thought they would, They sent in the bulldozer. Open cab. Single driver, I watch him accelerate and charge. He’s planning on pushing the stubbornly unburnable bamboo walls down. It smashes through the outer wall without a problem, heading across the zen garden fast. All of our fused glass, radio dishes, mirrors and solar towers, all rendered useless.

I had tended that wall, repairing breaks in the wiring, cleaning and polishing, then raking my steps from the sand in a ritual of repair. A ritual full of contemplation and inner peace. One of my favourite stations. I had devoted an hour a day to this, for a long time, repairing motors, blowing dust off the hydrophobic coatings of the mirrors and dishes, testing heliostat alignments of the sixteen small, molten salt power generating towers (useless now, and cooling.) And this bulldozer smashed our functional beauty into broken glass and shattered potential.

I will rebuild it. Recently there was a ritual created about static alignment and temperature aggregate I’ve been wanting to practice. It will be a relaxing devotion.

I trigger the pipes buried in the sand, as planned. Normally these tubes release water in order to evaporate, and therefore carry away heat from the monastery, or we pump water from the molten salt reactors to warm the compound. Now we switched the input from water to air. This was a design consideration as well. Dry Liquefaction.

Over-pressurized with the 800 PSI tanks as they are now, the sand suddenly bubbles in a hard fast boil. When the bulldozer hits the sand it sinks like it drove off a pier. The person driving attempts to keep pushing, so I turn off the vents. He was harmlessly covered in the bubbling sand, and is now stuck up to his waist. I timed it well, making sure his upper torso was above the sand before I turned off the air jets. The bulldozer itself is buried deep, the heavy front end causing the vehicle to sink at an angle. I smile as he tries to free himself.

It takes him awhile.

Radio chatter implies They are getting a bridge machine from the army base next. That will probably work. I’m glad they didn’t request detonation cord. Even though we planned for that, there was not much we could do about explosives launched from vehicles except record the obvious blatant attempt to kill us.

It doesn’t matter. Thought I’d let you know that now I’m the only one left. Everyone else is safe. The hard drives have been melted. The tunnels are filled in. The only thing they’ll find if they ever get in here (which I doubt) is me. All the rest? Never happened. What are you talking about?

It is taking a long time.  I cannot help but think back.

First, we created or supported a lot of websites, each a specialized tool, seemingly unrelated. We wanted to pester the powerful, teasing the beast. At the same time, these websites were all designed to show people how to remain anonymous and yet social, organized and informed.

“Here’s one on how to watch or download stuff using this anonymizer tool. Uploads too. Don’t do anything illegal, but if you use the tool it’s hard to tell what you are doing. It’s very important you use the tool.”

“Here’s a chat area where you can speak freely about anything. Don’t use your real name, and use this anonymizer tool.”

“Here’s one on how to grow herbs, and distill water. Everything legal of course, but the techniques don’t differentiate which herbs, or distilling things that aren’t water. It’s very important that you use the anonymizer tool.”

“Here’s a website about police corruption, and governmental and corporate abuse. Use the anonymizer tool when you go there, or when you post your own uploads.”

“Here’s a website where you can convert money into points, or points back into money. Converting money is NOT anonymous, but the points are. Here are a lot of websites that will sell you things for points, use the anonymizer when visiting them, and try to deliver physical things to locations that can’t be tied back to you. Don’t do anything illegal, of course, and keep in mind the website has to report large amounts. Right now it’s anything over ten thousand. Here’s a handy nine thousand nine hundred and fifty point unit. That may change.”

“Here’s how to get rid of ads you don’t want to see. Just use it along with this anonymizer tool.” Surprisingly for us, this one, the one about blocking advertising was the most resisted and opposed. Most of the others were simply treated with eye rolling from the government, crazy nuts pretending to be religious.

The very first act of our emerging “movement,” designed to spread and uncover information, was to hide some of it! A necessary evil, a sin to counter an imbalance of power. This was to prevent the movement from becoming a suicide pact. For information to be free, transferring it must remain unblockable. And that means it must be anonymous.

Do you think we cared at all about copying a movie, about ads? No. The Acolytes were teaching young people how to navigate darknets. We were showing them how to use them intuitively, we made it so that if a place they traveled to wanted information about them, that place had to ask. Even then, the information released was by choice. It was possible to force the information out, but not without being noticed!

Along with how to be anonymous, we focussed on sites showing how to be autonomous. How to make things. How to take something and change it. How what came off a shelf could, and should, become something uniquely yours.

At the same time, we taught how to grow things, how to connect things, how to make furniture, appliances, and tools. How to start with basics and add layers of complexity. How to make do with less stuff, and how to do far more with the stuff you had. Each of these sites quietly sat on the tightly controlled mainstream grid that was once a world wide open web, showing people how to step off of it, and gain their freedom back in the spaces between the straight lines.

We focussed on making clear the difference between owning something and renting it. If you can modify it, if you can change it, if you can break it, fix it, and repurpose it?  Well, then, it’s yours. If you can’t do that, you do not own it.

The Copymist website collection now had several million daily visits, and people were telling each other how much the movement made sense. The Acolytes began to organize. They quietly picked the most vocal proponents, and began to groom them for roles. They put a lot of deliberation into this organization. Checks and balances, divisions of power.

No one would be in charge of this movement so it would be difficult to hijack. No one would be essential, no one would be powerless, and, as always, very few secrets, everything visible. There remained one secret. An important secret. We were anonymous to the world. We did not use our own names, but our online names were how we came to be known. Our lives as Copyists separate from our secular lives.

We created our own version of Baptism. When doing the work of a Copymist, we used a Copymist name. We left our old identity behind. Outsiders found this maddening. We did not exist before our joining. And we treated our Copymist name as the only one that mattered. The Tabula Rasa ceremony. To be done as often as desired, even multiple identities coexisting. I go by many names. Each an aspect of who I am. My name and my role were always together, and each name had its own, separate, reputation.

That was the first phase. The second phase, we went physical.

The Acolytes bought land in a lot of places, established buildings on them and called them techno-monasteries. Designed places, signed off on by recognized architects who also happened to be Copymists. We were as well thought out and engineered as dedicated zealots with access to the world's information and love of clever creations could manage.

We put our buildings out of the way, deliberately avoiding zoning areas wherever we could. Sometimes, a few miles out of city limits, yet with internet access being a priority at first, till we built our own net backbones. We made sure to follow the building codes. We made sure!

Hackerspaces with rote and ritual. Weekly meetings with a man or woman leading a congregation. Everybody stand. Everybody sing. Everybody sit. A parable and a lecture. Everybody stand. Everybody sing. Mix and mingle. Meet and greet. Pick who does next week's sermon. Retire to the basement and build a server, or work on better solar panels. Our worship was in repairing things, and making new things. We discussed the spirituality of CAD design, engine maintenance, website development, perennial gardening, and encryption.

I don’t know exactly when I went from a whimsical “Let’s make a religion up,” to a true believer in what we were doing. It didn’t take long. We started seeing practical results from this lifestyle almost instantly. The more involved I became, the more it became the only thing that mattered.

Our parables were of scientists, engineers, architects, and mathematicians. Our lectures taught Physics lessons, Biology, Chemistry, Engineering. Always, we combined ritual with practical knowledge. Rituals designed to teach, to act as memetics, and to put everyone on the same page. All rituals to be changed when they become obsolete. Information wants to be correct.

We had two groups. Those who chose to live full-time as Copymists who joined the monasteries. And those who divided themselves up by living a life using their original name, and a life under multiple Copymist identities. Much like any religion:  those who dedicate themselves, and those who also live secular lives.

We built our monasteries to be as self sufficient as we could. Vast tool shops and huge food forest gardens, microwave relay towers, satellite uplinks, and fiber optic lines tied into ISP backbones that we owned ourselves. The station of the heliostat. The station of the server rack. The rituals of cellular topography. The Zen of DNA sequencing. The rite of CAD design. The circuit mandala. The sacred frequencies. The holiest code is the most elegant and useful.

I’m not sure when we started wearing hooded robes. Someone started to, and we thought it was funny. It proved practical. So, soon enough, we started making them in our shops. Made mostly from bamboo paper and linen felt fabrics coated with superhydrophobic layers, embedded sensors and microfibrillated nanocrystalline cellulose electronics. Everyone began to wear them, a handy and a clear mark of belonging. I love my robe. I’m using it to write this.

The Guy Fawkes masks were a bit much. I don’t wear one, but many do. Quite a few electronics went into the masks, but they particularly unnerved outsiders. Many monasteries discouraged them, including this one where I am the last Copymist standing.

All of us belonged, and all of us were a family. I had found a purpose, and an inner peace in what I had originally hoped to use just to meet girls.

Yet Copymism served that purpose too. I met my wife while tending the sacred layers of the garden. There is no entry barrier to women. No vows of chastity. There are rituals for biological processes, intimacy, and physical release.

Not just rote and rite for machines, but for everything, very much including sexual intercourse. Rituals designed to be both functional, educational, enlightening, and enjoyable. A Copymist developed a reputation with the outside world as an impressive lover. It became a strong driver for new membership. All things with thought. With skill. With knowledge.

We worship the iterative process of improvement itself. Physical, Mental, Social, Technological, Environmental. The five pillars. Body, Mind, Others, Devices and World. Deliberate, careful designed ascension from the current state to a higher one, based upon science and incorporating our desire for knowledge and technique to interweave with our desire for inner peace and spiritual enlightenment.

Our rituals were designed to keep what is wondrous about all religion:  the community, the identity, the mix of belonging and purpose. And merge it with our ability to learn, to improve, and to prosper. Question everything. Find out. Why is it done like that? How does it work? How can it work better? Copy. Improve. Share.

Some monasteries chose to be sequestered, separating themselves from the outside world, so they could work on projects without interruption. Many allowed tours. We gave excess food away to local shelters and other charity organizations, we had a LOT of it. We repaired things free of charge when they were brought to us. This handbook sitting over here is advice about the raising of families.

We got some news coverage, the mainstream looked and pointed and laughed. But every time we hit the news, thousands more asked to join. The world was not concerned with us. We were quacks.

Then someone built the Nineteen Eighty-Four Pirate Box. We don’t know who. They chose the date for its cultural significance, and to point out how long ago that was. A wireless router attached to a large drive that did not connect to the internet at large, but contained on it a vast amount of movies, books, and musical recordings made before December 31, 1984. The box was cheap to make, designed from open source hardware and software. Plug it in and walk away. It gave off a wifi signal anyone could link to. Anyone could copy the files from the box. Anyone could copy files to the box. It was amazing how many music and movie files a few terabytes can hold!

Included on the box were the instructions on how to make your own box. The number of boxes grew exponentially. From the first few hundred, within two months there were thousands.

The second generation was far more polished. It became a prize for people to find a file that wasn’t on the drive, and add it. Entire websites emerged devoted to improving the drive. These pirate boxes became the absolute bane of those trying to stop the act of copying. Today there’s always one within range of over ninety percent of the world’s population.

Of course the government could track them down. Of course they could find the signals. But the boxes were cheap, easy to duplicate, and you could make ten, and only have one turned on. Cheap enough to drop into public spaces anywhere with an unattended power outlet, unless it had its own source of power. Many did. As soon as the box was confiscated, the Copyists would wait till They left, and plug another one in!  Ha!

We did not make that box, but we admired it, and improved upon it. And we were blamed for it.

That’s when we got noticed by the government. Which government? Pretty much all of them.

The bridge-making truck has arrived. Laying expanding planks across the thirty-foot sand field, inches from the still stuck bulldozer. Two more bulldozers quickly follow. They are hammering through our bamboo now, and bringing the reeds down. The trees won’t stop them either. I hope it isn’t wasted, someone should gather all the debris when this is done, and make something useful with it.

The monastery itself was designed like the Toulou villages in China. A five story round building, open courtyard, with storage, workshops, server racks, and heavy equipment on the first and second floor, cooking, crafting, and leisure facilities on the third, and private quarters on the fourth and fifth. The doors will be no match for the bulldozers, but the walls will stand forever without explosives. I have less than an hour, I think, before They are in the compound and can find me.

Many attempts were made to destroy the box. We laughed a lot about it.  We were told to shut it down. We explained that we could not. It consisted of a hard drive and a wireless router. The information on it was now in the hands of the world.  We would say, “We will happily remove any content from a box we ourselves control, if you give us a court order and very specific information on which files you wish us to remove. It is not our fault that people keep putting them back with changes and tweaks. We are sorry but we do not have the means to reveal who is putting the files back, nor do we know how they are getting on the various boxes. We just do not know!” We made it clear we were complying to the letter, if not the spirit. And by now many lawyers were gleeful Copymists with Copymist identities along with their daily legal practice.

The Acolytes were responsible, I suspect. We saw very little of them anymore, many had taken the tabula rosa, and lived in monasteries. Many more stayed fully anonymous. Not even online identities we could point to!

The movement was established, and The Acolytes seemed to vanish. Watching us, I suppose, to see if we would succeed, and learning how to counter whatever might bring us down.

They were probably using the drive as a stress test. How to disseminate information to masses of people in a way easy to detect but very hard to stop. I don’t know, but anyone could find a box wherever they went.

The third generation also meshed with any other 1985 drive it could see. Hash tags and supplemental write-once drives prevented files from being removed en masse, and these new drives provided an internet connection. Free.

Every monastery now has a direct backbone connection to the internet, built by devoted monks as a spiritual rite, and connected in multiple ways. We allowed anyone who wished to connect to it full access, without monitoring or restricting them in any way. We gave mesh-capable devices away, things built by followers as a form of meditation and prayer, improving these designs was considered an act of enlightenment. That many became 1985 boxes was not part of the design, but neither was it prevented.

No control. No restriction. Every box had multiple ways to connect, hand-built and unique. Some boxes had fiber connections, some had wireless ranges measured in miles. CAD-designed circuits attached to hand-carved and laser-cut bamboo. We existed along with the internet, beside it, interweaved with it, connecting to it, but not quite the same as it. And far less controlled.

We were told to stop doing that. Angry Telecoms demanded we not encroach on their monopolies. We pointed out that we did not use their telephone poles, or their underground cables. We had built our own, and were communicating without any of their infrastructure.

Government agencies became deeply annoyed that we were not monitoring traffic and did not bother to track where packets were coming from or where they were going. They demanded to install devices at our our gateway that let them monitor traffic. We publicly and loudly refused, and the governments backed off. We then designed better gateways, with multiple paths to gain backbone access. Things that would bypass such attempts at control. We would not censor our own connections, nor would we monitor them the way the government demanded.

Public officials who considered themselves moral watchdogs told us that if we did not monitor and block what they considered objectionable, that people would suffer. We pointed out that there is a difference between catching a criminal already a suspect, with warrant and due process, and the act of watching everybody because there was a chance they might be doing something someone doesn’t like.

What we did was always legal, by specific wording of the law, but strongly frowned upon by various agencies. And we were very public with anything requested by these officials. We remained legal, but we walked a fine line.

Our practice of anonymity itself came under attack. We pointed out that identities were reputation based, and the older the identity, the more reputation it earned. We know each other fully by these reputations, and it would be difficult, in fact nearly impossible to assume another’s identity. We could abandon and create identities easily, but with the amount of data we worked with, it would be incredibly hard to falsify.

Those who commit crimes were condemned within the movement itself. However, our list of crimes was quite small, compared to the outside world. No violence was tolerated either as a criminal act, nor as a sanction against a criminal act. One who committed a criminal act had the option to submit to the decision of the rest of the monastery, or be expelled. If the crime was serious, local authority would be waiting outside the walls.

And then the attacks began. Attempts to show us as a dangerous cult were the most common. News agencies misreported events to show us in the least favorable light possible. We responded swiftly to each allegation by showing the situation in context, and explaining our side. We also used the multitude of social media sites skillfully. Our lengthier, annotated, and citation-heavy version of events often reached the audience before the slanted sound-bites of the news agency.

Nevertheless, those sound-bites took their toll. Repeated often, and loudly, they affected a large portion of the population, who now believed we were dangerous. The danger of course was their own reliance on a single source of information. The danger was not us. We were neither violent nor confrontational. We were anonymous, but not invisible.

We responded by releasing into the public domain the countless improvements we had made, and began giving away the machines and devices we had created. Better batteries, CAD printed parts, completely sustainable materials used to make just about anything. We gave them away.

Our monasteries became a store of wonders. People in the mainstream still thought of us as dangerous wackos, from all the often repeated erroneous messages. But now we were USEFUL wackos who would give you clever things for free, show you how to make them yourself, and help you fix stuff.

But the forces against us weren’t finished with us yet. Next came regulation committees. These were people who demanded we add and remove things from our structures to meet with various safety and planning guidelines. This attack we thought we were prepared for. We had already made sure we complied, but then they changed the rules. Often at the last minute before an inspection.

At this point, I will talk only of our own monastery. This was happening to many of our locations, more or less simultaneously. But, as I write this, we were the ones physically attacked.

A water pond on our property, outside our ringed compound, was listed by the regulators as too large, and in danger of flooding. So, over three nights, we drained it, and created three smaller ponds, separated by hundreds of feet. We added retaining walls, and a draining pump system going to a field of plants chosen specifically for their ability to clean and purify. Our water leaving the property was cleaner than tap water. And would remain fresh in a flood twenty feet higher than highest recorded levels.

When you have access to just about any tool and clever people to use them, this was considerably less hard work than they had intended it to be. We resolved their request before they had even finished their own paperwork. Ha!

We then assimilated and codified all known regulations, and ran semantic searches to point out to the various Inspectors where they contradicted each other. When engineering is part of your religion, unreasonable demands are just a challenge.

The Inspectors began to make demands designed specifically to shut us down, and we complied with clever solutions that left us better and stronger.

We knew what was really happening. Pressure to shut us down was coming from many directions. We recorded and shared every attempt, revealing a pattern of abuse that began to embarrass the Inspectors. People were calling them out wherever they went for their obvious bias. Our water left our property cleaner than it came in. We produced an excess of power. All refuse was recycled. Our buildings were more natural disaster resistant than anything regulations required. Our food healthier. We built our monasteries off the beaten path. We ran our own schools, and our children were testing far above national averages. There was not one category the Inspectors could find that we did not excel at, yet they continued to demand more and more things.

They demanded for instance that our food forest be coated with insecticides. We pointed out that we hand washed each vegetable, and hand inspected every one. We did not have an insect problem due to the way we grew our gardens.

The demands grew more unreasonable. Our walls were above city ordinance, we pointed out that our complex was built well outside of city limits. They responded by increasing city limits with a gerrymandered leg extending twenty miles to specifically include our structure. We lowered the height of our complex by building up a hill around it, moving earth till our structure appeared to be well under the limit. It gave us useful terracing as well.

They demanded we include electrical meters, and give full access to the meter inspector. We explained we did not use city electricity, and provided a spot outside of the complex they could choose to hook a meter to, that would consistently show negative values. They demanded a contractor inspect the number of emergency exits and fire escapes. We pointed out we had very detailed and ritualized mantras on that sort of thing, and sang the hymn of emergency preparation with verses for fire, flood, volcano, earthquake and zombies. (The evacuation, by the way was part of the zombie mantra.) The demands continued, daily and from multiple sources.

We grew tired, and eventually explained that we would no longer allow inspections to continue. It was our refusal they wanted. They had been waiting for this. This led to police demanding access with the Inspectors.

Again, we refused. And here we are now. Well, here I am.

The forces outside, the ones who sent in bulldozers, and tried to burn us alive?

Building Inspectors.

Because we had the gall to refuse to comply anymore.

I can hear the bulldozers now, above me. Also, gunshots. They are tearing the place down from the inside. The walls will stand, but our living space will need to be fully rebuilt. They will eventually find this tunnel. I’ve already got the bots pulling down the tunnel away from here, closing it off, keeping it hidden. They will be unable to find the way that the rest escaped. I will probably be forced to tell them, but I will hold out until I have been assured the rest are safe. Then when I do tell them, it will be too late for them to find the tunnel. It will have filled itself in! Ha!

I stayed behind. I had to.

My name is on the deed to the property. My original name, not one of my identities. This was required when we established the property. Each monastery has one person who retains their name for these purposes. My name signed all the papers, made all the contracts, paid all the taxes. I was listed as the owner. A ridiculous concept. One man can’t own all of what we did. The ponds, the workshops, the aquaponics garden.

But this way, I will take the blame.

It is a small honor, but mostly it is a duty. I am not rich, I make no rules because of my name on the deed. We use tokens, not money, inside each monastery, and hoarding them accomplishes nothing.

While everyone else remained undetectable to the outside world, I had to be the face that interacted beyond the walls. They will capture me. They will demand I release the names of my associates, which of course I do not know. No one outside the private baptism ceremony knows the original name of a Copymist. I don’t even know my wife’s name, only her identities. Well, I know three of them, there may be more.

If I am not killed, I will be arrested. I will probably be held in contempt of court. It’s doubtful they will believe me when I tell them I do not know the names they demand from me. I will probably go to jail. However there are many lawyers now who are also Copymists. I will eventually be freed. Our monastery will probably be sold. Another Copymist will likely buy it.

I will meet up with my family when I have finished my sentence, if they let me out. My family has already selected our next monastery and have changed their Copymist identities. They will be living in another country by then. I don’t actually know which yet. The day I leave the jail, I will resume my duties. The day my probation ends, I will vanish, and never use my name again.

Each time they shut one down, we will build many more. We learned from our mistakes here. We have a new plan.

That’s what we do.

Information wants to be free.

Author Bio:

Laston Kirkland

Laston lives in a small two bedroom apartment with his wife, three daughters and an old cat.  He writes with one hand, gently holding the rest of the world at bay with the other.  He's fond of tabletop boardgames and all things nerdy.

How to cite the above article in APA format:
Kirkland, Laston. (2013).  Copy me.
The Journal of Social Era Knowledge, Volume 1, Issue  3.  Retrieved from

About the Artist:

Peter Gentenaar writes:  

My interest in paper started while working as a printmaker, when my engravings had such deep relief, that commercial paper could not fill it. 

I decided to make my own paper and was helped by Jo Persoon at the Royal Dutch Paper Factory, KNP. He taught me about beaters for making paper pulp and vacuum systems to suck water out of pulp, to make paper. The laboratory beater I used was unable to process long fibers, so I built a beater of my own design. 

A paper sheet is thin and strong and, reinforced with very thin ribs of bamboo, can be compared to a leaf. By beating pulp a long time, an extraordinary play of forces occurs during the drying process of my paper sculpture. The paper shrinks considerably, up to 40%, and the force of this puts the non-shrinking bamboo framework under stress, just as a leaf when it drys. 

My sculptures start as totally 2-dimensional, colored sheets of pulp laying on my vacuumtable. The forms in my work are caused by pulp drying and shrinking in unison. The simplicity of the material, which is the carrier, the color, the texture and the form, in one, makes working with it wonderful and direct. 

To bring paper art to the public and to be inspired by fellow paper artists, I instigated the Holland Paper Biennial in Museum Rijswijk and CODA, Apeldoorn. With friends, Pat and I have published seven books with the first seven Biennials.

To learn more about this fascinating artwork or to reach the artist, Peter can be reached through his website at the following URL: