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Marx, Wikipedia & Torrents

  • Karl Marx - 19th Century Philosopher, Economist, Sociologist, Journalist and an Revolutionary Socialist.
  • Wikipedia - An Internet encylopedia available in many languages built by people around the world.
  • BitTorrent - A Peer-to-Peer file sharing protocol / program that is used by most of the people around the world.

So why did I pick these three? What is so common about these three topics and how are these topics related to each other? For quite sometime, I was reading works based on Marx and was also reading materials that took a marxist approach on analysing the free software and other technologies. It is under this context, I am writing this post.

Marx & Engels

Karl Marx is well known for his work on analysing and understanding Capitalism and is also known for his famous work along with his comrade Friedrich Engels, The Communist Manifesto. As a sociologist, economist and philosophers they both had a vision to change the world. That vision echoed in their famous statement,

"From each according to his ability, To each according to his needs"

i.e the society they envisioned will revolve around this central theme where people can contribute something to the commons according to their ability or capacity and they can take back from the commons based on how much they need. Whenever people discuss about communism or socialism they miss this central theme and the discussion always gets diverted to the failure of U.S.S.R and other attempts of 20th century.

Marx was also right about capitalism that,

"It will take science and technology to greater level in order to increase their productivity and it will do wonders".

And today we are seeing this live all around us and our next generations will continue to see more.


Now heading to Wikipedia. It is no doubt that Wikipedia has disrupted the knowledge sector, especially the Intellectual Property Rights and Copyrights of the encyclopedia industry. Today Wikipedia is one of the world's largest Digital Commons (i.e belongs to everyone) available and continues to grow into many more projects like Wiktionary, Wikibooks, Wikidata, etc., It is also well known fact that Wikipedia is built by people all around the world. We approach wikipedia whenever we wanted to lookup for something (search engines doesn't matter, all of them point to wikipedia) and if I know about something, I can also contribute back to Wikipedia by creating or editing an existing article. This is exactly the same vision of Marx and Engles, taking what is necessary and giving back based on the ability.


Let's focus on Torrents. People using torrents definitely would have encountered these words, "seeding" and "peers". When we download from a torrent file, we look for more peers. Peers are those people who already have these files in their computers. If those peers upload what they have in their computers to other people who wanted to download the same file through this torrent file, then we call this process as seeding and those peers who does seeding are termed as seeders. While we expect more peers during the download, we look for more seeders. Downloading what you need and seeding back what you can!

These are just two examples. this is the same case with how a free software is also developed. Of course, one can point out and say "hey, the examples you have pointed out are immaterial things. what about material things?". Indeed they are right, Marx's works were based on 19th century capitalism and even with that he is able to pin-point a lot of things about capitalism beyond his age. We shouldn't miss to see the fact that today Capitalism is also riding on these immaterial stuff which in turn reflects on their material wealth. For mens (Marx & Engels) who have developed their framework based on Dialectical Materialism, they wouldn't be stupid to deal with material stuffs either, for they did not leave any readymade blueprint, rather they left their vision to be carried by the actors of the corresponding age.

Whether the society goes towards dystopia or utopia, we are all collectively responsible for it. So don't stay neutral, pick you side and act.

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