DevOps inspiration from Toyota Production System and Lean considered harmful

Note: This text was originally the synopsis for a much longer article which I intended to write as the followup to a lightning talk about the subject I did at my workplace. Acknowledging that I probably won’t get time to write the long version, I think this synopsis can stand pretty well on its own as a statement of intent.

DevOps and DevOps-related practices has become a huge thing in the software industry. Elements of this, such as Continuous Integration and Continuous Deployment and the focus on monitoring production systems and metrics has resulted in large improvements in the handling of large-scale deployments. Especially, the act of deployment to production, in traditional systems often an error-prone process riddled with cataclysmic pitfalls and requiring huge amounts of overtime, is reduced to the trivial pushing of a button which can easily be done in normal office hours.

While the success of DevOps largely rests on technological improvements (containerization, orchestration systems, ease of scaling with cloud technologies) as well as process improvements originating in the Agile methodologies as they have developed since 2001 (with concepts such as pair programming, Test Driven Development and a general focus on automatization), much of the literature on DevOps contain a strong “ideological”, to the point of evangelization, promotion of the underlying philosophies of Lean production and management systems. One very conspicuous feature of this ideology is the canonization of Japanese management methods in general and the Toyota Production System (TPS) in particular as an epitome of thoughtful and benign innovation, empowering workers by incorporating their suggestions, achieving world-class production quality while simultaneously showing the maximum respect for each and every one of the humans involved.

This method (the TPS) was, the story goes, introduced in Western manufacturing and later in management, where its basic principles – improvement circles (kaizen), value stream mapping, Kanban, etc. has streamlined the basic business processes, improved productivity and reduced costs. Now, the narrative continues, DevOps will apply these same Lean lessons in the software industry, and we can expect similar vast improvements of productivity.

It is problematic, however, to try to “learn from Toyota” and from Lean Manufacturing without examining in detail how these work in practice, not least how they affect the people actually working in those systems. The authors behind some of the more popular DevOps introductions – The DevOps Handbook and the novels “The Phoenix Project” and “The Unicorn Project” – do not seem to have actually studied the implications of working under the TPS for Toyota’s Japanese employees in great detail, if at all, and seem to have all of their knowledge of the system from American management literature such as James Womack et al’s “The Machine that Changed the World”, basing their own Lean philosophies entirely on Toyota’s own public relations-oriented descriptions of their system.

This is problematic, since it overlooks the distinction between Toyota’s corporate representation of the intention of their production system – and the actual reality felt by automobile workers on the shop floors. Darius Mehri, who worked at Toyota as a computer simulation engineer for three years, has pointed out that the Western management movements inspired by Toyota have failed to understand a very fundamental distinction in Japanese culture and communication: The distinction between tatemae (that which you are supposed to feel or do) and honne (that which you really feel and do). Mehri posits that all Western proponents of The Toyota Way fail to realize that what they are describing is really the tatemae, what management will tell you and what workers will tell you in a formal context when their words might come back and harm them – while the honne is much grittier, much darker and much more cynical.

In effect, proponents of Lean manufacturing and management styles have imported a kind of double-speak in a Japanese variant, but similar to the all too well-known difference between corporate communcations and what workers will confide in private. By doing so, they have inherited the fundamental lie that the priorities of the TPS are respect for each individual employee, partnership between management and workers, and involvement of each and every employee in the continuous improvement of the workplace; while its true priorities are a maximization of profit through the imposition of frenetic work speeds and very long working hours, discarding workers afflicted by the inevitable accidents and work-related diseases – and an “innovation” mainly driven by imitation of other manufacturers.

The truth about the very Toyota Production System that inspired the Lean movement is, leaving the tatemae aside and looking at the honne, that these factories are driven unusually ruthlessly, with little or no regard for the human costs for the workers on the shop floor. Meetings, security briefings and announcements are routinely made after or before actual working hours, when workers are on their own time. Assembly lines are run at extreme speed in order to increase productivity, resulting in serious accidents, chronic work-related diseases as well as production defects. Even so, production targets are set unrealistically high, and the shop crews are not allowed to go home before they are met, often resulting in several hours of daily overtime. The “improvement circles” do exist and workers are indeed asked to contribute, but the end goal is always to increase production and increase line speed, never to create more humane working conditions on the shop floor. Such improvements are (if at all) introduced more grudgingly, e.g. as a consequence of labor shortages and worker dropout.

Lean, by lauding the TPS and uncritically buying its tatemae, is introducing a similar honne of its own: It is, in reality, not revolutionizing productivity, and for all its fair words does not promote the respect of each worker as an individual. On the contrary, the relentless focus on constant “improvements” and constant demand that each employee rationalizes their work as much as possible has caused it to become known as “management by stress”. It may indeed focus on metrics and may indeed choose metrics to demonstrate its own success – while achieving results that range from average/no change to absolutely dismal.

Proponents of DevOps should stop presenting Toyota as any kind of ideal way of working – literally, a nightmarish grind with workers forced to do ten- or eleven hour shifts, ignoring accidents, running beside old and worn-out machinery in outrageously dangerous conditions is not where we want to go. And the “ideal Toyota” with its “improvement kata” and “mutual respect” never existed except as the tatemae to the cynical honne of shop-floor reality. By importing the tatemae as though it were Truth itself, the Lean movement has imported its double-speak – Lean or “management by stress” transitions can be very unpleasant indeed for employees, and while everything is shrouded in talk of partnership and mutual respect, the underlying motivation will often be money-saving through layoffs – the honne to the Lean management bullshit’s tatemae.

That is to say: Perpetuating the lie about Toyota as a humane, innovative and respectful workplace is positively harmful to the employees and processes afflicted by the proposed improvements, as the double-speak involved will inevitably rub off. The Toyota tatemae was not, after all, designed to be practised literally. Accepting it at face value will only set us up for further double-speak in our own practice.

While the software industry can and should continue to evolve based on the philosophy enshrined in the Agile Manifesto and the improved work processes introduced by DevOps, we should eschew the mendacious narrative of Happy Toyota and reject the Lean philosophies that it founded.


Heather Barney and Sheila Nataraj Kirby: Toyota Production System/Lean Manufacturing in “Organizational Improvement and Accountability: Lessons for Education from Other Sectors”, RAND Corporation 2004 (online:

Ian Hampson: Lean Production and the Toyota Production System – Or, the Case of the Forgotten Production Concepts, Economic and Industrial Democracy & 1999 (SAGE, London, Thousand Oaks and New Delhi), Vol. 20: 369-391 (online:

Jeffry S. Babb, Jacob Nørbjerg, David J. Yates, Leslie J. Waguespack: The Empire Strikes Back: The End of Agile as we Know it?, paper given at The 40th Information Systems Research Seminar in Scandinavia: IRIS 2017 – Halden, Norway, August 6-9, 2017 (online:

Darius Mehri: The Darker Side of Lean: An Insider’s Perspective on the Realities of the Toyota Production System, Academy of Management Perspectives 20, 2, 2006 (online:

Stuart D. Green: The Dark Side of Lean Construction: Exploitation and Ideology, proceedings IGLC-7, 1999, 21-32 (online:

Satoshi Kamata: Japan in the Passing Lane: : An Insider’s Account of Life in a Japanese Auto Factory, Pantheon Books, New York (1982)

Gregory A. Howell and Glenn Ballard: Bringing Light to the Dark Side of Lean Construction: A Response to Stuart Green, proceedings IGLC-7, 1999, 33-38 (online:;jsessionid=203907F7926472DB31BBE75D290A826B?doi=

Will Johnson: Lean Production – inside the real war on public education, Jacobin Magazine, December 2012 (online:

Mike Parker: Management-By-Stress, Catalyst Magazine 1, 2, 2017 (online:

Gene Kim, Jez Humble, Patrick Debois and John Willis: The DevOps Handbook, IT Revolution Press, Portland (OR) 2016.

Gene Kim, Kevin Behr and George Spafford: The Phoenix Project, IT Revolution Press, Portland (OR) 2015.

Gene Kim: The Unicorn Project, IT Revolution Press, Portland (OR) 2019.

Phil Ledbetter: Why Do So Many Lean Efforts Fail?,, 20/9-2020.

Enid Mumford: “Sociotechnical Design: An Unfulfilled Promise or a Future Opportunity”,

Cory Doctorow’s “Walkaway” – some comments

This post started as a Twitter thread – I’m reposting here to elaborate a bit (and fix some typos).

I recently  read  Cory Doctorow‘s novel “Walkaway”. It scathingly turns on the increasing inequality & proposes an anarchist-style rebellion consisting of people simply walking away and renouncing “default” society. It’s quite a page turner, and so definitely worth reading.

I have my difficulties with one plot point, though: The notion of gaining eternal(-ish) life by uploading your personality. First, I don’t think that will ever happen, technology-wise; second, I don’t think our personality, our being-as-human, makes any sense without a body.

“We” are not just spirit, not just reasoning and thought as located in Broca’s and Wernicke’s areas and the pre-frontal cortex, but are the result of processes all over the brain, in the limbic system and thalamus etc, all of which are strongly linked to our bodily functions.

In that sense, there doesn’t seem to be a well-defined “me” which can be reduced to pure spirit or to computation. “I”, the conscious me, is an interpretation, a kind of self-regulation mechanism as Maturana proposed with his autopoiesis, whose “location” is not definable.

Moreover, the actual practical problems involved in a “mind scan” are daunting and apparently unsolvable – there is no known non-destructive way of mapping out the neural connections in a living brain, and even if there were, the dynamics of different proteins and complex neurotransmitter mechanisms is still largely unknown. Some of these problems might indeed be solved the next 50 years – the novel is set around 2070 –  but others, like the physical problems of probing molecular-sized networks with non-destructive methods (which may be impossible in principle due to Heisenberg’s indeterminacy relations and the wave/particle duality) and getting an actual electron microscope inside someone’s brain; and not least, the philosophical and neurological problem of what consciousness  even is don’t seem to going anywhere even in the next five hundred years. To put it another way, as a practical proposition (as opposed to say, as a thought experiment or a plot point in a science fiction novel) the notion of personality upload should not be taken seriously by any intelligent person – and this would, like space travel elsewhere, not be a problem with the novel if it weren’t for the fact that too many people actually do take the idea seriously these days.

The idea of virtual communication as that of disembodied souls was important in the early Californian Internet community, as can be seen from Stewart Brand’s early focus on “out of body” experience in gamers. John Perry Barlow also liked to dwell on the idea, and it was often discussed in The Well, the early Californian message board. But as a theory of consciousness or of mind I think it’s a red herring.

We are our bodies, and death is here to stay, no matter how rich you are, or how willing to share all knowledge we become. Unfortunately, or maybe in fact fortunately.

I’m speaking of the novel here, not projecting any opinions in this regard on its author. The idea of gaining virtual immortality by  uploading your consciousness to a machine is, however, taken seriously by Silicon Valley Singularity prophets such as Ray Kurzweil, and in that sense it is almost disappointing that the incisively intelligent Doctorow, with his otherwise  crystal clear political and technological analyses, is so to speak validating this kind of speculative mumbo jumbo by presenting it as a serious option. People may, of course, already  gain some immortality by betrothing their thoughts, their ideas, their intellectual production, to future generations, as artists and writers have been doing for centuries, and in Doctorow’s defense, the literal (and not just infeasible, but impossible) immortality of uploaded minds is an excellent metaphor for the more traditional immortality of living on in the memories of your physical and intellectual descendants.

As for the very notion of “walkaway”, the notion that people can start leaving our present society behind, I love it! I also love the idea that the future we get is the future we decide to build, leaving behind all the lies of There Is No Alternative. Much of the book’s political analysis of these movements draws heavily on David Graeber’s “Debt: The First 5000 Years” and Thomas Piketty’s “Capital in the 21st Century” – and, according to the author, Rebecca Solnit’s “A Paradise Built in Hell”, which I haven’t read (but maybe should).

Given that one of the book’s main characters is Brazilian, I’d have loved to see refences to Brazil’s many actual walkaway communities – indigenous communities, century-old quilombos (maroon societies) modern-day quilombos in the form of inner-city squats and community houses, etc.

Not to mention “spiritual walkaway” techniques such as capoeira and candomblé, people knowingly and ritually installing different software in their brains to preserve their own culture. Still, “Walkaway” raises important points, and my objections may be a job for another day.

My history with free software – a story told on #ilovefs day

In October 2019, I went to Linuxhotel in Essen, as I had been invited to attend that year’s General Assembly in the FSFE as a prospective member. I had a very enjoyable weekend, where I met new people and renewed older acquaintances, and it was confirmed to me what good and idealistic people are behind that important part of the European free software movement.

On the photo you see Momo, the character from Michael Ende’s eponymous novel – a statue which I was delighted to see, given that “Momo”  has been one of my favorite children’s novels for decades.

I first met the concept of free software at the university, as a student of physics and computer science in the early nineties. As students, we had to work on  the old proprietary SunOS and HP-UX systems; we had to use the Emacs editor and GNU C compiler (thanks, Richard Stallman and GNU team!) as well as the LaTeX text processing system (thanks, Donald Knuth and Leslie Lamport!)

Some of my fellow students were pretty interested in the concepts of free software and the struggle against software patents, but not me – to be honest, at the time I  was not interested in software or computing at all. Computer science to me was mainly algorithmics and fundamental concepts, invariants and termination functions (thanks, Grete Hermann!) as well as Turing machines, formal languages and the halting theorem (thanks, Alan Turing and Noam Chomsky!). The fact that computer programs could be written and run was, I thought,  mainly a not very interesting byproduct of these intellectual pursuits. In my spare time I was interested in physics as well as in topics more to the “humanities” side – I spent a lot of afternoons studying Sanskrit and Latin and, at a time, even biblical Hebrew, and read Goethe’s Faust and Rabelais’ Gargantua and Pantagruel in the original languages. My main, overarching interests these years were art in the widest sense, epistemology (specifically, the epistemology of physics) and the history of religon. I also read a lot of comic books and science fiction novels.

After leaving the university, however, I got a job as a developer and worked mainly with internal software at a huge corporation and with proprietary software at a major vendor to the newspaper industry. It was at that time, in 2005, that I once again stumbled over the concept of free software – as explained by Richard Stallman – and started using GNU/Linux at home (Ubuntu, thanks, Mark Shuttleworth, Ian Murdoch, Linus Torvalds, Ingo Molnar and everybody else involved in creating Ubuntu and its building blocks Linux and Debian!)

I suddenly realized as someone that had become interested in software and its potential impact on society, that Stallman’s analysis of the situation is correct: If we want to build society’s infrastructure on software – and that seems to be happening – and we still want a free society, software must be free in the FSF sense – users, be they individuals, public authorities or corporations, must have the four freedoms. If this is not the case, all of these users will be at the mercy of the software vendors, and this lack of transparency in the public infrastructure may, in turn, be used by governments and corporations to oppress users – which has happened time and time again.

Free software enables users (once again – be they governments, companies or actual people) to protect themselves against this kind of abuse and gives them the freedom to understand and participate in the public infrastructure. By allowing changing and redistributing software products it also reverses the power relations, giving the users the power they should have and ensures that vendors can no longer exploit monopolies as their private money printing machines (no thanks, Microsoft, for that lesson !)

After discovering the concept of free software and the fact that I could practically use free software only in my daily existence, I started  blogging and communicating about it – a lot.

In 2009, a friend of mine started the “Ubuntu Community Day”, an initiative to further the use of Ubuntu in Aarhus, Denmark, and give back to the community that created this OS.

As such, in 2010 we helped co-found Open Space Aarhus, along with a group of hardware hackers. After some years, this group petered out, and I had discovered the FSFE and become a Fellow (that which now is called Supporter). As such, I was more interested in addressing real political work for free software than in Ubuntu advocacy (as good a path as this is for getting people acquainted with free software), and in 2012 I started an FSFE Local Group in Aarhus, with regular meetings in the hacker space. This group existed until 2015, where we co-organized that year’s LibreOffice conference (thanks to Florian Effenberger and Leif Lodahl and everyone else involved!) but ended up stopping the meetings, as I had become busy with other, non-software related things and none of the other members were ready to assume the responsibility of running it.

As mentioned, when I discovered free software, I was in a job writing proprietary software. While I could live with that as long as the salary was good and i was treated well, making a living from free software  had become not only a dream, it now seemed to be the best  and possibly the only ethically defensible way of working with software.

It also became clear to me that while we may admire volunteer-driven and community-driven free software projects, these are not enough if software freedom is to become the accepted industry standard for all software, as is after all the goal. Some software may be fun to write, but writing and maintaining domain-specific software for governments and large corporations to use in mission-critical scenarios is not fun – it is work, and people will not and cannot do it in their spare time. We need actual companies supplying free software only, and we need many of them.

After some turbulence in my employment, including a period of unemployment in the wake of the financial crisis in 2009, in 2011 I joined my current employer, Magenta ApS. This is the largest Scandinavian company producing only free software – a software vendor  that has never delivered any product to any customer under a proprietary license and has no plans to do this either, ever. With 40 employees, we are currently selling products to local governments and similar organizations that used to be the sole province of huge corporations with shady ethical practices – and I’m proud to say that this means that in our daily jobs, we’re actually changing things to the benefit of these organizations, and of Danish society at large. (Thanks to Morten Kjærsgaard for founding the company and being its motor and main driving force for all these years!)

And in the FSFE General Assembly  of 2020, I was confirmed as a permanent member of the GA. I’d like to thank the founders of the FSFE and the community around it (too many to list all the names, so y’all are included!) for this confidence and hope to be able to continue contributing to free software, a cause I discovered 15 years ago,  for at least the next 15 years as well.

Technoshamanism in Barcelona on October 4

Technoshamanism event in Barcelona, october 4.



El dijous 4 d’octubre celebrarem al CSOA La Fusteria una xerrada amb membres de la xarxa Tecnoxamanisme, un col·lectiu internacional de producció d’imaginaris format per artistes, biohackers, pensadors, activistes, indígenes i indigenistes que intenten recuperar idees de futur perdudes al passat ancestral. La xerrada estarà conduïda per l’escriptor Francisco Jota-Pérez i després es realitzarà una performance ritual DIY on totes podreu participar.

Què té en comú el moviment hacker amb les lluites dels pobles indígenes amenaçats per allò anomenat “progrés”?

El tecnoxamanisme va sorgir el 2014 a partir de la confluència de diverses xarxes nascudes al voltant del moviment del software i la cultura lliure per promoure intercanvis de tecnologies, rituals, sinergies i sensibilitats amb les comunitats indígenes. Actuen impulsant trobades i esdeveniments que transcendeixen als rituals DIY, la música electrònica, la permacultura i els processos immersius, barrejant cosmovisions i impulsant la descolonització del pensament.

Segons els membres de la xarxa tecnoxamans: “Encara gaudim de zones autònomes temporals, d’invenció de formes de vida, d’art/vida; tractem de pensar i col·laborar amb la reforestació de la Terra amb un imaginari ancestrofuturista. El nostre principal exercici és crear xarxes d’inconscients, enfortint el desig de comunitat, així com proposar alternatives al pensament ‘productiu’ de la ciència i la tecnologia”.

Després de dos festivals internacionals realitzats en el sud de Bahia, Brasil, (produïts juntament amb l’associació indígena de l’ètnia Pataxó Aldeia Velha i Aldeia Pará, prop de Porto Seguro, on van arribar els primers vaixells portuguesos durant la colonització), organitzen el III Festival de Tecnoxamanisme els dies 5,6 i 7 d’octubre a França. I tenim la sort de que visitin Barcelona per poder compartir amb nosaltres els seus projectes i filosofia. On ens parlaran de temps espiral (no lineal), de ficcions col·lectives, de com el monoteisme i després el capitalisme van segrestar la tecnologia, o d’allò que podem aprendre de les comunitats indígenes tant a nivell de supervivència com de resistència.

Us esperem a totes a les 20.30 a La Fusteria.
C/J. Benlluire, 212 (El Cabanyal)

Col·labora Láudano Magazine.

Technoshamanism meeting in Axat, France (October 5 to 8)



Complete program to appear here.

First published at the technoshamanism site.


We would like to invite you to the Technoshamanism meeting in Axat, south of France, at Le Dojo art space and association.

We still enjoy temporary autonomous zones, new ways of life, of art / life, we try to think and cooperate towards the goal of food self-sufficiency and interdependence, towards the reforestation of the Earth, and towards the ancestorfuturist fertilization of the imagination. Our main practice is to promote networks of the unconscious to strengthen the desire to form communities as well as proposing alternatives to the “productive” thinking of science and technology.


The Technoshamanism network exists since 2014. The network has published one book and organized two international festivals held in the south of Bahia (these were produced in partnership with the Pataxó from indigenous villages Aldeia Velha and Aldeia Pará – these villages are near Porto Seguro, where the first Portuguese caravels arrived in the year 1500). The third festival is planned for August 2019 in Denmark.

Technoshamanism arises from the confluence of several networks deriving from the free software and free culture movements. It is promoting meetings, events, DIY ritual performances, electronic music, foodforest and immersive processes, remixing worldviews and promoting the decolonization of thought. The network brings together artists, biohackers, thinkers, activists, indigenous and indigenists promoting a social clinic for the future, the meeting between technologies, rituals, synergies and sensitivities.

Keywords: free cosmogony, ancestorfuturism, noisecracy, perspectivism, earthcosmism, free technologies, decolonialism of thought, production of meaning and care.


We will meet in Axat, south of France, in the space and association Le Dojo, a house that brings together artists, activists, and others since 2011, from October 5-8. The meals will be collective and shared among the participants. The lodging costs 2 euros/day per person. To get to Axat, you need to take a transport to the nearby towns (Carcassone or Perpignan) and then a local bus for one euro. Timetable (in French);


If you are interested in getting to know further the Technoshamanism network, go deeper into ancestry and speculative fiction, we invite you curious people, earthlings, hackers, cyborgs, among other strangers from this anthropocene world to join our meeting bringing your ideas, experiences, practices, etc. Send us a short bio + proposal containing up to 300 words to the email The open call ends September 18.

Do not hesitate to come back to us for any doubt or comment. Welcome to the Tecnoshamanism network!



Questionário sobre o tecnoxamanismo / Questionnaire sur le Tecnochamanisme/ Questionnaire about Tecnoshamanism


Sobre o primeiro festival /About the first festival / Sur le premier festival       

About the Dojo / Sur le Dojo/ Sobre o Dojo


Switzerland/ Suisse/Suiça – 2016



Gostaríamos de convidar vocês para o encontro da rede Tecnoxamanismo, no sul da França, na cidade de Axat, no espaço de arte e associação Le Dojo.

Ainda gostamos das zonas autônomas temporárias, da invenção de modos de vida, da arte/vida, tentamos pensar e colaborar com a interdependência alimentar, com o reflorestamento da Terra, na adubagem imaginária ancestrofuturista. Nosso principal exercício é promover redes de inconscientes, fortalecendo  o desejo de comunidade, assim como propor alternativas ao pensamento “produtivo” da ciência e tecnologia.


A rede Tecnoxamanismo existe desde 2014, conta com livro publicado e dois festivais internacionais realizados no sul da Bahia (estes produzidos com a parceria indígena da etnia Pataxó Aldeia Velha e Aldeia Pará – nas redondezas de Porto Seguro –  onde aconteceu a primeira invasão das caravelas – a colonização portuguesa). O terceiro festival está previsto para agosto de 2019 na Dinamarca.

O Tecnoxamanismo surge a partir da confluência de várias redes oriundas do movimento do software e cultura livre. Atua promovendo encontros, eventos, acontecimentos permeando performances rituais DIY, música eletrônica, agrofloresta e processos imersivos, remixando cosmovisões e promovendo a descolonização do pensamento. A rede congrega artistas, biohackers, pensadores, ativistas, indígenas e indigenistas promovendo uma clínica social do futuro, o encontro entre tecnologias, rituais, sinergias e sensibilidades.

Palavras-chave: cosmogonia livre, ancestrofuturismo, ruidocracia, perspectivismo, terracosmismo, tecnologias livres, descolonização do pensamento, produção de sentido e de cuidado de si e do outro.


Nos reuniremos na cidade de Axat, no sul da França, no espaço e associação Dojo, uma casa que reúne artistas, ativistas, entre outros passantes desde 2011, durante os dias 5 a 8 de outubro. As refeições serão coletivas e compartilhadas entre os participantes. O custo da casa é de 2 euros por dia por pessoa.

Para chegar em Axat, é preciso pegar um transporte até as cidades próximas (Carcassone ou Perpignam) e depois um ônibus local à um euro. Tabela de horários (em francês) : ;


Se você tem interesse em conhecer mais do Tecnoxamanismo, se aprofundar sobre ancestralidades e ficção especulativa, convocamos os interessados, curiosos, terráqueos, hackers, cyborgs, entre outros estranhos deste mundo antropoceno à participar do nosso encontro, trazendo suas ideias, processos, experiências, práticas, etc. envie um resumo de até 300 palavras para o e-mail A chamada aberta termina dia 18 de setembro.

Fiquem à disposição para tirar dúvidas ou fazer comentários. Bem-vindos à rede do Tecnoxamanismo!



Le réseau de Tecnoshamanime a le plaisir de vous inviter pour une immersion/rencontre au sûd de la France, dans la ville d’Axat, dans l’espace d’art et association le Dojo.

On croit toujours dans les zones autonomes temporaires, qui puisse rendre compte de l’invention des modes de vie alternatifs, l’art/vie, l’indépendance alimentaire, à travers de la fomentation des mémoires ancestrales et futuristes, le reforestation de la Terre et la fertilization de l’imagination. Notre but principal c’est de créer espaces pour penser d’autres possibilités d’existence horizontal, et également pour fortifier le désir et l’idée communal, ainsi que reformuler l’idéologie de la production scientifique et technologique.


Le réseau du Tecnochamanisme envisage ces rencontres et projets depuis 2014, il compte avec un livre publié et deux festivals internationaux accomplis au sud de Bahia (ceux produits avec le partenariat indigène des indiens Pataxó- Aldeia Velha et Aldeia Pará – dans la rondeur de Porto Seguro – où la première invasion des caravelles est arrivée de la colonisation portugaise). Le troisième festival est prévu pendant août de 2019 au Danemark.

Tecnochamanisme apparaît commençant de la confluence de plusieurs réseaux originaires du mouvement du software et de la culture libre. Il s’agit en promouvant des rencontres, des événements et des happenings pénétrant des processus immersifs, des performances rituels DIY (faites toi-même), la musique électronique, également des projets agroforestiers, en faisant un remix de cosmo-visions et la promotion de la décolonisation de la pensée. Le réseau rassemble des artistes, biohackers, des penseurs, des activistes, indigènes et indigénistes dans la création collective d’une clinique sociale de l’avenir, le rencontre parmi des technologies, des rituels, des synergies et des sensibilités.

Mots-clés: Cosmogonie libre, ancestro-futurisme, noisecracie, perspectivisme, terrecosmisme, technologies libres, décolonisation de la pensée, production de sens et de soin, de soi et de l’autre.


Nous rassemblera dans la ville d’Axat, au sud de la France, dans l’espace et l’association Le Dojo, une maison qui réunit des artistes, des activistes, parmi d’autres passants depuis 2011, du 5 au 8 octobre. Les repas seront collectifs et partagés parmi les participants. Le coût de la maison c’est de 2 euros par jour par personne. Pour arriver à Axat, il est nécessaire d’arriver dans les villes proches comme Carcassone ou Perpignam et aprés, attraper un bus local à un euro. Planning des autobus locales:


Si vous êtes intéressé à en apprendre davantage sur Tecnoxamanism, s’approfondir sûr la fiction spéculative et l’ancestral, nous invitons les personnes intéressées, les curieux, les Terriens, les hackers, les cyborgs, entre autres étrangers de ce monde anthropocènique, à se joindre à nous. Si vous avez des idées, des pratique ou des interventions engagées envoyez à nous un résumé de 300 mots à l’email Les inscriptions doivent-elles être envoyés jusqu’au 18 septembre.

N’hésitez pas revenir vers nous pour faire n’importe quel doute ou commentaire. Soyez-les bienvenus sur le réseau du Technoshamanisme!



Surveillance Valley – a review

Note: This post is a book review. I did not buy this book on Amazon, and if, after reading this post, you consider buying it, I strongly urge you not to buy it on Amazon. Amazon is a proprietary software vendor and, more importantly, a company with highly problematic business and labour practices. They should clean up their act and, failing that, we should all boykot them. 

Most of us have heard that the Internet started as a research project initiated by the ARPA, the Advanced Research Projects Agency, an agency under the US military conducting advanced research, especially focusing on counter-insurgency and future war scenarios. A common version of this story is that the Internet was originally intended to be a decentralized network, a network with no central hub necessary for its operation, where individual nodes might be taken out without disrupting the traffic, which would just reroute itself through other nodes. A TCP/IP network may indeed work like that, but the true origins of the Internet are far darker.

In the 1940’s and 50’s, Norbert Wiener’s theory of cybernetics became very popular. Wiener was a mathematician who worked for the American military during WWII. The gist of cybernetics is that all systems maintain themselves through feedback between their elements. If one could understand the nature of the feedback that keeps them stable, one could predict their future behaviour. The beauty of this theory is that systems could consist of human beings and machines, and it did not in fact matter if a given element was one or the other; as the systems were supposed to stabilize naturally just like ecosystems, it should be possible to set down mathematical equations they’d need to fulfill to serve their role in the system.

This theory was criticized, in fact even by Wiener himself, for reducing human beings to machines; and the analogy to ecosystems has proven false, as later biological research has shown that ecosystems do not tend to become stable – in fact, they are in constant change. In the 50s, however, this theory was very respected, and ARPA wanted to utilize it for counterinsurgency in Asian countries. For that purpose, they started a detailed anthropological study of tribes in Thailand, recording the people’s physical traits as well as a lot of information about their culture, habits and overall behaviour. The intention was to use this information in cybernetic equations in order to be able to predict people’s behaviour in wars like the Korea or, later, the Vietnam war.

In order to do this, they needed computation power – a lot of it. After the Soviets sent up the Sputnik and beat the Americans to space, there was an extraordinary surge of investments in scientific and engineering research, not least into the field of computers. In the early 60’s, psychologist and computer scientist J.R.C. Licklider proposed “The Intergalactic Network” as a way to provide sufficient computation power for the things that ARPA wanted to do – by networking the computers, so problems might be solved by more computers than the user was currently operating. In doing so, Licklider predicted remote execution, keyboard-operated screens as well as a network layout that was practically identical to (if much smaller than) the current Internet. Apart from providing the power to crunch the numbers needed to supposedly predict the behaviour of large populations for counterinsurgency purposes, the idea that such a network could be used for control and surveillance materialized very early.

In the 1990s, the foundations of the company currently known as Google was created in Stanford Research Institute, a university lab that had for decades been operating as a military contractor. The algorithmic research that gave us the well-known Page Rank algorithm was originally funded by grants from the military.

From the very beginning, Google’s source of income was mining the information in its search log. You could say that from the very beginning, Google’s sole business model has been pervasive surveillance, dividing its users into millions of buckets in order to sell as fine-tuned advertising as possible.

At the same time, Google has always been a prolific military contractor, selling upgraded versions of all kinds of applications to help the US military fight their wars. As an example, Google Earth was originally developed by Keyhole, Inc. with military purposes in mind – the military people loved the video game-like interface, and the maps and geographical features could be overlaid with all kinds of tactical information about targets and allieds in the area.

More controversially, the Tor project, the free software project so lauded by the Internet Freedom and privacy communities, is not what it has consistently described itself as. It is commonly known that it was originally commissioned by a part of the US Navy as an experimental project for helping their intelligence agents stay anonymous, but it is less known that Tor has, since its inception, been almost exclusively financed by the US government, among others through grants from the Pentagon and the CIA but mainly by BBG, the “Broadcasting Board of Governors”, which originated in the CIA.

The BBG’s original mission was to run radio stations like Voice of America and, more recently, Radio Free Asia, targeting the populations of countries that were considered military enemies of the US. Among other things, BBG has been criticized for simply being a propaganda operation, a part of a hostile operation against political adversaries:

Wherever we feel there is an ideological enemy, we’re going to have a Radio Free Something (…) They lean very heavily on reports by and about dissidents in exile. It doesn’t sound like reporting about what’s going on in a country. Often, it reads like a textbook on democracy, which is fine, but even to an American it’s rather propagandistic.

One could ask, what kind of interest could the BBG possibly have in privacy activism such as that supposedly championed by the Tor project? None, of course. But they might be interested in providing dissidents in hostile countries with a way to avoid censorship, maybe even to plot rebellion without being detected by the regime’s Internet surveillance. Radio Free Asia had for years been troubled by the Chinese government’s tendency to block their transmission frequencies. Maybe Tor could be used to blast a hole in the Great Chinese Firewall?

At the same time, Tor could be used by operatives from agencies like the CIA, the NSA or the FBI to hide their tracks when perusing e.g. Al Qaeda web sites.

But, if the US government promotes this tool to dissidents in Russia, China or Iran as a creation of the US government – why would they trust it? And, if an Al Qaeda site suddenly got a spike of visitors all using Tor – maybe they’d figure it out anyway, if Tor was known as a US government tool? Wouldn’t it be nice if millions of people used Tor because they thought they were “sticking it to the man” and “protecting their privacy”, giving legitimacy with respect to the dissidents and cover to the agents?

And so, Tor the Privacy Tool was born. People were told that if they used Tor and were careful, it was cryptographically impossible that anyone should know which sites they were visiting. Except for the fact that Tor has all the time had serious (unintentional) weaknesses which meant that hidden services might have their IP exposed and web site visitors might, with some probability, be identified even if they were using Tor correctly. And using Tor correctly is already very difficult.

Yes, someone like Edward Snowden who knew about its weaknesses and had considerable insight into its security issues could indeed use Tor safely to perform his leaks and communicate about them, for a short while. But advising people in repressive societies with no technical insight who may have their lives at stake doing really serious things to rely on this tool might be … completely irresponsible. Like sending someone in battle with a wooden toy gun.

And maybe, just maybe, the American government was happy enough letting these pesky privacy activists run around with their wooded toy gun, courtesy of Uncle Sam, instead of doing something stupid like demanding effective regulations. And who better to evangelize this wooden toy gun but Jacob Appelbaum, the now-disgraced Tor developer who toured the world pretending to “stick it to the Man”, all the while working for a military contractor and netting a $100,000 paycheck directly from the American government? Maybe, in that sense, Tor as a privacy tool was always worse than nothing.

These are just a few of the topics covered in Yasha Levine’s new book Surveillance Valley. Levine’s idea is to cover the military roots of the modern computer industry, and he does that in gory and unsettling detail.  Apart from cybernetics, ARPA, Google and Tor he also covers the influence of cybernetics on the counterculture and its later history of WIRED magazine and the Californian ideology. It also offers a critical examination of the consequences of Edward Snowden’s leaks.

This is not a flawless book; Levine has a point he wishes to get through, and in order to get there, he occasionally resorts “hatchet job” journalism, painting people’s motives in an artificially unfavourable light or not researching his accusations thoroughly enough. For instance, Levine accuses Dingledine and the Tor project of giving vulnerabilities to the government for possible exploitation before making them public. The example he gives to prove that assertion is wrong, and I guess he makes the mistake because his eagerness to nail them made him sloppy, and because Levine himself lacks the technical expertise to see why the vulnerability he mentions (TLS normalization, detectability of Tor traffic) couldn’t possibly have been unknown to others at the time.

But, apart from that, I wholeheartedly recommend the book. It tells a story about Silicon Valley that really isn’t told enough, and it points out some really unpleasant – but, alas, all too true – aspects of the technology that we have all come to depend on. Google, the “cool” and “progressive” do-good-company, in fact a military contractor that helps American drones kill children in Yemen and Afghanistan? As well as a partner in predictive policing and a collector of surveillance data that the NSA may yet try to use to control enemy populations in a Cybernetics War 2.0? The Tor Project as paid shills of the belligerent US foreign policy? And the Internet itself, that supposedly liberating tool, was originally conceived as a surveillance and control mechanism?

Yes, unfortunately – in spite of the book’s flaws, true on all counts. For those of us who love free software because we love freedom itself, that should be an eyeopener.

Technoshamanism and Free Digital Territories in Benevento, Italy

From October 23 to 29, an international seminar about technoshamanism and the concept of “Digital Land” or “free digital territories” was held in the autonomous ecological project Terra Terra near Reino, Benevento, Italy. The event was organized by Vincenzo Tozzi announced on the Bricolabs Mailing List. The seminar was held in the form of a “Pajelança Quilombólica Digital”, as it’s called in Brazilian Portuguese, a “digital shamanism” brainstorming on the possibilities of using free digital territories to connect free real-world territories.

Vincenzo Tozzi is the founder of the Baobáxia project which is run by the Brazilian network Rede Mocambos, and the main point of departure was the future of Baobáxia – sustainability, development, paths for the future.

Arriving in Napoli, I had the pleasure of meeting Hellekin and Natacha Roussel from Brussels who had received the call through the Bricolabs list. Vince had arranged that we could stay in the Mensa Occupata, a community-run squat in central Napoli that was occupied in 2012 and is the home of a hackerspace, a communal kitchen and a martial arts gym, the “Palestra Populare Vincenzo Leone”, where I was pleased to see that my own favourite capoeira is among the activities.

The actual seminar took place in much more rural settings outside Reino, in the country known locally as “terra delle streghe” or “land of the witches”. With respect to our desire to work with free territories and the inherent project of recuperating and learning from ancestral traditions, the area is interesting in the sense that the land is currently inhabited by the last generation of farmers to cultivate the land with traditional methods supported by an oral tradition which har mostly been lost in the most recent decades.  During the seminar, we had the opportunity to meet up with people from the local cooperative Lentamente, which is working to preserve and recuperate the traditional ways of growing crops and keeping animals without machines (hence the name “lentamente”, slowly) as well as trying to preserve as much as possible of the existing oral traditions.

During the seminar, we accomodated to the spirit of the territory and the settings by dividing the day into two parts: In the morning, we would go outside and work on the land until lunchtime, which would be around three o’clock.  After dinner, we’d dedicate the evenings to more general  discussions as well as to relaxing, often still covering important ground.

After lunch, hopefully properly wake and inspired by the fresh air and the beauty of the countryside, we would start looking at the technical side of things, delve into the code, discuss protocols and standards and explore possible pathways to the future. Among other things, we built some stairs and raised beds on a hillside leading up to the main buildings and picked olives for about twenty litres of oil.

As for the technical side of the encounter, we discussed the structure of the code, the backend  repositories and the offline synchronization process with newcomers to the project, reviewed various proposals for the technical future of the project and installed two new mucuas. In the process, we identified some bugs and fixed a couple of them.

An important aspect  of the concept of “free digital territories” is that we are looking for and using new metaphors for software development. Middle-class or otherwise well-off people who are used to have the means to employ servants or hire e.g. a lawyer whenever they need one may find it easy to conceive of a computer as a “server”  whose life is dedicated to serving its “clients”. For armies of office workers, having a computer pre-equipped with a “desktop” absolutely makes sense. But in the technoshamanism and quilombolic networks we’re not concerned with perpetuating the values and structures of capitalist society. We wish to provide software for free territories, and thus our metaphors are not based on the notion of clients and servers, but of digital land: A mucúa or node of the Baobáxia system is not a “server”, it’s digital land for the free networks to grow and share their culture.

Another important result was that the current offline synchronization and storage using git and git-annex can be generalized to other applications. Baobáxia currently uses a data format whose backend representation and synchronization is fixed by convention, but we could build other applications using the same protocol, a protocol for “eventually connected federated networks“. Other examples of applications that could use this technology for offline or eventually connected communications is wikis, blogs and calendars. One proposal is therefore to create an RFC for this communication, basically documenting and generalizing Baobáxia’s current protocol. The protocol, which at present includes the offline propagation of requests for material not present on a local node of the system, could also be generalized to allow arbitrary messages and commands, e.g. requesting the performance of a service known to be running in another community, to be stored offline and performed when the connection actually happens. This RFC (or RFCs) should be supplemented by proof-of-concept applications which should not be very difficult to write.

This blog post is a quick summary of my personal impressions, and I think there are many more stories to be told about the threads we tried to connect those days in Benevento. All in all, the encounter was very fruitful and I was happy to meet new people and use these days to concentrate of the future of Baobáxia and related projects for free digital territories.

The Catalan experience

Yesterday, I went to the protest in Barcelona against the incarceration of the leaders of Omnium and ANC, two important separatist movements.

The Catalan question is complex, and there are lots of opinions on all sides. However, after speaking with a lot of people down here and witnessing a quite large demonstration – as shown in these photos – it seems clear that Catalan nationalism is *not* about excluding anyone the way Danish racism and British UKIP-ism is.

After all, Catalonia has been an immigration destination for years, and people are used to living together with two or more languages, with family members from all over Spain. The all-too-familiar right-wing obsession with Islam and the “terror threat” is conspicuously absent from Catalan politics.

And it’s not all about language or regional identity, as many Spanish-speaking people with origins in other parts of Spain wholeheartedly support Catalan indepence.

Rather, it’s about a rejection of and rebellion against the Spanish state which is seen as oppressive and riddled by remnants of Francoism. The slogans were radical: “Fora les forces d’ocupació”, “out with the occupation forces!” and “the streets will always be ours!”

Indeed, for many of the young people it seems to be about getting rid of the Spanish state in order to implement a much more leftist policy on all levels of society – as one sign had it, “we’re seditious, we want to rebel and declare indepence and have a revolution!” First independence, afterwards people will take charge themselves, seems to be the sentiment.

“The people rules and the government obeys!” – is another slogan. The conservative forces behind Puigdemont (the current president) may have other ideas, but for now these are the people they have allied themselves with – people who actually believe in the direct rule of the people themselves. Looking at the people present in the demo, it’s clear that it’s a really broad section of society – old and young, but everybody very peaceful and friendly. There were so many people in the streets that it was getting too much, some especially old people had to be escorted out through the completely filled streets.

The European Union may have decided that Catalans should forget all about independence for the sake of the peace of mind of everyone, but these people honestly don’t seem to give a damn.

We need to talk about the social media silos

O Jaraguá é Guaraní

The photo displayed above is from a protest in São Paulo on August 30. The protest was because a federal court in São Paulo has decided to strip the area called Jaraguá of its status as indigenous land, effectively expulsing 700 men, women and children from the land they’re currently occupying, no doubt to satisfy hungry developers and real estate vendors in their dreams of seeing soy fields and shopping malls wherever clean forests and rivers can still be found.

The Guaraní will, as may be appreciated from these photos and from this video, not be taking this lying down, in fact the Jaraguá’s designation as indigenous land in 2015 was the result of decades of struggle on their part. With the current Brazilian government, however, and the possibility of the arrival of an even more right-wing one with the presidential elections next years, the prospects might be very bleak indeed.

The aspect of this case which I want to discuss stems from the fact that the photo above as well as the album it links to was taken by my friend Rafael Frazão, an active member of the technoshamanism network who has been instrumental in establishing a collaboration with the Guaraní in Mbya, Pico de Jaraguá (see here, in Portuguese, for an example of this collaboration). As many members of the network use Facebook to communicate, everyone posted the photos of the videos there – and something strange happens: The photos and videos from the protest got much less attention than everything else the same people were posting, as if Facebook was deciding that some things are best left unsaid and consequently declined to show this very protest to anyone.

I’m guessing that the reason is that Facebook’s algorithms figured out the pictures are about a protest and that protests are given low priority because they don’t sit well with ad buyers, e.g., they fall afoul of the algorithms that maximize ad revenue. All in all, a non-political consequence of some people’s reaction to this kind of material.

The effect, however, of this algorithmic decision is highly political. I apologize for speaking in all caps here, but effectively, and especially for those millions of people who use Facebook as their main communication channel, this means that Facebook SPECIFICALLY silenced news about a protest against more than 700 people having their land STOLEN beneath them as just one small step of an ONGOING GENOCIDE against the indigenous population in Brazil. Censorship hardly gets any more serious than that.

But what would the company’s general attitude to that kind of controversy be? Well, in his highly readable review of three books about Facebook, John Lanchester notes that

An early experiment came in the form of Free Basics, a program offering internet connectivity to remote villages in India, with the proviso that the range of sites on offer should be controlled by Facebook. ‘Who could possibly be against this?’ Zuckerberg wrote in the Times of India. The answer: lots and lots of angry Indians. The government ruled that Facebook shouldn’t be able to ‘shape users’ internet experience’ by restricting access to the broader internet. A Facebook board member tweeted that ‘anti-colonialism has been economically catastrophic for the Indian people for decades. Why stop now?’ As Taplin points out, that remark ‘unwittingly revealed a previously unspoken truth: Facebook and Google are the new colonial powers.’

This kind of censorship, and Google’s and Facebook’s arrogance and colonial attitudes, would not be a problem if these companies were just players among players, but they’re not. For a large majority of Internet users, Google and Facebook are the Internet. With the site itself, Messenger, Instagram and Whatsapp, Facebook is sitting on a near-monopoly on communication between human beings. It’s come to the point where the site is seriously difficult to abandon, with sports clubs, schools and religious organizations using it as their only communication infrastructure.

During the twelve years I’ve followed the free software movement, I’ve seen the movement go back and forth, sometimes winning, sometimes losing, never gaining much ground, but never losing in a big way either.

I suppose with the rise of Google and especially Facebook, this has changed: Free software has lost the battle for nothing less than electronic communication between human beings to a proprietary behemoth, and it is already – exemplified in a very minor and random way by the Guaraní – doing serious damage to democracy, to freedom of speech and to civil society in general.

So, dear lovers of free software, how do we turn this around? Ideally, we could solve the problem for ourselves by creating interoperable platforms built on free software and open standards and convince everybody we want to communicate with to follow us there. So easy, and yet so difficult. How do we do it?