Askemos

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The philosophical question Rousseau asks is: Why and which obligations rational, free individuals could trade off and which benefits they receive in return from accepting the contract and thus owe obligations (to government)?

We will not discuss here whether or not the state of nature could be preferable. Instead we start from the premise that contracts are the rules of business. We accept "formally/evidentially enabling business" (by basing contracts on prior contracts all the way down ↗The Origin Of The Idea) as a desirable benefit from accepting the initial contract.

The state of nature in technical terms is comparable to an insulated computer running somewhere. While the human case is hypothetical because humans can't exist in isolation, the hypothesis in the technical case is about the question who build the machine and where does the power come from. Questions people rarely ask when using computers.

The state of nature is seen as not too bad after all. It is assumed as initial state and easy to return to (pull the network plug to feel safe).

However we realize that the single computer is all too fallible. It's a physical thing and those break. Worse: the token is controlled by some person(s) (administrator). Therefore confidence into a computer can not exceed confidence in these persons. We trust no trusted third party as much as our self. Hence the token must be owned and controlled by just one person.

Rousseau introduces the general will as the concept to keep an idea of rights and obligations "straight" in the society beyond the fallibility of the person. (We don't trust even our-self under torture. And we don't trust our self that we fully verified that our computer has no backdoor for intruders or viruses to exploit.)

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The Origin Of The Idea

Askemos was born from the minds of a Lutheran minister and his computer scientist son, conversing about the idealized societies of the Enlightenment philosophers. As opposed to designs with the lastest and greatest of the world's technology and gadgets in mind, this idea was shaped by the thought that atop of the gadgets operating system another, common layer would manage access privileges, retention and replication policies. A layer better akin to a sovereign state, such as those described in the old humanist writings rather than relying on pure technical means. Without this rare combination of epistemological conversation and technical knowledge, Askemos would never have been written.

The history of Askemos began in 1993 when dad asked good questions how comes that computer fraud is such big problem. I had to explain the purpose and weaknesses of operating systems from the background master in computer science to a philosopher with a strong background in Enlightenment but no knowledge of computer internals. We arrived at an analogy wherein the computer is a town where people - the processes - live and interact, and the operating system itself would be the arbiter in case of conflict.

Back then, the holes in computer security science became obvious when the analogy to a constitutional state was applied. The major abuse came from malicious code or persons that could take advantage of the administrative privileges built into the computer system. During the Enlightenment, philosophers suggested abuses analogous to these could be solved in theory by division and distribution of power. The question was born: could a better - a autonomous - operating system be derived by following the model and principle of a constitutional state?

The term "operating system" is no longer used. It became miss-leading over the time. While technically applicable, Askemos is an operating system "one level up": governing the operation of a network of services, not of a device. Still it survives in the OS suffix of the name: A Sch(K)EMatic Operating System.


The Initial Contract description