You can't beat politics with technology, says Pirate Bay cofounder Peter Sunde

Pirate Bay cofounder Peter Sunde spoke to about the problems with the file-sharing website in its current form, the "imminent death" of peer-to-peer and the centralised services that leave us open to NSA surveillance. He also urges people to dispel their political apathy to prevent the emergence of a new Stasi-style era of oppression. People who are disenchanted with politics and the financial system should try and engage with the democratic process rather than turn to technology for alternative methods of doing things, says Peter Sunde, cofounder of The Pirate Bay.

"You can't beat politics with new technology all the time. Sometimes you have to actually make sure that politics are in line with what people want. A lot of people are giving up on politics and thinking they can solve issues with technology. These kind of arrogant behaviours towards the rest of the society are a bit disgusting," Sunde told in a Skype interview.

His response was provoked by a question about Bitcoin, a technology that he thinks is "interesting" and has a fascinating story behind it, but one that he feels is symbolic of a depressing widespread lack of trust in politics. 

"We are a community of people, we have politicians that we elect, we can demand that they do things," he says, "but we are way too lazy to do that today".

His concern is that "we are just giving up". "We have this hatred of politicians who we just see as being corrupt and we don't trust them any more so we try to do things outside of where they can bother us." This includes setting up cryptocurrencies that are difficult to monitor and tax (Sunde is a firm believer in taxation, since it allows communities to build shared infrastructure).

"The distrust of the political system is unhealthy," he says. Instead of building tools such as Bitcoin, which he believes give "a carte blanche" to politicians and bankers, we should be forcing them to change -- in Sunde's view we should be aiming towards community-owned banks. "We need a revolution instead of a technology evolution."

The lack of engagement with the democratic process and reliance on technology is a particular problem now because we consider "the clever people" to be those who know about technology. He describes "nerds" as the "new elite" -- the very people who should be helping to fix the political system. But they "are kind of lazy bastards who are too arrogant to go onto the streets. They are too arrogant to see it's important to not think that we can solve problems with better technology".

He says that you are not going to stop the police from chasing you just because you have the best encryption in the world. "You actually need to go somewhere and vote and make sure you don't have corrupt police," he explains. "But there's a faith in technology as the saviour, as the new Messiah, and that's definitely not the case. I really don't see any revolution happening."

Political ambitions

Sunde hopes to try and instigate that revolution in his quest to become a member of the European Parliament as a candidate for the Pirate Party. His campaign will launch in January 2014 and he is planning his policies until then. He wanted to run independently, but the EU doesn't allow for this, "which is kind of weird". He's actually more of a socialist and would be more likely to vote for the left-wing parties in the Nordics ("where they are sane"), but they consider him to be too controversial a character.

Although he doubts he'll win a seat in the European Parliament, he hopes he can inspire people to take an interest in European politics. "If I get in there are so many things I could draw attention to even if I was just going there to make fun of things."

He finds it "really strange" how detached people in European countries feel from the European Parliament when it has so much influence over national legislation. We tend to joke about extraordinary Brussels-originated policies relating to the dimensions of fruit and vegetables or the fact that politicians are sent there and no one knows what they are doing. "It's just this grotesque monster and you don't see anything happening except when you want to stop some of the crazy legislation they come up with some times. We have this union and we have voting rights and we don't care enough. It's just insane that we agreed to have this parliament if that's the way we look at it."

Digital rights

The EU isn't the only grotesque monster. A major looming threat is TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership), another secretly-negotiated trade agreement in the ilk of Acta and Sopa. Instead of taking a whack-a-mole approach to fighting these treaties, we should be more aggressive in enshrining our digital rights in "some sort of internet human rights bill" to prevent TPP from simply reemerging under another guise.

He suggests that people might be apathetic towards politics because "we've already given up". People complained about the NSA surveillance revelations, but "nothing is really happening" -- there's no one storming American embassies. "I worry that we don't really care about our digital rights any more and we are not fighting for them."

Part of the problem is that most people don't currently feel that their digital rights are being repressed in any major way. "We don't really know what it's going to be like if we lose all these rights or what happens when the data about you starts to be abused. That's not going to happen until it's too late," he says.


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