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Does technology really matter?

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memenode's picture
User offline. Last seen 33 weeks 6 days ago. Offline
Joined: 2004-07-12

I still define liberty as a state of being in which you're free to do "whatever floats your boat as long as it doesn't sink mine". From my perspective this reflects non-aggression or non-coercion and obviously requires tolerance. It is predicated on the belief that even while you believe others to be wrong about their beliefs and their acts to be evil, you would not interfere by force if they don't initiate force on you or anyone else.

So where does technology come in? Technology are tools which in modern day tend to severely amplify the abilities of its users, but it is still just a tool so when we discuss ways in which technology can be used for or against freedom we first have to agree on what freedom is and how do we want to pursue it, and that is harder than it may seem because there is a breadth of political and philosophical movements which claim to know what freedom is and what is the right strategy of pursuing it. And considering how strongly opinionated advocates of any of these particular movements may be this kind of discussion alone can go on indefinitely, before even touching the issue of technology.

It comes down to what we want to accomplish, not which tools we will use to accomplish it. I can say that a goal someone else wants to accomplish is a wrong goal, but not because he will use technology to do it - that has nothing to do with the argument - but because of a more fundamental disagreement than that.

So where does technology matter at all?

  • 1. The drama effect. This is where we say that consequences of pursuing a particular goal would be bad, and then to make it sound even worse point out how dramatically worse these consequences would be if technology was effectively used in its pursuit. An example can be the idea of fascism applied in modern days where technology allows for a much more perfect state surveillance and control. However, aside from adding the drama effect in hope of sounding convincing, this argument is actually meaningless. It is more emotional than it is rational.
  • 2. Method of using technology to achieve your goals. This is where technology obviously matters. It represents a wide array of tools, but to be most effective you have to know which to use and how. If we have a community of people looking to pursue liberty through technology this assumes that within that community there already is a consensus on what liberty is and what is the right strategy of achieving it.
  • 3. Access to technology. This is basically a pre-condition to any of the above. This is where Free Software movement comes in, for example, and might actually be the last hope for a positive answer to the question in this topic, if we lack consensus on freedom.

So without consensus on what is freedom and how to go about achieving it, technology is meaningless. And the only thing we can discuss is access.. Personally, this presents a bit of an obstacle to my writing on this reborn Libervis.com, because my views on liberty and strategy of acheiving it tend to be unpopular even in this previously very seemingly freedom-loving community. What consensus can I possibly hope to achieve on this site if I at the same time deliberately try to invite a multitude of diverse views on what is freedom (thereby actually working against consensus)?

And if I can't do that, then what is left for us to do on this site is just keep talking about access to technology, or in other words, free software, free culture, open standards, mass availability of disruptive technologies (in hands of all, not just the elite few) etc...

What do you think?

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Daniel Memenode signature