The misconception that technology enslaves us can be contrasted with another view. A perspective that sees technology as a tool for individual emancipation. Thoughts on the new digital age by Claudio Grass. Internet – the Decentralized (R)evolution.
Internet – the Decentralized (R)evolution
People are driven by different motives. Some see the greatest happiness in the accumulation of material values, others are driven by spiritual values. I personally am driven by ideas. My ideas are based on principles and values that give everyone the natural right to control their body and mind. Man is not a means to an end, but an end himself, said Immanuel Kant. The only limit to free development should be the coercion of fellow human beings.
Therefore I would like to tell you about the development to which we are all witnesses. I would like to contrast the widespread misconception that technology enslaves us and deprives us of freedom, that it will be more powerful in the hands of the state than in the hands of the individual, with a different view. A perspective that sees technology as a tool for individual emancipation.
The ambassadors of doom such as Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg or Stephen Hawking and the people who say that Big Brother will only become more powerful through the development of new technologies should be contradicted.
Of course I do this from a position of uncertainty and humility. I acknowledge the concerns and challenges that digital technology is seen as a powerful tool, worried that it may also cause great harm. Especially when these technologies are all left to the state.
A new, digital age begins
As a “generalist” in technological issues, I first had to understand: What exactly does this mean, this digital age that everyone is talking about? What exactly has changed? What’s new that didn’t exist in our parents’ time? What is the best way to summarize all this?
The truth is very simple, as so often. The answer lies in the word “digital” itself. What has changed is that information today is synonymous with numbers. Be it a song, a book, a film, an invention, a painting, a sculpture, a symphony — they can all now be represented as numbers.
So I think it makes more sense to put it this way: At a time when the idea has become another word for number, the control of the free flow of ideas boils down to the control of the free expression of numbers. Central planners can try to prohibit certain numbers. This is not feasible in reality, to say the least. This makes state censorship and control a relic of the past.
Today’s internet is thus basically an idea machine created by and through people, because behind every creative work there are ideas which can then be interpreted and understood more or less skilfully. In the world of 3D printing, certain objects are reduced to the underlying idea. And indeed, these objects have become numbers. They can be fully understood, up to any degree of sharpness or precision, when represented as numbers.
Ideas have become numbers
So what does that mean? Ideas have become numbers. What effects can this notion have on humanity? Is it the best thing that has ever happened to us or do we have to fear the worst?
Well, thanks to the digitalisation of ideas, it has become cheaper and easier to find, store and retrieve them. And in fact, that’s what the internet has long been doing. But how are ideas produced in the first place? What is the name of the raw material on which all idea producers rely? The answer is simple, they are other ideas.
New ideas are based on old ideas. They are expanded, refuted or put into a new light: in all cases, new ideas are formed. The cheaper and easier it is to access old ideas, the cheaper and easier it is to produce new ones.
This also naturally characterizes the invention we call “the internet”, which embodies the digital age in which everything is connected. It has led to a growth in knowledge and creativity that few people would dispute.
Printing Press and Internet
Is the internet comparable to an invention from history? From my point of view there is a perfect comparison. It is of course the writing itself. And with it the instrument for the dissemination of typefaces a few thousand years later: the printing press. Interestingly, there are studies that show how Luther’s writings – thanks to the printing press – spread in Europe in a similar way to “memes” on the Internet, (albeit more slowly).
The printing press is comparable to the internet, since printed books also lowered the costs of access and idea generation. This enabled and facilitated the Renaissance, Reformation and finally the Enlightenment.
Let us summarize briefly: Mankind has made an invention – the internet – that lowers the cost of accessing and producing ideas to a level comparable to the printing press and basically allows everyone to access the “World Wide Web”. This is the rational conclusion that we must come to.
What will humanity make of it? What will the internet and digital technology ultimately be a tool for? State oppression or individual emancipation?
Separation of state and money
Those who are aware of how much freedom we have already lost in our current system due to state paternalism and forced redistribution, will be able to understand the enthusiasm it sparked in me when I heard young people in my home canton of Zug, the “Crypto-Valley”, speak of the “denationalization of currency” — the separation of money and state. Suddenly, code developers who have never heard of Friedrich August von Hayek, claim to have the means to make his dream come true!
“I think the internet will be one of the most important forces in reducing the role of government. The only thing missing, but that will be developed soon, is a reliable e-Cash solution.” Milton Friedman 1999
As an advocate of the free market economy, I have understood that state planning is always the problem and never the solution. Ludwig von Mises recognized that “the absence of market prices – and the signals that result from them – leads to a permanent waste of resources and thus to the inevitable impoverishment of society“. A meaningful cost accounting – the comparison of costs and revenues – is per se impossible in a state planning system, since a price formation for consumer goods as well as for production factors that reflects scarcity and is therefore reasonable can only come about in a free market based on the division of labour. Only on this basis is it possible to discover which projects or activities make economic sense. If prices are missing, planning is inevitably impossible.
Decentralized technology on an open source basis means that there is a possibility to change from the existing centralized system to a decentralized and thus free “non-system”.
This is followed by a continuation of the article entitled: “Does Bitcoin have what it takes to be digital gold?”