A Cosmic Battle: Technology for Liberation vs Technology for Control
- Many electronic tools used by totalitarian regimes were created by democratic countries.
- At the same time many thinkers speculated that electronic media would facilitate dictatorship, when in fact they are demolishing all dictatorships: radio and television destroyed communism, social media are destroying Arab fascists.
- Media technology allows people to talk to each other, it fuels discontent and fosters mobilization.
- The cyber-utopians of the 1990s were focused on Western society, but the cyberspace, instead, created utopia in the least technological societies on the planet.
- The liberating effect of technology is stronger in totalitarian societies, where its benefits are bigger for ordinary people than for the state
- The control effect of technology is stronger in free societies, where its benefits are bigger for ordinary people than for the state.
- After the introduction of a new technology there is usually a brief interlude when (some) ordinary people are better than the government at using a new technology, whether Martin Luther with the printing press or the early Internet activists; and this may cause veritable revolutions.
- For a while the public is better at appropriating a new technology than government is, but eventually government catches up because it has superior resources. Initially, a technology is more likely to be used to "liberate", while later it is more likely to be a tool to "control".
- The tool of liberation becomes a tool of control.
- Mass media that originally helped the public are later used by the establishment to create shared values that conform with the values of the establishment.
- The more powerful the technology, the more liberating it can be; but also, later, the more controlling.
- Liberty can indirectly reveal an powerful instrument of control.
- Initially citizens are not accountable; then the government is not accountable; then citizens are made accountable by the government. It is much more difficult to make the government accountable.
- We need to understand machines, not just design them.