18 November 2014

An Introduction to Techno-Liberation

. @hjbentham. #catalyst. #futurism. #transhumanism. #liberation.

The following as an extract from my 2013 pamphlet, Catalyst: A Techno-Liberation Thesis, available in print and Kindle at Amazon.

“The gravest danger to freedom lies at the perilous crossroads of radicalism and technology”
George W. Bush
The gravest danger to hegemony and oppression lies at the transformational crossroads of liberation and technology. An emerging technology, when allowed to cause an unguided explosion of benefits, has the greatest potential of all things to emancipate oppressed and deprived groups in the world and defeat injustices.

“BioLuddites”, as they are interrogated by James Hughes in his 2004 book Citizen Cyborg, believe the vital emerging technologies of the near future will only increase inequality and deprivation in the world. This thesis makes a raw argument for the exact opposite outcome, by greeting a maximally free and unregulated explosion of radical emerging technologies in the world as the only solution to world inequality. By promoting a long-term historical understanding of the democratization of technology, current global social trends and the democratic possibilities of several emerging technologies, the liberating potential of technology and the opportunity to resist oppression with technology become undeniable. The case argued here is that some of the various technology explosions, already in their formative state now, can be predicted to reduce inequality between states and sections of society rather than worsening it.

The prediction argued in this thesis, namely that a few great world-transforming technologies in coming decades will potentially liberate and empower people who are disadvantaged, is inspired by the democratic success of the internet, which outgrew the ambitions of its creators. The internet is now the main front for giving voices to the voiceless, and offers new subtle means of empowerment and resistance to the weak. It is time to recognize how technology is starting to play an undeniable role in liberating and empowering people and is not simply a transitory weapon that can be borrowed by the liberators. It may be time for all breeds of progressives to take a more enthusiastic stance on emerging technologies set to shake society in fundamental ways. Let us at least add to the progressive narrative a consideration of how various other imminent tech explosions, unguided, could be massively liberating like the internet.

Emerging technologies are reaching the point at which their potential can radically exceed the expectations of their creators and owners, and no longer serve elite interests even if they are created to benefit elites. Key technologies, even if they are hiding with little publicity as yet, could be set to become the prime instruments of liberation in coming decades. If so, then adopting a view that favors the relevant technological developments and rejects constraints and ethical controls over them will benefit progressive interests tremendously. This book is not advocating a techno-centric worldview or techno-utopia, nor is it part of an existing program or utopian sect. It merely posits “liberation technologies” as big arena of impending global liberation, especially now that the internet has already shown its capacity to empower people. The internet is not a blip in technology that just happened to accidentally empower people. It is part of a real trend of technology progressing fast enough to outgrow its creators’ initial goals and then work to spontaneously liberate the common man.

This book contains a thesis in four chapters, the first two looking at “is” questions about techno-liberation and the second two looking at “ought” questions. The thesis is structured to add increased detail and academic backup to support arguments I have already presented in articles aimed at a variety of progressive and futurist readers. In the first chapter of the argument, “Equal Technology”, I assert that the overwhelming consequence of the present emerging technologies shall be the empowerment, not disempowerment, of the common man and a tremendous volume of the impoverished people residing in disadvantaged countries. No matter how elitist and monopolistic the creators of an easily circulated technology are, the ease with which it can be circulated will result in it becoming widely available and empowering a vast majority of people, decisively advantaging the poor and deprived sections of the world. In such a situation, ethicists and others who wish to constrain this chaotic empowerment for whatever reasons could risk being dismissed as ideologues for oligopoly and the further deprivation of mankind.

In the second chapter of the argument, I look at what I call “open-borders technology”, that is, existing technologies that delegitimize the current idea of the state and allow people to reach out and form values that transcend the state. This is the present greatest trend of techno-liberation that is visible in the world today, and which will and should be imitated in other leaps of techno-liberation. While I do not postulate a new form of global governance emerging from media advances, I do accept that the political geography for alternate forms of governance to be tested is emerging.

Third, looking at global social trends and impending technological opportunities that will intersect those trends, I advise some emerging targets for technology-powered liberation. The most significant of these, and unavoidable in the near future, is something I call “hard-leaks”; leaks not of information as a result of the information explosion gained by the internet, but leaks of technology as a result of miniaturization and moves towards making technology user-friendly. This will include the leaking of formerly guarded production processes and equipment to disadvantaged groups and states in the world, eliminating the root cause of the worsening global wealth disparity.

The fourth chapter of the argument focuses on the justification for taking any involved risks by endorsing trends of techno-liberation. Massive risks are certainly involved in techno-liberation, but none are greater than the risk to the advantaged and oppressive parties in the world who will seek to contain and control all the technology for themselves. Massive corporations and bully-states, prone to wage war on weaker parties, are the main ones to be seriously threatened by trends of techno-liberation. This is good news for anyone disadvantaged or impoverished in the world. A level playing field between the rich and poor parties in the world makes global equality more possible. Further, the risk is not “ours” to take: it should be up to the most disadvantaged people in the world to decide for themselves if they are ready to take the risks of techno-liberation. “We”, the people engorged on technological advantages, have no paternal role to deny them anything for any reason.

In short, decisive unchecked explosions in emerging technologies should not be feared by people who favor the emancipation and empowerment of weak groups and nations in the present global regime. In fact, such explosions should automatically be embraced for being the only media with which we can empower and liberate the weak in an age increasingly dominated by the unpredictable consequences of technology. Unpredictability and chaos upset only the incumbent powers and regimes in the world, and people who have a stake in them surviving. Further, unpredictability and chaos work in favor of disempowered and oppressed groups, and this makes any unpredicted outcomes spelled by unrestrained advancements tolerable.

By Harry J. Bentham – More articles by Harry J. Bentham

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