3 April 2015

The throes of transition to a new world

The Blog

The arena of global “welfare” can include access to food and healthcare. [53] However, it is also possible that this arena could be extended to include energy security, water and other resources. Wallerstein notes that ideologues of the present world order will congratulate themselves on the triumphs of technology derived from global production through the international division of labor, but the only triumphs they can cite are unsustainable for them. Structural collapses, pending as a result on the issues already discussed in the previous three targets, will surely eliminate this sole redeeming attribute of the world order. [54] The move for technology-powered emancipation would focus on finding ways of sustaining and keeping global welfare intact. Aspects of the world order that appear calculated to preserve the production process by keeping industrial secrets in the hands of the few are really aimed at keeping the production process maximally profitable. As technology races forward in terms of medicine, energy and agriculture, it will only become a scandal that it is being developed and used for purposes of profit rather than humanitarian needs. Techno-liberation actions could include a moral need to violate patents and security concerns to make more medical and food supplies available to the world poor.

“Stability of religious institutions” is the fifth arena, specified by Immanuel Wallerstein for its social significance. We can note that there is said to be a religious revival, and even a resurgence of reactionary beliefs interfering in popular scientific literacy because of this. [55] In fact, in all ways, the various religious revivals are minor in comparison with the ultimately secular debates that have been handed down to religious institutions from the political sphere, e.g. debates addressing human rights. This proves that religious institutions are actually turning towards the progressive side as a result of social commentary, accommodating such things as the search for equality for women. [56] Although religious institutions could become fortresses for reactionary attitudes, on the whole the nation-state is a worse such fortress that needs to be overcome. There is nothing inherently bad about religious institutions and sects, when it comes to uniting humans and eliminating disparities. As implied in the discussion of the first target, religious sectarian identity is possibly a more preferable vehicle than national identity when it comes to overcoming disparities, because at least religious identity can be transnational. This allows religious identity to be available as a cultural clothing to criticize some of the worst and most oppressive aspects of the world system. Religious symbolism and argument can be justified, if they lead towards egalitarian ends, and religious rhetoric always addresses the problem of inequality more willingly and more effectively than archaic nation-state rhetoric. Taking religious identities and doctrines forward using modern communication technologies, and encouraging tolerance among religions in the face of global political injustice, is the best objective regarding religious institutions for the interests of techno-liberation.

Of the five arenas discussed, the fourth (“welfare”) is the most relevant to techno-liberation. On the discussion of how techno-liberation can enhance welfare immediately, the possibility of hacking the real world rather than the information world opens up. The most important techno-liberation mission is incumbent on the people who are privileged enough, by accident of birth and education, to be involved in high-tech production processes. Their charity for the impoverished section of the world should be undertaken, much as people who value freedom of information can become whistleblowers and leakers if they have access to secretive material. While this often has involved unlawful actions, it has also been repeatedly pointed out that moral obligations can ultimately take priority over the law in some cases. If one has access to a very definite industrial secret or technology that could easily be circulated to improve living in deprived parts of the world, then some part of the blame for sustaining gross inequality rests with such a worker and it ought to be gnawing at him. Although items of technology may not yet be futuristic enough to be “compact” sufficiently to be leaked and reproduced by people as information can be reproduced on the internet, we can still await a window in which they will be sufficiently “compact.” It is possible that certain machines will be able to replicate themselves, or that synthetic life-forms could replicate on their own and so only be “leaked” once. The high likelihood that such powerful technology will be sufficiently “compact” for democratic circulation in the future makes the act of leaking these technologies to weaker nations for moral and ethical reasons a very real option. Such “hard-leak” actions, no doubt, would be met with criticism from the powerful, but the vast majority of the world would praise those actions as heroic just as they have praised the leaking of controversial government data.

In sum, we can posit that techno-liberators can approach the throes of transition to a new world system optimistically if they consider the kind of technological opportunities that exist, and if they support a variety of radical options to empower the people. A large amount of the structural oppression in the world can be delegitimized and overpowered through a basically technological form of progress and liberation. Chiefly, the exploitative productive relations between “primitive” parts of the world and the “advanced” parts of the world, responsible for sustaining the global inequality, could easily be lanced by a generation of hard-leakers. It merely requires the courage to stand up for an equal world that will not be divided between people with advanced technology and people who must endure severely deprived and encumbered lives merely because of a sad accident of birth.

Excerpt from Bentham, H. J., Catalyst: A Techno-Liberation Thesis (2013)

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