Tag Archives: Freedom

How digital technology is destroying our freedom

“We’re being steamrolled by our devices” —Douglas Rushkoff
By Sean Illing – There’s a whole genre of literature called “technological utopianism.” It’s an old idea, but it reemerged in the early days of the internet. The core belief is that the world will become happier and freer as science and technology develops.

The role of the internet and social media in everything from the spread of terrorist propaganda to the rise of authoritarianism has dampened much of the enthusiasm about technology, but the spirit of techno-utopianism lives on, especially in places like Silicon Valley.

Douglas Rushkoff, a media theorist at Queens College in New York, is the latest to push back against the notion that technology is driving social progress. His new book, Team Human, argues that digital technology in particular is eroding human freedom and destroying communities.

We’re social creatures, Rushkoff writes in his book, yet we live in a consumer democracy that restricts human connection and stokes “whatever appetites guarantee the greatest profit.” If we want to reestablish a sense of community in this digital world, he argues, we’ll have to become conscious users of our technology — not “passive objects” as we are now.

But what does that mean in practical terms? Technology is everywhere, and we’re all more or less dependent upon it — so how do we escape the pitfalls? more>

Tools for thinking: Isaiah Berlin’s two concepts of freedom

By Maria Kasmirli – ‘Freedom’ is a powerful word.

We all respond positively to it, and under its banner revolutions have been started, wars have been fought, and political campaigns are continually being waged.

But what exactly do we mean by ‘freedom’?

The fact that politicians of all parties claim to believe in freedom suggests that people don’t always have the same thing in mind when they talk about it.

Might there be different kinds of freedom and, if so, could the different kinds conflict with each other? Could the promotion of one kind of freedom limit another kind? Could people even be coerced in the name of freedom?

The 20th-century political philosopher Isaiah Berlin (1909-97) thought that the answer to both these questions was ‘Yes’, and in his essay ‘Two Concepts of Liberty’ (1958) he distinguished two kinds of freedom (or liberty; Berlin used the words interchangeably), which he called negativefreedom and positive freedom.

Negative freedom is freedom from interference. You are negatively free to the extent that other people do not restrict what you can do. If other people prevent you from doing something, either directly by what they do, or indirectly by supporting social and economic arrangements that disadvantage you, then to that extent they restrict your negative freedom.

Berlin stresses that it is only restrictions imposed by other people that count as limitations of one’s freedom. Restrictions due to natural causes do not count. The fact that I cannot levitate is a physical limitation but not a limitation of my freedom. more>

The Liberal Conception Of ‘Freedom’ Is Incapable Of Addressing The Problems Of Contemporary Capitalism

By Andrea Lorenzo Capussela – In a forthcoming book, Branko Milanović identifies four ‘troublesome features’ in ‘meritocratic liberal capitalism’.

In its simplest form, liberal theory – equal rights for all citizens, which guarantee their freedom, which is in turn conceived as absence of interference – has no obvious answer to those problems. For if freedom is non-interference, then it is compatible with both inequality and private domination, at least within certain bounds, as neither directly interferes with people’s individual choices.

Indeed, accepting precarious employment is a choice. And as liberals cannot say that Milanović’s four ‘troublesome features’ pose a fundamental challenge to their idea of a good society, their answer is a Ptolemaic one: sets of diverse, if potentially effective remedies such as redistribution, poverty relief, active labor market policies, civic education, and policing fake-news.

For the liberal conception of freedom is not the only conceivable one. Another notion, equally negative, is the republican or neo-roman one, which views freedom as non-domination. If I depend on someone else’s arbitrary will, or am subject to their enormous and unchecked power, I am not free, irrespective of how that power is exercised.

Hence the paradox of the ‘free slave’, frequent in republican literature: liberal theory implies that the slave who has a kind master is free, as she suffers no interference in her choices; republicans object that this depends entirely on the master’s benevolence, which can be revoked at will and may have to be cultivated: domination and unfreedom remain, therefore, and typically lead to self-censorship and a slavish mentality. more>

Saving Internet Freedom

By James L. Gattuso, Alden Abbott, Curtis S. Dubay, David Inserra, Paul Rosenzweig, Michael Sargent and Brett D. Schaefer – Regulations often create a culture of compliance.

Regulations ultimately require businesses to do certain things or face penalties.

When faced with such prospects, many companies will seek the lowest-cost way of meeting these standards, regardless of whether such actions will be the best decision for any given company.

This compliance-over-security mindset opposes innovation and real engagement with the issue at hand. As a result, regulations are a less than ideal way to encourage cost-effective investments in security. more> http://tinyurl.com/njkpxlz


The Decline Of The American Entrepreneur

By Donald J. Boudreaux and Jason Clemens – The fact is that America is no longer the home of the free—at least not economically.

Understanding the connection between economic freedom, entrepreneurship and prosperity isn’t difficult.

In a free market, entrepreneurs devise new products, as well as new methods of production and distribution. If consumers find entrepreneur Jones’s new product valuable enough to buy it a price that covers its cost, Jones reaps profits. If consumers find entrepreneur Smith’s new product to not be worth the price necessary to cover its costs, Smith suffers loses that are his to bear.

This simple market test—one in which each consumer and entrepreneur spends his or her own money, and in which almost all economic transactions are consensual—is by far the best means yet devised for ensuring not only that scarce resources are used as productively as possible, but also that creative human effort is continually called forth to discover ever-newer and better ways to use resources. more> http://tinyurl.com/nnvr24w

The ITU WCIT And Internet Freedom

By Harold Feld – A recently released ITU document summarizing various proposals to modify the existing ITU regulations (“ITRs”) confirms what folks have been saying and leaking for some time now. The Russian Federation, various Arab states, and others have submitted proposals that would expressly ratify the right of member states to disrupt communication in the name of national security, and to limit the ability of parties to route around censorship or communicate anonymously by providing members states the authority to determine routing paths and to prevent “misuse and misappropriation of numbering resources.” (See, for example, proposed MOD 30 & 31A – but there are numerous other proposals that could achieve the same end).

Current international law does not explicitly recognize the same right of governments to disrupt Internet-based services as it recognizes in basic telephony. To the contrary, the trend in International law in the last few years has been to view widespread disruption of Internet networks as a means of suppressing speech as a violation of international human rights.

Adoption of any of the pro-censorship provisions at the WCIT does not automatically lead to Internet censorship everywhere. But it would represent the first material setback to the growing international consensus that disrupting networks and otherwise exerting control over Internet traffic flows for censorship purposes violates fundamental human rights. more> http://tinyurl.com/82hfbru