Contemporary society would give 20th-century science fiction writers a run for their money. Between augmented reality, virtual reality, self-driving cars, and cloning capabilities, it appears as though humanity is moving forward, blazing our way into the future with mutual benefit for all as we climb up the evolutionary ladder. Technology is largely the driving force behind our perpetual innovation. It is responsible for shrinking the world to the point where we can communicate across the globe with the touch of a finger on a keyboard. It has created countless jobs by way of Silicon Valley, cybersecurity, and innumerable other sectors of the economy that it would take forever and a day to list.
Ostensibly, this is a good thing, and taken one step further, it is liberating. Increased technological capabilities have given even average citizens access to an incomprehensible amount of information, information that shows us where we’ve been and where we’re going, information that teaches us the nuances of even the most complex scientific formulas, information that has the potential to turn even any layman into an expert (if not a certified expert, an expert nonetheless).
Techno-libertarians are individuals of the belief that the internet puts more power in the hands of the average joe. They’re optimists who choose to think that incredible inventions like the internet or drones put more power in the hands of the common folk; and when we look at technology’s ability to disrupt contemporary regulation like in the case of Uber or Bitcoin, this sort of ‘taking back the power’ seems rational.
However, I would like to posit that this is not necessarily the case. In reality, technology may not erode state power, but rather increase its control. Consider if you will the advent of prevailing technologies. Things like the internet may encourage various government agencies to implement new more controlling legislation. Such laws could limit our access to information, or increase the government’s ability to monitor our access to information, which would hold the same repercussions.
Although it should most certainly be mentioned that the internet has in fact, on several occasions, helped personal liberty (like in Turkey for example), the majority of consensus seems to be that personal liberty is, in actuality, on the decline. China and Russia have established elaborate measures with which to combat the average citizen’s formerly unprecedented access to information. By imposing these restrictive policies, these largely negatively perceived governments are able to marginalize and extinguish any potential popular discontent that may give rise to a social reformation. Complementing such morally questionable behavior is the fact that in other, less consolidated nations, terror groups are able to use the internet to promote persuasive libel that then manipulates the uneducated into joining a misguided cause or causes that could potentially cause them their life.
In this regard, some digital restriction is clearly advisable, if not downright necessary; but again, digital restriction can easily give rise domineering governments. There is a balance to be struck, and while a correlation of increased freedom with increased technological ability is possible, it’s not necessarily plausible. The fact is only time will tell, and we will adapt as the world changes.