Technology creates power

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The more powerful technology becomes, the more power an individual can gain over others by picking up that technology and using it offensively. The more technology there is available and the more technology defines our lives, the easier it is for that to happen.

This doesn't mean just physical weaponry, either. It means financial instruments, operating systems, religious beliefs, mass-media outlets – anything that one person (or a small group with a shared agenda) can use to exert a statistically predictable influence on the behavior of many, many others.

When the technology is just a rock or a heavy bone, the power-differential is fairly small and the safety-zone is large. To be safe from malicious individuals, you just need to keep them at a distance of a few feet.

When the technology is human-powered projectile weapons, the power differential is still relatively small – one person with an arrow can still only kill one other person at a time; safety lies just over the hill, or behind a gated wall. It takes a the warriors of one entire village to kill the population of another entire village.

When the technology is artificially-powered projectile weapons, or the ability to know where someone is at any moment of the day, safety can only truly be obtained by constraining the source – preventing people from owning excessively powerful weapons or from being allowed ad-lib access to networked devices you might own.

Political power – power over other people – does not come from government; it exists whether there is government or not. Government is how we channel and control that power in order to minimize harm. It often fails spectacularly, and the mechanisms for channelling may become their own hazard, but that is true of any power-conduit. Failures of government are not evidence against the necessity of government. They are evidence of a need to redesign government.

Links

  • 2014-10-19 "Okay, let's get this straight" (CWRE reshare): original writing from which this page was adapted