Ideas, Information, Identity, and the Internet: Part I - The Seeds of ChangeSubmitted by spacehabitats on Tue, 07/31/2012 - 14:35
Ideas, Information, Identity, and the Internet: Part I - The Seeds of Change
The Ron Paul Revolution wasn’t about Ron Paul. It wasn’t even about us, his supporters. Many people believe that it was about his ideas; and that IS getting closer to the truth.
Fundamentally, the Revolution was about the Internet. It was about a new way for people to meet, communicate and collaborate. Like-minded lovers of individual liberty who had been struggling in isolation, were finally able to join forces and make things happen. This was a powerful and heady experience for most of us; so exhilarating that we didn’t even stop to question how or why it was happening.
The honeymoon is over. The crisis is upon us. It is time to start thinking.
Marx believed that control of the ‘means of production’ was key. Marx was wrong. People are controlled by information. Gutenberg’s Bible was revolutionary because it (potentially) brought information to the masses. But information was still controlled by the publishers. And since the invention of radio and television, by the broadcasters.
Whether it was the priests in the monasteries or Rupert Murdoch and his media empire, the principle has remained the same; a small group of powerful people controls the one-way flow of information (news, education, entertainment) to the masses.
With the advent of the Internet, the information oligarchy struggled to maintain its control. One of the most egregious examples was ‘America Online’. These ‘gateways’ to the Web succeeded for awhile only because the technology was new enough and consumers were ignorant enough to need their ‘help’.
Since then it has been a continual war between the feudalistic forces of centralization and the pioneers opening up new frontiers in cyberspace. Newspapers and cable channels have created online counterparts. Others have created their own digital-only outlets for publishing news, music, or videos. Publishers have become increasingly creative in their efforts to create the next big thing that would cause people to willingly line up to give them money for the information that they deemed ‘fit to print’.
The newest and subtlest forms of control are almost invisible. Search engines like Google and pseudo-democratic information services like Wikipedia SEEM to offer free and unlimited access to information, and in most cases do. But those in charge of the nexus still have the ability to censor or even alter information. The fact that the control is uncommon, accomplished in secret and by proprietary means, only renders it more invisible and thereby more toxic.
But people have been surprisingly and stubbornly resistant to each new ploy. And it has not just been their desire to get something for nothing or even their desire for interactivity. There is something fundamentally unsatisfying in all of these products which rely on centralized control. They all lack something that seems to be an aching need in our souls.
That something is freedom.
Freedom isn’t wanting something for free. Freedom is wanting to be able to choose. And choice comes in many subtle ways.
Freedom is not anarchy. Freedom comes when free men freely choose to follow rules in dealing with one another.
But not all sets of rules are created equally. A faulty set of rules, like a faulty program, leaves flaws that can exploited. Those with the proper tools or talents can ‘game the system’. Depending on the degree of the flaw and the rapacity or motives of the exploiters, the system may come crashing down at once or may persist in a weakened form; the perpetual victim of parasites.
There is something inherently important about online forums. They have the potential for allowing the exchange of information in a form that is unprecedented in human history. They could irreversibly change the political and economic landscape of humanity.
I say ‘potential’ because in their current form they are only a pale ghost of what they could become.
What is holding them back?
The problem is noise.
Not the auditory kind, the informational kind.
(More in "Part II - The Problem")