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Technology PointingThis is an interesting question that has been getting some attention as sophisticated technology jumps from the realm of specialists and into mainstream. Many people are of the opinion that yes, technology can produce political change. The proof is in the pudding, they say. Twitter has the power to topple governments far more efficiently than the CIA they say. E-mail is a much better political tool than advertisement, they say. A website is a far more efficient platform than canvasing door to door they say. Well… as we are not trying to sell you a book, we will give you the correct answer up front: NO, it cannot. However… but for that you will need to read the rest of the article.

ALL POWER TO THE INTERNET… AND SURROUNDING APPS

When people speak about "technology" they are not referring to new and revolutionary mega-capacitors or super-vaccines or ultra-fast public transportation. They are referring to information transmission and processing. Basically, the internet and the means to access it and use it, particularly in economic terms.

In this sense most of the arguments to the positive (as in YES) are related to the idea that new technologies are distributed and as such they bring with them two characteristics:

  1. They empower regular people to do what only corporations could do before.
  2. Governments are powerless to control truly distributed systems.

We need to review these claims if we want to understand reality.

EMPOWERMENT

In this area the proponents of the YES answer typically refer to electronic money and the means to transact with it. Think Bitcoin. The idea being that regular people can now transact with Bitcoin as the means of payment for very little to no financial costs. What in the past was only possible for corporations (i.e. deep, deep transaction costs discount due to volume) is now possible by regular folk. Think. How do you think that Apple can afford to charge 50 cents or 1 dollar per song? If a regular retailer would attempt to do so, credit card fees would make it too expensive. Apple, on the other hand, can negotiate ludicrously low fees due to its massive volume.

In the past, if you were not Apple, you were stuck. However, with the advent of cryptocurrencies, anybody can be paid even with the tiniest of fractions of said currencies, no fees apply.

This fact, say the YES sayers is revolutionary. This is so because it empowers people to become far more self-sufficient and thus less dependent from governments. Therefore, people learn that they don’t need governments and therefore this supposedly induces political change.

Rubbish!

We must always remember that government dependency originates from socialistic points of view (see for example Socialism - The Most Addictive Drug), not from self-sufficiency. In a sense, most of us are self-sufficient. Most of us work and earn a living. Yet, we don't rebel against governments. How so? Because governments provide us with "free" stuff, which we are unable to reject. Even when self-sufficient we don't rebel against governments because we are addicted to "free" stuff. Because governments have brainwashed us into believing that "taxation" is only fair.

Furthermore, as we explained in The Time Preference Barrier, we want stuff now, not later. And governments are only too keen to oblige.

As if all of this wouldn't be sufficient, we also have to deal with the fact that political change (i.e. evolution) requires from us to go against our biological programming. This is, to become leaders (see The Leadership Barrier).

To a large degree, none of these characteristics are affected by more self-sufficient people. At least not to the degree necessary to produce political change.

POWERLESS GOVERNMENTS

People believe in the fairy tale that the Internet is invincible. Nonsense! You must know that we lost the original battles waged for our freedom of information. People are catching up but it is a technological race. In the beginning, people believed that P2P systems (i.e. peer-to-peer or distributed) were immune to government monitoring and interference because governments are setup as hierarchical systems. This is, of course true. However, most people forget that governments adapt. Not only that, but that they have literally infinite resources (never forget they print money) to implement as many systems as required in order to monitor you. All of our Internet lines are being copied and monitored. All our communications are being intercepted. Massive government information systems have been implemented and have surpassed our ability to "get lost in the crowd" so to speak. In terms of infrastructure, governments hold all the key points and can do with them as they see fit. Cutting off internet access to an entire country has becoming a common event. Governments are adapting and although they may eventually be unable to read our communications, this won't stop them because they can simply make illegal the use of cryptography. If they won't get you by one method, they will get you by another. Game over.

But is this important?

Yes and no. As we expressed in The Three Laws of Political System Change, for political evolution to occur one of the conditions is that people must be aware of an alternative political system. The only thing that free communication accomplishes is to accelerate the spread of such knowledge, but nothing more. This increased speed is insufficient in and by itself to induce political change. It will, of course, help such change but it won't cause it. For political evolution to occur, we need to have an alternative political system in the first place, and in this area free communications are of little to no use.

CONCLUSION

And so we come to a counter-intuitive but true realization that although technology does help to induce political change, in and by itself it cannot produce it. This conclusion is absolutely obvious if we understand that political evolution (or change) comes from within our minds and technology cannot produce such change but only transmit ideas. If we are not receptive to them, change won't happen.

But then we have the gurus of P2P and other "freedom" apps telling us the opposite. Fair enough, let's put their claims to the test. How many governments have been toppled and changed because of technology and particularly because of communication technology that is supposed to be government-resilient? The odd one… at best. We rest our case.

Note: please see the Glossary if you are unfamiliar with certain words.

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