Does Technology Make us More Free or Less Free?
Jeffrey Tucker vs. Albert Lu
Resolved: “Technology makes us freer.”
Wednesday, June 25th at 1:45pm ET | Chapman University | Orange, CA
**Watch the debate as it happens live below.**
“[Technologies] are carving out a new zone of liberty for us all, and diminishing the power of the state to control us.”
Barriers are part of life in all times and all places, and they inhibit our freedom. Today's barriers are different from those in past ages because they are mostly political. The state puts them in our way. Our money is stolen, our opportunities are restricted, our travel is circumscribed, and creativity is curbed, and our capacity to live out our dreams is truncated -- all by bureaucracies, regulators, bad laws and legislation, enforcement agents on the ground, and a political elite that cares nothing for us.
However, every system, no matter how tight, has flaws. A main job of entrepreneurs in our time is to discover them and exploit them profitability. From Uber to Google to Airbnb to the SilkRoad, the great innovators of our time are making it possible for us to make an end run around state systems. They are allowing us more opportunity to do things that the state has tried to prevent. These technologies are allowing us to associate with each other and learn from each other, and thereby live freer lives.
Remember that no bureaucrat ever imagined an innovation like the app economy, like Bitcoin, or like the growth of digital cities. These are all technologies that serve the cause of human freedom. Even more, they are overtly and even aggressively subverting the capacity of the state to rule us. They are carving out a new zone of liberty for us all, and diminishing the power of the state to control us.
It is not a perfect world emerging. The state does have unprecedented surveillance power. But even here, markets are responding and giving us a new and fantastic form of P2P architecture that will eventually allow us all to permanently secede from the structures of oppression.
Jeffrey Tucker is founder and CEO of Liberty.me, distinguished fellow of the Foundation for Economic Education, Executive Editor of Laissez Faire Books, and research fellow of the Acton Institute. He is the founder of the CryptoCurrency Conference, serves as economic consultant Let’s Talk Bitcoin, and writes a fortnightly column for The Freeman and Crisis Magazine. He is author of Bourbon for Breakfast, It’s a Jetson’s World, A Beautiful Anarchy, and Liberty.me: Liberty Is a Do-It-Yourself Project, and thousands of articles, introductions, and prefaces. Following his 15 years as editor and builder of the website Mises.org, he now works on building Liberty.me as a social network and publishing platform for liberty-minded individuals.
“On the one hand, it saves us from life threatening illness, liberates us from laborious drudgery, and connects us in ways we never before imagined. On the other, in the hands of a tyrant technology becomes an instrument of deception, theft and, in the worst case, mass murder.”
Does technology make us more or less free? The answer is not so simple and depends on our conception of “us” and “free.”
Much of technological development aims to “free” society from natural factors—the elements, distance, and disease, for example-- and does so well. One must stretch to even imagine a world without the advances we take for granted every day. By today’s standards, such a place would be unlivable.
But there is another category of freedom, that which concerns man-made attacks on person and property. Theft, violence, and rape, for example, are different but no less destructive to civilization than are epidemics or natural disasters.
Whom does technology free? The real question is: Which side does technology enhance, that of the aggressor or victim?
One can argue that in such a conflict the minority class derives greater benefit from tools that amplify the influence, power, and productivity of individuals. If one also believes that the vast majority within a society is content to live peacefully and cooperatively, then technological advances favor the most sinister among us.
What, then, can we conclude about technology on a whole? On the one hand, it saves us from life threatening illness, liberates us from laborious drudgery, and connects us in ways we never before imagined. On the other, in the hands of a tyrant technology becomes an instrument of deception, theft and, in the worst case, mass murder.
Albert Lu is the managing director of WB Advisors, LLC, a private wealth management firm, and co-founder of The Woodlands Bullion Company, a precious metals dealer. His opinions have appeared in popular news media including MarketWatch, SmartMoney Magazine, The Daily Caller, and FOXBusiness.com.
Mr. Lu holds two degrees — a Master of Engineering and Bachelor of Engineering, Honours — from McGill University, and for more than ten years specialized in electrical engineering, particularly in semiconductor design and testing. He also co-authored a book, published numerous papers, and acquired patents in semiconductor design.