Freedom Through Technology

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Cyberlibertarians, cypherpunks, high-tech libertarians, and various others mistakenly think technology will eliminate the need for government (if not outright eliminate government.) As foolish as the idea that atomic weapons will end war. Digital currencies such as bitcoin are the latest fad.

Links

Bitcoin (43 links)
Bitcoin is a classic private currency scam. It fails to offer stable values, security from theft, privacy from government and ease of use. With prices near $17,000 per bitcoin (Dec. 2017), it is in a huge speculative bubble. It has enormous problems with transaction bottlenecks, transaction costs, and electricity usage compared to alternatives such as Visa.
Permissionless Innovation (1 link)
Evasion of regulation, based on the view that entrepreneurs and “innovators” are the lifeblood of society, and must be allowed to push forward without needing to ask for “permission” from government, for the good of society. It is license to harm; it is a demand that government not intrude in exactly the area that government is meant for -- to protect the general welfare of citizens.
Sharing Economy (3 links)
A euphemistic term for yet another way of evading regulations and breaking the law while exploiting workers. Network effects tend to make the successful firms monopolistic.
Algorithmic Prison (15 links)
The algorithmic prison idea is that big data allows business and government to deny us loans, jobs, right to travel, etc. without our knowing why or being able to contest and change the data. This also makes us very vulnerable to dirty tricks.
Commercial Trolling: Social Media and the Corporate Deformation of Democracy [More...]
"As the phenomenon of online astroturfing demonstrates, online discourse is under constant assault from concentrated capital that deliberately hides both its identity and its strategies and tactics. The notion that the “internet democratizes,” especially with regard to the most important aspects of political communication, cannot and must not be taken on faith."
Cyberlibertarianism (8 links)
A utopian, incoherent front for neoliberal exploitation of technology. Some excellent spin-offs, such as Wikipedia, and some enormous threats, such as Algorithmic Prison.
Cyberlibertarians’ Digital Deletion of the Left [More...]
"We put faith in a technocratic progressivism that does not clearly emerge from leftist foundations and that, without close and careful work, is unlikely to support those foundations. Most worryingly, we put aside active efforts to solve social problems and advance leftist perspectives by giving in to a technological form of magical thinking that is the opposite of engaged political action."
Don't Count on Tech to Set You Free [More...]
"Techno-libertarianism is too deterministic in its belief that new tools are all we need. Tools need people to use them, and freedom won’t guard itself."
Elon Musk is Not the Future [More...]
"Tech CEOs are out for themselves, not the public good."
Elon Musk Isn’t All He’s Cracked Up to Be [More...]
Elon Musk suggests the typical Robert Heinlein Science Fiction solution of special people running away from problems, leaving everybody else stuck with them.
Enslave the robots and free the poor [More...]
Martin Wolf at the Financial Times says that because of technological unemployment "[...] we will need to redistribute income and wealth. Such redistribution could take the form of a basic income for every adult, together with funding of education and training at any stage in a person’s life."
Foucault in cyberspace -- Chapter 2: Libertarianism, Property and Harm [More...]
(Starts on page 11.) Law Professor James Boyle points out that libertarianism fails to justify which rights we should have in three ways: common law, natural rights and Property. "When the vague first principles turn more specific, then the fun really begins."
Freedom on the Net [More...]
Cyberlibertarians have lavishly praised the internet for being free and unregulated. They are horribly wrong, as this Freedom House index shows. Many nations strictly censor the internet.
Here's How Not to Improve Public Schools [More...]
The Gates Foundation’s big-data experiment wasn’t just a failure. It did real harm.
How Crowdworkers Became the Ghosts in the Digital Machine [More...]
"Since 2005, Amazon has helped create one of the most exploited workforces no one has ever seen." "According to critics, Amazon’s Mechanical Turk may have created the most unregulated labor marketplace that has ever existed."
I Hacked My Body For A Future That Never Came [More...]
Biohacking can't live up the its hype. "I’m the world’s most useless cyborg, and after five years, I’ve learned to live with it."
I Tried Soylent. It Didn’t Go Well. [More...]
Soylent is Ensure for the Young Libertarian gaming crowd. Except it was invented by a "lapsed libertarian" software engineer with zero knowledge of nutrition and zero testing except through the market. Predictable hijinks ensue.
Massive Open Online Courses (3 links)
MOOCs are the latest technotarian educational fad. They are hyped by libertarians such as Tyler Cowen as the great disruptive game changers for higher education. They are proving massively unsuccessful, with completion rates of less than 10%.
Neoreaction (4 links)
The cult-like "Dark Enlightenment" movement whose developing ideology includes racism (coded as "human biodiversity"), men's rights, anti-democratic monarchism, libertarian adoration of plutocrats, technological utopianism, secret mummery (with handshakes, initiations, and plenty of code words!) Another Scientology is aborning.
Silicon Valley billionaires believe in the free market, as long as they benefit [More...]
"Google, Apple and other tech firms likely colluded to keep their workers' wages down. So much for that libertarian worldview."
The Dystopian Future of Price Discrimination [More...]
It's easy to imagine how personally tailored pricing could go terribly wrong.
The Mismeasure of Technology [More...]
Total factor productivity is a residual, the unexplained causes of growth. Blaming government for slow growth is in part wrong, since diffusion of collective "knowhow" seems to be the limiting factor of much growth.
The Techtopus: How Silicon Valley’s most celebrated CEOs conspired to drive down 100,000 tech engineers’ wages [More...]
A conspiracy to fix wages by chief executives of Apple, Google, Lucasfilm, Pixar, Adobe, Intuit and Intel has been certified as a class-action lawsuit. "For all of the high-minded talk of post-industrial technotopia and Silicon Valley as worker’s paradise, what we see here in stark ugly detail is how the same old world scams and rules are still operative."
To Save Everything, Click Here: The Folly of Technological Solutionism (book)
To a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. The internet is one such hammer. This book exposes the myopia of internet advocates.

Quotations

Thus despite, for example, the dogmatic insistence on “spontaneous order” as the exclusive result of market-based transactions -- transactions that in core neoliberal dogma are said to be the only permissible form of social planning -- the social policies pursued by the MPS [Mont Pelerin Society] and its outer shells [libertarianism, classical liberalism, etc.] are often exquisitely planned, anything but spontaneous, and have nothing to do with any market.
David Golumbia, "Cyberlibertarianism: The Extremist Foundations of ‘Digital Freedom’"
It is unfortunate that the kind of computing Bitcoin pioneered has been given the name "cryptocurrency", and has been associated with all sorts of technofinancial scheming. When you hear "cryptocurrency", don't think of Bitcoin or money at all. Think of Paul Krugman's babysitting co-op. Cryptocurrency applications deal with the problem of organizing people and their resources into a collaborative enterprise by issuing tokens to those who participate and do their part, redeemable for future services from the network. So they will always involve some kind of scrip. But, contra Bitcoin, the scrip need not be the raison d'être of the application. Like the babysitting co-op (and a sensible monetary economy), the rules for issue of scrip can be designed to maximize participation in the network, rather than to reward hoarding and speculation.
Steve Waldman, "Econometrics, open science, and cryptocurrency"
The market fundamentalists of Technology Liberation Front and Silicon Valley would love you to believe that “permissionless innovation” is somehow organic to “the internet,” but in fact it is an experiment we conducted for a long time in the US, and the experiment proved that it does not work. From the EPA to the FDA to OSHA, nearly every Federal (and State) regulatory agency exists because of significant, usually deadly failures of industry to restrain itself.
David Golumbia, "“Permissionless Innovation”: Using Technology to Dismantle the Republic"