Law in the Internet Society
-- ClaireCaton - 08 Dec 2020 (Second Draft)

The New Freedom

I think only part of the human population is aware of the pernicious link between technology and freedom. Just like in George Orwell’s 1984: Winston Smith is the only one aware of the manipulation of the Party but people around him mostly have no political consciousness. The majority seems politically apathetic. But even those who are aware don’t seem to do much about it. In our society, maybe the majority indulges in the current world. People are not interested in fighting against something that does not directly violate their well-being. There is a reluctance to question oneself too much. As long as the material comfort is satisfied, there is not really time to think about future generations or even the current state of society.

We are now contending with a culture of convenience, and freedom is maybe no longer a priority. People don't seem to think the same way anymore. Their ability to reason and self-govern are likely decreasing, and their involvement in politics too. The demos is becoming reluctant to participate in the kratos.

Internet addiction has come to directly affect some people’s well-being and even modify their physiology (I). But convenience seems to outweigh this discomfort and this contributes to the decline of freedom (II).

-- By ClaireCaton - Second Draft 7 Dec 2020

Section I : Internet Addiction And Transformative Power of Technology

Some people started contemplating that technology is overriding them or making them addicted (A). In the meantime, technology has already transformed human physiology (B).

Subsection A : Internet Addiction

Addiction can be defined as an inability to stop or regulate the consumption of an activity or substance, even though it is causing psychological and physical harm. One is addicted to something if he or she feels the need to consume the thing regularly.1 More specifically, “Internet addiction” is commonly used to refer to “excessive or poorly controlled preoccupations, urges or behaviors regarding computer use and Internet access that lead to impairment or distress”.2 Other terms used to describe the phenomena include “technology addiction,” and “Internet dependency.”

Some people became aware of their inability to relinquish convenient electronic tools, hence the emergence of smartphone applications to substitute will power, or rather the absence of will power, and allow them to block distracting websites on their smartphones. Moreover, as early as in 2006, the first inpatient center to treat Internet addiction opened in Beijing, China.4 Thus showing that some felt the need to be treated for their inability to regulate their Internet usage.

Subsection B : The New Human Physiology

As Marx said in Capital, "in changing the technical world, Man changes his own nature." Society, technology and human behavior are tightly intertwined. Habits are powerful, just as technology is. When investigators from the American Psychiatric Association compared brain scans of individuals who satisfy the criteria for Internet addiction against those who don’t, they observed differences. Structurally, addicted individuals’ brains look different. Functionally, addicted individuals’ brains act differently. The brains of the identified Internet addicts within several studies resembled those of substance abusers and pathological gamblers.

Moreover, some studies have found gray matter density in parts of the brain to be significantly lower in youths addicted to the Internet than in non-addicts.3 The gray matter areas are often associated with executive functioning, such as planning, decision making, and impulse control.

New habits of mind seem to have corrupted the humans. How can this be linked to the notion of freedom?

Section II : The Decline of Freedom for the Benefit of Convenience

Convenience seems to outweigh this conscious addiction (A) and this contributes to the dissolution of freedom through decline of self-government (B).

Subsection A : The Convenience of Uninterrupted Connection

People tend to, especially in countries with highly individualistic cultures, prioritize individual well-being over collective happiness and they value immediate pleasures. The majority is likely not ready to live without uninterrupted connection to the Internet: the need for convenience exceeds the need to remediate the addiction.

During an interview, Margrethe Vestager, the European commissioner of competition, talked about the way we have shifted to valuing convenience as the ultimate good over what is actually good for us.5 Every one of these tasks that we once did but now rely on a piece of technology for convenience is making us feel that we cannot live without the particular technology.

Dependence on technology in performing daily tasks is worrying, but less than losing independent thinking. It seems that society is embracing technology without fully understanding the long-term ramifications of this decision. This feature of technology that provides uninterrupted connection and convenience and fulfills the smallest needs make people lose their autonomy.

Subsection B : Self-government and the Decline of Freedom

Autonomy is an individual's capacity for self-determination or self-governance. When independence in one's thoughts or actions is undermined by the intervention of an authority which we cannot change and over which we have no control, our freedom is affected.

If convenience and habits lead to reflexes, they also entail decrease of reasoning, reflection, and individual deliberation. All of us like to believe that our actions are the result of our own free will, and we are reluctant to admit that much of what we do is the result of conditioned reflexes or unconscious compulsions rationalized by ex post facto intellectualizations.

The power of technology over human nature suggests that people no longer have patience for what it takes to participate in politics. Their present emphasis on need of instantaneity may make them increasingly consider the political process to be inferior to the essential things in life. But in doing so, it undermines participation in the act of self-government.


Kevin Roose wrote, in an article titled “How I Ditched My Phone and Unbroke My Brain,” “unlike alcohol or opioids, phones aren’t an addictive substance so much as a species-level environmental shock.”6

Self-government ultimately requires dedication to an ongoing activity in which citizens make collective decisions in perpetuity. The evolving Internet society is shaping the new physiology of human beings who will need to bear the erosion of their freedom caused by their own altered physiology.

Is this in the end physiology of the human individual, or physiology of another kind? What is the organism?


2. Shaw, M., & Black, D. W. (2008). Internet addiction: Definition, assessment, epidemiology and clinical management. CNS Drugs, 22(5), 353–365.





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r4 - 07 Jan 2021 - 17:54:22 - EbenMoglen
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