Law in the Internet Society

How To Build A Future We Want To Live In

-- By YunHsuanKao - 22 Oct 2021


We want to live in a world where every human being possesses freedom of thought. Freedom of thought means the ability to be able to think as deeply and as broadly about everything as much as they want without any interruption.

This is a completely abstract formulation, as though we were talking about the right to daydream. As though freedom of thought didn't mean the right to read, to debate, to publish, to be free of censorship, to criticize the State and its minions, to charge a former member of the Standing Committee of the Party Politburo with sexual assault, to organize women to protest being groped on public transport, to imagine a revolution in our time.

You are describing an "experience far" concept, one that for the writer is distant in some other culture, not "experience near," felt in the body. Try writing about freedom of thought as though you were used to having it.

To achieve this goal, skills need to be learned, hardware need to be upgraded and mindsets need to be transformed.

That's to say we need to think about technology, law and politics. True, but the essay should show how, not gesture at what, generally.

Step One: Programming Skills for Human Race

We start by examining what is stopping us from obtaining the freedom of thought. One prominent factor will be social media services and gadgets in our palm. They are destroying our internal stream by creating the illusion of productivity in exchange for our attention, by giving us our constant need of being noticed, and by taking advantage of its users’ anxiety in the disguise of grating convenience.

How do we tackle this problem? We can only take back the control of technology with technology skills. We need to have sufficient programming skills to be able to alter what is being accepted as the norm. We need to understand the language of the machine to be able to make the machine work for us.

Who is "we"? Surely we cannot expect the whole of humankind to become programmers or learn to enjoy reading and writing code, any more than we can expect everyone to become musicians, painters, or electricians. Perhaps we would be better off asking how to make sure that everyone who wants to know how can learn, regardless of the ability to pay and the whims of government, and how we will empower the children who want to learn with real computers that they can use to improve their lives and other peoples' lives around them.

On a personal level, having programming skills enables one to be free from interruptions of services and gadgets but still benefit from the connectivity and infinite knowledge base of the net. With the skillsets, one can fully control how the technology will work.

But if our goal is to rebuild a future where all humans can have freedom of thought, merely equipping humans with programming skills is not enough. Skills can help us free ourselves from the noise of social media and phones, but to change the structure of humans and the net, we need more radical changes.

How do we know whether the changes are "radical"? What does the word mean?

Step Two: Building Personal Servers

The net is most powerful and efficient when it is free and so is human. The problem is that we access the net through services that its main purpose is surveilling human behavior to identify patterns for ads and control of the human mind. To the point that social media platforms are being understood by the younger generation as the same as the net itself. Obviously, radical changes needed to be made to remedy the situation, but what should the solution be? How can we benefit from the net without the downside? How can we establish the relationship between the two?

I think the answer lies in the power of personal servers. Using your own server as the node on the net enables one to establish a healthy and beneficial relationship with the net. The benefits include surveillance-free connection, the ability to design and limit your presence on the net, and most importantly, anarchist distribution of knowledge. As every human becomes a free agent on the net, accessing knowledge will become effortless.

You say this is your idea. But there does not seem to be any investigation of what this means in technical terms, as though I hadn't presented the idea too, and taught about it. This is the central idea of my Freedom in the Cloud and the reason that I founded FreedomBox, therefore why you can have the very personal server you want, made out of any of the world's very large number of inexpensive "single-board computers," like Raspberry Pi.

Personal servers are meant to change how we use the net: from services with the goal of making money by selling user data to an independently-run website that no one has control over except yourself. Having programming skills with personal servers will allow people to build the environment for freedom of thought, but the question then becomes that are humans ready to give up their smart gadgets?

Why would that be the question? If you have put a FreedomBox in use for you, attaching to the Net in some safe place or carrying it around in your bag, you can run everything from your smartassphone surveillance device through it and thus make the device you carry stop spying on you for third parties. You might change the applications that run on your phone, reconfigure or replace the OS on the phone, to add additional security, but the whole point is to make people free, not to impose more restrictions.

Is mankind capable of choosing what is best for them?

Step Three: Mindset Transformation

The last step in the process of building a future we want to live in is a complete transformation of the human mindset.

I don't see why. My mindset is not completely transformed from yours, nor is either of ours from the mindset of Mark Zuckerberg. We have different ideas about hos to use tech, what constitutes justice, how to steer our societies' politics. But the distances among us are nowhere near as great as the differences between my generation and the one after yours. So what we decide isn't the transformation. It's what we make of the transformation.

To explore the idea of the transformation, we need to examine the question of whether humans know what is best for them and the two sides of the argument. The negative argument is that we are animals of primitive desire controlled by dopamine releases and urges. We often make choices that are seemingly good for the short term but damaging to our society and wellbeing in the long run. Therefore, we do not have the best judgment when it comes to what is good for us and what is bad.

On the other hand, the positive argument can be made from two perspectives. Firstly, from the standpoint of history, humans do evolve and grow toward a more developed civilization. We embody the power to think and invent, which in turn brings us to where we are now. Secondly, we can learn from the mistakes of the past. The ability to learn from examples and stories is one of the most distinctive traits of a human. We don’t have to be burnt to know that fire is dangerous. That is not to say we as humans will never bring disaster upon ourselves, we often do, but merely pointing out that there is the possibility of making the right choice without experiencing a fire.

While we may never know the correct answer to the question, I am inclined to be optimistic about the future and that the mindset transformation will happen naturally. Humans will figure out that freedom of thought is more enjoyable than the constant notification from the phone and that privacy is more beneficial than having the right targeted ads. Then, we start building a future we want to live in.

The best way to improve this draft is to go from talking about other peoples' learning to taking charge of your own. Find out what temporarily having freedom of thought means to you. Ask what you want to learn about technology, and explain how you're going to learn it. Get yourself a personal server and begin exploring how it works for you. The hardware is utterly inexpensive, the software is free, and I'll be happy to give you one if you ask me. All of humanity is large for you to be either optimistic and pessimistic about. But we can both be optimistic about your ability to learn, change and grow, if we free you to do it.

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r2 - 04 Dec 2021 - 14:56:11 - EbenMoglen
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