Technology Liberation: What’s It All About?

by on February 16, 2009 · 14 comments

I often ponder what the TLF is all about.  Of course, our official mission is “keeping politicians’ hands off the ‘net and everything else related to technology.”  You can read more on our “About Us” page.  But this quote from Robert Heinlein‘s 1973 classic Time Enough for Love (among my top five favorite novels) really hits the nail on the head for me:

Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded — here and there, now and then — are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty. This is known as “bad luck.”

“Man is the measure of all things,” said Protagoras of Abdera (c. 480-410 B.C.).  So it is for me:  technology is ultimately a means—indeed, the means—by which the condition of humanity is improved.  By “liberating technology”—i.e., defending the freedom to innovate and to profit from bringing innovation to the marketplace—we’re all doing our small part to prevent “right-thinking people” from squelching the creative minority whose toils will sometday take the species to the stars.  

I can’t wait to see what the coming decades will bring.  In the words of the immortal 1970s rock band, Bachman-Turner OverdriveYou ain’t seen nothing yet!
 

 
(The full version of the video—not the embedded player—includes an ad to buy the song, a new YouTube feature.  Heinlein would be proud.)

  • http://srynas.blogspot.com/ Steve R.

    I am glad that you have brought up Heinlein. A while back, as in way back, I read Heinlein's story Lifeline. Here is a quote taken from the Wikepdia article.

    “There has grown in the minds of certain groups in this country the idea that just because a man or corporation has made a profit out of the public for a number of years, the government and the courts are charged with guaranteeing such a profit in the future, even in the face of changing circumstances and contrary to public interest. This strange doctrine is supported by neither statute or common law. Neither corporations or individuals have the right to come into court and ask that the clock of history be stopped, or turned back.”.

    Heinlein also promoted the concept that citizenship was not simply a birthright, but something to be earned. Not only did you earn it, but you also had an ethical responsibility to act on behalf (for the benefit) of society. (Of course if you got rich doing that, good for you!).

    An additional quote from John Perry Barlow “The greatest constraint on your future liberties may come not from government but from corporate legal departments laboring to protect by force what can no longer be protected by practical efficiency or general social consent.”

    Regretfully, in terms of technological liberation, only half the concept is being promoted, that is keeping government out. The other half of the equation, social responsibility seems to be lacking. Consequently, counter to Heinlein, so-called intellectual property is evolving into a corporate welfare system at the expense of the public interest. The collapse of our financial system and the arrogance of many technological firms towards their customers are lessons of self-interest destroying the free-market. I look forward to this forum including more of Heinlein concepts in liberating technology so that it serves both the creator and the public interest.

  • http://techliberation.com/author/berinszoka/ Berin Szoka

    Yes, Lifeline's a classic. I didn't realize until today (while listening to the chapter about Heinlein in Jim Powell's excellent multibiography The Triumph of Liberty) that Lifeline was actually Heinlein's very first published work.

    I absolutely agree that the government ought not be in the business of guaranteeing anyone a profit.

    But as to whether self-interest is ultimately in conflict with the good of society, I refer you to good ol' Adam Smith: “…every individual necessarily labours to render the annual revenue of the society as great as he can. He generally, indeed, neither intends to promote the public interest, nor knows how much he is promoting it. By preferring the support of domestic to that of foreign industry, he intends only his own security; and by directing that industry in such a manner as its produce may be of the greatest value, he intends only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention. Nor is it always the worse for the society that it was no part of it. By pursuing his own interest he frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it. I have never known much good done by those who affected to trade for the public good.”

  • http://srynas.blogspot.com/ Steve R.

    Hey, I get to refer you to my post Ethics in the Free Market. In summary, Larry Kudlow, in the video clip, refers to Adam Smith's: “The Theory of Moral Sentiments”. Larry goes on to say: “Free market capitalism works with a moral and ethical center” (more or less accurate).

  • http://zgp.org/~dmarti/ Don Marti

    Position a corporate welfare program as “regulation” and the Libertarians come out against it. Call it “intellectual property” — silence.

  • http://srynas.blogspot.com/ Steve R.

    Good point.

  • http://srynas.blogspot.com/ Steve R.

    Good point.

  • http://techliberation.com/author/berinszoka/ Berin Szoka

    Yes, Lifeline's a classic. I didn't realize until today (while listening to the chapter about Heinlein in Jim Powell's excellent multibiography The Triumph of Liberty) that Lifeline was actually Heinlein's very first published work.

    I absolutely agree that the government ought not be in the business of guaranteeing anyone a profit.

    But as to whether self-interest is ultimately in conflict with the good of society, I refer you to good ol' Adam Smith: “…every individual necessarily labours to render the annual revenue of the society as great as he can. He generally, indeed, neither intends to promote the public interest, nor knows how much he is promoting it. By preferring the support of domestic to that of foreign industry, he intends only his own security; and by directing that industry in such a manner as its produce may be of the greatest value, he intends only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention. Nor is it always the worse for the society that it was no part of it. By pursuing his own interest he frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it. I have never known much good done by those who affected to trade for the public good.”

  • http://srynas.blogspot.com/ Steve R.

    Hey, I get to refer you to my post Ethics in the Free Market. In summary, Larry Kudlow, in the video clip, refers to Adam Smith's: “The Theory of Moral Sentiments”. Larry goes on to say: “Free market capitalism works with a moral and ethical center” (more or less accurate).

  • http://zgp.org/~dmarti/ Don Marti

    Position a corporate welfare program as “regulation” and the Libertarians come out against it. Call it “intellectual property” — silence.

  • http://srynas.blogspot.com/ Steve R.

    Good point.

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