Technology and Freedom

Reason has a review of David Friedman‘s recent book Future Imperfect: Technology and Freedom in an Uncertain World.

In Future Imperfect David Friedman presents a wide variety of possible futures, “some attractive, some frightening, few dull.” Looking through a lens of science fiction and fact, Friedman explores how libertarian ideas can help us adjust our lives and institutions to technological change ranging from computer crime to nanotechnology, from contracts in cyberspace to aging research.

I started reading the online draft of the book a while ago, but somehow never finished it. I’ll have to remedy that at the nearest opportunity. Friedman discusses privacy and surveillance, digital money, encryption, and biotech.

The question of whether new technologies will enhance freedom or reduce it, either through calls for regulation or by giving the state more effective means of control, strikes me as one of the most important questions we can ask. I don’t think it’s at all possible to stop accelerating technological advancement, but we need to think carefully about the political institutions best able to deal the changing nature of the world (and if technology is going to centralize power, I’ll be much more likely to follow David’s son into the ocean).  I’m generally optimistic, and damn well want my immortality, abundance, and superpowers. We can’t, though, just assume that new technologies will always and everywhere lead to more freedom and welfare. That’s why David’s book is so important.

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