Frictionless information flow as an Enlightenment tool

clawby Claudio Gennari …”Cogli l’attimo ferma il tempo”

The Internet as a Human Right? | Contrary Brin
[Via Contrary Brin]

President Obama has declared that access to the world of information, via the Internet, should be considered a basic human right. This is, of course, something you’d expect me to agree with. In The Transparent Society I made a case for such openness based on multiple levels:

1- It is morally and ethically imperative.

2- It is the best way to achieve justice.

3- Our basic societal “organs”- including fair markets, democracy, science and even art function better when all players can make decisions based upon full knowledge.

4- It creates a situation in which Enlightenment Civilization will ultimately “win.”


Read the entire post from David.

David Brin is one of the best fiction authors, one who examines the effect on society of disruptive events – whether an apocalypse or the finding of an artifact. HIs non-fiction book, The Transparent Society, is must reading for anyone who wants to really understand what an open culture will look like and what it needs to have happen in order to exist. Hard to believe it was written in 1998, when Mark Zuckerberg was 14 years old.

His point about the Enlightenment is very important – as is his link to the book Non-Zero, a wonderful discussion of how our world today possesses the tools to produce non-zero sum solutions. Read those two books and you will gain a great understanding of the possibilities. They both had a tremendous impact on my thoughts about our future.

Many people even today view life and society as a zero-sum game, bloody in tooth and claw.  For one person to succeed, someone else has to fail. That may be true for many animals on the Earth but humans are social creatures, where there are many important things that are win-win. We all do better when we work together. We did not evolve teeth and claws to survive in a zero sum world. We developed our rich social cultures to accomplish the same thing.

We are more likely to survive collectively, with an appropriate culture, than we are by squaring off and fighting.

One of the key aspects of the Enlightenment – one that made it so powerful  is the understanding that there are great and important successes that can occur that result in everyone’s life becoming better. Democracy is one such success. So, is the rule of law. Freedom is another. Universal suffrage is there also. And do not forget the Scientific Method.

In each case, these concepts allow the complete diversity of humanity to be utilized by the society, permitting much richer and innovative solutions to society’s problems. When all the solutions come from a small group of leader/dictators, it is likely that they will simply never be the best for society at large, no matter how benevolent the dictators/leaders are. They restrict the flow of ideas that is a key principle of an Enlightenment Culture.

And that is why we are seeing such a pushback against centralized executive power. Rapid information flow furthers the reach of many key Enlightenment arguments. Ones that have greater success for everyone, not just for those at the top.

The easy flow of  information provides such a diverse plethora of views that it routes around the choke points of many despots. They can no longer control the access of their people to alternative – and non-zero sum – solutions. People can see and hear how others are solving their problems. They can envision something that is really based on Enlightenment principles, even in societies that have never had an Enlightenment of their own.

In the long run – and perhaps even in the short run due to the rapidity of change today – those that live their lives by zero sum approaches will not be able to withstand the richness of life seen in those cultures that embody Enlightenment principles. Those that would hinder the right to vote, that would prevent the full embrace of democracy to others, that would ignore the law, that would make themselves rich by making paupers of everyone else, that would slow down the scientific advancement of our understanding of the world around us, will fail.

They simply cannot compete against  an Enlightenment  Civilization. That is the irony because this is actually a zero-sum game – Enlightenment CIvilizations will win only if Bloody Tooth and Claw Civilizations lose.

As they should.

5 thoughts on “Frictionless information flow as an Enlightenment tool

  1. How people INTERPRET things is a prime cause for disagreement. What you and Brin want is an interpretation that matches yours. It isn’t necessarily one that I would agree with. That is why so many of our laws are taken to the courts. And the US still has one of the most open societies in the world!

    1. You actually demonstrate what an Enlightenment Civilization embodies – you disagree and there is no penalty. I pretty much agree with what you say – rule of law and US being an open society. So how do our INTERPRETATIONS differ? What do you not agree with?

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