Technology a Two-Edged Sword

There seems to be a certain unfounded optimism
that something intrinsic in the nature of blogs or the internet guarantees
that they will be a force for openness and reform in the political
system. We wish we could share in this heady euphoria, but just because
got there first doesn’t mean we have an advantage when the time comes
for full deployment of the technology.

In our opinion technology is by and large value neutral. If
it is true that technological innovations are often introduced by free-thinkers
and creative iconoclasts, it is equally true that the more powerful
these innovations are the more quickly they are adopted
and co opted by the existing power structure.

Case in point – the Printing Press. While some feel that the
ongoing digital revolution is the most significant upgrade to information
infrastructure since Gutenberg, it is useful to review what happened
in the 15th century. When old Johannes came up with the first printing
press, German reformers were all aflutter with the liberating idea
that now books and political tracts no longer needed to be copied out
one at a time by hand.

But what was the first real book that they printed? The Bible!
And within a very few years the dominant power in Europe at that time,
the Catholic Church, owned 90% of the existing presses and had instituted
controls and taxes on printing and publishing that continue to this

The clearer it gets to even brain-dead ward-heelers that the
internet technologies are potentially political dynamite, the quicker
they are going to hire or breed their own brand of bloggers. The uses
to which they will put "our" creations are frightening to imagine.
Can they be stopped?

The printing press did end up popularizing literature, theology and
politics, but it took 200 years and the Protestant reformation to loosen
the stranglehold of the Papacy on Europe. We must remember technology
is a two edged sword, and be ready for the entrenched power bases to
turn our own tools against us.

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