1436 was an interesting year. It began a revolution that overthrew monarchies, Governments, religions and freed a billion people from the tyranny of their feudal masters. It destroyed slavery, put mankind on the moon, enabled medicine, science and mathematics, doubled life expectancy and gave us the mass media and information systems we have today. It was the greatest liberation of mankind ever seen. What was it? The printing press.
For the last 500 years, we have been able to thrive purely because we are able to educate ourselves and distribute that knowledge quickly and accurately, via the printed word. It is a medium so powerful, Governments license it via Press charters or Communications Acts. Laws are built to control it and millions have died to protect it. It is the very medium that free speech uses to spread across the planet and is rightly feared by those who would rather you had no say.
Everything you see around you exists in its current form because of the written word and the ease at which it can be distributed and read. Now it gets interesting. Now we have the Internet.
Much like the early printing presses, the Internet is still very much in its infancy. We are learning how to use this new tool but have no concept of exactly what the ability to spread not just ideas, but anything throughout the entire planet can do. Right now, in a split second, I can send a unique instruction to a 3D printer in Australia to print a copy of itself, and for good measure, a gun. The owner of that 3D printer is now a protected citizen and a fully independent human being. He needs no government. He can protect his property, his life and his liberty himself. Via nanofactories , he can produce anything he wishes. He is no longer a consumer or a customer. He has no need of State services or Corporate marketing. He has no need of money or politicians or war or anyone else. He is free to live his life as he sees fit. He has ultimate choice.
Now that’s a pretty powerful scenario. As you sit as your desk reading this instead of picking turnips from your masters fields, spare a thought for the inventor of the printing press who enabled you the freedom to learn to read. He had no idea what the enabling of a billion educated minds could do, just as we have no idea what the enabling of 6 billion minds in a split second are capable of – yet.
Let’s examine what will change and where that might lead us:
Scarcity: One of the main reasons for armies, wars and Governments, whether it be resources, wealth or personal ambition, the Internet has the power to eradicate it all. Why have borders when we are all interconnected citizens, why have wars to plunder your neighbours wealth when wealth has no value?
Control: The enslavement of people through taxation, corporatism, communism or consumerism has no purpose. Anyone can produce anything they want, whenever they want, for free. There are no poor to “liberate”, no redistribution of wealth, no value to stock markets of redundant corporations who have no need to produce anything. In effect, no one will work for money or the acquisition of “stuff”. Capitalism is dead, along with crime, the workplace, Government, Politics and authorities. You govern yourself according to your desires and needs, producing whatever you require yourself. Money is pointless.
“But where is the reward?” I hear you shriek. Well, there isn’t one. You can clothe, feed and house yourself, protect your life and liberty and live as you see fit – I’ll take that over a new iPhone any day (which I can print off in a morning anyway). The reward IS freedom itself.
What happens then? I genuinely don’t have the answer, except no other species on the planet requires anything other than the above but us. We will free ourselves of our self inflicted insanity to “acquire” and “dominate” the world around us because we can create whatever we desire in an instant. We will finally become the unique, autonomous individuals so despised by those who wish to control your life, your mind or your wealth. Will it be easy? I doubt it. Just as our masters realised the true potential of the printing press and began burning books to control us, the digital revolution will not be an easy path until those who feel threatened realise that this path is written and cannot be stopped. Will we be happy? I have no idea – but I’m willing to bet that without the modern slavery of poverty or consume, pay taxes then die, mankind will become a much more interesting specimen than the violent, greedy and authoritarian monster we see today. Here’s to the digital future – hold on tight, it’s going to be one hell of a ride.