Re: A couple of ideas

Anders Sandberg (
19 Jan 1999 12:35:36 +0100

Joao Pedro Magalhaes <> writes:

> I've been thinking that in a not so far away future humanity will be ruled
> by a small number of men, computers or hybrids of both. The argument is
> that economical power is becoming more concentrated as time goes by, when
> the technology to control humans -- either by brain implants, highly
> developed subliminal messages or military force -- arrives, someone is
> bound to use it.

I think this is highly doubtful. The trend of power seems to be moving in the opposite direction if you look at it historically, and most new technologies we are discussing here appear to have strong decentralizing effects - internetworking and strong cryptography makes it hard to control information flows, easy surveillance can (as David Brin has argued) break the government monopoly on spying, nanotechnology removes the need for centralized production, space colonisation by its nature creates dispersed and independent habitats, and so on. I think Vernor Vinge put it like "the power of governments is growing, but the power of individuals is growing at a faster rate".

There are a few on this list who argue that certain technologies may emerge that are so powerful they give a total advantage to their owners, but this appears doubtful (see the archives for that tiresome discussion).

Maybe the trend of power is moving in an orthogonal direction, from powerful individual to powerful institutions, designed or spontaneous. Once it was just the kings, now it is the Internet, government structures and international markets. Note that this doesn't mean individuals loose power or independence, they just become parts of greater clusters.

Anders Sandberg                                      Towards Ascension!                  
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