Pascal Hügli is a lecturer at the University of Applied Sciences in Business Administration in Zurich where he teaches students about Bitcoin.
In human affairs, action is a fundamental force. It was the great Austrian economist, Ludwig von Mises, who stated that action is axiomatic to human conduct. Humans undeniably act, as non-action or the denial thereof is an action in and of itself.
Consequently, human beings cannot escape acting. Being social beings by design, every interpersonal action is either exchanging words (communication), exchanging produce (property) or exchanging value (money). It is these primitives that make human beings into the homo sapiens that they are.
As humans, we have become ever better at practicing these primitives — thanks to the use of technology. As a matter of fact, technological progress has been the single most important enabler of the human species in fostering the exchange of words, produce and value. But as powerful as technology is, it is also very demanding; human beings must learn, understand and adapt to ever-evolving technological change. Because technology inherently comes with complexity attached, middlemen of all sorts have emerged to handle this complexity on behalf of individual human beings.
The Pitfalls Of Centralization
While the existence of middlemen has been an empowering force helping human society actualize technology’s vast potential, the inevitable intermediation they bring has been a force of concentration and centralization. Consequently, as a species, we are increasingly subject to centralized powers monitoring and controlling more and more aspects of our lives.
This has become particularly obvious in today’s digital age. With human interaction around communication, property and money being continuously more digital, everyday human interaction has also grown more intermediated to the point where the digital life of a typical “homo digitalis” is entirely dependent on third parties.
Alarmingly, the negative effects of this development become ever more prevalent: From content censorship or outright deplatforming to personal data exploits and general privacy infringement to slight user manipulation and relentless user monetization, the pitfalls of centralization are manifold. There is no denying that as inhabitants of the digital world, we are completely and utterly at the mercy of powerful intermediaries.
Breaking Free From Our Digital Overlords
The desire to shed the shackles of today’s digital overlords has never been greater. While incidents like #DeleteWhatsApp or #DeleteFacebook campaigns serve as undeniable proof of this urge, the spell of today’s highly convenient digital applications remains unforgivingly strong nonetheless. Because of convenience, network effects, and a lack of alternatives hardly anyone manages to break free from contemporary tech monopolists.
Are the prospects for humanity really that bleak? Not …….