Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community
Derek Morrison links to a video that explores the philosophy of objectivism (it's ok, stay with me) and the rise of the digital industry and especially a digital culture populated by Ayn Rand heroes. It traces the idea that the "cybernetic dream" could relieve us of the need for government and work toward a self-stabilizing system. Like, say, a Carpenter's computer-assisted wisdom of crowds. Or the self-certainty of Alan Greenspan. That less management is more. This would be the beginning of the long boom. And of a morality best expressed by people like Bill Clinton and Leonard Cohen.

But what we have built instead? Not an new form of democracy with perfect freedom. "Power is exercised over the individual in new and surprising ways," says the video. We commodify ourselves; we turn our intimate thoughts into commodities, which are sold by corporations as entertainment. When governments stepped back, the financiers moved in, not to help society, but to help themselves. The price is paid by ordinary people like you and me. And instead of feeling like Randian heroes, we are helpless components of a global system that we are powerless to control or change. The video on BBC is available in Britain only, but you can see a full copy on YouTube, here and on DailyMotion, here.

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Stephen Downes Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada

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Last Updated: Mar 30, 2021 11:36 a.m.