65. Moreover, where goals are pursued through earning money, climbing the status ladder or functioning as part of the system in some other way, most people are not in a position to pursue their goals AUTONOMOUSLY. Most workers are someone else's employee as, as we pointed out in paragraph 61, must spend their days doing what they are told to do in the way they are told to do it. Even most people who are in business for themselves have only limited autonomy. It is a chronic complaint of small-business persons and entrepreneurs that their hands are tied by excessive government regulation. Some of these regulations are doubtless unnecessary, but for the most part government regulations are essential and inevitable parts of our extremely complex society. A large portion of small business today operates on the franchise system. It was reported in the Wall Street Journal a few years ago that many of the franchise-granting companies require applicants for franchises to take a personality test that is designed to EXCLUDE those who have creativity and initiative, because such persons are not sufficiently docile to go along obediently with the franchise system. This excludes from small business many of the people who most need autonomy.
I think this is probably the key contentious issue for this forum to focus on. His general argument makes sense: autonomy is a basic human psychological need, technology necessitates a strongly linked society which denies autonomy therefore technology is bad (to compress 232 paragraphs down to a single sentence). Some questions to think about:
1. What is regulation? We tend to think of it as government regulation, and when advocating government-free societies fall back on some sort of boycotts or community action as an alternative. While such alternative regulation has advantages in that, if practical, it is far more agile and incorruptible, is it really any better in terms of not denying autonomy? Social coercion controls us in many ways, from what clothes we wear and how our homes are constructed (even beyond the rules imposed by restrictive building codes) to how we speak and even think, but does the fact that submitting to social coercion is philosophically voluntary mean anything from a psychological
point of view?
2. Is it possible to create a social system where rules of any sort beyond private property-style restrictions are largely unnecessary? It can be seen that as society becomes more and more complex our actions affect more and more people - for example, due to the urban density issue what we do affects more and more of our neighbors, due to technology we have less and less privacy in our personal lives, the industrial pollution that is a necessary consequence of much of modern society arguably affects the whole world, etc. But is there some way to make the situation less restrictive? If, for example, jobs were mostly online it could make people much more physically mobile and able to live beside only like-minded people. Putting more social activity on the internet also helps. In the most extreme case, furthering space exploration can separate people into cultural communities completely (cf. ethnic streaming in Peter F. Hamilton's Night's Dawn Trilogy, if anyone's read that). What can we practically do to maintain the sphere of impregnable autonomy within our lives that we seem to need?
3. (focusing on another argument in the manifesto) Internet communities based on common interests could potentially replace the small tribal groups that we would see in paleolithic society. But for that to happen it would be necessary for such communities to be reasonably small - less than Dunbar's number (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunbar's_number
) of 150 - so everyone can have an identity. Is that practical? Right now the minimum
size for an internet community seems to be in the low thousands since people only spend a few minutes of their time a day in one, but can that change? MMO guilds with <200 members seem to be holding their own just fine, since they are based in a setting that people tend to spend >1h a day of their lives in, so is that the direction we'll be going in the future?