Information is power. We see it in the connection between poverty and education levels, where a college degree is an overwhelming indicator of whether or not an individual born into a low-income family will become a part of a higher class. But this idea is not relegated solely to formal education. Look no further than the internet blackout imposed on the protestors in the Democratic Republic of Congo to see that access to information is a powerful tool, or even weapon.
Access to information is seen as a hallmark of democratized countries. Robin Morgan writes: “Knowledge is power. Information is power. The secreting or hoarding of knowledge or information may be an act of tyranny camouflaged as humility.” For many, unrestricted internet access is an important part of freedom.
However, Jaron Lanier, technology writer and author of “Who Owns the Future” and “You Are Not a Gadget,” fears that free access to information poses a threat the the American people, specifically the middle class.
In his interview with “The Agenda with Steve Paikan,” Lanier argues that free information on the internet has the potential for taking away thousands of middle class jobs (for example, an online translation service removes the need for the people who actually speak the languages). He cites a need for a system of payment in which the real people who provide their services to be digitized are compensated. Although paying for information may seem contrary to the liberal ideals of access to information regardless of economic status, it is important to consider the ways in which free information can harm as well as help the American people.