On behalf of the future, I ask you of the past to leave us alone.
--John Perry Barlow

  Free society

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free society

McLuhan stated that the electric age returned flexibility and adaptability to our environment, and thus returned it to our lives. In fact, to be successful in the information age, we must be adaptive and flexible. We must use all of our abilities at the same time. Leisure in the mechanical age could only mean rest and escape from work, but leisure intrinsically is getting to do what you want. In participating in pursuits we enjoy, which have been relegated to hobbies and sports or the arts, we are at leisure. Limits on what we may do restrict our comfort. The information age demands that use all of our abilities, that we do everything we can—which means that there are no limits on what we may do. Without limits, we can live a life of total creative expression. We can be at leisure. We can all be artists.

Abbie Hoffman believed in this promise of McLuhan’s vision. He understood also that the divide between work and leisure has conventionally been the divide between competition and cooperation. Work is competition—a power struggle. Leisure is generally not. The only kind of competition Abbie Hoffman believed in was artistic—the competition to be the most interesting, the most exciting, the most creative.

In Revolution for the Hell of It, Hoffman states,

Cooperation will be the motivating factor in a free society. I think cooperation is more akin to the human spirit. Competition is grafted on by institutions, by a capitalist economy, by religion, by schools. Every institution I can think of in this country promotes competition.

Industrial society is based on the concept of competition for resources. The advances of the Industrial Revolution, powered by mechanization and capitalism, came through the efficient application of accumulated power. Efficiencies of scale powered development, but created major inequities of resources. This becomes less of a factor as automation takes over manufacturing and business focuses on the process of acquiring and using knowledge.

Information is a potentially infinite resource. If someone uses information or shares it, it is not consumed. Rather, its power and influence can grow. The instantaneous global network of electronic media offers the promise of the best of both worlds—where progress can be optimally efficient without the need for a maldistribution of power. The more that information is shared, the freer society is, the greater the potential is for cooperation. Perfect cooperation reaps the same results as perfect competition, and without losers.

Lawrence Lessig has pointed out that free societies must limit the power of the past to control present creativity and innovation. He believes that today's society is moving in the wrong direction.

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