Derrick Broze Talks Technocracy at MIT

12/12/23 • MIT Students for Open Inquiry

Tech surveillance and freedom: a quintessential MIT topic.

Our world is entering an era rooted in artificial intelligence (AI) and digital technology. The Internet of Things (IoT) and subsequent Internet of Bodies (IoB) plan to link all material objects, and eventually humans, to an interconnected smart grid. But with yin, there will always be yang. With the rewards, convenience, and prosperity proffered by such powerful innovations, menaces loom, like total loss of privacy and freedom.

Journalist Derrick Broze, pioneer of Freedom Cells—small, decentralized groups of individuals practicing self-sufficiency and working together in all areas of life—and author of How to Opt-Out of the Technocratic State, spoke at MIT last week about the threats to privacy and individual liberty posed by digital technology. While he acknowledges social media, AI, and smart devices can make life easier and society more vibrant, he warned they could be used to gain undue swaths of personal data. A smart car or smart TV could be transformed into a wiretapping device—federal agencies have done this remotely already—while a phone could be turned into a tracking tool by government agencies and other actors, using ping detection tools like Stingray.

Surveillance is not the only concern of such technology. Broze cited Google's past plans to build a censorship-heavy search engine for China, Project Dragonfly, so Google could tap into the large Chinese internet market. He also discussed Project Maven, a Pentagon collaboration with Google: "There was a big walkout on Google's campus where some of the employees...learned that Google was developing algorithms that were going to be used by the military for drone assassination." Broze traced these developments to the philosophy of technocracy: "the scientists and technological experts would be the ones running things... [Technocrats believed] society is screwed up because of the businessmen and the politicians. We need to get rid of the business class, we need to get rid of the political class, and instead we use machines and we get the experts to run things." The proximity of technology companies to the military-industrial complex, he argued, drives the transformation towards censorship and war we see today.

Broze believes the situation is not hopeless; on the contrary, individuals and local communities can use technology strategically to thwart surveillance, censorship, and other anti-freedom agendas. He recommended a slate of devices and softwares that protect user privacy, like the Above Phone, which runs on GrapheneOS, and cryptocurrencies like Monero (XMR). He also introduced the Agorist ideals of Samuel Edward Konkin III, a libertarian thinker and advocate for "counter-economics" (e.g. growing one's own food, homeschooling or unschooling, barter and local banking) to reduce the state's control over our finances and institutions.

Broze, founder of The Conscious Resistance, an "independent media organization focused on empowering individuals through education, philosophy, health, and community organizing" aiming to "create a world where corporate and state power does not rule over the lives of free human beings", shed light on one of the greatest concerns of our lives: the surveillance state, how it works, and how to wriggle out of its control. As his topics focused on AI ethics and capabilities, "Freedom and Consciousness", the title of the talk, made a fitting MITSOI fall finale.

See Derrick Broze's full talk here!