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The new boundaries of un/freedom

Sunday, 11 June 2023, 13:30

...everything is possible

What was previously considered impossible becomes reality. What seemed accidental becomes permanent. Exception is the norm, normality is deviation. The plan becomes chaos, and chaos becomes prognosis. Old rules stop working and no one knows the new ones. The world turns into an alien and hostile one. The speed of information produced increases, while the ability to comprehend it decreases. The generated "Frankenstein of technology" creates changes of immeasurable depth and complexity. This begs the question, as the best answer, whether the very limit of humanity has not been reached.

When the entire situation begins to balance at the point of choice, between intolerance of the present and fear of the future, should we rush into the genetic-cybernetic embrace of the metaverse or slowdown in reality that is still human?


At this point of transition, a state of radical uncertainty sets in, when everything is possible and nothing exists that could not happen. There is no clear positive or negative scenario. The winner is the one who risks playing by the new rules without knowing the rules themselves.

"Changes that haven’t happened in 100 years"

The global world immediately "collapses" and localizes before the threat of a pandemic, the neural network writes poetry and dissertations, an arrest warrant is issued for the "most influential person in the world", the president of the "stronghold of democracy" calls on to attack the Capitol, the east of Europe turns into a two-thousand-kilometer frontline, and the Orthodox hierarch blesses missile strikes on one of the cradles of Christianity.

In the sweeping chaos of rearrangement, Putin’s aggression is becoming one of the main triggers of the transformational transition.

And although the end is not close, the result is more and more obvious: the war in its classical form turns out to be catastrophically ineffective and fatally unpredictable. The lesson taught is persuasive, and the observers are attentive. Corrections have been made to the strategic plans for the future, the main of which is not to repeat the mistakes of others.

For this, truly limitless possibilities open up for everyone who wants to "perfect extreme evil". And this is not about the archaic of millions of soldiers, armadas of tanks, aircraft, and warships, but about the modernity of numbers and advanced technologies.

Artificial intelligence is no longer equal in power to nuclear weapons, it makes them unnecessary. Human is no longer the goal of destruction, but a necessary, albeit "suffering raw material". It is foolish to dream of seizing the island when you can conquer the ocean. Why destroy cities when access to data is enough? Why seize territories when you can control information? Wasn’t Xi Jinping talking about such changes that "haven’t happened in 100 years"?

And if we evaluate the asset of Russian achievements from this point of view, then the only truly invaluable result is not the capturing of the "Piatykhatky whistle stop", but the creation of a digital control mechanism, where the war is a weighty reason and pretext. Big Chinese brother, who has moved much further in developing a comprehensive "digital eye", turns out to be a teacher, adjuster, and controller for Moscow. An indispensable supplier of experience and technology: to advise how to "cut" YouTube out of Google, "block" Telegram, recognize faces in a mask or a person by voice, and overall give this kind of systemic "creative" advice.

Security in exchange for freedom

But the overall rearrangement plan is much more ambitious. The final stage provides for packaging in an attractive shell of a universal and global offer to the world – the "happy slave" era. Protection and security, as a new icon of the century, where freedom becomes the price.

These aren’t the conservative values of the "Russian world" or socialism with Chinese characteristics on sale – this appeal is understandable, both to the poor South and the rich North.

This is a highly demanded offer in the market of human and state fears of growing complexity, epidemics, wars, migration, and crime. In this regard, COVID has become the best possible platform for demonstrating the power of the Chinese worshipers of the new cult, who created and tested a digital control system on a billion-people sample.

The logistics of the project have also been prepared: the One Belt One Road initiative, of course, is about trade, but also "a little bit" about digital expansion. From Serbia to Malaysia, Ethiopia, and Mauritius, China is a leading supplier of telecommunications equipment with explicit or implicit control over networks and data in them.

China-Russia relations are also, of course, about oil and gas, but the most attractive commodity is that which will concrete the inviolability of the Putin regime. The export of precision technologies worked out in Uyghur laboratories will allow nullifying the possibility of any protest at the level of intentions and predicting political resistance before it bursts out.

Razor blade

The ongoing struggle, and the one that is yet to come, is not for a uni-, bi-, or multipolar world, but for new boundaries of freedom in the conditions of the achieved technical possibilities for its complete abolition. In case the war unleashed by Russia succeeds, the world will face anti-liberal revenge and authoritarian synchronization. Unification of dictatorships based on established digital platforms. And then flipping through Fukuyama’s "End of History" in reverse order will become rapidly uncontrollable. From Moscow to Beijing, Tehran, and Minsk. The core of the emerging alliance with an invitation for others to join...and there will be plenty of others interested.

Russia’s defeat will not stop the progress of establishing digital dictatorships, but it will buy time for the West: "…to usher in a new wave of the digital revolution – one that ensures that next-generation technologies work for, not against, our democracies", - as Jake Sullivan hopes. 

And the complexities of the challenges ahead seem insurmountable. In conditions of consensus decision-making, it is necessary to walk along the razor blade. Not to violate human rights, but to ensure security, to follow the path of progress, but not to lose control over the results, to raise the standard of living, but to lower the temperature. In the conditions of technological transition, autocracies and other kinds of dictatorships of the Chinese and Russian types have a significant advantage, which for the first time puts the West in conditions of catching up, not leading.

Having no limits in the decision-making system, no need for public approval, and ignoring issues of morality and ethics, autocracies have unlimited opportunities to develop the most advanced and problematic areas of scientific research. Genetic engineering, bio, nanotechnology, artificial intelligence…

From "Dolly the Sheep" to "Soldier Wang Yi"

While democracies plunge into the discussion of acceptable terminology and its compliance with all gender, sexual, racial, and religious standards, experiments will be carried out in the Ryazan-Wuhan laboratories: from "Dolly the Sheep" to "Soldier Wang Yi". Experiments in genetic modification and bioengineering, with minimum restrictions, have every chance of giving the maximum result in the conditions of unlimited and uncontrolled use of "biomaterial". In prisons and educational camps, it will be in abundance. In such a situation, it is only a matter of time before "higher-order creatures" with qualitatively improved indicators of intelligence, memory, and strength will emerge.

While Western intellectuals are calling on the world community to establish a moratorium on research in artificial intelligence, autocracies are basically not limited by any institutional barriers to work in the AI field. And the possibility of recording a burst of neural activity of citizens with its entry into a single database will become one of many realities and not a forecast.

The West, which has developed institutions of public and competitive political control, runs the risk of falling into a "consensus of inaction" and imposing significant restrictions on the development of advanced technologies of critical importance for its safety and survival. And given the disproportionate complexity of the problems that arise and the lack of capacity to resolve them, there is an obvious temptation to adopt authoritarian practices.

Either way, autocracies get a solid head start, but... The desire to take a dominant position in "technologies with potentially catastrophic consequences" can lead to the turbulence of loss of control, the emergence of non-human systems of crafting and controlling reality. Printer dividends from obtaining quick and tangible effects are irresistibly attractive but terribly unpredictable.

The slow path of democracies, discussing, persuading, and debating about how to make the effects positive and the risks manageable, seems more reliable, if, of course, there will still be democracies by the time the consensus is reached.

Everything changes and nothing changes

For most of its history, humankind has been in a state of slavery and oppression. At the same time, people will be able to colonize Jupiter or merge into a neural network as a digital personality, but they will not be able to avoid confronting other people’s aspirations to rule. The achieved level of freedom is not a given, not a gift, and not the result of a single choice, but the result of a hard struggle. The struggle that never ends, we just found ourselves at the beginning of the journey again. Getting on this path, one should not choose between security and freedom – having lost freedom, we will lose everything.

Disclaimer: Articles reflect their author’s point of view and do not claim to be objective or to explore every aspect of the issues they discuss. The Ukrainska Pravda editorial board does not bear any responsibility for the accuracy of the information provided, or its interpretation, and acts solely as a publisher. The point of view of the Ukrainska Pravda editorial board may not coincide with the point of view of the article’s author.

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