The more I think about it, the clearer it seems to me that with the reduction in the cost of technologies comes the increased need for controlling people if you want to control the technologies.
There is a tipping point somewhere, where a technology hits the mainstream and essentially through ease of use and availability becomes very hard to control. Think about mobile phones and regulating who takes pictures where, or go back further and think about writing. How would one regulate writing in our society? That is a technology that has passed the point of regulability in a sense. This may be worth thinking more about. In the meanwhile I will give the notion a name, let’s call it the Barlow Theorem, and sketch out some ideas. Here is a first:
The idea here is that in the technological society we see a phase shift at a certain cost for some technologies where the regulability of the technology vanishes (what does that mean, and how would we measure it?) and it instead becomes necessary to regulate the use and possession of the technology, and essentially control people. Not give state licenses for use but prohibit possession of certain technologies.
What the Barlow theorem would imply is that power you need to exercise to control a technology is inverse to, in a sense the cost of the technology. In order to stop extremely low cost technology you need draconian power. That does not seem wholly unlikely.
Of course, there is something unsatisfactory with that notion too, like, isn’t it obvious? Why state it with such pathos? Is there something different happening in the information society that was not happening before, here? Well, with the acceleration of technological change you could argue that the time required for a technology to reach the point where the shift happens is shrinking very quickly.
I could also imagine someone saying “big deal, the state has always controlled people, not technology”, but that misses the wider point. It is direct coercion vs requirement for the code. It is the notion that the code is less and less centrally controlled, written and open to control. It is an empirical question if this is true or not, of course. How would you measure the control over code in a society today? That is an interesting question, too, actually.