Skip to content

🦄 Freedom

Before reading through this note, ask a few people you respect to define "freedom" and say what it means to them. Like most fundamental concepts we've covered so far - trust, value, meaning, money and speech - the answers to this basic inquiry are often shallow or insufficient.


Freedom is only the ability to be conscious of the constraints within which you operate.

This definition via complementary opposites should be familiar by now. Buddhists call it "the freedom of no escape". There is nowhere to be but here. Truly accepting this fact and submitting to reality as it is, rather than how you wish it to be, is the beginning of liberation. The struggle in our day and age is not collective; it is individual.

This is not to say there are no collective issues worth fighting for: basic needs (land, shelter, water, food, and sanitation), equal opportunity, and just institutions are all necessary. As Graeber showed: this is the same revolutionary program from antiquity: "Forgive debt and redistribute the land." What is required - in addition to this - is "every single soul taking every single step" so that we can figure out together how to create what was old community in future form.

Freedom will not be found in some idealized future where we all enjoy sovereignty, universal suffrage, basic income, and any other transient goal cooked up by the current zeitgeist. Again, these projects are necessary - they build human capacity and ability - but they will not set us free.

Freedom is the simple combination of awareness and acceptance. It is here and now, or not at all. We are limited, flawed beings: there is no escaping this simple fact of experience. It is not by denying one's boundaries, but by embracing them, that real liberation can become a daily experience, rather than a concept to be realized once some external project has come to fruition.

Application

How does this apply to trust and value? Well, value is generated from trust in clearly shared truths, and modern trust is an emergent property of protocols that define and encode what it means to cheat so that it may be prevented without human interpretation or enforcement.

Freedom is our conscious ability to decide which shared truths to trust based on how well defined and encoded the concept of "cheating" is that created those truths. Meaning, we have the freedom to define what boundaries we choose. It is not possible, though, to operate efficiently with no boundaries at all. Which is why the practice of freedom includes an acceptance that it is not possible to exist without limitation.

Lived freedom is the conscious navigation of responsibility. You are free to the extent you take responsibility for the consequences of your actions.

This is a critical point: the products we create should not aim to make people "more free" - that way lies false marketing campaigns and disappointment. Our products should be conscious of, and communicate clearly, how they constrain the people who use them. In doing so, they create the environment for people to become aware of the trade-offs they themselves are making, which is the only kind of freedom we can trust to generate sustainable value.