Surrounding Discourse

Cody Wilson’s downloadable blueprint for a fully printable handgun enlivens the debate on legislation and regulation of firearms in the US. However it also brings to the forefront a discussion we are all part of, that of freedom of information and the Internet and how these things are changing politics and our lives.

Wilson believes we are in a post-political moment where the advancement of technology develops at a faster pace than politics and legislation can keep up with; this is also referred to as the ‘Shift-Age’. Uncontrolled, distribution of information and software poses a continual threat to governments worldwide. Examples of this include;

Wikileaks has been in the media spotlight as it tries to bring greater transparency to government actions and initiatives. Julian Assange, its founder is currently in hiding at the Ecuadorian embassy in London under threat of extradition to the United States. The United States government want to prosecute him for leaking files they didn’t want others to see.

Bitcoin, a decentralised digital currency that provides anonymous global transactions poses a real threat to financial institutions and a viable alternative for those wanting to ditch their greedy credit card operators and banks. There are over a billion dollars worth of bitcoins in circulation currently. Initially used to buy illicit goods in the black markets of the Internet like the Silk Road, now organisations such as WordPress and Foodler have started to accept it as a payment type.

3D printing technology out dates current politics and regulations. Allowing users to print products in their own home without any government regulation, posing threats to copyright, patents and even lives. Wilson is using the technology to demonstrate the potential disruptive nature this new technology can have.  As a radical liberalist he believes governments shouldn’t be able to interfere with people’s actions, using 3D printed guns as a symbolic way of showing this.

Wilson states that regulating potentiality infringes on intrinsic rights we have as human beings. If somebody wants to achieve something then they will do it with what ever is available to them. The hundred thousand people who downloaded the blueprints for The Liberator won’t all print the gun and kill somebody. However he does accept that the potential for it to happen is there. The System cannot handle a state of negative liberty, if anyone can print the blueprints then they have the potential to use the gun, which poses a potential threat and therefore must be regulated. The very nature of liberty however is its ability to be abused. Wilson argues that prohibition is not the right way to handle social issues using the failed war on drugs to demonstrate how if people want something, they will find a way to get it.
Using Foucault’s idea of power anonymously diffused all around us to illustrate the point that governemntal power is a much bigger problem than the Goldman Sachs bankers politics works to protect. He believes state power in modern societies limits and controls how we behave in all aspects of our lives whether we realise or not, ‘the State as a condition’. Wilson is bringing the debate on alternative strategies of opposition like Wikileaks and Bitcoin are, to the medias attention with his printed gun parts.

A decentralised, diffused government model is Wilsons Utopia. The release of his fully printable handgun is not a call to revolution, nor is he looking for people to take to the streets with them.  3D printing a gun is more than a war cry for 2nd amendment die-hards in the US but a symbolic gesture of a modern society coming to terms with new found power away from intermediary institutions.

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