Technological changes demand new ways of thinking. For example, new communications technology creates problems for governments and copywriters in their ability to garner trade for taxation, revenue and regulatory purposes. Old ways of thinking have left loopholes which are more like tunnels. Let me explain.
Many of us were raised in an era when to buy music, you went down to a record store to purchase an album. Whilst we have adapted to CDs, we still go to a store to buy one. If we are a little computer savvy, we may even have purchased over the Internet. BUT we have still purchased a tangible product, which the government can tax. Yet there are many who now obtain music over the Internet by downloading it onto their computer. There is no physical product to be handled, just bits of information producing the same end result as a CD which arrives in the case. The only problem is that there is no physical product to tax, or to trace for royalties to the artist. This is also true of books, which are now being swapped as files over the Internet, escaping customs, GST, royalties and other taxes. These bits of information - whether they be books, music, photos, speeches, or any other means of communication, are simply binary bits of information stored and transferred between computers: paperless, easily moved across national and international boundaries, eluding restrictions and tax. In a digital age, information can be circulated without ever being committed to a concrete format.
This has implications for those who would restrict the availability of information. When I was in high school, Chairman Mao's Little Red Schoolbook, was a hot topic of discussion, having been banned in Australia. Imagine the excitement when holding a copy in my hands! But now one could be emailed around the world in a matter of moments with governments powerless to stop it.
The digital revolution is a reminder to us that there are ways around barriers to communication. Where one technique might fail, another might succeed. Where one fails to impact, a different approach opens doors. To stick with a single, inflexible method is to invite, even encourage, eventual failure. Remember the changing and creative ways in which God has sought to communicate with us: "In the past, God spoke to our forebears through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by His Son. (Heb 1:1-2)
How creative and persistent are we in seeking to communicate the love of God? It is amazing the doors that can open when we try!
June 10, 2001
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