Five years later economist John Kenneth Galbraith, elaborated his concept of the “technostructure” in The New Industrial State. “Power,” he wrote, had “passed to...a new production function... men of diverse technical knowledge, experience or other talent, which modern industrial technology and planning require.” Galbraith’s book celebrated an industrial oligarchy at the heart of the military-industrial complex, enmeshed in state functions and protected by state power, insulated from public accountability, and innocent of responsibility. Why? Because it promoted itself as the inevitable expression of technology’s indisputable “requirements.” Galbraith had fallen under the spell of technological determinism.
Despite the overwhelming international popularity of the book, an erudite Viennese-born American economist and university President, Walter Adams, aggressively challenged Galbraith’s defense of the status-quo. “My hypothesis,” Adams protested, “holds that industrial concentration is not the inevitable outgrowth of economic and technical forces...” Instead he cited “unwise, man-made, discriminatory, privilege-creating governmental action” as the “keystone in an edifice of neomercantilism and industrial feudalism.”
The military-industrial complex, Adams warned, was the most damning expression of the technostructure: “government not only permits and facilitates the entrenchment of private power but serves as its fountainhead. It creates and institutionalizes power concentrations which tend to breed on themselves and to defy public control. The scenario of events should be familiar. The ‘mad momentum’ of an international weapons race ...generates demand...for the development and production of sophisticated weaponry.” The question he posed haunts us now: How can the state regulate and oversee an industry upon which it depends for its arsenal?
The Demilitarized Internet
Now fast forward to the 1980s when a highly educated, energetic, and libertarian-oriented group of software designers and engineers brought us the Internet. The new communications medium was intended to bypass entrenched institutional interests in favor of horizontal communication free from bureaucracy. When the foundations for today’s Internet were first developed, several computer protocols competed to become the global standard.
According to Internet historians Martin Campbell-Kelly and Daniel Garcia-Swartz, two factors enabled the TCP/IP protocol, developed by the ARPANET community, to dominate. The first was that ARPANET operated as an ad-hoc permeable organization in which many people could participate and quickly reach consensus. The second was that the U.S. government’s military interests in ARPANET were finally disengaged from the development process and channeled into another network effort called MILNET. In the absence of the defense and security agenda, ARPANET rapidly expanded its network on a global scale and attracted many other networks to it. TCP/IP became the defacto Internet protocol precisely because it was demilitarized.