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Since the dawn of the commercial Internet, there has been the general sentiment permeating Western society that technology is a force for good. Where destructive technological advances, such as the nuclear bomb, were once seen as the inevitable downfall of mankind, the potential of a free communications medium that was resistant to censorship and available to everyone offered hope to millions of oppressed people worldwide.

This past year saw the usual dizzying array of technological advancesbut it was also the year that the Internet generation finally lost its innocence. Former U. The details are almost too numerous to list.

Suffice it to say that the vast majority of information sent over the Internet is subject to interception by the NSA and its partner organizations.

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What Snowden revealed is a surveillance apparatus, the size and scope of which is unprecedented in human history. But technology is also the great equalizer, and saw a host of technological advances that have the potential to put the power back in the hands of the people. Some groups, such as OpenMedia.

Others have been working feverishly to develop open technologies that will better protect the privacy of Internet users. One of the more promising technologies that came of age in is bitcoin, a digital cryptocurrency that allows pseudo-anonymous monetary transactions to take place online. To a liberty-minded scribe such as myself, this sounds great. And he may be right. And although governments have been able to do away with alternative physical currencies, it is notoriously hard to kill an idea. Indeed, private currencies were commonplace before governments decided to monopolize the money supply.

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During the golden age of private banking in the United States, from around tostate-chartered banks were allowed to issue private bank notes redeemable for gold and silver coins produced by the U. Throughout that time, the U. In other words, money become more valuable over time, not less. The creation of central banks was but a further extension of this logic, giving nation-states even further control over the currency. Does this mean bitcoin is a bad investment? I have no idea. Gox exchange on Monday, following news that online game maker Zynga Inc. Other large companies, including overstock.

And consumers should too. After all, if we can agree that competition in goods and services le to better products at cheaper prices, then competition in currencies should yield similarly favourable. Ultimately, the value of bitcoin is not as a hedge against the U. In a world where governments are demanding greater control over our lives, both in the real world and in cyberspace, technologies such as this must be nurtured. Technology, after all, can be used for good, or for evil. It is up to free people everywhere to fight technologies deed to oppress us, with those that have the potential to liberate us.

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From bitcoin to the NSA: What teaches us about technology as great liberator and the great oppressor