Freedom Club in some respects is two books intertwined into one. On the surface, the book tells a tale about two men –Shinzou and Sumeet– who try to resolve technological threats to society in various forms. However, below the surface is a second tale concerning the manifestation of technology, and the changes (good and bad) it has brought upon mankind throughout history.
One important concept to define up front is simply technology itself. Technology (and any related technique which leads to greater efficiency) often manifests itself in the objects that surround us. Computers, televisions, telephones, buildings, cities, etc; we all can think of many examples. However, Freedom Club was written with a very broad understanding of technology.
From the book’s point of view, one should use the following definition:
Technology in general can take many forms both concrete and abstract. However, it is born by the intentional actions of sentient creatures (Human for the most part in this time frame) to change the environment in a way that is both unnatural (by definition) and more efficient. Once created, technology can persist in either abstract form as an idea or methodology (generally referred to as techniques) or be instantiated as a physical object which may (or may not) require further utilization by a sentient being to have an effect upon the environment.
Now, the definition above is quite broad. So much so, many will think that by using it, almost all activities by humans are technological (though one should exclude basic biological activities such as eating, drinking, sleeping, etc…) This is indeed the case from the author’s perspective, and Freedom Club is written with this concept at its foundation.
Another thing to keep in mind while reading Freedom Club, is the importance of issues raised by sections that represent historic flashbacks (alternate history). The flashbacks do have concrete relation to the primary storyline, but one should not focus upon them solely as a plot device. Instead, one should look carefully at the history and characters being presented, and try to fathom what role the scene plays with respect to the overall theme of the respective chapter. By doing so, readers will (or so the author hopes) find greater satisfaction in the book.
To further aid readers investigate the many facets of Freedom Club, two sets of questions are presented. The first set represents general questions that are raised by the primary storyline, and are broken into four groups: Dramatic, Moral, Philosophical, and Plot. The second set of questions are broken into groups, each relating to a particular chapter.
Not all the questions in the second set can be answered based only on the text of Freedom Club. As a speculative fiction novel, some questions can only be touched upon, and readers should consider their own knowledge of history and philosophy, or refer to external reference material before formulating an answer. One easy source of information is wikipedia.org. There, readers can easily read articles that will bring them up to speed on key concepts, along with pointers to numerous reference books and external websites.
For those interested in a bibliography, the main blog page provides a suggested list of books, many of which were used during the creation of Freedom Club.
Question Set 1: General Questions
- Is Shiro insane?
- Will Shiro destroy humanity?
- Why exactly are Sumeet and Flip unhappy with their lives?
- What did Kamiyoshi do and why does his past scare him?
- Are those who oppose society, criminals?
- Can killing for an important cause ever be justified?
- Is is right teaching religion to Sentient Beings(AIs)?
- What exactly is technology? Can you define it?
- How does technology come about in the world? In what forms does it manifest itself?
- Does technology subjugate? How much does technology control our lives?
- What is consciousness? Are Sentients conscious like man?
- What relation does religion have with technology?
- Should religion be taught to Sentients? Is it right to teach anyone religion without their consent?
- Does technology preclude God’s existence?
- Is it possible to regress a society by removing technology?
- What role does poetry play in the book’s plot?
- What is the Freedom Club, and is Sumeet a member?
- Should Sumeet buy the com-plex in Bengaluru?
- Will Shinzou get caught committing LS?
- Why is Takahana Nanites important?
- What role do flashbacks play in the narrative?
Question Set 2: By Chapter
Shimabara Japan: 1638
- Why did the Japanese outlaw Christianity?
- Who was Amakusa Shiro, and what’s his relation to the story?
- Did the rebels have a right to fight back, and was it worth the terrible price that was paid?
Quote: ‘He has no time to be anything but a machine’ by Henry David Thoreau. What might Henry David Thoreau mean by his statement, and how does this relate to people’s lives in later timeframes?
New York City: 1949 New York State Psychiatric Institute
- Why was Allen Ginsberg in a Psychiatric ward? Was he really insane?
- Does Flip suffer from the same socio-economic problems raised by Howl?
- Is the world that Allen and Flip live in, really all that different?
- What relation does the poem Howl have to the book’s plot?
- What exactly is Moloch referring to, and what meaning does is have in both the past and future?
- Does poetry and art really have the power to change the world as stated by Carl?
Poem: ‘Song of the Luddites’ by Lord Byron. What is this poem trying to say, and why does it talk about liberty?
Nottinghamshire England: Christmas Eve 1811
- Can you define the term ‘Luddite’ as it is used today?
- Who were the Luddites (aka Frame Breakers) in the 1800s, and were they really afraid of technology?
- What effect did the Napoleonic War have upon the textile trade?
- Who exactly was Ned Ludd? Was he a real person in life?
- What exactly was a “Frame” back in the late 1800s, and what impact did it have on the weaver’s guild in England?
- Did the “Frame Breakers” have any justification to be violent? On the same note, what was the government’s response, and was it justified?
- Did Lord Byron really care about the Luddites? What action did he take in the House of Lords?
- Over the next century, did conditions improve for weavers after the Frame Breaker revolt?
- Do machines dehumanize people in the workforce? Why?
Quote: ...We presuppose labour in a form that stamps it as exclusively human, by Karl Marx. Why does Marx distinguish labour as belonging only to “humanity”?
London England: 1851
- What exactly is a ‘natural’ process, and is technology natural?
- Is technology solely in the hands of mankind? In other words, can animals (other than humans) create technology?
- How does our tool creation and social behavior compare to animals? Can you explain the following behaviors: great apes when they seem to make tools, beavers making a lodge, and birds making a nest?
- What did Karl Marx say about commodities?
- Can commodities exist without labour? Can labour exist without some level of technology or technique?
- What is it about humanity that gives us the power to create technology?
- Is technology and tool creation an instinctual act for humanity?
Quote: ‘Machinery is the chief symbol of modern civilization; it represents a great sin’, by Mohandas Gandhi. What did Gandhi mean by this?
Sado Island Japan: 1964 Tasting Room, Ceylon Tea Importers
- Who was Subhas Chandra Bose historically, and what was his relation to Orlando Mazotta?
- What is the relation between the writings of Henry David Thoreau and Mohandas Gandhi?
- Was Bose justified to seek help from Hitler and Mussolini to expel the British control over India? In other words, to what extend are activities, in the name of freedom, subject to moral law?
- Why wouldn’t Shiro utilize the non-violent strategy used by Gandhi? Is Shiro more like Bose?
- Was progress and implementation of British capitalism beneficial to India during Britain’s rule? Was capitalism beneficial after British control ended?
- Do the same problems caused by capitalism in India, affect other nations? Why or why not?
- Is it sensible to think Bose was fighting various forms of technology in all its forms, as apposed to simply the British Empire?
Quote: ‘The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation. From the desperate city you go into the desperate country, and have to console yourself with the bravery of minks and muskrats’, by Henry David Thoreau. Based on this, can you explain why Thoreau believe is the basic mode existence is one of desperation?
Walden Pond Connecticut: 1846
- What was Thoreau’s attitude towards charity? Why does he help the vagrant who visits him?
- Can you find out what Thoreau thought about scientists? Did he have respect them, or the highly educated? How did that contrast against inventors and other people who used new techniques to achieve previously unattainable goals?
- Why did Smitty Mangel get laid off in the Lowell Mill?
- Who were the ‘Lowell Mill Girls’, and how were they a significant change to the industrial hiring practices of the time?
- What similarities or differences can be drawn between Lowell Massachusetts, and Nottingham England 50 years prior during the Luddite revolt?
- According to Thoreau, who is ultimately responsible to make life better for the common man? And, would he support revolutionary action to resolve social problems?
- What is Thoreau’s attitude about man’s ability to control his destiny? Does he believe in fate?
- Does Thoreau believe that progress is worth the toil and desperation caused by it?
Quote: ‘But two factors enter into the extensive field of technical operation: consciousness and judgement. This double intervention produces what I call the technical phenomenon.’ by Jacques Ellul. What do you think Ellul means by consciousness? Are human’s the only conscious creatures on our planet? If not, then what is meant by ‘judgement’, and what do you think it means in this context? Compare your ideas to the general definition of ‘technology’ presented earlier.
Post Liberated France: 1944 Cafe de Flore, Paris
- What happened in southern France during the reign of the Vichy Government?
- Who was Jacques Ellul in real life? How is he related to the Unabomber Manifesto?
- What did Jean-Paul Sartre have to say about the origins of consciousness?
- Can you define what Sartre meant by first, second, and third degree levels of consciousness?
- If Ellul’s statement is correct, and consciousness is a component of technology (what Ellul he calls the technological phenomenon), try to equate this to Sartre’s degrees of consciousness?
- What did the real Sartre think about ‘Nothingness/Non-Being and how it always appears within the limits of a human expectation? Can you relate this concept to Ellul’s need for ‘Judgement’ as a component of what he calls, the technical phenomena?
- How do Ellul and Sartre differ about the morality of individual decisions?
- Can morality exist without religion? Moreover, do animals display moral behavior? For example, is there moral behavior within wolf packs, groups of chimpanzees, and pods of whales?
- In Freedom Club, the fictional Sartre claimed that violence is a “motor of history” and a precursor to a moral and free society: Do you agree with this idea?
- In broad terms, can you compare how technology is exploited under capitalism and communism? In which ways does each system try to employ technology with the greatest efficiency?
- The fictional Sartre ends the flashback with the statement, “we are condemned to be free.” What do you think he meant by this statement?
Quote: ‘Man is condemned to be free, because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does‘, by Jean-Paul Sartre. Can you explain what Sartre is trying to say here?
Douglas Arizona: 1906 Command Post — Arizona Rangers
- What was happening in the copper minding industry (In Arizona and Northern Mexico) at this time? Who was Colonel William Greene?
- Why would Captain Rynning disobey orders and enter Mexico to put down a miner’s strike? What would be his motivation?
- In the book, what is Rynning’s idea of ‘the big picture’?
- What effect did the use copper have on lifestyles in the early 1900s?
- Why does Rynning say that progress will make the country into a ‘Garden of Eden’? Wasn’t it knowledge that expelled mankind from Eden?
Quote: ‘The ego represents what we call reason and sanity, in contrast to the id which contains the passions’ by Sigmund Freud. What does Freud mean with his terms, ego and id? With your answers from above about consciousness (chapter 12: Ellul) See if you can position the ego and id into the earlier definition.
September 21, 1939 Maresfield Gardens – England
- What was Freud’s view of man within civilization? That is, did he feel man have certain passions (instinctual behaviors) that put him at odds with civilization and the rules imposed by it?
- If civilization puts limits upon man and his aggressive tendencies, what compensatory benefit would man have to create and live within civilization?
- How does morality fit into Freud’s ideas on man and civilization? In Freud’s terms, what is the source of morality?
- Can morality itself be interpreted as a technological aspect of man? In other words, can it be interpreted as a technique employed by mankind? (Note: the answer given should be in context to previous questions about the possible morality within the animal kingdom.)
- What did Freud think about humanity’s sexual instinct and the manifestation of religion?
- Within Freedom Club, how are Sentient Beings presented within Freudian philosophy? Does their instinctual makeup guarantee superiority over humanity?
- How does Shiro behave in respect to other Sentients? What aspects of his upbringing can explain this?
Quote: ‘Social Advantages are for the workers alone, not for the “useless mouths.” The solitary is a useless mouth and will have no ration card – up to the day he is transported to a penal colony’, by Jacques Ellul. What do you think this quote means? Why would living in solitude be represented as a crime by Ellul?
Lincoln Montana: 1994
- Who was Theodore Kaczynski, and what were his philosophies about technology? What was the Unabomber Manifesto?
- What relationship is there between the writings of Kaczynski and Ellul?
- In what ways are Henry David Thoreau and Theodore Kaczynski similar, and how do they differ?
- Go back to your answer in chapter 11 about Thoreau’s attitude to revolutionary action, then think about how his ideas differ from Kaczynski?
- Is it possible to regress society from technology? Is there a certain point where society cannot function without a certain level of technology? If so, what exactly might that level be?
- In Freedom Club, do Sentient Beings as they’re portrayed, qualify as the Thinking Machines described in the Unabomber Manifesto?
June 1780 – London, England
- During the life of William Blake, what stages did the Industrial Revolution go through?
- How did the industrial revolution affect William Blake? Do you think he was saddened by what he saw taking place?
- Why did the Gordon Riots occur in 1780? Who was Lord Gordon?
- What is the meaning implied by the Tiger in Blake’s poem, Tyger Tyger?What is the relation is there between the work of William Blake to Allen Ginsberg?
Quote: ‘Moloch who entered my soul early! Moloch in whom I am a consciousness without a body! Moloch who frightened me out of my natural ecstasy! Moloch whom I abandon! Wake up in Moloch! Light streaming from the sky!’, by Allen Ginsberg. Now that you are mostly through the book, how do you think this quote can be reinterpreted with respect to Sentient Beings? Are they an example of Moloch, or are they victims of Moloch in a metaphorical sense?
- Why do you think Shinzou is asking Gupta about the scans from a Sentient? From which Sentient do you think these scans were taken?
- Go back to your answer in Chapter 14 regarding Freud’s ideas on humanity’s sexual instinct and the manifestation of religion. Based on that and the information in this chapter, what further meaning can you construe with regard to Sentient Beings?
- What do you think about the concept that religion could manifest itself from psychological means? How problematic was this when it was first put forth by Freud?
- Taking Freud’s philosophy into account, consider why Sentient Beings would have been created with a sex drive?