What the Sufi knew about technology

Before becoming an atheist I looked at many religions and I am still fascinated by the complexities of belief systems. Within Sufism (a mystical form of Islam) I came across a counter-intuitive aphorism which has often proven to be true: Freedom is the absence of choice.

The ability of autonomous individuals to chose stands in the center of most freedom discourses so at first glance the Sufi thought seems to be dead wrong. Lack of choice cannot be a form of freedom. This is of course until you have to pick a new mobile provider.

Yesterday I spent way too much time in the trivial decision of picking a mobile phone service. The method was relatively simple. First I ignored the smaller providers. This is a form of arrogance since it is built on the untested premise that they will not be good enough, but it is also a time saving device since a complete comparison between providers would have taken even longer.

This left three main players. All of them provide a relatively adequate technological base for my needs but the pricing systems vary incredibly.The simplest form of analysis was the cost for calls. But even this can be subdivided into three groups: (1) Calls to other mobiles with the same provider, (2) Calls to other mobiles with other providers, and (3) Calls to land lines. This is also made more nuanced since in addition to the cost for the calls there is the opening cost for each call.

The next unit of analysis is the cost for text messages this is thankfully simple since it offers a straight comparison. This was followed by the costs for international calls since I often call to and from Norway. This last one can be made more complex by analysing whether additional services with other telecom providers can make for a cheaper choice. The final main unit of analysis was the cost of data since I occaissionally (but not too often) rely on my phone as a modem.

This is all wrapped up with a bunch of silly but not insignificant sundry costs like billing expenses, startup costs, add-on costs for various services and so on.

Now all this was just to pick a mobile phone provider. If we were to be serious about our economies we would have to do the same for our energy providers, land line providers, Internet providers, cable tv providers, insurance providers etc etc etc…

So the Sufi were actually on to something… Freedom may actually be the absence of choices.

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