#RightToCompute – Redefining Digital Freedom in the Age of AI – Interview with Steve Cobb


In an era where access to technology is increasingly intertwined with personal liberties, a pioneering initiative led by Haltia.AI is challenging the status quo and advocating for a fundamental human right: the #RightToCompute. This transformative campaign goes beyond mere access to technology; it boldly asserts that using a computer for any purpose is akin to the freedom of thought and expression.

In a world where governments are beginning to impose restrictions on who can access rapidly developing AI capabilities, the #RightToCompute campaign emerges as a crucial response. It challenges limitations and advocates unrestricted computational freedom, inspired by the techno-optimist Manifesto of Silicon Valley magnate Marc Andreessen.

Haltia.AI, known for its advancements in personal AI technology and driven by core privacy and global collaboration values, sees this initiative as pivotal toward a future where technology serves humanity universally, not just a select few. The vision is clear: every individual should have the means to harness technology for personal growth and community enrichment.

In an exclusive interview, we sit down with Steve Cobb, Haltia.AI’s Lead AI Ethicist, to delve into the genesis, principles, and transformative potential of the ‘#RightToCompute’ movement.

1. What inspired Haltia.AI to launch the ‘#RightToCompute’ initiative, and how does it differentiate itself from other campaigns advocating for digital rights and access?

Steve Cobb - Haltia
Steve Cobb, AI Ethicist, Haltia.AI

The genesis of the #RightToCompute initiative lies in our engagement with Marc Andreessen’s Techno-Optimist Manifesto. While we find common ground with Marc’s advocacy for technology and free markets as catalysts for prosperity, our initiative arose from a critical observation of the Manifesto’s framework. With its emphasis on utilitarianism, the Manifesto intriguingly omits any direct reference to individual’ rights.’ This gap sparked a crucial internal dialogue and led to the birth of #RightToCompute. We believe that embracing technology’s role in advancement means recognizing and championing the intrinsic rights to learn, innovate, communicate, work, and trade, facilitated by technological tools. This blend of technological optimism with a rights-based approach forms the core of #RightToCompute. Our initiative extends the concept of intelligence as the ultimate engine of progress to include the fundamental right to compute, a right that spans the history of human tools, from abacuses and slide rules to modern computers.

This initiative focuses on the essential right to compute, yet it also naturally intersects with other digital rights, like the right to access information, freedom of expression, and privacy. While #RightToCompute doesn’t propose an entitlement to compute, we consider it important enough to modern well-being that it merits consideration in defining a minimal standard of living in the digital age. This perspective enables us to sympathize and potentially collaborate with other digital rights movements and organizations, such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation, to cultivate a more inclusive and equitable digital landscape

2. In the context of the evolving regulatory landscape, can you elaborate on Haltia.AI’s dual commitment to streamlining product development and upholding deontological principles of fairness and access in the digital age?

In today’s rapidly changing regulatory environment, there’s a growing concern that larger AI entities and big tech might use their positions to influence regulations to stifle competition. This is a critical issue that goes beyond any single company. It’s about ensuring that all players in the AI field, especially startups such as Haltia.AI, can innovate and contribute to the industry without facing unfair barriers.

Equally important is the right of citizens and consumers to access modern digital tools that enhance their security and competitiveness in the digital world. Advocating for fair access to these technologies is essential, ensuring they’re not just confined to a handful of powerful entities. Upholding these principles of fairness and accessibility in product development and AI deployment is crucial for a balanced and forward-thinking digital age.

3. You mention the importance of creating a platform for open discourse without commercial overtones. How does Haltia.AI plan to foster this open discourse, and what role does it envision industry leaders, technologists, policymakers, and the public playing in the movement?

The initial phase involves maintaining a dedicated website (https://righttocompute.ai/) and social media presence (@righttocompute) to build awareness and facilitate discussion around the ‘#RightToCompute’ initiative. This platform is intended to be a neutral ground where individuals from various sectors – industry leaders, technologists, legal experts, policymakers, and citizens – can converge to discuss and assert their views on computational rights.

We encourage legal experts to define the boundaries of the right to compute concerning other digital rights. Citizens must engage with their political representatives to bring these discussions into the legislative and potentially constitutional arenas. The collective involvement of these diverse groups is key to driving the movement forward, ensuring that the right to compute becomes a recognized and actionable principle in our digital society.

4. The ’#RightToCompute’ campaign draws parallels between computing power and fundamental human freedoms like speech and thought. Could you provide specific examples of how unrestricted access to computing power contributes to individual empowerment and societal advancement?

Concerns about AI leading to mass unemployment overlook the historical fact that no technology has ever created long-term unemployment. Instead, new technologies bring disruption, requiring people to adapt to remain competitive. This adaptation can be particularly challenging for older workers and those with fewer resources. Without access to computing power, these individuals risk falling behind in a rapidly advancing global economy, exacerbating the digital divide.

Beyond the economic sphere, individuals face challenges from entities with varying intentions – ranging from misaligned to exploitative or even malicious. These include Big Tech companies, scammers, political manipulators, and authoritarian governments. All these actors have access to substantial resources. To navigate this landscape, individuals need access to significant computing power. It’s a necessary tool to defend against potential exploits and manipulations. Only AI can effectively defend against AI-powered threats.

5. Haltia.AI’s core values include privacy, dignity, and global collaboration for human progress. How does the ‘#RightToCompute’ initiative align with these values, and in what ways does it seek to democratize the digital realm and break down barriers imposed by monopolistic practices?

The ‘#RightToCompute’ initiative champions the individual’s right to access computing power, a fundamental step towards democratizing the digital realm. This access is crucial, especially for activities like encryption and maintaining privacy and personal dignity. Historically, the right to encrypt has been based on freedom of expression, but it’s just as relevant to freedom of thought when extended to include computation.

This initiative challenges the prevailing notion that governments or large corporations should control powerful computing resources exclusively. Such a paternalistic approach suggests these entities are the sole arbiters of the interests of citizens and consumers, potentially restricting individual empowerment and self-defense capabilities. The assumption that computing power, if widely accessible, could be misused by bad actors and thus should be limited overlooks individuals’ need to have these tools for their protection, innovation, and informed decision-making.

Essentially, the ‘#RightToCompute’ seeks to break down barriers imposed by monopolistic practices, promoting equitable access to computing power. This approach enables individuals to protect themselves, innovate, and exercise their choices.