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Bottling the Genie: The Net's Future

From John Paczkowski's Good Morning Silicon Valley, Oct. 17, 2003:
"The combination of the personal computer and the Internet is the ultimate in empowerment for the masses, right? The technology defies borders, routes around censorship, and allows the voices of individuals to be heard on the same stage as the rich and powerful, right? That's what John Walker, founder of Autodesk, used to think too. Now he's not so sure, and in a sobering mongraph titled "The Digital Imprimatur: How big brother and big media can put the Internet genie back in the bottle," he explains why...
"The Net is not the peaceful little village of academics and hobbyists it once was; now it's a metropolis, with serious money to be made, serious power to be wielded and serious nastiness to be warded off. Walker's contention is that the very mechanisms now available and in development to manage life in such an environment - the walls we need to protect ourselves, the authentication of identity that we need to trust each other - could gradually create a structure of choke points and authority that would leave government and corporate powers in control of Net use, and all in the name of protecting the user. Before you say it could never happen, read the full treatise - it's long, but clearly written, and it's an eye-opener."
I'll second that recommendation, and add one of my own. For a longer-range view that looks at the underlying potential in both directions, David Ronfeldt's 1992 paper Cyberocracy is Coming remains the most perceptive single piece I've yet read.

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