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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.


The Internet has the power to empower people, but as it grows in potential, so does the expertise of those who would seek to keep the people powerless in using new technology and the institutions of democracy to achieve their aims.

Look at two of the big 2004 election year stories:
the emergence of the blog, and the Diebold voting machine controversy. One's invigorating, the other is horrifying. I hope the good guys win.

Thats some heavy reading and,---oh oh the FBI is at my door, gotta run!

Great post (both links), Joe! It will take some time to digest, but hopefully the discussions and feedback will continue and be effective. The DoS at Hosting Matters, no matter who was responsible, is another reminder of how NEW and vulnerable this thing is. Fortunately
some officials are on top of it: (thanks, Porphy)

Keep up the good work. Ben (in a comment for to Roger Simon) is right about the consequences of not correctly or adequately recognizing or responding to feedback from the real world (see Thomas Sowell in The Vision of the Annointed--again via Porphy). With diligence and hard work (yeah, you too, Maynard!) these issues will get sorted out in the light of rational debate. Although Porphy is "rather pressimistic" about political matters, I have faith that higher power(s) will prevail.

After reading the article a series of thoughts came to mind. The internet is no different from any other community. I think you will find the internet subject to the same vagaries that bedevil codified law. Individuals and organization are always trying to change laws to suite their needs or benefit them in some way. These will of course either expand or restrict freedom in some way. The same dynamic will be at work on the internet. The concept of anonymity is horrid to most communities. This means lack of accountability for one's actions. Communities don't like that. I am neither supporting nor fighting the ongoing events just describing them from my point of view.

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