Unsafe is safer. (18).

It sounds like Orwellian doublespeak but in this case its not.

Zittrain shows that drivers in the Netherlands behave more responsibly on the street when they have an incentive to preserve other people’s safety as well as their own in the absence of signs and the presence of generalized rules, such as yielding to cars on your right at an intersection.

Signs and complex rules dehumanize our interaction. When we have to rely on our own minds for public safety (out of a commonly shared self interest), then we re-humanize our roads. We “see other drivers rather than other cars.”

Zittrain ties this analogy to the Internet. On one extreme, corporations are using every legal tool they can to reign in copyright abuses, and on the other, hackers do their best to defeat copyright and spread “illegal” files as much as possible. In the middle are all the things academics love. Fair use, cultural creation, personal expression, and community building.

How can a place where both extremes operate settle more towards the middle ground and allow the Internet to survive?

The secret, like in the Netherlands, is to make a depersonalized space human again. So, Zittrain asks, “What are the online tools and social structures that inspire people to act humanely online?”

Zittrain uses Wikipedia to show that standards, instead of rules, can reach a consensus through online discussion and democratic voting.


All we need now is a centralized giant forum which guides Internet standards. By the people for the people. Holla!

a humane death

a humane death

Published in: on March 27, 2009 at 4:49 pm  Comments (1)