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)  

Hey Jon, I’m not convinced. (15)

I do not share Jonathan Zittrain’s fear about the precarious future of a generative Internet, because as far as I can tell there is no mass paranoia about viruses driving a switch from PCs to tethered appliances. That is not to say that a watershed virus affecting international security or combined with a terrorist attack couldn’t change the current apathy towards computer security.

But sometimes when I’m reading his book, the number of times he repeats the problem – that the Internet’s generative design is also its downfall – makes me wonder why he chose the topic he did. It takes 127 PAGES and SIX CHAPTERS to even get around the TOPIC of solutions. And I haven’t even heard any definite ones yet!

Perhaps I am patently unaware of the impending doom. If not, then book sales seems to trump relevance or the possibility that the Internet will change significantly in the near future. An imaginary fear which can be sold in a way to sound legitimate is always a great way to sell a book. But Zittrain hasn’t even legitimated the fears.

Quoting one anti-virus insider and a bunch of virus statistics does not a convincing argument make. Due to automatic virus definition updates, a dangerous virus can usually be quashed rather quickly as long as users have anti-virus software installed.

If he had shown a trend from PCs to tethered appliances rather than solely arguing that people will be tempted to move to safer platforms then I would be more inclined to share his fear.

I do know of a trend in the gaming community away from PCs towards gaming consoles like the PS3 and the XBOX 360. But this trend was accelerated by cheaper prices rather than fears about the generative PC. As the processing power of PCs outperform consoles and their prices stabilize, it is logical to expect a trend back towards the PC.

All of that being said, my next post will tackle some of the reasons we should be afraid of tethered appliances, had Zittrain made a more convincing and statistically backed appeal.

more lame ... but just as plausible

more lame ... but just as plausible

Published in: on March 24, 2009 at 6:09 pm  Leave a Comment