Tuesday, July 21, 2009

My Take on Net Neutrality

In case you haven't noticed, the internet is a huge passion in my life. I understand this may seem weird, but very few topics about the internet do not interest me. The latest news about the internet comes from Tim Berners, who yesterday declared that the web should be uncontrolled and unfettered by corporations and governments. The debate on the nature of the internet is not new. As the internet becomes increasingly relevant and vital to society, it is very apparent how much the internet has changed from its very independent and free-spirited beginnings. Here is an excerpt written by John Perry Barlow in 1996 entitled A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace.

Governments of the Industrial World, you weary giants of flesh and steel, I come from Cyberspace, the new home of Mind. On behalf of the future, I ask you of the past to leave us alone. You are not welcome among us. You have no sovereignty where we gather.

We have no elected government, nor are we likely to have one, so I address you with no greater authority than that with which liberty itself always speaks. I declare the global social space we are building to be naturally independent of the tyrannies you seek to impose on us. You have no moral right to rule us nor do you possess any methods of enforcement we have true reason to fear.

Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed. You have neither solicited nor received ours. We did not invite you. You do not know us, nor do you know our world. Cyberspace does not lie within your borders. Do not think that you can build it, as though it were a public construction project. You cannot. It is an act of nature and it grows itself through our collective actions.

You have not engaged in our great and gathering conversation, nor did you create the wealth of our marketplaces. You do not know our culture, our ethics, or the unwritten codes that already provide our society more order than could be obtained by any of your impositions.

You claim there are problems among us that you need to solve. You use this claim as an excuse to invade our precincts. Many of these problems don't exist. Where there are real conflicts, where there are wrongs, we will identify them and address them by our means. We are forming our own Social Contract. This governance will arise according to the conditions of our world, not yours. Our world is different.

Cyberspace consists of transactions, relationships, and thought itself, arrayed like a standing wave in the web of our communications. Ours is a world that is both everywhere and nowhere, but it is not where bodies live.

We are creating a world that all may enter without privilege or prejudice accorded by race, economic power, military force, or station of birth.

We are creating a world where anyone, anywhere may express his or her beliefs, no matter how singular, without fear of being coerced into silence or conformity.

Your legal concepts of property, expression, identity, movement, and context do not apply to us. They are all based on matter, and there is no matter here.

Our identities have no bodies, so, unlike you, we cannot obtain order by physical coercion. We believe that from ethics, enlightened self-interest, and the commonweal, our governance will emerge . Our identities may be distributed across many of your jurisdictions. The only law that all our constituent cultures would generally recognize is the Golden Rule. We hope we will be able to build our particular solutions on that basis. But we cannot accept the solutions you are attempting to impose.

In the United States, you have today created a law, the Telecommunications Reform Act, which repudiates your own Constitution and insults the dreams of Jefferson, Washington, Mill, Madison, DeToqueville, and Brandeis. These dreams must now be born anew in us.

You are terrified of your own children, since they are natives in a world where you will always be immigrants. Because you fear them, you entrust your bureaucracies with the parental responsibilities you are too cowardly to confront yourselves. In our world, all the sentiments and expressions of humanity, from the debasing to the angelic, are parts of a seamless whole, the global conversation of bits. We cannot separate the air that chokes from the air upon which wings beat.

In China, Germany, France, Russia, Singapore, Italy and the United States, you are trying to ward off the virus of liberty by erecting guard posts at the frontiers of Cyberspace. These may keep out the contagion for a small time, but they will not work in a world that will soon be blanketed in bit-bearing media.

Your increasingly obsolete information industries would perpetuate themselves by proposing laws, in America and elsewhere, that claim to own speech itself throughout the world. These laws would declare ideas to be another industrial product, no more noble than pig iron. In our world, whatever the human mind may create can be reproduced and distributed infinitely at no cost. The global conveyance of thought no longer requires your factories to accomplish.

These increasingly hostile and colonial measures place us in the same position as those previous lovers of freedom and self-determination who had to reject the authorities of distant, uninformed powers. We must declare our virtual selves immune to your sovereignty, even as we continue to consent to your rule over our bodies. We will spread ourselves across the Planet so that no one can arrest our thoughts.

We will create a civilization of the Mind in Cyberspace. May it be more humane and fair than the world your governments have made before.

This declaration embodies net neutrality better than anything else I've come across. I am not a fan of complete net neutrality. The internet has turned into something that is very similar to real life, and that reality necessitates real-life laws and regulations. For instance, breaking into someone else's computer is similar to theft: you have violated another's personal property without their permission. The internet is also a natural extension of human speech and should be subject to the tort actions of libel and slander. Intellectual property, like trademarks, copyrights, and patents, simply must be regulated or else needs to be protected online.

Having established that the internet should be regulated to some degree, I think we should resort to the law regulation as a last resort. Lawrence Lessig explains that there are 4 ways of regulating the internet: law, markets, social norms, and architecture. In my opinion, these other regulations should be used to a much greater extent than the law. From the perspective of a computer geek, it is amazing what kinds of things you can do to safeguard yourself or your property using the architecture of the internet. Behind everything on the internet is code. The internet should and most likely will continue to use that architecture to protect people and ensure them their rights. Social norms also play a vital role. If a certain behavior is highly frowned upon, there is a much greater chance the behavior won't be pursued. Also, maybe even most importantly, markets determine people's incentives for doing things online. If people out there can't make money doing bad things, they won't continue doing them.

In sum, I am more partial to net neutrality than I am to a completely regulated and interfered with internet. There is simply too much good that comes from the openness and flexibility of the internet. Governments should intrude only as absolutely needed.

The Road to Love is not Always Laced with Roses

Dating-relationships can be crappy. When you start to date someone, there are only two possible outcomes: it either works out, or it doesn't. If you're like me, it's hard for you to work out with someone. That means that you start something up, only to see it die time and time again. Each relationship death is a painful experience.

Does it have to be painful? My experience is yes. Throughout the course of one's lifetime, it is inevitable to have feelings for someone else. It is part of our human wiring. These feelings range from friendly, childhood affections to more mature, romantic feelings. It doesn't matter if you are seeking a casual friendship, a networking opportunity, or a significant other, you are bound to be turned down by someone else out there sometime in your life. Romantic love can be the most painful because you are tapping into your deepest feelings. It takes a while to learn that when you freely give away your love and affection, and putting your heart out there, your feelings are likely to not be reciprocated and your heart to get trampled on. If you don't feel this pain, you are most likely dishing it out to someone else.

Is having painful relationship deaths a bad thing? My experience is yes. Some act like breaking up is not a big deal, or that they have transcended getting hurt by dating. I think these individuals are either deceiving themselves or they are more robotic than human. I think that the more relationship deaths we experience, our hearts shrivel up a little bit. We become a little more apathetic and we are less apt to put our love out there for others. We act like we don't have feelings, act like we're above the game, and are less willing to love. A bad thing, in my opinion.

Is there an alternative to being poked by the barbs that are strewn along the road to love? I don't think there is an alternative. When someone is trying to find love, there is always a risk of disappointment and failure. Perhaps you could sit and do nothing, but we all know that inaction does not lead anywhere noteworthy. My bottom line is that notwithstanding the highly probable pain along the way, you've got to keep believing and having confidence that someone, someday will love you back when you show them your love.