• Goto NETFUTURE main page
  •                                 NETFUTURE
                       Technology and Human Responsibility
    Issue #39      Copyright 1997 O'Reilly & Associates       January 29, 1997
                Editor:  Stephen L. Talbott (stevet@netfuture.org)
                         On the Web: http://netfuture.org
         You may redistribute this newsletter for noncommercial purposes.
    *** Quotes and Provocations
          From Universal Access To Universal Paranoia
          The Walmart Syndrome
          Who Is Embedding Whom?
          What Kind of Company Do You Work For?
    *** Dorothy Denning on Cryptography Export Controls
          Software is not speech
    *** A Note on the Next Fifty Years (Stephen L. Talbott)
          Traffic Light Luddism?
    *** About this newsletter

    *** Quotes and Provocations

    From Universal Access To Universal Paranoia

    Did you notice the Great Divide over which we recently passed? Well, I didn't either--not the exact moment of crossing. But I do know this: my email box now seems flooded with missives about the bad guys and all the dangers out there. We've got to figure out how to protect ourselves against spammers, how to prevent the keywords we offer to search engines from showing up in some company's marketing profiles of us, how to keep our electronically recorded signatures out of the hands of undesirables, how to fight off the censors, how to maintain online site security, how to forestall the collapse of open standards before the onslaught of commercial behemoths....

    Not so long ago the champions of the Net had other fish to fry. Everything was a matter of freedom, openness, and the miracle of universal access. The magic of the Net was that nobody could keep us out, censorship would automatically be routed around, we were entering a new era of freedom and creative anarchy, and despotic regimes of every scale and variety were about to fall.

    How did we get from there to here? Well, if you think about it, "there" was already "here." The old stories and the new ones mutually imply each other, and their combined moral is the one I offered in my series on privacy: to the extent we are willing to present ourselves to each other as bodies of interacting data--and the assimilation of our business and recreation to the Net strongly pushes us in this direction--to that extent we become subject to all the impersonal openness of data and at the same time to all the murky countermeasures designed to protect us against the unwanted consequences of this openness.

    What we are finding is that it is impossible to map the patterns and institutions of existing society to the patterns of interacting data. This is usually stated as, "The laws of physically based communities cannot be transferred to cyberspace." But to celebrate the revolutionary implications of this fact is to disregard the fact's core: neither can our humanity be transferred in any full sense to cyberspace, or to the fields of interacting data.

    Our only hope is almost the opposite of the one the revolutionaries