Four Pillars: Preventing Path Pollution

Go subscribe to Doc Searls’ Suitwatch, his July 6 newsletter is well worth reading. You can subscribe here. It’s free. [Update: If you don’t feel like subscribing, or want to take a quick look, you can now go to a webified version here. ]
There are a small number of issues out there today where non-participation is not an option. You have no choice.

You can start with the survival of humanity and with improving the lot of humankind. Move through the abolition of poverty and more equitable distribution of food, clothing, shelter. Migrate from there to better healthcare and education and personal security. Arabesque yourself into world trade and protectionism and global warming and consequences. Stop again at health via epidemics and near-epidemics, dip your toes into natural and manmade disasters and their prevention and cure.

These are some of the big issues. It is tempting to philosophise and move into belief systems and beliefs themselves and the implications of breakdown of family and community cultures, to get my sleeves rolled up for a creation-versus-evolution battle. But this is a blog about information, so I’m not going to go there for now.

What people need to understand is that the three i-battles for information: the internet, identity and intellectual property rights, these three battles need to be won. Won in such a way that we can make use of the tremendous technological advances we have made, and thereby solve some of the problems listed above.

That’s why you have no choice.

Here’s the coda from Doc’s latest piece:

  • Right then I realized that Net Neutrality is just another name for a clear
    digital path between devices. Regardless of how near or far away they may
    be. And that there is an incalculable sum of money to be made in clearing
    those paths and putting them to use. Also that I won’t live to see the job
  • “Broadband” is like “long distance”: just another name for transient
    scarcity. We want our Net to be as fast, accessible and unrestricted as a
    hard drive. (And in time even that analogy will seem too slow.) The only
    way that will happen is if the Net becomes ubiquitous infrastructure —
    something which, in a practical sense, nobody owns, everybody can use and
    anybody can improve.
  • There is infinitely more business in making that happen, and using the
    results, than Congress can ever protect for the carriers alone. And guess
    who is in the best position to make money doing that?
  • Right: the carriers.
  • Will somebody please tell them?

We’ve all heard the phrase that control has passed from the centre or core to the edge. But for some reason we spend too long believing that the edge is about new devices and even new software.

The edge is about people. Control has passed to individuals.

Doc quotes the Bob Frankston view of the internet as a path. Much of our diatribes against carriers and IPR and identity is to do with people trying to insert, sometimes reinsert, control points in that path. And the compelling need to prevent this.

[Incidentally, both Bob and Doc have helped me really begin to understand the importance of all this, along with a wonderfully open set of people brought together by Gordon Cook of the Cook Report]

Connected-Not-Channelled means a clear path between the people connected. Not the devices connected. Not the software on those devices or on the “edge”. And not anything in between either. Especially not anything in between.
When control (of digital rights, of identity, of antivirus, of spam, of whatever) is truly in the hands of empowered individuals, we will see real value emerge. Value that can change lives and life.

When I buy a book or a CD or a DVD, responsibility for managing that physical asset within the law passes to me. And I can choose to stay within the law or break the law. Or change it.

The same has to be true of digital assets. The responsibility is mine. If I break the law I am accountable for it. I must either stay within the law or change it.

Any attempts to create nanny controls between the endpoints, while understandable in concept, has too many undesired and unintended consequences. And a few intended but undesirable ones.

I can foresee a world where all these controls people are trying to impose or interpose continue to exist. But not on the path. But at the individuals connected by the path. Personal firewalls and personal encryption and personal antivirus and personal antispam already exist. And we will see more of these personal things in the identity and privacy and confidentiality arenas, and they will leak over into IPR and DRM.

If individuals choose to create personal walled gardens that’s OK.

What is not OK is when people pollute the path.

Path Pollution is a crime against the cyber ecosystem, with too many undesirable consequences to bear thinking about.

It cannot happen.

5 thoughts on “Four Pillars: Preventing Path Pollution”

  1. J.P.,

    Thanks for the kind words, and the (as usual, brilliant) additional thoughts.

    You may want to update the piece with a pointer to the whole thing online, which is here:

    SuitWatch comes out on Thursday mornings. I usually run a web-ified version (with links) on the following Friday or Monday.


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