I had the great pleasure of listening to Jonathan Zittrain the two years that I attended I-Law at Harvard (an event that unfortunately is no longer being held.) Going back and reading this post from four years ago just now reminds me just how far all of this has come and, more dishearteningly, how little has really changed. (i.e. “And right now, while kids by and large have the technology skills to create, they have very few models for appropriate uses for that creation.” Oy.) I will always remember those two sessions as among the most amazing and interesting learning days of my life, hugely validating and compelling on all sorts of levels.
No doubt, it’s one of the reasons I still perk up when Lawrence Lessig or Yochai Benkler or the rest publish books or articles or interviews. And so when I saw that Zittrain was publishing a book, I pre-ordered from Amazon and got it this week. While I’m only a few pages in to it, the point is clear: we are at a critical point in the evolution of the net, one where we are faced with some not so great scenarios of abuse and control that are going to require some level headed thinking and action to navigate. Here is the thesis:
In the arc from the Apple II to the iPhone, we learn something important about where the Internet has been, and something more important about where it is going. The PC revolution was launched with PCs that invited innovation by others. So too with the Internet. Both wer generative: they were designed to accept any contribution that followed a basic set of rules (either coded for a particular operating system, or respecting the protocols of the Internet.) Both overwhelmed their respective proprietary, non-generative competitors, such as the makers of stand-alone word processors and proprietary online services like CompuServe and AOL. But the future unfolding right now is very different from this past. The future is not one of generative PCs attached to a generative network. It is instead one of the sterile appliances tethered to a network of control (3).
I’m not sure yet how much this parallels the lock down vs. open up choice that schools are facing right now, but I have a feeling the conversations will parallel in many ways. (There is only one page referenced in the index to schools.) More as I dig through. And, just a off the top thought, but if anyone wants to do a book club, let me know.