Practical computer tips, with a smattering of digital philosophy
I frequently rant about how totally inadequete our international legal systems are at dealing with the fundamentally new challenges posed by the powers of the Internet. If this little gem doesn’t prove that we really need to stop and think about how to best translate our existing legal/ethical ideas – rather than our outdated statues – for use in cyberspace, I don’t know what does.
My purpose here is neither to condemn file sharers, nor to storm against the oppression of copyright in the digital age: my point is that unless we stop doing both of these things, and instead start thinking about how these conflicting perspectives can be brought to some kind of reconciliation, digital society is going to only get even more dysfunctional and chaotic than it already is.
In striving so vigorously to uphold the rule of antiquated law, we are ignoring the larger, deeper issues that are tied up in the rise of digital society in general, such as what standards of personal responsibility should be applied to behavior in online spaces, and how those expectations might be adequately enforced across geopolitical borders. Furthermore, in mainting hard-line traditionalist stances on issues such as file sharing, we seem to be doing an excellent job of actively encouraging cyber-vigalantee types of the kind mentioned in this article to fill the gap in international leadership with something that comes very close to total anarchy. And it is precisely this kind of anarchy, of course, that has engedered still more political hard-lining and authoritarian crack-downs from various governmental authorities accross the globe on various elements of Internet policy. Which, of course, spurs the hackers on to still more ridiculous and unproductive exploits. And so on.
In my view, despite all of the hype and hullabaloo that surrounded it, the Pirate Bay Trial is unlikely to have any constructive impact on the structure, culture, or prevalence of P2P filesharing technologies – unless we take this whole mess as a compelling motivation to get our collective acts together, and start thinking seriously about how to best adapt our legal, ethical, and social codes for use in digital society. And if we don’t, I’m afraid the cycle of authoritarianism and anarchy will only get continue to worsen, with potentially disasterous consequences for all.
Two weeks ago, I had the immense privilege of attending the Linux Foundation’s annual Collaboration Summit. The experience was eye-opening and educational in a wide variety of ways, and got me thinking seriously about where Linux currently stands in the software ecosystem, what the operating system represents (or what it should represent), and what needs to be done to bring more public interest and acceptance to the general philosophy of free and open source software.