Last month’s controversy over online-piracy legislation and the previous month’s (interestingly) smaller controversy over the government’s authority to detain American citizens indefinitely bear two striking similarities:
- Each is a reaction to the increasingly difficult time centralized authorities have in monitoring unwanted activities that constitute fundamental security and economic threats.
- Each proposal recommended an increase in centralized authority as a solution.
I would draw attention instead to the following facts:
- The increased monitoring costs centralized authorities face are the direct result of the growing technical power of the individual (to produce creative works, to share others’ creative works, and yes, to destroy).
- These technical powers are, alas, intimately linked and cannot be fundamentally undermined without strongly undermining the basis of our economy.
Therefore, I would recommend the following approach as we move forward:
- We must accept an increased level of risk from individual actors if we are efficiently to harness the new technical powers that we have at our disposal.
- The alternative is to gradually give up freedoms to which we have become accustomed and which we cherish.
- Distributing information and authority more effectively will be the only sustainable way to contend with increased risk while avoiding a loss of freedom. The purpose would be to increase network resiliency while preserving the technical power and personal freedom of the individual.
I do not claim to have the correct methods for accomplishing all of these recommendations. I do, however, believe that the challenge to solving these issues is fundamental and therefore take the liberty of sharing my unrefined conception.