Tag Archives: Lessig

“Code” at 10

Check out Cato Unbound’s symposium on Lawrence Lessig’s 1999 book Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace. Declan McCullagh leads off, with Harvard’s Jonathan Zittrain and my former colleague Adam Thierer next, and then a response from Lessig himself.

Here’s Thierer’s bottom line:

Luckily for us, Lessig’s lugubrious predictions proved largely unwarranted. Code has not become the great regulator of markets or enslaver of man; it has been a liberator of both. Indeed, the story of the past digital decade has been the exact opposite of the one Lessig envisioned in Code. Cyberspace has proven far more difficult to “control” or regulate than any of us ever imagined. More importantly, the volume and pace of technological innovation we have witnessed over the past decade has been nothing short of stunning.

Had there been anything to the Lessig’s “code-is-law” theory, AOL’s walled-garden model would still be the dominant web paradigm instead of search, social networking, blogs, and wikis. Instead, AOL — a company Lessig spent a great deal of time fretting over in Code — was forced to tear down those walls years ago in an effort to retain customers, and now Time Warner isspinning it off entirely. Not only are walled gardens dead, but just about every proprietary digital system is quickly cracked open and modified or challenged by open source and free-to-the-world Web 2.0 alternatives. How can this be the case if, as Lessig predicted, unregulated code creates a world of “perfect control”?

“Googlephobia”: An Unholy Alliance

My colleague Adam Thierer with an excellent post warning of the coming war on Google:

So, here we have Wu raising the specter of search engine bias and Lessig raising the specter of Google-as-panopticon. And this comes on top of groups like EPIC and CDT calling for more regulation of the online advertising marketplace in the name of protecting privacy.  Alarm bells must be going off at the Googleplex. But we all have reason to be concerned because greater regulation of Google would mean greater regulation of the entire code / application layer of the Net.  It’s bad enough that we likely have greater regulation of the infrastructure layer on the way thanks to Net neutrality mandates. We need to work hard to contain the damage of increased calls for government to get it’s hands all over every other layer of the Net.