Radical Instrument

IT is changing the exercise of power. Radical Instrument is picking up the signals.


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Two interesting pieces floating around this week:

First, the Pew Internet & American Life Project released its third roundup of expert opinions on where the Internet’s headed, circa 2020. There’s a chapter on the effects of the Internet on “social tolerance,” as evidenced by levels of violence, sectarian strife, overt acts of bigotry, and hate crimes. Not surprisingly, the opinion is dour – 56% of experts (and 55% of all respondents) disagreed with the idea that the Internet will increase social tolerance. The general thrust of responses is that the Internet merely amplifies our embrace or hatred of “the Other.” The most on-the-money comment seems to be from Amnesty International UK:  

From an international perspective it’s difficult to agree or disagree—different trends are being witnessed at the same time. On the one hand the Internet is creating a huge space for freedom of speech, assembly, and association. It has given people a means with which to change society and culture. That is positive. But the fear this has sparked has lead to crackdowns and attempts to exert more control on the part of governments and companies. In some parts of the world, there is great tension between the Internet as a progressive force and as a means of better social control. I imagine that the Internet will continue to be a battleground until 2020, and who ultimately “wins” will depend on how the Internet is developed and who exerts ultimate control over it. –Nick Dearden, campaigns manager, Amnesty International, the human-rights organization

Sticking with the idea of the Internet as the Great Amplifier, I recommend this piece in ArsTechnica (recently Slashdotted) on the current financial crisis as a global network crash – in the sense of an economic network made more interdependent and fragile by its underlying technology network. I don’t think we’ll find out how serious these network effects are until fourth-quarter corporate earnings reports start to roll out in January and February (want to see an interesting day? check out the variety of industry data that we’ll get on January 28th). 

If the “network effects” are as bad as some of the bears are forecasting, I wonder if we’ll see some sort of Internet equivalent of Smoot-Hawley – will a major recession (I’m avoiding the “d-word” for now) fuel, at least indirectly, support for increased government control and regulation of the Internet?

Written by Mark

December 17, 2008 at 2:27 am

One Response

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  1. […] like the Internet as Great Amplifier is probably […]

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