system two

system two
start-up thinking in the enterprise

Thursday, 11 February 2010

The backwaters and the lanes pt2...

At the heart of the writings of the philosopher Thomas Hobbes is the idea of a social contract. A tacit agreement, born from the simple logic of self preservation, that asks the individual to turn their back on a gruesome, free for all, "state of nature" and, foregoing certain rights, agree to live bounded by a set of rules, for the mutual benefit of all.

When I encounter you, I agree not to take your life and possessions, on the basis that you have consented to the same, and, having made that tactic agreement between ourselves, we both understand our lives will be more comfortable and stable because of it.

This contract has underpinned human civilization since communities’ first coalesced. Now, more than 10,000 years later, the giant tech and media companies of the world are asking us to sign another. Asking us to forgo the wild, decentralized, open web of today – and allow them to re imagine it – as an easier, friendlier, more beautiful place – but one where control is ultimately ceded to them.

The logic of Hobbe's original contract was unshakable. We have all of us lived by it for millennia. Acquiescence in this new case isn't anywhere near as compelling.

Fox news as an independent arbiter of rational news reporting anyone?

Come into our closed world, Murdock and Apple are saying. Where applications work at the touch of a button and where media is perfectly tailored to your interests (and prejudices). Yes we’ll charge you a small fee, but look at the utility, look at the time you save, look at the other beautiful people around you.

In many ways we should all be glad for Google. If the power wielded by the old titans of technology and media were not balanced by this new gorilla, we should likely have to invent it. Lets just hope Larry and Sergey don’t start reading any Leviathan anytime soon....
Nevertheless, in the meantime, as both Apple and News Corp nudge their pliant tribes down a path of propriety, controlled networks, the first sniff of future thought control and manipulation is already in evidence. Vast areas of the web are already less easy to navigate because of Apple's technology. 85% of the world’s top 100 website use flash. They don't work work on an iPad….

If the web is anything, it is a manifestation of mankind’s desire to live unbounded; to live unbounded by teh limits of the physical world; to discover something about himself precisely because, we can’t be 100% sure of what’s at the other end of a link. At some primal level, we intrinsically know the web to be good for us and our society. It heals and educates. It exposes special interest and tames big business. It widens our awareness of our world and the people in it. These properties flow directly from its backwaters and lanes - its ramshackle content and decentralised nature.

It is in this chaos many have found a refuge and we relinquish it at our peril.

****update****

interesting post here which seems to come to the same basic conclusions...

and there http://www.boingboing.net/2010/04/15/apple-blocks-pulitze.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+boingboing%2FiBag+%28Boing+Boing%29&utm_content=Google+Reader