Thoughts, essays, and writings on Liberty. Written by the heirs of Patrick Henry.

January 9, 2006

Internet Liberation and the Ingenue

by Kay

Last week, Eric introduced as a topic the subject currently highlighted at Cato Unbound which is: Internet Liberation: Alive or Dead?.

The first essay, written by Jaron Lanier is an interesting theoretical read The Gory Antigora: Illusions of Capitalism and Computers.

Lanier describes the “antigora” as the privately owned and operated arenas or meeting places (i.e. Microsoft) as opposed to the open architecture of – oh, say “Linux”. This discussion is rather a fascinating (if sometimes a bit over-my-head) one to me with lots to mull over – namely, whether the internet should be more liberated (less brittle to use Lanier’s description) and free – less software based and more open to free flowing change for example.

While I personally believe that there is much good to be had in an open and free-flowing exchange of ideas, I also recognize that just like liberty in the real world, a wide open system comes with some definite hazards – and it must be up to the individuals delving into the internet market to monitor their own behavior and risk taking online much as it is in the real world. I love the *idea* behind free access to all information; but the risk is that if I stumble unprepared and without understanding into an open arena, I may face some damage to my own computer set up that *I* may not have the skill or knowledge to correct, and frankly, that scares the heck out of me. I suppose I could be called “agoraphobic”. And what about those who don’t even know enough about what they’re doing on the ‘net to even know when they have screwed up? How many *cyber-terrorists* are there who really enjoy messing with those of us who aren’t completely “in the know”? Situations like the one with Wikipedia a few weeks ago in which a false biography was planted spring to mind.

On the other hand, the stay-at-home mom in me that can’t afford all the latest software and is definitely a techno-geek of small skill loves it when she finds just what she needs that is GNU. I’ve not delved too deeply yet, but am mulling a changeover around in my brain for some future point when I’m ready to set myself the next techno-challenge. Even now, I look at the internet as a place in which I must step carefully – just as I am ever aware of my surroundings when I’m away from home (I never approach my car from a store without my keys in my hand) so I have learned to be diligent to watch for danger signs on the ‘net.

As far as being able to say, definitively, which is ultimately better – liberation of the internet in the form of more agora styled environs or more controls ala “antigoras” – I’m not sure that anyone can really answer the question. Perhaps, like the real life it mirrors, a combination of free market and controlled is as close to liberation of the internet as we can come. This, too, humanizes the contacts we make within the sphere of the internet – not all are highly skilled, but those who are can sometimes give a pointer or two to those who’re ready to learn. And those who’re highly technical sometimes need the chuckle provided by the diversely inspired talents of the ingenue.

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  • Eric

    Nice review and input to the subject. If I’m reading between the lines right, it sounds like we may have another Linux user in the world soon.

  • Kay

    You read it right, Eric! I’ve been toying with the idea for a while. Not quite ready to implement, but I’m getting there. One of my hubby’s co-workers sent me disks for Fedora – but I haven’t had a chance to really get into reading about it yet.

  • Eric

    Sweet, let me know if you need help/support/assistance.

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