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Why politicians don’t, and can’t, understand the Internet

This post was originally published on this site

Politicians do not understand the Internet. It is not so much that the politicians in power today in their 60s weren’t born with it, even if that’s also true. It’s more that politicians as a profession are institutionally incapable of understanding it, just because it functions without – even despite – political interference.

Businesspeople are not much better in this regard. Where politicians understand power in terms of what they can regulate, businesspeople understand power in terms of ownership. But the Internet is neither; it cannot be owned nor regulated. As pointed out succinctly by Searls and Weinberger, the Internet is an agreement. It is a technical agreement between billions of people how to get a packet of data from point A to point B, where no point is worth more than any other.

In this, the Internet is best understood like a language, shared by billions. While there are certainly those who try to describe languages with authority, and publish dictionaries that some follow to the letter, at the end of the day, users of a language speak however they want, regardless of any attempts to correct them or make them do otherwise. In this, a language is an agreement between millions or billions of people, and no regulation is going to change the agreement; no governmental threat of force against any person or group of persons is going to change the meaning of a word, and no user of a language has more power over it than any other user, except by voluntary following from other users of the language, voluntary being the key word.

To understand how this contrasts utterly and completely with the worldview of a politician, we need to look at some specific present-day cases where they have been, and are, involved. Let’s take autonomous

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