This week, we follow-up Jaron Lanier’s “You are not a gadget” with parts of two books by Lawrence Lessig. After reading the first chapter of “Code V2.0” I can already see that there are some interesting connections between these two authors.
One of the points made by Lanier is the idea of internet society regulation through what he calls’ digital Maoism.’ He believes that what we are seeing on the internet today is not the emergence of a middle class (and thus we can assume, a democracy) but rather the emergence of a vast peasant class, romanticized by the idea of internet as a great equalizer. Like Maoism in reality, Lanier sees this as a failure of internet society, because it can only grow and become economically viable for producers of culture if there is a middle class who is willing to purchase things like music and books.
Lessig introduces a political scientist’s view on the internet, so it will be interesting to see whether he agrees with Lanier’s point of view. I’m interested to see what Lessig’s experience examining post-communist governments in Eastern Europe is going to bring to his argument. These societies were trying to navigate their way from one polar extreme of governance to another, and we can see that over 20 years out, they aren’t doing as well as their Western European counterparts. Is the internet doomed to have the same fate? Since the internet exists in this extra-governmental, still experimental world, is it doomed to walk the line between anarchy and democracy? I’m also interested in how Lessig develops his argument about Code as the law of cyberspace. It seems to intertwine with Lanier’s belief that open-source code actually holds us back more than locked codes, so I’m interested to see if Lessig holds any of the same beliefs as Lanier.