The Internet is primed for a meltdownand the most obvious cures are just as bad
Zittrain (Internent Governance & Regulation, Oxford Univ.; cofounder, Berkman Ctr. for Internet & Society, Harvard Univ.) cogently explores two opposing scenarios for the future of the personal computer (PC) and the Internet. He defines PCs and the Internet as types of "generative technologies," nonhierarchical, open systems that invite and encourage broad participation over top-down hierarchy and external regulation. The existing generative paradigm has been challenged by both computer manufacturers and government, each with a different agenda. Big business is increasingly pushing for closed appliances allowing companies exclusive right to determine software their systems will use and providing them with full access to information about consumer behavior. Government agencies seek the power to leverage technologies for surveillance-based information gathering. For Zittrain, these interests conflict with the desire of consumers and Internet users for privacy, choice, and community. He cites Wikipedia as an example of "netizenship," a messy but effective way of resolving issues without the need for external regulation. This is a passionate and intelligent book, of interest to students and scholars of cyber law and Internet/society issues.