Cory Doctorow is always worth watching: insightful, funny, often provocative and consistently knowledgeable. OK, so I’m a bit of a boingboing fanboy. And yes, the video was posted weeks ago, but I’m just now getting to it.
In this talk, part of the Cambridge Business Lectures series, Doctorow brings together two key topics which I’ve seen lots of folks discuss separately:
- The Internet as perfect copying machine, including the absurdities of digital restrictions management (DRM) and the necessity for changes to business models as a result of a changing technology landscape
- The Internet as (nearly) perfect mechanism for bringing people together for collective action both serious and banal
It’s a mash up of Lawrence Lessing on copyright (including references back to John Philip Sousa’s concern about atrophying vocal cords if recorded music is allowed to circulate) and Here Comes Everybody era Clay Shirky (discussing the traditional cost of organizing, getting large numbers of people working together as the single largest problem for companies to solve in the information age).
There’s also, though, enough Cory Doctorow here to prevent it from feeling like any kind of rehash or unauthorized, second generation degraded copy. My favorite example:
Paris Hilton’s genitals have joined the undead – they will live forever, stalking the Internet until the last plug is pulled on the last network router.
Doctorow points out th risk that the first discussion – the internet as copy machine – has largely distracted us from the second – the internet as a fundamental connecting machine. Here he overlaps a bit with The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It era Jonathan Zittrain, arguing that we can’t allow the solutions to the former use to kill the value presented by the latter. Or, as Doctorow puts it:
We need to have a balance, a detente, that says to these firms, “You can try to make your living, but you can’t do it at the expense of the system that is delivering all of this public benefit. Not just copying movies, but beyond that – beyond that small parochial concern – allowing us to organise ourselves in ways that ennoble the human condition, and if you make it a choice between the Internet and Police Academy sequels, eventually society is going to vote for the Internet, so you can’t make it that choice.”
Well said, indeed – and I liked some of those Police Academy sequels.