Thanks to my bus and train rides recently, I just finished up The Future of Ideas by Lawrence Lessig. As the back of the book says:
Lessig weaves the history of technology and its relevant laws to make a lucid and accessible case to protect the sanctity of intellectual freedom. He shows how the door to a future of ideas is being shut just as technology is creating extraordinary possibilities that have implications for all of us.
Lessig has a cynical, but realistic, viewpoint of where innovation and the Internet are headed. Large companies want to have control over everything. Although Lessig argues that this is not inherently an evil position to take, I think it is. In terms of the continual boom of the Internet and technology, it only makes sense that these companies would want to continually protect their investments and any possible future endeavors. At the inception of the Internet, though, Lessig points out that it was an open system. Ideas, innovations, and information moved freely in those early days. As the years have gone by, though, companies that have invested their money and resources in the Internet are trying to get more control of it through patent protection, copyright protection, and Congressional bills. They are trying to make a buck out of what was once an open system. In turn, the “old” regime is protecting itself against the “new” by cutting off the road toward innovation. If new innovators have trouble making inroads through the Internet, then these new voices and innovators are silenced. These behemoth companies then do not have to innovate as much because they have control.
Unfortunately, this book was written over 4 years ago. And, I feel that some of what Lessig fears have not come to fruition. I only have to point to the explosion of Web 2.0 applications, MySpace, and YouTube. Although, a part of me still worries that it is possible. I love all of the innovations on the Internet, but I feel that it will end some day. As we get closer and closer to having our computers become complete media centers that house not only our information, but also our entertainment, I wonder how everything will pan out. Will these companies demand even more control of what was once an open system? Will they get it? It is funny, right after I finished this book, I came across this article about the First Net Neutrality Bill Hitting Congress. I’m glad we have people still fighting for the freedom of the Internet.