Thomas Friedman asked a key question in his recent NY Times op-ed: Eating Our Lunch.
Being a tiny city-state of four million, Singapore is obsessed with nurturing every ounce of talent of every single citizen. That is why, although its fourth and eighth graders already score at the top of the Timss international math and science tests, Singapore has been introducing more innovations into schools. Its government understands that in a flattening world, where more and more jobs can go anywhere, it’s not enough to just stay ahead of its neighbors. It has to stay ahead of everyone – including us.
Message to America: They are not racing us to the bottom. They are racing us to the top.
Friedman goes on to write that Singapore takes the internet seriously, and by implication asks if we do too.
Friedman, however, left off a very important question: Is the internet for corporations or the people? Is it a force for fossilization or a force for enabling the future?
To put it another way: is the internet about the government working as the hand maiden of the Hollywood cartel in a vain attempt to stop evolution and lock us in the past, or is it about the government working with the people to catalyze innovation and new economic opportunities for our future?
Current proposed legislation offered by Texas Republican Joe Barton, and the existing Digital Rights Management [DRM] and recently revised copyright laws, tend to point in the direction that the government is taking the approach that the internet is for corporations. What we affectionately call “The Cartel” wants the government to enshrine their obsolete business models in the law of the land. They want to be able to control what you do with the computers, and related equipment, you buy with your own funds, for your own private use. They do NOT want to have to re-invent their business model. For example, given today’s new Peer to Peer distribution tools, why do we need movie distributors at all?
The market needs to evolve and adapt. Today, however, it is, with government connivance, fighting this necessary process tooth and nail. This is a disaster for innovation and our future economic vitality.
This corrupt and anti-democratic alliance of the government with the cartels is not too far removed from telling a woman what she can do with her body or what consenting adults can do in the privacy of their bedrooms. It fundamnentaly denies choice. The unholy marriage of the government with the cartel in alliance against the rights of the people is shockingly close to classical fascism as well.
When, and if, the Democratic party reforms itself to once again become the progressive populist party for, of, and by the people, not The Money, we might hope to see some positive changes that would once again favor the stimulation of innovation and education.
Along these lines, consider that the wireless community was able to quickly establish FREE Voice over Internet communications for Katrina victims, but this same community was locked out of a recent FCC meeting to review communications failures resulting from Katrina. Why? Is this the best way to promote the innovation required for our future economic viability?
Or we might ask ourselves why the cable companies selling broadband do NOT offer certified speed tests so that consumers can evaluate the quality of the connection and services they are getting. For example, I pay Comcast an extra $10 per month for their faster Pro package. This is supposed to give me “upto” 6 Mbps as my connection speed. Recent testing showed I was getting less than 2 Mbps. Note that the Comcast contract does NOT provide any contractual performance obligations that Comcast must meet. This is neither consumer nor citizen friendly. It is lopsidely corporation friendly. Is this what we fought the Revolution for? To protect the relationship between the Crown and the East India Company? The GOP has successfully, in too close collaboration with post 1980s Democrats, re-instated the model of the Crown in bed with the East India Company.
The asymmetrical Comcast model of the internet is simply as a pipe for the cartel to force feed their content down our consumer throats. What are we, just geese for fattening? Are the resultant consumerism and cult of celebrity the new opiate of the masses that prevents us from confronting the hard “reality” hurricane Katrina forced us to look at – if even briefly? It certainly does not look like an internet we the people want to use to create and distribute our own works and to create economic engine of cooperative gain.
The evidence, a look into “The Darknet“, shows that we the people are changing the ecology of culture, politics and economics in spite of the best efforts of the cartels to stop change and evolution dead in their tracks. Are the cartels setting themselves up to become fossils before our eyes? In many cases today, more bits are flowing up and out from citizen’s devices than are being downloaded from the Hollywood providers. Technically this is called reverse asymmetry. Something on the order of 60% of all internet traffic is now citizens working directly with other citizens – by passing the government and corporate obstacles in the center.
The resistance of the governments and corporations to change is merely a symptom of the larger problems facing us. Katrina is also only a symptom. Fixing New Orleans with out addressing the larger systems problems will be like putting a band-aid on rapidly metastasizing malignant tumor. Futile. But where are the Democrats? Why are they not warning us of the false sense of security the New Orleans band-aid will create?
When will our political and cultural leaders start addressing the larger systems problems represented by such thins as inevitable pandemics, Bird flu anyone? Global Warming, and the End of the Carbon Energy era? How well do you think FEMA will deal with these impending challenges to our way of life? Are all of these coming events evidence of the ultimate failures of the old paradigms that guided our lives in the past? Do we have the courage to confront this failure of our “story maps”? Do we have the courage to openly explore new territory in our search for new solutions?
Is it actually time to let the sun shine in and focus on putting our own house in order before we have the imperial arrogance to impose our ways on others via the WTO, baseless and counter productive invasions of other’s sovereign territory, The world Bank, etc? Have we lost sight of the beam in our own eye as we carp about the motes in the eyes of others’?
The evidence is that the current hub and spoke, top down, organizational and operational models, the very models that got us into the situation we are now in, will NOT be able to get us out of it. Do we have the courage to abandon it before it brings us down? The alternatives are out there, ready to be recognized and embraced.