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March 09, 2008

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Hi Cat,

Sorry for the trouble logging in to the site - drupal does that to us from time to time.

Apols also for the Aristotle shorthand - actually, I asked JZ a question in the lecture that made the link to virtue ethics much clearer. I asked him if his hope for the hierarchical/bottom-up quadrant was based on a belief that "good guys win out in the end". His answer was, paraphrasing: "no, I believe that behavior and outcomes can be changed by working and living in good institutions; if we set these up in the bottom left, the problems the internet faces can be cracked". I took this to be JZ's version of the view that virtue is created by life in a particular context, with particular rules. The good life needs the good institutions, and vice versa. This is Aristotle's view of the good life---utterly dependent on the life of the polis.

And as for the rest ... I'm not anti-market at all. I want it to do what it says on the (Smithian) tin. And I hate abuse of power, whether it is State, corporate or cyber-punk. We probably agree on all that!

Tony

Hi,
Felix from oD here; happy to help you sort out the username/password issue if you give me a shout on email with your details. Sorry if you've had any problems with the site...

Cheers!

Tony,

Thanks for your response and the further hints on Aristotle, makes sense!

But I wonder if underlying Zittrain's idea that "behavior and outcomes can be changed by working and living in good institutions" as you paraphrased really is an underlying notion: "Code as law can change human nature".

What's a stake is a prior belief, ideological/religious in nature, as to whether human nature can change or not. If one believes, no, it cannot change and is inherently inclined toward evil and capable of good only by individual will and effort, then institutions are merely restraints, or the good institutions groom for the good behaviour that is desirable, but insufficient without the human will.

If human nature is inherently good, i.e. always improveable from the outside without will, then the institutions can easily be created without any reference to higher law.

It's this second viewpoint that most technolibertarians and coders inevitably hold. That is, they believe that they can endlessly devise code that will move human beings through a series of yes/no good/bad checkgates that will force them to be good.

This is very visible in Second Life, where you block people from a parcel if they bother you, forcing them to stop bothering you and be good. Or you block them from endlessly rezzing out self-replicating objects that will crash the sim (use up all the resources of the commons) by putting up a grey-goo fence. Or you put "no copy" as a permission toggle that prevents them from copying (unless, of course they use an exploit).

Thus the Lindens wish to code into the software every conceivable human behaviour that they can break down into code to force people to do good -- but that's in a believe that they *are* inherently able to be changed in this fashion.

Of course, because people aren't inclined toward good automatically, or at least a certain percentage, these tools for good are constantly broken by hackers and griefers.

Meanwhile, the tools are inadequare for those who realize institutions can't consist of code and "code-as-law" only but require a kind of soft policy part that people must voluntarily concede and follow -- these are the notecarded rules, then, of behaviour like "don't build smack on the property line in someone's face" etc.

I cite Second Life here not out of some rabid fanboy problem but because these issues are very vividly prototyped and visible in this synthetic coded world.

If you think you have an idea for a good institution that you can put out and have it work to create the virtuous man, you will know by next Tuesday whether your concept was right.

The paradox here is that the person who believes human nature is intrinsic and cannot be changed is the one more likely to devise the soft policies rather than the code. At least, that's how I see it, because it is a problem of free will. To me, the declaration of inherent sinfulness of man is simultaneously a declaration of free will to chose good and make good and thereby mitigate the conditions.

The secular humanist belief that human nature can be changed by upbringing, institutions, etc. in fact removes the free will, because it implies that one set of humans can merely code a set of behaviour switches that they can train others to bark to.

In fact, when you really look at Second Life, it's a Skinner Box, and what John Zittrain is saying is a Skinner Box, too.

As for your demand that the Smithian can produce that invisible hand that it claims to have tucked away somewhere (I take it that's what you mean), maybe the problem at the core of the Internet is that the invisible hand is always visible and always coercive.

Open Source lives within the bounds of "the rule of law". The entire "copyleft" idea only can exist because "copyright" is enshrined in law and permits the copyright holder to place conditions on the use of the works so protected.

Likewise, while there are strongholds of the old guard "teh Interwebs are anarchy!" mindset, nobody is surprised when the government shuts down a website that hosts illegal content, or that a person is held legally accountable for actions or statements carried out on the web.

What is important is equality of access to resources. When SBC's Edward Whitacre says this:

"How do you think they're going to get to customers? Through a broadband pipe. Cable companies have them. We have them. Now what they would like to do is use my pipes free, but I ain't going to let them do that because we have spent this capital and we have to have a return on it. So there's going to have to be some mechanism for these people who use these pipes to pay for the portion they're using. Why should they be allowed to use my pipes?"

I believe that it should send a chill. End users pay their ISP for access, and web hosts pay ISPs a *lot* of money for access, and here we have someone saying that, because they are a pervasive component of the Internet that they get to set up toll booths that discriminate based on content (he continues "The Internet can't be free in that sense, because we and the cable companies have made an investment and for a Google or Yahoo or Vonage or anybody to expect to use these pipes [for] free is nuts!").

Of course, nobody is using anything for free here: the large companies have "peering" arrangements where they pay one another for allowing traffic to flow between the systems: if company X uses more than company Y does in return, a check is cut to account for the difference.

So here we find the old guard saying that paying for bandwidth on the corporate side, the customer side and the peering side *still isn't enough*. They want to discriminate based on content; shaking down the successful for protection money so "nothing bad happens to those packets of yours".

This has nothing to do with open vs closed, this has to do with greed... something that exists within closed corporations *by design*. So far the attempts to attach a tariff to success have failed, but pretending that being a corporation or governmental institution magically makes things better is laughable.

"Copyleft" isn't about placing conditions in licenses. That's the CC cover story. That's a layer of respectability that they lay down over as a very thin veneer to their far more core extremist view which is "all property is theft" and "information wants to be free". It's a shill, and you shouldn't be taken in by it -- I'm sure not.

The epitome of the Creative Commons ethos can be seen in last year's iCommons t-shirt (for sale, by the way): a man hurling a Molotov cocktail. That sort of Che chic would be bad enough, celebrating violence and revolution for the sake of violence and revolution, but it gets more interesting. in fact, the t-shirt was made from a photo taken by a photographer who had copyright on that photo...and as well she should, as she made her living as a photographer. And even though she was a liberal New York photographer taking groovy pictures of revolutionaries in Latin America, the even more extreme copyleftists saw no problem with lifting her image and copying it on anything they wanted -- there was a lawsuit around one such "derivative artist". So, copy is as copy does.

I don't see anything chilling whatsoever for those who use the pipes the most to hog resources and download entire movies on Bittorent to be restrained in their resource hogging. Where's the socialism, John? Where's the care and concern about the community? If big companies that own the pipes can't be allowed to run their pipes as they wish because this is evil capitalism why does...a kid in Paterson, NJ get to download 100 movies all day? Isn't that...running the pipes and deciding who and how gets to use it?

I just fail to buy this crazy argument that the kid stealing all the bandwidth and not paying for it can't be restrained, and that those who should do the restraining are those who pay to maintain the pipes on behalf of all of us users.

It's precisely because we do pay money that we trust a company to ensure that little script kiddy hogs don't get to tie up the lines all day with their big fat-ass WoW patches for rogue servers. Seriously, your argument is completely shallow.

Of course, I'm familiar with the religious zeal that the fake "net neutrality" gang brings to this issue (never neutral on the issue of script-kiddy hoggers, for whom they are biased, and not neutral).

Saying that the content is the basis for discrimination is utterly fake. It's like the thine veneer of "licensing for use copyrightness" that copylefters paint over their Big Grab on the Internet.

It's not the content. It's the behaviour. Downloading frigging movies and WoW patches all day ties up the goddamn lines. If Mom can't push Junior off the pipes, then adults have a right to expect the company simply to fail to deliver all of Junior's WoW patch in the interests of allowing the mail through. Like...I'm supposed to rally my congressman over the right for Junior to tie up the line all day???

The only greed I can see here is the socialist greed of theft: a gang of leftist adults making up an ideology of neutrality that indulges a greedy kid hogging the bandwidth. Unimpressed.

Now, as my rules state, unless you have a blog that you yourself maintain, you can't post here. I'm tired of having people come and merely lob grenades who never have the self-discipline, or never make the effort, to frame their own thoughts in essays or blog entries. It's content-hogging to constantly come and parasite off another's essay, constantly commenting, and never doing your own thinking and writing.

When I buy my Internet connection, I pay for the amount of "priority" I will be given... via the bandwidth I purchase. I could use the consumer grade service, but I opted for the faster business grade service, and a four fold cost increase.

What do I get for the extra cost: the ability to use the bandwidth I paid for, in theory. If people like Edward Whitacre get to do what they threaten, that is actually not true anymore... I only get to use it fully if Ed likes the service or has been paid a new fee.

On top of me paying for my bandwidth...

On top of Google having huge bandwidth expenses of their own...

On top of the peering agreements in place...

I'm not a kid downloading Warcraft patches, I'm slinging customer's databases and replicating data over this connection I bought. If someone decides that they want more money beyond the ISP, Server and Peering charges, I have to wonder what I'm paying for.

As far as a blog, the URL line already has that attached every time I post. If it has to be famous or not suck, well, I guess *then* I don't qualify.

Since you're paying to have more bandwidth, John, surely you can understand that your ISP then has the right not to give away bandwidth for free, in order to ensure that you traffic can go through. Therefore they can't be "neutral" to little Johnny downloading his WoW patch, and they have to judge content -- by which is really meant behaviour and bytes and time.

Erm, that's not much of a blog. Looks like a hanging resume.

"Therefore they can't be "neutral" to little Johnny downloading his WoW patch, and they have to judge content -- by which is really meant behaviour and bytes and time."

Actually, that is absolutely incorrect. If Johnny is on the same ISP as me, he simply gets less allocation of raw bits because he didn't pay for anything better. The *content* is not only irrelevant, but if the ISP examines content they lose safe harbor protection under copyright law and lose safe harbor against any illegal content that Johnny transfers.

Oh, knock it off, John. You don't have to peer inside the content to see that it's a big download. That's ridiculous. Bittorrent is a program you use that surely any examination of the peer to peer transaction could see. Surely there are markers on the outsides of content -- or merely the size of bytes!!! -- that you can use to devise some realistic policy.

This just sounds like lawyerly literalism. I'd like to hear some other assessements from people who don't already hold the a priori net neutrality religious view.

"or merely the size of [files]" *is* the current management policy. You pay for bits per second, you get to use them. If the rich kid down the street paid for a better connection, why do you care that he is permitted to use what he paid for... and you aren't if you didn't pay for a high end connection?

Because bits per second is all that is currently accounted for by ISPs. If you buy dial up, you are constrained in your usage by that limitation. If you are on broadband, your constraints are less, but they still exist. The fact that my servers are on a OC3 means they are limited in practice only by the customers bandwidth, but I pay through the nose for that. It sounds as if you would like me to *stop* having access to bandwidth I paid for if my use of that bandwidth is somehow disagreeable to you.

It would seem that your issue isn't with getting what you pay for, but your provider is overselling and lying to you about what you are actually paying for. If that is true, you have a problem with your provider, not the kid with a download. Overselling is rampant, but it isn't the problem that net neutrality addresses in either direction: if your provider is willing to lie to you about available performance, really, what is any kind of neutrality or lack thereof going to do for you? If your providers stuffs the money you send them in their pocket instead of buying the upstream bandwidth you deserve, that is false advertising perhaps, but not a network neutrality issue at all.

"or merely the size of bytes!!!"
uhm.. yes.. because byte isnt a size.

Dear, bittorrent splits the download into many smaller packages. its one of the good things about it. You can look at the amount of things X is downloading as opposed to Y.. but if you're downloading databases, or code it might very well be as big or bigger than the next wow-patch.

They do have to check inside to know what is going on.

About the original subject: I find the presentation interesting. Do not agree on all points but some. I think the open source and open communities.
I disagree strongly with your views of "geeks", find them quite insulting. 'a horrid geeky closed "open source working group" that decides for everybody else because they're "too stupid".' displays a complete lack of understanding what open source communities do.. and indeed what inventors do.. I'm sure you'd be very happy living in the trees with the rest of the apes, for without innovation and cooperation that would be where we all would be.
Even evolving to the point of computer age, we'd be far behind where we are now without open communities of like minded people who put their effort into inventing and developing ideas. If it was controlled only by companies and goverments I fear we'd be a very one sided world.

p.s. do you even know what communism is? or indeed, half the terms you throw out? I fear you need a lecture or two on politiks.. or perhaps you should go read Wikipedia.

um, I appreciate the vast sense of superiority you feel about this but...if it's not a size, then...why does it monopolize my own computer when being used? It's clogging the pipes. This may only be the stretch of pipe I use, but the idea that just because it breaks things up into packets that travel separately that it isn't a problem and a heavy use strikes me as odd. If you get 5,000 letters in one day it's a strain; if they come at the rate of only 100 a day, it's still a strain.

And, Sweetie Pie, let me break it down to you: there is nothing wrong with peering inside to see if it is WoW or a big patch of some other kind. The Internet is entirely *made up of* peering inside to function. It can do so generically without storing the info or aggregating to use to invade people's privacy or rights.

But...I just don't get why the script-kiddies and sandboxers and gamerz get to download whole bunches of shit and the companies can't regulate that.

I actually a heavy exposure to what open-source communities are like because I live and work in one called "Second Life". Read the jira.secondlife.com to get a taste of the sheer awfulness.

I don't need to "read Wikipedia" either sweets -- I know what communism is, having lived and worked in communist countries for years, too.

Now, in order to post here you need a) a real life name b) a blog. Where's yours?

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