TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Re: Why the Democratic Ethic of the World Wide Web May Be About to End

Re: Why the Democratic Ethic of the World Wide Web May Be About to End
1 Jun 2006 09:38:28 -0700

> [TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: I have often times wondered why people
> like Tim Berners-Lee (credited as the 'inventor' of the World Wide Web)
> did not think far enough ahead in the middle-late 1980's to slap some
> very firm controls on how _his_ product could be permissibly used by
> people in generations to follow. ...
> Somehow I think -- and I do not mean this in an unkind way --
> he shared in the naive notions that so many of the early computer
> pioneers; that people were basically good and decent and all that.

It isn't so much an issue of "good and evil" but rather a limited
understanding of human nature.

There are many college professors who are in an "ivory tower" and
disconnected with how the real world operates. Many college
communities are a select group of people admitted because of high
academic skills brought together for a common cause of study. The
human interaction in such a world is not the same as interactions
elsewhere. (Of course, not all colleges are like this.)

In the real world, unlike college, people have many different agendas.
It's not so much of a question of "good or evil", but rather Joe wants
a quick answer right now while Sam wants to experiment with different
stuff while Tony wants to sell things while Henry wants things for
free. Without a set of rules, these differences clash.

Unfortunately, in the real world, there is greater evil than in college
and that, as Pat described, is a serious problem.

Frankly, I'm not too sympathetic to the Internet's early developers.
Way back when I was in high school and we shared but a single
Teletype, various human behaviors came out loud and clear among our
little group. Accordingly, our teacher established rules for the
computer room. It was clear structure was needed to deal with human
realities. It was also clear a technical structure was required to
(1) deal with human realities and (2) deal with innocent mistakes that
could screw up the computer or other people's work.

In any human interaction, there are formal and informal rules of
behavior. The problem with the Internet was that the rules of
academia did not apply in the real world. What would be considered
unpardonably rude and unacceptable in college was commonplace in the
greater anonymous real world.

An excellent example of this disconnect is during WW II when numerous
scientists worked for the Army to develop the atomic bomb. The
scientists were genuises in nuclear theory, after all, they developed
a very complex set of rules for something that can't even be seen or
measured directly. (How does one calculate the mass of an electron,
proton, neutron? How does one even discover such particles?) But the
scientists were utterly clueless in turning that theory into working
units like nuclear reactors and practical weapons in a reasonable
period of time. They hated their tough army general, Leslie Groves.
But Groves got them to be productive. (See "Now It Can Be Told" by
Groves, a very good book on organizational behavior).

Another example is how FDR's academic based "brain trust" was unable to
develop efficient high industrial production needed for WW II. FDR had
to replace the professors with men borrowed from industry who knew how
to get the job done. There was considerable friction in that too.

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