For the Week of November 21, 2005
A few years ago I wrote something to the effect that there is no longer such a thing as e-commerce. There is only commerce.
Since then the separation between the Internet and the "real world" has continued to narrow. Now they are basically
What does this mean:
- Economic development is linked directly to there being Internet infrastructure.
- Liberty means the amount of liberty available online.
- More issues are becoming binary, as on the Internet - copyright, patent protection, politics.
- Industries without an Internet strategy - newspapers, TV, movies - fail.
In this new world, the U.S. is lagging.
Our broadband is pitiful compared to what's available in Asia. Our transparency is disappearing, with scandals at Verisign endorsed by ICANN (under government pressure). We're all under constant surveillance, thanks to the CIA's new "open source" directorate. And now the "Death Star" of a new AT&T is trying to impose rents on information providers, something the U.S. Congress is working to endorse.
There is no such thing as perfect here, but are the Chinese really worse off than the average American online? Certainly what is said can be controlled, it can be taken down and its author jailed. But there is bandwidth in abundance, and there are plenty of ways to say what you mean without saying it - badda-boom, badda-bing. Chinese mobile Internet services are far better than what Americans can get. (Chinese lets you tell stories in the equivalent of 150 ASCII characters, which comes down to 72 ideographs.) And the trend throughout China is toward freedom, toward free enterprise, and toward even local democracy. Where you're heading in life can be just as powerful as where you are.
There are many things governments can do to advance or retard Internet commerce, just as there are many ways in which government can control what business is done (and how much). Those who claim "the invisible hand" doesn't include government are lieing to themselves. Those who do so while controlling the government are lieing to the rest of us.
For the last four years the Bush Administration has fought a war against transparency. Even the Administration's greatest friends cannot deny that. They call it "security," but it's the ways and means of information collection by businesses and individuals which is most directly under threat, not that of the terrorists, because that is what the Administration can control.
Only recently has the Administration become "clued-in" to the fact that it is the Internet that holds control and access to the world's information, but it has already made great strides toward centralizing control of it. ICANN's decisions are now subject to a U.S. government veto. Registration is now in control of a company, Verisign, friendly to the government. Web logs and e-mails must now be archived by ISPs for the perusal of government officials. And now, at the behest of AT&T, the government is proposing that all Information Providers who refuse to pay tribute to ISPs will be unable to reach their customers.
Forget the War on Terror for a moment. This is slow economic suicide. Without transparency, without network neutrality, without low barriers to entry for new technologies, no nation can progress.
The European Union understands this. Asia understands this. Only the U.S. fails to understand this. And no matter what, it will be impossible to replace these people for at least three more years.
The damage that can be done in that period of time is incalculable. As the Internet becomes the real world, all the corruption, all the fascism, all the idiocy of the Administration in Washington is spilling into this sphere.
There are now huge opportunities for Internet start-ups in China, in Korea, throughout Europe, in India, in South America, even (if you're using mobile technology) in Africa. With the rest of the world waking up to transparency while Americans fall asleep to it, a huge economic power shift is now underway.
I'm powerless to do anything about it. But if you're reading these words outside the U.S., enjoy the ride.
I've got a new job. I'm now editor of Atlanta voic.us, a Web start-up aimed at building a community Web platform with a real business model. I'm also all alone in writing the Open Source Blog for ZDNet. (When this started there were three of us.)
My last non-fiction book, "The Blankenhorn Effect" won the Computer/Internet category in the 2003 Independent Publisher (IPPY) awards. Write me for a PDF copy of my latest novel, "Baptists are for Dunking."
On my Mooreslore blog I've written a new novel, "The Chinese Century." It's a story told in real-time, with real characters, but entirely fictional, dealing with the consequences of the falling dollar. I'm beginning a sequal, "American Diaspora," exploring the themes of the first book but with more fictional characters. It's a true alternate history, but set in the present day.
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Best of the Week
I can say this with some certainty because eBay has bought itself an enormous political problem with Skype, a fight it can't win because of its diminishing goodwill.
The real difference between mere "blogging" and "journalism" is a functional one. And here is the test. What does the opinionated blogger do when the story goes against them?
Two press releases came in today and demonstrated to me that the biggest problem we have in this world right now is a lack of ethics.
Easy to say, tough to do.
Microsoft is not a Big Time Brand, as my friend Rob Frankel would say. It doesn't give most of us the warm fuzzies. It's not a trusting relationship. There's no love there, as there is with Apple or Google.
There's not enough equipment for the fixed, because everyone is waiting for the mobile. And anything for the mobile has to face down cellular providers (potential Intel customers) who have lots of weapons to knock it down.
The hidden flaw, or Achilles Heel, of scaled technology systems like Amazon, eBay and Google is that the technology replaces human action.
Democracy is not the only way to run a free system. Consensus is the alternative.
When exchanging e-mails I am struck by how support for Microsoft seems to correlate with support for the Bush Administration.
The failure of the Online Freedom of Speech Act has provoked intense anger in Left Blogistan, directed mainly at its own representatives in Congress, and those interest groups supporting "government reform."
The American Diaspora
ZDNet Open Source
Clued-in may be Rememberthemilk.com but making promises and keeping them are often two different things.
Clueless is whoever is giving Right Blogistan its talking points these days.
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