Monday, November 30, 2009

The future...

Security and privacy are words that keep appearing in our text. These words are anomalies when combined with humans and the network. They are conditions that are contradictions to our nature as human beings, yet they are privileges that we all desire. We want to be safe, secure and at the same time connected to others. Can you really be private and secure while using the networking tools that are available today?

What made me select this particular subject at this time? Tiger Woods. Tiger is a well respected sports icon. On the day (or weekend) that our culture sets apart as a day to physically gather with loved ones and give thanks for the things that we have, Tiger Woods reminds us that no one has privacy and no one is secure. I was in the forest, far away from malls and traffic, but I still got pinged by CNN about Tiger’s so-called “private” life in a very public way. And he was not secure at all. Via iPhone, I was alerted that Tiger has crashed into a fire hydrant and then a tree. His wife bashes his window in to "rescue" him. He is in currently in critical condition. No alcohol was involved.

Key figures, like Tiger Wood, have no privacy. The world instantly has knowledge of his actions and whereabouts, whether we want to or not. I can with certainty tell you that I was not thinking, I wonder what Tiger Woods is doing now?

To be totally unconventional, I will use some random quotes that I got from a CNN article to tell you what a couple of other people thought:
"If a golfer crashes his SUV in the forest with no one around, who gives a crap? Don't we have real news to report here?" (cavalier1138)

"Actually, he did choose to be a celebrity. The moment he signed his first endorsement deal, he absolutely chose to be a celebrity. As a celebrity, he no longer has the benefit of a private life. He traded that for money. If he doesn't like it, he can give back the money." (flex1)

Harsh? Maybe.

In one respect we wish to connect with other and at the same time we expect to have the right to "privacy". What is privacy? Privacy means the state of being free from intrusion or disturbance in one's private live, the state of being private; retirement or seclusion (

I think the idea of communicating behind the network veil of privacy is enticing. One can connect, share and divulge as much as they care without revealing too much about who you really are. But is that information really private and secure? I think people want to believe that they have the security and control on spaces like FaceBook and MySpace. There is a perception that there is distance that can be maintained between electronic connections, but that distance can rapidly decrease in a heartbeat, if someone really wants to gain access to the information. Just look at the Tiger Wood episode. And even look at the fall of Essjay, the Wikipedian who worked feverishly behind the scenes of the electronic pages of Wikipedia. His past was uncovered, revealed and exposed as Zittrain shares on pages 141.

Other key points of this book include the concept of a generative evolution of the Internet and traditional PC architecture. Zittrain talks about how architecture - the physical - hardware, protocol, the application, the content and the social layers evolve as result of the loose control during its evolution. (page130) " The Internet flourished by beginning in a backwater with few exceptions, allowing its architecture to be simple and fluid." Page 34

But one of the dangers is that no one really knows what is going to happen and where this is all going. There is no security, no privacy. Once you participate, you are subjected to possible exposure should someone take an interest.

He talks about the procrastination principle (page 31) that "rests on the assumption that most problems confronting a network can be solved later or by others. It says that the network should not be designed to do anything that can be taken care of by its users." This enticed someone like Robert Tappan Morris, Jr. Zittrain speaks of Morris (with a heroic slant) who created the first Internet worm, in an attempt to “count how many machines were connected to the Internet.” And as the story goes, he was mildly reprimanded and sent off to get his degree at Harvard and his tenure at MIT. (Page 41)

Is the procrastination principle an invitation to break a network construction which is built for a particular purpose? It appears the answer is yes for those who take the dare.

“Generatively pairs an input consisting of unfiltered contributions from diverse people and groups, who may or may not be working in concert, with the output of unanticipated change.” Page 70 If no one has a shared vision and no one seems to care what the consequences could be, it looks like a train wreck is coming to me. (see the cover)

Zittrain talks of leverage, adaptability, ease of mastery, accessibility, and transferability as features of the generative network. (pages 71-73) The characteristics of the network are plastic and fluid. Once we connect, collaborate and participate, we can no longer expect privacy or even security as we are now a part of this plastic and fluid network.

He goes on to talk of trust, self-governance, and the salvation of the net on page 152. And then gives us some solutions and possibilities such as the OLPC project. I wonder what Tiger thinks about the OLPC project. It is amazing to me that we could think it is a good idea to use laptops to experiment with the education of underprivileged children in other countries, when we have made such a debacle of our very own? Why not do something more obvious and substantial like giving them something to nutritious to eat?

Zittrain's point out strengths and weaknesses, problems and solutions but I can only think that a lack of order and control produces chaos and disaster. I don’t want to be tethered but the extreme is open to breaches in my privacy and security. Just ask Tiger.

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