May 1, 2008 · Lessig
JZ’s book is out. It is in the brilliant Yale Series of brilliant (and Creative Commons licensed) books (which includes Yochai‘s as well). But you can (and will want to) buy it the old fashioned way, too.
This book will redefine the field we call the law of cyberspace. That sounds like a hokey blurb no doubt. But hokeness does not mean it is not true. It is true. The field before this book was us cheerleaders trying to convince a skeptical (academic) world about the importance and value of certain central features of the network. Zittrain gives these features a name — generativity — and then shows us an aspect of this generative net that we cheerleaders would rather you not think much about: the extraordinary explosion of malware and the like that the generative net has also generated.
Why does that matter? Why should it change things? Well as Z nicely shows, we’re radically underestimating the inevitable damage this malware will produce. Whether a single event, or a coordinated event, whether intentional, or accidental, it is simply a matter of time before a catastrophic network event happens. And when it happens — think of it as a kind of i9/11 event, but the bad guys are not Al-Qaeda — will we be prepared for the inevitable iPatriot Act response? Are we better prepared than civil libertarians were when we were hit with the USA Patriot Act? Have we even framed the right debate?
Certainly, we cheerleaders haven’t. This book begins it, and will define it for a generation (in Internet time, at least).