Constitution

All bits are equal BUT SOME BITS ARE MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS.


Every few years, a new generation realizes that our electronic culture is not living up to it's original free and open promise. And so they decide to write a new constitution for the internet, as if the internet was an Eighth Continent that we could all defect to.

The truth is, the internet that you'd actually want to be a citizen of doesn't exist yet. Not in places like Egypt where a flick of a switch can disconnect everyone; not in the remote corners of Africa where the infrastructure doesn't exist; but even more so, not at home.

Our corporately owned internet comes with its own hidden constitution. It's a constitution that supports censorship, concentrates power, and leaves us just as vulnerable to a free speech blackout as any tin-pot dictatorship.

A Declaration of Internet Freedom can't be written in words, it has to be written in code, baked into the architecture of the technology itself. This is one of the most important political realities of the 21st century: It's the reason why Apple and the FBI locked horns over encryption; it's why fair use provisions in copyright laws are meaningless if DRM can just ignore them; and it's why people are gold rushing the blockchain; because, in the digital world, code is law. And when a platform is centralized, the owners get to write the laws.

If a free and open internet finally emerges again it won't be bound together with lofty sounding words. Its constitution will have to be written in code, a manifesto woven into the DNA of the network itself.

But don't get too swept up in the crypto-anarchist hype. As the Prime Minister of Australia once said:

“The laws of mathematics are very commendable, but the only law that applies in Australia is the law of Australia."

As long as humans exist in meatspace, code will never be completely free of meatspace politics or laws. And maybe that isn't entirely a bad thing. Those blockchain-based Smart Contracts aren't very smart and they're not even real contracts. When a clever hacker finds a way to exploit a bug in one of them and suddenly your life savings disappears, meatspace laws might not seem so bad after all.


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