The Terrible Cost of ‘Regulating’ The Internet

November 30, 2007

Can regulation and legislation really be the cure for the ills that plagues the internet? What if I said to you, much of the apparent anarchy which we are witnessing in the net these days is merely an artifact of its infancy?

What if I said to you. You don’t need to regulate or even legislate any more than you need to persuade the sun from rising or setting? 

What if I said, what we are actually witnessing is the same observable primordial phenomenon that once spawned life on this planet [I can even prove it with 8 pages of A4 calculations, wasn’t done by me but Vollariane and his people, looks promising and he will be presenting in our senate very soon.] i.e all organisms eventually undergo a phase of rationalization before doing so, they invariably go through a stage of maturing; convalescing from a state of anarchy to hierarchy, the internet is no exception to this rule. 

The expanding melting pot of tacit knowledge, gossip and trivia that floats around electronically during its early days (and the evening is still very young) is not so different than the babble which once existed in tribal memory characterizing much of the dawn of mankind. Ultimately the exigencies of commerce will make it’s debut upon this haphazard world and give it a coherent form and direction.} It only requires the lateral train to figure out even the invention of the internet falls into this non linear model: originally conceived by academics to facilitate long distance communication, it was eventually adopted by the military as a communication tool, only to fragment into the private sphere with the demise of the cold war – ultimately invading even the individual sphere. In the course of that haphazard migration, it spawned a revolution that generated billions of dollars and created thousands of new jobs. Firms such Google, Youtube and even the evil empire in the guise of Microsoft, are simply the modern equivalent of momentous transitions from collective memory to one not so different from the first human attempts to inscribe words on clay and stone. It is simply a form of evolution in the truest sense of the word.

However, to believe these transitions have developed without any social cost in the form of having to accommodate the bad currency, in the hope that the good will eventually prevail, is naïve.

In truth much of the developments we see these days in the internet never once emerged from the school of linearity or from Soviet styled centralized planning in the guise of command and control.

Instead, they have been driven largely by accidental forays primarily by individuals who didn’t even have the basic skillsets associated with management or anything remotely to do with entrepreneurship. Rather much of the innovation was driven by human curiosity and ingenuity in garages and rooms where clothes go to die leveraging specifically on “creativity.” [90% of our innovation comes from such people, not the experts – need I say more?]

This naturally throws out the question: what is the final cost to creativity, if the internet is regulated? What is the cost? Yes, I asked it twice, it bears repeating only because it remains obvious to me these serious questions have neither been fully trashed out beyond the perfunctory by either policy makers or those who continue to delude themselves there are no penalties associated with regulating the internet. Otherwise why do policy makers continue to use words like regulation and legislate?

That sort of straight line myopic calculation only holds true if one subscribes to the belief that everything must necessarily conform to the law of linearity i.e if you do this, then this and that will happen. If the truth be known, in the internet at least, we never once lived even so much as a single day in the land of forseeable, as we did in a world where things were planned only to be ruled by the God of accidents.

The very idea of regulation, is one that is not only fundamentally flawed, but breeds a poisonous righteousness and arrogance that events can be moderated to even determine the expected outcome. They cannot! The premise is not dissimilar to the ills brought forth by the US inspired war against terror – that if one examines at its core, attempts to justify very complex problems through a process of simplification by alluding itself to the fantasy, there are no penalties associated with pursuing straight line strategies.

Many who blindly supported this flawed strategy failed to recognize the visceral cost that it has in retarding creativity, namely managing intellectual capital on a national level. While all remain unanimous, the threat of terrorism can never be taken lightly. The decision to impose draconian restrictions on the free flow of human capital signals a profound failure on the part of US policy makers to understand what’s required to maintain an atmosphere of innovation.

Ideas do not grow on trees, neither are they mined like minerals. Great ideas emerge from the bedrock of creativity; they come from people. People commit a line on a piece of paper to design a plane or a microwave oven; people flesh out the marketing manifesto by starting businesses; people are process owners that see ideas through from the realm of theory through to reality. And good ideas can only emerge from people who are allowed to exercise human ingenuity through experimentation by trial and error – it’s one that transforms creativity into a strategic asset that is as important as land, water or any other commodity that gives a nation a competitive edge.

Policy makers who fail to comprehend the link between people, creativity and the consequences of their actions as in the American experience – by failing to ask themselves; what’s the true cost of keeping America safe is? Can only reap, what they sow.

The same should be be asked: what is the true cost of regulating the Singaporean internet scene?

If there are any lessons to be gleaned from the US experience, the cost of keeping her safe through overzealous regulation has led to chronic shortages in skills to effectively support the American economy. It’s a cost that casts long and disturbing shadows on America’s looming creativity crisis, and will take years to pan out. These things don’t show up till much later. This cost will ultimately threaten the supremacy of US technological innovation – unlike minerals that can be hoarded or warehouses that can be substituted, human capital or how it may choose to behave under a given set of circumstances is not so easy to predict.

I am not even referring to big regulation here, even something as trivial as the need to register a blog, or to even reveal ones identity is enough to trigger off profound changes which may not have foreseeable consequences – I am reminded, a little poison goes a long way. Of course, those who subscribe to the school of linearity and central planning will tell you and me no end, if you have nothing to hide then you should not fear, but they are wrong, as it assumes fear can only take one shape and form. When we know only too well, there are many forms of fear and the worst type is the one where one fears, fear itself.

To say that blogging has no commercial value beyond sustaining a underground culture where a free for all is allowed to run wild is for the moment true, this I do not dispute (only because there are still sites like Mr Brown and Mr Wang around). But to continue to insist it will remain this way against the technological changes that are sweeping the internet just demonstrates a serious lack of understanding for what is required to manage change. Even if the sum of all the lamentations to be found in the net, do not amount to very much beyond casual reading and have little immediate practical value or influence. It would be absurd to dismiss them all as irrelevant, just as it would have been to dismiss the Wright brothers when they observed fitches in mid autumn flights or even to dismiss Kant’s project for perpetual peace as irrelevant to the world of Napoleon.

The utilitarian calculus of only wanting to see what one wants to see, instead of perceiving events and phenomena for what they really are and what potential they may hold continues to be a travesty of rational reasoning. It is one that denies the possibility that even the simple act of blogging will one day yield the promise of a new hope.

“Today we write our history and it will be according to our terms, if there’s any attempt to regulate even the slightest attempt, no matter how trivial and insignificant, we will just step into our rocket ships and blast off. There is nothing subversive abt this, we already live in a society where there are no longer any admirable sentiments, so it is simply an economic and technological decision! (laughter) Then they will have what they want the burning city of Stalingrad. But gentlemen, do not be surprised, if all you can hear is the deafening roar of silence and it will happen the day after tomorrow. Indeed, they may even have their day, way and call it what they like, paradise even, but it will simply be termed in our history books as the empire of the bones – because without the brain the body is trully useless and all it can do is flay like a headless chicken – to call that progress is to believe great things can come out of nothing – we just don’t have time for such nonsense.” 

Darkness 2007 / Primus Aldentes Prime 4 Earth days ago.

(By Darkness, Vollariane & Cerebus / Science / Internet / EP 9938292 / 2007 / The Brotherhood Press 2007)

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18 Responses to “The Terrible Cost of ‘Regulating’ The Internet”

  1. freelancer said

    It’s happening again!

  2. […] We don’t need no regulation.. – Just Stuff: The Terrible Cost of ‘Regulating’ The Internet […]

  3. gypsyking said

    Just Stuff is a great site la. This is probably one of the few remaining sites which still regularly produce serious and well researched reads which equal, if not exceed what is frequently printed these days.

    I just want to thank Miss Dotty for bringing this to all of us.

  4. juicybaby said

    This is a great write up, its like someone opening up my brain and re-arranging all the nonsense in my head. I guess many of us have been conditioned to believe for good to come abt it needs to be legislated and followed by regulation. However, as Bambi has pointed out there is a cost.

    Good point. I am certain those planners or experts would really appreciate the model you came out with. I bet you even have a bag of ideas and I was wondering perhaps its not such a bad thing for you to talk to them and see whether there is any prospects of finding such a thing as common ground.

    Just a thought.

  5. dotseng said

    Baby Darkness,

    Will you be coming for my do this Sunday? Do reply.

    Best Wishes

    Dotty

  6. Darkness said

    Dotty,

    I want to speak to you of autumn rest, of sweet respose on grasslands.

    I want to speak Dotty of well being, happiness and oneness.

    I want to speak of yellow finches, of the languor of the summers wind that blows ever so gently brushing against one’s cheeks.

    I want to tell you, you are doing a marvelous job.

    I never told anyone this, but recently, I stepped into a church again – as you know, I play the violin and it’s been such a very long time, but soon it all came back, the fellowship, the body of Christ and the sense of belonging – Dotty, it felt good, it felt right and I think, I do it again next week.

    It’s a start, a very good start. I want to thank you Dotty, for reaching out and I want you to believe it was never in vain, it mattered this time. It made the difference and I want you to know this.

    Will you allow me to share this with you? It’s one of my fav pieces:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you very much.

    Darkness

  7. Harvardian said

    Good Morning Darkness,

    “I am not even referring to big regulation here, even something as trivial as the need to register a blog, or to even reveal ones identity is enough to trigger off profound changes which may not have foreseeable consequences – I am reminded, a little poison goes a long way. Of course, those who subscribe to the school of linearity and central planning will tell you and me no end, if you have nothing to hide then you should not fear, but they are wrong, as it assumes fear can only take one shape and form. When we know only too well, there are many forms of fear and the worst type is the one where one fears, fear itself.”

    Could you explain this part further. As I see it currently blogosphere is divided into two groups, one which is comfortable with revealing their identity and another which prefer to remain anon for whatever reasons.

    Wouldn’t registration go some way towards instilling a sense of accountability?

  8. Chronicler said

    [This comment was extracted from the comments section in “apathy” in the Singapore Angle, it is a reply to question concerning why the Brotherhood will not be participating in the bloggers meet in Armenian St on the 4th December 2007.

    From; Darkness

    “Olivia,

    At the risk of confusing myself and everyone else, allow me to be crystal clear why the brotherhood cannot possibly participate in the bloggers meet to the held on the 4th.

    (1) “Bloggers from two popular websites – yawningbread.org and theonlinecitizen.com – are calling for a meeting of Web ‘practitioners’ to gather feedback on how the Web should be regulated.” – Source ST.

    This is my understanding of what they are trying to accomplish, note the key word here is ‘regulate.’ Unfortunately is where we part waves with the other bloggers. As many of you know, I have made my position very clear to all as to why the term ‘regulate’ or ‘regulation’ should NOT even feature in any discussion pertaining to introducing changes to blogosphere – [if you do not know, I urge you to go to the Singapore Daily and check out the blog, ‘Just Stuff’ to get a heads up]

    Are we to believe for one moment, the only way to bring about positive change is through more ‘regulation?’ What about the current Penal Code, isn’t that sufficient to do the job of ‘regulating?’

    So let us be very clear here – what is emerging to me is this, the counter productive belief, the only means to move forward is through ‘regulation.’ Have these people (bloggers) even considered alternative strategies besides ‘regulation?’ I think not! Otherwise, why should the word ‘regulation’ even be set as a priori condition precedent for the bloggers meeting?

    The difference may be just a word, but always bear in mind words carry with them implications and broader meanings and in my opinion scant regard has paid to the specific area of exploring alternative means to moderate content in the net – now I have maybe about 7 to 8 strategies how to accomplish this, but I do not see the point of discussing this under umbrella term, ‘regulation!’

    (2) Secondly, what do we all presume a blog to be? No, this is not a trivial question. I would have you know it goes to be very root of delineating how such a matter should be best managed if its to remain inclusive to both writers and readers – if we define a blog as just bloggers per se i.e people who regularly write or own blogs, then what of it’s readers, contributors and everyone in between?

    If we can entertain the proposition when one writes and another reads, then what do you have here? There is obviously a ‘community,’ so how can a meeting of just bloggers alone fulfill the criteria of being inclusive without extending the right to heard to this broader community?

    Shouldn’t any discussion include this segment? Or am I to believe readers do not form a subset of the blogging community? This naturally throws out the question, is the whole idea of having a closed door discussion even the best approach – the question of quorum here in this case needs to take stock of the broader community of bloggers and this should in my opinion also include it’s cachet of readers. There are many compelling reasons why I believe this should be the case. Firstly, they (readers) remain the statistical significant in any calculation pertaining to a blog – content is relative to consumption, content cannot be appraised by content sake alone. Secondly, they remain the sole and ultimate consumers of blogs. Therefore every blogger owes them a duty of care to ensure whatever outcome emerges should necessarily take stock of their views – thirdly, readers add significantly to anything written in a blog, be it directly influencing the outcome of the written article (as in the case of the brotherhood press where our readers usually 60% of most published articles!) or just by commenting – so can anyone tell me in what way does this closed door meeting facilitate such a meeting of minds? It does not and it cannot!

    This brings into focus: where then is the best quorum to discuss these issues? – I say, it is here in blogosphere, not some physical room somewhere that can only accommodate 20 or 30 odd people, this way everyone has an opportunity to be represented.
    Now please be reminded, I can go on and on for perhaps 10 to 20 pages, it doesn’t take a lot of effort maybe 20 min, but for the time being this as much as I am prepared to say.

    Think about it! And don’t ask me stupid questions again. You will be glad to know, we have formed a team to monitor and study this development and I will share the final outcome of the report with you all.

    Have a nice weekend.

    “Long live the Brotherhood!”

    Darkness 2007

    Posted by Darkness | December 1, 2007 10:17 AM

  9. The Shadow Fox said

    the only accountability is INTERNAL. if you do not trust that, then you gotta resort to the rule of laws.

    if you go that way, you draw all of us to the CENTER.

    and in the eternal words without shades and shadows, that’s where conflict and death REIGNS!

  10. pennies said

    Rev 3:17 Because thou sayest, I am RICH, and increased with GOODS, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and BLIND, and naked:

    that’s what our great leaders have delivered which they intend to protect or …’regulate’.

  11. Darkness said

    Let us be clear abt a few things Harvardian.

    Firstly, I believe ALL discussions concerning any attempts to introduce new measures to the blogosphere, should be discussed in the public square in blogosphere and not in some room in Armenian St.

    The process for lack of a better word, needs to be not only ALL inclusive but more importantly seen and NOT centered to ONLY a select band of bloggers, better still if it can also include readers.

    This is especially cogent in the case of the BP as 60% – 70% of the content normally comes directly from our readers! So ALL of you are definitely stakeholders in one way or another to any changes which may eventually find its way into blogosphere. It is imperative that ALL of you should be included in the discussion and not excluded – otherwise, how can it even claim to be remotely consultative? It cannot.

    Besides it makes more sense to engage any party here for strategic reasons, this way, we can ALL be assured the whole process remains transparent and above board – it seems very odd to me why the whole discussion should be limited to ONLY a few bloggers.

    As to your question: yes, I believe any changes even something as trivial as the need to register a blog will have profound consequences.

    You have certainly brought up an important issue – one which compels all of us to ask what really makes up the internet?

    I submit to you what makes the internet the internet is privacy is assumed to be an elemental right, specifically the right to remain anonymous – therefore can I ask, in what way does the bloggers meet on the 4th December attempt to provision a means for anonymous bloggers and stakeholders to participate in the whole exercise?

    I have received nearly 80 to 90 e-mails on this question alone!

    As you can see it cannot, so you really need to ask yourself, how inclusive it is as an instrument of facilitating 360 degree feedback?

    Give our people sometime to study how best to respond to this matter.

    Darkness 2007

  12. Darkness said

    Judging from the response of the visitor counter, this is definitely an issue that concerns many.

    So we will focus on de-constructing the key issues from ALL angles. We have already identified a few possible models how these ‘changes’ may take effect, so we will discuss their merits accordingly by posting it here, my hope is. This will provide not only bloggers but also readers an account of the key issues, to enable them to gain some level of intimacy with the subject so that they can make an informed decision.

    As to whether this will solicit any response, that remains wholly immaterial to me. You can certainly lead a donkey to stream, but, whether it chooses to fill up or not is a different matter. However, as far as the record is concerned, issues along with their implications will definitely be raised. As we hope to cover every possible angle. And if it is NOT addressed and answered, then it too shall be reflected on the record for all to see and draw their respective conclusions. I really have no comment beyond that.

    I believe this is the best way, we control what we can and we leave the rest to others. This way at least, none of our readers can say that we did not pursue the matter to it’s logical end, it was there for all to see and if others cannot be bothered to dig it up, then you really need to question how thorough, diligent and comprehensive they have been in their evaluation and process of ‘consultation.’

    Again these issues are not so easily negotiated away with rhetoric alone – the internet has a memory as long as an elephant.

  13. Harvardian said

    “So we will focus on de-constructing the key issues from ALL angles. We have already identified a few possible models how these ‘changes’ may take effect, so we will discuss their merits accordingly by posting it here..”

    By “model,” I assume you are referring to scenario planning or war gaming the outcome using some form of simulation?

  14. Harvardian said

    Darkness,

    I can see where this is going. War gaming the “expected outcome” may give you a horizon view, but I still don’t see how you are able to pre-empt them without engaging them directly.

    IMHO, it makes more sense to work with Yawning Bread and his people to hammer out some kind of strategy instead of winging it all alone.

    How do you expect to win?

  15. dotseng said

    Hello Darkness,

    Thanks for your message. It’s none of my business, but you should seriously consider working with YB and the rest to seek some resolution.

  16. Darkness said

    Harvardian, I really don’t believe, it is possible to ‘win’ against any govt LOL – not if the regulation wagon rolls out. Simply not worth it. However, conducting a simulation will allow the rest like YB to pin-point where are the most likely areas, the opposition will try to pinch out.

    This is vital if they are to have any real chance of mounting an effective attempt at moderating the outcome, otherwise their defensive line will stretch from here to eternity diluting their efforts. By identifying the salient, they can at least concentrate their defensive positions on one key point thereby allowing them to focus and sharpen their strategy significantly – whether they have any real chance is another story.

    In these few days, Vollariane and his men will run through a few models and simulate the expected outcome, this is a complicated business as socio, economic, political and technological weighting have to be assigned to each driver for the simulation to run accurately and they run into the hundreds, so far they are working in shifts to finalize all the parameters. By Monday afternoon, we will have a first cut analysis.

    From there we will more or less have a clearer idea what type of strategy they are most likely to deploy and more importantly their expected returns for doing so. I cannot say this as a statement of fact for legal reasons I have been told, so you have to just regard it as my personal take, but rest assured, I have every confidence that Vollariane would put in a stellar effort – after that I will past our findings to YB, whether he wants to act on it, is really up to him and the rest, but that is all we can really offer in the way of cooperation.

    As I mentioned previously, if regulation comes in, I really don’t believe we can accommodate it even if we want too, too messy as we have to explain to so many foreign gamers, all we can really do is pack up say good bye and move on. Most of us I believe have already hardened ourselves to this reality.

  17. Geekycoder said

    GeekyCoder

    Well said, Darkness. I couldn’t agree with you more. By agreeing to regulate the internet, we are just giving the establishment to have more regulation coming under way to the detrimental of the freedom of internet. This is especially so where country rules and regulations are so easy to implement here like wearing a underwear and lot more when the gov here are so obsessive to passing down laws and rules like nobody business.

    It reminds me of those cases in Iraq where US simply refuse to compromise with terrorist because the act of compromising only encourage even more terrorisms.
    The same could apply here. If regulation is successful, another regulation will bound to be forthcoming, and very likely to be exploited and abused by political hand during election, after all we are told that ‘Politics are never fair’.

    Dec 2, 3:28 AM /Codex Cleared for Re-Transfer 0082-687-98

  18. Newbie said

    I am a first time blogger. I did not start reading blogs until I started my own. This blog has been so helpful to me as a newbie. Thumbs Up!

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