Code version 2.0 | Lawrence Lessig

Summary of: Code version 2.0
By: Lawrence Lessig


In this summary of Lawrence Lessig’s Code version 2.0, we explore the diverse viewpoints and misconceptions about the Internet as a space governed by laws, markets, social norms, and architecture. Contrary to the idea that the Internet is an anarchist’s utopia, we delve into the reality of the digital world, as it becomes increasingly regulated and influenced by various stakeholders. Through examining issues such as anonymity, privacy, and the changing nature of the Internet, this summary illuminates how our online experiences and liberties may be affected by the choices made by governments, designers, and users today.

The Illusion of an Anarchist’s Utopia

In 1996, John Perry Barlow, a former Grateful Dead lyricist, stated that the Internet would render traditional government obsolete. He romanticized an unregulated Internet that puts users beyond physical coercion and is governed only by the Golden Rule. However, this rhetoric now sounds ridiculous. The Internet is costly to maintain and stuffed with all sorts of property; it is simply governed by the same laws of economics as the real world. In fact, it seems safe to say the Internet will never become the anarchist’s utopia that Barlow and many other intoxicated techies described in the 1990s.

Internet and Society Regulation

The internet is more regulable than other areas of human life. Regulation is not just by laws or social norms, but also by the architecture. Every architectural choice made by society regulates or constrains behavior. Therefore, there can be no “regulation-free zone” as even without laws, norms, or markets, regulation would remain.

The Regulable Internet

The Internet’s architecture leaves it fully regulable, even in terms of anonymity. The Internet once preserved user anonymity, but now computers are assigned unique numbers and generate logs of IP addresses. Through these means, one’s location can be identified, making the Internet much less anonymous and more regulable by enacted laws. The architecture of the Internet can have life or death consequences for dissidents in totalitarian states.

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