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#rC3 - What the cyberoptimists got wrong - and what to do about it

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    rc3 preroll music
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    Herald: All right, our next talk is Cory
    Doctorow, who I think needs very little
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    introduction in this situation. But for
    those who don't know him: he's an
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    activist, he's a science fiction
    author, and I think he can be
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    described as the King of Bloggers.
    I remember him appearing on XKCD
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    with a cape back in the good old days.
    So, Cory, please take it away.
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    Cory Doctorow: I don't know how I
    feel about being a king, given
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    given that I'm wearing a guillotine badge.
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    Perhaps, like, party secretary.
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    You have my permission to take my picture.
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    So I'm going to I'm going to talk today
    about technology and optimism
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    and where it comes from
    and where it needs to go.
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    And I want to start by…
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    well, I want to start by putting
    on my slides. So let's do that.
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    I want to start by busting a myth,
    the myth of the blind techno optimist.
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    You've probably encountered the story,
    the story that, you know, once upon a time,
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    there were a bunch o' nerds
    who had discovered the Internet,
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    and thought that if we just gave everyone
    the Internet, everything would be fine.
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    And that the only thing
    that they needed to work on
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    was making sure everyone got connected
    and everything else would
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    take care of itself. And now those idiots
    have led us into this crazy, terrible,
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    dystopian world. And why didn't they
    foresee all this trouble? And the way that
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    you know that this blind technological
    optimism is a myth is that people don't go
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    out and start organizations like the
    Electronic Frontier Foundation because
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    they think that everything is going to be
    fine in the end. You know, if there's a
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    motto that characterizes those early
    technological optimists, it's not that
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    everything is going to be great. It's that
    everything will be great if we don't screw
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    it up. And if we do screw it up, it's
    going to be really, really terrible. Now,
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    before computing was the source of regular
    stock bubbles, it was just a passion. It
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    was driven not by dreams of riches, but by
    programmers who are able to make stuff
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    happen. If you think about what the the
    journey of a programmer is, it's that
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    first you figure out how to express your
    will with sufficient precision that your
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    computer then enacts your will,
    and enacts it tirelessly, perfectly…
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    [stream lost]
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    …computer is connected to a network, you
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    can project your will around the world.
    You can take the thing
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    that you've built, this self executing
    recipe, and you can give it to
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    someone else, and they can execute it as
    well. It's, and… But it's better than a
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    recipe, right? You might have a recipe for
    your grandmother's brownies. And when you
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    send it to someone else, they still have
    to follow the recipe. But a program is
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    like a self executing recipe. It's like a
    machine that just makes your grandmother's
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    brownies appear in every household in the
    world if they just download your code and
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    run it. And of course, as you get on the
    network and you find these people to share
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    your code with, you're finding the people
    as well. You're finding community…
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    [stream lost]
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    chimes
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    Herald 2: But, well…
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    chimes
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    But not in, yeah,
    that large scale, to be honest.
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    Tried around quite a few things,
    and had a little
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    little online session for the Towel Day
    and for all these things. We had the
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    Easterhegg, the DiVOC, and yeah. We're
    working on it to get the connection back.
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    So, yeah.
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    CD: …giant, fat, phonebook-sized…
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    H2: OK, I can hear the voice
    CD: …bill that they would get
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    every month for all the things
    that they did, and so they they
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    they ran this whole system in the shadows.
    And the last thing they wanted was for
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    for what they were doing to come to
    the attention of their bosses.
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    And so they had a whole bunch of rules
    about what you could and couldn't create.
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    They especially didn't want any sex,
    and they didn't want anyone
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    explaining how to make bombs on Usenet.
    And so there would be votes about
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    what news, new newsgroup could be created.
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    But every now & again, the backbone cabal,
    which is what they called themselves…
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    H2: So we do have a sound
    of Mr. Doctorow here
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    So I think it shouldn't, shouldn't
    be too much of a of time until we get the
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    stream back.
    CD: …about cooking should go under the
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    talk hierarchy, and
    not under the rec hierarchy.
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    And John Gilmore and other people who
    were in his company decided to set up
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    their own alternative version of Usenet
    called the alt. hierarchy specifically
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    to allow for a discussion of cooking
    wherever the hell they wanted it.
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    To exercise that little quantum of
    self-determination. And very quickly,
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    the alt. hierarchy grew until it was
    larger than all of Usenet put together.
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    So the worst nightmares of those early
    digital activists have come to pass.
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    We have total penetration of technology.
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    There is centralization, surveillance, and
    manipulation of all of our technology,
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    everywhere. And the question that I think
    is a valid one to ask is how were we dealt
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    such a stinging defeat? How did it come to
    pass that people who foresaw this danger,
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    and worked to make things great and not
    screw them up, still arrived at this
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    moment where the Internet consists of five
    giant websites filled with screenshots of
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    text from the other four. That's a phrase
    from Tom Eastman, a software developer
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    in in New Zealand. And this is where I get
    to my thesis about about what's just
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    happened and what needs to happen next,
    because there is a story about
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    technologists that says that the blind
    spot was dystopia, that technologists just
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    failed to understand that all of this
    stuff could go horribly wrong.
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    And they really understood how
    –whoops–
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    They really understood
    how wrong it could go. The
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    The thing that technologists failed to
    understand was the relationship of
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    monopolism to technology and the economy
    as it was emerging in the early days of
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    the technology revolution. So if you think
    about the early days of the commercial
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    Internet and commercial technology,
    personal computing and so on, it was very
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    dynamic. Companies that were giants one
    day ended up being acquired by upstarts
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    the next day. And that dynamism was not
    driven solely by technology, but also by
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    US antitrust or anti-monopoly enforcers.
    So I want you to think about what the
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    experience of a kid in the United States
    in the 1980s would have been like if
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    you were using technology. So you might
    have gotten your Apple II+ in say, 1980 or
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    1981. In 1982 the modem that came with it
    could suddenly dial all kinds of services
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    all around America at a fraction of the
    cost that it used to run that because AT&T
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    had been broken up, and long distance
    charges fell through the floor. And then
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    in 1984, you might have replaced that
    Apple II+ with an IBM PC, but it's more
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    likely that you might have replaced it
    with an IBM PC clone. Whichever one you
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    replaced it with, it was probably running
    an operating system from this guy, the guy
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    who wrote this letter. Bill Gates. The guy
    who started this tiny little company
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    called Microsoft. And the reason that the
    IBM PC was running code from this little
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    startup and not from IBM itself was not
    because IBM didn't know how to write code.
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    IBM was really good at writing code. They
    were arguably too good at writing code.
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    And for 12 years prior to the creation of
    the PC, IBM had been in antitrust hell
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    with the Department of Justice in which
    they were sued and sued and sued. And
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    every year of that 12 year lawsuit, IBM
    spent more on its lawyers than the entire
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    US Department of Justice spent on all the
    lawyers pursuing all antitrust action. And
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    one of the things that the Department of
    Justice was really adamant about was that
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    if you made hardware, you shouldn't try to
    monopolize the software for it. And so
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    even though eventually IBM prevailed–the
    case was dropped against it–the last thing
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    they wanted was to get in trouble with the
    DOJ again. And so after this 12 year
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    process, when they made their first PC,
    they decided not to try and make the
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    operating system for it. Instead, they
    tapped Bill Gates to make an operating
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    system for it. And then Tom Jennings, the
    guy who created FidoNet, which was the
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    biggest competitor we had to Usenet. It
    was a non-Internet-based distributed
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    message board system. Tom Jennings, who is
    a virtuoso hardware engineer who lives a
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    few kilometers from my home here in Los
    Angeles, he was tapped by a company called
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    Phoenix that asked him to reverse engineer
    IBM's ROMs, and he reverse engineered the
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    PC ROM, produced a specification that was
    used as the basis for a new clone ROM, and
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    that clone ROM was sold to PC vendors all
    over the world. And it's how we got
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    Gateway, Dell, Compaq and all of the other
    PC vendors that might have sold you that
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    IBM PC clone in 1984 running an operating
    system that IBM hadn't made, on phone
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    lines that had been broken up from AT&T.
    And then in 1992, you might have noticed
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    that that little company, Microsoft, had
    grown to be a monopolist itself with 95%
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    of the operating system market. And so in
    came the Department of Justice, and the
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    Department of Justice spent the next 7
    years dragging Microsoft up and down that
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    same gravel road that they had dragged IBM
    up and down for 12 years. And even though
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    Microsoft got away, the way IBM had, their
    behavior was tamed, too, because when a
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    couple of guys in a Stanford lab, Larry
    and Sergei, named their new search engine
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    after the largest number they could think
    of, a one followed by 100 zeros, a google,
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    Microsoft decided not to do to them what
    they had done to Netscape because they had
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    seen what the Department of Justice does
    to you if you do that to your nascent
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    competitors. And so it felt in those days
    like maybe we'd found some kind of perfect
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    market, a market where you could make your
    products with low capital, just with the
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    sweat of your own mind, by writing code.
    That you could access the global audience
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    of everyone who might want to run that
    code over a low cost universal network.
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    And that that audience could switch to
    your product at a very low cost, because
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    you could always write the code that it
    would take to to port the old data formats
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    and to connect the old services to your
    new product. It was a market where the
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    best ideas would turn into companies that
    would find customers and change the world.
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    But what we didn't realize, what we were
    naive about in those halcyon days of the
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    early Internet, was that antimonopoly law,
    the antimonopoly law that had made things
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    so robust and dynamic that had given
    everyone who who had access to a computer
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    a chance to try and make a dent in the
    universe, that that antitrust law had been
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    shot in the guts in 1982, and was bleeding
    out. And it's all thanks to this guy,
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    Robert Bork. Robert Bork is kind of an
    obscure figure for for most people these
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    days. Although I said that on Twitter the
    other day and a bunch of people in their
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    50s said, "Oh, I know who Robert Bork
    is." But I think if you're not an American
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    in your 50s or a certain kind of weirdo
    conservative activist, you've probably
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    never heard of this guy. Robert Bork was
    Richard Nixon's solicitor general and he
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    committed crimes for Richard Nixon. And
    they were so egregious that when Ronald
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    Reagan tried to appoint him to the US
    Supreme Court, the Senate decided not to
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    confirm him because he was too grimy for
    the US Supreme Court. And so instead, he
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    became a kind of court sorcerer to Ronald
    Reagan and he created a new theory about
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    when monopoly laws should be enforced, a
    theory he called the consumer harm theory.
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    The consumer harm theory says that we
    don't hate monopolies because monopolies
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    are bad. We only hate monopolies because
    they sometimes raise prices, and so long
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    as a company that has a monopoly isn't
    immediately raising prices after they
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    acquire that monopoly, it's OK to let the
    monopoly form and to let the monopoly
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    fester. And this idea was incredibly
    popular, and not just with Ronald Reagan.
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    Every one of the neoliberal leaders of the
    Reagan era, from Helmut Kohl to Margaret
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    Thatcher to Brian Mulroney to Augusto
    Pinochet, took up the ideas of Robert Bork
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    and said that, from now on, we are not
    going to get rid of our monopolies. From
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    now on, we're going to encourage the
    growth of monopolies on the grounds that
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    they are efficient and only shut them down
    if we can prove that they've used their
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    monopoly to raise prices. Now, this idea
    is a stupid idea, but it's incredibly
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    popular for rich people, because rich
    people like the idea that they could buy
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    shares in companies that could establish
    monopolies. And those rich people funded
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    Robert Bork. They created, among
    other things, a series of junkets called
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    The Manne Seminars. M-A-N-N-E
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    The Manne seminars are continuing
    educational seminars for US
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    federal judges in Florida, where you fly
    to Florida, stay in a luxury hotel, and
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    get lectured on the brilliance of Robert
    Bork. 40% of US federal judges have been
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    through the Manne seminars.
    Unsurprisingly, those judges are far less
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    likely to punish monopolistic conduct. The
    people who like Robert Bork funded law
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    schools and economics departments and
    journals. And they they turned the idea of
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    consumer harm into a kind of global
    doctrine that has now taken over every
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    single regulator in the West. China has a
    slightly different vision of it, as does
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    Russia. But the European Union, Canada,
    the US, most of Central and South America
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    have all adopted these rules. I don't know
    to what extent these rules have penetrated
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    the African markets. And so, and and and
    consumer harm, this idea that monopolies
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    should only be shut down if you can show
    that they're using monopolism to raise
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    prices, is incredibly hard to prove. In
    fact, you could basically call it
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    impossible to prove. And as a result,
    anti-competitive conduct became so
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    routine, that we no longer think of it as
    unusual. Until the Bork era, here are some
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    of the things that were considered
    violations of antitrust law and that would
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    have attracted scrutiny from a regulator:
    merging with a major competitor, acquiring
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    a small competitor, or creating a vertical
    monopoly where you own different parts of
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    the supply chain, like Google buying an ad
    tech company. Now, the story of how tech
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    got monopolized leans hard not on Robert
    Bork, but on all these exotic ideas like
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    network effects. The idea that if you if
    you have one fax machine, it's useless and
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    two are very useful and three are twice as
    useful and four is twice as useful again,
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    and that once a tech company starts to
    become successful, the network effects
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    snowball and you will never dethrone it.
    Despite the fact that we no longer have
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    Friendster or AltaVista or Amigas or any
    of these other potential purveyors of
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    network effects. A close look at how tech
    companies grew does not show that network
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    effects is what led to that growth.
    Instead, you see predatory conduct.
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    Moneyball. Using access to the capital
    markets to raise gigantic amounts of money
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    and buy or merge with all of your
    competitors as the means by which they
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    grew. And as an example of this, I want
    you to think about Google for a minute. So
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    Google is a company that has made exactly
    one and a half successful in-house
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    products. They made a really good search
    engine and a pretty good Hotmail clone.
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    Everything else that they've made in-house
    died. This is just a small sample of the
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    Google product graveyard. And everything
    that they've done that's
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    successful–Android, ad tech, YouTube, and
    so on–all of these are companies that they
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    acquired from someone else. So this is not
    a company that has a natural monopoly due
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    to a network effect. This is a company
    that has an unnatural monopoly due to
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    predatory conduct. Now, network effects
    are indeed real. They are a thing. And you
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    can see them exemplified pretty well with
    the Bell System. This was what we called
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    AT&T in the US before it was broken up in
    the 1980's. But with with net with tech,
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    network effects are very different from
    other kinds of industries. You think of
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    the railroad industry where once you have
    rails that run from one place to another,
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    it doesn't make any sense to to put in a
    second set of rails. And so the custom
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    accrues to the rail vendor, which can add
    more rails to more destinations. And
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    before long, you have these natural
    monopolies emerging in rail. But that's
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    not how it works with technology. And the
    reason is that technology has
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    interoperability. So built into our
    general purpose computers and our general
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    purpose network is the ability to run any
    program provided you can express it in
  • 19:36 - 19:42
    symbolic logic and to interface any new
    network service with any existing network
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    service. Now, oftentimes that
    interoperability is deliberate and
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    engineered. Someone will go to a standards
    body like the W3C and decide on what an
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    HTTP header looks like. But just as often,
    that interoperability is adversarial. That
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    interoperability is a form of competitive
    compatibility, where a new company makes a
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    product that plugs into an existing
    product or service without permission,
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    against the wishes of the people who made
    the existing product or service. Like Tom
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    Jennings making his IBM PC ROMs. And what
    happens then is that the walled garden of
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    the company that came before becomes a
    feedlot in which all of the customers have
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    been handily penned in, so that the new
    market entrant can go over and choose
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    whichever ones they want and devour them
    in a smorgasbord. So to think about how
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    this worked with the Bell System, the Bell
    System originally had not just a monopoly
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    over the wires, but a monopoly over the
    things that connected to the wires. It was
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    against the law to connect a phone, or a
    phone-like device, or even a thing that
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    clicked on to a phone, to a phone that
    came from the Bell System or to a jack
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    that the Bell System had installed. And
    they argued that because they were a
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    monopolist, they were part of America's
    national security and safety apparatus,
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    and that allowing third parties to connect
    things to their network would result in
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    the network being made unreliable and
    therefore America being made insecure and
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    unsafe. But they didn't use this power
    just to keep the network operational. They
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    used this power to extract monopoly rents,
    to make money by screwing over their
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    customers, by preventing new market
    entrants. So, for example, to see where
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    how bad this got, you can look at where it
    broke down. The first time that this
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    system broke down was when AT&T sued a
    competitor called Hush-A-Phone.
  • 21:35 - 21:40
    And Hush-A-Phone was a plastic cup that
    snapped over the mouthpiece of your Bell
  • 21:40 - 21:45
    phone so that, when you were speaking,
    your voice would be muffled, and people
  • 21:45 - 21:49
    who are in the same room as you would find
    it hard to listen in on your conversation.
  • 21:49 - 21:55
    And AT&T argued that the Hush-A-Phone,
    because it was mechanically coupled to the
  • 21:55 - 21:59
    Bell System, endangered the integrity of
    the Bell System. And their regulator told
  • 21:59 - 22:04
    them to go pound sand. They said, no, this
    doesn't endanger the system, get used to
  • 22:04 - 22:07
    it, people can connect things to their
    phones. And that's when they lost
  • 22:07 - 22:11
    mechanical coupling prohibitions. And then
    they went after another company called
  • 22:11 - 22:17
    Carterfone. And Carterfone made a walkie
    talkie that plugged into a regular RJ11
  • 22:17 - 22:22
    jack that you could connect your phone to.
    And it was for people who worked on
  • 22:22 - 22:26
    ranches and farms so that they could they
    could clip a walkie talkie onto their belt
  • 22:26 - 22:30
    and go out and work in the barn or ride
    out on the range, and still take their
  • 22:30 - 22:36
    phone calls. And AT&T argued that by
    electrically coupling devices to the Bell
  • 22:36 - 22:41
    System that they were violating AT&T's
    monopoly and endangering America. And
  • 22:41 - 22:46
    again, their regulator told them that that
    was not a valid reason, and they lost the
  • 22:46 - 22:50
    ability to block electrical electrical
    coupling. And this is where we see the
  • 22:50 - 22:54
    growth of everything from modems to
    answering machines and all of the other
  • 22:54 - 22:59
    devices that eventually plugged into the
    Bell System. So interoperability can turn
  • 22:59 - 23:04
    network effects on their head. And
    interoperability was really key to the
  • 23:04 - 23:06
    growth of the tech monopolists today.
  • 23:06 - 23:09
    So think about the iWork suite
    and its history
  • 23:09 - 23:14
    Before the iWork suite came about,
    Apple was in really serious trouble
  • 23:14 - 23:18
    in enterprise networks. If you ran a
    business, chances are most of the
  • 23:18 - 23:23
    computers in your network were PCs, but
    maybe the designer or an executive who had
  • 23:23 - 23:28
    the right to decide what kind of computer
    they would use was would be running a Mac.
  • 23:28 - 23:34
    And the way that that Microsoft punished
    you for running that Macintosh in the
  • 23:34 - 23:39
    Microsoft environment was by dragging
    their heels on updating the Microsoft
  • 23:39 - 23:44
    Office suite for the Mac. And so Macs
    became this kind of cursed zone, where if
  • 23:44 - 23:49
    someone were to send a Word file or an
    Excel file to a Mac, and that file was
  • 23:49 - 23:53
    then opened and saved again, it would
    never be openable again on any computer
  • 23:53 - 23:58
    anywhere in the world. It would be
    irretrievably corrupted. And Bill Gates
  • 23:58 - 24:03
    did not fix this because Steve Jobs went
    to him and asked him pretty please to make
  • 24:03 - 24:07
    a better Microsoft Office suite for the
    Mac. Instead, Steve Jobs got a bunch of
  • 24:07 - 24:13
    engineers to reverse engineer the the file
    formats. And then they produced iWork,
  • 24:13 - 24:19
    whose Pages, Numbers and Keynote are used
    to read and write Office files perfectly.
  • 24:19 - 24:23
    And very quickly, they were able to
    colonize the Microsoft Office environment,
  • 24:23 - 24:29
    running ads like the Switch ads, where
    they said, well, you may have hesitated to
  • 24:29 - 24:34
    give up your Windows PC because all of
    your files are stuck in there.
  • 24:34 - 24:37
    But what if I told you that you could
    read and write all the files ever
  • 24:37 - 24:41
    created with a Windows system,
    and you could do it from a Mac
  • 24:41 - 24:45
    by running one piece of competitive
    compatibility software, of software
  • 24:45 - 24:48
    that was adversarially interoperable
    with the Microsoft ecosystem?
  • 24:48 - 24:52
    And that is what rescued the Mac
    from the scrap heap of history.
  • 24:52 - 24:57
    And it wasn't just software, it
    was also hardware. In the early 1990's
  • 24:57 - 25:03
    Lexmark was the–or rather the
    late 1990s–Lexmark was the printer
  • 25:03 - 25:09
    division of IBM, the not very well
    reformed monopolist, and Lexmark used
  • 25:09 - 25:14
    little microchips to stop people from
    refilling their laser toner cartridges.
  • 25:14 - 25:17
    And a company called Static Controls, a
    little Taiwanese company, reverse
  • 25:17 - 25:22
    engineered that microchip. It only held a
    12 byte program, so it wasn't hard.
  • 25:22 - 25:26
    And they made new chips that would allow
    you to refill your cartridge. Lexmark lost
  • 25:26 - 25:31
    their lawsuit against Static Controls. And
    so now Static Controls had this huge
  • 25:31 - 25:36
    installed user base of people who are
    desperate for cheap toner cartridges. And
  • 25:36 - 25:40
    instead of having a network advantage,
    Lexmark now had a network disadvantage.
  • 25:40 - 25:46
    Today, Lexmark is a division of the
    company that owns Static Controls.
  • 25:46 - 25:52
    And it's not, of course, hardware also. It's
    also network services. When Facebook first
  • 25:52 - 25:56
    got off the ground, Mark Zuckerberg had a
    really serious problem, which is that
  • 25:56 - 26:00
    everyone who wanted to use social media
    already was on the dominant social media
  • 26:00 - 26:04
    platform, a company called MySpace that
    was owned by the world's most rapacious,
  • 26:04 - 26:10
    vicious billionaire, Rupert Murdoch. And
    again, Zuck did not go to Rupert and say,
  • 26:10 - 26:14
    please allow your users to talk to my
    users because people want to use Facebook,
  • 26:14 - 26:18
    but they don't want to leave their friends
    behind. Instead, what they did was they
  • 26:18 - 26:22
    made a bot and you give that bought your
    login credentials, and it would go to
  • 26:22 - 26:27
    MySpace and scrape the waiting messages
    that were there for you and put them in
  • 26:27 - 26:29
    your Facebook inbox,
    and you could reply to them, and
  • 26:29 - 26:32
    it would pilot them back out to MySpace.
  • 26:32 - 26:38
    Now, all of this led to a very dynamic
    system that completely changed the
  • 26:38 - 26:43
    way that we interacted with technology.
    But all of this has gone the way of the
  • 26:43 - 26:48
    dodo. And the reason for that is that as
    these companies acquired new monopolies,
  • 26:48 - 26:55
    they diverted their monopoly rents to
    foreclosing on competitive compatibility.
  • 26:55 - 27:01
    So you may remember the urgent fight over
    software patents. The growth of software
  • 27:01 - 27:06
    copyrights. The ongoing problem of anti-
    circumvention rules that make it illegal
  • 27:06 - 27:11
    to break DRM, most recently seen in the
    shutdown of youtube-dl.
  • 27:11 - 27:14
    Enforceable terms of service.
  • 27:14 - 27:17
    Facebook has just used its terms of
    service to try and shut down
  • 27:17 - 27:22
    Ad Observatory, an academic project that
    tracks Facebook's compliance with its own
  • 27:22 - 27:27
    policies on political paid disinformation.
    And they've said that because this service
  • 27:27 - 27:31
    violates their terms of service, it's
    illegal. Never mind that Facebook had to
  • 27:31 - 27:35
    violate MySpace's terms of service to gain
    its ascendancy.
  • 27:35 - 27:39
    And then new rights that are purchased
    with very expensive lawsuits.
  • 27:39 - 27:43
    So today we have the Google-Oracle lawsuit
  • 27:43 - 27:46
    going through the Supreme Court
    in the United States. That might
  • 27:46 - 27:52
    create a new copyright over APIs. Now, all
    of these things–patents, copyrights,
  • 27:52 - 27:56
    anti-circumvention, terms of service,
    novel copyrights–they trade under the
  • 27:56 - 28:02
    name intellectual property. And if you're
    familiar with the phrase intellectual
  • 28:02 - 28:07
    property, you'll know that free culture
    activists hate this term. In fact, when
  • 28:07 - 28:09
    you ask them what we should call these
    things…
  • 28:09 - 28:12
    Sorry, there's my software patents slide,
    I knew I had one in there somewhere.
  • 28:12 - 28:14
    When you when you call it…
  • 28:14 - 28:16
    When you ask them what we should call
    intellectual property, they say, oh, you
  • 28:16 - 28:20
    should call it the author's monopoly,
    because that's what they called it in the
  • 28:20 - 28:24
    days of the Statute of Anne. That's what
    they called it in the founding in the
  • 28:24 - 28:30
    United States, authors' monopolies. And
    authors get really pissy when you say that
  • 28:30 - 28:34
    they have a monopoly. And they do for good
    reason, because although formally the fact
  • 28:34 - 28:38
    that I wrote this speech and therefore I
    have the monopoly over reading it to you
  • 28:38 - 28:43
    on my microphone means that I am a
    monopolist, I don't have a market power
  • 28:43 - 28:47
    monopoly. Right? I can't use this monopoly
    to extract monopoly rents from the
  • 28:47 - 28:53
    marketplace. Writers who go to the five
    remaining publishers–soon to be four
  • 28:53 - 28:56
    if Bertelsmann buys out Simon and
    Schuster–don't get to use the fact that
  • 28:56 - 29:02
    they have a monopoly to negotiate crazy
    supermarket prices that go beyond what
  • 29:02 - 29:07
    what would happen in a competitive market.
    Unlike, say, the the monopolists
  • 29:07 - 29:11
    themselves, the actual monopolists we have
    who get to charge very high prices for
  • 29:11 - 29:19
    their services. And so it's it's not a bad
    point that an author's monopoly is not a
  • 29:19 - 29:23
    monopoly in the way that we talk about it
    when we talk about monopolism in the tech
  • 29:23 - 29:29
    sector. But IP does have a very precise
    meaning, a meaning that is not…
  • 29:29 - 29:35
    has nothing to do with intellectualism or
    property. IP in the sense of software
  • 29:35 - 29:40
    patents, copyrights, anti-circumvention,
    terms of service, API copyrights, and so on
  • 29:40 - 29:45
    it has the precise meaning of any law
    or rule that lets me decide who can
  • 29:45 - 29:50
    criticize me, who can compete with me, and
    who and how my customers must behave
  • 29:50 - 29:55
    themselves. And when you fuse a market
    power monopoly with an author's monopoly,
  • 29:55 - 30:00
    when you have a market power monopoly that
    has IP behind it, you get something far
  • 30:00 - 30:05
    more durable than either a regular
    monopoly or an author's monopoly,
  • 30:05 - 30:09
    a copyright monopoly. You get a monopoly
    that the government will defend rather
  • 30:09 - 30:15
    than dismantling. So, for example, if you
    have a monopoly that you can defend with a
  • 30:15 - 30:21
    patent, right, like today, you have HP
    monopolizing it's ink cartridge market and
  • 30:21 - 30:25
    they have patents over the security chips
    and their ink cartridges. The government
  • 30:25 - 30:31
    will seize compatible ink cartridges at
    the border on your behalf for because they
  • 30:31 - 30:36
    violate your patents. And so instead of
    punishing you for creating a monopoly, the
  • 30:36 - 30:41
    government will reward you by doing your
    enforcement work for you. And not only
  • 30:41 - 30:45
    that, but once you have a monopoly
    that's backed by some kinds of IP like
  • 30:45 - 30:50
    anti-circumvention, the government will
    punish people who report defects in your
  • 30:50 - 30:56
    products. So if you have a monopoly over
    printers or if you have a monopoly over
  • 30:56 - 31:03
    phones, and someone finds a defect that
    allows third parties to install their own
  • 31:03 - 31:09
    ink or their own app stores, the
    circumvention of your DRM becomes a crime
  • 31:09 - 31:13
    under Article 6 of the European Copyright
    Directive, and under Section 1201 of the
  • 31:13 - 31:17
    Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and
    under similar laws all around the world.
  • 31:17 - 31:21
    And the government will both fine and
    potentially imprison the security
  • 31:21 - 31:25
    researchers who point out that your
    products have a defect in them.
  • 31:25 - 31:27
    Now, I started this talk by saying that
  • 31:27 - 31:31
    early Internet boosters were not
    blind to the perils of technology.
  • 31:31 - 31:33
    But some of them them were, a little.
  • 31:33 - 31:36
    After all, once all that
    money started sloshing around,
  • 31:36 - 31:39
    then if you could convince yourself
    that tech was an unforced
  • 31:39 - 31:42
    an unchecked force for good, then
    you could also convince yourself
  • 31:42 - 31:46
    that getting all of that money
    that the tech industry was generating
  • 31:46 - 31:48
    would make you on the side of good.
  • 31:48 - 31:52
    The myth of two guys in a garage
    who could top a billion dollar giants
  • 31:52 - 31:56
    and become billionaires themselves,
    fired a lot of techies' imaginations
  • 31:56 - 31:59
    and sidelined a lot of their conscience.
  • 31:59 - 32:03
    But those days are behind us,
    thanks to monopolies.
  • 32:03 - 32:08
    Thanks to monopolies, founders
    who want to start businesses that compete
  • 32:08 - 32:14
    with the monopolists, monopolists who have
    double-digit growth every year, and who
  • 32:14 - 32:19
    realize tens, if not hundreds of billions
    of dollars in profit collectively.
  • 32:19 - 32:24
    Those founders, when they go to a venture
    capitalist or another funder, are told
  • 32:24 - 32:28
    that the funders aren't interested in
    funding these direct competitors.
  • 32:28 - 32:33
    Funders call the lines of business that
    big tech is in the kill zone, and they
  • 32:33 - 32:37
    understand that any attempt to fund a
    business that operates in the kill zone
  • 32:37 - 32:40
    will result in your company being crushed
  • 32:40 - 32:43
    by the monopolistic power of
    the entrenched company.
  • 32:43 - 32:47
    And so instead, if you are a
    technologist headed to Silicon Valley,
  • 32:47 - 32:52
    you don't dream of changing the world. You
    dream of like having a mini kitchen with
  • 32:52 - 32:58
    free kombucha and maybe getting massages
    on Wednesday on the on behalf of the
  • 32:58 - 33:03
    company. And liberated from the fear of
    losing customers to competitors, tech has
  • 33:03 - 33:09
    pivoted from liberating customers to
    manipulating, locking in, and abusing
  • 33:09 - 33:15
    their users. And the code that does that
    manipulation, that abuse and that lock-in?
  • 33:15 - 33:19
    It's all written by technologists.
    Technologists who discovered their passion
  • 33:19 - 33:23
    for the field when they felt the thrill of
    self-determination through writing code
  • 33:23 - 33:28
    and projecting it over networks. And this
    is a really important fracture line.
  • 33:28 - 33:32
    I think this is a way to understand things
    like the Googler Walkout and Tech Won't
  • 33:32 - 33:36
    Build It. No Tech for ICE. The solidarity
    movements against facial recognition and
  • 33:36 - 33:44
    other surveillance technologies. That
    technologists are no longer able to delude
  • 33:44 - 33:49
    themselves with the thrill of billions
    into thinking that it's OK to do what
  • 33:49 - 33:53
    they've been doing. And one by one and in
    increasing numbers, they're starting to
  • 33:53 - 33:58
    wake up to the fact that it's time to do
    better. It's time to realize the
  • 33:58 - 34:02
    liberatory power of technology and step
    back from the power of technology to
  • 34:02 - 34:06
    control us. That this will all be so great
    if we don't screw it up and if we do screw
  • 34:06 - 34:10
    it up, it's going to be really, really
    terrible. And there are precedents for
  • 34:10 - 34:14
    this. And unfortunately, the precedents
    are pretty incomplete. So,
  • 34:14 - 34:18
    Robert Oppenheimer very famously was one
    of the few people in the world who is both
  • 34:18 - 34:22
    brilliant enough at being a manager and
    brilliant enough at being a nuclear
  • 34:22 - 34:26
    physicist that he could lead the creation
    of the first nuclear bomb and the
  • 34:26 - 34:31
    Manhattan Project in Los Alamos in the
    United States. And legendarily, as that
  • 34:31 - 34:36
    first nuclear bomb test went off, he
    turned away from the mushroom cloud and
  • 34:36 - 34:40
    said, "I am become death destroyer of
    worlds," and embarked on a lifelong
  • 34:40 - 34:46
    project to demilitarize the atom to to put
    back in the bottle the genie that he had
  • 34:46 - 34:54
    made. And my hope is that we can arrive at
    a world in which our Oppenheimers decide
  • 34:54 - 34:59
    to put down their tools before they make
    their atom bombs instead of after. That,
  • 34:59 - 35:04
    that we are at this crossroads now where
    not only are the harms so visible that
  • 35:04 - 35:10
    they're undeniable, but also that
    rewards for building the digital
  • 35:10 - 35:18
    equivalent of these A-bombs have dwindled
    from a star in technology's hall of fame
  • 35:18 - 35:24
    to a really well funded pension plan. And
    surely that is not enough to sell out for.
  • 35:24 - 35:29
    So many of you listening today probably
    read my novel Little Brother and its
  • 35:29 - 35:34
    sequel Homeland. I know that because I
    often hear from you, especially at events
  • 35:34 - 35:42
    like CCC and DEFCON and at SchmooCon and
    at THOTCON and so on. People come up to me
  • 35:42 - 35:48
    and they say, you know, I read your book
    and I, I understood both how powerful
  • 35:48 - 35:52
    technology could be and how terrifying it
    would be if that power was not harnessed
  • 35:52 - 35:58
    for the people and instead was harnessed
    to oppress people. And it made me embark
  • 35:58 - 36:02
    on my career as a technologist, as a
    security researcher, a human rights
  • 36:02 - 36:06
    activist, a cyber lawyer. And, you know,
    that's the best thing in my life, really.
  • 36:06 - 36:12
    I mean, apart from my kid and my family.
    The fact that there are people out there
  • 36:12 - 36:15
    who have devoted their lives to doing
    something better because of something
  • 36:15 - 36:18
    I wrote, that's that's really important to
    me. And frankly, you know, if my kid has
  • 36:18 - 36:23
    got a chance of growing up in a world that
    doesn't make Orwell look like an optimist,
  • 36:23 - 36:26
    it's going to be in part
    because of that stuff.
  • 36:26 - 36:29
    But I've written a new Little Brother book.
  • 36:29 - 36:32
    I wrote this book that came out
    this year called Attack Surface.
  • 36:32 - 36:36
    And this is genuinely not an ad. You don't
    have to read it. And in fact, if you're
  • 36:36 - 36:40
    watching this, you probably don't need to,
    although you might enjoy it. Because this
  • 36:40 - 36:46
    is aimed at a different kind of
    technologist. This is a story about the
  • 36:46 - 36:51
    kind of technologist who spends their
    whole life kidding themselves that working
  • 36:51 - 36:56
    on systems of control and oppression are
    not that big a deal, because if they
  • 36:56 - 36:59
    didn't do it, someone else would do it.
    There's an endless supply of
  • 36:59 - 37:03
    Oppenheimers, and if I turn my back,
    someone else will be there to to finish my
  • 37:03 - 37:10
    work. Who come to a realization, maybe
    belated, that they've spent their whole
  • 37:10 - 37:15
    life building a dystopia that they don't
    want to live in. And who redeem
  • 37:15 - 37:21
    themselves, who come back from the brink.
    And the reason I wrote this story now is
  • 37:21 - 37:27
    because I really wanted to reach the
    technologists who are waking up every day
  • 37:27 - 37:32
    and saying I fell in love with this stuff
    because it liberated me. And I spend my
  • 37:32 - 37:36
    days figuring out how to take away the
    future of people who might be liberated by
  • 37:36 - 37:41
    it themselves. And that's an urgent
    message, because author's
  • 37:41 - 37:47
    monopolies–IP–are available to everyone
    thanks to the Internet of Things,
  • 37:47 - 37:50
    thanks to our embedded systems.
  • 37:50 - 37:53
    I'm going to break here
    and editorialize very briefly.
  • 37:53 - 37:59
    This is the slide I'm most proud of, not
    not for any kind of intellectual heft, but
  • 37:59 - 38:03
    I'm really bad at the GIMP, and I think I
    did a really good job. So I just want to,
  • 38:03 - 38:06
    if you're if you're looking away from your
    screen, if you're like peeling vegetables
  • 38:06 - 38:10
    or something, spare a glance at this
    slide. I'm very happy with this slide.
  • 38:10 - 38:18
    So the IoT means that every device in our
    world has access to an author's monopoly,
  • 38:18 - 38:26
    has IP in it. And that governments will
    enforce the strictures that the designers
  • 38:26 - 38:31
    and manufacturers of these devices put
    into them by punishing people who try to
  • 38:31 - 38:37
    use competitive compatibility to undo
    those strictures. And not only that, but
  • 38:37 - 38:45
    IoT devices are not merely smart as a
    convenience to invoke the law.
  • 38:45 - 38:50
    They're also smart as a way to enforce the
    manufacturer's desires, as a way to
  • 38:50 - 38:58
    control the the actions of users, of
    competitors, and of critics. That
  • 38:58 - 39:04
    these devices have a kind of unblinking eye
    that watches you whenever you use them.
  • 39:04 - 39:06
    And if it catches you
    trying to do something
  • 39:06 - 39:08
    that might displease
    the manufacturer's shareholders,
  • 39:08 - 39:11
    it can stop you,
    and it can rat you out to the authorities.
  • 39:11 - 39:15
    And so, you know, speaking in my
    professional capacity
  • 39:15 - 39:19
    as a dystopian science fiction writer,
    this scares the shit out of me.
  • 39:19 - 39:22
    Now, that is all a kind of grim way to end.
  • 39:22 - 39:28
    And so I'm going to finish this off with a
    couple of words on what gives me hope. And
  • 39:28 - 39:33
    this comes from my colleague James Boyle
    at the Duke Center for the Public Domain.
  • 39:33 - 39:38
    And Jamie, when he talks about
    the computer liberation movement,
  • 39:38 - 39:40
    he compares it to the ecology movement.
  • 39:40 - 39:45
    And before the term ecology was coined,
    we didn't have a movement.
  • 39:45 - 39:49
    We just had a bunch of issues.
    Some people cared about whales,
  • 39:49 - 39:52
    some people cared about owls,
    some people cared about the ozone layer.
  • 39:52 - 39:55
    And maybe they thought that the people
    who cared about another issue
  • 39:55 - 39:58
    were doing important work,
    but it wasn't their work.
  • 39:58 - 40:02
    And they weren't really on the same side.
    They weren't part of the same cause.
  • 40:02 - 40:06
    But the term ecology changed all of that.
    The term ecology took a thousand issues
  • 40:06 - 40:12
    and turned it into one movement;
    one movement that everyone had
  • 40:12 - 40:17
    each other's back on. Even if the reason
    you were in the movement was owls,
  • 40:17 - 40:20
    you were there to fight the corner of the
    people who cared about the ozone layer.
  • 40:20 - 40:24
    And you began to understand that these
    were all facets of the same problem.
  • 40:24 - 40:27
    Well, today, monopolies have taken over
  • 40:27 - 40:30
    and destroyed the lives of people
    in a million ways.
  • 40:30 - 40:31
    Right?
  • 40:31 - 40:35
    Whether you're a professional wrestling
    fan, a beer drinker, a whiskey drinker,
  • 40:35 - 40:40
    an eyeglass-wearer, a plane-flyer-in,
    someone who relies on energy or
  • 40:40 - 40:45
    financial services or whose money was
    stolen by a company whose auditors were
  • 40:45 - 40:50
    one of the big four accounting firms.
    Whether you are someone who is upset
  • 40:50 - 40:56
    because there's four movie studios left or
    three record labels or because there's
  • 40:56 - 41:00
    only one movie theater left in the United
    States… one movie theater chain of any
  • 41:00 - 41:03
    size left in the United States. Or whether
    you're pissed off that you're not going to
  • 41:03 - 41:08
    get the vaccine, because in the US there's
    only one company that makes glass bottles
  • 41:08 - 41:14
    of any size. All of these people don't
    know it, but they're in the same side.
  • 41:14 - 41:18
    They're on the same fight. And that fight
    is the fight against monopolies.
  • 41:18 - 41:23
    Now, people talk about big tech
    as though they're super geniuses.
  • 41:23 - 41:27
    But when we rip off the mask,
    we discover that
  • 41:27 - 41:31
    these are not titans who built monopolies
    through their special genius.
  • 41:31 - 41:34
    They're just three
    sociopaths in a trench coat.
  • 41:34 - 41:37
    They're just the latest version
    of the kind of monopolist
  • 41:37 - 41:41
    that we have been fighting
    since time immemorial,
  • 41:41 - 41:44
    since the Rockefellers,
    since the Mellons,
  • 41:44 - 41:48
    since every monopolistic family that
    tried to establish a dynasty
  • 41:48 - 41:51
    that would allow them to rule
    as though they were kings
  • 41:51 - 41:55
    was broken up and relegated to just having
    their names on a couple of buildings.
  • 41:55 - 41:58
    We know how to deal with these people,
    and it's time that we dealt with them
  • 41:58 - 42:03
    for what they are, which is
    just plain, old fashioned sociopaths
  • 42:03 - 42:07
    and not as super geniuses who
    stand astride the world like colossi.
  • 42:07 - 42:12
    Thank you.
  • 42:12 - 42:19
    H: Thank, thank you. I think I'm back now.
    All right, well, thanks for this talk. We
  • 42:19 - 42:24
    are basically out of time, so we're moving
    the Q&A to the fireside chat, which will
  • 42:24 - 42:29
    happen in, I think, 20 minutes or so. And
    then all the questions that have already
  • 42:29 - 42:31
    been asked for this talk
    will also be answered then.
  • 42:31 - 42:36
    But Cory, I think we had a short
    stream outage around minute 5.
  • 42:36 - 42:37
    CD: OK.
  • 42:37 - 42:41
    H: So if you know what you said at minute 5
    CD: Oh that was the full frontal nudity!
  • 42:41 - 42:43
    CD: laughter
    H: You can maybe try to,
  • 42:43 - 42:46
    H: try to recapitulate it.
    CD: I don't know what I said…
  • 42:46 - 42:48
    CD: minute 5…
    H: History of networks apparently.
  • 42:48 - 42:52
    Unfortunately, it was not visible for us.
    So I don't know myself, but I think
  • 42:52 - 42:54
    H: it was the history of networks.
    CD: Probably it was my story about, it
  • 42:54 - 42:58
    it might have been my story about the
    alt. hierarchy. That's probably it.
  • 42:58 - 43:02
    And and if you if you go to
    your favorite search engine,
  • 43:02 - 43:04
    whether it's like,
    AltaVista or Ask Jeeves or Yahoo,
  • 43:04 - 43:08
    and type in:
    alt.interoperability.adversarial
  • 43:08 - 43:11
    you'll find an article I wrote for
    the Electronic Frontier Foundation
  • 43:11 - 43:14
    about the history of the alt. hierarchy.
  • 43:14 - 43:17
    So I think that's probably
    what got cut out.
  • 43:17 - 43:19
    H: OK, wonderful. Thank you.
  • 43:19 - 43:22
    H: I think people know how to use Google.
    CD: I think Lycos has also indexed it.
  • 43:22 - 43:26
    H: Yes. They'll try to they'll try to figure it out.
  • 43:26 - 43:29
    H: All right. Well, thank you very much.
    CD: Thank you!
  • 43:29 - 43:31
    H: Good luck & see you soon
    CD: I'll see you guys in the fireside chat.
  • 43:31 - 43:32
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  • 43:32 - 44:12
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Title:
#rC3 - What the cyberoptimists got wrong - and what to do about it
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Video Language:
English
Duration:
44:12

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