On Tuesday we held a wonderful one day event at the USV offices with the title: Hacking Society. The basic premise was relatively simple. Networks are a emerging on the Internet that are disrupting existing hierarchical institutions. Starting from that premise there were lots of angles to explore, such as what the defining characteristics of these networks are and whether they in turn are new institutions. The actual discussion brought together an amazing set of people and even though I took copious notes, I am really looking forward to the audio and video archive.
I came away from the event with a much clearer focus on a single core principle that I believe we need to defend. The Internet itself was designed with some clear “open architecture” principles as the starting point (see the Tech Tuesday on networking). The upshot is that the Internet allows new networks of devices to form and connect with the existing networks (hence the “inter”) without the need for any central intervention and without any central control. That same principle I believe needs to be the core principle at the “people layer.” So the way of looking at the impact of regulation and laws would be on the basis of the following single core principle: “Enable new networks of people to form and connect to the existing networks of people without the need any central intervention and without any central control.”
Put differently, we want an “open architecture” for people networking as well. And that has a great many implications. For instance, walled gardens such as Facebook impose a high degree of central control on new people networks forming. Similarly, proprietary mobile app market places become a central point of intervention that makes it harder for new people networks to form.