[discuss] /1net Steering/Coordination Commitee

Phillip Hallam-Baker hallam at gmail.com
Sat Dec 21 15:35:19 UTC 2013

On Fri, Dec 20, 2013 at 11:21 AM, Andrew Sullivan <ajs at anvilwalrusden.com>wrote:

> On Fri, Dec 20, 2013 at 10:36:40AM +0000, Mawaki Chango wrote:
> > 3. Modeling the "do stuff, structure later" (DSSL) approach on its use in
> > the early days of the internet begs the question - how well has that
> > worked? A handful number of engineers, aware of each other's expertise
> and
> > trusting each other, loosely making decisions for a network of a limited
> > number of small networks which they only envisioned to serve a tight
> > community of researchers is one thing. Agreeing on decisions or seeking
> > consensus for decisions that will shape a truly global network of an
> > indefinite number of networks may be another.
> This is an intriguing argument, but I think deeply mistaken both on
> the facts and on the implications.  To answer the first question: it
> appears to have worked pretty well.  AT&T engineers reputedly said
> that packet switching would never work; now most phone calls travel
> over IP.  While it is true that the early network was small and its
> users were almost all also its designers, the famous slogan
> "everything over IP" does not suggest the early engineers were
> thinking small.


At least some of the early Internet pioneers were very aware of the
political dimensions of what they were doing. John Klensin was part of
Ithiel de Sola Pool's circle at MIT. Pool was a political scientist who was
talking about the transformative potential of communications in the 1950s
and 60s. Technologies of Freedom is a key text in the field.

Most journalists assume that engineers have no understanding of the
political dimensions of their work. They assume that because they did not
foresee the effects of the Web that nobody did. They certainly never ask me
about it.

We were talking about the potential of the Web to impact politics back in
the CERN days. I got involved in the Web because I was disgusted by the
fact that three corrupt newspaper barons controlled the UK press and
decided the outcome of national elections. One has since committed suicide,
one has been sent to jail for fraud and the senior management of the UK
operations of the other are currently on criminal trial in the old bailey.

Some of us were very aware of the political dimension. But it was better
that the likes of Conrad Black and Rupert Murdock and the politicians they
owned took some time to understand the end goal. And not just in our
countries. Bringing change to Saudia Arabia is hard. Flooding the country
with pornography is one way to undermine the brutal regime there.

On Thursday it was a century to the day when Brandeis gave his 'sunlight'
speech on openness in government. Today countries can choose any form of
government they like but they are going to face the criticism of a free
press. The lesson of the Arab Spring is that dictatorship is no longer a
stable form of government. Regimes that do not reform fast enough will
fall. If one revolution does not bring a stable government, there will be

There is safety in numbers and the Web is very good at delivering a vast
number of protestors when a bully is exposed. At one end of the scale
school boards across the US bible belt are suddenly facing flash protests
when a principal attempts to implement some policy inspired by religious

The technical advance I did not anticipate is the camera phone. But I
didn't invent that and I don't know what the thought processes of the
people who put camera into phones were. Given that the Rodney King beating
happened a decade earlier, I suspect that many of the engineers involved
anticipated the fact that making cameras easily accessible would increase
accountability of public officials.

There are some areas where agreement is possible here. The technical
community does not tolerate or support child abusers or terrorists. But
official oppression is a much greater problem.

Website: http://hallambaker.com/
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