Yochai Benkler, Yale University law professor and author of The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom, spoke at the Center for American Progress today about how the Internet challenges existing political and economic systems.
According to Benkler, cutting edge innovation is radically decentralizing the economy and giving once passive consumers the ability to actively produce and thus engage directly with their own culture. Providing consumers with the tools of production undoubtedly poses a threat to many existing markets, Benkler notes, while also creating great opportunity for new, emerging markets. All this innovation challenges existing economic and cultural institutions such as Hollywood and big-city newspapers, as well as powerful corporations like Microsoft. The Internet democratizes the playing field, creating an environment where individuals can see, judge, and produce for themselves without mediation or affiliation.
Innovation on the Internet allows everyone to participate in the production and critique of culture and knowledge, which Benkler argues dramatically increases democracy and justice, and powers further innovation. In his opinion, regulation on free and open access to the Internet, and attempts to "watchdog" the web, directly undermine the advancement of these freedoms.
Incumbent corporations threatened by this shifting economy push for regulations in order to guard their own interests at the expense of innovation and the autonomy of individuals, Benkler argues. He urges policymakers and corporations to realize that "they are getting it wrong." The reason, he says, is that restricting technology not only undermines innovation but also fails to recognize the incredible new market successes of companies dedicated to free and open source technologies.
The Center for American Progress continues its series of events on the power of the Internet on June 16, when Carl Malamud, Senior Fellow and Chief Technology Office at CAP, introduces Professor Lawrence Lessig of Stanford University and the author of three of the most important books in the field: Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace, The Future of Ideas, and Free Culture. Dr. Lessig will address the topic of "The Withering of the Net: How D.c= pathologies are undermining the growth and wealth of the Net."
For more information on the June 16 event, please go to:
The Withering of the Net: How D.C. pathologies are undermining the growth and wealth of the Net
For video and other resources from the May 31 event, visit:
The Wealth of Networks: How US Internet policies are undermining both freedom and growth