As a kind of farewell to 2003, I wrote a little squib for Warren Ellis this morning, as part of a series of ruminations on the future that he's putting together on Die Puny Humans. Here's it is:
The last twenty years were about technology. The next twenty years are about policy. It's about realizing that all the really hard problems -- free expression, copyright, due process, social networking -- may have technical dimensions, but they aren't technical problems. The next twenty years are about using our technology to affirm, deny and rewrite our social contracts: all the grandiose visions of e-democracy, universal access to human knowledge and (God help us all) the Semantic Web, are dependent on changes in the law, in the policy, in the sticky, non-quantifiable elements of the world. We can't solve them with technology: the best we can hope for is to use technology to enable the human interaction that will solve them.I'll see you again in 2004 -- if you've got a response to this piece, post it to your blog or on Tribe or something; I'll see 'em in the referer logs or in Technorati. I won't be responding to any email about it, though. Link
On that note: I have a special request to the toolmakers of 2004: stop making tools that magnify and multilply awkward social situations ("A total stranger asserts that he is your friend: click here to tell a reassuring lie; click here to break his heart!") ("Someone you don't know very well has invited you to a party: click here to advertise whether or not you'll be there!") ("A 'friend' has exposed your location, down to the meter, on a map of people in his social network, using this keen new location-description protocol -- on the same day that you announced that you were leaving town for a week!"). I don't need more "tools" like that, thank you very much.
An important note for 2004: stop trying to build an Internet without malefactors, parasites, freeriders and inefficiency. There is no such thing as a parasite-free complex ecology (thank you Kathryn Myronuk for this formulation). Some organisms lamented the existence of mitochondria. Others adapted to exploit them and integrate them. Some lament the existence of spammers. Spammers will always exist: stamping your foot and demanding their nonexistence won't change that: adapt or die.
I write books. My latest is a YA science fiction novel called Homeland (it's the sequel to Little Brother). More books: Rapture of the Nerds (a novel, with Charlie Stross); With a Little Help (short stories); and The Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow (novella and nonfic). I speak all over the place and I tweet and tumble, too.