Friday, August 31, 2012

‘The Intention Economy: When customers take charge’ by Doc Searls

The Net Rules
"Every technology, every domain of science, has what are called boundary conditions between levels of an operational hierarchy. Take, for example, a mechanical clock. You can understand the clock at a number of levels. At the bottom level, the clock depends on the laws of chemistry and physics. Without good materials, you can't make the clock. Above that, you have laws of mechanics. These depend on the laws of chemistry and physics but cannot be reduced to them. This is because chemistry and physics have a boundary above which they have nothing to say. Even if you know everything about chemistry and physics, you can't explain mechanics with them. Likewise, the laws of mechanics are harnessed by the purpose of the clock, but you can't use mechanics alone to explain the clock because the clock's purpose is above the upper boundary of mechanics. If you were to disassemble the clock and lay out all its gears and other parts, you wouldn't know what to make of them unless you understood that these make up a clock. In fact, the clock itself would make no sense unless you knew its purpose was to tell time. Thus, we have this hierarchy of domains, each of which has an upper and lower boundary.'
"In this sense, the Internet is about telling time, not about maintaining the mechanics for doing that. The mechanics of the Net are endlessly varied and substitutable. The Internet Protocol itself simply requires that a best effort be made to find a path from one end of the Net to the other. John Gillmore, civil libertarian and co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), famously said, 'The Net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it.''
"This is an intentional design feature of the Internet and not just an accidental property. And this feature comes, at least in part, from study of the phone system by the Internet's founding geeks. The phone system used what's called 'circuit switching,' which was ideal for billing everything that could possibly be billed. The Internet uses 'packet switching,' which very pointedly does not care about billing. In fact, it was invented to relieve the world of a need for billing on networks.'
"That's why the Internet is good for business, but not its own business. Business protocols – ceremonies of relationship, conversation, and transaction – are supported almost perfectly by the technical protocols of packet switching and best-effort data transport. And the cost of moving bits is not high, once the capacity is installed. Since fiber-optic cabling is capable of carrying enormous sums of data traffic, while disturbing the physical environment remarkably little (especially when compared to the easement and build-out requirements of electricity, gas, water, roads, waste treatment, and other public utilities), business should have a great deal of interest in seeing Internet infrastructure completed everywhere. But it can't feel or express that interest if it can't understand what the Internet is, or at least settle on one metaphor that makes clear how something so huge and stupid as the core of the Earth can be good for business."
(pp. 141-2, 'The Intention Economy: When customers take charge' by Doc Searls – Landmark)

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