On changing reality

There's a bit of a public debate here in Finland again: a Green city council Kaisa Rastimo member asked the police to investigate whether a Pirate Party member had broken the law by reposting some comments she did on a public mailing list. She apparently doesn't quite know what the problem is (she keeps hovering between libel and email confidentiality), but asked the police to figure it out anyway.

Ok, so it's kind of fun to laugh at people who don't quite get the Internet. I'm personally kind of pissed at the Green party, who doesn't seem to be able to pull any coherent opinion on these internet things and tends to treat them as matters of conscience more than a party line. Not even individuals in that party seem to be able to form a defensible opinion.

Then again, this internet shit is actually really hard to grasp. Think about it: there is a growing mass of twentysomethings, who have been living on the internet their entire life. They are digital natives. They can build a world-changing service in a weekend (not all of them can pull it off, but some do). They live in two worlds at the same time - in fact, they're one and the same for them. They rewrite reality as they see fit and they LIKE to twiddle with it. They are used to rapid iteration - you build something, you toss it out to the public; if it doesn't work - you change it or abandon completely. Doing, not planning.

In contrast, the politicians talk endlessly, and then they vote, and that's it. No iteration - bugs may get fixed after a long process. The Finnish criminal code - which is still in use - dates from frigging 1889, though obviously it's been patched since. The entire legislation runs on waterfall, but the current generation is growing in complete agile mode. Mark Zuckerberg (CEO of Facebook) doesn't care about what the legislation says about privacy - he does it, and if enough people complain, he changes it. That man is one of the most influential people on this planet when it comes to privacy, and whatever politicians talk about it does not matter.

And no, I'm not advocating using SCRUM for legislation - I wouldn't like to be tried under "law 2.0 beta" - but the clock speed difference is real and it's there. As Lawrence Lessig says: "Code is Law". I would even go as far as saying "Code is Reality", since many aspects of our life are now completely dependent on the Code: banks, jobs, communication, traffic... It's everywhere: we almost breathe it. But few people are really, truly aware of it.

And to me it seems that this is what is missing from this whole discussion around "digital property" and DRM and piracy - at least here in Finland: the realization that piracy is not a disease. It is a symptom of something more profound which is happening in the society as we speak, and henceforth any attempt at stopping piracy is about as useful as painting the walls when the house foundations are crumbling: might fool some people all of the time, and all people for some of the time, but the house will still collapse.

The interesting thing is that since it's unstoppable, watching people and corporations kick and scream while they're being dragged into the new age is kinda fun. In 20 years, the 20somethings of today will be in their fourties and start to have major power in corporations and governments. And in 40 years, everybody who gets to make decisions is a digital native, and they'll be fighting their own inability to grasp the changing world.

It just really bugs me that people just paint the walls and try to sell me the house as "fully renovated."


Olaus Petrihän esitteli tuon iteraatiokonseptin jo 1530-luvulla: "Mikä ei ole oikeus ja kohtuus, se ei saata olla lakikaan; sen kohtuuden tähden, joka laissa on, se hyväksytään." ja "Yhteisen kansan hyöty on paras laki; ja sentähden mikä havaitaan yhteiselle kansalle hyödylliseksi, se pidettäköön lakina, vaikka säädetyn lain sanat näyttäisivät toisin käskevän".

Noissa perusperiaatteissa joiden päälle Suomen (ja Ruotsin) lain väitetään olevan rakennettu näytettäisiin sanottavan että lain tulkinnan tulee seurata lakitekstin sijaan kansalaisten kulloisenkin hetkistä oikeuskäsitystä.

Vaan jospa nuo Olauksen opit otetaan vimein käyttöön näin 500 vuotta myöhemmin.

Quick translation: Olaus Petri presented the iteration concept already in 1530s: "What is not right and just, it must not be the law either; for the reasonability inherent to the law that shall be accepted." and "The good of the people is the best law; and thus what is seen as beneficial to the people, shall be held as the law, even if the word of the written law appears say otherwise".

Those principles that Finnish (and Swedish) law is claimed to be built on would appear to state that the interpretation of law shall follow the people's current understanding of justice, instead of the text.

Well maybe we will see Olaus's teaching finally coming to use when 500 years have passed.

--Panu Markkanen, 05-Aug-2010

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"Main_blogentry_040810_1" last changed on 04-Aug-2010 00:45:18 EEST by JanneJalkanen.