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  • So we are in the middle of an epic battle for power in cyberspace.

  • On the one side, it's traditional power,

  • think of organized institutional powers

  • like governments and large multi-international corporations.

  • On the other side, think of distributed power,

  • both the good part and the bad part:

  • grassroots movements, dissidents' groups,

  • hackers, criminals...

  • Initially, the Internet gave power to the distributed.

  • It gave them coordination and efficiency

  • and made them seem unbeatable.

  • Today, traditional powers are back and they're winning big.

  • What I wanna do here is tell the story of those two powers fighting.

  • Who wins and how our society survives their battle.

  • So back in the early days of the Internet,

  • there was a lot of talk about its natural laws.

  • Censorship was impossible, anonymity was easy,

  • police were clueless about cybercrime...

  • The Internet was fundamentally international

  • and it would be a new world order.

  • Traditional power blocks are bended,

  • masses empowered, freedom spread throughout the world,

  • and this will all be inevitable.

  • It was a utopian vision,

  • but some of it did actually come to pass:

  • in marketing, entertainment, mass-media,

  • political organizing, crowd funding and crowd sourcing...

  • The changes were dramatic.

  • eBay really did normalize the world's attics.

  • (Laughter)

  • And Facebook and twitter really did help topple governments.

  • But that was just one side of the Internet's disruptive character.

  • It's also made traditional power more powerful.

  • On the corporate world,

  • there are two trends that are currently feeling this:

  • First, the rise of cloud computing

  • means we no longer have control of our data:

  • our email, photos, calendar, address book, messages, documents,

  • they're now on servers belonging to Google, Apple,

  • Microsoft, Facebook and others.

  • And second, we are increasingly accessing our data

  • using devices that are tightly controlled by vendors.

  • Think of your iPhone, your iPad, your Android phone,

  • your Kindle, your Chromebook...

  • And even the new computer OSs, Microsoft and Apple,

  • are heading in this direction, with less user control.

  • And both of these trends increase corporate power

  • by giving them more control of our data and therefore of us.

  • Government power is also increasing on the Internet.

  • There's more government surveillance than ever before.

  • We know now the NSA is eavesdropping on the entire planet.

  • (Laughter)

  • There's more censorship than ever before.

  • There's more propaganda.

  • More governments are controlling what the users

  • can and cannot do on the Internet.

  • Totalitarian governments are embracing the Internet as a means for control.

  • And many countries are pushing cyberwar as a reason of a control.

  • On both the corporate and the government side,

  • traditional power on the Internet is huge.

  • And in many cases, the interests are aligning.

  • Surveillance is the business model of the Internet,

  • and business surveillance gives governments access to data

  • it couldn't get otherwise.

  • But you could think of it

  • as a public-private surveillance partnership.

  • So what happened?

  • How in those early Internet years did we get the future so wrong?

  • The truth is that technology magnifies power in general,

  • but the rates of adoption are different.

  • The distributed can make use of new technologies faster.

  • They're small but nimble, they're not hindered by bureaucracy,

  • and some of these are not by laws or ethics,

  • and they can adapt faster.

  • And when those groups discovered the Internet,

  • suddenly they had power.

  • It was a change in kind.

  • We saw that in e-commerce.

  • Can you remember, as soon as the Internet

  • started being used for commerce,

  • a new bread of cyber criminal emerged, like out of the ground,

  • immediately able to take advantage.

  • And the police who are like trained on Agatha Christie novels

  • (Laughter)

  • took about a decade to catch up.

  • (Laughter)

  • We also saw it on social media:

  • right marginalized groups started to

  • immediately use the Internet's organizing power.

  • it took corporations, what, a decade to figure out how to co-opt it.

  • But when big institutions finally figured it out,

  • they had more raw power

  • to magnify and they got even more powerful.

  • So that's the difference.

  • The distributed are more nimble and quicker to make use their new power.

  • The institutional are slower but able to use power more effectively.

  • So all the Syrian dissidents used Facebook to organize.

  • The Syrian government used Facebook to identify and arrest dissidents.

  • So who wins?

  • Is the quick or the strong?

  • Which type of power dominates in the coming decades?

  • Right now, it looks like traditional power.

  • It's much easier for the NSA to spy on everyone

  • than it is for anyone to maintain privacy.

  • China has an easier time blocking content

  • than its citizen have getting around those blocks.

  • And even though it's still easy to circumvent digital copy protection,

  • most users can't do it.

  • And this is because leveraging Internet power requires technical expertise.

  • Those with sufficient ability can always stay ahead of institutional power.

  • Whether it's setting up your own email server or

  • using encryption or breaking copy protection,

  • the technologies are there.

  • This is why cyber crime is still pervasive

  • even as police power gets better,

  • this is why whistle-blowers can still do so much damage,

  • this is why organization like Anonymous are still viable forces,

  • and this is why social movements still thrive on the Internet.

  • Most of us though are stuck in the middle.

  • We don't have the technical ability to evade

  • the large governments and corporations on one side,

  • with the criminal hacker groups on the other.

  • We can't join any dissident movements.

  • We have no choice but to accept

  • the default configuration options, the arbitrator terms of service,

  • the NSA installed back doors

  • or the occasional complete loss of our data for some inexplicable reason.

  • (Laughter)

  • And we get isolated as government corporate powers align,

  • and we get trampled when the powers fight.

  • Where there's Facebook, Google, Apple and Amazon

  • fighting it out in the marketplace,

  • or the US, EU, China and Russia fighting out in the world,

  • or US vs. the terrorists or the media industry vs. the pirates,

  • or China vs. its dissidents.

  • And this will only get worse as technology improves.

  • In the battle between institutional and distributed power,

  • more technology means more damage.

  • And we've already seen it:

  • cyber criminals can rob more people, more quickly

  • than real world criminals;

  • digital pirates can make more copies of more movies,

  • more quickly than their analog ancestors.

  • And we'll see it in the future.

  • 3D printers means control debates

  • are soon going to involve guns and not movies.

  • And Google glass means surveillance debates

  • will soon involve everyone all the time.

  • This is really the same thing as the weapons of mass destruction fear:

  • terrorists with nuclear biological bombs

  • can do a lot more damage than terrorists with conventional explosives.

  • And like that fear, increasing technology brings it to a head

  • Very broadly, there is a natural crime rate in society,

  • based on who we are as a species and a culture.

  • There's also a crime rate that society is willing to tolerate.

  • When criminals are inefficient,

  • we're willing to live with some percentage of them in our midst.

  • As technology makes each individual criminal more effective,

  • the percentage we can tolerate decreases.

  • As a result, institutional power naturally get stronger,

  • to protect against the bad part of distributed power.

  • This means even more oppressive security measures

  • even if they're ineffective,

  • and even if they stifle the good part of distributed power.

  • OK, so what happens?

  • What happens as technology increases?

  • Is a police state the only way to control distributed power

  • and keep our society safe?

  • Or do fringe elements inevitably destroy society

  • as technology increases their power?

  • Is there actually no room for freedom, liberty and social change

  • in the technological future?

  • Empowering the distributed

  • is one of the most important benefits of the Internet.

  • It's an amazing force for positive social change in the world.

  • And we need to preserve it.

  • In this battle between the quick and the strong,

  • what we need is a stalemate.

  • And I have three recommendations on how to get there.

  • In the short term, what we need is transparency and oversight.

  • The more we know what institutional power is doing,

  • the more we can trust it.

  • Well we actually know this is true,

  • we know it's true about government.

  • But we've kind of forgotten it

  • in our fear of terrorism or other modern threats.

  • It's also true for corporate power.

  • Unfortunately, market dynamics

  • will not force corporations to be transparent.

  • We actually need laws to do that.

  • And transparency also helps us trust distributed power.

  • Most of the time distributed power is good for the world.

  • And transparency is how we differentiate positive social groups

  • from criminal organizations.

  • Oversight is the second thing. It's also critical.

  • And again, it's a long understood mechanism for checking power.

  • And it's a combination of things.

  • It's courts that act as third party advocates,

  • it's legislators that understand technologies, it's a vibrant press,

  • and it's watchdog groups that analyze and report

  • on what power is doing.

  • Those two things, transparency and accountability,

  • give us the confidence to trust institutional power

  • and ensure they'll act in our interest.

  • And without it, I think democracy just fails.

  • In the longer term,

  • we need to work to reduce power differences.

  • The more we can balance power among various groups,

  • the more stable society will be.

  • And the key to all this is access to data.

  • On the Internet, data is power.

  • To the extent the powerless have access to it they gain in power,

  • to extent the already power have access to it

  • they further consolidate their power.

  • As we look to reducing power imbalances, we have to look at data.

  • This is data privacy for individuals,

  • mandatory disclosure rules for corporations,

  • and open government laws.

  • This is how we survive the future.

  • Today's Internet is really a fortuitous accident.

  • It's a combination of an initial lack of commercial interests,

  • of government benign neglect,

  • of some military requirements for survivability and resilience,

  • and a bunch of computer engineers building open systems

  • that work simply and easily.

  • We're at the beginning of some critical debate

  • about the future of the Internet,

  • Law enforcement, surveillance, corporate data collection, cyberwar,

  • information consumerism and on and on and on.

  • This is not going to be an easy period as we try to work this out.

  • Historically, no shift in power has ever been easy.

  • Corporations are turning the Internet into enormous revenue generator

  • and they're not going to back down.

  • Neither will governments

  • who have harnessed the Internet for a good control.

  • And these are all very complicated political and technological issues.

  • But we all have a duty to tackle this problem.

  • I don't know what the result is gonna be

  • but I hope that when, generations from now,

  • society looks back on us in these early decades of the Internet,

  • they're not going to be disappointed.

  • And this is only gonna happen if each one of us engages,

  • makes this a priority and participates in the debate.

  • We need to decide on the proper balance

  • between institutional and distributed power,

  • and how to build tools that will amplify what is good in each,

  • or suppressing what is bad.