The ancient Chinese reputedly had a curse: “may you live in interesting times.” Sometimes I wonder whether something was lost in the translation of it, but other times I’m pretty sure it wasn’t. We live in “interesting times” right now, and sometimes that really does seem like a curse.
There’s a lot of turmoil going on in a lot of different areas, but the one I’m really thinking of at the moment has to do with the Internet. In the last few years, we’ve seen people begin to realize just how the free, unedited communication potential of the Internet empowers them—and we’ve seen the big conglomerates start to have a remarkably hard time dealing with that new power. You see it everywhere—the RIAA suing file-swappers, the MPAA shutting down BitTorrent sites (and making ominous noises about tracking down perpetrators from their system logs), Lawrence Lessig and Brewster Kahle and others writing books and filing lawsuits to try to overturn the Disney perpetual copyright. Elsewhere, bloggers are becoming a force to be reckoned with; let some political figure or journalist try to pass off falsified documents as legitimate or say the wrong thing and BAM, they’re negotiating their retirement package.The traditional media are still trying to figure out how to react to these new changes. And nobody really knows where it’s all going to end.
I suppose that as a blogger (I hate that word, but what can I say, it’s in common use) myself I should feel “empowered”—I’m on the fringe of this movement that is getting allegedly-homosexual-pornographer fake-journalist shills thrown out of the White House press corps and all that—but I also feel kind of nervewracked by the whole thing. I wonder if ordinary people felt this way during the sixties and the Civil Rights movement—the sense that this big Thing is happening all around you that could affect your fundamental liberties or the ways in which you perceive the world, and you don’t really have much more say in it than a pebble does in an avalanche. It’s not so much that I want things to go one way or the other but the uncertainty that gets to me. I wish I could just push the fast-forward button and jump ahead a few years just to see how it all comes out.