New topic area: Code=Law

In his book, CODE and other laws of cyberspace, Stanford Law School professor Lawrence Lessig introduced the idea that software code acted as a form of law. If code is a form of law that regulates us, why must we treat that code as simply another product? Should we not be questioning this highly pervasive form of governance? Should we not be demanding the same level of transparency and accountability for this code as we do other regulation?

In the conclusion of CODE Lawrence Lessig asks:

We live life in real space, subject to the effects of code. We live ordinary lives, subject to the effects of code. We live social and political lives, subject to the effects of code. Code regulates all these aspects of our lives, more pervasively over time than any other regulator in our life. Should we remain passive about this regulator? Should we let it affect us without doing anything in return?

I have some comments of my own:

Governance software that controls Information and Communications Technology (ICT), automates government policy, or electronically counts votes, should not be thought of as something that should be bought any more than politicians should be thought of something that should be bought.

We are seeing the growing controversy around the unaccountability voting machines. We are willing as a society to admit that computers make errors, often because of human error in the coding of the software, but seem unwilling to ensure that these errors can not harm our most basic democratic institutions such as voting. Ballots and the ability to do recounts are not a outmoded idea from the past, but a required part of the process to ensure accountability.

See previous weblog entries on this topic:

Any 'hardware assist' for communications, whether it be eye-glasses, VCR's, or personal computers, must be under the control of the citizen and not a third party.

The whole concept of Digital Rights Management being pushed by special interest industries and followed by certain governments is based on the idea that the manufacturer of a communications tools, not its owner, should be in ultimate control of these tools. While the claim is that this will stop things like copyright infringement, a claim that is not supported by people knowledgeable in the technology, the unintended consequences will be far greater harm to creators rights (right to create), cultural rights (right to participate in culture) and communications rights. If governments allow this trend to continue, our ability to grow as a culture will be increasingly intermediated intermediated by private special interests who have very different goals in mind.

See also: Why creators should oppose DRM