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Authority versus Access and Democracy

posted Jan 31, 2010, 9:55 AM by Alex Pearson   [ updated Jan 31, 2010, 10:20 AM ]
A friend asks, why focus on authority instead of accessibility, democracy, conversation and free circulation of knowledge?  This is a great question, since these qualities are some of the salient features of the web. Indeed, these aspects are what make the web truly revolutionary. Interestingly, Jaron Lanier, in his book You are not a Gadget, argues that the web is now heading in the direction of a totalitarian sameness: the "grey goo" that some futurists bemoan. The danger presented by the grey goo arises from the very freeness of the web. Everything is free, so why take the time to create your own images, music or ideas when you can rip off someone else's and post them on your site? Creativity dies; culture becomes recycled and stale. Unless the creators begin to produce original material. And they probably have to get paid for it. And it probably has to be copyrighted, patented, or protected in some other way, so that there is an identifiable author. Lanier believes that anonymity on the web also contributes to this lack of respect for authorship. You never know who you are listening to.