Zittrain debate at New America Foundation (11/6, 3:30)

by on October 28, 2008 · 21 comments

JZIf you’re here in D.C. next Thursday, you might want to drop by the New America Foundation to watch Jonathan Zittrain and me go at it about his important new book, The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It.  Our debate will take place on Thursday, November 6th from 3:30 – 5:00 p.m. at New America Foundation headquarters (1630 Connecticut Ave, NW, 7th Floor).  My old friend (but frequent intellectual sparring partner) Michael Calabrese will also be speaking.  Michael is the Director of New America’s “Wireless Future Program” and one of the all-around nicest guys in the world of tech policy.  You can RSVP for the event here.

I’ve been quite critical of the thesis that Jonathan sets forth in his book, and I have discussed my reservations in a lengthy book review and a series of follow-up essays here and elsewhere.
(Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5). We’ve also debated his book on the an NPR-Boston affiliate station if you care to hear a preview of our debate next week.  That show is online here.

I encourage you to join us for what promises to be a very interesting discussion.  As I pointed out in my original review of his book, if you have never had the chance to hear Jonathan speak, you’re in for a real treat.  He is, bar none, the most entertaining tech policy wonk in the world.

Again, RSVP here.

  • http://sethf.com/ Seth Finkelstein

    Y'know, there''s really a lot of good critique of _Future of the Internet_ that isn't of the strawman sort of pry-my-iPod-from-my-cold-dead-fingers.

    Maybe this is politics, and I just don't understand it. You get what you want, he gets an easy opponent.

  • http://bennett.com/blog Richard Bennett

    Zittrain's claim that the Internet's competitors were AOL and Compuserve is one of the most ridiculous arguments ever made. AOL and Compuserve never were competitors, they were conduits that brought millions of users to the Internet. The real competitor was the ISO/OSI protocol stack, which lost because the US Department of Defense didn't want the world-wide internet to be based on foreign technology. They killed ISO by giving away the code for TCP/IP.

    This struggle also pitted two departments of the US government against each other, as Commerce was a booster of OSI through the NIST.

  • J.H. Snider

    “One of the all-around nicest guys in the world of tech policy.” Adam, you may be a very skilled writer and policy analyst, but a student of human nature and image management you apparently are not.

  • http://www.blurringborders.com kdonovan11

    But doesn't that, too, support his thesis?

    I'm not familiar with ISO/OSI (way before my time), but a quick Wikipedia reference suggests they are more limited than TCP/IP and the fact that DoD gave away TCP/IP (regardless of motivation) shows that TCP/IP was more free (generative) both technically and legally.

    Zittrain says that generativity (openness, less specifically) allowed the net to grow (and face threats).

  • http://bennett.com/blog Richard Bennett

    Wikipedia is not correct. The OSI protocols were much more rich than the DoD suite. I suggest you read “Patterns in Network Architecture” by John Day if you're interested in this sort of thing. Citing Wikipedia as reference is an insult to your audience, of course.

  • http://www.blurringborders.com kdonovan11

    I'll try to check the book out.

    (And, actually, Richard, what's more insulting is your lack of understanding
    of someone's self-admitted ignorance on an issue and using a quick Google
    search to help it. Why don't you do everyone a favor and help the Wikipedia
    article so I don't insult “my audience” again?)

  • http://bennett.com/blog Richard Bennett

    In my experience, trying to correct Wikipedia is a massive waste of time. Whoever put the bad information out has an interest in keeping it there. This has been documented ad infinitum.

    Study, learn, and then debate. It works.

  • http://www.blurringborders.com kdonovan11

    Hardly meant this to be a debate, but:

    I still think you are missing JZ's point. Your insistence on OSI being “much
    more rich” than TCP/IP is hardly relevant. JZ's thesis isn't about richness
    or completeness of offering, it's about generativity. In fact, he spends
    considerable time discussing how simple, open offerings can be the basis for
    generative platforms. Perhaps by offering so much, OSI limited what third
    parties could do; that is, they influenced outside innovation in the same
    way the iPhone or TiVo does. Through your declarations about the history of
    network architectures, it sure seems that DoD freed (made more open) TCP/IP
    which was less rich (determined) than OSI. And that, is the key ingredient
    that allowed the net to take off.

    But, hey, what do I know?

  • http://www.techliberation.com Adam Thierer

    Video of the debate is now online:

    http://techliberation.com/2008/11/06/video-of-m

  • http://bennett.com/blog Richard Bennett

    In my experience, trying to correct Wikipedia is a massive waste of time. Whoever put the bad information out has an interest in keeping it there. This has been documented ad infinitum.

    Study, learn, and then debate. It works.

  • http://blurringborders.com Kevin Donovan

    Hardly meant this to be a debate, but:

    I still think you are missing JZ's point. Your insistence on OSI being “much
    more rich” than TCP/IP is hardly relevant. JZ's thesis isn't about richness
    or completeness of offering, it's about generativity. In fact, he spends
    considerable time discussing how simple, open offerings can be the basis for
    generative platforms. Perhaps by offering so much, OSI limited what third
    parties could do; that is, they influenced outside innovation in the same
    way the iPhone or TiVo does. Through your declarations about the history of
    network architectures, it sure seems that DoD freed (made more open) TCP/IP
    which was less rich (determined) than OSI. And that, is the key ingredient
    that allowed the net to take off.

    But, hey, what do I know?

  • http://www.techliberation.com Adam Thierer

    Video of the debate is now online:

    http://techliberation.com/2008/11/06/video-of-m

  • http://blurringborders.com Kevin Donovan

    I'll try to check the book out.

    (And, actually, Richard, what's more insulting is your lack of understanding
    of someone's self-admitted ignorance on an issue and using a quick Google
    search to help it. Why don't you do everyone a favor and help the Wikipedia
    article so I don't insult “my audience” again?)

  • http://bennett.com/blog Richard Bennett

    In my experience, trying to correct Wikipedia is a massive waste of time. Whoever put the bad information out has an interest in keeping it there. This has been documented ad infinitum.

    Study, learn, and then debate. It works.

  • http://blurringborders.com Kevin Donovan

    Hardly meant this to be a debate, but:

    I still think you are missing JZ's point. Your insistence on OSI being “much
    more rich” than TCP/IP is hardly relevant. JZ's thesis isn't about richness
    or completeness of offering, it's about generativity. In fact, he spends
    considerable time discussing how simple, open offerings can be the basis for
    generative platforms. Perhaps by offering so much, OSI limited what third
    parties could do; that is, they influenced outside innovation in the same
    way the iPhone or TiVo does. Through your declarations about the history of
    network architectures, it sure seems that DoD freed (made more open) TCP/IP
    which was less rich (determined) than OSI. And that, is the key ingredient
    that allowed the net to take off.

    But, hey, what do I know?

  • http://www.techliberation.com Adam Thierer

    Video of the debate is now online:

    http://techliberation.com/2008/11/06/video-of-m

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