A Portrait of the Internet as a Young Man

In brief, the core theory of Jonathan Zittrain’s 2008 book The Future of the Internet-And How to Stop It is this: good laws, norms, and code are needed to regulate the Internet, to prevent bad laws, norms, and code from compromising its creative capabilities and fettering its fecund flexibility. A far snarkier if less alliterative summary would be “We have to regulate the Internet to preserve its open, unregulated nature.” Zittrain posits that either a substantive series of unfortunate Internet events or one catastrophic one will motivate governments to try to regulate cyberspace in a way that promotes maximum stability, which will inhibit or possibly even preclude future technological innovations that rely on open access to the tools and systems that comprise the Internet. To head this off, he calls for a “transition to a networking infrastructure that is more secure yet roughly as dynamic as the current one,” which will be achieved by collaborative efforts, “a 21st century international Manhattan Project which brings together people of good faith in government, academia, and the private sector for the purpose of shoring up the miraculous information technology grid that is too easy to take for granted and whose seeming self-maintenance has led us into an undue complacence.”