Mit Sicherheit scheitern: the End of One-Internet

Politics & Society
re:publica 2014

Short thesis: 

Eighteen years ago, John Perry Barlow derided the "weary giants of flesh and steel" — today, they control the Internet. The idea of a communicational one-world has been superseded by the giants' power-grabbing approach. This talk discusses different types of possible Internet security institutions, their viability, and their ability to achieve traditional Internet values embedded in open source ideas. The choice between technological cosmopolitanism, a fire brigades-design, an Internet government, informational hegemony, and noospheric empire fundamentally influences which values the Internet can yield.

Description: 

Security saves it all, breaks it all. A sovereign is she who calls the shot in a crisis. Label any contested policy a security issue, and you’ll get a green light for applying whatever it takes. Yet, the design of security and its institutions has only played a minor role in Internet discourses off the beaten track of security circles. 

The need for security institutions is apparent: The human species is a “group of persons who can’t do without peaceful togetherness and yet can’t help but constantly loathe one another”. Immanuel Kant, the source of the previous words, thought mankind could achieve its civic norms: it only had to follow the guiding principle of the idea of a cosmopolitan society. Therein, citizens set up, ensure, and enforce their own civic rules. The ensuing 250 years haven't quite followed this model. The cosmopolitan model, the ideals of one-world have failed to sustainably shape world politics. Ideas of perfect global political institutions have been shattered by political realities, then adapted to these political realities, and thereby slowly dismantled from their initial normative impetus. This pattern also applies to the Internet and thinking thereof. 

This talk elaborates on different designs of security institutions, among them the fire brigade-approach, an Internet government, technological cosmopolitanism, the evil noosphere empire, and benevolent informational hegemony. These models of security are contrasted with popular ideas and values of Internet fans such as openness, distributiveness, and socialness. In addition, the viability of any model differs substantially given political and economic interests in today's world. 

As living on the Internet now has aspects of life in the Truman Show, the question arises whether there is any chance to revert the status quo of the existing landscape of Internet security institutions. Hope springs eternal, but reason tells a new dominant thinking on the Internet and the values it shell foster is on the rise.

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P.S.: A hint for English speakers regarding the title of this talk. "Mit Sicherheit scheitern" translates as both "failing for sure" and "failing with security". 

stage 3
Thursday, May 8, 2014 -
15:00 to 15:30
English
Talk
Intermediate