Книга: Code 2.0

Regulation by Code

Regulation by Code

The story about Martha and Dank is a clue to answering this question about regulability. If in MMOG space we can change the laws of nature — make possible what before was impossible, or make impossible what before was possible — why can’t we change regulability in cyberspace? Why can’t we imagine an Internet or a cyberspace where behavior can be controlled because code now enables that control?

For this, importantly, is just what MMOG space is. MMOG space is “regulated”, though the regulation is special. In MMOG space regulation comes through code. Important rules are imposed, not through social sanctions, and not by the state, but by the very architecture of the particular space. A rule is defined, not through a statute, but through the code that governs the space.

This is the second theme of this book: There is regulation of behavior on the Internet and in cyberspace, but that regulation is imposed primarily through code. The differences in the regulations effected through code distinguish different parts of the Internet and cyberspace. In some places, life is fairly free; in other places, it is more controlled. And the difference between these spaces is simply a difference in the architectures of control — that is, a difference in code.

If we combine the first two themes, then, we come to a central argument of the book: The regulability described in the first theme depends on the code described in the second. Some architectures of cyberspace are more regulable than others; some architectures enable better control than others. Therefore, whether a part of cyberspace — or the Internet generally — can be regulated turns on the nature of its code. Its architecture will affect whether behavior can be controlled. To follow Mitch Kapor, its architecture is its politics[22].

And from this a further point follows: If some architectures are more regulable than others — if some give governments more control than others — then governments will favor some architectures more than others. Favor, in turn, can translate into action, either by governments, or for governments. Either way, the architectures that render space less regulable can themselves be changed to make the space more regulable. (By whom, and why, is a matter we take up later.)

This fact about regulability is a threat to those who worry about governmental power; it is a reality for those who depend upon governmental power. Some designs enable government more than others; some designs enable government differently; some designs should be chosen over others, depending upon the values at stake.

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