Книга: Code 2.0

Governors

Governors

A state — call it “Boral” — doesn’t like its citizens gambling, even if many of its citizens do like gambling. But the state is the boss; the people have voted; the law is as it is. Gambling in the state of Boral is illegal.

Then along comes the Internet. With the Net streaming into their homes through phones or cable lines, some citizens of Boral decide that Internet gambling is the next “killer app.” A citizen of Boral sets up a “server” (a computer that is accessible on the Internet) that provides access to online gambling. The state doesn’t like it. It tells this citizen, “Shut down your server or we will lock you up.”

Wise, if evasive, the gambling Boralian agrees to shut his server down — at least in the state of Boral. But he doesn’t choose to leave the gambling business. Instead, he rents space on a server in an “offshore haven.” This offshore web server hums away, once again making gambling available on the Net and accessible to the people of Boral via the Internet. Here’s the important point: Given the architecture of the Internet (at least as it was circa 1999), it doesn’t really matter where in real space the server is. Access doesn’t depend on geography. Nor, depending on how clever the gambling sorts are, does access require that the user know anything about who owns, or runs, the real server. The user’s access can be passed through anonymizing sites that make it practically impossible in the end to know what went on where and with whom.

The Boral attorney general thus now faces a difficult problem. She may have moved the server out of her state, but she hasn’t succeeded in reducing Boralian gambling. Before the Net, she would have had a group of people she could punish — those running gambling sites, and those who give those places custom. Now, the Net has made them potentially free from punishment — at the least because it is more difficult to know who is running the server or who is gambling. The world for this attorney general has changed. By going online, the gamblers moved into a world where this behavior is no longer regulable.

By “regulable” I mean simply that a certain behavior is capable of regulation. The term is comparative, not absolute — in some place, at some time, a certain behavior will be more regulable than at another place and in another time. My claim about Boral is simply that the Net makes gambling less regulable there than it was before the Net. Or at least, in a sense that will become clearer as the story continues, with the architecture of the Net as it originally was, life on the Net is less regulable than life off the Net.

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