The internet as a right

I need to write an essay on a bold goal for the internet for a World Economic Forum (aka Davos) Global Agenda Council on the future of the internet. My thoughts:

The internet is a right.

I can’t imagine a bolder notion than that. Or maybe it’s not so bold. In a civilized society, education is a right. Some services we may pay for but society still treats them as rights: In any developed society, we expect to have water, electricity, even phone service (in the U.S., we all pay fees to assure that everyone can get a line). In the U.K., television is a right such as funding it is a responsibility. These rights can be met publicly or privately.

Why not the internet? I say that access to an unfettered internet – an open internet that is not censored or filtered by government or business – should be expected as a new pillar of civilized society. Just as we judge societies by their literacy, we should now judge them by their connectedness.

It’s in their enlightened self-interest. And I will suggest that the WEF Global Agenda Council should catalogue, quantify, and demonstrate that self-interest in terms of the benefit the internet brings a nation in:
* business – jobs created, efficiencies found, innovation sparked, entrepreneurism supported;
* education – every human able to search all our digital knowledge, distributed university curricula, the growth of the aggregated education, the pull toward literacy;
* politics – the ability of citizens to coalesce and act, the increase in involvement in politics, the greater transparency enabled (which some politicians will not think is in their self-interest – but that is precisely why we will want this creed to separate democrats from dictators and the corrupt);
* government – we have only begun to use connectivity to improve governance in its relationships with constituents and in efficiencies;
* society – I argue in my book that staying connected may change the nature of relationships for the good – one-to-one and nation-to-nation.

Now I ask you to add to that list: What are the benefits that will accrue if and when every citizen has a right to an open internet?

And how do you define openness? I’ve argued that the internet itself is the substantiation of the First Amendment; by its openness, we can judge a society’s freedom of speech. Gating against speech, content, applications, and uses must be discouraged. At the same time, there needs to be an acknowledgment of the economics of this: If you use more water, even if having it is a right, you pay for it. In some nations, if you use more education, you don’t pay for it. What should the economics of a universal internet be? And there needs to be an acknowledgment of security both for users and for the internet itself.

In the end, this is not legislation – even as power as the WEF may be, it’s not in a position to pass laws. Rather, it is an expectation, a definition of progressive civilization in our era.

What do you think?

  • Rod

    I look at my 14 year old daughter, and when away from her friends the internet is ever-present. She multi-tasks her way through the evening, doing homework, watching TV, cooking, reading, with a constant background of connectedness and self-expression. I can’t imagine taking this away from her and would want others to have the opportunity to do the same. So yes, on all the levels you have listed above, but primarily on the basis of its ability to empower individuals, stating that access to the internet is a right would put an important marker to put out there for all governments.

  • As you mention, with rights come responsibilities. While I certainly believe that free (or socialized/government-provided) access to an uncensored Internet is important — and doable — by making access a right, you have to delineate certain responsibilities, and I think that the wish list you include is a little lofty, and I’m unclear on how we achieve it.

    First, access? Great. But by saying, “OK, now everyone can use the Internet,” what you’re really saying is, “OK, now we expect everyone to use the Internet.” That’s not something everyone can do, even if you give them access to a computer — you still have to teach them how to use it, and provide resources to get assistance if needed. You or I can ask the masses on Twitter, or Facebook, or through our blogs to help out if we have a question, but if you’ve had one lesson on how to use the Internet and you’re suddenly faced with a blinking window that says, “you may have just won $10,000! click here to download our malware,” who do you ask?

    The other end of that is what’s available on the Web. The things you want, I think, are great. They’re things I want, too. But there’s a reason we don’t have them yet, and giving everyone access doesn’t necessarily provide them.

    You can’t tell businesses and government entities to provide wonderful, fully-transparent Web sites without giving everyone a UI expert, a designer, and someone to handle questions. Maybe that’s something that can be accomplished through a New Deal-type program, where the government pays to train unemployed workers to take jobs designing and maintaining Web sites for businesses (the government would also, of course, have to subsidize the designer’s salary, as not everyone can afford to go ahead and pay for these services).

    In all, I think you have a good wish list. I’m worried that it would be really easy to accomplish — badly. If we want to do it right, we have a lot of work to do, and a lot of people to persuade to move money around.

  • But what does that mean: Internet as a right?
    That I have the right to own a computer or a internet device? Wherever I live?
    That you have the right to be connected? To what?
    Does it simply mean I have the right to write an email? Or when you write above: “not censored or filtered by government or business ” does that mean: I have the right for information and content of any kind? What about the often discussed “copyrights”? Are copyrights not a kind of “censorship”?

    Iam not sure if internet could be “a right”. Internet is a tool. A distribution or connection tool. Not more and not less. “Freedom of speech” says all I think…

  • Paul Coleman

    The internet as a right, this sits uncomfortably with me. A luxury yes, but something everyone should demand – I cannot agree with. We should all demand a certain standard of living, food, shelter, health. The internet does open up new worlds to the user, and so does first class travel, a car or a private education. I personally enjoy having it in my life, and think others would also benefit.

  • In his 1964 book Understanding Media: The Extensions Of Man, famed media scholar Marshall McLuhan wrote these words:

    “Once we have surrendered our senses and nervous systems to the private manipulation of those who would try to benefit from taking a lease on our eyes and ears and nerves, we don’t really have any rights left. Leasing our eyes and ears and nerves to commercial interests is like handing over the common speech to a private corporation, or like giving the earth’s atmosphere to a company as a monopoly. ”

    He was, of course, not speaking specifically of Net Neutrality as we currently know and debate it nor was he speaking of the internet as “a right” – since the net didn’t really exist then. McLuhan was speaking in the broad visionary terms required of the time he found himself in when he wrote those words – he was speaking of how electric technology is directly related to our nervous system. He saw, over 40 years ago, what we would be facing in very real terms today.

    He went on:

    “Something like this has already happened with outer space, for the same reasons that we have leased our central nervous systems to various corporations. As long as we adopt the Narcissus attitude of regarding the extensions of our own bodies as really out there and really independent of us, we will meet all technological challenges with the same sort of banana-skin pirouette and collapse.

    Archimedes once said, “Give me a place to stand and I will move the world.” Today he would have pointed to our electric media and said, “I will stand on your eyes, your ears, your nerves, and your brain, and the world will move in any tempo or pattern I choose.” We have leased these “places to stand” to private corporations.”

    It behooves us to do as McLuhan advises and not pretend as though the media and techno soup we are swimming in is something that is out there and thus of lesser consequence to our existence. Not so.

    It is us.

    Let us not lease our eyes, ears and nerves to commercial interests.

    Just some thoughts on some words from a wise man from many years ago. We didn’t (or couldn’t) listen then – perhaps now we can. The internet is as much of a right as breathing and will become even more so, despite what level of access we end up paying for, as it grows further into an extension of our collective nervous system.


  • Great concept. I think one of the main benefits of an open Internet as right is that it is / would be utterly inimical to the interests of oppressive governments and corporations. Since the world is not, alas, short of governments and corporations that are both oppressive and powerful it is all too easy to foresee the nature and source of much of the potential opposition to your proposal. Still, it would provide a pretty effective shibboleth test and give us a bit more clarity as to who is really on the side of the angels.

  • Sorry, I have to add something. The internet will be more than just a distribution and connection tool in the future… then when we are finally arrived in the “could”. Then the internet is “our space”.
    See the great post by Kevin Kelly on “Cloud Culture”
    But is the cloud a right?
    I don`t think so.

  • Hi, i think also internet is a right, but i heve severe suspiction tha censure is regular gov practice!
    I have websites and e mails online since 1998 and are creator of specific Art Alloy’s to express myself , however this very particular artistic venture in al these years i havent received One e mail with reques for more information on my work , this seems verry un probable and in terms of general laws of probability unlikly!
    have a nice day!
    Albertus van wyk (france!)

  • One part of the picture is that when college students come to the U.S. from countries where information is more restricted and controlled, those students become immersed in online culture, just like their peers here. After they return to their own country, these students know how to get information from outside their government’s control zones. They can fact-check the information available through local print, TV and radio (except in the most severe countries, like Burma, where they can’t go online).

    “The Internet as a right” would undermine the efforts of many governments to tightly control information and prevent the public from knowing, for example, the details of allegations that a deputy prime minister was involved in a murder cover-up (in Malaysia) or the extent of an embezzlement scheme by senior transport ministry officials (in Vietnam).

    Apart from all the benefits to education, science and medicine that one might imagine accruing from unfettered access to the Internet (e.g., in cheap Internet cafes, in classrooms, in public libraries), it is this — access to facts that a government would prefer to keep hidden — that makes the strongest argument in favor of ensuring a right to an open, free Internet for all people.

    And it also makes the strongest argument for governments that oppose the idea so fiercely.

    Those who argue that access to the Internet is less important than food security, etc., are covering up something.

    Internet access does not mean you have to put a computer in every home. It does mean you have to turn off the spying software (like what we have in public libraries in the U.S.) — as well as filters, proxies and firewalls such as those in Singapore and China.

  • Andy Freeman

    > “The Internet as a right” would undermine the efforts of many governments to tightly control information

    None of the current US rights had that effect. (Yes, there are cute stories about folks asking for their phone call or arguing that the cops need a warrant, but they all end badly because they’re not in the US.) The various UN “rights” haven’t worked that way.

    Why would this be any different?

  • Jeff,

    Great post and interesting concept. I think this will need to be put in a broader context as a “right to information and engagement” that naturally leads to the right to access to that information via means such as the internet.

    What I am curious about–since this is a global conversation and since only about 20 percent of the world’s population (pretty much the US, Europe and Asia, trailed by Latin America) actually use the internet–is how this concept fits in with the tradition of Western imperialism and colonialism.

    How does the internet fit in with the needs and culture of societies in Africa and the Middle East? How will the corporate and governmental development you mention in your post impact these people? How can this “right” to the internet be implemented in such a way that it empowers the people as well as the influx of development and foreign ideas that it may bring?

    It’s easy for the converted (us) to laud the ideals of the connectivity the internet may offer–but I wonder if there is a need to proceed with caution when proposing the imposition of an entirely new infrastructure upon the 80 percent of the world that isn’t with us yet.

    Not that I necessarily disagree–just some thoughts I feel are worth considering.

  • I consider myself a fairly progressive person, but I think this talk of new “rights” is a slippery slope. I got into a discussion with a friend of mine about health care as a right. I said it should be a right.

    He made the argument that there’s nowhere to draw the line. I want to disagree with him, but I think he’s correct. Rights are the very basic “life, liberty” stuff. Anything else is nice, but it’s not a right. In other words, I think we can fight for things like health care and Internet access for all without calling it a right.

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  • to your list of benefits, I would add Artistic and Creative Culture. As a fiction writer, the internet allows me to take part in global discourse and the international community of creative writing, much as photoblogs and other sites allow photographers to challenge and confront and support each other all around the world. We’ve already seen the internet completely transform the music industry… generally, the unfettered ability of artists to communicate with one another and expose each other to exciting/shocking/challenging new work is creating really dynamic new work…

  • Tex Lovera

    As Brent said above, you can argue for free internet access, but don’t call it a right. My opinion: a right is something you are entitled too under either natural or Constitutional law. (I have the right to bear arms; I don’t have the right to a free gun. I have the right to the PURSUIT of happiness; I don’t have the right to happiness provided to me by my government. etc.)

    Jeff said: “Some services we may pay for but society still treats them as rights: In any developed society, we expect to have water, electricity, even phone service”. You have described PUBLIC UTILITIES, not “rights” (at least the way I define rights).

    If you want to make the internet a public utlitiy, that’s fine. However, look at all of the “free” WiMAX plans that have recently crashed and burned around the country. Plus, what level of service will my tax dollars buy me? It’s a simple thing to say, but tougher to pin down the details.

  • Yeah, I think the “rights” concept is overloaded/overdone, and I don’t even agree that education and phone service qualify, in the sense of “things that should be paid for by government for people who ‘can’t’ afford it”.

    On the other hand, I think that going beyond NetNeutrality to an OpenNet mentality, makes a lot of sense. You should frame the recent spectrum auction as the sale of public goods to private interests.

  • If we don’t “flavor” the internet as a right, monetization will eventually restrict access. I believe there is already talk of limiting the points of entry to “sponsored” pages, and anything beyond their content will be a pay-as-you-go. I don’t see this as being much of an alternative to government censorship in China, Malaysia, Vietnam, etc.

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  • Is YouTube a right? How about Google Search? And Google AdWords? Blogs? Usenet? RSS feeds? Web sites? Well, no, not exactly. So if none of the crap that’s ON the Internet is a right, what’s left to demand? And if any of these services is a right, who has to pay for their delivery?

    I’m reminded of Valleywag’s definition of net neutrality, as “Google’s god-given right to sell ads on the Internet without sharing any revenue with ISPs.” We’re down to that level of silliness.

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  • It’s all well and good to promote the freedom of the internet as an extension of freedom of the press and freedom of speech, but, currently, the biggest problem in the developed nations is government secrecy, not censorship.

    We now have a situation where only 8 members of congress are allowed to see some government documents, but all the rest are supposed to create legislation without this information. Even these 8 aren’t allowed to take notes or share information with their staffs.

    Just yesterday the Treasury released a document showing which firms they were hiring to run the bailout program. The documents have large areas blacked out – including the amounts paid to these firms.

    This is no way to run a country. Allowing uninformed citizens to discuss things unhampered by the government means nothing if they don’t have the information with which to base their discussions.

    A good dose of democracy could fix both problems. I don’t see any push for this by either party.

  • Building The New Knowledge Web Manifesto
    “The Paradox of The Technological Age”
    Michael Pokocky

    September 21th,2005

    Marshall McLuhan’s [1911-1980] famous quote, “The medium is the message,” was an early perceptive
    prophecy, but it did not take into account human nature as we moved from The Industrial Age to The
    Technological Age.

    He was a respected visionary who could not have prophesied the profound imbalances between needs
    and desires of humanity, independent of the multicultural and multilingual nature of the global village.
    These imbalances are symptomatic of the economic, political, social, cultural, environmental and
    spiritual vertigo our world is experiencing today.

    Since we are well into the first stage of The Technological Age, although we still live our lives with
    one foot in The Industrial Age, it is the infaliability of human nature that is causing all the trouble.
    This is The Paradox of The Technological Age; in our quest for technological innovation and
    integration, nobody asked what the philosophical implications human nature would have in the way we
    live our lives. Our inability to accept this paradox, and the multitude of other paradoxes inherent in our
    civilization, is our problem; and we have not even begun to understand them, let alone come up with
    the questions that must be asked in the first place, in order to begin to understand them.

    It’s human nature to fear and worry.
    It’s human nature to become desensitized.
    It’s human nature to want to believe in something larger than ourselves.
    It’s human nature to react in unpredictable manner.
    It’s human nature to protect and to preserve.
    It’s human nature to destroy and to waste.
    It’s human nature to solve problems.
    It’s human nature to be lazy.
    It’s human nature to become fed up.
    It’s human nature to initiate change.
    It’s human nature to give up on ourselves, our families, our work, our beliefs, and our lives.
    It’s human nature to dream.
    It’s human nature to have hope.
    It’s human nature to do right or wrong by ourselves, by our families, by our friends, by our
    communities, by our countries, and by our world.

    The Message has to get out that The Individual Is Our Most Valuable Resource and That The
    Individual Counts.

    By examining the life of Einstein and reading about him and studying his papers and books a quote he
    said might shed light on where we can begin to look for the questions that will give us the answers to
    help stop or at least lesson the effects of the economic, political, social, cultural, environmental and
    spiritual vertigo everybody feels.

    One hundred years after Einstein wrote his five papers in 1905 Albert Einstein had said at some point in
    his life, “Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” This message raised
    the questions that led to the writing of this manifesto. The reason was in it’s simplicity; he tells us how
    to look at things. Deeply; and that is why this manifesto is a philosophical approach to understanding
    how we might come up with the questions that need to be answered.

    This quote inspires everyone in one way or another, but it would take a cross-section of people from all
    walks of life to harvest the questions for this manifesto to raise our consciousness to a level, where
    some insight into possible answers might be illuminated. I believe it will be quite some time until we
    know the effect this collaborative effort have; the how come and why questions that would define a
    shift in the paradigm of our thinking today.

    So I begin this manifesto having introduced a theme and have invited many others to contribute their
    abstracts to create a collaborative piece of work to allow the reader as many views as possible. I hope
    this manifesto serves you well.

    Here are some further notes for your understanding.
    In 2003 I discovered Email.
    In 2004 I discovered the web.
    In 2005 I discovered virtual communities.
    In 2006 I will started a revolution: The Last Renaissance.
    I turned of my computer and wrote the most sought-after manuscript in the history of humanity; I was
    no where to be found.

    I ask you now to consider the following.

    They said The New Knowledge Web couldn’t be built.
    Some said, “I thought the Internet is a Knowledge Web?”
    Still others said, “What is a New Knowledge Web?”

    I looked deeper. Something wasn’t right. I believed that the world was experiencing economic, social,
    political, cultural, environmental and spiritual vertigo. I believed that a rip in the moral fabric of our
    society ran deep. I believed one person could make a difference. And then I asked the question that
    started the whole journey for me, one which made me get out of bed every day with a purpose to attend

    What if you knew for certain that your idea could change the world; or start a movement to help others
    or even redefine how we live, so that the way we live, brings out the best in people? What would your
    idea be?

    Following my gut instinct, and the places it led me to, taught me to look at the world in a whole new
    way. I wanted to share this with the world so I wrote about it and it turned into this Manifesto that
    would express the way people truly think about their lives; their families; their friends, their
    communities; and the global village..

    So, I begin with the most important message I want to deliverer; a message to empower people: That
    the individual counts in the global village and that creativity is unique to the individual; it is not a
    collective thing. That the new currency of the global village is the creative spirit of individuals
    and their productivity. That we have to share our creative ideas and visions; and we need a launching
    pad for it, so, that people will feel part of something big, which is human nature.

    This launch pad by nature must be a revolution and I start it by naming it The Last Renaissance. It’s
    agenda is to collectively take back the web and use it as a Knowledge Web as it was originally intended
    backed by a new philosophy of thinking that would produce a shift in the paradigm of thinking in
    todays World Order?

    Then I looked deep, deep into the nature of the Internet and the following is what I discovered.
    The Internet is like a thousand lakes and wild powerful rivers running into and out of it; this is the
    untapped potential of the Net. The lakes are basins of knowledge molecules that collectively look
    simply like a thousand lakes, but upon closer examination we see that all life flows from nature and
    what’s in it, just as all knowledge flows into and out of the Net.

    The idea of Building The New Knowledge Web is akin to the building of great dams; feats of
    engineering to harness the power of the waters energy. It’s like the building of Eden Laboratories to
    study the biological make up of water to discover new natural medicines to heal the sick. It’s like the
    building Olympia Construction to build ecological communities around the lakes to provide housing for people and give them a better quality of life.

    Our ability to do this is not limited by the Net; quite the opposite is true. The Net is owned by no one
    so you can do whatever the hell you want. The potential is there to get creative and see what you can

    The problem with the Net is the way we use it. Einstein said, “Go deep, deep into nature and you’ll
    understand everything better.” It’s not about absolute knowledge or perfectionism; it’s about
    understanding everything better.

    The Building of The New Knowledge Web is about shifting the paradigm of thinking on a global level
    to harness the untapped potential of the thousand lakes and rivers of the Internet. I have identified this
    potential: it is the creativity of each individual at their ends of the Internet.

    Einstein also said, “The problems of the world cannot be solved by the minds that created them.” The
    knowledge that exists at the ends of the Net and throughout it is the untapped potential of the Net; the
    evolution of the Net for the express purpose of bringing each individual at their end of the net together
    with each individual at the other end of the Net to build an intelligent exchange of collective creative

    The knowledge exists. The Net exists. Creativity is alive and well.

    “It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity,” said Albert
    Einstein. Well he was right and his message still resonates with us today.

    Never has humanity seen such a potential for a Renaissance of the most intellectual and artistic creative
    ideas as exists on the Net today. No one anticipated another great Renaissance movement. No one has
    defined it or even named it. The Last Renaissance is a Renaissance unlike anything humanity has ever
    seen. It is the first Renaissance that is global in scale, and it is fueled by our civilizations most valuable
    resource, the individual, and the knowledge that the individual counts.

    The reason the individual is humanity’s greatest resource is because of the untapped creativity of the
    individual and the fact that creativity is unique to the individual; it is not a collective thing. Albert
    Einstein said why it’s important to encourage individuality, “It is important for the common good to
    foster individuality: for only the individual can produce the new ideas which the community needs for
    its continuous improvement and requirements-indeed, to avoid sterility and petrification.”
    Imagine if we were to share our knowledge of ideas; in the collective sense the results would be

    There are two powerful forces at work today affecting civilization as we know it: The inability to tap
    into the potential of the creativity of individuals because knowledge is not shared easily and the way the Internet is being used. To date no one has figured out a way to bring them into a harmonious
    relationship with one another in order to inspire the change we need to see in the world today to
    preserve our civilization for tomorrow; where integrity, security and trust;is the accepted norm.

    Through the fusion of philosophy with technology we will be able to tap into the creativity of each
    individual at their ends of the Net to bring about change.

    But before this can be done one very important point has been made by Seth Godin that has to be tied
    up. He says, “The currency of our future is ideas,” but we have to ask ourselves where do ideas come
    from? My answer to that is from the creativity of individuals.

    It is very important to distinguish between the idea and creativity. They are connected, but the
    connection is not at first glance obvious. Philosophically, creativity is unique to the individual; it is not
    a collective thing. Secondly, creativity is governed by the law of moral sanction; the idea that if an
    individual has knowledge of their own moral value as a human being then they will be more creative
    and productive members of society. Finally society must accept that it’s most valuable resource is the
    individual and that the individual counts in the Technological Age.

    Assuming this philosophical hypothesis is correct then we have a duty to create a platform for global
    conversations between intelligent creative people who know that they count in our society.

    The concept or idea that the individual counts in the Technological Age is as I see it the foundation of
    The Last Renaissance.

    The Last Renaissance which is taking place around the world now, on and off the Net, is the new global
    Renaissance that is fueling the search for harnessing the individual collective creative energy to build a
    new knowledge web where people will say or are saying, “Let’s get a global conversation going.”
    By my philosophical calculation it will take only five percent of the Intellectual Elite to share their
    knowledge to create a global revolution.

    Imagine if everyone had knowledge of their own moral value as a human being. What would our world
    be like?

    If the message got out that the individual counts and that the individual is society’s most valuable
    resource then when critical mass consensus is reached civilization as we know it will begin to heal.

    A new generation Net will evolve and we will have together created The New Knowledge Web; not a
    new Internet but a new way to use what we have so successfully built. As I have said it’s not about
    building it, but rather the fusion of philosophy with technology. It’s about building a consensus of a
    new paradigm of thinking that allows humanity to look deep, deep into the Net to understand
    everything better.

    Now the doors are open and you begin to see a better world is possible to live in.

    If you knew for certain that your idea could change the world what would your idea be takes on more
    relevance now. There’s possibility in the air. So what would your idea be? You hesitate and therein
    lies the fundamental problem of the Net today: sharing knowledge freely; let alone trying to manage it.
    Economic theory dictates there will be winners and losers in a free market economy and in order for the
    free sharing of knowledge that can change the world it has to be accepted that the sharing of knowledge
    serves a higher purpose and therefore it must be shared freely. This leads to sustainable development of
    ideas. Of course the ninety-five percent of ideas shared freely will create winners and losers from an
    individual economic perspective, but imagine the reality that only the remaining five percent of freely
    shared knowledge will produce economic winners and the results will be enough to solve all of our
    problems. This is going to be the hardest thing to sell to a world full of people who don’t trust and don’t
    feel secure giving away their precious knowledge; however I believe in a higher noble cause and I
    believe that people are fed up enough to begin trusting and sharing their knowledge. This is human
    nature at its most noble moment.

    We have to recognize that the world is in economic, political, social, cultural and spiritual vertigo. And
    it has been brought about by the minds that have created the world we live in today. As Einstein said,
    “The problems of the world cannot be solved by the minds that created them.” It’s not about pointing
    fingers; it’s about tapping into the untapped potential that lies at each and every one of the ends of the
    Internet and sharing this creative knowledge freely in order to reverse economic, political, social,
    cultural, environmental and spiritual vertigo. The moral fabric of our civilizations has been ripped
    wide open.

    What are we going to do about it?

    We have to recognize that a movement called The Last Renaissance has already begun. Its the greatest
    Renaissance the world has ever seen and it will be the last Renaissance because it is the first time a
    renaissance has been global in nature. If we are successful at working together sharing knowledge
    freely, then we will always be in a Renaissance for the next thousand years; if not, if we can’t find
    community amongst each other, then I fear a world that will implode upon itself and this is as close to
    Armageddon as I venture to suggest. We must begin to use our imagination again just like we did as

    Imagination belongs to kids because they are innocent; adults have the battle scars and the memories to
    last a lifetime to keep them from being who they really are: kids at heart. If everyone can reconnect
    with their child inside and start to use their imaginations again, then the world will be a better place.
    Pablo Picasso said, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”

    I say we must stand up and make a choice to do right by ourself, right by our family, right by our
    friends. Right by our community, right by our country, and right by our world. This is the Last Great
    Renaissance. What are you going to do?

    In closing you can’t have innovation without factoring in human nature. A massive psychic shock has
    opened a void created by the innovations of the technological age; it is human nature to bring balance to one’s world. This is the innovation of the New Knowledge Web and the beginning of The Last
    Renaissance period.

    I’ll end this manifesto with three thought provoking quotes all from the same man that inspired me to
    write it hopefully in a reflective and thought provoking piece that will help people to shift their thinking into a new paradigm of thought and take action on their ideas without fear.

    On where Einstein’s inspiration came from:
    “The state of mind which enables a man to do work of this kind…is akin to that of the religious
    worshiper or the lover; the daily effort comes from no deliberate intention or program, but straight from
    the heart.”_Albert Einstein

    On imagination:
    “Imagination is more important than knowledge, for knowledge is limited while imagination embraces
    the entire world.”_Albert Einstein

    On solving problems:
    “The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we
    created them.”_Albert Einstein

  • Mr. Jarvis please feel free to use anything you like from my previous post and I do mean freely. That is why I posted it. Perhaps there is something there or not. It is not for my self promotion and please delete it if you think it is.
    Michael Pokocky

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  • We’ve got several (almost finished) programs in Germany from adding access to schools to adding access to public libraries: Basically everyone in Germany has access to the Internet today. Not as a right, especially not at home, but freely and uncensored at many (truly a lot) public spaces. in my opinion this kind of publicly available access matches the basic requirements of a networked society.

    Smile! Gerrit – We speak Online.

  • Jeff,
    First of all, the use of the term “right” does not sit well with me.

    The internet is a “privilege.” Education is not a right, it is a privilege. Most people think voting is the “right.” It is not. It is a privilege.

    Also, you infer that by having unfettered access to the internet for all, civilzation is better for a number of reasons. My question is, how is it that we don’t already have open, unfettered access as you describe? Dial up is ridiculously cheap, and broadband rates are not expensive either. If people want the internet, they can have it. The problem is the availability doesn’t mean people will use it. It also doesn’t mean it sustains itself. Not everyone wants to be as connected as you wish to believe.

    For example, is classical music a right? ….open, unfettered acces to classical music? A variety of public financed radio stations exist to push classical music over the airwaves. Still, does that mean society is more cultured or worldly because classical music is available to the masses? I would argue “No.” This is because people still must choose to listen to classical music. If people don’t listen, then there is no effect.

    If it is done by private enterprise, then I am fine with it. The market will dictate its success or failure. However, I could not be more against our government doing this.

  • toc

    The problem is securing a right and then there is hacking, so you can’t ever ensure something is secure in digital form like you can on paper. Look at the digital stock markets. The thing’s a mess because data always runs behind actual events. You add more computers and complexity and it just gets worse. Research was done on products and as complexity grows, product failure rates rise. It’s the same for the Air Force. As aircraft grows in complexity, reliability goes down. The stealth technology is great, but requires all sorts of special facilities to support it so you need forward bases that cost more money. In reality we have been closing bases here because we can’t afford them. All you need to secure your papers is a simple safe. People are losing their houses and we are going to debate internet as a right. These people signed papers and the internet, even as a right, will not keep the losses from going forward along with the sell offs of stock. People want cash, so expect markets to give up more value. Get your stock on paper.

    ” The Fourth Amendment protects “[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures … .” U.S. Const., Amdt. 4 (emphasis added). It must be acknowledged that the phrase “their . . . houses” in this provision is, in isolation, ambiguous. It could mean “their respective houses,” so that the protection extends to each person only in his own house. But it could also mean “their respective and each other’s houses,” so that each person would be protected even when visiting the house of someone else. As today’s opinion for the Court suggests, however, ante, at 4—5, it is not linguistically possible to give the provision the latter, expansive interpretation with respect to “houses” without giving it the same interpretation with respect to the nouns that are parallel to “houses”–“persons, … papers, and effects”–which would give me a constitutional right not to have your person unreasonably searched. This is so absurd that it has to my knowledge never been contemplated. The obvious meaning of the provision is that each person has the right to be secure against unreasonable searches and seizures in his own person, house, papers, and effects.”

  • I completely agree with you and suspect that the main reason people have disagreed with you is because people perceive the internet as a paid-for service, and therefore a luxury they’ve earned for themselves.

    But your ISP only gives you the bandwidth and not ‘the internet’, which is so incomprehensibly vast that it can be regarded as belonging to everyone, and therefore not something anyone should be excluded from.

    Civilized societies are based upon freedom of information and the internet – the most advanced form of information distribution – should of course be regarded as something all citizens are entitled to. No, that doesn’t necessarily mean everyone should be given a computer at birth (although it’s economically viable nowadays), but it does mean that a citizen will have unfettered, unfiltered access to the internet.

    There are all too many people in the business world who are desperate to lock us into a more closed internet which will present a handful of large companies with more opportunities to monopolise the market and boost their own coffers. This is exactly what happened with old media and it’s frightening to think the same thing could happen to the web. That’s why we need unfettered internet access to be an established right.

  • My initial thought on this is that it would be more precise to talk about information as a right. Saying the Internet is a right is sort of like saying that hospitals or medical offices are a right, rather than the health care provided within them.

    I have a couple of more thoughts about this at

    Great discussion to be having. Thanks, Jeff, for starting it.

  • Sorry, ignore the URL in previous post. I meant

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  • kcom

    “What do you think?”

    I think it’s not a right and the concept, as others have noted above, of a “right” has been seriously abused. If you want to make internet access a univeral public policy, fine, but don’t call it a right. A right is much more fundamental than that. In that vein, I would also say “health care” is not a right either.

    This is my test of a right. Society is bascially human interaction, and the smallest possible society is two people. Anything that is a fundamental human right would and should exist in that society of two. For instance, free speech, free association, self-determination, etc. Those rights are inherent in free human existence. Now try introducing a right to “health care”, or internet access, or education into that society. What it comes down to would be one person being able to demand that the other person use his resources to provide a specific service to him, regardless of whether that person was qualified to do so, could afford to do so, or was interested in doing so. In essence, the one being demanded of would become a slave to the one doing the demanding. That hardly sounds like a definition of a society based on rights. Unless slavery to one’s fellow man is also a fundamental human right.

    Compassionate public policy is a fine and wonderful thing, when freely arrived at. We can choose to do all sorts of things with the public purse for our society in general and our fellow citizens in particular. But in my mind the distinction between a fundamental right and an enlightened public policy needs to remain crystal clear at all times. One belongs to us from the day we are born and is inherent in our existence and the other is based on the society and social and economic circumstances we live in. As a society, we can choose to enact a specific public policy, but it would be unwise in the long run to forget that it was a concious choice to spend money in a certain way (and not in another way) and that choice is not some fundamental aspect of existence.

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  • John

    The internet is not a right. If you want it, get a job and pay for it yourself.

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