Democracy’s Napster moment: “[…] what really matters is that the disruptive power of the internet has been conclusively demonstrated, and the old order has been provoked to respond.
This is democracy’s Napster moment, the point at which the forms of governance that have evolved over 200 years of industrial society prove wanting in the face of the network, just as the business models of the recording industry were swept away by the ease with which the internet could transmit perfect digital copies of compressed music files.
Napster was neutered by court action in the US, but its failure inspired peer-to-peer services that were far harder to control. The sharing of music is now unstoppable, and Wikileaks and the organisations that come after it will ensure that the same is now true of secrets.
Of course we should never underestimate the power of the state to reinvent itself, just as modern capitalism and constitutional monarchy seem able to do.
Wikileaks has exposed the inadequacies in the way governments control their internal flow of information, and organisations dedicated to transparency and disclosure will observe the tactics used to shut it down and adapt accordingly. But the state can learn too, and has the resources to implement what it learns.
I fear that Wikileaks is as likely to usher in an era of more effective control as it is to sweep away the authoritarian regimes that Julian Assange opposes.
He may look to a day when the conspiratorial power of the state is diminished, but I think we are more likely to see new forms of government emerge that exploit the capabilities of the network age to ensure their power is undiminished.”