Bruce Sterling: Imagine that the United Nations married the Internet. Any matchmaking program would consider them a dream date. After all, they’re both (a) supposedly global in scale and (b) fearsomely crippled.


The UN has cumbersome rules, no popular participation, and can’t get anything useful done about the darkly rising tide of stateless terror and military adventurism. The UN was invented to “unite nations” rather than people. The Internet unites people, but it’s politically illegitimate. Vigilante lawfare outfits like RIAA and MPAA can torment users and ISPs at will. The dominant OS is a hole-riddled monopoly. Its business models collapsed in a welter of stock-kiting corruption. The Net is a lawless mess of cross-border spam and fraud.



Logically, there ought to be some inventive way to cross-breed the grass-rootsy cheapness, energy and immediacy of the Net with the magisterial though cumbersome, crotchety, crooked and opaque United Nations. Then bride and groom would unite their virtues and overcome those gloomy vices gnawing at their vitals. The global worldchanging multitudes could beat back the darkness of the gathering New World Disorder while swiftly improving the cramped lives of the planet’s majority in a beneficent orgy of networked interdependence! Wow!



That’s a spectacular vision, but I’m not the one making it up. Last year in Switzerland, world delegates from 180 nations triumphantly proclaimed the dawn of universal global access to information!



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