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Twilight of the PC threatens innovation, scholar Says

John P. Mello Jr. | Dec. 5, 2011
A respected member of the digiterati waved a yellow flag this week over the grave of the personal computer, and with good reason.

"Why," he continued, "would we possibly want this to be how the world of ideas works, and why would we think that merely having competing tech companies -- each of which is empowered to censor -- solves the problem?"

Worse yet, by reducing the avenues by which content can reach people, Zittrain asserts, the easier it is to control the flow of information. What government wouldn't prefer applying pressure to a few information chokepoints rather than chase the myriad of sources by which content is distributed today? "Suddenly," Zittrain wrote, "objectionable content can be made to disappear by pressuring a technology company in the middle."

"If we allow ourselves to be lulled into satisfaction with walled gardens, we'll miss out on innovations to which the gardeners object, and we'll set ourselves up for censorship of code and content that was previously impossible," he added. "We need some angry nerds.

An irony resonates in Zittrain's arguments. It's that the company that made an indelible mark on the public consciousness with a commercial about smashing Big Brother could be fertilizing a garden for his growth.



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