Recently, in light of the stink Google stirred up leaving China, many pundits in the West have opined how the Internet is inherently anti-government, how the Chinese government is too draconian in its control of the Internet, even how the second law of thermodynamics and “freedom” will eventually triumph.
I find by and most these observations to be absurd. While some of the observations have a point: the Internet can be a forum for anti-government activities, and the Chinese government may sometimes lag behind the technological curve (think Green Dam fiasco; but which government has never lagged behind the technological curve?), the Internet and the Chinese government are not inherently antagonistic. The Internet is a legitimate and a fast growing reflection of society. But as the social footprint of the Internet grows, so will naturally the footprint of a government’s attention on it. This chorus calling on the Chinese government to refrain from governing the Internet is absurd. As I wrote in a previous post: a legitimate responsibility of any government is to ensure the Net develops in a way that matches the Morales of the society. I don’t see why the Internet must be a forum where socially subversive activities (where they exist) be allowed to fester.
As for those waddling about the second law of thermodynamics, entropy is not about “freedom” – it’s about disorder. The day the second law triumphs over us, our societies will have disintegrated, cities will be in ruins, the knowledge we have created will be returned to dust, and we as a species will be gone. Governance and human achievement is about creating order out of disorder, not about facilitating disorder out of order.
Anyways – here is a cool video I recently came cross here at a conference at Cancun. It’s narrowly about social media – not the Internet in general – but its point is well taken. Social media (or the Internet in general) is a real phenomenon. It is well and live – in the U.S. – and yes, very much well and alive in China as well, superficial politicking not withstanding.