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3.0 out of 5 stars Code 2.0, February 16, 2014
This review is from: Code version 2.0 (Kindle Edition)
Code 2.0 is a book about the changing meaning of regulation between real space and cyberspace. More specifically, it covers the shift of control over individuals and their actions from architectures of anarchy to architectures of control. Over the course of the book, we see code change, resulting in the conflict between competing sovereigns and the emergence of different communities that embrace varying levels of regulation. However, often philosophies contrast greatly, and soon we may face conflicts as a result of latent ambiguities in pre-cyberspace laws. Lessig also focuses on four types of control: architecture, markets, norms, and law. As these themes develop, Lessig supports his arguments using examples where controversy and ambiguity complicate any simple answer to these questions. The investigation of code and it’s effect on the regulation of people in Code 2.0 provides an in-depth argument on the resulting shift in regulability which explores many of the issues that consumers, companies, and governments may not yet fully grasp.
Code is divided into four themes: regulability and how it works, regulation by code, latent ambiguity, and competing sovereigns (26). In Lessig’s words, “This book is about the change from a cyberspace of anarchy to a cyberspace of control” (5). Part I delves into this, prompting investigation into the differences between anarchy and control in cyberspace, as well as what causes a shift between the two. This relies on an understanding of regulability. Lessig defines regulability as “the capacity of a government to regulate behavior,” and in the scope of his book, such capacity in relation to its citizens in cyberspace (24). Lessig provides examples of both anarchy and control in this context. In one story he details a place where online gambling has been illegalized, but a citizen created a website in a nearby region outside of its jurisdiction. This server was unregulable, and thus created a local cyberspace of anarchy outside of governmental control (16). He details a cyberspace of control in Second Life. Players are allowed to rewrite the code and thus rewrite the world, giving a massive amount of regulability and thus control to the space that is unheard of in real life (11).
Regulation by code differs from regulation by law or other sources, as is explained in Part II (5). Lessig asserts that “cyberspace demands a new understanding of how regulation works” (5). But what makes cyberspace different from other spaces? To understand this question, we need to look at what methods of control are available. Lessig describes four such methods of control: architecture, markets, norms, and law (130). Architecture is the physical constraint of a system that affects our actions. Code is an example of this: we must obey how something is programmed; otherwise, it simply will not work. Markets represent the costs and benefits associated with actions. Simply put, people prefer technology and behaviors that require less effort for their rewards. Norms are the social customs in various spaces. People can be affected by different norms in real life and in cyberspace, as well as by visiting different sites in cyberspace. These norms can be affected greatly by the other forms of control, as they force certain behaviors. The final method of control that Lessig describes is law. Government can take an active role to regulate cyberspace activity, or to gather information on people in order to enforce existing laws. As Lessig describes in other chapters, legal intervention becomes complicated by limitations of architecture and location.
These changes in control lead to latent ambiguity in law. A pre-Internet society would not have been prepared for many of the consequences of code on behavior and regulation. As a result, these laws may not be able to be applied in a fair or relevant manner. Lessig provides the example of searches in relation to the Fourth Amendment. Since searches can be done without inconveniencing the searched and can be programmed to find only information that would be desired without providing information on the innocent, rules against search and seizure start to lose meaning (22). While one’s property may be searched using a computer worm, it is entirely possible that this causes no negative effects on those infected. With this in mind, Lessig questions the validity of previous interpretations of such laws.
Complicating the matter further are the parallel lives one can life in cyberspace. Lessig refers to this phenomenon as competing sovereigns, where the life one lives in their community and as a citizen of the internet differ. Even further, these lives can expressed on servers outside of the jurisdiction of the real world sovereign under which one lives. He talks about a young man named Jake who avoids the norms of his home town to publish hardcore non-consensual erotica online, which would be unacceptable and possible even illegal in real space (17). Jake was living two lives under separate norms that rarely interacted.
Lessig completes his book with Part V on the different choices that are private, collective, and governmental. He states that “the central lesson of this book is that cyberspace requires choices” (26). Architecture often determines who gets to make this choice.
Code details the differences in regulability between real space and cyberspace, and attempts to explain why this is significant. Some code is more regulable than others, and different code leads to different degrees of control. Lessig’s arguments point to a central idea: code is the architecture which controls all else in cyberspace.
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