Online experience will change as commercial interests vie with proponents of social interaction and civic engagement to shape the future of the Internet. How will that evolution affect trust, access, and personal identity, and how might unruly behavior online be discouraged?
“Protecting the Internet as a Public Commons,” the new issue of Daedalus, the Journal of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, surveys potential safeguards and improvements for the Internet, and weighs whether introducing them might prove counterproductive. Contributors consider the pros and cons of “online drivers’ licenses” for Internet users and how Internet interactions could be made safer and more reliable, among other issues.
“We need the Internet equivalent of being able to tell when we are ‘going into a bad neighborhood,’” writes Academy Fellow David D. Clark in his introduction to the volume. “Will this website infest my machine with malicious software? Will it attempt to steal information about me? Will this merchant defraud me?”
But Clark, who serves as guest editor of the issue and is Senior Research Scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, argues against uniformly imposing strict identity mechanisms on the Internet’s infrastructure layer, suggesting instead that such protections should be built into applications.
In “What are the Consequences of Being Disconnected in a Broadband-Connected World?” John B. Horrigan, Vice President of Policy and Research at TechNet, says society must address problems that exclude some people from the Internet, such as digital illiteracy and lack of hardware. “As more people use broadband-connected networks, the cost to those not on the network rises at more than exponential rates when even a few people are excluded,” he writes.
“This issue of Daedalus reminds us that the Internet is ever-evolving and that we, as members of a global society, share the responsibility for making it safe and accessible for everyone who wants to use it,” said Academy President Leslie C. Berlowitz.
In addition to the introduction by Clark and Horrigan’s essay, the volume includes:
- “A Contextual Approach to Privacy Online,” Helen Nissenbaum, New York University
- “Online Trust, Trustworthiness, or Assurance?” Coye Cheshire, University of California, Berkeley
- “Safety in Cyberspace,” Vinton G. Cerf, Google Inc.
- “Doctrine for Cybersecurity,” Deirdre K. Mulligan, University of California, Berkeley; and Fred B. Schneider, Cornell University
- “Reconceptualizing the Role of Security User,” L. Jean Camp, Indiana University
- “Resisting Political Fragmentation on the Internet,” R. Kelly Garrett, Ohio State University; and Paul Resnick, University of Michigan
- “Who Speaks? Citizen Political Voice on the Internet Commons,” Kay Lehman Schlozman, Boston College; Sidney Verba, Harvard University; and Henry E. Brady, University of California, Berkeley
- “Prosocial Behavior on the Net,” Lee Sproull, New York University
- “WikiLeaks and the PROTECT-IP Act: A New Public-Private Threat to the Internet Commons,” Yochai Benkler, Harvard University
Copies of the issue can be ordered at: https://www.amacad.org/daedalus/protecting-internet-public-commons.
Established in 1780, the American Academy is one of the nation’s most prestigious learned societies and an independent research center dedicated to intellectual leadership across the nation and around the world.
Since its founding by John Adams, James Bowdoin, John Hancock, and other scholar-patriots, the Academy has elected leading “thinkers and doers” from each generation. The current membership includes more than 250 Nobel laureates, some 100 Pulitzer Prize winners, and some of the world’s most celebrated artists and performers. Academy research focuses on science, engineering, and technology; global security and energy; education and social policy; and the humanities and culture.