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[liberationtech] Google Resources

Yosem Companys companys at
Wed Aug 12 21:03:34 PDT 2009

Dear friends,

Below is a compilation of resources on liberation technologies (as they
pertain to our program's purposes) derived from a Google search (first ten
results pages only).




Joshua Kauffman presented a downloadable video presentation and slide show
at the Reboot 11 Conference <> in Denmark:

   - Video:
   - Slide Show:


In 2006, The MIT Sloan CIO
Symposium<>had a panel on
liberation technologies; the pdf link is
here <>; the audio link
is below:

*Kresge Main Auditorium *
[image: link to

*Liberation Technologies <>*
Moderator: Thomas W. Malone - Professor, MIT Sloan School of Management
Howard Dresner - Chief Strategy Officer, Hyperion
Bjorn Olstad – CTO, Fast Search and Transfer
Michael Schrage - Co-Director, MIT Media Lab E-Markets Initiative
Brian Stevens - CTO, Red Hat

At Roosevelt University <>, Christian
Erickson <> -- an assistant professor
of political science -- taught a cyberpolitics seminar (Political Science
2006, where he had a lecture
on liberation technologies<>


Is There Rhyme or Reason to the Attacks on Twitter?

   - By Ryan Singel [image: Email Author]  <ryan at>
   - August 6, 2009  |
   - 7:51 pm  |
   - Categories: Social

[image: failwhale]<>Thursday’s
denial of service attacks on Twitter and Facebook, and the ones that flooded
non-critical U.S. government sites several weeks ago, share a very
interesting common denominator, according to a senior security researcher at

They don’t make any sense. And that means trouble, according to Cisco’s
Patrick Peterson.

“I’m afraid two outliers make a line and there is something going on,”
Peterson said. “We have entered the third generation of denial of service
attacks, and anyone that plans on the rationality of criminals is at risk.”

What does that mean? It means if you make the assumption that the bad guys
online are just a new breed of bank robbers, that can get you into trouble
if there are a few sociopaths mixed in.

The ongoing attacks Thursday on Facebook and the micro-publishing site
Twitter likely involve tens of thousands of compromised computers under the
control of a single person. Likely the attack involves asking the sites to
serve up a page of search results, or some other processor-intensive
requests. That makes it hard to determine if the request is a real user
action or a malicious fake.

CNET, citing Max Kelly, the chief security officer at Facebook, says this
attack is personal and political: it is reporting that the motive was to
silence a single person — a Georgian blogger with accounts on Twitter,
Facebook, LiveJournal and Google’s Blogger and YouTube — as part of the
continuing Russia/Georgia conflict.

UPDATE Friday 8:55 Pacific: Facebook confirmed that the attack “appears to
be directed at an individual who has a presence on a number of sites, rather
than the sites themselves. Specifically, the person is an activist blogger
and a botnet was directed to request his pages at such a rate that it
impacted service for other users. ”

In an interview with the
a Georgian economics professor who blogs under the name Cyxymu says he was
the intended target. He blamed the attack on the Russian government, which
he says is trying to stifle his criticism of Russia’s conduct in its
year-long war with Georgia.

Little of the investigation has been revealed but in a status update late
Thursday, Twitter founder Biz Stone seemed to agree that there was a single
perpetrator, at least on his site:

Over the last few hours, Twitter has been working closely with other
companies and services affected by what appears to be a single, massively
coordinated attack. As to the motivation behind this event, we prefer not to
speculate. [...]

We’ve worked hard to achieve technical stability and we’re proud of our
Engineering and Operations teams. Nevertheless, today’s massive, globally
distributed attack was a reminder that there’s still lots of work ahead.

Denial of service attacks began about a decade ago when some of the net’s
top sites — Amazon, Yahoo and eBay among them — got taken down by teens
seeking to make names for themselves by taking advantage of glaring errors
in network protocols.

In the second wave of attacks, which roughly ran from 2004 to 2007,
criminals extorted money from websites with the threat of ongoing denial of
service attack. In particular, extortionists targeted online gambling sites,
many of which were outside the U.S., on the edge of legality, and certainly
not favorites of the authorities. Other attacks were politically motivated,
launched against websites that advocated controversial opinions, or made by
cyber-criminals against security firms.

Those attacks all have rational explanations, which have given some comfort
to security researchers who have watched as criminals have assembled botnets
that include tens of thousands of compromised computers. These are used to
send spam, host phishing websites and to steal credit card numbers.

That’s nasty, but the motive is understandable.

But criminals turned away from using the botnets to extract ransom from
denial of service attacks after the police started being able to follow the
money in such cases, leading to arrests. Perhaps Twitter and Facebook got
ransom notes, but choosing such visible and money-losing targets for
extortion would not be particularly smart.

And when unknown attackers brought down U.S. government sites like the
Federal Trade Commission’s a few weeks ago, it turned out there was no
understandable motive — once the hysterical notion that North Korean hackers
were responsible was debunked.

But could either of the attacks be a way to test the strength of a new
botnet? A cyberwar test-run?

Perhaps, Peterson said, but why would the attack persist for so long on
Twitter and Facebook if it were just a nation testing out its new botnet

The same holds for the attack on the U.S. government, he said, pointing out
that the attack targeted non-essential government sites, meaning it wouldn’t
tell you much about how effective your botnet would be against a critical
and protected target.

According to Peterson, it all points to one thing: Botnets are too easy to
assemble. There are too many unpatched Microsoft Windows machines on the
internet that repeatedly get infected and taken over.

“The barrier to entry is too low,” Peterson said. “It may be that 998 of
1,000 criminals out there are out to maximize profits and minimize risk, but
it doesn’t take many of them to get their hands on a small botnet to create
harm. Then you have a minority actor doing a disproportionate amount of

Paul Sop, the CTO for the anti-DDoS company Prolexic, agrees.

“High profile brands are often a target simply because they are there —
sometimes as target practice for the attackers,” Sop said in an e-mail

Peterson counseled that companies should identify what portions of their
online operations are critical and talk to experts to make sure they are

But he also recommended that companies not suddenly devote all of their
security budget to preventing DDoS attacks — since most criminals would
prefer to steal credit cards than keep people from posting 140 characters
about their daily life.

***** Protests:
The Whole World Is Watching, Flickring, Tweeting

By Renay San Miguel
06/16/09 12:03 PM PT

Election protests in Iran have reached a fever pitch, and social media
technologies like Twitter have led the way in bringing observers around the
world firsthand updates of developments. The information being communicated
is immediate, raw, hot-blooded, sometimes graphic, and almost as hard to
verify as it is to censor.

"The whole world is watching" was one of the loudest rallying cries of
Vietnam protesters gathered in the streets of Chicago outside the Democratic
convention in 1968. Forty-one years later, the same slogan still applies and
is even more relevant in the chaotic streets of Tehran. Thanks to
 [image: More about
, Facebook <> [image: More about
, Flickr <> [image: More about
other social media technologies, the whole world is indeed watching Iranian
citizens rise up against suspect presidential election results.

Just a few of Tuesday's tweets on the
feed, from people inside and outside Iran:

   - "U.S. media coverage still lacking. Keep up the pressure, Iranian
   protesters. We stand with you!"

   - "Hearing Allaho Akbar & Down with Dictator ... Much stronger than last

   - "From Iran: (huge news if true!) "Police has arrested some Basijis who
   wanted to attack ppl in front of IRIB HQ"

   - "RT from Iran Doctors & nurses protesting in a major hospital in Tehran

   - "Police forces are joining people in Tehran. In Tehran, Jamejam, police
   tried to capture government forces who attacked ppl."

New 'Liberation Technologies'

The chaos roiling Tehran is reflected in the surge of claims, counterclaims
and unverified information streaming in and out of the country, and paranoia
is starting to creep into the social media feeds. A popular retweeted item
from's <> Cory Doctorow gives
useful advice for those on the outside wanting to assist Iran's revolution:
Don't publicize proxy Web addresses that are allowing protesters to get
around government intervention; use the right hashtags for passing along
information; know that government security may be setting up fake accounts
to stage traps and pass along bad info; and make your Twitter settings on
local Tehran time to confuse militia hunting down dissidents.

Social media tools are just the latest in a long line of "liberation
technologies" that have helped entire populations change the world,
according to Ann Hollifield, head of the University of Georgia's Grady
School of Journalism's <> telecommunications
department and professor of media research.

"For the last 30 years, every new communications technology has opened a new
avenue for people to organize as community and political activists,"
Hollifield told TechNewsWorld.

"At the end of the 1980s, with the dissolution of the Eastern Bloc and the
fall of the Berlin Wall, activists behind the Iron Curtain were using fax
machines to evade government censors whenever possible," she noted. "Now, we
have a lot of other options -- so the process is essentially the same, but
the new technologies offer new avenues and new ways of avoiding shutdowns,
government blockages and, in many cases, the ability for government to trace
The Power of an Open Internet

The Iranian situation and the role of social media point to the very reasons
the Center for Democracy and Technology <> exists,
according to its president, Leslie Harris. The CDT sees Twitter and Facebook
as extraordinarily powerful tools for freedom, especially in the hands of
young adults, and governments will have a harder time suppressing them.

Their use in Iran is akin to the role of social media and text messages in
the 2008 U.S. presidential election, Harris said, and how young people in
Colombia used Facebook to organize against

"Now, we're seeing it in Iran," Harris told TechNewsWorld, adding that
there's a lesson for Western nations. "It's why it's so important that
governments need to understand as they are shaping Internet policy how vital
it is to keep these technology tools open and unfettered. They don't always
understand that in the moment. Our government ought to be doing everything
possible to encourage the deployment of the Internet everywhere, and
supporting its use for democracy."

Social media power came at the expense of traditional media during the
weekend, when the election results were first announced; they were almost
immediately contested by crowds of demonstrators. One of the big media
themes to develop after that was how CNN and other cable networks, which
provided wall-to-wall coverage of Tienanamen Square, were largely using
taped programming as the situation unfolded in Tehran. The result: a Twitter
feed titled "#CNNFail." <>

Its use in Iran shows that Twitter has finally arrived as a journalism tool,
former NBC producer/reporter Hanson Hosein, now director of digital media at
the University of Washington, wrote in his Flip The
Media<> blog.
However, he added some qualifications:

"Can we finally put the social media naysayers to rest, now that traditional
journalism is seemingly vanquished on the streets of Tehran? Yes. No. I'm
having a hard time filtering through #iranelection, beyond the re-tweets and
second-hand information passed around by Twitterers outside the country,"
Hanson wrote.

\ "The expat Iranian opposition is well organized, and will do what they (as
well as others with a vested interest in the downfall of the mullahs) can to
keep this political fire burning. And without a doubt, this thread has
attracted a huge amount of commentary from folks who would not normally pay
any attention to an overseas story like this -- except that it has hit upon
that magic, unknowable recipe of universal appeal," he observes.
The New Blend of News Gathering

Doesn't the stream of unconfirmed items on Twitter and Facebook make a tense
situation even more dangerous as the items get repeated and retweeted
without verification?

"I've been saying that about social media generally, and the new roles the
citizens must play," UW's Hosein told TechNewsWorld. "Even if they're not
journalists -- if journalism is not going to give us all the answers anymore
-- it's up to us. We all have to work a little harder to confirm things. We
can't take [tweets] at face value. It can be quite dangerous. We should be
doing as much fact-checking as possible."

Like a lot of other former and current journalists, Hosein has been
fascinated as he watches the Iranian story unfold in real-time in social
media. Unlike the use of Twitter during last year's Mumbai terrorist
attacks, "it's more than breaking news. That's what's wonderfully powerful
and a little bit intimidating. It's actually a movement. I think it's
wonderful, but you have to keep your skeptical hat on."

Yet, unlike past liberation technologies -- faxes and radio in the former
East Germany, satellite-fed video from China's Tienanmen Square -- this one
may prove tougher for governments to suppress, the Grady School's Hollifield
said, because of the mobile aspects of social media.

"Citizen journalists will play a much greater role, and this is a very
powerful example of that," she commented. "We'll see more of it in the
future. I also think it's an example of how difficult it will be for
authoritarian regimes to control their populations in the future. To shut
people off from information in the modern age is increasingly difficult for
governments to do."

ict-regulations-governments-and-transparency Can they hear me now? (On ICT
regulations, governments, and transparency)Submitted by Helmi Noman on 24
February, 2009 - 04:40.
Posted in Arrests and legal
, Data retention <>,
, Human rights <>,
, Middle East and North Africa (MENA) <>,
Privacy <>,

(Opennet is sponsored by the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at
Harvard Law School <>, where Jonathan
Zittrain<>has been
speaking regularly about liberation technologies.)

On February 11, Vodafone's global head of content standards, Annie Mullins,
revealed <,1000000308,39614610,00.htm>
Vodafone handed over communications data to the Egyptian authorities in
response to government demands. This data may have been used to help
identify rioters who were protesting over bread crisis.

Food riots erupted in the Egyptian town Mahalla el-Kubra in April 2008. Some
of the protesters tore
giant poster of Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president during the riots and
shouted anti-government slogans. During the demonstrations, many protesters
carried cell phones, using them to call friends and send text messages. In
December, twenty-two people were convicted in connection with the food

It is not particularly surprising either that Egyptian authorities demanded
the data or that Vodaphone turned it over. Perhaps of greater note is the
fact that Vodaphone representatives have spoken so openly about turning over
data in the aftermath of the riots.

This revelation highlights a number of interesting issues:

Cell phones and other digital tools are thought by many to be ‘liberation
technologies’ when used to organize protests and support opposition
movements. While they have been effective in this role, they also provide a
digital record for governments to explore. A prime example is the supposed
use of Flickr photos by Burmese government to identify anti-government
protesters there.

Government surveillance, for good or for bad, generally consists of
authorities requesting data from private companies, the same data that
companies retain for commercial reasons.

Vodaphone’s Mullins warned about the danger of technology industry
regulation being used by governments for other purposes. "Regulation can be
a Trojan horse", she said. The view that regulation designed for one purpose
might be repurposed to another less worthy purpose is reasonable, but this
seems off target in cases such as these. The basic fact of the matter is
that governments around the world will gain access to private data when they
suspect wrongdoing – as long as the data is still there.

There are of course great differences across the world in the definition of
what constitutes a crime. But where governments draw the line between
illegality and permissible actions is a separate issue from the procedures
and processes of data acquisition. The differences across the globe in
process, such as the rigor of the legal processes that are necessary before
gathering data and the level of oversight and transparency, are smaller. The
absence of regulation provides no safeguard against inappropriate or
excessive data acquisition by governments. Governments that are not tolerant
of dissenting views and political opposition or intend on snooping on their
citizens are going to have their way with private companies regardless of
the regulatory framework. There are few reliable safeguards: private
companies can destroy the data (which constitute a company asset),
government can require companies to destroy the data (and thereby tying
their own hands), or users can encrypt communications (where possible). Yes,
excessive regulation could lower the bar on government data requests and
require too much data retention. Just this week, US politicians
a new federal law that would require all Internet providers and operators of
millions of Wi-Fi access points, even hotels, local coffee shops, and home
users, to keep records about users for two years to aid police

Regulation could also force companies to destroy data.

While it is not clear whether the data submitted by Vodafone led to arrests
of rioters, cell phone and Internet users should be familiar by now with the
notion that governments will have access to their data if they are suspected
of crimes and in some places of anti-government activities. It is
unfortunate that such incidents as this, often decided in the throes of a
crisis, define the boundaries of relationships between companies and
governments, and hence risks to their customers.

If ICT companies have no option but to give in to government requests for
data, even if these requests are of dubious merit, then the least the public
might expect is greater accountability and transparency from their service
provider. Should we expect companies to give clear and timely information
when users’ privacy and freedom of speech have been jeopardized, especially
if this is due to government restrictions which may conflict with the
internationally recognized human rights of freedom of expression and


A quasi-academic, Libertarian perspective on how liberation technologies
undermine tyrannies:

Paper located here:

Author's presentation of paper here:

Liberation by Internet:

*How Technology Destroys Tyranny*

G. Stolyarov II

Issue CLXXIV <> -
October 20, 2008

In *The Constitution of Liberty<>
,* Friedrich Hayek gave a dire prognosis for the future of technology: “[W]e
are probably only at the threshold of an age in which the technological
possibilities of mind control are likely to grow rapidly and what may appear
at first as innocuous or beneficial powers over the personality of the
individual will be at the disposal of government. The greatest threats to
human freedom probably still lie in the

Hayek, like most of the leading intellectuals of his time, did not foresee
the emergence of the Internet — the quintessential Hayekian spontaneous
order. As a decentralized communication system facilitating the sending and
receiving of messages by billions of people, the Internet has greatly
shifted the balance of power away from governments and toward sovereign
individuals. Even in its early days, the Internet played a vital role in
bringing about the downfall of the Soviet Union’s government. Since then, it
has catalyzed tremendous economic, social, and political liberation in
countries ranging from Cuba to the United States.

While governments have tried to use modern communication technologies to
monitor and regulate private individuals, their efforts are doomed to
failure stemming from a much more powerful and competent market response.
Hayek Did Not Know the Internet

When Friedrich Hayek’s *The Constitution of Liberty* was first published in
1960, the Internet did not exist; nor did its military predecessor, ARPANET,
which was initiated in 1969.[2] <>Fifteen
years after the horrors of World War II, the means by which the totalitarian
regimes of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union used mass broadcasting
technology to indoctrinate their people were still recent memories. During
the Nuremberg Trials, Albert Speer himself expressed the Nazi regime’s
effectiveness at using technology to spread propaganda: “Through technical
devices like the radio and the loudspeaker, eighty million people were
deprived of independent thought. It was thereby possible to subject them to
the will of one man.”[3] <> Faced with such
facts, Hayek understandably feared future uses of mass broadcasting

Indeed, in a world where the only mass communication technologies were radio
and films, the scales of power were shifted toward totalitarian governments
and away from sovereign individuals. According to Christopher Kedzie, “Since
traditional broadcast media are located closest to the dictator’s optimum
they are almost certain to be employed as a powerful political

Kedzie arranges technologies along a two-dimensional continuum, with the
number of message recipients from the technology on the horizontal axis and
the number of message originators on the vertical axis. Technologies like
radio and television — especially in their early days — are particularly
conducive to government propaganda, since the number of message originators
is few while the number of message recipients can be in the millions. Kedzie
writes that “The optimal position, from the dictator’s perspective, would be
in the bottom right-hand corner where everybody receives all of the leader’s
dictates and none from anyone else.”[5] <>

Figure 1

[image: Figure 1]<>

Totalitarian states with the resources to control the small number of radio
broadcasts and films in existence during the 1930s and 1940s could influence
their subjects without major competition from their nonstate opponents.

Hayek was not alone in fearing the combination of technology and government.
In *1984* <>, published in
1949, George Orwell portrayed an all-encompassing surveillance state that
completely controlled not only the present flow of information but also the
historical record.[6] <> But Orwell also
lacked the benefit of seeing subsequent technological developments and the
cost reductions they entailed for ordinary private individuals. In the words
of Richard Muller, “Orwell’s error was remarkably simple: he assumed that
only the state would be able to afford high-tech — an assumption shared by
virtually every prophet, science-fiction writer, and futurist. But it has
proven to be wrong.”[7] <>

We do not live in an Orwellian world today, in large part because of Moore’s
Law <>: “In 1965, Gordon Moore,
the co-founder of Intel Corp., predicted that, every 18 months, the
processing power of a silicon chip would double as transistor density
increased, a forecast that has proven uncannily
accurate.”[8]<> This
exponential growth in processing power has enabled cutting-edge technology
to spread beyond the purview of governments and into the hands of over a
billion individuals around the world.

Indeed, even technologies that were originally the province of governments
tend to migrate gradually but inexorably into the private realm. Through the
1970s, ARPANET evolved from a military communication tool to an increasingly
sophisticated private information-sharing system. According to Peter Klein,
“By the early 1980s, private use of the ARPA communications protocol — what
is now called ‘TCP/IP’ — far exceeded military
use.”[9]<> In
1984, the military handed over control of the Internet to the National
Science Foundation; just ten years later, the complete privatization of the
Internet’s basic infrastructure took
place.[10]<> The
story of the Internet is one of piecewise *relinquishment* of government
control and empowerment of private individuals and organizations.

Unlike early radio and television, technologies with many possible message
originators — such as the telephone and especially the Internet — are highly
damaging to powerful governments, because they introduce competition into
the market of ideas.

The telephone has its weaknesses; the recipients of any given message are
few, and it is possible to wiretap telephone lines and restrict their number
— as the Soviet government tried to do prior to Mikhail Gorbachev’s policy
of *Glasnost* (openness).[11] <>

The Internet, however, is far more resilient. Unlike earlier broadcasting
technologies, the Internet has no central nexus from which it can be
effectively controlled and restricted. Tim Swanson notes that the Internet
“is an amalgamation, an assortment of heterogeneous computer systems with
varying capabilities linked together by various
protocols.”[12]<> It
is impossible to silence the Internet by seizing pieces of Internet hardware
— even in a concerted effort to do so within any given country. In Kedzie’s
words, “Neither the autonomy nor the influence of electronic networks is
constrained by national boundaries.”[13]<> It
is entirely possible for a political dissident in one country to have his
website hosted in a different part of the world — far from the reach of the
authorities against whom he writes and speaks.

Furthermore, the ease of republishing one’s material online ensures its
permanence and immunity to effective censorship. I have personally observed
the futility of even one major site’s attempts to remove content. The online
video-hosting site YouTube has on several occasions banned videos deemed
“insensitive” or in violation of the copyright restrictions of major media
firms. Even though the videos and the accounts of their posters were
removed, five other versions of the same video might spring up within hours
on YouTube and other online video websites. The more frequently the videos
were removed, the greater was the public backlash — leading to a more
massive flood of videos. In virtually every case I have observed, the videos
ultimately remained on YouTube and generated more exposure than they would
have otherwise. If a single site cannot effectively shut down the
transmission of ideas on its own property, how difficult must it be for a
large, unwieldy government apparatus to combat dissent spread throughout the

Some governments seeking to restrict the free flow of ideas have attempted
to extensively limit their subjects’ access to the Internet. But blocking
online content is like using a sieve to stop the flow of water. China’s
government requires search engines such as Google to block content critical
of the Communist Party. However, such censorship is ineffectual and fails to
substantively restrict access to even the most “threatening” ideas. James
Glassman notes with amusement that the Chinese government “blocks access to
certain websites, including that of the Washington Post but not of my own
far more subversive free-market technology site,”[14] <>

Even restricting access to virtually every major Western media source would
not address the millions of online articles, political blogs, small
magazines, videos, and audio recordings that Chinese and other government
officials do not know and cannot know about.

Search engines that filter out combinations of provocative keywords still
cannot detect metaphors, allegories, subtle allusions, satires, and even
unusual turns of phrase. Moreover, they cannot stop individuals from using
the local knowledge of their friends and associates in order to find
websites without the aid of major search engines.

Throughout his work, Hayek emphasizes the importance of particular knowledge
of time and place in shaping individual decisions — as well as a centralized
bureaucracy’s inability to access such knowledge. Much of individuals’
awareness of content on the Internet arises from their possession of such
local knowledge. A Hayekian analysis would suggest that governments are
powerless to even know the nature of this knowledge, much less to interfere
with its transmission.
The Early Internet and the Downfall of the Soviet Union

To merely say that the Internet has made the effective large-scale
censorship of ideas impossible would understate the case for the Internet as
a tool of unprecedented individual liberation. The Internet has the power
to *bring down* oppressive governments — a power that was manifested even in
its early days. For instance, the Internet played an indispensable role in
destroying the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

The USSR was destroyed not by the conventional means of invasion or violent
revolution, but by the flow of information. In the words of Shimon Peres,

Communism fell without the participation of the Russian army, for or
against; it fell without having a new political party against the Communists
— if at all, it was done by the Communists; it fell without the intervention
of the United States, Europe, China or anybody else…. Authoritarian
governments became weak the minute they could no longer blind their people
or control information.[15] <>

Author Scott Shane agrees and writes that the “death of the Soviet illusion…
[was] not by tanks and bombs but by facts and opinions, by the release of
information bottled up for
decades.”[16]<> The
initial visible stimulus for the flood of information that led Soviet
citizens to question their regime was Mikhail Gorbachev’s policy of *
Glasnost*,[17] <> initiated in 1985 and
gradually relaxing restrictions on access to information and travel through
the late 1980s. However, *Glasnost* did not originate from Gorbachev’s good
will alone — but rather from his recognition of a technological necessity.
In Gorbachev’s own words from 1988, “International communication is easier
now than ever before. Nowadays, it is virtually impossible for any society
to be ‘closed.’”[18] <>

Gorbachev faced the dilemma of totalitarian societies, as described by
George Schultz three years earlier:

[T]hey try to stifle these [information and communication] technologies and
thereby fall further behind in the new industrial revolution, or else they
permit these technologies and see their totalitarian control inevitably
eroded. In fact, they do not have a choice, because they will never be able
entirely to block the tide of technological

The tremendous ability of communication technologies to drive economic
growth and prosperity implies that governments that do not embrace such
technologies condemn themselves to falling greatly behind their freer
counterparts. Failure to at least partially permit the spread of recent
technological developments could be fatal to a regime that needs some
semblance of economic growth to be seen as a possible alternative to Western
political systems.

As Kedzie notes, “a dictator who eschews interactive communications perhaps
does so only at the peril of healthy economic
growth.”[20]<> If
too glaring a technological and economic disparity occurs, this alone could
generate enough internal discontent to result in a coup or a rebellion. On
the other hand, adopting the new technologies enables information critical
of the regime to spread and become available in the marketplace of ideas.

Four years after *Glasnost* was adopted, the inflow of information
revolutionized the climate of Soviet public opinion. Government-propagated
versions of history and economics became recognized as false and dishonest.
James Dorn writes that

Glasnost fueled the people’s anger as they discovered that most of the
things they had been taught about Soviet paradise and capitalist hell were
fabricated… With the increased information available in newspapers and on
television, the new economic dissidents became a powerful force for
dismantling the Soviet empire.[21] <>

The Internet came to have a vital role in spreading the truth. In 1989,
Relcom, a privately owned network, emerged in the USSR. According to Kedzie,

Relcom (short for “reliable communication”) was implemented specifically to
support commercial activity otherwise stultified by the intentionally
constrained Soviet telecommunications infrastructure. Supported by its own
user fees, this network has blossomed to hundreds of thousands of

Not only did Relcom liberate many Soviet citizens by enabling them to engage
in economic transactions that enhanced their standards of living — it also
gave them a forum for self-expression outside the purview of the government.
Relcom enabled its users to spread and develop ideas, immune from oversight
and the need for prior approval. Key to this ability was the very structure
of the Internet.

Clay Shirky writes that the Internet is based on the *end-to-end principle*:
“What made it worth adopting in a world already well provisioned with other
networks, was that the sender and receiver didn’t have to ask for either
help or permission before inventing a new kind of
message.”[23]<> While
even under *Glasnost,* the Soviet government exercised some oversight and
censorship over the printed media, radio, telephones, and television — such
control was impossible on the Internet by virtue of the Internet’s very
design. The most governments can do is filter major search engines — but
engines like Yahoo! and Google did not even exist in 1989. Hundreds of
thousands of Soviet citizens became informed nonetheless through Relcom,
which, in Kedzie’s judgment, “proved to be a powerful social weapon against
centralized power.”[24] <>

Relcom was not the sole online source influencing the downfall of the Soviet
Union. More diffuse and personal means of communication — such as email —
were also crucial. In Kedzie’s words, “The international flow of e-mail
messages strengthened the conventional media, which could no longer be
deprived of outside sources for

While most of the public still got its facts from the newspapers, radio, and
television, the journalists in each of those media often looked to
electronic communications to get accurate information from the West and from
within the USSR. Facts conveyed through the Internet found their way into
the pages of newspapers and onto television screens. A wide array of
technologies worked symbiotically to collapse confidence in the Communist

Fax machines and photocopiers, video recorders and personal computers
outside the government were no longer exotica but a sprawling, living
nervous system that linked the Russian political opposition, the republican
independence movements, and the burgeoning private

Nor was the Soviet experience unique. At the same time, the Velvet
Revolution transformed Czechoslovakia.

[S]tudents were trying to coordinate the uprising across the nation and …
were running a telecom angle…. The Czech secret police were far too stupid
and primitive to keep up with digital telecommunications, so the
student-radical modem network was relatively secure from bugging and taps….
[27] <>

The Communist government of Czechoslovakia was overthrown on December 29,
1989, largely due to the efforts of technologically adept students with
Internet access.[28] <> Two years later,
the Soviet Union, too, ceased to exist.
Social, Economic, and Political Liberation

The influence of the Internet has grown by orders of magnitude since the
fall of the Soviet Union. In 1997, about 96 million people used the
Internet; by 2002, the number had grown to about 650
million.[29]<> On
December 30, 2007, the Internet had an estimated 1.319 billion
users.[30]<> Along
with this increase in usage came increases in convenience and functionality.
For every individual, the cost of sending and receiving information is a
tiny fraction of what it was during the Internet’s early days. According to
Glassman, “Over 30 years, [from 1972 to 2002], the cost of sending 1
trillion bits of information has dropped from $150,000 to 17

Email accounts were expensive and offered only several megabytes of storage
in the 1990s. In 2008, email accounts are free to users, and popular
services like Gmail and Yahoo! Mail offer practically unlimited storage that
increases faster than mailboxes fill up with content.

Any individual can publish his ideas online without even needing to pay for
a website. Free websites offered by services like Yahoo! GeoCities — along
with hundreds of forums, blog hosting sites, and free publication venues —
give any willing person a chance to share his thoughts, engage in discussion
and debate, and build up his audience and reputation.

Websites such as YouTube enable users to easily create and share video
content, while the emergence of high-speed Internet connections has rendered
the uploading and downloading of thousands of audio files possible for every
connected individual.

The commercial possibilities of the Internet are just beginning to be
realized. Hundreds of thousands of individuals earn money writing online
through advertising revenue and commissions. Through websites like and eBay, millions of individuals have access to books, clothing,
technology, art, and entertainment goods that they would not be likely to
find in brick-and-mortar stores. Financial transactions can be seamlessly
carried out online using services like PayPal. Less widely known, however,
is that individual liberation from government was an explicit goal of
PayPal’s founders, as William Anderson explains:

The original vision that the creators of PayPal (Peter Thiel, a hedge fund
manager, and Max Levchin, an engineer who originally was from the Ukraine)
had in mind was a system that would permit people around the world not only
to be able to pay each other via the Internet, but also to be able to
protect themselves when their governments were inflating their currencies.
[32] <>

Peter Thiel is quite explicit about his desire to supplant
government-managed paper money with a more reliable and easily accessible
digital system of currency. In his own words,

Paper money is an ancient technology and an inconvenient means of payment.
You can run out of it. It wears out. It can get lost or stolen. In the
twenty-first century, people need a form of money that’s more convenient and
secure, something that can be accessed from anywhere with a PDA or an
Internet connection.[33] <>

Services like PayPal can bring increased financial security to residents of
countries where inflation is rampant. By having dollar-denominated accounts
instead of accounts denominated in local currencies, individuals can reduce
the annual percent inflation they suffer to the low single digits. With
services such as e-gold and other commodity-denominated accounts,
individuals no longer need to suffer inflation at all. They can, moreover,
transfer money across borders without facing restrictions from their own
governments. As Internet commerce develops, more individuals around the
world will be able to work and exchange money online — bypassing the
economic restrictions and regulations of some of the world’s most oppressive

Socially, the Internet empowers individuals as well, by enabling them to
build firmer personal networks unbound by the constraints of geographic
proximity. A 2006 study by the Pew Internet Project found that vast numbers
of individuals make extensive use of the Internet “especially in times of
crisis when people use it to mobilise their social
networks.”[34]<> When
individuals need vital information or assistance with issues regarding
health, work, finances, and the government, they contact those of their
acquaintances whom they consider the most qualified to offer help. According
to sociologist Barry Wellman, coauthor of the study, “Rather than relying on
a single community for social support, individuals often actively seek out a
variety of appropriate people and resources for different
situations.”[35]<> The
Internet broadens individuals’ knowledge of the particulars of time and
place by keeping them connected to more places at more times.

The Internet also helps individuals minimize the involvement of government
in their lives by saving time even while dealing with the same bureaucratic
red tape. Instead of having to expend time and resources procuring hard
copies of their tax forms, individuals can obtain, fill, and file these same
forms on the Internet — without leaving their homes or waiting in line.
Electronic filing services such as TurboTax enable free filing and provide
assistance to individuals seeking to comply with tax laws. Now it is no
longer necessary for most individuals to spend exorbitant amounts of money
paying tax accountants and lawyers just so that they can “correctly” pay the
government. Individuals use the time freed from regulatory compliance to
enrich their lives and develop their spheres of autonomy through work and

Politically, the Internet has been able to massively empower individuals
suffering under oppressive governments. In 2008, Cuban authorities made a
futile effort to shut down Generacíon Y, the blog of Yoani Sanchez regarding
the realities of how ordinary citizens live in Cuba. The blog is hosted by a
German server — so the Cuban government does not have any practical ability
to shut it down; at most, it can prevent access to it from within Cuba. Just
after the government attempted to block access to the blog, Sanchez was
awarded the Ortega Y Gasset Prize in Journalism — the Spanish-language
equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize.[36] <>

“Socially, the Internet empowers individuals as well, by enabling them to
build firmer personal networks unbound by the constraints of geographic

The Cuban government’s effort at censorship generated far more publicity for
Sanchez than she would have had if the government had simply left her alone.
Sanchez herself understands that the authorities are powerless to stop her.
In her words, “The anonymous censors of our famished blog have tried to lock
me up in the room, turn my lights off and prevent my friends from coming
in…. However, the punishment is so useless that it invites pity and so easy
to elude that it becomes an incentive.”[37]<>

Now even blocking access to Generacíon Y within Cuba has proven impossible:
“Sanchez says the Cuban government periodically attempts to block her site
within Cuba, though the problem is always cleared up within

As of April 2008, it seems that the government of Raul Castro has succumbed
to the same dictator’s dilemma that Gorbachev faced in 1985. In order to
avoid the embarrassment and upheavals caused by falling technologically far
behind the rest of the world, Castro’s regime has greatly relaxed
restrictions on ordinary Cubans owning cell phones and computers. While
access to the Internet is still restricted to Internet cafes open to
tourists only, ingenious bloggers like Sanchez have often managed to sneak
in wearing tourist garb.[39] <> Other
bloggers, like Eva Hernandez and Sanchez’s husband, Reynaldo Escobal, have
followed suit.[40] <> Cuba may be
experiencing the beginnings of its own period of*Glasnost —* which will
inevitably render policies of censorship and governmental repression
The Ron Paul Campaign

The political liberation brought about by the Internet is not limited to
countries suffering under Communism and other forms of authoritarianism. In
the United States, the Internet’s burgeoning political clout was manifested
in Texas Representative Ron Paul’s run for the presidency. Ron Paul — an
opponent of the income tax, the Federal Reserve, undeclared wars, lavish
welfare programs, economic protectionism, gun control, the War on Drugs, and
government surveillance of the general population — is perhaps the strictest
constitutionalist on the American political stage since the time of Grover
Cleveland.[41] <> In the 2008 Republican
primaries, Paul won from 3% to 25% of the votes — with second-place finishes
in the Nevada, Montana, and North Dakota primaries as well as in the
Louisiana caucuses.[42] <>

While Ron Paul is unlikely to win the Republican presidential nomination, he
would not even have been politically visible without the Internet. Paul’s
prominence was the result of an immense grassroots network of libertarian
and constitutionalist political activists, young people, and online
businessmen who generated more Internet exposure for Paul than existed for
any other candidate.

Without any central direction from Paul’s campaign, Ron Paul broke
fundraising records in the “money bombs” of November 5 and December 16,
2007, raising $4.3 million and $6.0 million respectively in 24-hour
intervals — fed entirely by online grassroots
heavily marginalized as a “long-shot candidate” and shut out of debates by
the FOX News Network, Ron Paul generated a tremendous outpouring of support
on YouTube — where new videos of and about Rep. Paul were posted almost
every minute. Paul’s number of YouTube subscriptions outnumbered those of
any other candidate; his name remains a top search term on the blog network
Technorati; it was also a top Google search term for

Ron Paul’s campaign shows that the still-young Internet is highly conducive
to the spread of ideas in support of free markets, private property rights,
and individual liberty. After all, Paul lists Friedrich Hayek, Ludwig von
Mises, Murray Rothbard, and Grover Cleveland among his chief influences and
has pictures of them on the wall of his
office.[45]<> He
has consistently voted against any legislation he considered
unconstitutional, earning him the nickname “Dr.
No.”[46]<> Moreover,
a 2006 CNET study rated Rep. Paul as America’s Internet-friendliest
politician — embodying his stance for Internet freedom in his voting record
more often than any other American federal

A politician’s advocacy of liberty, friendliness to the Internet, and
popularity on the Internet seem to be linked. If the ideas favoring sound
economics and individual freedom have channels by which they can spread
outside the influence of political and mass-media establishments, they will
come to resonate with large numbers of people. In the words of Stephan
Kinsella, “free-market economics is *true*; whereas socialist political and
economic theory is self-contradictory, pseudo-scientific, and
bankrupt.”[48]<> Thus,
when a thinking individual is exposed to free-market ideas, he will be more
likely to accept them than not — provided that the ideas can be presented
fairly and fully.

Kinsella posits a hope that the increasing accessibility of sound economic
and political thinking via the Internet “will lead to an eventual
enlightened populace that throws off the chains of statism as incompatible
with the basic values of civilized

One can only speculate and hope regarding the extent to which ideas like
those of Rep. Paul will gain exposure and support via the growing Internet
by the time of the 2012 elections.
Government Threats and Market Solutions

Of course, governments can and do attempt to use even contemporary
decentralized technologies in order to increase their ability to monitor,
regulate, and restrict individuals. But they cannot succeed in the long run.
After all, the most advanced technologies accessible to governments today
are fundamentally market driven, meaning that they are driven by the choices
of individual consumers, who do not wish to be monitored, regulated, and

Whether a particular technology is adopted or rejected is no longer subject
to the decisions of government officials or even firms in partnership with
governments. Rather, according to Glassman, “technology emerges from a
process, undirected by the state or any other central authority, that
encourages variety, spontaneity and discovery through trial and error. The
incentives that motivate this process depend on free minds operating within
free markets.”[50] <>

Businesses cannot force technologies that consumers do not want onto those
consumers; if they tried, they would quickly lose market share. Timothy
Terrell notes a trend common throughout history: “Technologies that do not
present the consumer with any significant cost or quality advantage will
quickly disappear.”[51] <>

The only way a government can impose controls on consumers through
technology is by sneaking around the market and establishing covert
surveillance and regulation. But if such a threat exists, the market will
respond to it — and will do so more competently than the government.
Glassman observes that

technology also provides countervailing power. While government may now have
the power to eavesdrop on conversations a mile away, the speakers themselves
now have the power to block the reception. Government can intercept Internet
messages, but the senders of those messages can encrypt them in a way they
could never encrypt written messages.[52]<>

The people who design applications for private use on computers are either
professionals who earn a living doing so or enthusiasts who, following a
sincere passion, have exposed themselves extensively to such technology for
years. The millions of such people throughout the world, each working on his
own project in his own way, can surely design systems that are more
effective than any government controls intended to stifle individual
communication and exchange.

In the meantime, many leading government officials remain astoundingly
ignorant of even the basic nature of the Internet. Alaska Senator Ted
Stevens’s embarrassing characterization of the Internet as a “series of
tubes” in 2006 has become symbolic of the depth of such
ignorance.[53]<> Stevens
— who is no mere senator but the head of the Senate Committee on Commerce,
Science, and Transportation, which is *responsible for regulating the
Internet —* also said in the same speech that “an Internet was sent by [his]
staff at 10 o’clock in the morning on

If the top Internet regulator in the United States believes that an Internet
is a series of tubes that can be sent through itself, one can only imagine
how much about the colossal variety of individual online interactions the
rest of the government regulators do not know and will not know in the
foreseeable future.

The historical struggle of individuals to escape from violence and
persecution at the hands of governments is by no means over. However,
technology has increasingly come to be on the side of the sovereign
individual. True to the spirit of Hayek’s teachings, the Internet has
emerged as a massive spontaneous order that nobody could have planned or
foreseen. It has gone far outside of its original military purpose and
evolved into a global medium for communication, transaction, and liberation.

On the Internet, every individual who wishes to can be an author, artist,
musician, student, businessman, employee, and activist. He can run laps
around the efforts of governments to catch up with his activities, and he
can assist in bringing down the more egregious governments by exposing their
errors, fabrications, and atrocities in the free marketplace of ideas. As
more individuals like Yoani Sanchez and Ron Paul emerge by means of the
Internet, the inevitable long-term result will be a freer, happier, more
prosperous world.


*G. Stolyarov II is a science fiction novelist, independent philosophical
essayist, poet, amateur mathematician, composer, contributor to **Enter
Stage Right <>**, Le Quebecois
**, Rebirth of Reason <>**, and
the **Ludwig von Mises Institute <>**, Senior Writer
for **The Liberal Institute <>**, former
weekly columnist for<>,
and Editor-in-Chief of**The Rational
**, a magazine championing the principles of reason, rights, and progress.
Mr. Stolyarov also publishes his articles on<>
 and Associated
assist the spread of rational ideas. His newest science fiction novel is **Eden
against the Colossus <>**. His
latest non-fiction treatise is **A Rational
**. His most recent play is Implied
. You can also view his YouTube Videos <>
. Mr. Stolyarov can be contacted at **gennadystolyarovii at**.*
Works Cited

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“Cuban Bloggers Defy Government Control.” CBS News. 24 April 2008. Available
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Dorn, James A. “Book Review: Dismantling Utopia: How Information Ended the
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“Glasnost.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Available at Accessed 26 April 2008.

Glassman, James K. “The Virtuous Circle.” Speech for the Mont Pelerin
Society Meeting in London. 6 October 2002. Available at,filter.all/pub_detail.asp.
Accessed 26 April 2008.

Gorbachev, Mikhail, speech delivered before the United Nations, New York,
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April 2008.

Kinsella, N. Stephan. “Only Technology (and Economic Education) Can Save
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Klein, Peter G. “Government Did Invent the Internet, But the Market Made It
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Prestigious Award.” 8 April 2008. Available at
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Freedom.” 10 July 2007. Many2Many. Available at
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[1] <> Hayek 1978, p. 216

[2] <> Klein 2006

[3] <> Kedzie 1997

[4] <> Kedzie 1997

[5] <> Kedzie 1997

[6] <> Orwell 1949 [1984]

[7] <> Muller 2002

[8] <> Glassman 2002

[9] <> Klein 2006

[10] <> Klein 2006

[11] <> Kedzie 1997

[12] <> Swanson 2005

[13] <> Kedzie 1997

[14] <> Glassman 2002

[15] <> Peres 1994

[16] <> Shane 1994, p. 215

[17] <> “Glasnost.” Wikipedia, the Free

[18] <> Gorbachev 1988

[19] <> Schultz 1985

[20] <> Kedzie 1997

[21] <> Dorn 1996

[22] <> Kedzie 1997

[23] <> Shirky 2007

[24] <> Kedzie 1997

[25] <> Kedzie 1997

[26] <> Dorn 1996

[27] <> Sterling 1995

[28] <> “Velvet Revolution.” Wikipedia,
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[29] <> Glassman 2002

[30] <> “Internet.” Wikipedia, the Free

[31] <> Glassman 2002

[32] <> Anderson 2005

[33] <> Anderson 2005

[34] <> “Internet Serves as ‘Social
Glue.’” BBC News. 26 January 2006.

[35] <> “Internet Serves as ‘Social
Glue.’” BBC News. 26 January 2006.

[36] <> Serra 2008

[37] <> Llosa 2008

[38] <> “Cuban Bloggers Defy Government
Control.” CBS News. 24 April 2008.

[39] <> “Cuban Bloggers Defy Government
Control.” CBS News. 24 April 2008.

[40] <> “Cuban Bloggers Defy Government
Control.” CBS News. 24 April 2008.

[41] <> “Ron Paul.” Wikipedia, the Free

[42] <> “Ron Paul.” Wikipedia, the Free

[43] <> “Ron Paul.” Wikipedia, the Free

[44] <> “Ron Paul.” Wikipedia, the Free

[45] <> “Ron Paul.” Wikipedia, the Free

[46] <> “Ron Paul.” Wikipedia, the Free

[47] <> McCullagh and Broache 2006

[48] <> Kinsella 2006

[49] <> Kinsella 2006

[50] <> Glassman 2002

[51] <> Terrell 1999

[52] <> Glassman 2002

[53] <> “Series of tubes.” Wikipedia, the
Free Encyclopedia.

[54] <> “Series of tubes.” Wikipedia, the
Free Encyclopedia.


The Age of Intelligent Machines: A Technology of Liberation
by  George Gilder

George Gilder <javascript:loadBrain('Gilder,%20George')> is the author of
eight books on issues of technology <javascript:loadBrain('Technology')>
 and society <javascript:loadBrain('Society')>, including *Wealth and
Poverty* (1981) and *The **Spirit** of Enterprise* (1983), both best
sellers. His most recent book is *Microcosm* (1989), a
history<javascript:loadBrain('History')> and
prophesy of the age of
Gilder is a regular contributor to the *Wall Street Journal* and lives in
Tyringham, Massachusetts with his wife, four children, and four computers.

>From Ray Kurzweil <javascript:loadBrain('Kurzweil,%20Raymond')>'s
revolutionary book The Age of Intelligent
published in 1990.

Futurists have long seen computers as Big Brother's crucial ally on the road
to 1984, George Orwell's chilling vision of technocracy. Placed on pedestals
in the central computing rooms of large institutions, computers were large,
expensive, and arcane. They did not understand English; to use them, you had
to learn what were called their higher-level languages. As one expert
predicted, "There will be a small, almost separate
society<javascript:loadBrain('Society')> of
people in rapport with the advanced machines." This elite will tend to
control the state and master the commanding heights of the economy.

The year 1984 came and went, and the prophecies of 1984 were fulfilled only
in nightmares and totalitarian gulags. One of the prime reasons for the
failure of the prophecy was the success of
 technology <javascript:loadBrain('Technology')>. Contrary to all the grim
predictions, intelligent machines empower individuals rather than large
institutions, spread power rather than centralize it.

Crucial to the liberating impact of computers was the very
 ofcomputer <javascript:loadBrain('Computer')>
In volume, anything on a chip is cheap. But moving up the
hierarchy<javascript:loadBrain('Hierarchy')> from
the chip to the circuit <javascript:loadBrain('Circuit')> board to the
network <javascript:loadBrain('Network')> and to the
 system <javascript:loadBrain('system')>, interconnections between
components grow exponentially more expensive. So a first law of the
technology <javascript:loadBrain('Technology')> is to concentrate components
and connections-and thus computing power-on single chips. Concentrating
components on a chip not only enhanced their speed and effectiveness but
also vastly lowered their price. Finally, in the form of the
the computer <javascript:loadBrain('Computer')> on a chip costs a few
dollars and outperforms the computer <javascript:loadBrain('Computer')> on a
pedestal. Rather than pushing control toward Big Brother at the top, as the
pundits predicted, the technology <javascript:loadBrain('Technology')>, by
its very nature <javascript:loadBrain('Nature')>, constantly pulled power
down to the people. The ultimate beneficiary, the
individual<javascript:loadBrain('Individual')> with
a personal computer <javascript:loadBrain('Personal%20Computer%20(PC)')> or
workstation, gained powers of creation and
communication<javascript:loadBrain('Communication')> far
beyond the kings of old.

The individual <javascript:loadBrain('Individual')> was not only the heir to
the throne of the technology <javascript:loadBrain('Technology')>; he also
was its leading creator. Although made possible by
 innovations from around the world, the move to small computers was chiefly
an American revolution driven by the
invention<javascript:loadBrain('Invention')> of
new software <javascript:loadBrain('Software')>. As fast as the Japanese and
others could expand the capacity <javascript:loadBrain('Capacity')> of
computer <javascript:loadBrain('Computer')>memories, American entrepreneurs
filled them with useful programs. Some 14 thousand new U.S. companies, many
of them led by teenagers and college hackers, launched a vast array of
software <javascript:loadBrain('Software')> packages and changed the
computer <javascript:loadBrain('Computer')> from an arcane tool of elites to
a popular appliance. As a result of this
ranging from spreadsheets and word processors to data bases and video games,
the United States pioneered and propagated the use of small computers, and
the U.S. share of the world software <javascript:loadBrain('Software')>market
rose from under two-thirds to more than three quarters.

Analysts focusing on fifth-generation computer<javascript:loadBrain('Computer')>
 projects, mainframe <javascript:loadBrain('Mainframe')>systems, and
supercomputers dismiss these personal computers as toys. So did the experts
at IBM <javascript:loadBrain('International%20Business%20Machines%20(IBM)')> a
few years ago. But at the same time that the United States moved massively
into microcomputers, small systems surged far ahead in price performance. In
terms of cost per
 (millions of instructions per
the new personal computers are an amazing ninety times more cost effective
than mainframes. With the ever growing ability to interconnect these
machines in networks and use them in parallel configurations that yield
mainframe <javascript:loadBrain('Mainframe')> performance, microcomputers
are rapidly gaining market share against the large machines.

Once believed to be a bastion of bureaucratic computing,
has become a prime source of the redistribution of
computer<javascript:loadBrain('Computer')> power.
As IBM <javascript:loadBrain('International%20Business%20Machines%20(IBM)')>'s
machines become smaller and cheaper and more available to the public, they
also become more effective and more flexible. The trend will continue.
According to Ralph Gomory,
chief scientist, the constraints of interconnections mean that
supercomputers of the future <javascript:loadBrain('Future')> will have to
be concentrated into a space of three cubic inches. The industrial
revolution <javascript:loadBrain('Industrial%20Revolution')> imposed
economies of scale, but the
information<javascript:loadBrain('Information')> revolution
imposes economies of micro scale.
Computer<javascript:loadBrain('Computer')> power
continually devolves into the hands and onto the laps of individuals.

The advance into the microcosm <javascript:loadBrain('Microcosm')> is now
accelerating. Propelling it is a convergence of three major developments in
the industry, developments that once again disperse power rather than
centralize it. The first isartificial
giving to computers rudimentary powers of sight, hearing, and common
True, some of these
AI<javascript:loadBrain('Artificial%20intelligence%20(AI)')> devices
still do a pretty limited job. It has been said that the
computer<javascript:loadBrain('Computer')> industry
thrived by doing well what human beings do badly. Artificial
seems to thrive by doing badly what human beings do well. But you can
understand the significance of
AI<javascript:loadBrain('Artificial%20intelligence%20(AI)')> advances
by imagining that you are deaf, dumb, and blind. If someone gave you a
device <javascript:loadBrain('Device')> that allowed you to see and hear
even poorly, you would hail him as a new Edison.
technology <javascript:loadBrain('Technology')> has long been essentially
deaf, dumb, and blind. Reachable only through keyboards and primitive
sensors and programmable only inbinary <javascript:loadBrain('Binary')>
mathematics <javascript:loadBrain('Mathematics')>, computers remained mostly
immured in their digital <javascript:loadBrain('Digital')>towers. Artificial
intelligence <javascript:loadBrain('Artificial%20intelligence%20(AI)')>
to vastly enhance the accessibility of computers to human
imagery, and expertise. So the computer <javascript:loadBrain('Computer')> can
continue to leave ivory towers and data-processing elites behind and open
itself to the needs of untrained and handicapped individuals, even allowing
the blind to read and the disabled to write.

The second major breakthrough is the
 compiler <javascript:loadBrain('Compiler')>. Just as a
compiler <javascript:loadBrain('Compiler')> converts high-level languages
into the bits and bytes that acomputer <javascript:loadBrain('Computer')> can
understand, the silicon <javascript:loadBrain('Silicon%20Compiler')>
compiler <javascript:loadBrain('Compiler')> converts high-level chip designs
and functions into the intersecting polygons of an actual chip layout. This
technology <javascript:loadBrain('Technology')> allows the complete design
of integrated circuits on a computer <javascript:loadBrain('Computer')>,
from initial concept <javascript:loadBrain('Concept')> to final
To understand the impact of this development, imagine that printing firms
essentially wrote all the books. This was the situation in the
computer<javascript:loadBrain('Computer')> industry:
in order to author a chip, you essentially had to own a
semiconductor<javascript:loadBrain('Semiconductor')> manufacturing
plant (a silicon <javascript:loadBrain('Silicon')> printing press), which
cost between $50 and $200 million to build on a profitable scale. But with
silicon <javascript:loadBrain('Silicon')> compilers and related gear, any
computer <javascript:loadBrain('Computer')>-literate person with a $20,000
workstation can author a major new integrated
circuit<javascript:loadBrain('Integrated%20Circuit')> precisely
adapted to his needs. If mass production is needed,
semiconductor<javascript:loadBrain('Semiconductor')> companies
around the globe will compete to print your design in the world's best clean
rooms. In a prophetic move a few firms are now even introducing forms of
silicon <javascript:loadBrain('Silicon')> desktop publishing. For $3
million, for example, Lasarray sells manufacturing modules that do all
essential production steps from etching the design to assembling the chips.
Dallas Semiconductor <javascript:loadBrain('Semiconductor')> acquired an
advanced new chip-making facility for $10 million. Contrary to the analyses
of the critics, the industry is not becoming more capital intensive.
Measured in terms of capital costs per
device<javascript:loadBrain('Device')> function
(the investment needed to deliver value to the customer) the industry is
becoming ever cheaper to enter. The
compiler <javascript:loadBrain('Compiler')> and related technologies moves
power from large corporations
toindividual<javascript:loadBrain('Individual')> designers
and entrepreneurs.

The third key breakthrough is the widespread abandonment of the long
cherished von Neumann computer <javascript:loadBrain('Computer')>
architecture <javascript:loadBrain('Architecture')> with its single central
processing unit<javascript:loadBrain('Central%20Processing%20Unit%20(CPU)')>,
separate memory <javascript:loadBrain('Memory')>, and step-in and fetch-it
instruction sets. Replacing this
architecture<javascript:loadBrain('Architecture')> are
massively parallel systems with potentially thousands of processors working
at once. This change in the
architecture<javascript:loadBrain('Architecture')> of
computers resembles the abandonment of centralized processing in most large
companies. In the past users had to line up outside the central processing
room, submit their work to the data-processing experts, and then wait hours
or days for it to be done. Today tasks are dispersed to thousands of desk
tops and performed simultaneously. The new
 of parallel processing <javascript:loadBrain('Parallel%20Processing')> breaks
the similar bottleneck of the central processing
unit<javascript:loadBrain('Central%20Processing%20Unit%20(CPU)')> at
the heart of everycomputer <javascript:loadBrain('Computer')>. It allows
the computer <javascript:loadBrain('Computer')> itself to operate like a
modern corporate <javascript:loadBrain('Corporate')>
 system <javascript:loadBrain('system')>, with various operations all
occurring simultaneously throughout the firm, rather than like an old
corporate <javascript:loadBrain('Corporate')> data processing
which forced people to waste time in queues while
waitingaccess<javascript:loadBrain('Access')> to
the company mainframe <javascript:loadBrain('Mainframe')>. Promising huge
increases in the cost effectiveness of computing, parallel
processing<javascript:loadBrain('Parallel%20Processing')> will
cheaply bringsupercomputer <javascript:loadBrain('Supercomputer')> performance
to individuals.

Any one of these breakthroughs alone would not bring the radical advances
that are now in prospect. But all together they will increase
computer<javascript:loadBrain('Computer')> efficiency
by a factor of thousands. Carver
Mead<javascript:loadBrain('Mead,%20Carver')> of
Caltech, a pioneer in all three of these new fields, predicts a 10,000-fold
advance in the cost effectiveness of information
the next ten years. The use of silicon
<javascript:loadBrain('Silicon')> compilers
to create massively parallel chips to perform feats of artificial
intelligence <javascript:loadBrain('Artificial%20intelligence%20(AI)')> will
transform the computer <javascript:loadBrain('Computer')> industry and the
world economy.

An exemplary product of these converging inventions is speech recognition.
Discrete-speech talkwriter technology
<javascript:loadBrain('Technology')> already
commands available vocabularies of nearly one hundred thousand words, active
vocabularies in the tens of thousands,
learning<javascript:loadBrain('Learning')> algorithms
that adapt to specific accents, and operating speeds of over 40 words per
minute. To achieve this speed and
capacity<javascript:loadBrain('Capacity')> combined
with the ability to recognize continuous speech on conventional
computer<javascript:loadBrain('Computer')> architectures
would require some four hundred
 (millions of instructions per
Yet the new speech-recognition gear will operate through personal computers
and will cost only some $5000. That is just $15.00 per
. IBM <javascript:loadBrain('International%20Business%20Machines%20(IBM)')>
charge some $150,000 per
and the most efficient general-purpose small computers charge some $3,000
per MIPS<javascript:loadBrain('Millions%20of%20Instructions%20Per%20Second%20(MIPS)')>.
By using parallel chips adapted specifically to process the enigmatic onrush
of human speech, these machines can increase the cost effectiveness of
computing by a factor of hundreds.

The talkwriter is only one of hundreds of such products. Coming technologies
will increase the efficiency of computer
<javascript:loadBrain('Computer')> simulation
by a factor of thousands, radically enhance the effectiveness of
machine<javascript:loadBrain('Machine')> vision,
create dramatically improved modes of music
provide new advances in surgical prosthesis, open a world of
information<javascript:loadBrain('Information')> to
individuals anywhere in the world, all at prices unimaginable as recently as
three years ago. As prices decline, the new
information<javascript:loadBrain('Information')> systems
inevitably became personal technologies, used and extended by individuals
with personal computers.

With an increasing stress on software <javascript:loadBrain('Software')> and
design rather than on hardware <javascript:loadBrain('Hardware')>and
materials, the computer <javascript:loadBrain('Computer')> industry
symbolizes the age of information <javascript:loadBrain('Information')>.
Real power and added value in the modern era lies not in things but in
thoughts. The chip is a medium, much like a floppy
a 35-millimeter film, a phonograph record, a video cassette, a compact disk,
or even a book. All of these devices cost a few dollars to make; all sell
for amounts determined by the value of their contents: the concepts and
images they bear. What is important is not the medium but the message.

Microchip entrepreneur <javascript:loadBrain('Entrepreneur')> Jerry Sanders
once declared that semiconductors would be "the oil of the eighties." Some
analysts now fear that giant companies will conspire to cartelize chip
production as OPEC once monopolized oil. They predict that by dominating
advanced manufacturing technology <javascript:loadBrain('Technology')> and
supplies, a few firms will gain the keys to the kingdom ofartificial
intelligence <javascript:loadBrain('Artificial%20intelligence%20(AI)')> and
other information <javascript:loadBrain('Information')> technologies. Yet
unlike oil which is a substance extracted from sand,
semiconductor<javascript:loadBrain('Semiconductor')> technologies
are written on sand, and their substance is ideas. To say that huge
conglomerates will take over the
information<javascript:loadBrain('Information')> industry
because they have the most efficient chip factories or the purest
silicon<javascript:loadBrain('Silicon')> is
like saying that the Canadians will dominate world literature because they
have the tallest trees.

Contrary to all the fears and prophecies, the new technologies allow
entrepreneurs to economize on capital and enhance its efficiency, mixing
sand and ideas to generate new wealth <javascript:loadBrain('Wealth')> and
opportunity for men and women anywhere in the world. The chief effect can be
summed up in a simple maxim, a hoary cliche:
knowledge<javascript:loadBrain('Knowledge')> is
power. Most people agree that this statement conveys an important truth.
Today, however, knowledge <javascript:loadBrain('Knowledge')> is not simply
a source of power; it is supremely *the* source of power. The difference is
crucial. If knowledge <javascript:loadBrain('Knowledge')> is power in this
vital sense, it means that other things are not power. The other things that
no longer confer power, or radically less power than before, include all the
goals and dreams of all the tyrants and despots of the centuries: power over
natural resources, territory, military
<javascript:loadBrain('Military')> manpower,
national taxes, trade surpluses, and national currencies.

In an age when men can inscribe new worlds on grains of sand, particular
territories have lost their economic significance. Not only are the natural
resources under the ground rapidly declining in relative value, but the
companies and capital above the ground can easily pick up and leave. Capital
markets are now global; funds can move around the world, rush down fiber
optic cables, and bounce off satellites at near the speed of light.
People-scientists, workers, and entrepreneurs-can leave at the speed of a
747, or even a Concorde. Companies can move in weeks. Ambitious men no
longer stand still to be fleeced or exploited by bureaucrats.

The computer <javascript:loadBrain('Computer')> age is the epoch of the
individual <javascript:loadBrain('Individual')> and family. Governments
cannot take power by taking control or raising taxes, by mobilizing men or
heaping up trade surpluses, by seizing territory or stealing
In the modern world even slaves are useless: they enslave their owners to
systems of poverty <javascript:loadBrain('Poverty')> and decline. The new
source of national wealth <javascript:loadBrain('Wealth')> is the
freedom<javascript:loadBrain('Freedom')> of
creative individuals in control of information
This change is not merely a gain for a few advanced industrial states. All
the world will benefit from the increasing impotence of imperialism,
mercantilism, and statism. All the world will benefit from the replacement
of the zero-sum game of territorial conflict with the rising spirals of gain
from the diffusion of ideas. Ideas are not used up as they are used; they
spread power as they are shared. Ideas begin as subjective events and always
arise in individual <javascript:loadBrain('Individual')> minds and
ultimately repose in them. The movement toward an information
economy<javascript:loadBrain('Information%20Economy')> inevitably
means a movement toward a global economy of individuals and families.
Collective institutions will survive only to the extent that they can serve
the men and women who comprise them.

All the theories of the computer <javascript:loadBrain('Computer')> as an
instrument <javascript:loadBrain('Instrument')> of oppression misunderstand
these essential truths of the technology<javascript:loadBrain('Technology')>.
In the information <javascript:loadBrain('Information')>age, nations cannot
gain strength by coercing and taxing their citizens. To increase their
power, governments must reduce their powers and emancipate their people on
the frontiers of the age of intelligent


Book review on Lawrence Lessig back in 2001:

Internet liberation theology*In "The Future of Ideas" Lawrence Lessig
explains why ham-handed efforts to increase copyright protection are a
threat to freedom and prosperity.*

*By Marc Rotenberg*

Nov. 07, 2001 | A generation ago, a communications scholar named Ithiel de
Sola Pool wrote "Technologies of Freedom: On Free Speech in an Electronic
Age." Pool's book, which quickly became required reading in graduate
seminars, predicted a future of interconnected computers. Pool imagined a
world where government would no longer license carriage, as it did with the
telephone companies, or content, as it did with the broadcasters. The world
of networked computers would become the platform for new forms of commerce
and new types of publication.

Pool also predicted that established players would resist this change. They
would turn to market power, existing laws and new theories of copyright to
protect their vested interests. Government officials, even with the best of
intentions, would also gum up the works with outdated policies and an
inability to understand change. The future would be delayed, Pool warned, if
the regulators and the regulated had their way.

Lawrence Lessig, a Stanford law professor, picks up this story of the
present resisting the future in "The Future of Ideas: The Fate of the
Commons in a Connected World," a highly readable and deeply engaging sequel
to his "Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace." In "The Future of Ideas,"
Lessig, who is perhaps most famous for his brief
tenure<> as
a court-appointed "special master" in the Microsoft antitrust trial, also
sees dominant players exercising control through the law, technical
standards and political might to resist the change that might otherwise take

But unlike de Sola Pool, Lessig has seen a better future, which turns out
also to be our recent past. He urges the Internet generation not to forget
what made the last 10 years exciting: an open platform that did not
discriminate among applications or content, an environment for creativity
and innovation, a public commons for an information age. In a word: the
Internet. And instead of calling for the removal of regulation to encourage
freedom, he recommends that there is a place for some regulation, if we want
to preserve liberty.

In "The Future of Ideas" Lessig argues that future prosperity is impossible
without the freedom to innovate -- but that freedom is under attack by
vested interests. Lessig's effort to bind innovation to prosperity is as big
an idea, perhaps, as Adam Smith's rebuke to the mercantilists in "The Wealth
of Nations." Although free-market capitalists look to Smith as their
intellectual fountainhead, Smith was not battling the yet-to-be-born Karl
Marx in the latter part of the 18th century. He took aim at those who
believed that a nation's prosperity could be measured by the gold it
acquired. Prosperity, Smith reasoned, was an ongoing process.

Lessig offers a similar insight about the information economy at the turn of
the 21st century. Prosperity requires progress and progress requires
innovation. But while some intellectual property theorists and the
shareholders of Disney may favor the extension of intellectual property
rights into the infinite future, the long-term impact of an economic system
that piles high property rights, while burying the intellectual commons that
makes progress possible, could be that all new forms of production grind to
a halt.

Which may actually be the aim of the major media companies. Copyright law,
for example, has become the silly putty of media attorneys and Washington
lobbyists, stretched in space and time to protect all manner of activity,
including business techniques and technological protocols that were probably
not the kinds of things initially envisioned by the framers of copyright
law. The original purpose of copyright law, to promote publication, has
apparently been lost in the rush to the courthouse, or to Geneva, where the
World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) continues to extend property
claims to ever more forms of innovations.

Of course, copyright isn't the only domain in which the networking giants of
today seek control. They also seek mastery of the pipes through which
digital information flows. Unlike the common carriers -- railways, telephone
companies and others -- who took all comers on a nondiscriminatory basis,
the providers of new communications services may be less inclined to connect
you to the Web sites of their competitors, or sell you their products. Or
maybe their own Web pages will simply be easier to find.

Lessig's discussion of levels of control in the information ecology follows
from the work of NYU communications scholar Yochai Benkler. Benkler
described the Internet as a multitiered environment consisting of an
underlying physical layer (the wires), a logical layer (the protocols) and
the content (the Web pages you view, the cable programming you receive). At
each level, Lessig notes how the balance is tilting increasingly from
freedom to control. And while control is necessary to create incentive,
establish markets and encourage investment, too much control squashes

Lessig tells well the story of how the recording industry set out to stop
both MP3 and Napster. Reading the daily papers one might think that these
companies were high-tech pirates raiding the vaults of the music industry.
But MP3 is nothing more than a file-compression technique, a way to move
audio data across a communication channel where bandwidth is limited. And
Napster, which propelled the 19-year-old Shawn Fawning to the cover of
BusinessWeek, is based on a popular form of network architecture known as
"peer-to-peer." The huge threat posed by file-compression techniques and
networking standards to a multibillion-dollar industry may say more about
the fragility of certain business models than it does about the dangers of
new technology.

Lessig's argument is compelling at many levels. It is as good a history of
the development of Internet architecture as one is likely to find in a book
without pictures. It is also an extraordinarily skillful interweaving of
technical characterization and legal argument. And it is a story well told,
with a fair balance of clever aside and clear purpose. Lessig wants to
engage the reader in a conversation about the future of the Internet. This
is not an argument that succeeds with diatribe. It is an argument that is
undertaken in half-steps and appropriate acknowledgement of competing
claims. Lessig works overtime to assure the reader that his argument for a
public commons incorporates the concerns of conservative jurists and
free-market theorists. Lessig is even reluctant to criticize directly the
software giants and the architects of the controlled future, noting that
they have obligations to stockholders.

In "Technologies of Freedom," de Sola Pool, writing after the extensive FCC
rulings of the 1970s, concluded that future networks would best be preserved
by avoiding government regulation, and turned instead to a First Amendment
view of publication associated with the print media that kept government on
the sidelines. It was Pool's famous taxonomy of media that was in the minds
of civil liberties groups when they argued to the Supreme Court that the
Internet should be given the same protection as print publications. "Print
plus," as one of the judges described the emerging world of the Internet,
captured the model that those who favored an unfettered Internet sought.

Lessig, writing in a period when private actors increasingly make the rules,
concludes that there is a role for government in safeguarding the future.
But this is not an argument for regulation per se. Lessig frequently turns
to hybrid models that recognize a role for both markets and public commons,
and that encourage experimentation. Spectrum, for example, could host both
large broadcasters and low-power radio. Markets work well, Lessig tells us,
when the uses are known. But where technology undergoes rapid change, then
the assignment of a property interest may be premature. The wisdom of the
early designers of the Internet, Lessig says, was in being humble enough to
understand that the future of the network was still unknown. By keeping the
platform open and allowing innovation at the endpoints, the future was not

Lessig is particularly skeptical of property regimes that allow rights
holders to sit on rights, such as the endlessly extended copyright limits
that bear little relationship today to their Constitutional origins. He
adopts the recommendation of intellectual property scholar Jessica Litman
that copyright terms be significantly shortened and that rights holders be
required to obtain renewals. This proposal should appeal to both those who
favor a robust public domain in the abstract and the efficient allocation of
resources in the short-term. And if anyone still cares, it is probably
closer to the intent of the copyright clause in the Constitution.

Many of Lessig's other proposals -- limiting imposed contracts, promoting a
public domain, removing barriers to innovation -- follow sensibly from his
analysis. One could imagine a Congress prepared to preserve innovation in
the emerging electronic environment beyond the reach of special-interest
lobbyists and the financial pressures of modern politics. But that Congress
is not the one that has repeatedly told the public the Internet "can't be
regulated" to protect public interests, such as privacy or consumer
interests, while simultaneously uncovering ever more creative regulation to
preserve private interest. The No Electronic Theft Act, the Digital
Millennium Copyright Act, the Copyright Term Extension Act and the Uniform
Computer Information Transaction Act are just a few of the clever ways that
legislators have found to regulate that which cannot be regulated. Lessig is
well aware of this history, but rightly argues that it remains the
responsibility of public officials and public agencies to consider how best
to protect the interests of the, well, public.

The timing of Lessig's book could hardly be more auspicious. It appeared the
week that Microsoft announced the release of Windows XP, the new operating
system, and the Department of Justice and the world's largest software
manufacturer reached a tentative agreement on their long-running antitrust
litigation. If the debate over the future of Microsoft moves out of the
courts, then it will fall back to Congress and the states to consider what
to make of a world where a small number of very large companies determine
what the rest of us may do in the new electronic environment.

Though I lodged a serious complaint, in an article for the Stanford Law
Review, about Lessig's treatment of privacy issues in his earlier "Code and
Other Laws of Cyberspace," I have few quibbles here. I continue to suspect
that the rapid growth of identification systems, such as Microsoft's
Passport, will enable the type of extended control over the intellectual
commons that Lessig fears. The protection of privacy, or, more precisely,
resistance to the compelled disclosure of identity to read books, listen to
music or watch video in the digital world, still offers the public a
critical counterbalance to the ever growing architecture of control. But
there is nothing in Lessig's argument here that discounts that possibility.
It is simply not addressed.

More generally, it might be said of Lessig's worldview that it is so
Internet-centric that one forgets a very similar enthusiasm for innovation
that characterized the rise of personal computers in the late 1970s and the
early 1980s. The pioneers in those days, like the heroes of Lessig's
Internet history, wrote code freely, swapped software and made cool stuff.
They operated BBSs (Bulletin Board Systems), created shareware and freeware
and sent e-mail across old-fashioned telephone wires using acoustic couplers
and computers with names like Apple II, Kaypro 10 and TRS-80. A law
professor who needed a program to add footnotes to his word processor simply
wrote it. The old view that production required capital and factories gave
way to a new belief that innovation could take place in a garage or on a
kitchen table.

In time, companies such as Microsoft either acquired or drove out many of
the smaller players. But while the software industry shakedown moved
forward, the public was transfixed by the rapid emergence of the Internet
and a new era of creativity. It could be that in the steady march today
toward the cable companies' "walled garden" and the software giant's ".NET
platform," there are the early indicators of a new revolution, what the
business folks sometimes call "disruptive technologies."

But there is also reason to believe that the cycle of innovation and
consolidation may not continue endlessly. As more of the commons -- as more
of the intellectual material of innovation -- is controlled, the opportunity
for new forms of production is diminished. The monopolies of today sweep
more broadly than the monopolies of the past. Mr. Ford may have controlled
the auto industry, but he did not control the nation's roads. This is the
warning in Lessig's masterly exploration of the history of the Internet and
the future of innovation.


The book entitled Human Rights in the International Public
William Over defines liberation technologies in the following way:

> Sotsisowah's (1981) thesis was typical of the American indigenous approach:
>  "The development of liberation technologies, many of which already exist
> but have been largely ignored by the political movements (even the
> anti-colonial political movements) are a necessary part of the
> decolonization process.  Liberation technologies are those technologies
> which can be implemented by a specific people in a specific locality and
> which free those people from dependency upon multinational corporations and
> the governments which multinational corporations control.  Liberation
> technologies are those which meet people's needs within the parameters
> defined by the cultures which they themselves created (or create), and which
> have no dependency on the world marketplace.  Windmills can be a form of
> liberation technology, as can water wheels, solar collectors, bio-mass
> plants, woodlots, underground home construction -- the list is very long."

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