.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Tuesday, November 08, 2005


When Code is the Law, Architecture is Politics

I know, I am five years late on this one; but this meme felt so powerful in its implications that nevertheless I had to blog about it.

I found out about this meme while reading Tomorrow Now, an excellent book written by Bruce Sterling. In one of the chapters Sterling talks about the role of the law in the near future and he mentions Lawrence Lessig, an avant-garde political theorist from Stanford university. Lessig wrote a book titled “The Code is the Law”, explaining his theories on intellectual property laws and more in general on the role of law in cyberspace. I found this article and here Lessig mentions the “Architecture is Politics” meme, originally worded by Mitchell Kapor of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

You don’t have to agree with the political views of Kapor or even with Lessig, to appreciate this meme, which describes the meta-context within which rules can be made in the first place.

When we say that the code is the law we mean that in a “space” like the net, where the parameters of reality, action, interaction and communication are configured via software, then the code determines what can and what cannot be done. It’s not as much a matter of establishing ‘soft’ laws in a parliament and then trying to enforce them on people by policing the web, as much as it is a matter of building a software medium within which those laws are hard reality and cannot be circumvented by definition.

You will always have skilled hackers, able to subvert the foundations of a certain software reality, but for the greater majority of people, that code is the law… in an even stronger sense than any ‘soft’ law, whose violations must be reported, monitored, tracked down and punished via the clumsy bureaucracy of law enforcement.

When code defines reality, then code is the law and architecture –the foundation framework of code– is politics.

Comments: Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?