I kept WordPress’s default title for this first blog post because I felt it appropriate. Any coder knows that, when you start learning a new programming language for the first time, you are taught to write a “Hello World” program. This typically consists of learning how to run the operating system or install the components of the compiler more than actually learning to use the programming language itself, but in order to use the programming language, it’s necessary to first know how to use the system. The same applies in Cyberspace. To effectively regulate Cyberspace, it’s necessary to first understand the current Operating System.
For engineers, the Law can be a daunting place. When I say “engineers”, I’m referring to anyone from the “coders” to the “hackers” to the “makers”; those who are creating something. Many Internet communities of engineers have taken a stance by self-identifying as “hackers” in an effort to changing the word’s meaning into an empowering term, but the term as it stands continues to evoke fear in many “lay” people.
The only differentiation I make between the “coders”, “hackers”, and “makers” is that “coders” only write code – magical letters and numbers which a compiler translates to 1’s and 0’s – that is the very foundation of Internet, the Apps, etc, that “lay” people so often take for granted. But I do not differentiate between the “hackers” and the “makers”. While “makers” traditionally were those who were building something up, and “hackers” tore something down, taking something apart is often necessary for progress, and the “hackers” of today are not all evil.
The “hackers” may tear down, but when it’s “hacking for good” (a phrase I’m personally a fan of), they, in fact, are the “makers”. They create something new. I do not intend to protect the hackers who are tearing down just to tear down, or in fact are hacking to cause harm. Those are the hackers that the Law does need to find a way to prosecute.
For the Law, and the people who make it – politicians; lawyers; policy-makers – that is constant, seemingly impossible challenge. For the Internet presents before-now unfathomable legal issues, and the Law is tied to precedent which often seems inapplicable to Cyberspace. The Law fears the engineers, assuming that they are all hackers: destroying the system; one solder, one line of code at a time. Those who make the Law run the gambit as far as their technology knowledge, but too often it is those who do not comprehend the intricacies of modern technology who regulate it. It is this disconnect between engineers and the Law which most affects lay people. For the purposes of this blog, “lay” people are those who have no experience with engineering or the Law.
“Lay” people, are the ones for whom the Internet is perhaps the most daunting. Many do not bother to scrutinize the undeniable affect the Internet has had on our world, they simply accept the change and enjoy their new toys. When the Law is disconnected, lay people do not realize when their actions begin to rise to the level of “hacking for evil” prosecutable by badly written regulation. Or, in the reverse, lay people find themselves without recourse when the Law fails to protect them against harm which occurs in Cyberspace, rather than “real space” (the physical world).
This first blog piece is my “Hello World!”, that is, my first attempt at running a program that bridges the disconnect between the engineers, the Law, and the lay people. To bridge that gap – or run my programs – I rely on what I understand about the Operating System. I base my understanding on what I have learned about engineering, the Law, and what lay people understand about the two. You, my readers, are the compilers. You will have to let me know whether the programs (my blog pieces) effectively run on the Operating System, or whether they need to be debugged. My programs, of course, will have to shift and change in an effort to better compile. I will have to clarify terms and find alternative ways to explain issues. But I look forward to the challenge.