Liquid networks are on my mind today. That is the second chapter from "Where Good Ideas Come From" but my mind strays, perhaps serendipitously away from the book. The variety and diversity of social and business networks that are fostered by the internet these days blows my mind. I feel like Darwin standing on a coral reef and seeing the variety of life thriving there.
I once thought, 'Hey if an Internet Service Provider (ISP) wants to manage it's content and keep some people off and provide access to others, it's their business, let them do it.' But that is not how the internet works. The reason the five person panel of the FCC is in a position to enforce or dismiss the net neutrality rules that have developed over time is because, the internet is considered by law and most folks, as a public utility. That is why only a handful of ISPs are granted the privilege of being able to control access to the internet. That is why those companies get exclusive franchises to operate in a specific area. Similar to a radio station, but more like the water company or department of a city.
If there was a robust market of Internet Providers, citizens could shop around. Like radio stations, we could tune into the one we thought provided the best Internet Service. But there is usually just one, in some big markets two, internet provider in any given metropolitan area. Just one. To let that company decide that they can charge whatever they want, require customers to purchase certain features that they might not want in order to get features they do want is not in the public interest.
Yes, I think public servants should work in the public interest. They are appointed to do what is in the best interest of the American public. I understand that there is plenty of room for honest people to disagree on what is best for the citizenry of the nation, but I think establishing government sponsored monopolies on local communication is objectively not in the best interest of 'we the people.'
Also if we're simply focusing on the principles listed in Johnson's book, getting rid of net neutrality would go against the principle of "Liquid Networks." The internet enables ideas to mix and mingle. Not just ideas that are good for a few industry giants, but lots of idea. Yes, some very bad ideas too. Those things tend to sort themselves out. Like one flat earther said, "There are flat earthers all around the globe!" I think he might have followed the word globe with four or five exclamation points for emphasis.
Coffee shops were the internet of the enlightenment. People could mix and talk and sober up. One of the issues with water is that without our modern purification techniques, it made people sick. So generally, every one drank alcohol, even kids. Coffee used boiled water and is considered by most a stimulant, if not an essential, or a nootropic drug. In any case, it is the mixing of ideas that is important. So, duh, the internet. I plug 1 Million Cups a lot, but for entrepreneurs, especially veteran entrepreneurs, it's a great source for coffee ... I mean, business ideas, contacts, conversations, networking, and connecting.
Again focusing on "Where Good Ideas Come From" the idea of liquid networks is important to creating environments where good ideas can thrive. When I was young, I said to my father, 'I have an idea' to which he replied, "Treat it kindly, it's in strange territory." At five or so, it took me a couple of seconds to catch that right. But, my father went on to cultivate that remark into a lesson. All new ideas are in new territory and just like giving directions to a friend, they are more likely to arrive at your house and if treated kindly more likely to stay. So good ideas need to be cultivated and encouraged.
Places where discussion is encouraged, where people can recover from mistakes, where information flows well, these are the places where ideas are cultivated, grown, and harvested. This is true for business, charity, military, government, relationships, and pretty much any human organization. Having the internet broadly and generally available to people helps transmit good ideas through out our society. So while Johnson's bo!ok does not cover the timely issue of net neutrality, it does provide concrete evidence in support of keeping the internet open to the public.