Lawrence Lessig: Code, 2006

About a decade ago, in the mid-1990s, just about the time when this post-communist euphoria was beginning to wane, there emerged in the West another “new society,” to many just as exciting as the new societies promised in post-communist Europe. This was the Internet, or as I’ll define a bit later, “cyberspace.” First in universities and centers of research, and then throughout society in general, cyberspace became a new target for libertarian utopianism. Here freedom from the state would reign. If not in Moscow or Tblisi, then in cyberspace would we find the ideal libertarian society.

The catalyst for this change was likewise unplanned. Born in a research project in the Defense Department, cyberspace too arose from the unplanned displacement of a certain architecture of control. The tolled, single-purpose network of telephones was displaced by the untolled and multipurpose network of packet-switched data. And thus the old one-to-many architectures of publishing (television, radio, newspapers, books) were complemented by a world in which anyone could become a publisher. People could communicate and associate in ways that they had never done before. The space seemed to promise a kind of society that real space would never allow—freedom without anarchy, control without government, consensus without power. In the words of a manifesto that defined this ideal: “We reject: kings, presidents and voting. We believe in: rough consensus and running code.”

Lessig, Lawrence. Code. New York, NY: Basic Books, 2006