Consent and the 'Digital Norm'

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As many of y'all know, I'm an electrical engineer. I do circuits and computers and a little bit of technology (though it's funny because I don't know as much as most electrical engineers), but as much as I want to innovate it, I'm not always in favor of innovation. 

Yes, I know that the world is moving towards a more innovative society, but with the onset of new technology, I find that more and more you see this idea of 'big brother' being discussed and that naturally there has been a hierarchy that has persisted in light of this -- an ever-changing balance that continues to shift as we digitize the world around us. 

I'd like to talk about this balance, from the perspective of a worried electrical engineer and avid reader of certain public policy. 

So without further ado, let's talk about what I mean by consent and the digital norm. 


It's no secret that as the current technology boom continues to explode, there are holes. If you are doubting me on this, I suggest you go watch part one and two of the game theory video about watchdogs and what it means in terms of our digital world. It's an additional supplement to the point I'm about to make and the issue I'm trying to grapple with. 

I'm curious if many of us can really think of a time without the internet, without Facebook, without YouTube. I know I can't. I can remember the first time I saw a YouTube video. It was a video of the Lipizzaner Stallions in London that my father wanted to show me because he wanted me to see what we were going to experience on vacation. I still remember when he was like "This is YouTube, it's primarily used as an educational source to help you learn about things." 

Whoopdie do how much that statement has changed. 


The internet has changed a lot over time, and the problem that we're hitting now is that other things that help regulate this, like the law, are not. 

The law is slow. It was designed to be slow, because it's what helps regulate a nation state and is an expression of their values.  It's like a castle, built brick by brick, each brick being a logical conclusion of the next. And to undo those bricks, it's difficult. You have to push at the foundation, prove that the gravel is not cemented, and even then one setback can set you back a long time. After all, did you know it took over half a decade for lobbyists to undo Plessy v. Ferguson? (If you're curious look up the date of the case, it was in the 1800s whereas Brown v. Board of Education didn't happen until much later). 

That's an issue when the internet is like a stream -- fast, changing, and entirely unpredictable. 

The law has not caught up to the internet. Innovation is happening so fast, and on such a large scale that a law made 10 years ago might certainly not be relevant today. Think back to a decade ago (for me that was when I was in middle school) and think of some things that were definitely not the same as they were now. Now imagine applying that to the slow building of the law, which has the same foundation of going back to Ancient Greece (at least it does in America). Imagine trying to apply something that was relevant a decade ago to today. Think of how much you and your morals as a person have changed since that time. 

The law cannot regulate the internet, in my opinion.  

The internet is too fast and too changing to be regulated by public policy. Not to mention, that the needs of the government for people who understand this innovation cannot be met at the present moment. For jobs in technology sectors, it's all too common for them to be asking for more experience than qualified people can provide. Do you think I would have over a decade worth of government service, as someone who could be hired to program in C? Spoiler alert, I don't. 

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