SOPA: The Meek Shall Inherit The Earth

Imagine for a second the dawn of the New World. Imagine the Massachusetts coastline creeping into view for a passenger aboard the Mayflower. Imagine that tired and hungry he lifted his eyes to gaze upon the vast stretch of land before him. I imagine that “for a transitory enchanted moment he must have held his breath in the presence of this continent, compelled into an aesthetic contemplation he neither understood nor desired, face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to his capacity for wonder…”

Today all across the internet, thousands of websites have gone dark in protest of the Stop Online Piracy Act or SOPA. Today thousands of tech leaders of every variety have put their livelihoods on hold in the collective interest of the world wide web. Every so often we become witnesses to history. Maybe once or twice a decade we live through a day that will shape our lives for the years to come. I believe today is one of those days. I believe that today January 18 2012 is the day that the technology industry comes of age.

As Americans we have a form of government like no other. We live in a republic that recognizes that government is a delegation of power by the people for the benefit of society not for the benefit of the few. It is a place where a person’s worth is measured on merit and not on wealth. Where all people are treated equally under the law, are innocent until proven guilty, and where human dignity and autonomy is valued above all else. 

For many years now, forces within our society have struggled mightily to subvert these basic tenets of our democracy. And they have achieved mightily. They have waged battle after battle, fighting a war broad in its scope, and insidious in its realization. And though they may have injected themselves into the soul of our national institutions, they haven’t yet won.

I think it’s clear today that although money may talk, in America, the people talk louder.

The Declaration of Independence says, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness…that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter [it].” This is the spirit that our country was founded on, it and it is in that original spirit that the technology industry is acting today.

40 years ago the world was a different place. Computer geeks stayed up late in garages on both coasts, quietly tinkering with the things they loved. This is when the archetype of the pale meek nerd was born. Reviled as outcasts and lunatics, they shared information freely with each other, forsaking immediate profit for an exponentially increased rate of innovation. Soon some of these pale but principled geeks were rich beyond belief. 

In most industries that is the point at which a culture of sharing and free exchange would have been thrown out the window in the name of the bottom line. But for the first time in history, an industry hit its adolescence and continued to respect its cultural heritage: a tradition of caring, openness, and exchange of information.

Why is it this way? Why do we have thousands of tech companies in the United States who care solely about the experience of their users? Why is the world built on the wonders of open-source software, created not for profit but for the benefit of the collective? Why do programmers stay up late putting little touches on to their products to make their users lives better?

It’s partially because of their cultural heritage. It’s partially because that’s just the way the people in this industry are wired. But it’s also that this cultural heritage is continually reinforced by a strong economic incentive: the power of the click. All a customer has to do to use a competing product is click. It takes less than a second. So the only way for these companies to compete is not to compete for the wallets of their users, it’s to compete for their hearts.

The power of the click means that the technology industry is forever tied to the hearts of its users. And so it is the only industry that has not broken our trust. It has lived up to its billing, and it’s no accident that it is the only industry we have left that still attracts dreamy eyed immigrants from all across the world. It is the last remaining remnant of the industriousness that made America great. 

I see the tech industry as vision for the founding of this country put into action. Democracy is built upon the principle of one man, one vote. Our industry is built upon the principle of one man, one click. And it is these aligning principles that make this industry the single greatest bastion of freedom, hope and independence that this country has. 

That trueness to the core principles of this country is what makes this industry so great. The internet means that for the first time in history the people in the positions of power who wish to do us harm, depend more on us than we depend on them. Our clicks count just as much as our votes.

Soon SOPA, PIPA and other bills of their ilk will be tossed to the curb. The lobbyists, and crooked congressmen who tried to sneak it through our Congress will slink back to their smelly nests on K Street. 

The leaders of the tech industry recognize this.

And that is why today is the day when the coders and designers and entrepreneurs of this country rise up and say enough is enough. That is why today is the day when the nerd fulfills his cultural heritage and takes on the most vile elements of this country. That is why today is the day when truth and love prevail over lies and hate. 

That is why today is the day that the meek shall inherit the earth.

18 Jan 2012, 7:39am | 6 comments


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