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The Magic Kingdom: Maximal Autonomy or Remote Control Creche?

Peter Biddle, Microsoft
Cory Doctorow, Canada-US Fulbright Chair, Annenberg Center on Public Diplomacy, University of Southern California

Date: Tuesday, March 27
Time: 4:20pm - 5:05pm
Location: Douglas B

Twenty years ago, the PC, and then the Web, promised a newly minted digerati--a future world where anyone could scratch any digital itch. Computers obeyed users, did our bidding, and started to become expressions of our personalities. For many of us, computers became the hot rods of this new age. Code is our cutting torch and UI our high-gloss paint.

This dynamic and creative environment spawned new business models where we found ways to deliver solutions that enabled other people to share in this new world. An entire economy crawled out of the primordial soup to create a whole new ecosystem. New business models made a new kind of creativity viable, a creativity not seen since the days of itinerant artists, one without middlemen or gatekeepers, but rather one where creative people have direct access customers.

Why sell goods, when you can sell a service? Why not assume that your biggest competition is some derivation on your own product?

Call it the Maximal Autonomy future.

However, there were dark sides to this new ecosystem. While some of the apex-predators of the old economy thrived, some older predators have struggled or fallen to other, newly powerful forces. The boundaries of ownership–boundaries which have been taken for granted for over a century–have blurred. This blurring inspired some of the digerati–a splinter group of hackers, security experts, and cryptographers–to conceive of a different utopia: a world in which users can cede partial control over their PC’s to third parties who manage it for them, brokering deals where they trade some rights in exchange for others.

Call it the Remote Control Creche future.

Maximal Autonomy and Remote Control Creche are violently colliding today. What might they look like tomorrow? What magical services might be offered in a perfect marketplace for infinitely divisible digital goods? Managed PCs, managed security--managed rights! What magical copy-native business models might emerge, if computers hew to responding only to their users? Bands and authors and filmmakers that embrace copying, and technology companies that capitalize on the pool of open content?

Talk will be two 15-minute presentations, followed by 15 minutes' of Q&A.