Jonathan Zittrain on The Future of the Internet and How To Stop It

Topic: Jonathan Zittrain on The Future of the Internet and How To Stop It

Jonathan Zittrain: It's been kicking around for about five or ten years, and part of what inspired me was the sense that the medium in which we swim, technologically speaking, is about to change. We can feel hints of that change coming, and so much of it has been with us for so long, that we don’t even notice it's there, even though a lot of what we love about the IT revolution is premised on it.

Question: What inspired you to write The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It?

Jonathan Zittrain: There were a couple key moments. I think everybody can remember one or two internet phenomena, or technological phenomena, that when they saw it demoed, they were like, "Wow, I want one," or, "This changes everything." In that sense, I remember the first time I saw TiVo. I remember the first time I saw Instant Messenger, as a desktop, mainstream app, rather than as a UNIX application running on a mainframe that very few people knew about. Each time I would see a different shoe drop with a new application, it would either reinforce in me the sense of, "Wow, you never know what the internet is going to produce next." I remember the first time I saw Napster in operation. I had been asked to have a view on Napster before I actually used it, and I had found out how it worked, and realized you could use it to exchange files and music and things like that. I though, you know, well, on the one hand, on the other hand. Then I saw it in operation and I was like, "This is so illegal. There's no way this thing is legal." So sometimes you see the new app and you say, "Wow, what kind of egg is the internet going to lay next? It's just like so unpredictable." And then sometimes you see a new application or a new technology, and you say, "Wow, who knew you could take something that had been fuzzy or rough and smooth it over and package it so brilliantly?" And Apple gives us a lot of those moments. The iPod where, to this day, there are people with regular old mp3 players who are like, "I don't see the big deal. I can spend half the money and get at least as much of the functionality, but it's not an iPod." And others, who say, "No, the iPod is what introduced those people to music in a portable way beyond the Walkman." And the iPhone and things like that. So in my own head, I think, I started to see some tension between the really spiffy, aesthetically pleasing, fully functional but not going to surprise you beyond the initial novelty appliance, on the one hand, and the more geeky, boxy, unpredictable chaotic internet and PC on the other hand.

 

Recorded on: 3/8/08

We can feel hints of change coming, Zittrain says.

Is it ethical to pay people to get vaccinated?

It could lead to a massive uptake in those previously hesitant.

Ian Forsyth/Getty Images
Coronavirus

A financial shot in the arm could be just what is needed for Americans unsure about vaccination.

Keep reading Show less

Every 27.5 million years, the Earth’s heart beats catastrophically

Geologists discover a rhythm to major geologic events.

Credit: desertsolitaire/Adobe Stock
Surprising Science
  • It appears that Earth has a geologic "pulse," with clusters of major events occurring every 27.5 million years.
  • Working with the most accurate dating methods available, the authors of the study constructed a new history of the last 260 million years.
  • Exactly why these cycles occur remains unknown, but there are some interesting theories.
Keep reading Show less

Massive 'Darth Vader' isopod found lurking in the Indian Ocean

The father of all giant sea bugs was recently discovered off the coast of Java.

SJADE 2018
Surprising Science
  • A new species of isopod with a resemblance to a certain Sith lord was just discovered.
  • It is the first known giant isopod from the Indian Ocean.
  • The finding extends the list of giant isopods even further.
Keep reading Show less

Galactic wind from early universe detected

Researchers discovered a galactic wind from a supermassive black hole that sheds light on the evolution of galaxies.

Credit: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)
Surprising Science
  • A new study finds the oldest galactic wind yet detected, from 13.1 billion years ago.
  • The research confirms the theory that black holes and galaxies evolve together.
  • The galactic wind was spotted using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array in Chile.
Keep reading Show less
Quantcast