Does the death of Aaron Swartz, the 26 year-old founder of Reddit, and one of the developers of the RSS web feed format, represent the challenges we face in the early emergence of an economy of the SYSTEMIC value-system? Swartz was the typical representative of the healthy Egalitarian vMEME that characterizes the knowledge economy. It is based on the democratization of everything that has emerged in the information age. From the democratization of information itself, to the democratization of the means of production, this vMEME believed in informing and distributing resources equally. These are values based on economies of abundance where sharing, collaboration and open source define its core values. Its disruptive nature is making traditional Orange obsolete with every passing day.
In the last few years, Swartz tried to knock down more barriers to the old proprietary Strategic Enterprise vMEME by hacking into MIT’s servers and downloading millions of academic papers making them available to the public. In a world where the Regulatory vMEME might have evolved with the times, this wouldn’t have been a problem, as these papers would have invited the input and collaboration of scientists and programmers through the phenomena of crowd sourcing and created new technologies for all of us to share. But, alas, the Justice Department didn’t see it that way, and vigorously pursued Swartz’s prosecution, which resulted in his suicide.
The obvious question is how do we design a new laws that can accommodate the coming complexity while at the same time still preserve old structures like copyright protections. How do we draw balance between proprietary discoveries and the drive to democratize everything that is digitizable?