With all due respect to Anonymous and 4Chan, most of the several dozen Rules of the Internet are trite, glib, or silly, even when they are true. And with respect to the so-called “Laws of the Internet,” Godwin, Skitt, Poe, DeMyer, Cohen, Danth, Scopie, and Pommer likewise offer us little in the way of gravitas–you know, the dark scepter-like cynicism that is much more tangible in 2013 than it was in 2003, back when the internet was wholly convenient and never particularly scary, once you considered Rule 29 (on the internet, all girls are men, and all kids are undercover FBI agents or Perverted Justice Decoys).
So, since all laws need continual refreshing that is generally more comprehensive and thoughtful than this example,
“30. There are NO girls on the internet.
30.1. Rule 30 only applies to the deep internet.
30.2. If girls are found on the deep internet, CODE RED, RED ALERT, ALL SYSTEMS BREACHED!”,
I propose a new set of internet rules that I shall heretofore refer to as Amendments to the internet. None of these are particularly funny, as the internet isn’t funny anymore, now that Obama and Keith Alexander in the NSA are working so hard to radicalize every thinking thing in the U.S. that understands that laws and ethics don’t overlap 100% of the time. I mean, what did Angela Merkel fucking think? Our government treats every person in the U.S. like a criminal, citizen or not, so why did she think she’d be handled any differently?
So, here’s what I have so far:
1. Increasingly, everything that is true about the internet will be true about technoindustrial human culture.
Since everything that can be said about culture can also be said about language, and the internet is the prime medium through which this language is flowing, it will eventually become language itself. As it does this what will be true of the internet will also be true for us. Likewise, these Amendments will adhere more and more to human culture and not just the internet as time progresses.
2. “Free” hasn’t been free since 2003.
Someone gets something from every “free” service you’ve used at least since then. If you find out what they’ve been getting, you’ll realize there’s no such thing as “free.”
3. If you can’t opt out of a feature you don’t want, someone in power is insisting you have it.
That camera in your laptop that you never use and shouldn’t have had to pay for because you’re not a Skyper is there because the entrenched power structure has mandated that you leave yourself vulnerable to creepy hackers that want to look at you undetected. The EDR in your car that you don’t want to buy, either, is there to fuck over any creative explanations you may one day need to use to explain an accident to your auto insurance carrier.
4. The internet is less useful than you think.
When placed in a room of the right books, any literate person can do research faster offline. In exchange for access to more information, we have to winnow through mountains of utter crap and give up our privacy in order to have the “privilege” to do it. If the big five (Google, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Yahoo) take a pee squirt more of our personal information, they’ll be able to steal our identities and the whole internet will be moot.
5. The internet is not for you.
Did you ever wonder why the deep internet makes up about 80% of the information on the whole internet, or more, yet you never use the deep internet? Wait. Who uses the deep internet? What are they doing on it?
6. The same search algorithms that help you find EXACTLY what you’re looking for also tell Google what you’re trying to invent BEFORE you invent it.
And why wouldn’t they? You’ve often wondered how the search algorithm that Google uses can be so tight that it seems to read your mind, so it’s probably safe to assume that it can.
7. Given the opportunity, many people will surveil themselves because they find it “convenient.”
All those photos you uploaded of yourself to Facebook with your picture taken from multiple angles are training facial recognition software systems to one day be so robust that public street cameras will be able to send a list of names to a computer whenever people walk by them. I guarantee you this technology will do more harm than good. Also, the caller-ID devices of the late ’90’s and early 2000’s were exactly the kind of pen devices that the FBI used to have to go through the FISA court to get a judge’s order to place on your phone line, pre Patriot Act. People actually paid $30-50 to waive this right because it kept them from having to leave a pad of paper and a pencil by the phone.
8. The cloud is not your friend.
Just as the search engine can be used to steal your intellectual property, so can the cloud. Once again, see Amendment #2. There’s a reason why Prezi makes you pay to have your shit kept private.
9. A free internet can be just as scary and dystopian as a totalitarian one.
Now with the most recent Snowden revelations, China can say to the U.S. “OK, we see why you’ve let American citizens do whatever they want on the internet all this time. So you can spy on them.” Which is more scary, a nation whose people can’t tell the difference between The Onion and a legitimate news outfit, or the wealthiest and most powerful nation on Earth assuming that every single digital communication on the entire planet could potentially be taking place between enemies of the state? I know which of those two nations is far less likely to turn the world into a pile of rubble.
10. No technological “solution” ever works as well as the real thing once did.
For example, porn and wanking. The real thing was always better than wanking, regardless of whether the porn was digital or from a glossy magazine. Mobile phones still don’t make calls as clearly and reliably as land lines. Styluses suck compared to pencils. Quartz watches don’t run as long as automatics, and sundials never actually break. Our first truly human technology was probably fire, and the last time I checked, it can still pretty much trump every other technology eventually.
So, keep your eyes peeled, because Amendment 11 will probably be about how the singularity surrounds us in a sea of insect-like spy robots, like in Neuromancer. I’ll fill you in about this later, when I have more time to disparage the leader of the free world.