One afternoon while browsing through my RSS reader and the recommended readings for the week I stumbled upon a video that made me sit up and take notice.
I was watching Larry Lessig talk about copyright laws that have the potential to choke creativity. At the very end of the video Lessig mentions that the real impact these laws have is on our children. He states that technology has made our children different than us and, potentially, more susceptible to the ramifications of these creative restrictions.
Lessig goes on to explain how law makers are powerless to stop our children from their seemingly innate urges to dabble in technology – they only succeed in criminalizing their actions and driving them further underground in their pursuit of self-expression. He postulates that we will never be able to limit their internal settings to ‘read-only‘. They were born into a generation where ‘read-write‘ capabilities are ingrained in their culture. They are born producers, not consumers.
As a result of these copyright laws we have produced a generation of children who are forced to live against the law.
We know it. They know it. They know we know it. For the most part, many of us accept it. And what is that doing to the next generation of our leaders? Lessig believes that these restrictions are “extraordinarily corrosive, extraordinarily corruptive” and that we have a responsibility to do better by our children.
I think that this phenomenon occurs in many different facets of our lives. Technology advances quickly and human nature takes advantage of their new found capabilities before the consequences of their actions have been examined or even imagined. There are myriad examples of this in the science world from the industrial revolution to genetic testing for example. Then, when the questions start to arise as to who stands to benefit from, and who is harmed by, this technology, laws are drafted to try to please the more influential stakeholders.
In the meantime, our children are caught in the middle, unwilling to resist the temptation to mash and remix to their heart’s content; copyright or no copyright. They are doing things I could never imagine, but … just because they can do these things does that mean they should? Does our silent acceptance (or our unmitigated awe) of their products do more harm than good?
Are we creating a generation who think “I can and I will” instead of “I could but I won’t”?