Just because you can, does it mean you should?

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.

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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”?

4 Responses to Just because you can, does it mean you should?

  1. Really well written. As with many things in life: speeding, petty theft, students, and let’s be honest even us, weigh the possibility of consequence against the desire to fulfill an idea and decide they will probably never be caught. It is definitely the virtue to say “I could, but I won’t,” but that is a hard one to hold by, especially for teenagers.

  2. The generation of ” I can and I will” is not a recent creation, it’s not even as a result of the rapid increase in the application of technology. This generation, of which we are all a part has been around since time began. Technology may just be one avenue in which this mindset is perpetuated, but the true underlying issue remains a moral one, a true test of values and beliefs to see if ” I could, but won’t.”

    The challenging questions posed in this post are valid and must be addressed, but not by placing the blame at the feet of “copyright laws and an increased tendency of our students, our own children, to be “networked” into a world in which the lines between black and white are decidedly shaded grey. I wonder if we are not once again shirking our responsibilities as parents and educators by shifting blame to other parties.?

    Yes, our children may be growing up in a different world…but we should still be there role models. Children mimic what they see others doing. If society follows the “I can and I will” train of thought, then we should not be surprised to see that same mindset among our youth, be it online or offline.

    Lastly, being creative means to be original…not copying and changing work already done. Something new, something never before seen. True self expression…of the “NOT COPIED” kind.

  3. Pingback: China to India 2012 » Blog Archive » Creative Commons is Brilliant!

  4. Pingback: 92 year-old pirate found in Massapequa, NY | Mind the Gap

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