|Closing the "Values-Gap":
The Coming "Cyberspace Society"
by Vigdor Schreibman
There is presently a global population of networkers of about 20 to 30 million citizens. They constitute the "Cyberspace Society," forging a new world order of social relations marked by new forms of economic organization with distributed operational power. This process is transforming corporate monoliths into conglomerations of independent entities that are now forming "power mosaics," as described by futurist Alvin Toffler, but the financial and political strings largely remain "inside the belly of the behemoths."
Meanwhile networkers are fragmented, without a coherent plan to guide the transformation, or political power to realize any such plans. Indeed, the new lines of telecommunications now being forged are still subject to the old formula for narrow republicanism described in the Federalist 10. This formula assures governance by strategically placed persons based on power alone, by making it "more difficult for all who feel it to discover their own strength, and act in unison with each other."
Along with narrow republicanism and the traditional filters of the mass media that are now moving into place to constrain the popular volition in cyberspace, the old self-interest is now armed with a whole new constella- tion of technological tinker toys. All together, they could deliver the ultimate promise of Orwellian doublespeak and, perhaps, as Toffler predicted at a Library of Congress forum March 24, bring about the "death of truth."
This lopsided balance in capability is already causing a volcanic shift in political power that could become catastrophic during the coming decade both in the US and global communities. The "Telecommunications Competition and Deregulations Act of 1995" [S.652], reported to the US Senate, Mar 30 [SRpt.104-23], sanctions what even conservative technocrat George Gilder has derisively described as a "monster model" combining content and conduit. The bill also would end cable and telephone company cross-ownership restrictions. Despite White House opposition, this is the structure of "telecommunications reform" promoted by the majority Repubican leadership with the support of many Democrats. It is designed to stir competition, ironically, by "elimin- ating competition from the market." It would also likely foster a new Robber Baron era driving global civilization toward "Telco Feudalism" [Fins-NC3-02].
Moreover, despite the promise in this telecommunications measure of, "universal service," and access to video systems by public, educational, and government entities, the paramount social and environmental systems that are essential to a mature democratic nation--are disregarded. This manifest primacy of the economic sphere guided by the morality of the marketplace that supports corporate self-interests, is insupportable.
All institutions derive their meaning from society, and the basis for their very existence from the environment. A mature democratic society should seek to establish principled governing systems that assure a life sustaining Earth. This should include preservation and restoration of the integrity of natural systems which sustain both economic prosperity and life itself, and foster economic growth, environmental protection, and social equity as interdependent, mutually reinforcing national goals [Fins-SD-05].
All power is derived from the people, under US Constitutional assump- tions, shared by natural right of the citizens of all nations. The unilateral powers used to advance corporate self-interests contrary to the natural, logical, constitutional, and human rights foundation of the global civilization, is a outrage against humanity. Yet the only effective response to remedy these existing conditions, is to break through the autocratic deadlock on democracy that now fosters an "artificial aristocracy" of governance dictated by the Feudal war lords of outmoded Telco behemoths.
Rather than making it "more difficult for all who feel it to discover their own strength, and act in unison with each other," citizens must learn to work and plan together to bring about a better balance between the pivotal moving forces of the economy, society, and environment. New possibilities appear in cyberspace that would allow the people to assert mastery over this new medium. Moreover, unprecedented in the history of civilization, those new possibilities are now under the voluntary control of the people!
What is needed, first of all, is a strong democratic "Cyberspace Ethic." The primacy of the social and environmental components of the real world that provide both meaning for existence and the foundation for a life sustaining Earth, should be supported by that Cyberspace Ethic. A "Cyberspace Social Contract" is also needed to provide the required instrumental support systems derived from the Cyberspace Ethic. This should include the following:
a. A public information infrastructure (PII) advancing the democratic responsibilities of "an informed citizenry";
b. A global "sustainable development" infrastructure (GSDI) advancing the balance and integrity of "a life sustaining Earth"; and
c. A global information infrastructure (GII) advancing the free market economic interests, human rights and civil liberties of the global people.
Economic development has taken a free ride on the Earth and everyone in it, long enough. To be master of our fate we look to the Cyberspace Society.
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