Mind the pottery

It's Vint Cerf's fault.

Talk about the law of unintended consequences! In an attempt to secure our political hierarchy's communications from the advances of their hierarchy, he co-developed the TCP/IP protocol in the 1970s, building on concepts developed in the 60s: J. R. Licklider's Galactic Network memos. The purpose was straightforward enough, to harden our nuclear command & control system against nuclear attack. But the architecture does something more profound. Essentially, it lets messages have their way with the network.

That's heady stuff because it gently erodes the very thing it was built to protect, the underpinning of all human societies: Hierarchy. Practically speaking, that means patriarchy. Most of us know how a patriarchy works. The alpha male, no matter how absurd the hovel he rules, dictates what may or may not be discussed in the household. As long as everybody toes the line and tiptoes around the Barca Lounger, everything's fine. But cross that invisible line and the snarl emerges, often with the hickory switch. We discover the line by observing our Alpha Thug's reaction, not by an explicit set of rules he's taught us so we can stay out of trouble. Indeed, sudden, terrible trouble is the operating protocol of domination:it keeps the vassals on their toes. (Every alpha male is in turn a vassal to some other male: turtles all the way up.)

So the hierarchy controls all messages constantly, explicitly and vehemently. I think that's what's going on right now. Patriarchs everywhere are stung by the growth of peer-to-peer messaging: wounded elephants, thrashing around breaking the pottery.

Britt Blazer