James Grimmelmann: Sealand, HavenCo, and the Rule of Law (2012)

30 March 2012, dusan

In 2000, a group of American entrepreneurs moved to a former World War II antiaircraft platform in the North Sea, seven miles off the British coast. There, they launched HavenCo, one of the strangest start-ups in Internet history. A former pirate radio broadcaster, Roy Bates, had occupied the platform in the 1960s, moved his family aboard, and declared it to be the sovereign Principality of Sealand. HavenCo’s founders were opposed to governmental censorship and control of the Internet; by putting computer servers on Sealand, they planned to create a “data haven” for unpopular speech, safely beyond the reach of any other country. This Article tells the full story of Sealand and HavenCo—and examines what they have to tell us about the nature of the rule of law in the age of the Internet.

The story itself is fascinating enough: it includes pirate radio, shotguns, rampant copyright infringement, a Red Bull skateboarding special, perpetual motion machines, and the Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of State. But its implications for the rule of law are even more remarkable. Previous scholars have seen HavenCo as a straightforward challenge to the rule of law: by threatening to undermine national authority, HavenCo was opposed to all law. As the fuller history shows, this story is too simplistic. HavenCo also depended on international law to recognize and protect Sealand, and on Sealand law to protect it from Sealand itself. Where others have seen HavenCo’s failure as the triumph of traditional regulatory authorities over HavenCo, this Article argues that in a very real sense, HavenCo failed not from too much law but from too little. The “law” that was supposed to keep HavenCo safe was law only in a thin, formalistic sense, disconnected from the human institutions that make and enforce law. But without those institutions, law does not work, as HavenCo discovered.

Published in University of Illinois Law Review, No. 2, Vol. 2012
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 U.S. license
80 pages
via gnd

Death of a data haven: cypherpunks, WikiLeaks, and the world’s smallest nation (by the author, March 2012)

PDF

Christos H. Papadimitriou: Turing: A Novel About Computation (2003)

28 March 2012, dusan

Our hero is Turing, an interactive tutoring program and namesake (or virtual emanation?) of Alan Turing, World War II code breaker and father of computer science. In this unusual novel, Turing’s idiosyncratic version of intellectual history from a computational point of view unfolds in tandem with the story of a love affair involving Ethel, a successful computer executive, Alexandros, a melancholy archaeologist, and Ian, a charismatic hacker. After Ethel (who shares her first name with Alan Turing’s mother) abandons Alexandros following a sundrenched idyll on Corfu, Turing appears on Alexandros’s computer screen to unfurl a tutorial on the history of ideas. He begins with the philosopher-mathematicians of ancient Greece—”discourse, dialogue, argument, proof… can only thrive in an egalitarian society”—and the Arab scholar in ninth-century Baghdad who invented algorithms; he moves on to many other topics, including cryptography and artificial intelligence, even economics and developmental biology. (These lessons are later critiqued amusingly and developed further in postings by a fictional newsgroup in the book’s afterword.) As Turing’s lectures progress, the lives of Alexandros, Ethel, and Ian converge in dramatic fashion, and the story takes us from Corfu to Hong Kong, from Athens to San Francisco—and of course to the Internet, the disruptive technological and social force that emerges as the main locale and protagonist of the novel.

Alternately pedagogical and romantic, Turing (A Novel about Computation) should appeal both to students and professionals who want a clear and entertaining account of the development of computation and to the general reader who enjoys novels of ideas.

Publisher MIT Press, 2003
Computer Science series
ISBN 0262661918, 9780262661911
284 pages

publisher
google books

PDF (updated on 2012-7-25)

Francisco Varela, Evan T. Thompson, Eleanor Rosch: The Embodied Mind: Cognitive Science and Human Experience (1992)

25 March 2012, dusan

Although the scientific study of the mind has developed rapidly in recent years, it has devoted little attention to human cognition understood as everyday lived experience. The Embodied Mind corrects this imbalance within cognitive science by providing a deep and sophisticated treatment of the spontaneous and reflective dimensions of human experience. Varela, Thompson, and Rosch argue that it is only by having a sense of common ground, between mind in science and mind in experience that our understanding of cognition can be more complete. To create this common ground they develop a dialogue between cognitive science and Buddhist meditative psychology and situate this dialogue in relation to other traditions, such as phenomenology and psychoanalysis.

The dialogue proceeds in five parts. The first introduces the two partners and explains how the dialogue will develop. The second presents the computational model of mind that gave rise to cognitive science in its classical form. The authors show how this model implies that the self is fundamentally fragmented and introduce the complementary Buddhist concept of a nonunified, decentralized self. The third shows how cognitive science and Buddhist psychology provide the resources for understanding how the phenomena usually attributed to a self could arise without an actual self. The fourth presents the authors’ own view of cognition as embodied action and discusses the relevance of this view for cognitive science and evolutionary theory. The fifth considers the philosophical and experiential implications of the view that cognition has no foundation or ground beyond its history of embodiment and explores these implications in relation to contemporary Western critiques of objectivism and the nonfoundationalist tradition of Buddhist philosophy.

Publisher MIT Press, 1992
ISBN 0262720213, 9780262720212
328 pages

publisher
google books

PDF (updated on 2012-7-6)