You can't solve problems by breaking the net

Cory Doctorow, Dr Victoria Nash

Duration: 00:14:22

Recorded: 5 December 2013


Cory Doctorow — science-fiction writer, activist, journalist, and blogger — discusses the mistakes politicians commit when regulating the Internet, possible alternatives to the surveillance state, and the major differences between the Internet and previous technologies. He argues that politicians commit two main errors regarding Internet regulation: they 1) mistake the Internet for something that is regulatable instead of a core element to every problem society faces, and 2) they think that endowing technology with a surveillance capacity will only result in those intended to employ this function to do so. As for alternatives to the surveillance state, Doctorow suggests enacting sui generis rules and applying them to a broad, not specific, pool of people. He ends by stating that the Internet, unlike other technologies, is the first to have its application determined by the people at its edges instead of infrastructure providers, and also lowers transaction costs to such a significant degree that it enables large-scale collaboration.

About the speakers

  • Cory Doctorow

    Cory Doctorow is a science fiction novelist, blogger and technology activist. He is the co-editor of the popular weblog Boing Boing (, and a contributor to The Guardian, the New York Times, Publishers Weekly, Wired, and many other newspapers, magazines and websites. He was formerly Director of European Affairs for the Electronic Frontier Foundation (, a non-profit civil liberties group that defends freedom in technology law, policy, standards and treaties. He holds an honorary doctorate in computer science from the Open University (UK), where he is a Visiting Professor; in 2007, he served as the Fulbright Chair at the Annenberg Center for Public Diplomacy at the University of Southern California. His novels have been translated into dozens of languages and are published by Tor Books, Titan Books (UK) and HarperCollins (UK) and simultaneously released on the Internet under Creative Commons licenses that encourage their re-use and sharing, a move that increases his sales by enlisting his readers to help promote his work. He has won the Locus and Sunburst Awards, and been nominated for the Hugo, Nebula and British Science Fiction Awards. His latest young adult novel is HOMELAND, the bestselling sequel to 2008's LITTLE BROTHER. His latest novel for adults is RAPTURE OF THE NERDS, written with Charles Stross and published in 2012. His New York Times Bestseller LITTLE BROTHER was published in 2008. His latest short story collection is WITH A LITTLE HELP, available in paperback, ebook, audiobook and limited edition hardcover. In 2011, Tachyon Books published a collection of his essays, called CONTEXT: FURTHER SELECTED ESSAYS ON PRODUCTIVITY, CREATIVITY, PARENTING, AND POLITICS IN THE 21ST CENTURY (with an introduction by Tim O'Reilly) and IDW published a collection of comic books inspired by his short fiction called CORY DOCTOROW'S FUTURISTIC TALES OF THE HERE AND NOW. THE GREAT BIG BEAUTIFUL TOMORROW, a PM Press Outspoken Authors chapbook, was also published in 2011.

    Further information on Cory Doctorow

  • Dr Victoria Nash

    Further information on Dr Victoria Nash

Related events

  • You can't solve problems by breaking the net

    Thursday 5 December 2013 17:00 - 18:30

    This is the fifth seminar in this series, which will provide insightful discussions on first-hand experience of digital-era governance 'at the coal-face'.