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Posted by: stak
Posted on: 2011-11-22 08:40:16

XKCD had an interesting comic up yesterday - it wasn't a comic at all, but a visualization of the distribution of wealth. There's lots of interesting things to be gleaned from the visualization, but I want to focus specifically on megaprojects. The one megaproject I was expecting to see listed there but didn't was the Internet itself. I'm guessing that the cost of building the Internet is probably greater than most, if not all, of the other projects listed there.

The reason I bring this up is, of course, SOPA. For those of you who have been living under a rock, the Stop Online Piracy Act being pushed by the recording industries effectively destroys the Internet as we know it. It's pretty ridiculous when you think about the amount of time, money, and engineering effort that has gone into building the Internet, and how quickly it could be thrown out the window by a bunch of lobbyists.

There have been a number of blog posts recently about how SOPA is evil, so I'm not going to go into that. Some of these bloggers claim SOPA's true purpose is to control/destroy the Internet, but I prefer not to attribute to malice that which can be attributed to stupidity. I think the recording industry is flailing about and trying pretty much anything they think has a chance of stopping piracy. That just makes it even more of a shame that one of these things is the destruction of the Internet.

While stopping SOPA is good and all, I think we need more. We need to ensure that random industries flailing about like this don't have the ability to wipe out one of the greatest human inventions, and what has become one of the largest pieces of global infrastructure.

There are probably lots of different tools we can use to do this, and the one that comes to my mind is to first acknowledge that the Internet is actually an engineering project, not some sort of playground for politicians. Requiring the approval of the IETF on any major changes of this nature should be a requirement. Anything short of that should be illegal, since the practice of engineering is restricted to licensed professionals in the US. As engineers, we're a long way from being able to do something like this, simply because formal practice of engineering isn't as highly valued within the software/computer industry. That really should change, if only to be able to try and stop things like SOPA.

(Yes, yes. When I have a hammer, everything looks like a nail.)

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