Should there be religious limits to absolute media freedom of expression?

16 08 2015

Last week, I was invited to be part of a panel discussion hosted by the Victoria University Religious Studies Department on the topic of whether there should be limits to absolute media freedom of expression.

Prof Paul Morris provided an opening statement. Joining me on the panel were Tayyaba Khan, Jenny Chalmers, Tom Scott, Selva Ramasami, and John Shaver.

Here’s what I had to say.

You can download the audio, or play it below.

I would like to begin my talk with a quote from Leviticus 19:18, containing what is one of the simplest yet most important commandments in the Torah: Love your neighbour as yourself.

The question posed tonight is: “Should there be religious limits to absolute media freedom of expression?”

My short answer is “no”, other than the limits associated with existing legislation pertaining to defamation, incitement, and the like.

Why not?

We live in an increasingly diverse society. Religion is only one aspect of diversity. If you impose religious limits, you would have to consider imposing limits on other aspects, such as gender, nationality, ethnicity, disability, political philosophy, and so on.

We can’t expect the rest of society to embrace, or sometimes even understand the same standards as we do. Example: The Third Commandment forbids us for taking the name of The Lord in vain. As Jews, uttering the name of God is very offensive. And yet, there is a significant quasi-Christian religious group whose very name incorporates this ineffable name of God. How can we manage this conflict? We can’t – It wouldn’t be right for me to demand that they change their name to God’s Witnesses or something else – it’s an integral part of their identity.

Freedom of expression is essential for the function of democracy. Allowing any authority (other than Parliament as interpreted by the courts) to determine the limits of freedom of expression would potentially be chilling, and the temptation for the authority to cross the line into political suppression could be irresistible. On balance, limiting freedom of expression would likely do more harm than good.

We are free to ignore offensive material, and when we can’t ignore it, we can brush it off. We’re adults. Sometimes we need to endure this pain for the greater good of society, and pray that the offenders might become more aware of the consequences of their actions.

So my short answer is, no, there should not be religious limits to absolute media freedom of expression.

But.

There is a longer answer. And that answer is that we’re asking the wrong questions.

The questions we should be asking are:

What self-restraint should the media exhibit when discussing religion and other personal beliefs?

and

As a society, how do we educate and encourage people to empathise with each other, so that they feel no desire to offend or hurt each other?

When I say “the media”, that’s just about everyone nowadays. Blogging, Facebook, and Twitter, and other social media provide a virtual megaphone to anyone who can gather an audience.

It is emphatically wrong to deliberately seek to offend or hurt others.

It is emphatically wrong to ridicule people’s strongly held beliefs or practices.

It is emphatically wrong to drive a wedge between different religions and ethnic groups by saying or implying that they are unfit to live among the rest of society.

It is emphatically wrong to blame an entire religion or culture for the actions of a tiny minority of their members.

All of these things are terribly wrong, and completely unnecessary.

These things are wrong and unnecessary, but legislating against them would create more problems than it would solve for the reasons I discussed earlier.

Unfortunately, as a society, we have not evolved very far beyond the 17th Century European proclivity for burning cats for entertainment. Pain and humiliation gets people’s attention, and sells newspapers in an increasingly competitive market. Shocking people is a lot easier then providing intelligent analysis, easier to understand, and sells more.

I would like to close with two quotes from the Talmud:

From Baba Mezi’a 59a, R. Johanan said on the authority of R. Simeon b. Yohai: “Better had a man throw himself into a fiery furnace than publicly put his neighbour to shame.”

From Shabbat 31, quoting Hillel, “What is hateful to you, do not to your neighbour: that is the whole Torah, while the rest is the commentary thereof; go and learn it.”

Thank you.




Getting the most from your mentor in an accelerator

13 08 2015

I’m planning on being very involved in the Lightning Lab Christchurch accelerator programme that starts next week, mainly as a mentor.  As I look back on both Lightning Lab Wellington accelerators where I mentored in 2013 and 2014, I felt that most of the teams could have used their mentors more effectively.

With that in mind, here’s a brief guide to how to get the most out of your mentors in an accelerator.

  1. Choosing a mentor is one of the most important decisions you’ll make during the accelerator.  Choose wisely.
  2. Be clear about what you want from a mentor up front, even though expectations may change during the course of the accelerator, as you and your mentor learn more about unknown unknowns. What are the gaps you’re looking to fill?
    1. Industry experience
    2. Specific skills, eg sales
    3. Contacts (NZ / Overseas)
    4. Potential investment, especially someone you can turn into a lead
  3. Be clear about what your mentor wants up front.  Why are they doing this?
  4. Make sure your mentors have read and understand David Cohen’s Mentor Manifesto.
  5. Don’t accept any mentor that comes along – even if you’re desperate.  A bad fit is a lot worse than rejecting them.
  6. Do “due diligence” on potential mentors.  Check their LinkedIn profiles.  Ask for references.
  7. Don’t take on too many mentors. Ideally, have one “lead” (or maybe two) that you spend at least an hour a week with, and possibly some others that you use for specific advice
  8. It’s like dating.  Do what you can to attract The Right One (or three).  And like dating, you could end up being “stuck” (or thoroughly enjoying) a long-term relationship with them.
  9. Look after them, and hopefully they’ll look after you.
  10. Be honest at all times.  One porkie can really wreck trust, even if it’s only a minor one.
  11. Keep track of action points for each side from mentor meetings.  Ideally, send out an email after each mentor meeting identifying who is going to be doing what between now and the next meeting.
  12. Hold your mentor to account, and expect them to hold you to account.  If one or both sides is blowing the other off, it’s not working and you should terminate the relationship and invest your time more productively.
  13. Your mentors are probably extremely busy people.  Try to plan meetings and activities well in advance, and establish a regular rhythm if possible.  Here’s a typical week in my calendar:
    dave-calendar
  14. REMEMBER – IT’S YOUR COMPANY, NOT YOUR MENTOR’S.  Don’t hold back on pushing back. Be reasonable, and listen to reason, but your mentor is generally all-care-no-responsibility, and you’re the Founder left holding the baby company.
  15. Timing is everything.  Use your founder spidey-sense to know when to cut your losses and fire your mentor, and when to double-down on their advice.

Is there anything I missed?  Please let me know in the comments.




The Internet in NZ – not half bad

9 08 2015

I’ve just returned from a 3-1/2 month trip, mostly holiday with my wife Kate and 11 year old son Dan, in which we visited Hong Kong, Vietnam, Italy, Switzerland, France, Spain, and the USA, generally avoiding big cities.  Naturally, it was important to stay well-connected every place we went, so we employed a combination of mobile broadband through local telco and wifi in the accommodation we stayed at, mostly AirBNB.

In Hong Kong, CSL provided excellent mobile broadband, but the various accommodations I used had pretty terrible wifi.

Vietnam’s Viettel also provided generally great mobile broadband, and accommodations actually provided wifi that was surprisingly good.

In Europe, we used Orange Spain as they had a deal where for they charged EUR 1 per 100MB of data.  Problem was, for some reason, in parts of northern Italy they seemed to charge a lot more than that – without any real reporting.  Access and speeds in France and Spain were OK but not great, and wifi in private residences was uniformly terrible.

The USA was particularly disappointing.  I travel to the USA a lot, and use a T-Mobile sim card.  They recently prohibited tethering which made things difficult, and at USD 3 per day (a plan which has been discontinued), it isn’t exactly cheap.  Furthermore, T-Mobile’s coverage is patchy and even in urban areas when you can get coverage, I couldn’t ever get download speeds greater than 1Mb/s as measured by Speedtest.  Wifi was also pretty average at best, with the odd exception of an AirBNB we stayed at in Idyllwild, California, in the mountains, a long way from anywhere.

Back in New Zealand, using either Spark or Vodafone, tethering is allowed, speeds are regularly above 50Mb/s using 4G networks that are widely available, and it’s relatively inexpensive.  Wifi in peoples’ homes is generally good, and I really missed my cable broadband where again download speeds are reliably 50Mb/s.

Who would have picked Vietnam as a star performer, and Europe and the USA as letdowns?

OK, these measurements provide an anecdotal picture at best.  I know that:

  • Speedtest is not a reliable measure of speed
  • We were staying mainly in rural areas
  • NZ’s domestic network is super fast for cached and local content, but we’re still 150+ ms from anywhere in the world other than Australia

But still… I regularly hear Kiwi individuals and institutions whinge about how our Internet is both slow and expensive.  That may have been true a few years ago, but things have really improved a lot recently.  Anecdotally, that’s great for Kiwi individuals, businesses, and the economy.

 




Brisket, the Classic Recipe

31 03 2015

Every Passover, at least one guest asks us how we made the brisket.  Here’s my mom’s recipe for brisket, or as we used to call it af Idish, flanken.  It uses the classic Eastern European “gedempt” or braising cooking method.

Ingredients:
Slab(s) of brisket, about 100g (just less than 1/4 lb) per serving
Onions, about 1 per serving
Bay leaves
Olive oil
Peppercorns

Method:
Brown the onions in olive oil in a cast iron skillet.  Use lots of them, I really mean lots, as in about 10 medium onions per kilo of meat – this is what gives an otherwise bland dish its flavour.  To brown the onions, start them on high heat, and reduce the heat as the onions begin to brown to prevent burning.  You’ll know they’re done when they are a translucent golden brown.  Don’t forget to run your extractor fan!

Cut the slab(s) of brisket into pieces that will just fit into your casserole dish. Preheat your oven to 180C = 350F.

Clean the skillet you just used for browning the onions, and dry thoroughly.  Heat a small amount of olive oil in the skillet, and then brown the slab(s) for about 5 minutes each side.  Place the browned slab(s) in the casserole dish, smothering the slab(s) in the browned onions.  Layer if necessary, slab-onion-slab-onion. Squish any excess browned onion around the sides of the slabs.

Pour in enough boiled water to cover the slabs.  Add a bay leaf or two, and as many whole peppercorns as you’re comfortable with.  Cover the casserole dish, and bake for 3-4 hours, turning the slabs and adding water to ensure they’re covered every hour or so.

Allow to cool for 10-15 minutes before removing the slabs from the broth and carving into long slices, cutting against the grain with a very sharp knife.  Serve with the broth as gravy.




Connecting with me on LinkedIn

18 02 2015

So you want to “Connect with me on LinkedIn” – awesome! But there needs to be a bit more for me to accept.

1) Tell me why
Simply asking to connect ain’t enough – let me know why, is it for a particular job, because of my background, due to something of mine you read, looking to connect with someone I know or because you recently met me and think we should be keeping track of each other.

2) Give me a hint at how we might know each other
Have I already met you, were we at the same event, do we have a mutual friend or two that told you that we need to meet, etc … please give me a clue.

Then we can connect, and hopefully do some cool stuff together.

If you don’t tell me how we might know each other, and why you think we should connect, the you start looking like someone who is just connecting contacts for the fun of it, or worse, a spammer.

The above was plagiarised shamelessly with permission from my good friend +Mike Riversdale, aka @MiramarMike, whose many endearing qualities include that he’s still using G+. Thanks Mike!




Religious Instruction in NZ state schools

15 02 2015

Should our children be taught Christianity (or any other specific religion) in state schools?

If this is of interest to you, read on…

I’ve been invited by David Hines to join the Secular Education Network’s mediation at the Human Rights Commission, in which they are lodging a complaint against the Ministry of Education in an attempt to remove Religious Instruction in state schools. The scheduled date for the mediation is Monday 23 February.

The objectives of this campaign are to:

  • Promote an inclusive school curriculum, which does not require any student to withdraw from class on account of different religious beliefs.
  • Cease the practice of volunteer-run religious instruction during school hours.
  • Treat all religious organisations who wish to use the school facilities outside of the school day with transparent and equitable policies.

The central problem is that Section 78 of the Education Act 1964 which allows state schools to provide up to 60 minutes of RI per week, so long as it’s approved by the Board of Trustees. Much of the demand and curriculum relate to Christianity. Side effects of this policy include children being separated from their peers (with the potential for exclusion and ridicule) on the basis of their religion, the denigration of non-Christian points of view in state schools which should be neutral, and the unfair use of public property and resources for prosylitising.

SEN isn’t against Religious Instruction, it’s just saying that the appropriate place for Religious Instruction is in the places of worship of the concerned communities, not in public schools which are attended by children with an increasingly wide variety of heritages. The SEN position is that it is appropriate for public schools to teach about world religions, but in an inclusive, neutral way that respects diversity, encourages children to express their own beliefs and develops empathy about the beliefs of others.

My own personal perspective can be briefly summarised as: One of the main reasons we’ve sent our three children to state schools is so that they didn’t have to endure Religious Instruction at school, or any of the “alternatives activities” that might single them out for differentiation.

Although I’m not a member of SEN, I’ve been asked to provide a Jewish perspective at the mediation, but I’d be really interested in perspectives from others.

If you would like me to reflect your opinion at the mediation, please comment below, or drop me a line.  If you’re doing the latter, let me know if I can use your name at the HRC mediation.

Thanks in advance for your consideration, and helping Aotearoa/NZ become a more inclusive society.




What does a startup need to thrive?

20 01 2015

Last weekend I was invited to be a panelist on Radio NZ’s “The Weekend” programme with Lynn Freeman, discussing what it takes for startups to thrive.  You can hear the audio here:

I took some notes before the panel, of all of the things that I wanted to say – but of course in these situations you never really get to say everything you want to, so I thought it might be useful to share them.

TEAM

  • Diversity – leadership, sales, tech, project management.  You very rarely get these in one person.
  • Resilience – you have to be able to wake up every morning ready to be punched in the face repeatedly.
  • Adaptability – you need to be able to learn quickly from the active and passive feedback you’re getting, and pivot accordingly.

MARKET

  • Big enough to support your goals; this generally means going after a market of 7 billion (the world) versus 4 million (New Zealand)
  • Plenty of room for growth
  • One in which you have a valuable point of difference from your competitors

EXPERIENCE

  • Your team has experience in the domain you’re trying to attack.  There’s no point in trying to send a rocket to the moon if you’ve never seen the sky.
  • Track record in the tasks required to launch and operate your business.

PASSION

  • This is what will carry you through the dark times and keep you excited about the change you’re trying to affect in the market and the world

PRODUCT

  • You’re solving a significant problem that people actually have
  • It works, and can be shown to work
  • Potential customers are demonstrably willing to pay for it

COMMUNITY

  • You have a great network of fans and supporters
  • You’re operating in an ecosystem that supports you
  • You are making a real difference in your community

RESOURCES

  • You have enough money, or access to enough money to make your business fly
  • You have the ability and networks to establish and maintain a presence in remote markets. [see note below]

DISTRIBUTION

  • You have a way of getting your product or service in front of people so that they know you exist
  • You have a supply chain that is interested in working with you
  • If you’re selling direct, the product has in-built viral mechanisms to ensure your existing users are helping distribute your product
  • Lack of distribution is a common failure point for Kiwi startups.

LUCK

  • You need to make your own luck.  It helps to have a plan.  Seriously.

Note on resources: “No worries”, I hear you say, “We’re an Internet based business operating from New Zealand, the Internet brings us everywhere so that we don’t need to be there physically ourselves.”  If only.  Unfortunately, each geographic market has its own cultural, legal, and physical peculiarities, and there’s no substitute for actually being there to establish yourself.  Sure, there are pure plays like github or noip to which geography is completely irrelevant, but these are few and far between.

Other notes:

On the panel, Masha said that NZ is a useful test market, in that our demographics are similar to the rest of the developed world.  I’d argue that these similarities are usually very superficial. The killer difference between NZ and the rest of the world is the structure of our market.  There’s one degree of separation in NZ, and practically everyone knows or has easy access to everyone else.  The rest of the world does not operate like that – distribution is critical.  As a global startup, every week you spend chasing the New Zealand market is a week spent learning the wrong lessons.  To extend Steve Blank, don’t only get out of the building, get out of the country!

Finally, the number 8 wire mentality is killing us.  Sure, we’re great all-rounder generalists, very flexible, and very resourceful. This is great for building a prototype, but suboptimal for building a scalable business that can compete on the world stage.  By all means build your minimum viable product out of number 8 wire, but plan out which bits need to be shored up to be industrial strength as you scale.  And rather than relying on cousin Trev who has a passing acquaintance with a specialist aspect of your business, do bring in some people who have deep experience, rather than relying on mates and mates-of-mates to see you through.

 




In the wake of Charlie Hebdo

12 01 2015

In the wake of the recent Paris killings, I helped organise an interfaith meeting of Jews, Christians, and Muslims at the Kilbirnie Islamic Centre.

All three faiths denounced the killings, as per our media release from the Wellington Council of Christians and Jews.

The meeting had reasonably good media coverage from Radio NZ, One News (from about 6 min 40 sec into the bulletin), 3 News, ZB, and Radio Live.

Here’s what I said to the 100 or so people gathered at the meeting:

Kia ora tatau.

We have come together today in the spirit of friendship, with a shared purpose.

We all are saddened by recent events in Paris, and the senseless deaths of people killed simply because of their occupation or religion.

We all are fearful that the hatred that brews overseas will spread to Aotearoa / New Zealand. This hatred and fear are counterproductive. The killers and fearmongers score a victory whenever our hatred and fear grow.

We all understand that it is contrary to all of our religious teachings to kill someone for something they have said, written, or believe.

We all know that despite our strength of faith and pride in our religions, there are people who do ghastly things in the name of religion. They do not represent us, and we must not let them define us.

We all recognise that the freedom of expression that enables us to practice our religions is the same freedom of expression that enables others to parody and ridicule us. These rights are critical to maintaining a free society where we can peacefully coexist. It is unfortunate when this parody is offensive, but our response should always be one of dialogue and education.

As a result of these events, I believe we should ask ourselves what we can do, individually, as well as together in our religions and wider society:

  • To help improve relations between our religions
  • To learn more about each other, accepting our differences, and resolving disagreements through discussion. At times we’ll need to agree to disagree.
  • To speak out against religious violence, no matter who the perpetrator.
  • To prevent extremism from silencing the voice of diversity, even when we are offended by the voice.
  • To overcome hatred through positivity and understanding.

Thank you, shalom, salaam, peace.




Should you keep your startup idea secret?

2 11 2014

I recently facilitated Startup Weekend Hawkes Bay, the first such event in one of my favourite regions of New Zealand.  Most of the people there were first-timers, and they put in a fantastic effort.

Just after the final presentations, one of our esteemed judges and local hero Sir Graeme Avery decided to give an impromptu speech, exhorting people to keep their ideas close to their chest:

Sir Graeme has built businesses around medical publishing and food and beverage.  It might make sense in these verticals to have everything planned out before you go public, but I don’t believe that this is the case for most online startups.  Your idea is important, but it’s all about execution.  I don’t think many businesses are going to be able to develop a sufficiently big first mover advantage from Hawkes Bay or New Zealand that will outweigh the benefits of getting customer feedback from a Minimum Viable Product as soon as possible.

Apologies to Sir Graeme if my interjection seemed rude.




My TEDx talk: The four superpowers of the Internet

10 09 2014

I gave a talk at the inaugural TEDxWellington this year, called “The four superpowers of the Internet”, which are being direct, open, accessible and free.  These superpowers are all underpinned by the golden rule, that we should treat all others as we would wish to be treated ourselves.  This modern force of good has driven the explosive growth of the Internet, and can turn all of us into leaders and heroes.  It includes an homage to entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurs as the heroes of our generation leading the creative destruction that will bring about a better world, a hat-tip to TED Prize winner Karen Armstrong and her Charter for Compassion, as well as a brief history of the Internet and its governance and why humming is an effective tool in bringing about consensus.

Enjoy.  A transcript follows.

Kia ora koutou and warm greetings – I’m Dave Moskovitz.

Six years ago, theologian and former nun Karen Armstrong won the TED prize with her wish for a Charter for Compassion, which calls upon each of us to live the “golden rule”, and treat all others as we wish to be treated ourselves. I want to start my talk by saying “thank you” to Karen Armstrong and the TED community. The text was crowdsourced by religious leaders worldwide, and it’s been a strong force of religious cohesion here in New Zealand and around the world.

This talk isn’t about Karen Armstrong, but it is about the golden rule, and how it underpins the core values that have driven the explosive growth of the Internet. These core values are: Being direct, open, accessible, and free. They are so simple and so powerful that I call them the Internet’s superpowers.

This is a story about how good can arise from evil, how all of us are smarter than any of us, and of how these superpowers turn each of into leaders.

I arrived in Wellington on the first day of Summer in 1982 in a stiff southerly with pelting rain. I fell in love with early 1980’s New Zealand: it’s classlessness, giving everyone a fair go, respect for diversity, and how everyone has direct access to anyone. But most of all, people seemed to really care about each other. Looking back, the things I love about New Zealand resonate with these superpowers and the golden rule.

In contemporary times, many people feel that technology is an isolating force, a tool used by the state and corporations to trap us in a capitalist downward spiral, as we trudge through our lives staring at our smartphones hoping for fulfilment in the next dollar, gadget, or lolcat.

These are the birthing pains of a new era. We are currently experiencing a silent revolution where power hierarchies are being destroyed. We are refactoring society into a collaborative economy of networked value, where everyone has something to receive and to give, and we treat all others in the way we wish to be treated ourselves.

In order to understand how these superpowers came about, I’d like to give you a short whirlwind history of the Internet.

I was born in 1960, in the dark years of the pre-Internet age, when everything was disconnected. A year later in 1961, Leonard Kleinrock wrote the first paper on packet switching theory, which in modern times controls how data flows on the Internet. On my birthday in 1969, the Network Working Group issued the first “Request for Comment”– RFC 1 – defining the specifics of how computers could talk to each other on an open network, and later that year the first four computers were connected in the US Defence Department’s ARPAnet. Thus you could say the Internet is the bastard child of an unholy union between the war machine of the most powerful country in the world, and a group of geeky academics.

I wrote my first computer program in 1971. The 1970’s and 1980’s saw rapid developments in computing, but in the commercial world, for the most part, computers were islands; when they were connected at all, they were mostly restricted to proprietary networks linking the computers of one organisation.

In 1989, Tim Berners-Lee proposed the WorldWideWeb project, and by 1993 Mosaic, the first web browser was released, and the Web as we know it was born. There were 623 web sites at the end of ‘93, 10,000 by the end of ‘94, and earlier this year we crossed the billion mark.

How do you manage such explosive growth, across billions of people, millions of organisations, in 249 country codes? You can’t manage it centrally – it’s too big for anyone or anything to control by themselves. The Internet is the world’s largest and most important collaborative project to date. Its design encourages cooperation, so that ordinary people can benefit from it, so that businesses can profit from it, academics can learn from it, and so on. In the lingo of Internet governance, this is called “multistakeholderism”.

Multistakeholderism means all affected parties can be part of the conversation and decision making process. In other words, “nothing about us without us”.

Why? Because people are a lot more important than the technology. As the Māori proverb says, “What is the most important thing in the world? It is people, it is people, it is people.” Technology is only an enabler – the people are the enabled.

We just heard about the first “Request for Comment” or RFC. The Internet isn’t built on laws, it’s built on these RFC’s agreed by multistakeholder processes. RFC’s cover broad topics like email and file transfer protocols, how domain names work, and so on. There are even RFC’s that address interplanetary communications and datagram delivery by avian carriers … that used to be homing pigeons, but now it’s quadcopters.

One of the most fundamental RFC’s, RFC 760 was issued in 1980, and formalised the Internet Protocol, or IP. Its editor, the late Jon Postel, said that “in general, an implementation should be conservative in its sending behavior, and liberal in its receiving behavior.” Fifteen years later, when Postel was referred to as “the god of the Internet”, he replied, “[T]here isn’t any ‘God of the Internet.’ The Internet works because a lot of people cooperate to do things together.”

The latest governance-related RFC is RFC 7282, just issued in June 2014. It codifies the decision making process in the Internet Engineering Task Force or IETF. It specifically says that “We reject: kings, presidents, and voting. We believe in: rough consensus and running code.” And how do they arrive at this rough consensus without voting? According to RFC7282, the when chair of the working group wants to get a ‘sense of the room’, instead of a show of hands, the chair might ask for each side to hum on a particular question, either ‘for’ or ‘against’.”

You know you have rough consensus when the hums on one side are a lot louder than the hums on the other.

Let’s practice this – I know you can all hum, so let’s try this now. If you like this decision making process, please hum now.

And if you think it’s stupid, please hum now.

The Internet is what it is today because a small number of people chose to get together, talk, reach consensus, and act. Those who chose to act made a real difference.

Multistakeholder processes were used to determine these four core values in 2009 at the Internet Governance Forum or IGF. These were: End-to-end, Open Standards, Universal Access, and Freedom of expression. These core values are the Internet’s superpowers.

Each of these four superpowers helps us become better as a society, levels the playing field between people, corporations, and nations, and unleashes huge latent economic and social value. In fact, each of us can use the Internet’s superpowers to become heroes. We can activate them through two simple but powerful tools we have – how we spend our time and how we spend our money.

Each superpower has a dark side though, that we must heed to ensure that they are used for good and not evil – that’s up to each of us individually and collectively, it’s not something we can fully delegate to network management algorithms, the IETF, or governments. The best defence against the dark arts, in the words of JK Rowling’s Mad-eye Moody is: CONSTANT VIGILANCE!

Let’s look at these superpowers more closely.

The first is End-to-end, or “being direct”. The edge-dominant end-to-end model of the Internet means that the network itself should be largely transparent. Any person or device should be able to freely and directly communicate with any other person or device on the network. Intermediaries are unnecessary, unless they add real value.

Being direct is important because it enables us to paint our own picture of the truth, based on data gleaned from the source. In a world without asymmetric knowledge, where everything is knowable, we no longer need external parties to interpret and re-interpret the truth for us.

Being direct results in massive economic value as we can work with smaller and smaller pieces of each other’s value chains, only the bits that are useful to us. We don’t need to buy the whole album when we only want one song. We don’t need to be part of a big company to contribute to society, we only need to do one small thing very well, and work directly with the people to whom that is useful.

But there is a dark side of being direct. Without legislation protecting employees, the environment, and other externalities, we run the risk of all becoming mechanical turks, working piecemeal, competing in an unregulated market for the lowest price.

You can become a hero by using the direct superpower – this is within everyone’s ability. You are a direct hero when you purchase content rather than pirating it, when you upgrade free apps on your phone to paid versions, when you donate to a crowdfunding campaign, when you join a civic cause or help a neighbour you met on the ‘net.

Can you think of a time when you’ve used the direct superpower?

The second superpower is Open Standards, or just Open for short. We’ve seen how the RFC process allows everyone to know the rules, and to help make or revise them. These open standards enable full interoperability on the ‘net – this is what lets your iPad talk to my Android.

Open standards turn proprietary Towers of Babel into a cooperative world, where we understand each other, and collaborate in an economy of networked value. If you don’t like one implementation of those standards, use another or write your own. Hate Internet Explorer? Use Firefox. The economic value of these open standards is huge, as well as the value of business ecosystems built around open source, open data, and open content.

One dark side to Open is that security vulnerabilities can hide in broad daylight, as happened recently with the heartbleed exploit, by which millions of web site passwords were stolen. It’s rumoured that the NSA knew about heartbleed for two years before it was discovered, but found it a useful tool for gathering intelligence. Frankly, I’d rather have my vulnerabilities available to everyone to look at and fix, implementing what Eric Raymond called “Linus’s Law”: given enough eyes, all bugs are shallow.

You are an open hero when you use this superpower to join the conversation at a multistakeholder forum like NetHui or an IGF; when you contribute to an Open Source project, when you license one of your works under a Creative Commons or other open license.

Can you think of a time when you’ve used the open superpower?

The third superpower is Universal access, or accessible for short. Everyone can play, everyone has equal access, and there is no distinction between producers and consumers – everyone is a participant. You may have heard about this in discussions about the “digital divide” and “net neutrality”. On the Internet, no one knows you’re a dog, and it doesn’t matter. Or that you’re Bill Gates, or living below the poverty line, or Deaf, or in New Zealand, or sitting on the throne. Commercially, this extends our potential market as buyers, sellers, contributors or collaborators to everyone, globally. Or any specific niche. Anywhere.

One dark side of universal access is that the bad guys all have access too, and also have have direct, no-cost access to everyone else. That’s why according to Symantec, 68% of all email traffic is SPAM – but the good news is that this is down from nearly 80% a few years ago.

You are an accessible hero whenever you help someone who isn’t as computer literate as you, whenever you donate your old computer for educational use , or give your time or money to organisations who are working to bridge the digital divide; whenever you install security software on your computer to prevent it from becoming infected and infectious.

Can you think of a time when you’ve used the accessible superpower?

The fourth superpower is Freedom of expression, or just free. Everyone has the right to participate, securely, privately and anonymously if necessary. Information wants to be free, especially in the sense of “free speech”, but often also in the sense of “free beer”. In the words of John Gilmore, “The Net interprets censorship as damage, and routes around it.

It’s a cliché, but with freedom comes responsibility, and we should be empathetic to those around us and avoid hurting people through exercising our own freedoms.

Of the four superpowers, “free” has the blurriest edges. And the dark side is very dark indeed. How objectionable does content need to be before it should be banned? Should we allow images of child abuse, hate speech, sedition? I believe that these aren’t network issues at all, but rather legal issues for society to decide – your rights are your rights, offline or online.

You are a free hero whenever you add your considered opinion constructively to the debate, when you call out governments and other organisations who are infringing your right to free expression or your right to privacy; when you call out other people who are abusing their freedoms to be hurtful to others. When you donate your time or money to organisations that protect our freedom.

Can you think of a time when you’ve used the free superpower?

If you’ve ever used any of these superpowers, I’d like you to hum now.

If you haven’t used any of these superpowers, I’d like you to hum now.

Thanks – we have consensus, we’re all heroes! Wow!! The whole time, you’ve been a hero and didn’t even know it!

These superpowers have a big economic impact. According to McKinsey is that the Internet accounted for 21 percent of GDP growth in mature economies during the period 2006-2011.

They also have a long-lasting social impact. Although I am religious, I don’t believe in an afterlife, but I believe that when our lives are finished, we leave behind a legacy defined by the transaction trail of how we’ve chosen to act, how we’ve spent our time and money. Judgement Day doesn’t come at the end of your life or the end of time, Judgement Day is every day as we and those around us continually re-evaluate the value of our actions.

Moment by moment, we each make choices that turn each one of us into leaders as we create our own heavens or hells around us through our actions and transactions, drawing others into our either virtuous or vicious cycles.

So I salute you all – you’re the heroes and leaders that will leave us the legacy of the Internet we all deserve – and the world that we all deserve.

But there’s one special group of leaders that I’d like to single out for being our not-so-secret weapon in destroying power hierarchies and creating a collaborative economy of networked value – entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurs. They’re the people risking everything they have, staring failure in the face every day, leading the creative destruction necessary to bring about a better world, inspiring everyone to be more than they thought possible. They’re the true leaders of the future.

But here’s the most powerful thing of all: We get the best leverage on our superpowers when we help others use their superpowers. In the words of Tom Peters, “Leaders don’t create followers, they create more leaders”. Building the future we want to live in, treating all others as we wish to be treated ourselves.

Please use your newly discovered superpowers wisely.

Be a hero.

Be a leader.

And don’t forget the Golden Rule.

Thank you.

[Please note the following corrigenda from the video: (1) we crossed the billion web sites mark earlier this year, not the ten billion mark.  My mouth was ahead of my brain.  (2) The late Mr Postel’s first name was spelled “Jon”, not “John”, as it appears on the slide.]







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