Doug Hanchard, over at ZDNet Government, offers a thoughtful and fair defense of the fear now gripping Internet security professionals following the allegedly Chinese attack on Google and others.
He concludes with a poll, asking readers whether they would accept having their CPUs registered as a condition for going online. This would make it possible to trace computer crime to its source, he suggests.
At last count sentiment was running 4-1 against. No surprise there. But surprising he thought to ask the question that way, because IPv6 has plenty of address space to give every phone, PC and Internet-connected toaster its own IP address.
In other words, his solution is at hand.
So why the pushback?
(Picture from Regentsprep.org.)
Possibly because a solution like this may indeed be China's aim. China sees freedom as chaos, dissent as treason. It demands the right to police its people as its proprietary property.
In this I believe it has the support of its people. The history of the last century (above) argues that, without unity at its center, China collapses like a house of cards, and that foreigners use this collapse to hold its people down.
Words like freedom and democracy are middle class conceits, China argues. Without power, without rules, and without enforcement of those rules by the wisest and wiliest, the argument goes, society collapses.
Of course, we know better. Open source knows better. Open source, at its heart, is an argument for freedom. People freely choose to support open source projects, or not. The code is visible to all, and there is an assumption that it's through transparency evil can best be contained.
Open source is derived from Internet values, and those are descended from American history. First the cooperation among professionals and groups that won the Cold War, and second the self-interested cooperation among equals upon which our republic was founded.
China's values have made it an industrial powerhouse, but its ability to navigate the increasingly-rapid changes of 21st century technology must be questioned. Innovation requires open minds, open hearts, and free inquiry. Limiting the resource, limiting the people, also means limiting thought, limiting imagination, limiting innovation.
As change accelerates the cost of limiting innovation increases, unless a structure is in place that can strictly limit that innovation, channeling thought only in approved directions.
This is the choice the world faces. We know where China stands. We know where America stands. But the Internet can't long survive half-slave and half-free. It will either become all one thing or all the other.
And in that larger battle, even well-meaning security professionals may, in their honest attempts to secure order, give the future of the Internet, and the world, to our adversary.