Business and government leaders, and the “laws of physics” of technology


I was incredibly excited, this past April, to play a minor role in getting a small event pulled together to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Larry Lessig’s paper “The laws of cyberspace” (Lessig – 1998). A paper that is just as relevant today as it was twenty years ago.

You can see a re-cap of the event here: Force of Nature – Celebrating 20 years of the laws of cyberspace

Government and business organizations, over the past few decades, have (or are on their way to) become technology organizations – whether they are willing to acknowledge it to themselves, or not. Yet, the technical bits have not been, and are increasingly less, the central part of this transformation. As a result, non-technical business and government leaders need to invest time to understand the “laws of physics” of the digital space (cyberspace). Delegating this responsibility to the “technology” people in the organization (CIO, CTO, CISO, etc.) is no longer sufficient.

As highlighted in Larry’s paper, cyberspace is influenced and regulated by four forces: social norms, markets, laws, and “code”. For individual organizations, these forces affect business strategies, products & services, supply chains, and business operations. One needs only to look at the news every week and the debates over such things as Net Neutrality, Privacy, Cybersecurity, GDPR, SESTA-FOSTA, CDA 230, the Cloud Act, etc. to understand why it is becoming critical for business/government leaders to get up to speed on these issues.

We (Scott and I) assign Larry’s paper as required reading for the first week of the classes we teach. I would recommend it to anyone who is in a business or government leadership positions, and appreciates the centrality of technology to every aspect of what they do as an organization.


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