2.4 The Future of Ideas

The environmental movement regularly reminds us of the need to live sustainably – within our means – as far as natural resources are concerned. Otherwise, they say, we or our children will face environmental catastrophe, as our resources and the ability of this planet to support life will run out. As the World Commission on Environment and Development (the Brundtland Commission) put it in 1987, ‘Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.’

The Future of Ideas applies the environmental movement's sustainability rallying call to the resources we use to create and innovate. Its author, Lawrence Lessig, presents the case for the sustainability of ideas. He argues that unless we nurture the resources used to create and innovate scientific discoveries, language, skills, stories, facts, etc., society will run out of ideas. Lessig thinks we are fencing off these resources with law and technology, handing control of them to private owners. You need to make up your own mind about whether he is right, and whether this is positive or negative.

Part of the inhumanity of the computer is that, once it is competently programmed and working smoothly, it is completely honest.

(Isaac Asimov)

2.3 The internet … too important to be left to engineers

2.4.1 Why this book?