By Jon Fortt
HALF MOON BAY, Calif. - Tech visionary Lawrence Lessig made a sobering prediction Tuesday at Fortune's Brainstorm Tech conference: "There's going to be an i-9/11 event," he said, "an event that demonstrates the instability of the Internet, and that inspires the government to a response."
He said he believes this digital disaster – a major hacker attack or other act of cyber-terrorism in the next 10 years – will prompt the U.S. government to clamp down on Internet freedoms in an online parallel to the Patriot Act.
Lessig, a Stanford Law School professor who founded its Center for Internet and Society, said he came to this conclusion after a conversation with former federal counter-terrorism adviser Richard Clarke. Lessig said Clarke told him that the Justice Department had already written up much of the Patriot Act before the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, and that there is a similar proposal on the shelf in case of an Internet catastrophe. Advocates of Internet openness will not be thrilled about its contents, Lessig said. "Vint Cerf is not going to like it very much," Lessig recalls Clark saying.
It just happened that Cerf, and Internet pioneer who now works for Google (GOOG), was in the audience. And the warning obviously got his attention.
The prediction was part of 2018: Life on the Net, a panel with tech thinkers Lessig, Joichi Ito, and Philip Rosedale. Conversation topics ranged from copyright policies to virtual worlds to mobile economies. The panelists were generally optimistic about how the Internet will develop – Rosedale, founder of virtual world Second Life, made an unsurprising prediction that virtual environments like his would comprise the majority of Internet traffic in a decade, for example. But their discussions about the potential pitfalls were a bit more entertaining.
Ito, an entrepreneur and venture capitalist, had some words of warning for others investing in mobile businesses. In today's fixed-line Internet, he said, the money that companies make from their ideas tends to get plowed back into the innovation economy, seeding startups like Facebook and Twitter. In Silicon Valley's virtuous cycle, successful entrepreneurs and companies tend to keep the money circulating.
But no one should assume mobile will work the same way in the U.S.: Just look at Japan, where the mobile Internet is big. There, just as here, the wireless carriers who own the networks want a piece of the transactions that happen on their networks. The result is that in Japan, carriers have taken a sizable chunk of the spoils from successful ideas and sunk them into their own "bloated R&D labs," Ito said.
News Corp. President Peter Chernin says online video is a premium money-making opportunity. Image: News Corp.
By Jon Fortt
HALF MOON BAY, Calif. - Looking at big money-making opportunities online, News Corp. (NWS) President Peter Chernin pointed to video, mobile and overseas markets as good long-term bets.
In an interview with Fortune editor at large Richard Siklos at Brainstorm Tech on Tuesday, Chernin said advertisers still haven't completely embraced the online opportunity, MOREJon Fortt - Jul 22, 2008 8:33 PM ET
By Yi-Wyn Yen
HALF MOON BAY, Calif. - If you're reading this post, you probably have a Facebook account and you might have encountered a phenomenon on Facebook known as friend deflation.
Thanks to the popularity of Facebook, some users are getting lots of "friend requests" - including some from people they don't consider friends. Fortune Brainstorm organizer David Kirkpatrick held a fireside chat with Facebook's chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg, who was asked how MOREyiwyn - Jul 22, 2008 5:18 PM ET
By Jon Fortt, Fortune senior writer
HALF MOON Bay, Calif. - Sustainability will influence the next generation of Internet technology, according to Cisco (CSCO) chief technology office Padmasree Warrior.
At Fortune's Brainstorm Tech conference on Tuesday, Warrior and technology visionaries from Nokia and Xerox sat down with Strategic News Service's Mark Anderson Tuesday to talk about dealing with information overload, mobile innovation, and the major tech transitions ahead.
One idea that's likely to MOREJon Fortt - Jul 22, 2008 2:55 PM ET
By Yi-Wyn Yen
HALF MOON BAY, Calif. - Fortune's Brainstorm Tech conference kicked off Monday night with sharp-tongued bloggers ripping into each other and the companies they cover.
Moderator and Fortune senior writer Adam Lashinsky discussed the competitiveness of the blogosphere with Om Malik of Gigaom.com, Kara Swisher of the Wall Street Journal's (NWS) AllThingsD.com, and Robert Scoble of Scobleizer.com. He asked the trio what made their sites unique, which quickly devolved into MOREyiwyn - Jul 22, 2008 1:51 AM ET
By Michal Lev-Ram
HALF MOON BAY, Calif. - Is technology making the world a better place? That's just one of several big questions that a panel of tech luminaries tackled at Fortune's Brainstorm: Tech conference, a three-day, invite-only event that brings together some of the top executives in the industry.
The conference kicked off with a panel on how technological innovation is affecting the world. Participants like Michael Dell, founder of Dell MOREMichal Lev-Ram, writer - Jul 21, 2008 9:35 PM ET
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