This Is Freedom?

NYU prof Alexander Galloway unmasks the inner workings of computer networks

Protocol author Alexander Galloway
photo: Leslie Van Stelten
Protocol author Alexander Galloway

More importantly, Galloway brings the uncool question of morality back into critical thinking. In a last-chapter rundown of his theses on protocol, Galloway writes that "protocol is a universalism achieved through negotiation, meaning that in the future protocol can and will be different." As an evolving system, protocol "ultimately becomes the blueprint for humanity's innermost desires about the world and how it ought to be lived." When asked why one would assume that such desires would necessarily be socially progressive, Galloway laughs. "Well, I'm a Marxist, so I think they are!" he replies. "At the end of the day, one has to have an ethical grounding." In Protocol's final paragraph, he poses this sentiment as an unanswered question: "Do we want the Web to function like a market economy? Can we imagine future technological solutions that fulfill our social desires more fully than protocol can?"

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