Information Doesn't Want to Be Free

In his latest book, Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free, Cory Doctorow, science fiction author, activist, journalist, and blogger, identifies three “iron laws of information age creativity, freedom, and business, woven deep into the fabric of the Internet’s design, the functioning of markets, and the global system of regulation and trade agreements.”

He’ll be discussing these laws in detail at Tech Forum this March, but in the meantime, you can read about Doctorow’s Third Law in this excerpt from the book:

Doctorow’s Third Law: Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free, People Do

Back in 1984, Stewart Brand—founder of the whole earth catalog—had a public conversation with Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak at the first Hackers Conference. There, Brand uttered a few dozen famous words:

“On the one hand, information wants to be expensive, because it’s so valuable. The right information in the right place just changes your life. On the other hand, information wants to be free, because the cost of getting it out is getting lower and lower all the time. So you have these two fighting against each other.”

This is quite a good Zen koan, a compact meditation on the duality of information as an economic good and as a technical matter. But thirty years on, the phrase has gone from a useful way of provoking discussion about the philosophy of the information society to a trite slogan that obscures more than it illuminates.

It’s time to kill it.

The “desires” of information are totally irrelevant to the destiny of the Internet, the creative industries, or equitable society. Information is an abstraction, and it doesn’t “want” anything.

Information doesn’t want to be free—people do.

That’s my third law. That’s what this book is about. What people want from computers and the Internet. What we stand to gain, and what we stand to lose.

From the book: Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free 
Copyright © 2014 by Cory Doctorow

Want to hear more from Cory? You can see him in Toronto this March at Tech Forum. Full schedules and registration details are here.