Select your localized edition:

Close ×

More Ways to Connect

Discover one of our 28 local entrepreneurial communities »

Be the first to know as we launch in new countries and markets around the globe.

Interested in bringing MIT Technology Review to your local market?

MIT Technology ReviewMIT Technology Review - logo


Unsupported browser: Your browser does not meet modern web standards. See how it scores »

{ action.text }

TR: Many people let companies like Symantec guard the door 24-7, while Microsoft and Apple automatically update their operating systems. Won’t this prevent your “watershed” crisis?

JZ: This risks turning PCs into gated communities that can too easily become prisons patrolled by a single warden. Suppose a security vendor or OS maker, through its success against badware, starts collecting user proxies to decide what will and won’t run on nearly everyone’s machine and enforces those decisions through near-instant automatic updates. This not only creates an antigenerative architecture with a gatekeeper like the days of Prodigy and AOL, but it also offers a way for regulators to demand that such gatekeepers eliminate code deemed socially – rather than technologically – bad or to insert new code for individual surveillance. To be sure, the actions by the biggest players so far have been measured. Microsoft currently distinguishes between critical security updates and others that are merely suggested.

TR: So what will do that’s so different?

JZ: First, we need to deeply understand the problem of bad code – code that will turn people away from participation in the generative Internet – as something more than technical. This includes policy and legal issues that automatic antivirus detectors are, of course, not built to address. Second, we want to marshal a solution that does not cause new problems of centralized control. We can do this on both the input and output sides: developing and distilling evaluations of code in ways that consumers can understand – especially since there is a variety of risk tolerance among them – and in which they can participate.

TR: Surely average PC owners can’t evaluate new code to gauge risks or even regularly consult a new website. What do you hope to offer them?

JZ: Imagine, for example, a simple display, a networked “dashboard” where users contemplating code can contribute to – and then read – simple demographics like how many other people are running it, how many were running it last week, and whether the computers running it appear to be better off with it on board. If enough people participate, meaningful – and currently unobtainable – data can be collected and packaged to keep genuine choice in the hands of the user. That’s a generative solution to a generative problem.

0 comments about this story. Start the discussion »

Tagged: Web

Reprints and Permissions | Send feedback to the editor

From the Archives


Introducing MIT Technology Review Insider.

Already a Magazine subscriber?

You're automatically an Insider. It's easy to activate or upgrade your account.

Activate Your Account

Become an Insider

It's the new way to subscribe. Get even more of the tech news, research, and discoveries you crave.

Sign Up

Learn More

Find out why MIT Technology Review Insider is for you and explore your options.

Show Me