You Can't Fight the Future

Article excerpt

Byline: Daniel Lyons

Why China is no match for the Internet.

In Silicon Valley the world is divided into two kinds of people--those who "get it," and those who don't. The people who get it are the ones who understand that the Internet is the biggest thing that has ever happened in the history of the human race, a wave so huge and so powerful that the only way to cope with it is to jump on and hope to make money building a new world. Those who don't get it are the ones who try to fight the Internet wave. Entire industries fit that description: movies, music, publishing, real estate, cable-TV providers, operators of mobile-phone networks--the list goes on.

Now, at the top of the list, goes China.

That is the message Google is sending in this kerfuffle. Suddenly China is being called out for its transgressions, depicted not just as evil but also, worse yet, as backward and stupid. That's happening even as China is proving itself to be so advanced and sophisticated at next-generation technologies, from solar panels to high-speed trains.

Yet when it comes to the Internet, China does not get it. They're great at hacking and using the Internet to steal stuff. But throwing up filters? Choking off information? Hobbling search engines so that people get a censored version of reality?

This is idiotic. China is fighting the Internet. And like everyone else who fights the Internet, China will lose.

People in China can already get around the "Great Firewall," using anonymizers like Tor, which lets you create virtual tunnels so you can sidestep filters and communicate anonymously. The shift to the mobile Web creates even more freedom. …