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Law of the Jungle

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By now everyone with an eye for cybernews has read something about the Chinese attack on Google and Google's response. Several have noticed that Washington has made no comment, since the Chinese foray into American internet company core intellectual property comes at a time when we have delicate negotiations going with the Chinese government on a wide range of things, including Global Warming and monetary policy. But the issue goes far deeper than any quick list like that. China tries to pretend that there is a difference between hackers in China and the Chinese government all the while, however, maintaining control over everything that breathes in that country. You can have it one way or the other, but not both.

Meanwhile another evolutionary process is underway. While China slowly sheds the primitive agrarian communism of Mao, finding it convenient to steal what they can to catch up (and their window for catching up in this technological environment is closing inexorably), back in the U.S.A. Microsoft, The Giant, the gargantuan, showing significant signs of being related to the dinosaurs, is strapped to its own unhappy past and perhaps fatally. The fact is that Internet Explorer, still used by 65% of all internetizens for browsing the web, is a classic case of "ontology recapitulating philogeny," namely, that to ease the transitions between stages of evolution of their Windows operating system and their browser, Microsoft has chosen the path that incorporates into each stage mortal flaws from father to son. It seemed like a good and reasonable choice at the time, given that the physical environment of computing was also changing so rapidly, but the flaws accumulate like genetic drift, and today we have a rival exploiting those flaws to hopefully leapfrog into the present.

Joe Wilcox, a veteran reporter on these issues, says that you should at last dump MSIE at once. Read his article. It is not dense with jargon. The simple fact is that MSIE is like those "loose lips that sunk ships" during WWII. It is a constant menace to the rest of us. Yes, of course, we know you are not a target, but you who continue with MSIE are now providing aid and comfort by having a computer they can use to batter at the door. Put another way, are you absolutely positive that you have done everything reasonable to prevent your computer from being taken over by hostiles and being used to mount denial of service attacks on friendlies? Of course you are not. If the German government recommends to an entire nation that they get off MSIE, listen!

If you doubt that Google's experience was significant, do not doubt that Google's response will be. Denying China access to our hard-won expertise is part of a global struggle for supremacy. Right now, in the throes of the Great Recession, the U.S. position in the world financial and monetary sectors is as perilous as it ever has been among the current player nations. The stakes could not be higher. China has its masses, as it proudly and somewhat ominously displayed at the beginning of the Olympics; it believes in itself and in the social and industrial momentum it can create using capitalist tools for non-democratic ends.

In other words, this is a serious and important situation in which, for a change, you can make a difference. Download Google Chrome (I am currently using it) or Firefox 3.5 (with 3.6 coming soon) or Opera (the European favorite because it has a small footprint that fits aging home machines nicely). The hardest part of the transition from one browser to another is bookmarks and the newer, better, faster, browsers make even this easy. Do it!


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James R. Brett, Ph.D. taught Russian History before (and during) a long stint as an academic administrator in faculty research administration. His academic interests are the modern period of Russian History since Peter the Great, Chinese (more...)

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