Friday, February 9, 2007

It’s all just a little bit of History digitally repeating. . .

At the turn of the century, the American and parts of the European economies were described as Laissez-faire from the French, “let do, let go, let pass.” This described a free market economy with little influence or interference from the government.

A doctrine of this early American economy was the term Caveat Emptor meaning, “let the buyer beware.” A buyer could not recover from any defects in the merchandise sold from the seller.

History does repeat, and as we have seen with the internet explosion, the late 1990’s and early 2000’s saw this laissez-faire style of little government involvement. Although charges of monopoly against Microsoft were dismissed after a lengthy lawsuit, and the Supreme Court continues to see rulings on file sharing cases; (only now to have Apple’s CEO Steve Jobs suggest in a memo that trying to prevent sharing of music is the wrong way to go), government has lagged when setting policy or regulations for growing economy. Like the early economy of America, this fostered growth, spurred governmental and business coffers, but at a cost to individual rights.

As more information propagates on the internet, and indexers like Google choose not to filter or regulate but simply sort information for users, it is up to the user of that information to make the determination on whether it is “good” information or not. For example, a user searching for lowest fares can try to estimate the best and lowest cost, but it is not necessarily accurate.

I feel that the exaggeration of the video Epic 2014, where Googlezon or Amazoogle defeats the New York Times will never happen. When it comes to trusted sources of information, there is more credible reliance from a source such as the New York Times than that of a blogger or other unknown. When the risks are not high, such as for restaurant reviews, we rely on new sources to test their validity and add to our personal strategy for filtering information. When things are more critical, such as weather reports or medical information, we tend to value resources with higher levels of professional backing that have existing filters, that we can not apply, already in place.

However, it remains to be seen if the internet will follow the path of America’s consumer protection act, through government influence, or if the exiting model of self-management by the internet community at large will continue. Nevertheless, it does seem clear for the time being, that if an internet user (a gatherer of information) relies on information collected from different sources, they have little recourse if the information gathered was poor or incorrect.

Caveat Emptor has now passed from products to the service realm of information on the internet, potentially requiring a new phrase Caveat Colligor, “let the acquirer (of information) beware!

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