This, by Clay Shirky, is a truly fascinating blog posting. And the bit of it that I am about to quote (which is as far as I have so far got in it) is (to use a word I usually resist) awesome, at any rate in its long-term potential impact:
Just to pick one example, one I’m in love with, but it’s tiny. A couple of weeks one of my students at ITP forwarded me a project started by a professor in Brazil, in Fortaleza, named Vasco Furtado. It’s a Wiki Map for crime in Brazil. If there’s an assault, if there’s a burglary, if there’s a mugging, a robbery, a rape, a murder, you can go and put a push-pin on a Google Map, and you can characterize the assault, and you start to see a map of where these crimes are occurring.
That does not sound ‘tiny’ to me. It sounds huge. Finally, here might be a system worth reporting crimes to.
What this says is that those maps you see in TV cop shows will stop being a cop monopoly and become something everyone can consult, and contribute to. A golden age of private sector law enforcement beckons. In the words of the title of the blog (now alas not alive any more) where this particular posting appears: “Here comes everybody”. And against everybody, the criminals will be put back on the defensive where they belong, in other words where they were before TV took almost all law-abiding citizens off the streets (by showing them such things as TV cop shows), leaving behind only actually existing (as opposed to TV fantasy) government policemen, idiotically droning their mantra: leave it to us. Which has worked really well, hasn’t it?
Apologies to all those to whom this is stale news, what with this blog posting being based on a speech that was delivered exactly one year ago tomorrow. But if only a small fraction of the Samizdata readership has not seen this posting before, then from where I sit this is a very good mission accomplished. My thanks to Lynn Sislo, for mentioning it here.