Yochai Benkler: "System and Conscience: NSA Bulk Surveillance and the Problem of Freedom"

Presentation Date: 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Date: Wednesday, December 4, 2013
Time: 12:00pm – 1:30pm
Place: Maxwell Dworkin 119

Speaker: Prof. Yochai Benkler, Jack N. and Lillian R. Berkman Professor of Entrepreneurial Studies, Harvard Law School; Director, Berkman Center for Internet & Society

Title: System and conscience: NSA Bulk Surveillance and the Problem of Freedom

The talk will discuss NSA bulk surveillance, the oversight systems that exist as we know them, and the role of Edward Snowden and the journalists he worked with as a case study in what it means to be "free" for human beings always and necessarily embedded in imperfect overlapping systems of affordance and constraint, and how the ethical question "how shall I be as a human being embedded in such systems?" connects to the political question "why should we as a polity embrace an open society, and how should we go about becoming and maintaining ourselves as such a society?"

Yochai Benkler is the Berkman Professor of Entrepreneurial Legal Studies at Harvard Law School, and faculty co-director of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University. Since the 1990s he has played a role in characterizing the role of information commons and decentralized collaboration to innovation, information production, and freedom in the networked economy and society. His books include The Wealth of Networks: How social production transforms markets and freedom (Yale University Press 2006), which won academic awards from the American Political Science Association, the American Sociological Association, and the McGannon award for social and ethical relevance in communications. In 2012 he received a lifetime achievement award from Oxford University "in recognition of his extraordinary contribution to the study and public understanding of the Internet and information goods." His work is socially engaged, winning him the Ford Foundation Visionaries Award in 2011, the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Pioneer Award for 2007, and the Public Knowledge IP3 Award in 2006. It is also anchored in the realities of markets, and was cited as "perhaps the best work yet about the fast moving, enthusiast-driven Internet" by the Financial Times and named best business book about the future in 2006 by Strategy and Business. Benkler has advised governments and international organizations on innovation policy and telecommunications, and serves on the boards or advisory boards of several nonprofits engaged in working towards an open society. His work can be freely access at benkler.org.

Photo(s) from the Event:

Yochai Benkler discussing the Panopticon-type effect created by NSA bulk surveillance

"General, man is very useful. He can fly and he can kill. But he has one defect: He can think." -Bertolt Brecht (1955)