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A pirate, a professor and a political compass


One of the most satisfying parts about writing a book is the part after you’ve published it when other people extend your argument and see some of the things you didn’t. I’ve seen a lot of cool interpretations of the ideas in the book online since January, and found this piece by Mark Surman in Canada especially interesting.

Mark weaves my thoughts about pirates together with Jonathan Zittrain’s concept of ‘communitarians,’ and places these ideas in the political spectrum. He writes:

“Over the past week, I’ve been reflecting on the ideas of two people: Jonathan Zittrain (a professor) and Matt Mason (a pirate, or at least a fan of pirates). This has got me thinking about the ‘political compass question’ again, which goes something like this …

“Right and left just aren’t enough anymore. We don’t live in a world where collective vs. individual sums up who we are (if it ever did). In fact, the much bigger tensions in today’s world are: democracy vs. authority; diversity vs. singularity; ecumenicism vs. fanaticism. We are in a struggle between open and closed.”

It’s an interesting post that’s well worth a read if you liked the book. I agree with almost everything Mark has to say on the subject. One thing I didn’t agree with is a point made towards the end, when Mark suggests by way of a quote that ‘pirates’ and ‘communitarians’ shouldn’t see each other as the enemy, because really the common enemy is proprietary systems. Personally I think proprietary systems aren’t an enemy, they are useful, and valid, and we need them. Some information, such as bank account numbers, works better behind closed doors. It’s just that we don’t closed systems for everything we use them for. But as Mark points out, “We don’t need to agree on everything (that’s the point, right).”

One Response to “A pirate, a professor and a political compass”

  1. Mark Surman Says:

    Thanks for the props, Matt. And I probably should have been more nuanced with the ‘proprietary as enemy’ bit (I mostly just wanted to quote Boris :) ). The real point is: communitarians and pirates have common cause in getting ‘open’ on the stage as a useful and important way of making things happen. I worry that Zittrain’s argument is going down the ‘pirates as enemy’ road, which isn’t helpful.

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