[At-Large] On a "consumer" agenda for ICANN

Karl Auerbach karl at cavebear.com
Thu Sep 15 19:07:39 UTC 2016

On 9/15/16 1:45 AM, Evan Leibovitch wrote:
> ​The definitive answer, is within the ICANN bylaws. Article XI 
> <https://www.icann.org/resources/pages/governance/bylaws-en#XI>, 
> Section 2.4a, which states unambiguously:
>     /The At-Large Advisory Committee (ALAC) is the primary
>     organizational home within ICANN for individual Internet users./
I am fairly sure that I was the author of that sentence.  ;-)

Stepping back to the rarely mentioned elephant in the room - under 
California law ICANN exists for the purpose of promoting the public 
benefit.  And everything it does must be measured by that standard. Yes, 
that's a standard that is vague.  But although vague that standard does 
suggest a broad scope rather than a limited one.

With regard to the notions of representation and "stewardship". First, 
let's drop that latter word.  A steward's job is to preserve and manage, 
much like a trustee.  But ICANN has become a political organization that 
does far more than merely "preserve" things.  So by using the word 
"steward" we risk imposing mental strictures on ourselves or misleading 
observers to think that the role is less than it really is.

As for representation - yes, it is hard.  There is no pure conduit for 
public opinion short of a full direct vote on all things. That's not 
very efficient (although in these electronic days it may be easier than 
it has been in the past assuming that we can resolve the 
one-actual-person-one-vote problem.)

A person who is acting as a representative performs several roles.

One of those roles is as a idea-leader: Rather than being a passive 
reflector of those he/she represents the representative ought to be an 
active promoter of ideas - and an equally active evaluator of how well 
his/her electorate (or the broader public) accepts or rejects those ideas.

Another role is as a kind of idea-stomach that digests the opinions of 
the electorate/public in order to synthesize a position on an issue.  
This is really, really hard.  And it is why electorates need the power 
to replace representatives who are not doing it well.

And with regard to the thread about tech people being somewhat 
disconnected from the broader "emotional" world: I tend to agree with 
that point of view.

The 20th century saw many cases in which technology was considered 
somehow a more pure source of governance.  There were films that 
advocated that view - the best known was "Things To Come" in 1936.

I believe that ICANN was born from the idea that the internet should be 
governed by clean, pure, philosopher techies rather than dirty, impure 

But again and again we have seen the inaccuracy that point of view. For 
example, here in the US it was technocrats like Donald Rumsfeld and 
Robert McNamara who led us into some terrible military failures.  And 
ICANN has become as political as any other regulatory body whose 
decisions to act, or not to act, have large economic consequences on 
industrial actors.

It isn't that we techies can't be good at governance.  We just tend to 
have a bit of tunnel vision and a somewhat less broad base of 
experience.  To leave a thought - consider how the 1956 movie "Forbidden 
Planet" turned out for the Krell.


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