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Why do Progressives fear Progress?

Social networking is threatening the open public network | Media network | Guardian Professional.

When anyone writing for The Guardian identifies a conflict between "public" and "corporate" interests, watch out. That's always a small screw that they want to drive home with the pile-driver known as the state.

If Facebook or Twitter or any other ephemeral organisations (does anyone seriously believe Facebook is forever?) upset me, I can live without them. And I speak as an enthusiastic user who derives a lot of pleasure; particularly from the former. I confidently expect that something as unexpected as they were will emerge to replace them before they ever become a threat.

I walked through the Science Museum in London with my young nephews yesterday. In a few rooms we covered the progress from cottage industry through industrial revolution to space flight. Much of that was seen in the life of my late grandfather. He saw one of the first motor cars in Britain drive through our home village when he was a boy and lived to see men walk on the Moon. The pace of technological change was dramatic in his life and has continued to accelerate through mine. Only political busy-bodies who want to regulate, tax and direct forces within their mean understandings want that pace to slow.

The Guardian, and the political classes generally, are stuck in the mindset of an era when classes, institutions and social relations were constant. They aren't any more, thank goodness. Only the aristocrats have any cause to regret the end of social stasis. For the rest of us, alarming though it may be at times that change is the only constant, it can only be (if we are prepared to work to prosper) good news.

I have seen the indefatigable defeated many times in my life. Think of mighty IBM slain by mighty Microsoft in turn slain by once near-bankrupt but now gargantuan Apple. Think of the Soviet Union or the Redness in Red China. The febrile idea I must fear Facebook or Twitter is ridiculous. Neither of them existed mere moments ago. If they are to be more than commercial mayflies, they had best keep innovating faster than all their would-be predators. Somewhere, in an American garage or dorm room, their nemesis already plots and schemes. I look forward to its emergence with lively anticipation.

Whatever the merits of Apple's successful lawsuit against Samsung, for example, it means that it has already mutated from plucky David to grisly Goliath. By going on the defensive it has come off the attack. This may be the moment of its triumph as a corporation, but it probably contains the seeds of its destruction. Apple stockholders are not betting on its continued dominance. No sensible shareholders are in relation to any company. You can't just buy consols and blithely go boating in a straw hat any more. Every shareholding is just a bet that there's some more life in a company's ideas before it goes the way of all flesh. And every shareholder's hands hover over his chips.

When, then, will our political thinking adapt to the new reality? When will we stop fighting the ideological battles of the 19th Century? And when will we stop promising each other a stability that would be as damaging as it would be tedious?

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