Fred Kaplan’s book is newsworthy, but not in the way you might assume. Kaplan’s years of research and writing for The Insurgents: David Petraeus and the Plot to Change the American Way of War had evidently come to their end shortly before November 9 of last year. On that date, Kaplan’s title character, the retired four-star general and national hero who had been renowned for his advocacy and management of the 2007 troop surge in Iraq and dreamed of by many Republicans as an eventual presidential candidate, resigned as CIA director after the revelation of his affair with a much younger former Army officer, Paula Broadwell.
It is easy to make fun of the Internet's current culture of free-lunch libertarianism. Its leaders don't want to be taxed, regulated, or trammeled in any way--meanwhile taking for granted that they can run to the sheriff when threatened by copyright pirates or local toughs like Microsoft. But the question of Net regulation has become more genuinely interesting than many people would have foreseen. In its pose of resistance to the State, the Net has evolved informal solutions to problems that, unsolved, might have invited regulation.
Technology is driving the big changes in society faster now than at any time since the decade after World War II. Back then, a raft of discoveries--atomic power, jet transportation and rocketry, television, mass immunization, and early steps toward reliable birth control--had enormous political, cultural, and demographic impact around the world. Now, there are two main drivers: information technology in all its aspects, from chip design to the Internet, and rapid discoveries about cell function and genetic structure, which a decade from now may well make the computer revolution look tame by comparison.