Hayek’s Spontaneous Order Goes Global with Instagram

Instagram user diegotrial

Several months ago when I heard the news about Facebook paying $1 Billion for Instagram I thought ‘the world was going crazy’.  My first impression was to think that the ruling scale of values was mistaken.  That people was giving value to unimportant things while the rest of the world was still trying to manage to survive the day.  I couldn’t understand Why would a company pay such a huge amount of money for a software application for smartphones and iPhone that is only used for procrastination and doesn’t create any value for the world? Last week’s volcanic eruption of Fuego Volcano in Guatemala made me change my mind.

The entrepreneurs behind Instagram,  Kevin Systrom and Michel “Mike” Krieger, created an application that was not only user-friendly but that enabled users to share images from anywhere in the world immediately.  Such an application was created (maybe unintentionally) to become one of the fastest image reservoirs of instant news and global interconnection.  When Facebook bought this photo-sharing app and paid $1 Billion they had not only bought the access to an essential function in millions of smartphones around the world but also connected visually the planet as we had never seen before.  Last week’s event in Guatemala was the first time in my life when I could see through my phone in Denmark high quality images of events that were taking place in real-time more than 5,843 miles.  Indeed, Hayek’s ideas of how an spontaneous order works was going global!

“Spontaneous order is what happens when you leave people alone—when entrepreneurs… see the desires of people… and then provide for them. They respond to market signals, to prices. Prices tell them what’s needed and how urgently and where. And it’s infinitely better and more productive than relying on a handful of elites in some distant bureaucracy.” Leonard Reed

To say that the world is interconnected and interdependent means to say that we are able now able of bypassing normal newsbroadcasters around the world.  No longer will be that easy for anyone to control what  the world would see and what the world wouldn’t see (as critized when News corporations around the world have been used to show a biased reservoir of images and videos during the Gulf War, or in the war in Iraq to mention some examples).  Now, with access to photo-sharing applications such as Instagram the world not only has access to interconnection of real-time events but also has what Hayek explained as “a more efficient allocation of societal resources than any design could achieve.”  Instagram is one more societal tool that enables us to achieve the best of humanity if used for the right purposes.  Because of this reasons the founders of Instagram earned  that billion dollars and the world is wealthier today.

Fight internet censorship and IP address blockades

A security line outside Google’s Beijing office. (AP/Andy Wong)

Is Internet a neutral zone? Is it a network that runs freely in any place of the world? Or is it controlled and regulated by governments and companies?

Sadly, it is not a free space in which people is able of doing whatever they rationally please. Internet is to a large degree a networked controlled and its globalizing effects are constantly been limited by the regulations and institutions of the countries from which we access it.  Specially in countries that have had a long history of citizen’s censorship and IP address controls.  CPJ‘s list of these countries that have managed to control the most it’s citizens freedom is #1 Iran, #2 Belarus, #3 Cuba, #4 Ethiopia, #5 Burma, #6 China, #7 Tunisia under Ben Ali, #8 Egypt under Mubarak (still continues being so), #9 Syria and #10 Russia.

Also, as noted in Wikipedia in 2006, Reporters without Borders (Reporters sans frontières, RSF), a Paris-based international non-governmental organization that advocates freedom of the press, started publishing a list of “Enemies of the Internet”. The organization classifies a country as an enemy of the internet because “all of these countries mark themselves out not just for their capacity to censor news and information online but also for their almost systematic repression of Internet users.” In 2007 a second list of countries “Under Surveillance” (originally “Under Watch”) was added. Both lists are updated annually.

Enemies of the Internet:

Internet censorship by country

As mentioned by Danny O’Brien in CPJ, “The world’s worst online oppressors are using an array of tactics, some reflecting astonishing levels of sophistication, others reminiscent of old-school techniques. From China’s high-level malware attacks to Syria’s brute-force imprisonments, this may be only the dawn of online oppression.”

Now, the principle in discussion here is what can we do to act freely in the Web? First, there are some services that enable you to block the origin of your IP address (learn what an IP is at the end of the post) and to access many websites by hiding your country of origin; one private and free service is HMA! or How to Bypass Internet Censorship.  But the most important one’s are the following online agencies and organizations that are working to inform and educate internet users of their rights and obligations:

What is an IP address:

Every device connected to the public Internet is assigned a unique number known as an Internet Protocol (IP) address. IP addresses consist of four numbers separated by periods (also called a ‘dotted-quad’) and look something like 127.0.0.1.

Since these numbers are usually assigned to internet service providers within region-based blocks, an IP address can often be used to identify the region or country from which a computer is connecting to the Internet. An IP address can sometimes be used to show the user’s general location. vía: http://whatismyipaddress.com/