In "Google Takes on China", Jonathan Zittrain writes on his blog:
"What next? My hope, and expectation, is that Google engineers who might have been a bit halfhearted about implementing censorship mandates in google.cn could be full-throttle in coming up with ways for Google to be viewed despite any network interruptions between site and user. There are lots of unexplored options here. They’re unexplored not because they’re infeasible, but because most sites would rather not provoke a government that filters. So they don’t undertake to get information out in ways that might evade blockages. Here, Google would have nothing more to lose, so could pioneer some new approaches."
Eric Pfanner, in the 01.18.10 NYT, quotes Zittrain, but then ends his piece "In War Against the Internet, China is just a skirmish", with this:
"But even Google, which has benefited more than any other company from the flourishing of content online, might be unable to fight the momentum of government restrictions, despite its move in China."
Pfanner is wrong. Flat out wrong.
Governments will fight the internet and what it represents and enables, for the same reason many companies did at the beginning of this messy techno-cultural-societal Gotterdammerung: they are wedded to legacy systems of command and control, and believe that they are financially incented to remain that way.
But the companies that will survive and prosper recognize that rejecting the technosphere or attempting to dam it will simply reroute its flow to more viable channels - and their only chance to lead is having those channels pumping through their doors. I suspect governmental structures will be similarly stressed taxed and broken/rebuilt. For instance: when Obama can raise millions in one day online, and when the Red Cross can generate over a hundred million dollars for Haiti through text messages, we have to rethink financial controls and monitoring.
Innovation and capital will go where opportunity exists.
I was at the Seattle "Museum of Flight", and a particular plaque caught my attention in the 'space' display wing. In the 'history of rocketry' section, a note mentioned that two thirds of Nazi Germany's physicists and half its physical chemists fled the Nazi's ethnic and political policies - fueling Western leaps that resulted in the Atom bomb and (eventually, once the Peenemunde scientists were added to the mix) space travel. They played to a legacy, and sacrificed their future.
Government restriction will drive innovation - at home, to circumvent such restriction, and abroad through migration of human capital and resources.
Survival is based on the answer to a simple question: do you drive innovation, or do you drive it away?