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Digital Agreement: for a human digital society enhancing freedom, individual rights and the pursuit of happiness

New Digital Agreement: the Quest for a Natural Law of a Digital Society

Posted by on 13 ottobre 2016 in Digital Agreement | 0 comments

I have been working on “New Digital Agreement: the Quest for a Natural Law of a Digital Society”  since 2004. I’ve changed my mind several times and only now am I convinced that I am asking the right questions in order to understand the decades of technological, legal and social change ahead of us.

At this stage of my research there can be no “passive readers”!

You must challenge my assumptions and my thoughts. I will listen on the Wook!

To do so, we need new technology: the <<Wook!>>: an interactive eBook, where author and readers can discuss using all features of today’s social networks.

All feedback is welcome and necessary to create the reading/discussion tool for shaping knowledge together, the same way it was shaped 2,000 years ago, through the dialectic process at the Platonic Academy.(#1#)

I can wait no longer: I need your feedback on the Wook!.


Introduction / Abstract


Dear Readers,

You have the chance to ask questions, criticize and interact with me – even if you are in Tokyo or San Francisco. In order to be able to do this, we could not rely on books, not even on e-books!

This is why I implemented the <<Wook!>> technology to publish the New Digital Agreement.

The New Digital Agreement offers a fresh understanding of reality and a pro-active approach to knowledge. The barrier between the “reader” (hungry for knowledge) and the “author” (disseminating knowledge) has been torn down: using the <<Wook!>> the reader participates in the creation, evolution and dissemination of what they read. The author is no longer isolated and forced to provide static, “final” knowledge on a subject, but is able to collaborate with their readers in creating and disseminating knowledge.

An interactive multimedia book is an essential tool for understanding and shaping the evolving digital society, so this technology is now here to stay. The passive, static, unchangeable old book will be used only when a text should no longer be altered: poetry, classical literature, and any other ultimate content.

In the past, most of the content in our highly dynamic human society was static prior to publication – books, magazines and newspapers all had lead times; with printed books taking a minimum of four months to edit, print and circulate, Now, there is the need for a medium to create and share knowledge from inception: and an ambitious author will not always want to be alone when they give birth to a great idea.





Flash back to Christmas 1999 – While reading the millennium issue of the Economist, I had an epiphany. In the article “Road to Riches,” some data of Angus Maddison were summarized in a graph, showing the increase in productivity of the West. http://www.economist.com/node/346598

When I saw the graph, I was aware that the productivity curve had to flatten, so I prepared for this eventuality.

My investments began to pay off in 2006. My business thrived and eventually tripled in a market that was decreasing, if not collapsing, like in real estate (which was more than half of my business at the time, the rest being consulting in corporate law).

The article in the Economist had fundamentally confirmed that exceptional and exponential growth of wealth and knowledge in the past century is still unacceptable for a large majority of people. It was no coincidence, that in May 2012, another article by Bagehot (Yes! Again in the Economist) was summarizing my thoughts: “The Nightmare Scenario” – a reality of austerity and spending cuts, debt, intermittent growth and relative decline – http://www.economist.com/node/21555564.

I am not sure I have the solution. Possibly, there is no solution other than to reconsider reality starting from new theories (Einstein). A lot of recent science-fiction is about re-defining the parameters, not just the boundaries of scientific knowledge and technological possibilities, but also the parameters of free will. Good examples are:

The Hosthttp://www.imdb.com/title/tt1517260/?ref_=nm_flmg_dr_2

– The Darwinian Theories – http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0816692/?ref_=nv_sr_1

And for the idea itself of law and social order:

Elysiumhttp://www.imdb.com/title/tt1535108/?ref_=tt_rec_tti or


The Maze Runnerhttp://www.imdb.com/title/tt1790864/

The Hunger Gameshttp://www.imdb.com/title/tt1392170/

I am not sure I entirely understand the state of the play of the Western world,(#2#) but there are some people, that have started to try to understand some facts underlying our current predicament. Too many of them are still shying away from speaking out, and there are too many that are shouting who have nothing to say, apart from blaming others for the unsolved problems – the government, the opposition, the bankers and the unions – the usual suspects!

Sometimes, if an engine has become unreliable, neither the driver, nor the conductor or the passengers are to blame. To put it simply, the engine has become obsolete and time has come to swap it out. Consider, just for a moment, how a social system dependent on growth (to pay for social security, ensure job security and to service debt), would act and function when the required amount of growth is unattainable. You might consider that system to look like the economy of the OECD Member States (OECD = Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development).

My ambition is to ask tough questions and to collect the opinions of those who care to discover the path to a sustainable future for the people living in the OECD countries. We will need some substantial changes in our rules and organization. (The OECD’s origins date back to 1960, when 18 European countries plus the United States and Canada joined forces to create an organization dedicated to economic development.)

I sincerely dislike superficial hype about Information Technology. I believe that digitalization is an opportunity to improve the quality of life for all of us – those who live in the (still) rich world and those that live in developing countries. But as all opportunities there are also inherent risks, of misunderstanding where the true innovation lies and how to use it. Printed books, radio, cinema, television and, ultimately, internet have made knowledge more easily reachable, but also more easily manipulated.

As a lawyer, my ambition is to understand the rules that provide justice and peace for the next century and beyond. Good rules last for a long time. The “Ius Commune” of the ancient Romans lasted for 1,500 years after the end of the Roman Empire and its founding principles are still applied today as “Common Law”(#3#) in the Commonwealth of Nations and in the USA.

I believe many of our current laws will not last for another decade.

What will come next?

I have devoted 10 years of research to this question by reading books covering subjects like linguistics (in particular semiotics), archaeology, anthropology, history, neurology, sociology, psychology, philosophy, economics and Information Technology. Law has been a minor field of research; nonetheless, the whole analysis of the subject(s) is kept together by the aim to find new founding (legal) principles for a New Digital Social Agreement. It is a lawyer’s mind that has been reading through the vast literature, with absolutely no interest in being involved in any specialist/academic debate: even a wrong assumption may lead to a good question for understanding our way into the future!

In this work, I explain why I have chosen a certain theory about language or about human evolution, I will not try to put an end to discussions that have been going on since decades (if not centuries). I would have neither the scientific knowledge nor the authority to do so. Simply, I have chosen, on a case by case basis, what is the most compelling line of reasoning for me. Maybe I was (am) too dumb to understand more sophisticated theories, however, in my research I can go on only as far as my mind is able.

During my 10 years of study, I took the time to evolve and change my assumptions; recognizing my prejudices. I didn’t start writing because I felt that I have something to explain to others, but because I wanted to be able to ask the questions that are relevant to understanding our society; those which will allow us to construct a better future. This <<Wook!>> is a deep, meditated invitation to debate, to contribute, to build the future together.

I am also trying to escape from the scathing condemnation of writing, as Plato puts in Socrates mouth in Phaedrus 274a-275b, (#4#)you offer your pupils the appearance of wisdom, not true wisdom, for they will read many things without instruction and will therefore seem to know many things, when they are for the most part ignorant and hard to get along with, since they are not wise, but only appear wise”.

I cannot escape the baleful fate of a lone writer, without some help of my readers…

Instead of writing a book, I wrote a <<Wook!>>: my thoughts and my research are open for discussion, amendments, integration, extension… etc… Everyone who cares may contribute their knowledge and share their ideas. This <<Wook!>> does not end the discussion, it opens it.

Readers of my research shall not be passive, do partake in the outcome of the research offering information, insight, doubts, questions and criticism. This is not an opportunity to gaze passively at some printed words (that pretend to tell a truth), but a chance to be actively involved in the creation and dissemination of knowledge. In this <<Wook!>>, the author not only writes a tome, but also acts as a conductor for an orchestra of readers.

I don’t want to be right. My ambition is to find the right questions. If the questions are right, the right answers (there cannot be just one right answer) will follow through deep constructive debate.

This is a request for help. Students and researchers, please contribute with your ideas and information as you wish. This work is a living community of people who can comment, criticize, improve and amend the findings of this research over time.

I am excited to interact with you, and will try to learn, and hopefully teach you a thing or two. I hope my active readers will be prepared to make the same marvelous journey.

First – We will meditate on human nature and language. We believe that our uniqueness is self-evident. But we are wrong: genetically, behaviorally we are not so different from chimps or other evolved mammals. Also language is no longer believed to be unique to mankind: chimps change their utterances to match those of other apes, depending on where they live. Moreover, genetic engineering has gone so far that we will be able to engineer not just animals and plants, but even human beings. This is certain, not simply the subject for dystopic science fiction novels like those of Phlip L. Dick.

In the end, as far as we can tell, what really makes us unique to mankind is our ability (and need) to tell stories! We cannot exclude that, even before my generation dies out, we will have story telling machines and androids (thanks to Artificial Intelligence).(#5#)  There will be biological specimens identical to us which will not be bred by parents, but generated in a laboratory.(#6#)

So, we will need to find profound answers to these questions:

  1. a) What is human?
  2. b) What is an animal? and
  3. c) Is a conscious being an object, just because it was fabricated (as opposed to naturally conceived)?

Second – We will reflect on the origins of law and on how human rules are different (or not) from rules governing animal groupings (packs, herds, droves, flocks, hives, etc.). We will see that there are very close connections between legal rules, language and the human way of life. It is self-evident that, if language and the human way of life change, then the laws will also follow suite. Language and the law are the two tools that mankind has used for adapting nature to human life. Without both of them there wouldn’t be such an evident and clear-cut difference between a human and an animal society. Without language and law, humans would still adapt to nature, instead of shaping it and the principles governing human life would not have changed as frequently and as fast as they have: other mammals still live in the same way as 20.000 years ago. Humans have undergone an incredible evolution during the same time; that is simply unthinkable without language and law.

Third – We will re-consider the role of written and oral knowledge in the human society. It is simply untrue that all (good, true) knowledge comes from books and other written documents. Perhaps it was never true that we learn mostly from written documents.

Fourth – We will understand that slavery and forced labor have been very difficult to abolish. It’s been less than a century since we have had a world almost completely freed from slavery. Regardless, almost 2,000,000,000 humans live in degrading poverty: their life is not much better than the life of a slave. Innovation and industrialization has lifted 1/8 of humanity out of poverty. Can the rest follow? Or will the gap grow wider and wider? Can we grasp that digitalization is already triggering a second new economy? How and on what basis?

Fifth – How has human law evolved from the Middle Ages until now? What are the evolutionary patterns that we may recognize? Will they work in a digital society? It is quite evident, looking into the history of commercial law, that the merchants of the 11th Century created rules for their trade, in the same way as the “new economy” companies did in the past two decades, when triggering the “e-commerce”.

Sixth and Seventh – We will try to define what is a digital society, while avoiding hype and banal descriptions. The precise definition of digital society is of paramount importance for understanding what rules will survive and what rules will die in the coming decades.

Eight – We will propose a set of principles and rules that will “work” in a society highly impacted by digital language, digital media, digital documents, digital interactions and ultimately a digital economy and a digital culture.


This work is dedicated to my children and their generation. When I was their age, the enthusiastic hope of improving life for everybody was a driving force. We were wrong in most of our assumptions, so we did not succeed. On the contrary, in the last 30 years our “Western” society has been savagely damaged; we are indebted like after a world war, with no winners, no moral high ground (or lesson taught) and thus no clear perspective for the future.

We are heading for a rough ride. But life is nothing else than a journey. And its beauty lies in the ability to master the unexpected. So the journey ahead of us will be of a savage beauty!

I hope that this <<Wook!>> will be one of your travel companions.


(#1#) D. Sedley, “Academy”, in the Oxford Classical Dictionary, 3rd ed., p. 4.

(#2#) “Western World” is an obsolete definition because there are many Eastern and Southern nations that have become rich, democratic and open. A better denomination is “OECD Countries” or simply “OECD”, in order to refer to the 34 nations that are currently members of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. www.oecd.org.

(#3#) Common Law is the English translation of “Ius Commune”.

(#4#)The online English version of Phaedrus is available at http://www.english.illinois.edu/-people-/faculty/debaron/482/482readings/phaedrus.html. In the book, Plato explains the writing’s origin by quoting the mythological dialogue between Thoth, God of Writing, and the Egyptian king Thaum. http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mito_di_Theuth

(#5#)“Clever Computers: The Dawn of Artificial Intelligence,” The Economist (6 May 2015), http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21650543-powerful-computers-will-reshape-humanitys-future-how-ensure-promise-outweighs?zid=291&ah=906e69ad01d2ee51960100b7fa502595.

(#6#) “Editing Humanity,” The Economist (22 August 2015), http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21661651-new-technique-manipulating-genes-holds-great-promisebut-rules-are-needed-govern-its.

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The end of dark ages of security (RSA Conference 2015)

Posted by on 23 aprile 2015 in Digital Agreement | 0 comments

It could be a turning point in cybersecurity.
Amit Yoran, the new Chairman of RSA said three important things in his beautiful keynote yesterday April 21, 2015. Still not available on video but the transcript http://charge.rsa.com/amit-yoran-keynote/
1) We are losing the battle against hackers: the high/strong firewall does not work. In 95% of cases firewalls and security gates are bypassed using authentic credentials stolen by social engineering attacks. Armored IT doors and walls are built, surrounded by deep IT moats full of IT crocodiles, as in the Middle Ages. But the enemy enters the front door and is already everywhere inside the IT walls. It is necessary to study security solutions that consider this state of affairs: the military maps we use to define information security are out of date and do not describe the battlefield anymore (if they ever did…). Two are the possible pillars of redemption today: digital identity/authentication and functional correlation of data and IT channels.
2) Digital Identity/Authentication. You must have a definition of digital identity that is reliable but also truthful. The easy part is “reliable”: encryption solves the 99.99% of the problems. The hard part is the “truthfulness” of identity or identification. A number or a cryptographic key is not an identity: they are a means of identification. It’s a huge, but little understood, difference. The problem of “truthfulness” of identity/identification is not a technological problem, it is a linguistic, cultural and ultimately legal issue.
3) Functional correlation of data and IT channels. It means that the security of tomorrow will look al lot less like the defense plan of a city under siege, and much more like traffic laws and regulations, which establish where pedestrians can walk, where cars and trucks can drive and how, with all additional rules on speed, security checks, etc. etc.


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Digital Identity and Freedom

Posted by on 12 marzo 2015 in Digital Agreement | 0 comments

Digital Identity is not just about smart technology: it is mostly about freedom.
It is the most sweeping reform of civil liberties since the habeas corpus and the Bill of Rights.
It is not about e-commerce with the Public Administration.
If we would wire a democratic state into the internet, then we would have the state catering services to the websites of the citizen (those who bother to have one).
But the citizen with a one-fit-for-all password to access from one portal all public services in a system supported by a centralized national registrar of the population, is an orwellian scenario, a gigantic Warsaw Getto for cooperationists.
The last Italian Prime Minister that reduced civil liberties in the name of modernity and state efficiency, was Benito Mussolini.
Not a crook. An idealist, convinced that the end justifies the means.
Mussolini, the only Italian Prime Minister in charge for 22 years, also introduced the identity card, following the German example, that came in handy for genocide. Think about it: make a genocide without personal id’s… It’s messy, like in Serbia. You have to pick up people from the streets, in front of witnesses. The Germans didn’t know about genocide; most of them, at least, really didn’t.
Most jews consigned themselves to the nazionalsocialists, because they new they were all filed and labelled. There was no escape.
Digital Identity is one such piece of tricky technology.
We all know now about NSA’s disturbing practices, and it is finally official that commercial cryptography has backdoors imposed by secret services (the Freak bug)
Digital passports, extensive use of biometry to tag us unmistakably and now… digital identities!

Is this a new kind of freedom?

I am not so sure.  It looks to me as some kind of oppressive protection: like a too anxious mommy… but also like the pervasive eavesdropping and snooping of some communist “democracies”.
What I see, is that Italians, again (as in the ’20s) are ready to trade in freedom for a bit of “security”.
Is it a coincidence, that this happens again, when the generation that experienced the horrors of fascism, war and genocide is dying out?
The financial meltdown of 2009 happened 80 years after the great depression.
What price are we prepared to pay for Europe 2020? http://ec.europa.eu/europe2020/europe-2020-in-a-nutshell/index_en.htm


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Europe leads the fight for cyber security

Posted by on 30 gennaio 2015 in Digital Agreement | 0 comments


Patrick van Eecke, https://www.dlapiper.com/nl/belgium/people/v/van-eecke-patrick/

Tine Debusschere, http://www.vandijkmc.com/en/company_1.aspx

Hans Graux, http://www.timelex.eu/en/our-team/detail/hans-graux

Olivier Delos http://sealed.be

Sylvie Lacroix http://sealed.be

Riccardo Genghini https://riccardogenghini.eu

Marc Sel http://users.skynet.be/marc.sel/index-BIO.html

as core team of EIAS2  http://www.iasproject.eu/

presented in Bruxelles the draft deliverables of its consulting activity to the European Commission, in drafting the Regulation 910/2014/EU for European Electronic Trust services. http://ec.europa.eu/digital-agenda/en/trust-services-and-eid.

The Room in the Commission premises of Avenue Beaulieu 25 was packed of experts, and their active, acute participation to the presentations was challenging and extremely gratifying.

My believe is the the eIDAS Regulation 910/2014/EU is a fundamental piece of legislation. Even the Economist, that is often critical of European legislation, considers the regulation a landmark legislation. The Obama administration has presented a similar law in Congress.


I believe that proper implementation of the regulation will really transform the European market for IT services (and in particular trust services) and make it the most competitive in the world.  Transparency, openness, protection of individual and collective rights cannot be dismissed as red tape and bureaucracy.  Cyber security is not only about firewalls and other techno gimmicks: it is mostly about the protection of the rights of all involved parties.

Still, the devil is in the details… the impementing acts may improve the legislation only if they achieve the following goals, that are expressely stated in the regulation:

– provide an efficient supervision of the security of Trust Service Providers: efficient means effective, without red tape

– foster innovation

– avoid useless barriers to acces the market of TSPs, that will keep out new players (innovation today comes mostly from startups)

– end the fragmentation of the European market into national markets, where incumbents are protected by the local supervisory practices

We had a great start, and I am proud and grateful that I had the opportunity to contribute to the drafting of the regulatory framework for  the possibly  richest, most innovative, diverse and competitiva electronic services market in the world.



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EU Qualifed Trust Services: CA Compliance Info-Day (Berlin, November 4, 2014)

Posted by on 4 novembre 2014 in Digital Agreement | 0 comments

Today in Berlin (Germany) CA Compliance Info-Day
eIDAS and Trust Service Provider Conformity Assessment
Organizer:        Bundesdruckerei, TÜVIT, ETSI STF 458
Date:     Tuesday, 04.11.2014 from 10:00 AM to 05:00 PM
Venue:         Bundesdruckerei, Berlin-Mitte, Conference Center, Kommandantenstraße 15 (new entrance)

EU Regulation 910/2014 aims at creating a single competitive market in Europe. A great opportunity for Europe, provided we will work all together in order to have a single common approach to Supervision of European Qualified Trust Service Providers.

Impelmenting Acts by the EU Commission and ETSI and CEN Standards are not per se sufficient for the success of a single market of Qualifed Trust Services.

Representatives of the EU Commission, of the legal team advising the Commission, EU Standard Organisations, European Accreditation, and several stakeholders are debating here today the future of Electronic Trust Services in Europe.


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Verba manent, scripta Volant #1: Digital Priests: the preservation of information for ever.

Posted by on 11 dicembre 2012 in Digital Agreement | 0 comments

What has changed with digitalization?

There are just three ontological (i.e. necessary, unavoidable) changes, affecting how we interact with data/information generated/managed through computers, in comparison to how we interact with analogic (i.e. paper based) registrations/inscriptions/documents.

The first two differences are immanent, even with stand alone computers.

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Documents, Inscriptions and Traces… the documental pyramid

Posted by on 10 dicembre 2012 in Digital Agreement | 0 comments

The best ontological definition of document, I was able to find is in “Documentality: Why It Is Necessary to Leave Traces (Commonalities)“, by Maurizio Ferraris, http://www.amazon.com/Documentality-Necessary-Leave-Traces-Commonalities/dp/0823249697 that is the translation of “Documentalità: perché é necessario lasciar tracce” by Maurizio Ferraris http://www.amazon.it/Documentalit%C3%A0-Perch%C3%A9-necessario-lasciar-tracce/dp/8842091065/ref=sr_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1355064359&sr=1-4 .

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