Whether people are debating the significance origin stories found in documents, or critiquing where innovations and progress ends up once other people (with other ideas) get involved, the search for “original intent” shows up.

The first reason that determining original intent is a fallacy and—to a certain degree—a way to either shut down conflict and force accommodation with whatever the new idea or innovation is, or it serves as a way to critique progress without really having any skin in the game.

The second reason that original intent is fallacious as an argument against progress, is that no one—and particularly not the initial founders or designers of an idea, a concept, a product or an innovation—had any idea what the future would hold.

Which is why many arguments for the continuation of the Second Amendment (or any other amendment in the Constitution) tend to be ignored. The original intent of the founders who wrote the amendment in the first place, was greatly influenced by their immediate past—and their current situation, which is now shrouded in the past of US history. The writers of the Constitution couldn’t have imagined steam power or railroads spanning the country, much less the Internet, AR-15’s or the specific geopolitical strife that lead to the decision to go to war in Vietnam.

Instead of focusing on original intent and trying to determine how that intent matches up to situations that did not exist in the past when that intent was originally developed, perhaps focusing on original principles–mission, vision, values, goals–would be a better route to success.

This is a particularly salient point as we begin to really think about what kind of Internet we want to have, even as the Internet changes into something that it’s original founders, designers and developers could never have imagined.

-Peace With You All-

Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT: jsorrells@hsconsultingandtraining.com
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