Despite what all your instincts about entropy tell you, sometimes it actually takes more energy to undo something than to do it.

This happens in public policy for sure. Take the Patriot Act for example. Even though most Americans agree that it was only designed to be used in cases of potential terrorism (it was certainly enacted under that charter), it’s well documented that it’s used for other non-terrorist civil liberty infractions today. However, if you think it’d be easy to get a simple clause amended to the act now that retroactively clarifies and limits its power to terrorism cases, you’ve got another thing coming. No way that we’ll undo power that was created quite that easily.

The Digital Meillennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is another example. In the opinion of this technologist, it’s single-handedly stifled more forward-progress in the last decade than any other piece of public policy since the growth of the Internet. It’s being wielded by struggling giants of the tech-sector and endangered content-creators of the last millennium like a desperate half-wit might try to win a chess match with pepper spray. But it’s going to be awfully hard to undo. I’d predict that instead of changing law, we’ll just let the courts slowly invalidate each piece of it until the whole act is dead on the vine. How’s that for a slow way to reset things right?

Finally, it happens with companies building products and services. It’s very hard to take something away from your customers once you’ve created it, especially a service. So many websites you visit are confusing and schizophrenic because they’ve been too afraid of taking away features long-since made obsolete or undesirable. Because everyone who’s ever taken away a feature knows the pain of all those customer support emails from the people who used it, implying that you and your business are heartless bastards who will rot in a fiery eternity for your sins (sometimes they do more than just imply it.)

All these things we put in place in the name of progress have a way of growing roots. So be careful what you sow.