The phrase that caught my eye was "“the Internet” isn’t just a network of wires and switches, it’s also a sort of reactive social organism composed of the people who keep those wires humming and those switches clicking." I think Eric has significantly understated the nature of the beast while capturing a key insight. What Eric has left out is many other components of the Internet that go beyond engineers and wires. We have users, hackers, stalkers, creators, consumers, servers, host, patrons, pariah, billionaires and bottom feeders (yes, some are both). We have a full eco-system of interacting, and perhaps not fully interdependent components. If it were possible to purge all instances of a particular component, it is unclear if the overall entity would survive. Consider elimination of mosquito's ... generally something I think I favor... but what would the unintended consequences be?
Eric asserts that "Whatever else we Internet geeks may disagree on among ourselves, we will not allow our gift of fire to be snuffed out by jealous gods." This alludes to the ability of Internet watchdogs to engage the masses (as was done for the SOPA blackout) and counter political and legal actions that might threaten the Internet.
There may be something else at work here, as described by Susan Blackmore in her TED.com presentation on Memes. She asserts, following Darwin's law of evolution, if you have a replicator (genes, organisms, memes), and selection (of the fittest, catchy ideas, Google page rank), you will get evolution (emerging new things better at meeting the selection criteria.) Richard Dawkins, in The Selfish Gene asserts that genes are evolving replicators. Which is not to exclude cells, people and even tribes or societies from also being evolving replicators. Considering the Internet this way we can see that it does replicate at various levels. We have home nets, Intranets, Extranets, and many paths for interaction in the totally non-transparent 'cloud' that exists between your ISP and mine. The net is evolving without question. We can consider this at the IPv4 to IPv6 level, wired to wifi, university to commercial, Altavista to Google, credit-cards to Paypal, and many other levels. I suspect there is a level we treat as the "net-generation" of people also. However this may be evolving and segmenting much more rapidly than we realize. Are you net 2.0, 3.0, 55.233.23? Linkedin or Facebook, Twitter or ?? My daughter is funding a book via Kickstarter.com, the Arab spring versions 1.0 and 2.0 are being informed by various social media channels.
The real challenge for Senator Dodd, and the rest of us, is to be sufficiently aware of this multi-faceted beast to leverage its power while not raising its ire. Ray Kurzweil asserts the Singularity is Near. I constantly return to the observation that we may not know when something reaches critical mass and disappears off our radar. The Internet with its rapid replication at multiple levels provides a fertile eco system for this to occur. And yes, the resulting entities may have some interest in self preservation as well as symbiotic tendrils into select human communities.