It's a dark and sobering read, but John Walker's Digital Imprimatur is a fascinating look at what the Internet will become in the not-so-distant future. I think that it's somewhat of a cautionary tale--exaggerated to some degree to reinforce its thesis. I personally don't believe that we will agree on a central authority for the kind of "Secure Internet" that Walker forsees. The problem with that system is that if the central authority is compromised, fraud and destruction on a truly massive scale can occur in seconds. Today, by virtue of our balkanized planet, the damage is limited by mututal distrust.
I actually kind of like the concept of patent enforcement under the "Secure Internet" model. If MSFT is in violation of my patents, I can bring down their entire empire with the revocation of a single certificate. As far as I know, there's nothing in patent law about weighing the damages to society--but I guess that law would be lobbied and changed pretty rapidly. Oh well.
But nonetheless, it's a compelling and engrossing tale of what could be the future of computing. And it's not pretty for silly notions like free thought and such.