John Perry Barlow--retired Wyoming cattle rancher, lyricist for the Grateful Dead--holds a degree in comparative religion from Wesleyan University. He also happens to be a recognized authority on computer security, virtual reality, digitized intellectual property, and the social and legal conditions arising in the global network of computers.
In 1990 Barlow co-founded the Electronic Frontier Foundation with Mitch Kapor and currently serves as chair of its executive committee. He writes and lectures on subjects relating to digital technology and society and is a contributing editor to Communications of the ACM, NeXTWorld, Microtimes, Mondo 2000,
Wired, and other publications.
In this keynote address to the Winter 1994 USENIX Conference, Barlow talks about developments in the national information infrastructure, telecommunications regulation, cryptography, globalization of the Internet, intellectual property, and the settlement of Cyberspace. This talk explores the premise that "architecture is politics": that the technology adopted for the coming "information superhighway" will help to determine what is carried on it, and that if the electronic frontier of the Internet is not to be replaced by electronic strip malls, we need to make sure that our technological choices favor bi-directional communication and open platforms.
Side A contains the keynote; Side B contains a question and answer period. Some excerpts:
"I honestly believe, without hyperbole, that the people in this room are doing things which will change the world more than anything since the capture of fire."
"Most of the folks that I talk to from the television industry think that 'interactive television' consists of putting a 'Buy' button on your channel clicker."
"In cyberspace, the First Amendment is a local ordinance."
"I have a NeXT machine -- I expect a boo or two -- that's as close to UNIX as I've been able to get, and that's kind of like UNIX with training wheels by Armani."
"I still kind of feel like C++ must be just an exceptionally mediocre report card."
"I think of [UNIX] sometimes as being the 1990s equivalent of Chartres Cathedral, where thousands of people worked for many years creating something that was amazingly complex and yet somehow worked rather elegantly to the purposes for which it had been created."
"Bandwidth is one of those things -- like money and sex -- the more you've got, the shorter it feels."
"I, personally, have a text allergy at this point. I get a kind of ASCII glaze at the end of the week after five days of 100-150 email messages a day."
"We may be hurtling toward a future in which every single thing we do will be visible to the government, and as it is right now, anytime you make a financial transaction you smear your fingerprints all over cyberspace. This does not need to be the case; but it's going to take a lot of changing consciousness to have it be otherwise."