The Baystate Objectivist

The Baystate Objectivist

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Jumpers and Pioneers

Visiting Edge City.

Gosh folks, I'm awful busy today and can't give you any original stuff. I promise to make amends tomorrow. In the meantime:

Have you ever wondered whether you would be killed if you jumped off the Calvin Coolidge Bridge? Well you can find out by clicking here.

John Perry Barlow is best known as a lyricist and songwriter for the Grateful Dead. But in computer geek circles he is known primarily as the author of the Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace, which he wrote in 1996 at the infancy of the modern internet. It still holds up very well today, and is worth reprinting.

A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace
by John Perry Barlow

Governments of the Industrial World, you weary giants of flesh and steel, I come from Cyberspace, the new home of Mind. On behalf of the future, I ask you of the past to leave us alone. You are not welcome among us. You have no sovereignty where we gather.

We have no elected government, nor are we likely to have one, so I address you with no greater authority than that with which liberty itself always speaks. I declare the global social space we are building to be naturally independent of the tyrannies you seek to impose on us. You have no moral right to rule us nor do you possess any methods of enforcement we have true reason to fear.

Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed. You have neither solicited nor received ours. We did not invite you. You do not know us, nor do you know our world. Cyberspace does not lie within your borders. Do not think that you can build it, as though it were a public construction project. You cannot. It is an act of nature and it grows itself through our collective actions.

You have not engaged in our great and gathering conversation, nor did you create the wealth of our marketplaces. You do not know our culture, our ethics, or the unwritten codes that already provide our society more order than could be obtained by any of your impositions.

You claim there are problems among us that you need to solve. You use this claim as an excuse to invade our precincts. Many of these problems don't exist. Where there are real conflicts, where there are wrongs, we will identify them and address them by our means. We are forming our own Social Contract . This governance will arise according to the conditions of our world, not yours. Our world is different.

Cyberspace consists of transactions, relationships, and thought itself, arrayed like a standing wave in the web of our communications. Ours is a world that is both everywhere and nowhere, but it is not where bodies live.

We are creating a world that all may enter without privilege or prejudice accorded by race, economic power, military force, or station of birth.

We are creating a world where anyone, anywhere may express his or her beliefs, no matter how singular, without fear of being coerced into silence or conformity.

Your legal concepts of property, expression, identity, movement, and context do not apply to us. They are all based on matter, and there is no matter here.

Our identities have no bodies, so, unlike you, we cannot obtain order by physical coercion. We believe that from ethics, enlightened self-interest, and the commonweal, our governance will emerge . Our identities may be distributed across many of your jurisdictions. The only law that all our constituent cultures would generally recognize is the Golden Rule. We hope we will be able to build our particular solutions on that basis. But we cannot accept the solutions you are attempting to impose.

In the United States, you have today created a law, the Telecommunications Reform Act, which repudiates your own Constitution and insults the dreams of Jefferson, Washington, Mill, Madison, DeToqueville, and Brandeis. These dreams must now be born anew in us.

You are terrified of your own children, since they are natives in a world where you will always be immigrants. Because you fear them, you entrust your bureaucracies with the parental responsibilities you are too cowardly to confront yourselves. In our world, all the sentiments and expressions of humanity, from the debasing to the angelic, are parts of a seamless whole, the global conversation of bits. We cannot separate the air that chokes from the air upon which wings beat.

In China, Germany, France, Russia, Singapore, Italy and the United States, you are trying to ward off the virus of liberty by erecting guard posts at the frontiers of Cyberspace. These may keep out the contagion for a small time, but they will not work in a world that will soon be blanketed in bit-bearing media.

Your increasingly obsolete information industries would perpetuate themselves by proposing laws, in America and elsewhere, that claim to own speech itself throughout the world. These laws would declare ideas to be another industrial product, no more noble than pig iron. In our world, whatever the human mind may create can be reproduced and distributed infinitely at no cost. The global conveyance of thought no longer requires your factories to accomplish.

These increasingly hostile and colonial measures place us in the same position as those previous lovers of freedom and self-determination who had to reject the authorities of distant, uninformed powers. We must declare our virtual selves immune to your sovereignty, even as we continue to consent to your rule over our bodies. We will spread ourselves across the Planet so that no one can arrest our thoughts.

We will create a civilization of the Mind in Cyberspace. May it be more humane and fair than the world your governments have made before.

Davos, Switzerland


Mary E.Carey said...

Wow. Is there some kind of good, short, non-technical guide to the Internet you'd recommend? I wonder if there is a Web site or short video that would allow us latecomers to experience what it was like in 1996. Do you think Barlow would approve of the latest wave of immigrants --the non-technical types who only arrived here when it got easy enough for us to cross over.

Tim said...

I think anyone who ever read "On The Road" tried to be like Neil but my buddy Lenny was the closest I've seen in this area to him. I remember driving up to the Music Inn in Lenox, my buddy Dan in the back seat trying to get a crappy top loading tape deck to work and Len driving up Rt. 9 in his 442 turned 360' for most of the ride working on it with him, yammering away, scaring the bleep out of me in the shotgun seat. Then there was the time we closed the Country Corners and Len is still talking to some guy in the parking lot at 4:30am about Carlos Casteneda or some such crap while Dan and I are running up and tackling him as hard as we can, and Len didn't even notice. He then drove right to the middle of the "X" and decided he needed to throw open the doors and puke right in front of the police, who for some reason didn't see it or didn't want to see it.

Tim said...

I meant 180' Sorry!

Tommy said...

Tim, that's a funny story. Mary, you are actually one of the pioneers in our age bracket. More of us need to have blogs, and the best way to learn the internet is to spend time in it.

Anonymous said...

Hey Tommy, first great blog. I came across it quite by accident on a google search that didn’t even have Devine in it.

The one thing that struck me on your Blog was Barlows Declaration of Independence of Cyberspace. As someone who unlike Al Gore actually had something to do with the propagation of the internet I can reasonably say he is fairly wrong. I love the Dead, I even spent a short period of time doing sound engineering work on a tour in the late 70’s but Barlow’s Declaration has little to do with reality.

Cyberspace depends on all those things he rejects as “old” which BTW we all become no matter how hard we try. Cyberspace is an illusion that’s quickly dissipated with any interruption of the internet which it lives on.

People who think of cyberspace as a separate realm, like the mind, forget, that like the mind, it is merely a sub component or even a foreign body since its application not hardware based of the Internet itself. The World Wide Web is just a thin bit of code after all.

The internet is and was created by the U.S. government, specifically the military to communicate with Universities and other Government agencies. Had it been better understood in the 60’s it would probably have been targeted by radicals as being as culpable in weapons research as some campus labs and attacked and some pieces blown up.

The people who hail the internet as a place of liberty and free speech forget that like the space program they owe the hated government and specifically the military for the advances that made these products possible.

I spent many years enabling both public and private companies and institutions connect up into what would eventually be the internet as we now know it. Should it be a place of privacy and free speech? Damn straight. I believe everyone should get encryption software that’s very hard and very expensive for anyone to crack. Even the government agencies who do such things.

This is available from another crackpot group that’s actually helping that which they sought to circumvent, the open source people. Open Source is one of the best tools to free market capitalism around today. Free ideas to be exploited and sold at a price the market will bear! Irony is a great therapy. Of course the terrorists and cyber criminals can get this too but that’s the price we pay for liberty, exposure to evil.

Personally I prefer a well regulated internet to chaos where the under disciplined sociopathic and uninhibited offspring of the love generations offspring wreak havoc on those they consider deserving of it if they didn’t understand how to protect themselves from cyber attacks.

Hmmm wait cyber attacks? In a free and open cyberspace does that mean we now need cyber sheriffs or do we want the lawless frontier? Historically the mob eventually elects the sheriff.

It’s a brave new world, and an interesting time to live and observe the madness.

Jim Devine

Director of Program Management

Faculty and Staff

Harvard University