John Perry Barlow:
I guess we’ve run out of time, but to the extent we haven’t, might I encourage you to address one question? I want to know whether you think that the Internet is a liberating phenomenon.
Is that a trick question? Of course the Internet is a liberating phenomenon—it’s liberating in so many different ways that we suffer almost epistemic confusion when trying to understand them all.
I think Google counts as liberation—from having to keep a big technical library, for starters (I hardly use my nonfiction books any more).
I think blogs count as liberation; they used to say that freedom of the press belongs to the man who owns one, and now everybody owns one.
I think plain old email counts as liberation. Distance matters vastly less to our relationships than it did when we were kids. (Cellphones helped too, of course.)
OK, so we didn’t get the exact liberation, on the exact timeframe, that we expected before the fact. Do we ever when the revolution actually comes? Human beings almost always overestimate the impact of near-term technological change and underestimate the long-term impact. So it was with the telegraph, the telephone, and the television; so, I am sure, it will be with the Internet.
The kind of radical libertarian changes you and I and our peers dreamed of aren’t here yet, but I think they’ll come eventually. Of course, we might have to go through the Singularity to get there—but the Internet is helping that along, too.