Things in Heaven and Earth
Almost twelve years ago, John Barlow wrote a Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace. It wasn’t so much a statement of rebellion as it was a statement of fact. The realities of existence in cyberspace are transforming the concepts of freedom and information exchange. Those who try to manage the electronic marketplace of ideas via legislation are hopelessly out of touch.
Barlow wrote, “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.”
When I first read those words in 1996, they seemed hyperbolic, true in intent, but not in reality. The Ron Paul rally on Whisperwind’s World of Warcraft seems to indicate something more. The independent world of Cyberspace began with news groups, Fidonet, and independent BBS’s. Now we have online forums, chat rooms, communities, and entire worlds the likes of which the average D.C. politician has never dreamed. We have barely begun to feel the effects of the Internet on world politics. I don’t think even William Gibson could predict quite where this will end.