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20 Years Since John Perry Barlow Declared Cyberspace Independence (wired.com)
122 points by sinak2 on Feb 8, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 40 comments



Every frontier eventually gets integrated into civilization. It's only a matter of time. Civilization brings its laws and its infrastructure and its masses of people. As civilization is bigger than the frontier, the frontiersmen either have to civilize themselves, or move on to another frontier.

The nice thing about the Internet is that it is particularly hard to civilize. It's incredibly hard to wrap laws, which have to be enforced, around information technology. There is always more information than there is people to look at it. So the Internet offers an "endless frontier" of sorts. The Chinese government is famously grappling with this.

Such a thing is not unprecedented, there are plenty of arenas where there is always going to be room for intrepid settlers to voyage to and scrape out an individualistic experience in. Academia is such a place. Doesn't matter how civilized the university gets, there is always room for more people pushing the boundaries of institutionalized knowledge.

We should welcome society into the Internet. Powerful ideas are bigger than even society, so the Internet will forever remain a place where good ideas thrive. It is society that will be changed by the Internet, not the Internet by society. Society will make its settlements, and people fearful of the rough frontier lifestyle will cling to these settlements, but it won't keep them safe from the powerful ideas generated further out.


I was always happy to welcome individual people into Internet society, but after offline society swamped us, there really isn't an Internet society anymore, and I miss it.

I'd have struck out for the next frontier years ago if I had any idea where it was.


The world has frontiers for days. Everywhere society isn't, is a frontier. Every idea has a fringe of people that are out on the edges of that idea. Bitcoin, weight-lifting, Indian-Mexican fusion cuisine, van-dwelling. All these things have groups of people that operate outside of the norm, who have made sacrifices to exist more strongly in that space.

The Internet has made finding a frontier to settle in easier than ever.


Maybe so, but those are little subcultures with small horizons; the future doesn't live there, the way it used to live on the Internet. I'm not just looking for people to hang out with, I'm looking for the next big thing, the next opportunity to help undermine the old power structures and build something better.


You can look to history for ideas.

Once the West was won, America needed raw materials to actually build all the infrastructure. Civilization moves slowly, so there was always opportunity to get out ahead of it and strike it rich. Gold mining, oil prospecting, surveying, offered up a continuous range of gradations of closeness to civilization. You could have worked for the railroad or gone out and, say, ranched or prospected on your own.

You can see these elements in today's Internet frontier. The equivalent of prospecting would be making a Bitcoin startup, those who would have preferred a more civilized life working for the railroad might join an established startup.

The American frontier moved from being geographical to being industrial. It's a different kind of culture and different goals. But the stakes of this frontier were even larger, the benefits that came after the West was won had a much greater impact than the Wild West itself ever did.

And so you see the same with the Internet frontier. If you know what to look for, the civilizing process has only begun, there's still lots and lots of money to make and influence to have. But the pioneers time is over. We need those who can actually build something real.


But you can't change things without people, and it's people turning up on the internet which is apparently ruining the internet.


Tor and the "deep web" was a nice frontier to play with until it got reduced to its current state (pedophilia and drugs).


I find myself wondering if there are some groups out there that wants us to make that association, when Tor can be used for anything the net can be used.

Meaning it is a variant of "why do you want privacy if you have nothing to hide?" spiel.


Raphmedia is just stating a fact, though. There used to be a pretty great diversity of sites on Tor for a while, then after Freedomhosting got taken down most of what was left was the illegal stuff.

If anybody here is listening, set up an onion service, just for fun. Even if it's just a static page with some content. Make the darknet great again. (I already run one.)


So if i understand it right, a whole web hotel was taken down because a few of the customers were hosting illegal material?

Do the fed customary burn down whole motels because a few of the rooms were used for illegal activities?


Why don't you just use the normal web? The hidden web only has the attribute of being hidden. The battle there is not technological, it's of winning the argument with the general public that you should be allowed freedom and not have to hide stuff.


There is nothing "general public" about it.

Its a bunch of special interest within the M-I-I complex that love the ability to be able to track every conversation in real time 24/7/365.

That they wrap themselves in "think of the X/Y/Z" should be transparent.

But thanks to media playing along with the argument that even touching someone younger than adult (never mind that USA have some of the most conservative age of consent laws) is pedophilia, because it makes for more eyeballs and therefore more ad revenue, the bozos have the perfect argument that bypasses the brain and goes straight for the feels.

Privacy should not have to be defended, it should be the default.


You might be looking for the culture that surrounds state of the art networking tech.


China has been my new frontier, though I must confess it too is becoming a lot less frontier-like these days. Corners of Burma, India, South America, Indonesia and the Philippines. Papua New Guinea.


At the same time, the larger civilization is changed even as it integrates the frontier. American culture changed enormously as it integrated the frontier territories, Texas, and California.


The message is probably one we can all get behind in principle.

However, the internet has a real, physical infrastructure that is definitely owned and operated by behemoth organizations like governments and private corporations. In fact, the Internet was created by a government. What makes you think they'd give it up willingly?

If you want to create your own internet, you certainly can. But even if you find the monetary resources to do so, you'll need to house and operate the telecommunications equipment somewhere on Earth (or in LEO). And if you want to protect that equipment from hostile takeover, then you'll need some form of recognized sovereignty including a real military capable of defending your castle.

Cyberspace cannot (yet) escape the real bounds of physical reality. It seems as though some people think of it as a superset of the world, while it very much is still a subset dependent on its corporeal parent.


What about techniques that obscure the source of information?

Whether it be something like Tor, or something like a distributed database, internet communication may require hardware and physical location of data, but there are ways to allow information transmission without being strongly reliant on a fixed physical source.

Also, this capability is not limited to the internet.


None of those technologies are bulletproof. Tor can be (and at least partially has been) compromised.


Think very long distance wireless. It has yet to be invented but I believe one day it will be possible to communicate point-to-point across the globe with low power devices at high bandwidths. Such a technology would make these arguments moot. Certainly we have to be practical about our present situation but the broader idea of cyberspace is not limited to current technology. In 1996 moderates would have laugh if you suggested today's technology would become common place.


Where would you house the wireless endpoints? How would you obscure their source? These aren't magical devices. They're still real-world physical objects.


> low power

> high bandwidth

> high distance

The laws of physics compel you to choose 2.


No, that's wrong. It's correct if you add the requirement that you're omnidirectional but if you want to let go of that requirement then low power, high bandwidth and long distance can be there at the same time.


The words "low" and "high" are relative terms. I would argue that by 1990 standards we've achieved all of these.


There are some severe physical limitations to work around here. Higher frequencies support higher bandwidth, but they tend to go right through the ionosphere rather than treating the ground-ionosphere system as a waveguide. Lower frequencies can propagate further (like AM radio at night), but as you drop the frequency there's suddenly a lot less spectrum to go around. And you need huge antennas.


It stands to reason that the technology of the future does not yet make sense to us. Do you believe that we've already achieved the furthest possible wireless communication at low power? I think we can do better. This is pure speculation but I'm basing it on our past performance.


Yes, I believe we're at the limit of what we can do with electromagnetic radiation. That's not to say that there aren't other forms of wireless I haven't thought of, but we've been trying to squeeze bandwidth out of the electromagnetic spectrum for over a hundred years now, and its limitations are pretty well understood at this point. If we're all carrying neutrino-based communication devices in 2050, I'll be happily proven wrong.

This is not to say that there isn't exciting stuff going on in the QRP DX world (like JT65), but we're not breaking through the power-bandwidth-distance frontier, just finding interesting new ways to trade the three off against each other.


Well, that didn't work out.

Back in the 1930s, there was a similar enthusiasm about air travel. Watch H. G. Wells "Things to Come".[1] "Wings over the World", indeed.

There was a repeat of this in the Space Age, ("We came in peace for all mankind") but that didn't last long.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kn76zoYjr4k


There is always a lot of enthusiasm about technology that is ultimately tempered by cold hard reality. When I grew up in the 1990's, computers in the classroom were going to change education. But that idea is a farce today. Same thing with space travel, supersonic flight, nuclear power, etc. The landscape is littered with the bones of techno-optimist dreams from the 1980's and 1990's.


It's always interesting to see how various companies attempt to go against these ideas and fail. Geoblocking for instance goes against the borderless idea mentioned there. The core of their failure is always the attempt to use physical logic in the digital space. Some just never learn.


John Perry Barlow is recovering from a stroke.

Here is at San Francisco's Ocean Beach: https://twitter.com/JPBarlow/status/692198084265254914


I think he had a heart attack, not a stroke.


Sorry, you're right. My mistake.


Wonder who's gonna write this for the Blockchain.


Blockchains don't need independence from governments. Blockchains are independence from governments. Blockchains allow individuals to enforce rules on their governments without needing to navigate bureaucracies and legislatures that are already captured by the wealthy and powerful.

Inalienable rights are a powerful concept. It suggests that there can be rights that people aren't using—not because they don't have them, but because they don't know they have them. This was the story of the Enlightenment, and I believe it's the story of blockchains as well.

Blockchains give the people information about their economy that they can use to see the flow of economic power, and they can use this information to decide whose power to submit to. No one can take this right away. Rejecting power used to require a violent revolution. Soon it'll only require an app.

http://meritcapitalism.com/


My understanding is that blockchains are designed to ensure that it would be economically irrational to attempt to expend resources competing with the blockchain, creating create a stable equilibrium in which rational participants cooperate.

It might not be worth a scammer's money to buy enough computing power to double-spend, but that doesn't mean a government mightn't find it worthwhile to spend money to tamper with or destroy something it perceives as a threat.


Blockchains can be tampered with, but they're tamper-evident. Sure, a government can 51% attack Bitcoin and lower its value. The value of Bitcoin doesn't matter. What matters is the ability to reach consensus on a sequence of events. Such attacks only make that harder temporarily.


I agree with the message in principle and in spirit, but in order to have an open and free internet we've seen that government involvement is fairly necessary. Net neutrality laws and their enforcement are paramount in order to prevent monopolization of content and information, and government cooperation is necessary in order to build the infrastructure necessary to deliver the internet to people's homes.

"You are not welcome among us" sends the wrong message, I think. I would rather they embraced a free and open internet, and were convinced of the value of keeping it so.


The issue of net neutrality sits on the boarder of cyber and meatspace. Governments are involved because we are talking about the quality of Internet service a particular physical locations. It could become a moot point if global wireless became a reality.


Well, I think we all recognize now that the original message was a bit, ah, naive. But that's okay! Missions change with the time and as we learn.


When you declare what "we all recognize" you are bound to be wrong. I still fully agree with the original naive statement as it was written.




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