Hacker News new | comments | show | ask | jobs | submit login
John Perry Barlow has died (eff.org)
1485 points by schoen 8 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 126 comments



My JPB Story (from ~1998):

I grew up in New Delhi in the late 90s on a steady diet of 2600, phrack, BBSes and the EFF/internet. Two of the people I'd read a lot about and was very inspired by were JPB and Mitch Kapor, as founders of the EFF - and I decided one day that I'd like to actually reach out and talk to Barlow (I didn't actually have a goal in mind, now that I think about it).

Figuring that an email would never get a reply, I added him on AIM. To my utter surprise, he added me back - and after introducing myself as a high schooler who was a fan of the work he was doing, we communicated over the next year or so on a wide variety of topics that included open source, free software and the state of the internet in India at the time. For the next 10 years or so, when AIM was still active, he was one of the very few people still on my contacts list who would go "online" and "offline" with a regular cadence -- one of the only reasons I ever even logged into AIM was to (rarely) say hello :).

Of course, I stopped using the service a long time ago, and lost touch with him - but his declaration of independence of cyberspace was something that I leaned on when researching about internet censorship and policies a few years ago. I never did reach back out to him, and there was no pressing need to either.

On hearing the news, I'm reminded of how prescient and applicable his words have been to the issues and challenges that we see in the internet of today - but also how he personally upheld one beautifully phrased paragraph in particular, by virtue of his accepting a request from, and interacting with a random high schooler from half way across the world.

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


Your story is such a great nugget of what he stood for, thank you for sharing it.


JPB on meeting a partner on an evening when he was due to roast Steve Jobs at a NeXT Expo.

https://www.thisamericanlife.org/74/transcript#act3


Well, I wasn't prepared for that.

Almost skipped over it, so anyone else trailing through who catches this, go and read it.


Thanks for adding that. I was set to skip over that too. Holy crap, that was great. And it might be my new favorite piece of Ira Glass' work.


Wow, I'm really glad I read this comment. Thank you. What an unbelievably amazing story.


Holy crap. Thanks for the pointer.


Yeah. Wow. Powerful stuff.


a founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and former rancher and Grateful Dead lyricist

Now that's a life lived.


Yeah, I was a big Dead Head in the 80's and loved JPB for what he had done with Bob Weir and the rest of the band.

Years later I learned about the EFF as part of diving deep into tech in general. It took me another five or so to put together the fact that the JPB I knew and loved was the guy who started the EFF. It felt neat to have my past and present collide a little like that.

RIP Mr. Barlow, you will be sorely missed.



If you've already read the transcript, see his statement: https://w2.eff.org/Misc/Publications/John_Perry_Barlow/HTML/...

1993-1994 was also an important period for the legal case which motivated the creation of the EFF: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electronic_Frontier_Foundation...


Man, the interview was kinda hard to read, but that statement destroyed me. What a moving tale. Makes me want to believe in the afterlife just so he could be reunited with her


Such a wonderful story, and one I hope we all get a chance to relate to at some point in our lives. His last descriptions of the sky and how heaven might look reminded me of this part from a poem by Jacques Prevet:

  Our Father who art in heaven
  Stay there
  And we'll stay here on earth
  Which is sometimes so pretty
Full poem: https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/667126-pater-noster-our-fat...


Very moving and sad. He wrote about her here: https://w2.eff.org/Misc/Publications/John_Perry_Barlow/HTML/...


Thank you so much for sharing this. This, and When Worlds Collide, are some of the most touching pieces I've ever read.

Rest in peace John.


So, someone else who thinks that sometimes they can see souls in the light of beings’ eyes.

At least I know I’m not the only crazy person. Sadly it is entirely unprovable to others. It would be like trying to prove to someone who’s never eaten chocolate before, that chocolate is this totally awesome thing. (And what is chocolate, really, but an entirely subjective sublime experience?)

Funny thing, though, that I can say about it (and which is entirely in agreement with his account)... If you ever manage to see theirs, they will be able to see yours, too.

Rest easy, JPB. You’re hopefully back with your tribe.


Holy crap that is some story. Thank you for posting that link.


I was at the 1993 NeXT Expo and remember seeing JPB. Never quite understood his background at that time. But was intrigued by his connection to Steve Jobs and NeXT.


Did you happen to see a woman with long blonde hair in his vicinity?


"UNIX weenies by Armani" :)

EDIT: OK, just made it to the end. Didn't really feel I could leave the above as my entire reply to such a profound story.


Holy crap. This blew my mind. I haven't heard or read a story this good in ages.


This is an incredible story. Strangely enough this is what John Perry Barlow shared on Instagram last December: “I met my precious granddaughter today. She feels inexplicably familiar to me.”

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bc-zR3TlIoz/


Definitely worth a read.


Should have stopped 1/3rd of the way into the transcript. Thanks for sharing.


Incredible story. Thanks for sharing the link.


Thanks. Very emotional read.


Ow. That actually hurt.


Thank you for sharing


#unixweeniesbyarmani


My JPB Story:

I’d come to find myself in Portland. In the home of a stranger but there was no cause for alarm. This place felt like a home. It was real and a part of our collective universe. I never met my host, not once while I was there. She was a kindred spirit. Her home was warm and welcoming but I never knew her. On the last day of my trip, we managed to cross paths in the house, only in sound, never vision. She entered the shower, and I left to catch a plane to New York City. Like any other day.

In New York City, I found myself thinking of my time in Portland, feeling drawn to this woman. She sent me a friend request on Facebook. I immediately started rifling through pictures to try and see her. To understand what this feeling was. This draw. This pull. There was a picture with her and her father. I recognized the name but I didn’t know why. I immediately copied the name into google and was floored.

He was Cyberspace. A man who’s been with me my whole digital life. A dreamer. Someone who believes in more. Surreal clarity. A tangle of wires connecting this whole god damned universe caught us both and brought us together, for just that moment. I don’t know why the wires thought I was special, why I needed to know, but I’m happy they did.

I reflected on this moment. This connection that was both possible and impossible without this man and his daughter. Here’s to you JPB and Anna for being the conduit for these crazy electrical signals that had something to say. It was but a moment in passing in our collective universes, but one that left a mark.


Yeah "he was cyberspace" is a really great description.


Here's a link to his "A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace" from 1996, published 22 years ago tomorrow:

https://www.eff.org/cyberspace-independence

I always loved these bits:

"Cyberspace consists of transactions, relationships, and thought itself, arrayed like a standing wave in the web of our communications."

And:

"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."

RIP.


Mike Godwin, who worked with Barlow at EFF back in the day, talked briefly about the Declaration of Independence of Cyberspace in a recent essay:

"Barlow, best known prior to his co-founding of the Electronic Frontier Foundation as a songwriter for the Grateful Dead, was writing to inspire activism, not to prescribe a new world order, and his goal was to be lyrical and aspirational, not legislative. Barlow wrote and published his “Declaration” in the short days and weeks after Congress passed, and President Clinton signed into law, a telecommunications bill that aimed, in part, to censor the internet. No serious person – and certainly not the Electronic Frontier Foundation and other organizations that successfully challenged the Communications Decency Act provisions of that bill – believed that cyberspace would be “automagically” independent of the terrestrial world and its governments. Barlow’s “Declaration” is best understood, as Wired described it two decades later, as a “rallying cry.” Similarly, nobody thinks “The Star-Spangled Banner” or “America the Beautiful” or “This Land Is Your Land” is a constitution. (And of course the original Declaration of Independence isn’t one either.)"

https://www.cato-unbound.org/2018/01/04/mike-godwin/free-spe...


Recording of John Perry Barlow reading his "A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace": https://vimeo.com/111576518


Thank you very much for the link.


This declaration sounds like an excuse to surf cp


Could you please stop posting unsubstantive comments to Hacker News? You've done it a lot and we eventually ban accounts that do that.

The idea here is: if you have a substantive point to make, make it thoughtfully; if you don't, please don't comment until you do.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


what is wrong with you?


I've posted this on HN before, but his introduction to Birth of a Psychedelic Culture is highly worth reading. Among other things he talks about how (after entirely too much acid) he was planning on becoming America's first suicide bomber, to protest the Vietnam war, but got caught by his friends at the last minute:

http://realitysandwich.com/34204/beginning_birth_psychedelic...

Fortunately for the rest of us he ended up co-founding the EFF instead.


You are right. Just a beautiful piece. Full of insight and connections to the many other stories from that time.


Barlow's Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace [0] is one of the quintessential works that made the web the free place it is. What a great loss.

As a teenager, Barlow's writings inspired me and many others to do things such as paint our websites black to protest the Communications Decency Act, and write lots of actual letters which, in aggregate, effected change legally and socially.

In 2000 at Comdex, I remember Barlow saying that he had no love for the record companies - as a member of the Grateful Dead he had never received a royalty statement that didn't say he owed the company money. This was during the height of the war on MP3s when other artists were claiming they were being robbed at gunpoint or something.

[0] https://www.eff.org/cyberspace-independence


  The black-throated wind keeps on pouring in.
  And it speaks of a life that passes like dew.
  It's forced me to see that you've done better by me,
  Better by me than I've done by you.
http://artsites.ucsc.edu/GDead/agdl/btwi.html


I am a huge Grateful Dead fan (I don't call myself a dead head because I was 9 when Jerry died, I never saw them play.) But I always loved John Perry Barlow's songs. My old band used to cover The Music Never Stopped and Cassidy, and my all time favorite dead song is Throwing Stones.

I didn't even know he was a big influencer in tech until I saw him appear on the Colbert Report representing the EFF.

My JPB story is short and relatively meaningless, but back when I first signed up for twitter I just followed a bunch of famous people and would every now and then attempt to engage them. The only one that ever replied back to me was John Perry Barlow, and it made my week. I had interfaced with true greatness. Rest in peace, John!


> In 1996, Barlow was invited to speak about his work in cyberspace to a middle school classroom at North Shore Country Day School, which was a highly influential event in the early life of student Aaron Swartz, as Swartz's father Robert recalls Aaron coming home that day as a changed person.[23][24]

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Perry_Barlow


That sucks. Adult principles:

http://tirania.org/blog/archive/2011/Jan-21.html

Worth living by.


I didn't see a link to his lyrics for Grateful Dead songs yet. My favorite is Cassady. What an inspiration between EFF and the Dead. https://w2.eff.org/Misc/Publications/John_Perry_Barlow/HTML/...


My favorite is Let It Grow (from weather report suite).

It's such a beautiful piece of music. Really gets down deep into the nature of life.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IN6mjNMNytY

https://play.google.com/music/preview/Tuuldprggcev2wah45v27l...

I listened to this album for years and didn't understand that song until recently when I went back and listened again.

I don't think the song is about an agricultural town and a women fetching water as it first appears. I think it's symbolic. The women is dipping into the river of life and carrying a little part away with her. She is brown like the earth because in this case she is symbolic of the earth, i.e. the substrate on which life appears or develops. The drops of water in the reeds are individual instances of life, eventually they lose their individuality and return to the ocean. The plowman is sowing the earth. Etc. Etc.


What you are, what you're meant to be. Speaks his name, though you were born to me


His Principles for Adult Behavior is hard-earned wisdom: https://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/1kgmes/i_am_john_perr...


Wow. And succinct enough that I’ll quote them in full:

ADULT PRINCIPLES -John Perry Barlow

1 Be patient. No matter what.

2 Don't badmouth: Assign responsibility, not blame. Say nothing of another you wouldn't say to him.

3 Never assume the motives of others are, to them, less noble than yours are to you.

4 Expand your sense of the possible.

5 Don't trouble yourself with matters you truly cannot change.

6 Don't ask more of others than you can deliver yourself.

7 Tolerate ambiguity.

8 Laugh at yourself frequently.

9 Concern yourself with what is right rather than who is right.

10 Try not to forget that, no matter how certain, you might be wrong.

11 Give up blood sports.

12 Remember that your life belongs to others as well. Don't risk it frivolously.

13 Never lie to anyone for any reason. (Lies of omission are sometimes exempt.)

14 Learn the needs of those around you and respect them.

15 Avoid the pursuit of happiness. Seek to define your mission and pursue that.

16 Reduce your use of the first personal pronoun.

17 Praise at least as often as you disparage.

18 Admit your errors freely and quickly.

19 Become less suspicious of joy.

20 Understand humility.

21 Remember that love forgives everything.

22 Foster dignity.

23 Live memorably.

24 Love yourself.

25 Endure.


So, basically, "stop using twitter".


people in power need to be rated against these principles.


You need to rate yourself against these principles. This is the whole point.


i have rated myself. i think i'm about a c+, need to try harder.


Don't ask more of others than you can deliver yourself.


Never heard of the guy until 2005 where CNET interviewed him about his interest in skype. Thus me and my friend downloaded Skype and called him. We chatted for five or ten minutes and he remained on my friends Skype since. Later found out he was in the Grateful Dead in same shape or form.


Barlow once recounted a time that a random person in Vietnam called him on Skype because she wanted to practice English and he was named "John":

https://www.nytimes.com/2005/03/26/technology/internet-calli...

You can find the whole thing (which is kind of amazing) at https://archive.li/jHN8B (search for "The Intimate Planet").


Very pleasant read, something nostalgic about this old style blog. Made me think of the days I'd spend chatting and voice messaging folks from MSN and yahoo chatrooms and all the friends I've made there who I've lost touch with.


I never got to meet JPB, but I was lucky enough to attend his keynote at PyCon 2014 in Montreal. It's a great talk, should you have a spare 45 minutes.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QGVzb5YXmeo

He is (indirectly) responsible for the existence of a hackerspace in Fresno, CA. Last year a few of us got together to talk about starting a chapter of the Electronic Frontier Alliance. That conversation morphed into, "fuck it, let's just start a hackerspace."

So thanks JPB. Rest well.


That was a great little corner of the universe to occupy. That was the first talk at the first conference to which Chelsea and I traveled. And also where my friendship with you began in earnest. Incredible.


Such a loss. Who is the thought leader today to push back on the huge curtailment of online freedoms happening around the world. Even in the HN crowd, you see people succumbing to nationalism and making arguments to support their government's right to impose their court decisions on foreign jurisdictions in cyberspace. The problem isn't just the Great Firewall, it's stuff like Turkey or Thailand getting YouTube to take down a video criticizing their leader outside their region. It's European courts ruling their restrictions have to apply globally.

There's no leader really standing up and affirming the philosophical dream of the independence of cyberspace, as a place where people can gather freely to transact in virtual ways however they want. Rather, there's a huge backslide over the last 20 years.


Richard Stallman and Eben Moglen are who I take a lot of similar (but not the same) inspiration from these days. He's dead now too, and not a technologist, but I also took a lot of inspiration from the admonitions of freedom to read and freedom of speech from Christopher Hitchens.


> Who is the thought leader today to push back on the huge curtailment of online freedoms happening around the world

Judgine from this thread, everyone.


> There's no leader really standing up and affirming the philosophical dream of the independence of cyberspace, as a place where people can gather freely to transact in virtual ways however they want.

Among others, the 2600 crew are still carrying that torch.


To follow up on my last comment: this week's episode of Off The Hook (one of 2600's radio shows) had a nice segment on John Perry Barlow.


If that's really how you feel, then why don't you be that person?

And by "you," I'm not calling out cromwellian, I mean anyone who reads this comment.


I used to call him from time to time when I was a teenager, back in the early 1990s. He was always very open and neighborly and curious.

There are a number of sub-cultures that exist across the USA - redneck Wyoming ranchers, deadheads, San Francisco computer gearheads, civil libertarians - he seemed to belong to all of them. He was an easy person to say of that "he is one of the members of our community".

I know that him and Sean Parker were friends going way back. Someone told me a story that on the day Parker met Mark Zuckerberg etc. at the 66 restaurant, as portrayed in the movie the "Social Network", that Parker was crashing on Barlow's couch. I don't know if that is true or just part of the legend...

You would see him at various events around New York City when he was in the city. He often went to Florio's Pizzeria and Cigar Bar, holding court with people like Jaron Lanier and others.

A friend of mine said "He lived a life many would envy".


It's weird reading this because I very recently found out that a girl I went to high school with was his daughter. I had no idea back then (14+ years ago). This is a sad loss for the community and I'm sure his family as well.


One thing that was clear from following him on Twitter was he had a big heart, and in particular was a doting father to his (I think three) daughters. They all seemed to be very free spirits.


That's truly unfortunate. I've admired his work on behalf of electronic freedom since the start and have gotten to meet the gentleman once or twice, as we graduated from the same high-school separated by a few decades.

My condolences to his family and friends, and thanks for sharing him with us.


Nothing to tell now / let the words be yours / I am done with mine.

A champion of freedom. RIP.


Who else knew Barlow as a Grateful Dead lyrisict?


Funny tidbit: for a short while I thought they were two distinct people, and I kept telling myself 'wow, what a coincidence that two people have such an unlikely name'.


I knew of him through that before I knew of him through his activism; if that's what you mean. Wasn't until a few years ago, when I followed him on Twitter, that I found out about his other work. He was a remarkable man.


Who didn't? Every article on him started with that tidbit.


I admit my ignorance of not knowing about him previous to reading this. Also admit a sad feeling of retroactive loss now that I have learned a bit more about him. Hope he'll be a role model to others that follow.


What a profoundly interesting man. Here's a bit more for those interested in his work:

Forbes: Why Spy?

by John Perry Barlow, 10.07.02

https://www.forbes.com/asap/2002/1007/042_print.html

Grateful Dead Lyricist and Burning Man's Co-Founder Talk Tech

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1jAyedG67_I


My Barlow story starts with reading the first issue of the EFFector. Being a Deadhead I was also aware of John as Bob Weir's song writing partner. Reading a CACM column by Bob during a set break prompted an email exchange of no real note but fond memories. Rip a hole in the sky John. And may the rest of us learn just a little from your life.


"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."

It's why I spit (virtually) upon posters who defend Google's actions towards Damore, and Twitter and YouTube's actions to deplatform people.


John Perry Barlow with an OLPC XO-1 Children's Computer.

https://imgur.com/a/ogE9y

John Perry Barlow and John Gilmore, EFF founders.

https://imgur.com/a/eqqlz


The end of an era. You will be missed, you wonderful old beatific cybernetic flower child ;) RIP

California, a prophet on the burning shore California, I'll be knocking on the golden door Like an angel, standing in a shaft of light Rising up to paradise, I know I'm gonna shine


First met JPB in '87.

I'm realizing I'm too sad to share any of the many stories.

But it also makes me realize how much of an Internet warrior we've all lost, and that we need to keep up the hope and the fight. Donate to EFF as memorial, please.


> I see the fact that we have a large working anarchy in the internet. I think that inspires people to try practical anarchy as a social form in the physical world.

https://web.archive.org/web/20071009235727/http://www.india-...


JPB was at B-Sides SF a few years ago. He gave the keynote and I remember watching down over the railing of the DNA lounge 2nd floor balcony. It was surreal how focused and sincere the space was compared to the normal mode of operation for the venue.

His Keynote was incredibly relevant. I highly recommend giving it a watch: https://youtu.be/1mrmOrUsbGI


Favorite quote: "Relying on the government to protect your privacy is like asking a peeping tom to install your window blinds." --John Perry Barlow


Barlow was always larger than life, always on, his mind never quiet. They don't seem to make them that way any more. He'll be missed.


This is just so sad. I'm lucky to have met him briefly about a decade ago when he was consulting the company I worked for. He was just so awesome and smart, and naturally most meetings we had with him pretty quickly turned into storytelling time with John. Those were a few of days I'll never forget. RIP.


    This must be heaven --
    Tonight I crossed the line.
    You must be the angel
    I thought I'd never find.
    Was it you I heard singin'
    While I was chasin' dreams?
    Driven by the wind,
    Like the dust that blows around
    And the rain fallin' down...


Crime and Pizzlement: Desperados of the DataSphere

https://w2.eff.org/Misc/Publications/John_Perry_Barlow/HTML/...


There's a great collection of Barlow's writing here in EFF's archives:

https://w2.eff.org/Misc/Publications/John_Perry_Barlow/



Lots of thoughts here but I'm at a loss. He seemed in good spirits right until the end — we should all hope for that.

JPB was a true artist and technologist. His art was inspired by the past and his policy by the future.


A grave loss, the world needs more people like him, not less.


JPB did a really great audio walking tour of SF's Knob Hill & Tenderloin. It's in the Detour iOS app.


Man, this makes me sad beyond words. It's a great loss for all of us, even those who don't realize it.


"We will spread ourselves across the Planet so that no one can arrest our thoughts."

Fair warning.


Amongst other things I remember his columns in NeXTworld (sp?) fondly.


Yes, the magazine for NeXT machine users. NeXT capitalization I think was later changed to NEXTSTEP the operation system and OPENSTEP the cross-platform environment.


RIP - he was a great thinker perhaps 30 years ahead of his time.



The world seems a little bit darker.


The music never stopped


I don't know exactly what the criteria for putting a black banner line on HN is, but I was a bit surprised to not see one here today after hearing of this loss.


If Barlow doesn't deserve the HN black bar, I don't know who does. He fought for electronic freedoms tirelessly for decades, fending off companies who wanted to control the Internet or individuals' rights to hack technology they own.


Agreed. This is a huge loss.


+1


Absolutely he deserves the black bar, please!


Yes. Black bar. Let's have it.


Definitely. Please HN mods, let's have the black bar tribute today.


Please, the black bar


Yeah, HN needs to put a black bar on for JPB.


I sent the HN moderator an email asking when the black bar would be placed. No response. This makes me really, really sad.


It was never established what the HN black bar means. It may simply mean "This person was close to someone who runs HN."


I had always interpreted it to represent the loss and respect of prominent tech and computer science individuals, but would be interested in what the “official” stance is.

I thought I had an email from Dan that would answer this when I requested the black bar for someone, but that email seems to be gone when I search for it.


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

February 8, 1996

[0] https://www.eff.org/cyberspace-independence


It is worthwhile to consider Barlow's legacy--particularly this utopian rhetoric about cyberspace--as examined by Adam Curtis in his 2016 film Hypernormalisation (starting at 40m 35s):-

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-fny99f8amM&feature=youtu.be...


I'm inclined to agree with Curtis' analysis. His critique is particularly pertinent now that Silicon Valley yields such enormous power.


Please post a URL for a canonical source: https://www.eff.org/cyberspace-independence


Wow, that's one of the most idealistic statements I've ever read. Too bad we ended up with the WWW of today instead.


It was a heady time back then. Lots of optimism and dreams.

Technology has improved in sophistication and accessibility but I agree that bright spirit has been muted over the years.


I first read the declaration back in the 90's when it seemed possible. Over time we have slowly drifted away from the grand vision and we're now in a dark place. That said, when I get really down about the state of the net/www/privacy I pull up the declaration to remind myself of what can be and what to fight for.

Today I feel invigorated, and there is work to be done.


We shall take his declaration as an inspiration to keep fighting for free information accross the world. The power of his thought comes from believing we're just moments away from liberating people living through oppression of information, just now as we're on HN, and there can be nothing stopping information from spreading.


ended up? it isn't over yet. we only lose if we stop trying to build a better cyberspace


It's not over yet


~"Government: get out of the way! We need no impediments to unbridled corporate power" -JPB




Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact

Search: