[CrackMonkey] Brian Behlendorf tells it to the man!

Mike Goldman whig at debian.org
Tue Apr 25 16:19:04 PDT 2000

Seth David Schoen wrote:

> Now I have found that a lot of really smart people don't think this
> picture is complete or inevitable.  Last year, I started reading
> Cliff Stoll, Phil Agre, Larry Lessig, Wendell Berry, and a touch of
> David Brin.  These people (Berry being a special case) actually have
> some idea what's going on, and they don't see us going where Markoff's
> cypherpunks thought -- at least, not without struggle and hardship.
> I want to know who is right; I want to know whether technology is
> obsoleting the "old system" or just being absorbed for yet another
> iteration.

Two years ago, the question was in some doubt.  The early gains of radical
"netification" of society were being lost to the very same old-line media from
which the Internet originall offered an alternative.  The vast majority of new
users became passive information consumers, rather than interactive participants
in the medium, and it looked like a very far from certain outcome.

But more recently, the situation brightened considerably, to the point that I am
once again confident that the forces of individual empowerment and
decentralization will prevail.  Will we win without struggle or
hardship?  Absolutely not -- there will be a great deal of upheaval during this
transition, which may last decades at least.  But the entire ediface of
information control cannot withstand Napster, Gnutella, Freenet and the
increasingly powerful technologies that are being deployed.  Ultimately, we will
have to build new infrastructures upon these foundations, and effectively abandon
the present "web" to the corporate and government powers.  But eventually, some
bright person will develop a "killer app" for Freenet or whatever, and the
migration will begin in earnest.

With all due respect to Cliff Stoll and Lawrence Lessig, they are somewhat
educated about the technology which existed five or ten years ago, but neither of
them seems to sense where the new developments are happening and their
consequences.  David Brin, for all that he is a bright and interesting fellow
(and an excellent author) is a proponent of the "ordered society" throughout his
writings (though he may protest his libertarianism).

> You think this is what people are like, and we're stuck here?

I don't think that this is what people are like -- I think this is what powerless
and irresponsible people are like.  And my point is precisely that I do not think
we are stuck here.  We're finally coming unstuck, after a dreadful interval.

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