Dai Davies: Well it start­ed in 1991 when I was asked to run a project, a sim­ple three-year project to build a pan-European data net­work to sup­port research and edu­ca­tion. And I just took it as a job. And I intend­ed when I’d done that job to go on and do some­thing else. But the chal­lenge was to cre­ate a net­work which was up to date, and at the time there was con­sid­er­able inter­est in hav­ing an Internet net­work. And so in fact that’s what we built. 

So by 1993 we had a net­work, but we had no orga­ni­za­tion to sup­port it. And in cre­at­ing the orga­ni­za­tion to sup­port it, we cre­at­ed a new job oppor­tu­ni­ty which I then decid­ed to take. And I’ve been doing it ever since. So I’ve been run­ning the pan-European net­work­ing orga­ni­za­tion that sup­ports the pan-European research and edu­ca­tion Internet. 

Intertitle: Describe one of the break­through moments of the Internet in which you have been a key participant?

Davies: Well the break­through moment was real­ly because in 1991, 1992 in Europe, there were two camps fight­ing out the choice of tech­nol­o­gy. It was very much a sort of big-endian ver­sus little-endian argu­ment. But on the one hand there was the X.25 camp, and on the oth­er hand there was the IP camp. And so I was try­ing to rec­on­cile these two quite con­flict­ing forces. And I worked out that I could build a net­work which was an IP net­work but which still allowed X.25 to flow over it. And so I man­aged to find a com­pro­mise between these two camps who were fight­ing one anoth­er. And so we could move for­ward, because oth­er­wise it would have been a straight fight. And it was way out of this sort of con­flict between two tech­ni­cal views which are com­plete­ly opposed to one anoth­er. And so even­tu­al­ly, in two or three years the X.25 with­ered and the net­work became a pure IP net­work. That was I think quite impor­tant from the European per­spec­tive, because with­out that sort of lubri­ca­tion as it were, the bat­tle would’ve gone on and it would have been a war of attri­tion, technology-wise, which would not have done any­body any good. 

Intertitle: Describe the state of the Internet today with a weath­er anal­o­gy and explain why.

Davies: I think it’s sun­ny but maybe there’s the odd storm com­ing up ahead. 

The Internet has been a huge suc­cess. It has cre­at­ed oppor­tu­ni­ties for peo­ple that did­n’t exist twen­ty years ago. It has change soci­ety in ways that few would have pre­dict­ed. And that’s all extreme­ly good, but at the same time there are some down­sides to it that real­ly aren’t per­haps ful­ly appre­ci­at­ed yet. And I think per­son­al pri­va­cy is one area, and secu­ri­ty is anoth­er area. And both of those things are poten­tial threats to future devel­op­ment. In prac­tice I think they will be over­come, but it’s only fair to rec­og­nize that although a huge amount has been achieved there are cer­tain­ly these two areas in my view that are poten­tial­ly prob­lem­at­ic look­ing ahead. 

Intertitle: What are your great­est hopes and fears for the future of the Internet?

Davies: My con­cern real­ly relates to the fact that it would be essen­tial­ly used by crim­i­nals. That you can already see there’s a lot less vio­lent crime. Why do you need to hit some­body to rob them if you can do it stealth­ily using using a net­work and using iden­ti­ty theft? I think that is real­ly a big area of con­cern, that the male­fac­tors will uti­lize this in a way that his­tor­i­cal­ly has not been the case. And that’s a major problem.

I think the thing which I see as being real­ly impor­tant is there are a lot of still quite rou­tine jobs, where peo­ple are adding very lit­tle val­ue oth­er than mov­ing infor­ma­tion from one place to anoth­er. And I think that aspect of work will become increas­ing­ly rare in the same way that for exam­ple if you look back say forty, fifty years ago, fac­to­ry work con­sist­ed of rel­a­tive­ly rou­tine things. Now fac­to­ry work is a much more sophis­ti­cat­ed form of work, and the rou­tine things are done auto­mat­i­cal­ly. I think the same thing will hap­pen in an office envi­ron­ment. Which should free peo­ple up to ful­fill them­selves more in oth­er ways.

Intertitle: What action should be tak­en to ensure the best pos­si­ble future?

Davies: That’s an extreme­ly dif­fi­cult ques­tion. I think that there are two assump­tions in it. One is the we” and the oth­er is the action. I don’t think the Internet is being cre­at­ed by we’s and I don’t think it’s being cre­at­ed by con­scious action among groups. I think it is very much some­thing that is evolved in its own right. And so I don’t real­ly feel that try­ing to influ­ence the direc­tion too much from a pol­i­cy point of view, for exam­ple, is nec­es­sar­i­ly a good idea. I think the sort of devel­op­ments that will come along are much more sophis­ti­cat­ed appli­ca­tions that help peo­ple in their ordi­nary lives. But I think that will hap­pen. I’m not per­son­al­ly con­vinced that policy-driven ini­tia­tives to cre­ate things in the con­text of the Internet are par­tic­u­lar­ly valuable.