I’m Larry Landweber. I’m from the United States. Professor emer­i­tus from the University of Wisconsin in Madison. I got involved with net­work­ing some­time in the late 70s, main­ly because I was look­ing around and dis­cov­er­ing that peo­ple were get­ting into net­work­ing, email. And at the time I was depart­ment chair at University of Wisconsin, the com­put­er sci­ence depart­ment, and was try­ing to under­stand what those capa­bil­i­ties would do for our fac­ul­ty and stu­dents. And so I got inter­est­ed, and as a result of that end­ed up putting in a pro­pos­al to the National Science Foundation to do an email sys­tem for the­o­ret­i­cal com­put­er sci­en­tists in the United States. And quite amaz­ing­ly the National Science Foundation fund­ed it. 

That changed my life. I mean, that was a major inflec­tion point where I decid­ed that I would no longer work as a the­o­reti­cian. I had been prov­ing the­o­rems for prob­a­bly fif­teen or twen­ty years. I was a logi­cian in a com­put­er sci­ence depart­ment. And I got so excit­ed by the net­work­ing that I decid­ed to just aban­don the work in the­o­ry and con­tin­ue.

So as a result of that, I end­ed up putting togeth­er a group of peo­ple in about 1979. And that group worked with me, and we worked with Bob Kahn and Vint Cerf from DARPA, and the peo­ple from NSF, and we put togeth­er a pro­pos­al to build a net­work for all of the research groups in com­put­ing in the United States. Quite a…oh, how should I put it? It was a leap of faith that we did that. And the goal of CSNET was to intro­duce net­work­ing into all of the com­put­er sci­ence depart­ments at uni­ver­si­ties, and also com­put­er research groups in indus­try and gov­ern­ment, through­out the United States.

After about five years, we had brought the entire aca­d­e­mic com­put­er sci­ence com­mu­ni­ty on board. And the National Science Foundation, using CSNET as a mod­el, decid­ed to have a net­work for a wider com­mu­ni­ty. And the result of that was through the rest of the 80s, all of the aca­d­e­mic com­mu­ni­ty in the United States got involved, and that led to the com­mer­cial­iza­tion, which led to the Web, which led to where we are today. And so if I had to say what my proud­est achieve­ment [is,] it’s hav­ing played a role in lay­ing the foun­da­tion for today’s Internet. 

Unlike some of the­se peo­ple who claim they knew what was going to hap­pen, I nev­er real­ly knew what was going to hap­pen. I didn’t real­ize the world had changed until after I saw the World Wide Web. And in fact if the World Wide Web had not hap­pened, we wouldn’t be hav­ing this dis­cus­sion, because the Internet would not have jumped from the aca­d­e­mic com­mu­ni­ty to the real world. Real peo­ple were not going to be turned on by email and file trans­fer. It took the World Wide Web and the the glob­al infor­ma­tion util­i­ty.

My hope is the rais­ing up of bil­lions of peo­ple who live on a dol­lar or two dol­lars a day, and that with the Internet we can have things like being able to check on mar­ket con­di­tions if they’re sub­sis­tence farm­ers who are sell­ing their crops. Or being able to under­stand what their gov­ern­ment is say­ing, real­ly. Or being able to com­mu­ni­cate. I mean, the Arab Spring, for me, was absolute­ly the embod­i­ment of the promise of the Internet.

What I also would like to see, anoth­er hope for the Internet, is that it becomes inte­grat­ed with oth­er dis­ci­plines. And so for exam­ple med­ical dis­ci­plines. I think there are incred­i­ble oppor­tu­ni­ties to use the Internet to bring the ben­e­fits of med­i­cine and state of the art medicine—we already are see­ing robot­ic surgery. We can see that across cities, across rooms. And there are just an amaz­ing num­ber of pos­si­ble appli­ca­tions that we haven’t yet real­ly devel­oped.

The thing that’s so crit­i­cal for peo­ple who are work­ing on the Internet is not to just get involved in the techy stuff but also to under­stand the soci­etal part and the need to move the soci­ety in pos­i­tive ways. And I think that’s some­thing that’s very impor­tant that the Internet Society is work­ing on. I real­ly like the fact that there’s a mix of— At this meet­ing, for exam­ple, a mix of techie types who don’t real­ly ful­ly under­stand the soci­etal issues, and the peo­ple who are soci­ol­o­gists and anthro­pol­o­gists, or authors, who get togeth­er and talk about the­se issues. Because togeth­er they can under­stand and may­be be forces for good. 

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