We’ve already been through several situations where new technologies come along. The Industrial Revolution removed a large number of jobs that had been done by hand, replaced them with machines. But the machines had to be built, the machines had to be operated, the machines had to be maintained. And the same is true in this online environment.
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In an environment where everybody can pick up everybody’s tools, we’re all weirdly empowered now. And I mean kind of weird in an almost fey sense like, our powers are weird, they make us weird, and they make our our conflicts weird. It’s again that idea that our tools are interacting with our human flaws in really really interesting ways.
I wrote a memo saying, “We should have a global hypertext system to fix this.” The memo, I distributed it to a few people but there’s nowhere really to distribute it to at CERN because CERN is a physics lab. It didn’t have committees for building programs and hypertext systems.
So what happened was basically nothing for eighteen months.
The Soviet experience suggests something really important for us today, which is that networks are entirely compatible with surveillance. And many of our favorite things to talk about, then, peer-to-peer production, or end-to-end intelligence, kind of missed the point that I think is now obvious. That whether you’re the NSA or Google or whoever else…you’re a general secretariat, seeking to privatize our power, and you are surveilling us, because you have a network in place.