Between thought and action

John Perry Barlow responded by e-mail to a couple of questions about his "Cyberspace Declaration of Independence"


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Salon Staff
August 1, 1995 10:28PM (UTC)

Most Declarations of Independence -- and specifically the one we
Americans are most familiar with -- tend to be followed by wars of
revolution. Do you foresee such a future? What might it look like?

I think that every time society faces tectonic power shifts, such as those
inherent in moving from an industrial economy to an information economy, blood
gets spilled sooner or later. It probably will this time as well. But given
the fact that we're also talking about a conflict between a mental region
and a physical region, I can't imagine what a cyberspace revolution would
look like.

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It's an interesting question, or complex of questions, that I don't have
any answers to yet.

You write of cyberspace as a "republic of Mind" with no basis in matter.
On the other hand, cyberspace as it exists today does depend on physical and
corporate underpinnings: phone lines, electric utilities, communications
infrastructures. Though the nature of Internet connectivity resists
interruption and routes around censorship, in many ways the Net remains
vulnerable to and dependent on corporate and government entities for its
physical existence. How do you square such realities with the vision of an
"independent" cyberspace?

The human mind has a supporting infrastructure as well. Meat, bone,
neurons. Wetware, squishyware...and some hardware, in the sense that the
mind lives in culture and culture, these days, lives in the communications
network.

I'm not talking about a fully independent cyberspace. There is always a
continuity between mind and body, and the same continuity extends between
the physical and virtual worlds. But there is also a separation between
thought and action. Action is what the body does and over which physical
authority may be enforced. Thought is what happens in cyberspace and I've
never liked the notion of governments defining what can be thought.


Salon Staff

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