Imagining the Internet Predictions Project
 
More from John Perry Barlow

Just as limited bandwidth was the excuse for applying censorship to broadcast media, it appears that the zealous protection of intellectual property presents the greatest threat to free digital expression. - 1990
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The society we erect [in cyberspace] will probably be quite different from the one we now inhabit, given the fact that this one depends heavily on the physical property of things while the next one has no physical properties at all. Certain qualities should survive the transfer, however, and these include tolerance, respect for privacy of others, and a willingness to the treat one's fellows as something besides potential customers. - 1991
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It is imaginable that, with the widespread use of digital cash and encrypted monetary exchange on the Global Net, economies the size of America's could appear as nothing but oceans of alphabet soup. Money laundering would no longer be necessary. The payment of taxes might become more or less voluntary. - 1993
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Every time we make any sort of transaction in the digital environment, we smear our fingerprints all over Cyberspace. If we are to have any privacy in the future, we will need virtual "walls" made of cryptography. - 1994
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That's the thing about cyberspace. It's the last frontier and it will be a permanent frontier. It's infinite and it's continuously changing. - 1994
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If our property can be infinitely reproduced and instantaneously distributed all over the planet without cost, without our knowledge, without its even leaving our possession, how can we protect it? How are we going to get paid for the work we do with our minds? And, if we can't get paid, what will assure the continued creation and distribution of such work? Since we don't have a solution to what is a profoundly new kind of challenge, and are apparently unable to delay the galloping digitization of everything not obstinately physical, we are sailing into the future on a sinking ship. - 1994
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While the Internet may never include every CPU on the planet, it is more than doubling every year and can be expected to become the principal medium of information conveyance, and perhaps eventually, the only one. Once that has happened, all the goods of the Information Age - all of the expressions once contained in books or film strips or newsletters - will exist either as pure thought or something very much like thought: voltage conditions darting around the Net at the speed of light, in conditions that one might behold in effect, as glowing pixels or transmitted sounds, but never touch or claim to "own" in the old sense of the word. - 1994
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Humanity now seems bent on creating a world economy primarily based on goods that take no material form. In doing so, we may be eliminating any predictable connection between creators and a fair reward for the utility or pleasure others may find in their works. Without that connection, and without a fundamental change in consciousness to accommodate its loss, we are building our future on furor, litigation, and institutionalized evasion of payment except in response to raw force. We may return to the Bad Old Days of property. - 1994
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When the primary articles of commerce in a society look so much like speech as to be indistinguishable from it, and when the traditional methods of protecting their ownership have become ineffectual, attempting to fix the problem with broader and more vigorous enforcement will inevitably threaten freedom of speech. The greatest constraint on your future liberties may come not from government but from corporate legal departments laboring to protect by force what can no longer be protected by practical efficiency or general social consent. - 1994
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Early reliance on copy protection led to the subliminal notion that cracking into a software package somehow "earned" one the right to use it. Limited not by conscience but by technical skill, many soon felt free to do whatever they could get away with. This will continue to be a potential liability of the encryption of digitized commerce. - 1994
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Cryptography is the "material" from which the walls, boundaries - and bottles - of cyberspace will be fashioned ... I also believe that a social over reliance on protection by barricades rather than conscience will eventually wither the latter by turning intrusion and theft into a sport, rather than a crime. - 1994
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Discontinuous upgrades will smooth into a constant process of incremental improvement and adaptation, some of it man-made and some of it arising through genetic algorithms. Pirated copies of software may become too static to have much value to anyone. - 1994
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In most of the schemes I can project, the file would be "alive" with permanently embedded software that could "sense" the surrounding conditions and interact with them ... Of course, files that possess the independent ability to communicate upstream sound uncomfortably like the Morris Internet Worm. "Live" files do have a certain viral quality. And serious privacy issues would arise if everyone's computer were packed with digital spies. - 1994
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We're going to have to look at information as though we'd never seen the stuff before ... The economy of the future will be based on relationship rather than possession. It will be continuous rather than sequential. And finally, in the years to come, most human exchange will be virtual rather than physical, consisting not of stuff but the stuff of which dreams are made. Our future business will be conducted in a world made more of verbs than nouns. - 1994
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Notions of property, value, ownership, and the nature of wealth itself are changing more fundamentally than at any time since the Sumerians first poked cuneiform into wet clay and called it stored grain. Only a very few people are aware of the enormity of this shift, and fewer of them are lawyers or public officials. Those who do see these changes must prepare responses for the legal and social confusion that will erupt as efforts to protect new forms of property with old methods become more obviously futile, and, as a consequence, more adamant. - 1994
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Since it is now possible to convey ideas from one mind to another without ever making them physical, we are now claiming to own ideas themselves and not merely their expression. And since it is likewise now possible to create useful tools that never take physical form, we have taken to patenting abstractions, sequences of virtual events, and mathematical formulae - the most unreal estate imaginable. In certain areas, this leaves rights of ownership in such an ambiguous condition that property again adheres to those who can muster the largest armies. The only difference is that this time the armies consist of lawyers. - 1994
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What was previously considered a common human resource, distributed among the minds and libraries of the world, as well as the phenomena of nature herself, is now being fenced and deeded. It is as though a new class of enterprise had arisen that claimed to own the air ... dancing on the grave of copyright and patent will solve little, especially when so few are willing to admit that the occupant of this grave is even deceased, and so many are trying to uphold by force what can no longer be upheld by popular consent. - 1994
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Promising economies based on purely digital products will either be born in a state of paralysis, as appears to be the case with multimedia, or continue in a brave and willful refusal by their owners to play the ownership game at all ... It may well be that when the current system of intellectual property law has collapsed, as seems inevitable, that no new legal structure will arise in its place. But something will happen. After all, people do business. When a currency becomes meaningless, business is done in barter. When societies develop outside the law, they develop their own unwritten codes, practices, and ethical systems. - 1994
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Faith in law will not be an effective strategy for high-tech companies. Law adapts by continuous increments and at a pace second only to geology. Technology advances in lunging jerks, like the punctuation of biological evolution grotesquely accelerated. Real-world conditions will continue to change at a blinding pace, and the law will lag further behind, more profoundly confused. - 1994
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Soon most information will be generated collaboratively by the cyber- tribal hunter-gatherers of cyberspace. Our arrogant dismissal of the rights of "primitives" will soon return to haunt us. - 1994
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The "terrain" itself - the architecture of the Net - may come to serve many of the purposes which could only be maintained in the past by legal imposition. For example, it may be unnecessary to constitutionally assure freedom of expression in an environment which, in the words of my fellow EFF co-founder John Gilmore, "treats censorship as a malfunction" and reroutes proscribed ideas around it. - 1994
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In any case, whether you think of yourself as a service provider or a performer, the future protection of your intellectual property will depend on your ability to control your relationship to the market - a relationship which will most likely live and grow over a period of time. The value of that relationship will reside in the quality of performance, the uniqueness of your point of view, the validity of your expertise, its relevance to your market, and, underlying everything, the ability of that market to access your creative services swiftly, conveniently, and interactively. - 1994
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If the payment process can be automated, as digital cash and signature will make possible, I believe that soft-product creators will reap a much higher return from the bread they cast upon the waters of cyberspace. Moreover, they will be spared much of the overhead presently attached to the marketing, manufacture, sales, and distribution of information products, whether those products are computer programs, books, CDs, or motion pictures. This will reduce prices and further increase the likelihood of noncompulsory payment. - 1994
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In the absence of the old containers, almost everything we think we know about intellectual property is wrong. We're going to have to unlearn it. We're going to have to look at information as though we'd never seen the stuff before. The protections that we will develop will rely far more on ethics and technology than on law. - 1994
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Digital technology is ... erasing the legal jurisdictions of the physical world and replacing them with the unbounded and perhaps permanently lawless waves of cyberspace. In cyberspace, no national or local boundaries contain the scene of a crime and determine the method of its prosecution; worse, no clear cultural agreements define what a crime might be. - 1994
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The Clipper Chip ... threatens to be either the goofiest waste of federal dollars since President Gerald Ford's great Swine Flu program or, if actually deployed, a surveillance technology of profound malignancy. - 1994
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In five years, everyone who is reading these words will have an e-mail address, other than the determined Luddities who also eschew the telephone and electricity. When we are all together in cyberspace we will see what the human spirit, and the basic desire to connect, can create there. - 1995
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When cryptography is outlawed, bayl bhgynjf jvyy unir cevinpl! - 1995
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We are in the middle of the most transforming technological event since the capture of fire. I used to think that it was just the biggest thing since Gutenberg, but now I think you have to go back farther. There has been much written both celebrating and denouncing cyberspace, but to me this seems a development of such magnitude that trying to characterize it as a good thing or a bad thing trivializes it considerably. I also don't think it's a matter about which we have much choice. It is coming, whether we like it or not. - 1995
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In order to feel the greatest sense of communication, to realize the most experience, as opposed to information, I want to be able to completely interact with the consciousness that's trying to communicate with mine. Rapidly. And in the sense that we are now creating a space in which the people of the planet can have that kind of communication relationship, I think we're moving away from information - through information, actually - and back toward experience. - 1995
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There's a great Bill Gibson line: "The future is already here, it's just unevenly distributed." There's tension from people who are on the (cyberspace) border. I'm afraid it will result in violence before it's all over. I want to see us thinking openly and seriously about how to avoid bloodshed. Because blood will be shed over this divide before it's over with. It's really just a question of how much. - 1995

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