Twenty Years Later

First, read this: It's not Cyberspace anymore.

John Perry Barlow wrote the original Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace twenty years ago. Like this author, who is apparently precisely my age, I was young and -- nosing around the edges of hacker culture, taking baby steps into this gargantuan world outside the tiny city of my upbringing -- in a position to absorb the unbridled optimism of the message into my personality.

I'm older now. My optimism has faded in the face of experience.

I look at the companies that succeed today in pure "cyberspace" -- the ones most science-fictional of them all, businesses that would be digital arcologies on the far side of a 'deck in Gibson's sprawl -- and I think that what we got, instead of the utopia of Barlow's imagining, was the same old near-feudal accretion of power into the same old structures. We didn't build a better world, we just automated the excesses of the old one.

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