R.I.P. John Perry Barlow, Internet Pioneer, 1947-2018

Photo credit: LiveMint

Barlow was one of my heroes from back in the day when folks using the Internet overcame the monopoly power centered in Redmond, Washington. The Electronic Freedom Foundation served to get the word out about the importance of keeping the Internet free of commercial control.

Here’s the EFF obit (Cindy Cohn):

With a broken heart I have to announce that EFF’s founder, visionary, and our ongoing inspiration, John Perry Barlow, passed away quietly in his sleep this morning. We will miss Barlow and his wisdom for decades to come, and he will always be an integral part of EFF.

It is no exaggeration to say that major parts of the Internet we all know and love today exist and thrive because of Barlow’s vision and leadership. He always saw the Internet as a fundamental place of freedom, where voices long silenced can find an audience and people can connect with others regardless of physical distance.

Barlow was sometimes held up as a straw man for a kind of naive techno-utopianism that believed that the Internet could solve all of humanity’s problems without causing any more. As someone who spent the past 27 years working with him at EFF, I can say that nothing could be further from the truth. Barlow knew that new technology could create and empower evil as much as it could create and empower good. He made a conscious decision to focus on the latter: “I knew it’s also true that a good way to invent the future is to predict it. So I predicted Utopia, hoping to give Liberty a running start before the laws of Moore and Metcalfe delivered up what Ed Snowden now correctly calls ‘turn-key totalitarianism.’”

Barlow’s lasting legacy is that he devoted his life to making the Internet into “a world that all may enter without privilege or prejudice accorded by race, economic power, military force, or station of birth . . . a world where anyone, anywhere may express his or her beliefs, no matter how singular, without fear of being coerced into silence or conformity.”

In the days and weeks to come, we will be talking and writing more about what an extraordinary role Barlow played for the Internet and the world. And as always, we will continue the work to fulfill his dream.

Below is JPB’s “A list of 25 Principles of Adult Behavior” posted by Jason Kottke, Feb 08, 2018:

Silicon Valley visionary John Perry Barlow died last night at the age of 70. When he was 30, the EFF founder (and sometime Grateful Dead lyricist) drew up a list of what he called Principles of Adult Behavior. They are:

1. Be patient. No matter what.
2. Don’t badmouth: Assign responsibility, not blame. Say nothing of another you wouldn’t say to him.
3. Never assume the motives of others are, to them, less noble than yours are to you.
4. Expand your sense of the possible.
5. Don’t trouble yourself with matters you truly cannot change.
6. Expect no more of anyone than you can deliver yourself.
7. Tolerate ambiguity.
8. Laugh at yourself frequently.
9. Concern yourself with what is right rather than who is right.
10. Never forget that, no matter how certain, you might be wrong.
11. Give up blood sports.
12. Remember that your life belongs to others as well. Don’t risk it frivolously.
13. Never lie to anyone for any reason. (Lies of omission are sometimes exempt.)
14. Learn the needs of those around you and respect them.
15. Avoid the pursuit of happiness. Seek to define your mission and pursue that.
16. Reduce your use of the first personal pronoun.
17. Praise at least as often as you disparage.
18. Admit your errors freely and soon.
19. Become less suspicious of joy.
20. Understand humility.
21. Remember that love forgives everything.
22. Foster dignity.
23. Live memorably.
24. Love yourself.
25. Endure.

Here’s what these principles meant to Barlow: “I don’t expect the perfect attainment of these principles. However, I post them as a standard for my conduct as an adult. Should any of my friends or colleagues catch me violating one of them, bust me.”

Cassidy lyrics by John Perry Barlow

[Verse 1]
I have seen where the wolf has slept by the
Silver stream
I can tell by the mark he left you were in his
Dream
Ah, child of countless trees
Ah, child of boundless seas
What you are, what you’re meant to be
Speaks his name, though you were born to me
Born to me
Cassidy…

[Verse 2]
Lost now on the country miles in his cadillac
I can tell by the way you smile he’s rolling back
Come wash the nighttime clean
Come grow this scorched ground green
Blow the horn, tap the tambourine
Close the gap of the dark years in between
You and me
Cassidy…

[Verse 3]
Quick beats in an icy heart
Catch-colt draws a coffin cart
There he goes now, here she starts:
Hear her cry
Flight of the seabirds, scattered like lost words
Wheel to the storm and fly

[Verse 4]
Faring thee well now
Let your life proceed by its own design
Nothing to tell now
Let the words be yours, I’m done with mine
(repeat verse)

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