[Home]JohnPerryBarlow

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Grateful Dead lyricist, rancher, Republican politican, and online-rights civil libertarian, John Perry Barlow figured prominently in the founding of the ElectronicFrontierFoundation, as described in BruceSterling's book, TheHackerCrackdown, and in Barlow's own accounts, first published in the WholeEarthReview as [Crime and Puzzlement]

In it, Barlow expresses his personal views on SoftSecurity, PrincipleOfFirstTrust, and VulnerabilityToCommunity:

                          The Fear of White Noise

     "Neurosis is the inability to tolerate ambiguity."

     -- Sigmund Freud, appearing to me in a dream

   I'm a member of that half of the human race which is inclined to
   divide the human race into two kinds of people. My dividing line runs
   between the people who crave certainty and the people who trust
   chance.

   You can draw this one a number of ways, of course, like Control vs.
   Serendipity, Order vs. Chaos, Hard answers vs. Silly questions, or
   Newton, Descartes & Aquinas vs. Heisenberg, Mandelbrot & the Dalai
   Lama. Etc.

   Large organizations and their drones huddle on one end of my scale,
   busily trying to impose predictable homogeneity on messy circumstance.
   On the other end, free-lancers and ne'er-do-wells cavort about,
   getting by on luck if they get by at all.

   However you cast these poles, it comes down to the difference between
   those who see life as a struggle against cosmic peril and human infamy
   and those who believe, without any hard evidence, that the universe is
   actually on our side. Fear vs. Faith.

   I am of the latter group. Along with Gandhi and Rebecca of Sunnybrook
   Farm, I believe that other human beings will quite consistently merit
   my trust if I'm not doing something which scares them or makes them
   feel bad about themselves. In other words, the best defense is a good
   way to get hurt.

[ . . . . ]

   Presented with such a terrifying amalgam of raw youth and apparent
   power, we fluttered like a flock of indignant Babbitts around the
   Status Quo, defending it heartily. One former hacker howled to the
   Harper's editor in charge of the forum, "Do you or do you not have
   names and addresses for these criminals?" Though they had committed no
   obvious crimes, he was ready to call the police.

   They finally got to me with:

     Acid: Whoever said they'd leave the door open to their house...
     where do you live? (the address) Leave it to me in mail if you
     like.

   I had never encountered anyone so apparently unworthy of my trust as
   these little nihilists. They had me questioning a basic tenet, namely
   that the greatest security lies in vulnerability. I decided it was
   time to put that principal to the test...

     Barlow: Acid. My house is at 372 North Franklin Street in Pinedale,
     Wyoming. If you're heading north on Franklin, you go about two
     blocks off the main drag before you run into hay meadow on the
     left. I've got the last house before the field. The computer is
     always on...

One wonders: Do the advocates of SoftSecurity found on various Wiki sites have the same faith in their philosophy as Barlow showed? Or, perhaps more intriguingly, would Barlow himself still expose his underbelly online to the same extent now, on a publically-readable web site, instead of to the still-quite-readily-cloistered environement that was TheWell of the late 1980s?

My RealAddress? - if of my work rather than my home - is on my FrontLawn here and elsewhere. It's been useful in a few cases. No bad effects in the years this has been the case. This would no doubt change if I became a high value target.


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