An Interview on the Internet

Dale Amon

October 1995

The following is a summary of my thoughts on where the internet is going and what it all means. It has been my intention for some time to write a followup to my 1991 article The Information Revolution. After answering a questionaire recently, I discovered I had done just that.

  1. Do you think of the Internet as a physical entity, a community or an activity?
    A community.
  2. Is the Internet over-hyped, or is its potential over-stated?
    You ain't seen nothin' yet... Actually it is understated: the net is redefining institutions as ancient as the nation state.
  3. Are we in the midst of an IT revolution? If so, how significant is the Internet's contribution to this?
    It is the core of it, the part that is revolutionary in social terms, the part that allows the rest of the revolution to be used in the cause of human freedom rather than enslavement.
  4. Is the Internet just another information and communications technology, or does it represent a new technological paradigm?
    It represents a new social paradeigm.
  5. With the growing commercialisation of the Internet, do you believe that some universal regulatory framework is required or do you believe that the Internet can continue to effectively govern itself?
    A universal regulatory framework is anathema to what the internet stands for. It won't work because the net will fight back against any attempt at centralized control. The net is about freedom, not about 1984.
  6. Is government intervention likely to help or hinder the progress of the Internet?
    Destroy it. The internet is about individuals bypassing the nation state and interacting one on one, or grouping together as they so chose to accomplish the ends they so chose.
  7. Why do you think the US is so far ahead of countries such as the UK in terms of its utilisation of the Internet for commercial purposes?
    Because it is less infested with government. I could go on at extreme length on this topic, having lived there during the earliest days of the net.
  8. Should less developed countries feel threatened and isolated by the growth of the Internet in the advanced economies, or do you believe it offers them an opportunity for accelerating their own economic development?
    It offers an opportunity to them. The best approach is for them to go for satellite links into their universities so students have access to the latest technical papers and the world academic community. They have been priced out of the running on journals, but for the price of a year of a couple western journals they can have an internet ready workstation.

    The biggest problem they face is that the internet will be correctly seen as the worst threat ever to corrupt and poorly run governments. Nothing could be worse than what will happen when people find out they are badly off not because of someone on the other side of the world - who is now a friend in daily communications - but by the fault of those close at hand.

  9. Given the Internet's potential for providing that crucial competitive edge, why do you think many companies are still reluctant to go on-line?
    Don't waste tears over them. They'll be replaced by fast moving entrepreneurs.

    Think of it as a redistribution of wealth.

  10. The advantages of conducting business on the Internet are numerous and well-publicised. What significant disadvantages, if any, do you think are involved in electronic commerce?
    Security. Governments are fighting tooth and claw to prevent the use of truely secure means of transactions. Use of PGP gains you a transaction security and privacy nearly equivalent to that of cash. Since everyone knows exactly why the US government wants weak codes, many would rather not give up existing privacy for a world in which foriegn and domestic spy agencies can violate you at will.
  11. Which industries/businesses do you see benefiting most from the Internet?
    Advertising, mass media and entertainment in the short run. Direct sales and sale of custom manufactured products ordered direct from the factory in the slightly longer term.
  12. Which industries/businesses should feel most threatened by the increasing popularity of the Internet and its associated activities?
    Copyright is unresurrectably dead. It will take years and billions of dollars before it finally sinks in that the dike is gone - but it is indeed gone.

    Publishing and media will have to change drastically. The chain from factory to retail will be broken. Why buy a CD or tape locally when you can order it from a major house and have your own copy within seconds of first hearing it?

    It will allow writers to publish world wide without publishers or printers.

    It will allow musicians and songwriters to distribute their recordings without the help of Sony, etc. Although not without the help of top quality sound engineers - those who assist in the execution of the creative process will still be in great demand.

    Free lance newswriters can publish directly to NewsShare servers from which they get paid directly by the end user who's agent software selects his work for inclusion in the end user's personal daily newspaper, or in newspapers or newsletters edited by those whose judgement of quality and relevance is trusted.

    The range of home electronics products will decrease to some extant - it all collapses into one sort of standard box. If you have high quality stereo audio and high definition digital video outputs and inputs on home machines and interconnection rates that allow them to be used effectively, the world of consumer electronics changes rather drastically.

    And I could go on...

  13. Will the Internet eventually be superseded by a larger 'Information Superhighway', or will the two co-exist?
    No. There may well be some data trunk lines, but internet will be the primary route to the desktop workstation. We can expect that new technology will push that band width ever higher, and that new fast protocols will exist at the MAC levels, but IP will be what comes into the workstation or home network.

    Some of this is social and political. Internet empowers individuals and undermines aristocracies (regardless of what sort of title they use, whether corporate president, commisar or lord). Individuals who have once discovered this will not easily surrender it.

  14. Could you briefly describe how you expect the Internet to evolve over the next few years?
    There are several things going on at once. The rapidity of exponential growth means that all providers at all levels must race to keep up. This is the primary reason for unreliabilities and instabilities in the global internet. There is just no time to catch a breath. Hiring more people doesn't help because they simply aren't there to be hired.

    I expect to see massive increases in bandwith. This is driven by market economics. As the demand rises, higher bandwidth lines become feasible. Growth will also force - and fund - greater redundancy. In a few years there will be very little chance of a single point failure disconnecting any significant part of the European or North American nets from any other part. By that time the center of rapid growth will have shifted to China, India, and others.

    Higher bandwidths along with better methods of compression will bring live point to point video into being. PGP will make it private so that families, lovers or whatever can talk across a planet with as much privacy as they could across a room. This is particularly relevant to places like Ireland where so many families *are* spread across the planet from Ireland to London to Canada, America, Austrailia New Zealand...

    It is going to be a very different world.

  15. Comment on the issues of liberty, privacy and dignity.
    There is a choice coming to the internet that could change "heaven" into Hell.

    If strong encryption is kept out of the hands of individuals, we will start the slide to 1984 and a world in which every instant and every facet of every human being can be monitored continuously and stored forever without their knowledge or consent. Those in power in democracies today might not abuse it, but absolute power corrupts absolutely. This is the dystopia of much fiction. I find this potential future so utterly horrifying that I would just about stop at nothing to prevent it from coming about. There can never be compromise with Big Brother.

    If we manage to distribute freedomware like PGP widely enough, we will win a world in which the spectre of 1984 has been forever banished.

    In the process we will also destroy every totalitarian or paternalistic government on earth. Dictators cannot exist without control of communication between their victims.

    I consider those who are against strong encryption as either unutterably evil or impossibly naive. In either case they deserve neither our respect nor our obedience.

    D.Amon 1995