A long time ago—
Or, at least, he was. John Perry Barlow died this week, at age 70. I never had the pleasure of meeting him, although I have met a few folks who knew him personally, and by all accounts he was exactly what he projected in his writings. In the EFF’s obituary, executive director Cindy Cohn wrote:
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.’”
So the man was not only articulate, passionate, and ardent, but also crazy optimistic. I’m not even entirely sure I realized how much I admired this guy until I found out he had passed away. So tonight I say, rest in peace, John Perry Barlow. The world will miss you, even though it will probably never quite figure out why.