We lived on farms, then cities, and now we live in… utopia online?

Tuesday, 19 July, 2011

While the internet has not exactly become the online paradise that some early adopters envisioned, some of the places it has taken us have been far from dull nonetheless.

But studying the history of the internet is impossible without studying the ideas, biases, and desires of its early cheerleaders, a group distinct from the engineers. This included Stewart Brand, Kevin Kelly, John Perry Barlow, and the crowd that coalesced around Wired magazine after its launch in 1993. They were male, California-based, and had fond memories of the tumultuous hedonism of the 1960s. These men emphasised the importance of community and shared experiences; they viewed humans as essentially good, influenced by rational deliberation, and tending towards co-operation. Anti-Hobbesian at heart, they viewed the state and its institutions as an obstacle to be overcome – and what better way to transcend them than via cyberspace?

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