MY LAYMAN'S UNDERSTANDING OF THE FCC'S LATEST RULES IS THAT THEY ACKNOWLEDGING NET NEUTRALITY AS THE LAW OF THE LAND ON WIRED NETWORKS, BUT LEAVE OPEN THE POSSIBILITY THAT WIRELESS NETWORKS — FOR INSTANCE, THE ONES DELIVERED TO YOUR PHONE — COULD REMAIN DEREGULATED. WHAT'S YOUR TAKE ON THAT DIRECTION? The Net neutrality rules in general are part of what I've described as an effort to try to make sure the internet doesn't follow the fate of all the other communications networks — that somehow it might be different. And the greatest threat to that possibility has been the rise of the platform: the rise of the app, as Wired called it, Facebook, Apple OS, and in some ways Google Android, and the move from a wired-line Internet to wireless. Now, wireless isn't a full substitute for wired-line yet, but to the extent that it becomes the dominant way people use the Internet [morbid chuckle], it'll be very much what I've talked about in my book. So yeah, that is my concern.
YOU MAKE SOME PASSING REFERENCES IN THE BOOK TO THE ROLE OF THE COUNTERCULTURE — NOT JUST AS A SOURCE OF INNOVATION, BUT ALSO AS A SOURCE OF RESISTANCE TO THESE LARGE, MONOPOLISTIC NETWORKS. COULD YOU SPELL THAT OUT A LITTLE MORE, AND TALK ABOUT WHAT THAT MEANS FOR TODAY'S INTERNET USERS? Yeah. The attack on empire always comes from the fringe, there's no question. It's true historically, and it's true with information empires. You'll see in the book — whether it's farmers in the 1910s, with their independent leanings, challenging AT&T; the radio pioneers who were, if not quite counterculture, then amateurs and hobbyists. The people who built Hollywood themselves were extreme outsiders, Jewish immigrants, small businessmen. And some of the people doing the computer stuff in the 1960s were very deeply in the counterculture — particularly the designers of the personal computer and the mouse. I think I may have deleted the section on LSD that was originally in the book.
YOU INCLUDED A FOOTNOTE THAT THE GUY WHO DEVELOPED THE FIRST GRAPHIC USER INTERFACE HAD BEEN A PARTICIPANT IN ONE OF THE EARLY LSD EXPERIMENTS. Well, you know, it's interesting: back in the early 1960s, they thought of the computer and LSD as very similar sorts of projects. They're both efforts to enhance the human brain. One was chemical and one was electronic. But they really thought of the computer as a brain extension. And they're saying, you know, when you use a computer you change how you see the world — and they had the same idea with LSD. So there's overlap between the two projects. And indeed many of the engineers who designed the computer had tried to use LSD to improve their projects.
Part of the reason I think there is a chance in this struggle for the open Internet is that I think there is a much stronger alternative culture, in a permanent state of resistance to centralization and control, in a way that wasn't around in 1920 or the 1940s. I think creating permanent institutions of resistance against domination and authority — what could be better? And what could be truer to the original ideas of America than to have some permanent kind of resistance to these things? When something happens — let's say a big company blocks BitTorrent, or Comcast blocks Netflix — you do see a lot of angry geeks.