It never occurred to me how much Stewart Brand and the counter-cultural ethos of the’70s-80s WEC shaped the internet as we know it today. A belief in decentralization, of freedom of information, of access for anyone to communicative media, these idealistic concepts seeded in the ’60s formed the foundation of the internet and the web before Big Biz and the Greedy Ones could tie it all up in the oligopolistic name of profit. Remarkable.
Here is an excerpt from an article in Science magazine dated 3/9/07 by Henry Lieberman, titled “From Whole Earth to the Whole Web,” in which he reviews the new book From Counterculture to Cyberculture by Fred Turner:
“That we happened to get such an open network was a miracle. But it wasn’t an accident. The technical community that built today’s digital infrastructure did so around a certain set of cultural values, among them openness, sharing, personal expression, and innovation. These were core values of the early digital pioneers (the hackers), embodied in what we proudly call the “hacker ethic.” Today, we take the digital revolution for granted and seldom appreciate to what extent these values were sparked by the 1960s counterculture, which preceded the digital revolution: counterculture begat cyberculture.
Because of the happy coincidence that the corporate and bureaucratic establishments of the time understood digital technology so poorly, the hackers were able to pull off the revolution before the bureaucracy knew what hit them. Like the fall of communism, it happened so fast that we haven’t yet really taken the time to fully celebrate its victory and examine how it happened.”