John Perry Barlow, Cyberspace vs. Meatspace!

How would you call someone who is a lyricist for a rock band like Grateful Dead, a co-founder of EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation), an associate fellow at the Harvard’s Institute Of Politics and last but not least, an activist trying to protect individual rights in the age of emerging cyberspace technology?

It’s not an easy question. So many journals and articles just describe John Perry Barlow as a poet and essayist!

John Perry BarlowNo matter what we call him and how we call him, it’s not so easy to talk about the future of technology and the role of humans in the future world, without considering his ideas and statements.

He is the man who companies like apple and Microsoft pay him five-figure sums to evaluate their business plan considering the online culture and other human related aspects.

I love him because of the term meatspace which he has coined to contrast cyberspace. Meatspace refers to the physical world. The world we live in. The world we meet each other face to face. The world we are able to hug each other there.

But coining the term meatspace and caring about humans and their physical needs and affairs, doesn’t mean that he is not a believer in cyberspace. He is even trying to build a better human community in the cyberspace.

Sure he is not content with the physical world or the meatspace as he calls. The world of politics, governments, borders and borderlines. These are the points which he emphasises whenever he has a chance to talk about. This may be the reason that cyberspace is his dreamland to build the ideal world we were not able to build in the meatspace.

Besides all of the debates and frictions and conflicts between advocates of the meatspace and believers of cyberspace, John Perry Barlow has a clear position in this regard. He is not comparing meatspace and cyberspace. He just compares information and experience:

I understand the difference between information and experience and vastly prefer the latter.

But this statement doesn’t mean that he favors meatspace to the cyberspace because of the possibility of the physical experience. As he clearly states, for him the cyberspace is not a web of wire. It’s a social space which develops capabilities of humans and could transcend humanity and therefore will be able to provide us with real tangible fruitful experiences.

Barlow is too optimistic about future of the cyberspace. But he has two hard pre-conditions. In order to reach to the maximum capabilities of the cyberspace, two main aspects of the old meatspace shall be profoundly changed in the new cyberspace:

  • The government, should not interfere in the cyberspace. If there is necessary to have any legal rights and protections, cyberspace has to make it by itself without interference of the politicians and the governments.
  • Information has to be and needs to be free. So the copyright laws and the traditional mindset of ownership shall be changed. In his point of view, current intellectual property laws are based on the traditional ownership laws and the new age, won’t stick to such rules.

Although sometimes, his expectations look far from reality, but we have to wait and see the future trends. As Barlow believes in the cyberspace as our first experience of non-fictional and non-superstitious spirituality.

John Perry Barlow: any space you cant take your body is a spiritual dimension

You may find some time to read the conversation of John Perry Barlow with Edward Snowden published by MIT center for CIVIC Media.