Private Investigations…Public Denouements
It's a mystery to me - the game commences11/22/01
for the usual fee - plus expenses
confidential information - it's not a public inquiry
I go checking out the reports - digging up the dirt
you get to meet all sorts in this line of work
treachery and treason - there's always an excuse for it
and when I find the reason I still can't get used to it
And what have you got at the end of the day?
what have you got to take away?
a bottle of whisky and a new set of lies
blinds on the windows and a pain behind the eyes
Private Investigations, Dire Straits, Love Over Gold, 1982
Greetings Fellow Human Beings….
I finally got my latest book in to my editor Jeanne Glasser at Wiley after mucho delays. The book about the past, present and future of the Internet as told by its founders and visionaries was a bitch to write. Well, it was written once — finished by my birthday month (September) and then September 11 happened. Everything changed, and I mean everything…. All of the Powers that be in Washington, helpless to do anything worthwhile, turned their weary eyes to legislating code and the Internet. What the hell are “they” thinking?
Recently I spoke out against the DMCA on CNN and CNET and I began to notice government and military hits on my site by the hundreds — not a very natural thing for my website. Then, as I thought I’d be spending time in Afghanistan, I sent some encrypted messages out there to a contact that was trying to get me in under the wire while one could still get a decent story without traveling with a pack of journalists — all my competitors. Well, I got a phone call from the “inside” saying that I was being monitored by the government, lovely…. So all of a sudden this chapter in my book on encryption and legislation began taking on a whole new meaning. I had people like John Perry Barlow www.eff.org and Bob Young www.centerforthepublicdomain.org telling me about all this stuff I hadn’t been privy too — and frankly hadn’t been interested in covering to such a great depth until it happened to me. The first part of the book opens up with me finding myself under investigation, and my reaction to such information.
Now, I’ve decided to start a whole new organization to face the issues of the government legislating technology, technology patents (especially business method patents, a huge one for the startups I know that are trying to break into the field with new innovations) — and what Jerry Glenn calls creating the enlightened human being; the next killer app out of Silicon Valley (see below).
The last group I started between books was WiWoWo, Wild Women of Wonder, a fabulous group of about 120 women who cycle through in groups of 20-30 at Buck’s every weekend. What a fabulous group that has become! Now I’m starting Life, Love, Technology, LiLoTe, the coed version of our group that like WiWoWo will be focused on straight-up discussion, but will have a twist about discussing solutions and making those solutions happen. The thing is, when I started taking to Jerry Glenn about the book (see excerpt below), it changed everything. Well, I’ve had my head buried so intensely in this book for the last five months that I became kind of focused on what I was writing, now I’ve come up and can breathe — it feels good.
Got a massage last week from Neil Koenig, and Peter Day — two really cool reporters for BBC Radio based in London. I met them at Buck’s when they were doing a series on Silicon Valley — Jamis and I had great fun with them, they are two very sharp, but very funny guys. Well, they are coming back next week on Thursday and I get them from noon to midnight. I’m putting all of the pieces in place, but we’re going to meet some very cool people in the Valley responsible for a ton of cool technology, especially nano technology. And using the Internet for culturing human relationships. And then, after the World Internet Center pub on Thursday afternoon, we’re having the first meeting of LiLoTe, and a very cool, undisclosed location, where some of the coolest and most intricate people in Silicon Valley have been invited to comment about what’s going on currently. It’s funny because unbeknownst to us, the WiWoWo group was actually started on the Friday before April Fool’s last year while those who would become the founders of the group, Nicole Kidd, Carla Rayacich and I were being covered by RedHerring and the Merc for an April Fool's prank — so, I guess these things just kind of fall out of the sky and are scooped up.
I woke up this morning to a very pleasant surprise of being included in Dave Winer’s DaveNet:
“Thanks to the Weblog community  for growing at leaps and bounds, for exploring every niche of introspection and anticipating a network of independent journalists that will keep us informed, inspired and free in the years to come. Thanks to Glenn Fleishman , Deborah Branscum , Sally Richards , Lisa Rein , Paul Boutin , Lance Knobel , Amy Wohl , and Dan Gillmor , professional journalists who write for the Web for free.”
Very cool company to be included with. If you don’t know Dave Winer, you should. He has a very cool product through his company UserLand — a weblog, which I hope to be using soon — called Manila www.scripting.com. If you don’t subscribe to his weblog, you should, DaveNet is always filled with cool info, you can subscribe at : davenet.userland.com.
Well, I was pleased and panicked simultaneously. There was a link to my site there and I’ve been rather negligent in writing my column due to my deadline that I just met last weekend. So, my fingers are frantically flying across the keyboard in an effort to post this ASAP. Just to let you know, I’ll be back posting at regular intervals now that this HUGE deadline is over. I have some cool new projects. My next two books on angel capital and venture capital have been killed by Wiley because they don’t feel there’s going to be a future in investing…at least not in the next year and a half when these books would have come out. And for that I was thankful, I got to walk away with the money and I’ve got some really cool new project under wraps because of nondisclosures. Let’s just say that I’m very excited about them.
I hope you had a great holiday week-end and didn’t spend too much white-knuckle time up in the air. Now, I’m off to clean this house that is under a foot of deadline buildup. I’m clearing away the empty Jolt cans and the empty blister packs of Vivarin…time to clean the aquariums and pile tons of affection and catnip on the cats. But, I slept in this morning, so first of all it’s time to brew some Java. take a shower, get my hair cut and call my travel agent.
Excerpt from FutureNet (Wiley, Feb, 2001), interview with Jerome Glenn
Futurist, Director, Millennium Project, www.acunu.org
Author of Future Mind: Artificial Intelligence, merging the mystical and the technological in the 21st Century.
“The only real solution to terrorist stuff — and the farther into the future I looked with the complexity of the technology and information warfare — is that we’re just going to have to make a full court press on how to make enlightened human beings. That’s the design requirement — you’re Silicon Valley, your next application is making enlightened human beings. Not more information, we’ve got that — mission accomplished, A+. Done. The next thing is wisdom and wise use because the ability for one human being to screw up the system is going to be so much easier in the future than it’s been in the past. Obviously the airplanes [WTC] are an example. It’s a very big deal, I can give you scenarios that’ll make you nervous.”
And with that, and because I’m very interested in what the future holds; and the best place to find out is to ask a futurist who works with people around the world facing similar challenges, I baited him on. What I found was that my concern for this planet went up a notch on my private Richter scale.
“Do you believe that you can get 100 martyrs?” Glenn asked. I knew someone out there could, I nodded my head. “Do you believe that whoever can has enough money for 100 airplane tickets to 20 of the top airports in the world?” I nodded once again. “Do you think they can buy their way into the Congo to get some Ebola?” Anything is possible with enough money. “So you get these martyrs, you give them Ebola virus two weeks ahead of their scheduled flights, then they all go to 20 airports, five of them for each of the airports, and they hang out. In two weeks the skin starts to burst a bit and slowly but surely they’ve been infecting people over a 24-hour period and those people are off in many different directions.
I then realized it wasn’t a matter of getting anthrax into an airborne situation — we probably do have enough Cipro to cure people (if caught in time, and the CDC is making it a priority to make all medical outlets that they know the symptoms), at least if I was Bayer, I’d be cranking it out at double-time to get it to the hands of the panicked Cipro-buying public before Congress decides to make its patent worthless. At least casualties would be much less than an Ebola outbreak.
“People say how are you going to get it in the air-conditioning system? How you going to get in the water?” Glenn points out. “You don’t. You get it in the body; the body is the bomb. You cut out the middleman and you don’t need to send an airplane into a building. In one day you’ve sent Ebola to the whole world. And the thing is that people won’t know for another two weeks…and they just keep moving. There’s no real footprint, even nuclear war, chemical war, there’s a footprint, but not biological war. You could literally infect major hunks of the world’s population where getting quarantines together wouldn’t work.”
That statement really made me reevaluate the world’s priorities. “We don’t need more examples,” said Glenn sparing me of any more fodder for my nightmares. “What we need though is to challenge is the Silicon Valleys of the world to say the next design requirement is enlightenment: it’s no longer a religious luxury, or a civil responsibility — it’s survival requirement. I think it’s more possible than people think. Three hundred years ago if I went to another country to do business, I would have bodyguards. The odds are there’d be a mishap somewhere. Now I go to another country I don’t even know who is driving this metal can in the air, I trust my life to someone who meets me at the airport and drives me somewhere; the amount of trust in the world is really quite extraordinary. Think of how many people today are speaking nicely to strangers. We have all this trust — this amount of niceness among strangers in the world is extraordinary. We have a reason to be so trusting; just like the little birds that know when to duck the cars and the people.
“People talk about self-organization, what happens if the Internet is really is the medium for self-organizing the global brain?” says Glenn, in only the way a true futurist can ask. “Brains learn by feedback, bullshit gets exposed. Eventually it gets defeated, it takes a while. But the faster the feedback the larger the focus, the faster we’ll be able to get rid of the bullshit. Here’s a challenge for the applications. How do we make the global brain healthy rather than pathological? That we are moving forward either metaphorically or anatomically — a globally connected conscious technology, or we’re not. If we are, how do we move away from pathology and toward enlightenment? It’s that kind of seriousness I think we have to talk in these terms of because some of these negative scenarios are quite real. Can you get down to .00001 percent of the population being nasty? Yeah, I think so, and if you have enough goodness, the rest works itself out.”
Bringing things to an historical close, Glenn reminds me of a past that I was never aware of growing up in Hawaii and California; I was just never aware of prejudice because it wasn’t a part of my world; as an adult I am aware of it through hearing of instances and seeing it on a global scale, but it wasn’t part of my upbringing. It’s amazing what you don’t learn if you don’t hear it in the household as a child. Civil rights and education have made this country a more tolerant place.
“In the 1950s, in the United States, an Italian marrying an Irishman in the United States was a no-no. Now it’s no big deal. Now it’s the Caucasian marrying the Black, and back then, they would shoot you for that. Now, increasingly, you see mixed couples — on television — you would have never seen this before. These are major shifts in our lifetimes.
“Remember in Tai Chi what’s called push-hands? I do a little push hands metaphorically with the head futures [futurists in the program] from each nation — and as long as we’re balanced we’re the best of allies. If we’re not, maybe he’ll take advantage and we’ll see. The two of us are trying to stop the economic and informational warfare between the United States and their own countries — for real. There are also countries that are trying to work things out because they’ve been at war with each other before. Historians tell us when two tribes fight they usually fight again. It’s unusual for one tribe to fight once and that’s it. Especially when one tribe has never been defeated. So is there a reason for them to try again? Historians would say, you guys show me all the rest of history is not likely. They’re right. So we know about the momentum of things, we know about the future warfare systems.”
Much of this conflict is caused by countries feeling that they are not on an even playing field. Glenn feels that optimism and hope are just as key as diplomacy in matters of war and peace. “Some futurists of the ’70s — not me — used to talk about development triage, Why put any money into India? They will never make it, so why waste the money and effort? Bullshit. They were wrong and, unfortunately, it held up a lot of investment decisions. Ideas have to be sold. Look at Bucky Fuller [Buckminster Fuller] — when he talked people thought he was hopelessly romantic; now his ideas about doing more with less, synergy, all of his concepts…now he’s all of a sudden a very practical guy. So we have to fight hard with people who say, not possible. That’s as much of the problem as Bin Laden — they may not be the point on the sword, but for those around who say it’s not possible to solve these problems — especially the big ones like the enlightenment of humanity — then, it’s less likely to get done.
“So we have to answer the question about the healthy brain, we are starting to answer that question right now anatomically and genetically. Just the other day they found one of the gene combinations on language. On language, for crying out loud! Will we be ale to say to people, ‘If you want to modify you children to be genius, you also have to take this other modification for them to be nice, too?’ We don’t want to make bad geniuses, we want to make good geniuses. That’s part of the bargain to get the genius genetic modification. These are things that were considered to be far out, but now they’re decisions. Decisions to be discussed and thought about. Now back to the question — what’s the killer app to make humans enlightened? And I’m willing to bet that, looking back, it will not sound silly. Some will say the killer app turned out to be genetic engineering and not the Internet, and someone else will say that the answer is cyber interactive stuff with the neuro network system in the human brain where that if a wild, crazy thing is thought the whole world network is alerted. Those are applications on the Internet [or what will evolve into the Internet] where you could actually begin talking about making the world better.
“We decided to end slavery when many philosophies said it was in the order of things. People say that war is in the order of things, but I believe it can be ended like slavery was. The battle is won in the mind. And that’s where information warfare comes in. You get a Carl Sagan up there saying that a nuclear winter will finish us off — that was very important; whether Carl was right or wrong it didn’t matter…mission accomplished. Can we get another Carl up there saying there are applications for enlightenment and we’re going to peruse them and that’s the big Manhattan Project of the future?”