Original post August 14, 2014
I am seemingly on my back looking up. There are people all around me looking down at me. Are they doctors and nurses? Am I on an operating table? Am I all right?
They are talking to each other and I am trying to make out what they are saying. I’m also trying to form a clearer picture.
I can see what looks like clouds in the sky above their heads. Are we outside? Wait — are those clouds — or are they starclouds — clouds of stars in the night?
“The baby’s all right,” I hear a woman’s voice say. Suddenly I can see them — George Washington — Thomas Jefferson — Ben Franklin — Abigail Adams — Abe Lincoln… what is Abe doing there, part of me asks but I am too out of it and don’t understand what the problem is …
The Founders — and Abe — looking down at me or at us, the baby they created — seem happy, not concerned, like they are playing a game — perhaps it is like a board game to them, which is why they are looking down as if at a table — perhaps a map is spread upon that table — from their perspective — a map on a board game?
Now they are actors and actresses after a show — talking, joking, softly laughing — still up there and me down here looking up — I see them taking off their makeup — underneath their “real” faces are being revealed. It’s hard for me to see — I see Abe Lincoln taking off his makeup but he doesn’t look that much different underneath, yet I know right away somehow that he is Abraham — the original Abraham.
What is the meaning, I wonder. Now I know I am dreaming — I stretch out my mind in their direction — up — the picture gets more diffuse but I am picking up words, meanings, intentions.
“We thought up checks and balances,” a male voice says, “we were so clever and creative — inspired —”
“It still went to central power, again, every time. It always goes there. It has to go there.”
“Physical superiority. Organized and armed groups will always dominate individuals.”
“Even if the organized and armed groups are us?”
“Yes. Even if they mean well.”
“What happens to individuals then? And the freedom of the individual? Isn’t that the whole point? Are we wasting our time?”
“Might as well. It goes on forever anyway.”
“I see the next move,” Washington says and I can see them again crowding him to see what he is doing on the board. “Let’s see if this does it — early 1990s —”
I get it that he is doing something that will result in a military weapons system being converted into a public utility — apparently intended to change the course of history on the planet — to somehow be an ultimate check and balance to allow the individual to stand up to the whole on an equal footing of respect, dignity, and freedom.
The ancient alarm goes off, taking me out of the dream straight into the usual reaction of seeing how quickly I can make the horrible klaxon stop. I am still half asleep but the dream is gone — I am remembering traces of it, fast fading. A red cardinal is on the railing of the upstairs side deck looking in at me, cocking his head inquisitively. I float downstairs to make coffee and while it is brewing I escape the din of bean grinding and go to my office to check in on my Internet emails.
The Internet. In the early 80s, consulting for the U.S. military on human effectiveness, I was invited to be on the ring, as it was called. The ring was Darpanet, brainchild of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Not so much a weapons system as a military communication, command and control system, although even then the uses for computer warfare were well understood. Darpanet would become the Internet. Tim Berners-Lee (a Brit) would make it the Internet we recognize today by inventing the World Wide Web. In the early 90s at the first meeting of W3C, Tim’s WWW Consortium, I was the one person invited from the ad industry, and promptly soiled the rug with my idea of anonymized privacy-protected ID numbers for each user and device to make targeting and measurement easier for advertisers. By the end of the meeting I was forgiven although it would take years to convince the majority that advertising had a place on the Web. Now Google, Apple, and Microsoft all are working on their own versions of what I proposed that day.
Nor is the Internet yet a public utility. Its status is still unique and not in an existing pigeonhole, hence the concerns over the erosion of net neutrality — in other words, not making equal speed available on the Internet to all users (pending their ability to afford highspeed service). Conferring public utility status officially, even if country by country, would protect net neutrality. Maybe someday someone will write a Bill Of Rights in which Internet access is a natural birthright.
Best to all,