the Real World
Paradox in the Case
of Health Information
Remote Memory Access
of Reactive Control for
A Q&A with Dina Katabi
of Model Interpretation
The Secret Formula
the Right Next Roles
Mind Your State for
Your State of Mind
Plus the latest news about
automating social programs,
triggering circuits to
self-destruct, and moving
beyond 3D holograms.
His villains seem to be a loose conspiracy, including hippies, communists, Stewart Brand, and The Well.
What is not clear in his attack is how this
cabal actually conspired to make digital
information free. Nonetheless, Vardi
argued that they are behind the scourge
of free-riders on the Internet who have
undermined the market economy.
He seems to want to accuse Brand
in particular of spreading the digital
“information wants to be free” virus.
Here is what Brand actually said: “On
the one hand information wants to be
expensive, because it’s so valuable. The
right information in the right place just
changes your life. On the other hand, in-
formation wants to be free, because the
cost of getting it out is getting lower and
lower all the time. So you have these two
fighting against each other.”
So for Vardi to tar Brand with
“information wants to be free” and
then use it as the lynchpin for his ar-
gument is unfair and distorts what
Brand actually said, particularly in
the context of an argument about in-
It is helpful to be clear about what the
Internet actually is. It is a software protocol that enables any-to-any connectivity.
That is, of course, a big deal, but it has
little to do with the cyberculture Vardi
attacked. It was, however, very efficient
in spreading an online culture that already existed globally. There is also zero
evidence that The Well or for that matter
the “hippies” played a significant role in
the creation of this cyberculture.
I should know, I was a member of
The Well when it was first created.
If you want to hunt for the roots
of the now-ostracized cyberculture,
I would look to the ARPAnet, Usenet,
Compuserve, The Source, and the
ket for new information. Moreover,
the reduced potential market reduces
the incentive to produce new informa-
tion. Instead of providing what Vardi
called “a mechanism for determining
the value of information,” a direct-
payment market inherently provides
a mechanism for decreasing the value
Whatever problems it may cause,
the advertising-based model for information services is the result of market
forces, not some “hippie” philosophy.
If all Internet services switched to a
direct-payment model, those same
market forces would diminish both the
availability of existing information and
the creation of new information.
George A. Rappolt, Needham, MA, USA
For decades it seemed the Internet
could do no wrong.
Despite the clear warning presented by dystopian cyberpunk science
fiction in the 1980s, in the mid-1990s
a self-righteous group of digital entrepreneurs prevailed upon the U.S.
government to leave the Internet unregulated. Their politics coalesced in
a digital libertarian manifesto published in 1996 in Wired Magazine by
Republican Wyoming cattle rancher
John Perry Barlow.
Today, with the election of Donald
Trump and Brexit there is suddenly
broad interest in the second-order
effects of information technologies.
Indeed, overnight the Zeitgeist has
swung to the perception that the Internet can do no right. Facebook,
Google, Twitter, and their social media fellow-travelers have gone from
being the nation’s darlings to being
castigated as enablers of Russian subversion of American democracy.
The rich irony is that the very power
of the Internet as a global transmission medium for core American values (such as democracy and individual
freedom) proved to be a two-way street.
In 2016, an unregulated Internet became an instrument for the distribution of a vast array of disinformation by
enemies of open society.
Moshe Y. Vardi has now joined the
hunt for the guilty parties and in his
July 2018 column, he pointed his accusing finger squarely at the 1960s
model for information
services is the result
of market forces,
not some “hippie”