Technology seems to be increasing our
workload in a lot of ways--it lengthens our days, it adds pressure,
a lot of
pressure on our lives. When does technology start to lighten the
the average person rather than increasing it?
No, it doesn't. Our use of it does.
Technology lightens the load for me in the sense that I'm now doing
stuff that I
couldn't do otherwise--and I enjoy it. But technology doesn't do it
boss using the technology may. Our own perfectionism may. And our
to say no. I keep pointing this out. I don't have a home phone. And
I don't want to be bothered at home. I made that choice. It's not a
It's not something that I think everybody should do. What I do think
should do is decide for themselves what do they want and what don't
But aren't you in something of a rarefied position? If I'm a
an airline or an order taker at mail-order catalog, I don't get to
even how long
my bathroom breaks are.
No, but that is not the technology--that is your company. And you do
decide at home whether you watch television or whether you read a
you go bowling with friends. You do control your own life and I hope
that in the future you'll also take advantage of the Net to quit
reservation taker and find one that you like better.
And that's sort of optimistic: Not everybody has the education.
But the more knowledge you have as a person looking for a job or
for a product or looking for a community you might want to
believe the result is better. The more you sit passively and say,
makes me do this, that, and the other," it's your fault. And you
responsibility for yourself.
One thing people don't like about the Net and especially some people
developed and smug parts of Europe, they say, "We don't want all
don't want this responsibility. We'd rather just have the government
everyone else what to do." And you now have choices--you can't
it's up to you what you want to do.
Somebody has to take those reservations. Somebody's going to be on
bottom tier, a tier that's increasingly larger...
Hold on! Somebody always has to be on the bottom tier.
Somebody does not necessarily have to take those reservations. More
more of that is going to go to self-service. I mean, that is one
about the Net: people start making their own reservations. But yes,
somebody's always going to be on the bottom tier and
Internet or no Internet, that's not going to change. More people
choice and more control over their lives. I think that is going to
have to get up and do it for themselves.
You have got to admit there are some ways technology and the global
economy is forcing American workers to do more with less. It can be
Yes, but at the same time, I'm a global person, and frankly, I would
guys in Russia to get a decent salary and I would like them to
overpaid American programmers who are in short supply. Change is
disruptive and harmful, but I really don't particularly like the
living off the labor of all these poor people all over the rest of
world. And that's
But it's the technology, you're saying, that's going to float
boats a little
higher and give us all better wages?
Most of us. Not all. And nothing ever will. As you said yourself,
going to be a bottom rung.
So you don't worry about the sort of splintering of society based on
I worry about it, but I don't think it should stop us from going
think we should
worry about it and try and stop it from happening.
Really? Your book seems to endorse the view that it's healthy for
to fracture into small groups and to govern by small groups.
Everybody is going to be part of more than one community, I hope. I
mean, I think those small communities are great, but not to the
extent, at least--being a part of larger communities as well. The
cyberspace is you're not stuck in a single geographical
and just subsets of that. You can be in your local neighborhood, you
part of computer
programmers in Russia and California, you can be part of some
or something. And these all intersect.
But if you're a member of only a single community, you have a pretty
yeah, that is a problem. Again, you have to be a
grown-up. You can't just say, "Small communities are good to the
ones" or "Large communities are good to the exclusion of small
challenge of life and it's a greater and greater challenge the more
choices you have. Be a grown-up, be aware of what's going on around
moral judgments and be open to the world around you. It depends on
rules aren't good enough.
Your own PC Forum conference seems to be a community of its own.
said that you stand at the gate at PC Forum like someone at a club
York City--letting people in or not. What criteria do you
We sell out, so we have to leave some people out. We could raise the
price to $6,000, but I don't think I'd really like what kind of an
audience that would result in. So we do some social engineering. I
know if I want to tell everybody everything, but to some extent we
discriminate against PR firms, we discriminate for women, for
for minorities of whatever kind, for little start-ups. The sixth
from Xerox doesn't have as much chance as the first person from a
you never heard of, and, you know, just what I call "cute
trying not to make it [the forum] into an all-boys club.
the movers and shakers in the establishment, but for their benefit
the benefit of the new kids, we want to get a good mix.
You spend a lot of time in the book discussing rating systems and
filtering, but these systems have come under attack from some
like the ACLU, as censorware. Why do you think rating and filtering
Again, people need to make judgments, they need to discriminate--and
tools to help them do that. Those tools are very powerful and they
good or for bad. But again, I think they're valuable and I just
ACLU. Sorry. That's like saying, "A gun's greatest purpose is to
"Crypto's greatest purpose is to protect." Neither of those is
a filtering system, I think, is fairly neutral and it really depends
on who is
Or where it is. If it's on the library PCs...
Well that's what I mean: If somebody is controlling it, that's a
town usually. And I'm happy to see the library using it for kids.
to say, "OK, if the parents want to use a different system for their
for adults, I agree--it shouldn't filter.
But what if I have
13-year-old gay child and they can't get to the Lavender Youth Web
the library because it uses a filter and in its zeal, or its own
has blocked access to all gay sites? Isn't that a significant
problem with filtering systems?
I think it's really sad, but I think the fault is with the
For not buying their own computer?
No, I mean...The world is not a perfect place, and so I can't solve
I'm saying that filtering can be harmful and not always in our
Yes it can be. Believe me, it can be. Everything, lots of things can
harmful. Filtering can be harmful. But net, I'd rather have it than
There's the criticism of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs that they are
that they don't give enough. Do you think that's true?
Well, yes, it is true. One of the reasons for it I think is that
too busy. They don't spend enough time with their families; they
spend enough time giving their money away because just throwing the
over the fence isn't as good as investing it for a nonfinancial
To really give money well you need to do more than just write a
check. You need to be involved in what happens to it--the governance
organization or whatever. And so this medical Internet project
involved in], it takes time--not just giving the money away, but
someone to design the project, selling it to George Soros. I hope
of them will have kids and sort of think about
the long term and so forth. But you're right--right now they are
most of them. Not all of them.
They're becoming more politically aware. And that's a start. They
kids and they have begun to think about the world they're leaving
Maybe they've begun to remember all the dreams they had in college
fairer world. The fact that Bill Gates gave $200 million to
libraries--whatever his motivations were--God bless him because he's
he's a role model in that, too.
These guys did it on their own. And it's sort of: "Well, why can't
everybody else do it on their own?" The market has been very kind to
them. They sort of expect it to do the same for everybody else.
Many of them came from nowhere financially, but they are
favored and so they don't understand how tough life is for the rest
world. They live in this green
paradise which, for what it's worth, I carefully decided not to move
the mid-80s when it was really an option. After I closed down my
would have been a perfect time to move to California. And I just
if I lived
in California I would stay there and not travel and not see the rest
whereas in New York I was always flying to California, but I
still taking the
subway in the morning, encountering homeless people on the street,
just much more of reality than you have in California. You live a
privileged life out here. You created all of this without the
very much a sense of "Well gee, why can't everybody just be like
These are not lazy people. They are working very, very hard and--I'd
say this of me, too--their lives are unbalanced. But I actually work
very, very hard on the nonprofit side as well as the for-profit side.