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      Bruce Sterling. The hacker crackdown -
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ely." Kapor is in his element now, fluent, thoroughly in command in his material. "You go tell a hardware Internet hacker that everyone should have a node on the Net," he says, "and the first thing they're going to say is, 'IP doesn't scale!'" ("IP" is the interface protocol for the Internet. As it currently exists, the IP software is simply not capable of indefinite expansion; it will run out of usable addresses, it will saturate.) "The answer," Kapor says, "is: evolve the protocol! Get the smart people together and figure out what to do. Do we add ID? Do we add new protocol? Don't just say, *we can't do it.*" Getting smart people together to figure out what to do is a skill at which Kapor clearly excels. I counter that people on the Internet rather enjoy their elite technical status, and don't seem particularly anxious to democratize the Net. Kapor agrees, with a show of scorn. "I tell them that this is the snobbery of the people on the *Mayflower* looking down their noses at the people who came over *on the second boat!* Just because they got here a year, or five years, or ten years before everybody else, that doesn't give them ownership of cyberspace! By what right?" I remark that the telcos are an electronic network, too, and they seem to guard their specialized knowledge pretty closely. Kapor ripostes that the telcos and the Internet are entirely different animals. "The Internet is an open system, everything is published, everything gets argued about, basically by anybody who can get in. Mostly, it's exclusive and elitist just because it's so difficult. Let's make it easier to use." On the other hand, he allows with a swift change of emphasis, the so-called elitists do have a point as well. "Before people start coming in, who are new, who want to make suggestions, and criticize the Net as 'all screwed up'.... They should at least take the time to understand the culture on its own terms. It has its own history -- show some respect for it. I'm a conservative, to that extent." The Internet is Kapor's paradigm for the future of telecommunications. The Internet is decentralized, non- heirarchical, almost anarchic. There are no bosses, no chain of command, no secret data. If each node obeys the general interface standards, there's simply no need for any central network authority. Wouldn't that spell the doom of AT&T as an institution? I ask. That prospect doesn't faze Kapor for a moment. "Their big advantage, that they have now, is that they have all of the wiring. But two things are happening. Anyone with right-of-way is putting down fiber -- Southern Pacific ailroad, people like that -- there's enormous 'dark fiber' laid in." ("Dark Fiber" is fiber-optic cable, whose enormous capacity so exceeds the demands of current usage that much of the fiber still has no light-signals on it - - it's still 'dark,' awaiting future use.) "The other thing that's happening is the local-loop stuff is going to go wireless. Everyone from Bellcore to the cable TV companies to AT&T wants to put in these things called 'personal communication systems.' So you could have local competition -- you could have multiplicity of people, a bunch of neighborhoods, sticking stuff up on poles. And a bunch of other people laying in dark fiber. So what happens to the telephone companies? There's enormous pressure on them from both sides. "The more I look at this, the more I believe that in a post-industrial, digital world, the idea of regulated monopolies is bad. People will look back on it and say that in the 19th and 20th centuries the idea of public utilities was an okay compromise. You needed one set of wires in the ground. It was too economically inefficient, otherwise. And that meant one entity running it. But now, with pieces being wireless -- the connections are going to be via high- level interfaces, not via wires. I mean, *ultimately* there are going to be wires -- but the wires are just a commodity. Fiber, wireless. You no longer *need* a utility." Water utilities? Gas utilities? Of course we still need those, he agrees. "But when what you're moving is information, instead of physical substances, then you can play by a different set of rules. We're evolving those rules now! Hopefully you can have a much more decentralized system, and one in which there's more competition in the marketplace. "The role of government will be to make sure that nobody cheats. The proverbial 'level playing field.' A policy that prevents monopolization. It should result in better service, lower prices, more choices, and local empowerment." He smiles. "I'm very big on local empowerment." Kapor is a man with a vision. It's a very novel vision which he and his allies are working out in considerable detail and with great energy. Dark, cynical, morbid cyberpunk that I am, I cannot avoid considering some of the darker implications of "decentralized, nonhierarchical, locally empowered" networking. I remark that some pundits have suggested that electronic networking -- faxes, phones, small-scale photocopiers -- played a strong role in dissolving the power of centralized communism and causing the collapse of the Warsaw Pact. Socialism is totally discredited, says Kapor, fresh back from the Eastern Bloc. The idea that faxes did it, all by themselves, is rather wishful thinking. Has it occurred to him that electronic networking might corrode America's industrial and political infrastructure to the point where the whole thing becomes untenable, unworkable -- and the old order just collapses headlong, like in Eastern Europe? "No," Kapor says flatly. "I think that's extraordinarily unlikely. In part, because ten or fifteen years ago, I had similar hopes about personal computers -- which utterly failed to materialize." He grins wryly, then his eyes narrow. "I'm *very* opposed to techno-utopias. Every time I see one, I either run away, or try to kill it." It dawns on me then that Mitch Kapor is not trying to make the world safe for democracy. He certainly is not trying to make it safe for anarchists or utopians -- least of all for computer intruders or electronic rip-off artists. What he really hopes to do is make the world safe for future Mitch Kapors. This world of decentralized, small- scale nodes, with instant global access for the best and brightest, would be a perfect milieu for the shoestring attic capitalism that made Mitch Kapor what he is today. Kapor is a very bright man. He has a rare combination of visionary intensity with a strong practical streak. The Board of the EFF: John Barlow, Jerry Berman of the ACLU, Stewart Brand, John Gilmore, Steve Wozniak, and Esther Dyson, the doyenne of East-West computer entrepreneurism -- share his gift, his vision, and his formidable networking talents. They are people of the 1960s, winnowed-out by its turbulence and rewarded with wealth and influence. They are some of the best and the brightest that the electronic community has to offer. But can they do it, in the real world? Or are they only dreaming? They are so few. And there is so much against them. I leave Kapor and his networking employees struggling cheerfully with the promising intricacies of their newly installed Macintosh System 7 software. The next day is Saturday. EFF is closed. I pay a few visits to points of interest downtown. One of them is the birthplace of the telephone. It's marked by a bronze plaque in a plinth of black- and-white speckled granite. It sits in the plaza of the John F. Kennedy Federal Building, the very place where Kapor was once fingerprinted by the FBI. The plaque has a bas-relief picture of Bell's original telephone. "BITHPLACE OF THE TELEPHONE," it reads. "Here, on June 2, 1875, Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas A. Watson first transmitted sound over wires. "This successful experiment was completed in a fifth floor garret at what was then 109 Court Street and marked the beginning of world-wide telephone service." 109 Court Street is long gone. Within sight of Bell's plaque, across a street, is one of the central offices of NYNEX, the local Bell BOC, on 6 Bowdoin Square. I cross the street and circle the telco building, slowly, hands in my jacket pockets. It's a bright, windy, New England autumn day. The central office is a handsome 1940s-era megalith in late Art Deco, eight stories high. Parked outside the back is a power-generation truck. The generator strikes me as rather anomalous. Don't they already have their own generators in this eight-story monster? Then the suspicion strikes me that NYNEX must have heard of the September 17 AT&T power-outage which crashed New York City. Belt-and-suspenders, this generator. Very telco. Over the glass doors of the front entrance is a handsome bronze bas-relief of Art Deco vines, sunflowers, and birds, entwining the Bell logo and the legend NEW ENGLAND TELEPHONE AND TELEGAPH COMPANY -- an entity which no longer officially exists. The doors are locked securely. I peer through the shadowed glass. Inside is an official poster reading: "New England Telephone a NYNEX Company ATTENTION "All persons while on New England Telephone Company premises are required to visibly wear their identification cards (C.C.P. Section 2, Page 1). "Visitors, vendors, contractors, and all others are required to visibly wear a daily pass. "Thank you. Kevin C. Stanton. Building Security Coordinator." Outside, around the corner, is a pull-down ribbed metal security door, a locked delivery entrance. Some passing stranger has grafitti-tagged this door, with a single word in red spray-painted cursive: *Fury* # My book on the Hacker Crackdown is almost over now. I have deliberately saved the best for last. In February 1991, I attended the CPS Public Policy oundtable, in Washington, DC. CPS, Computer Professionals for Social esponsibility, was a sister organization of EFF, or perhaps its aunt, being older and perhaps somewhat wiser in the ways of the world of politics. Computer Professionals for Social esponsibility began in 1981 in Palo Alto, as an informal discussion group of Californian computer scientists and technicians, united by nothing more than an electronic mailing list. This typical high-tech ad-hocracy received the dignity of its own acronym in 1982, and was formally incorporated in 1983. CPS lobbied government and public alike with an educational outreach effort, sternly warning against any foolish and unthinking trust in complex computer systems. CPS insisted that mere computers should never be considered a magic panacea for humanity's social, ethical or political problems. CPS members were especially troubled about the stability, safety, and dependability of military computer systems, and very especially troubled by those systems controlling nuclear arsenals. CPS was best-known for its persistent and well- publicized attacks on the scientific credibility of the Strategic Defense Initiative ("Star Wars"). In 1990, CPS was the nation's veteran cyber-political activist group, with over two thousand members in twenty- one local chapters across the US. It was especially active in Boston, Silicon Valley, and Washington DC, where its Washington office sponsored the Public Policy oundtable. The oundtable, however, had been funded by EFF, which had passed CPS an extensive grant for operations. This was the first large-scale, official meeting of what was to become the electronic civil libertarian community. Sixty people attended, myself included -- in this instance, not so much as a journalist as a cyberpunk author. Many of the luminaries of the field took part: Kapor and Godwin as a matter of course. ichard Civille and Marc otenberg of CPS. Jerry Berman of the ACLU. John Quarterman, author of *The Matrix.* Steven Levy, author of *Hackers.* George Perry and Sandy Weiss of Prodigy Services, there to network about the civil-liberties troubles their young commercial network was experiencing. Dr. Dorothy Denning. Cliff Figallo, manager of the Well. Steve Jackson was there, having finally found his ideal target audience, and so was Craig Neidorf, "Knight Lightning" himself, with his attorney, Sheldon Zenner. Katie Hafner, science journalist, and co- author of *Cyberpunk: Outlaws and Hackers on the Computer Frontier.* Dave Farber, APAnet pioneer and fabled Internet guru. Janlori Goldman of the ACLU's Project on Privacy and Technology. John Nagle of Autodesk and the Well. Don Goldberg of the House Judiciary Committee. Tom Guidoboni, the defense attorney in the Internet Worm case. Lance Hoffman, computer-science professor at The George Washington University. Eli Noam of Columbia. And a host of others no less distinguished. Senator Patrick Leahy delivered the keynote address, expressing his determination to keep ahead of the curve on the issue of electronic free speech. The address was well-received, and the sense of excitement was palpable. Every panel discussion was interesting -- some were entirely compelling. People networked with an almost frantic interest. I myself had a most interesting and cordial lunch discussion with Noel and Jeanne Gayler, Admiral Gayler being a former director of the National Security Agency. As this was the first known encounter between an actual no-kidding cyberpunk and a chief executive of America's largest and best-financed electronic espionage apparat, there was naturally a bit of eyebrow-raising on both sides. Unfortunately, our discussion was off-the-record. In fact all the discussions at the CPS were officially off- the- record, the idea being to do some serious networking in an atmosphere of complete frankness, rather than to stage a media circus. In any case, CPS oundtable, though interesting and intensely valuable, was as nothing compared to the truly mind-boggling event that transpired a mere month later. # "Computers, Freedom and Privacy." Four hundred people from every conceivable corner of America's electronic community. As a science fiction writer, I have been to some weird gigs in my day, but this thing is truly *beyond the pale.* Even "Cyberthon," Point Foundation's "Woodstock of Cyberspace" where Bay Area psychedelia collided headlong with the emergent world of computerized virtual reality, was like a Kiwanis Club gig compared to this astonishing do. The "electronic community" had reached an apogee. Almost every principal in this book is in attendance. Civil Libertarians. Computer Cops. The Digital Underground. Even a few discreet telco people. Colorcoded dots for lapel tags are distributed. Free Expression issues. Law Enforcement. Computer Security. Privacy. Journalists. Lawyers. Educators. Librarians. Programmers. Stylish punk-black dots for the hackers and phone phreaks. Almost everyone here seems to wear eight or nine dots, to have six or seven professional hats. It is a community. Something like Lebanon perhaps, but a digital nation. People who had feuded all year in the national press, people who entertained the deepest suspicions of one another's motives and ethics, are now in each others' laps. "Computers, Freedom and Privacy" had every reason in the world to turn ugly, and yet except for small irruptions of puzzling nonsense from the convention's token lunatic, a surprising bonhomie reigned. CFP was like a wedding-party in which two lovers, unstable bride and charlatan groom, tie the knot in a clearly disastrous matrimony. It is clear to both families -- even to neighbors and random guests -- that this is not a workable relationship, and yet the young couple's desperate attraction can brook no further delay. They simply cannot help themselves. Crockery will fly, shrieks from their newlywed home will wake the city block, divorce waits in the wings like a vulture over the Kalahari, and yet this is a wedding, and there is going to be a child from it. Tragedies end in death; comedies in marriage. The Hacker Crackdown is ending in marriage. And there will be a child. From the beginning, anomalies reign. John Perry Barlow, cyberspace ranger, is here. His color photo in *The New York Times Magazine,* Barlow scowling in a grim Wyoming snowscape, with long black coat, dark hat, a Macintosh SE30 propped on a fencepost and an awesome frontier rifle tucked under one arm, will be the single most striking visual image of the Hacker Crackdown. And he is CFP's guest of honor -- along with Gail Thackeray of the FCIC! What on earth do they expect these dual guests to do with each other? Waltz? Barlow delivers the first address. Uncharacteristically, he is hoarse -- the sheer volume of roadwork has worn him down. He speaks briefly, congenially, in a plea for conciliation, and takes his leave to a storm of applause. Then Gail Thackeray takes the stage. She's visibly nervous. She's been on the Well a lot lately. eading those Barlow posts. Following Barlow is a challenge to anyone. In honor of the famous lyricist for the Grateful Dead, she announces reedily, she is going to read -- *a poem.* A poem she has composed herself. It's an awful poem, doggerel in the rollicking meter of obert W. Service's *The Cremation of Sam McGee,* but it is in fact, a poem. It's the *Ballad of the Electronic Frontier!* A poem about the Hacker Crackdown and the sheer unlikelihood of CFP. It's full of in-jokes. The score or so cops in the audience, who are sitting together in a nervous claque, are absolutely cracking-up. Gail's poem is the funniest goddamn thing they've ever heard. The hackers and civil-libs, who had this woman figured for Ilsa She-Wolf of the SS, are staring with their jaws hanging loosely. Never in the wildest reaches of their imagination had they figured Gail Thackeray was capable of such a totally off-the-wall move. You can see them punching their mental CONTOL-ESET buttons. Jesus! This woman's a hacker weirdo! She's *just like us!* God, this changes everything! Al Bayse, computer technician for the FBI, had been the only cop at the CPS oundtable, dragged there with his arm bent by Dorothy Denning. He was guarded and tightlipped at CPS oundtable; a "lion thrown to the Christians." At CFP, backed by a claque of cops, Bayse suddenly waxes eloquent and even droll, describing the FBI's "NCIC 2000", a gigantic digital catalog of criminal records, as if he has suddenly become some weird hybrid of George Orwell and George Gobel. Tentatively, he makes an arcane joke about statistical analysis. At least a third of the crowd laughs aloud. "They didn't laugh at that at my last speech," Bayse observes. He had been addressing cops -- *straight* cops, not computer people. It had been a worthy meeting, useful one supposes, but nothing like *this.* There has never been *anything* like this. Without any prodding, without any preparation, people in the audience simply begin to ask questions. Longhairs, freaky people, mathematicians. Bayse is answering, politely, frankly, fully, li

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