WHEN I FIRST met John Perry Barlow, we became instant soulmates. While that sentence is authentic for me, it additionally applies to possibly 10,000 different human beings. That turned into Barlow—whether you were an international-well-known avatar of LSD, a stuffy CEO, or the Vice President of the US, he might win you over together with his affable demeanor, arresting observations, and a mordant take at the human condition.
He had a unique and compelling credential—“junior lyricist of the Grateful Dead” was the manner he placed it—and he wielded it like an all-get admission to laminate to the concert hall of life. His rock and roll bona fides become simplest one strand of a web of myths he pulled out of his suede jacket like a well-rolled joint: cowboy, poet, romantic, family man, truth seeker, and ultimately, the bard of the virtual revolution. He becomes an influential voice and an intimate participant in the early days of Wired, a co-founder and nonsecular suggestion for the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), and the guy who promoted our online world as deftly as Steve Jobs hyped Apple. By the time he was completed, he becomes extra well-known for proselytizing the internet than he becomes for co-writing “Cassidy” and different Dead classics.
Done he is—Barlow died in his sleep closing night time in San Francisco. He turned into 70 years vintage.
Barlow’s effect is such that even individuals who aren’t familiar along with his name have long been grappling along with his vision of the networked international, one where speech and creativity glide unfettered, and fact objectives power with the rate of a bullet. But Barlow gained’t be remembered only for the way he rustled prose, ideas or lyrics. IRL, he turned into larger than life.
Barlow turned into by no means shy approximately sharing his biography. He hailed from Pinedale, Wyoming, where his family had lived for generations. He fatefully went off to a Colorado boarding faculty, in which his roommate (and, obviously, soulmate) become destiny Dead guitarist Bob Weir. Barlow went to university inside the liberal arts enclave of Wesleyan, in which via his own description he cut a troubadour-ish discern together with his bike and ten-gallon Stetson. Back in Wyoming, he helped with the ranch, which appeared to have a function past raising livestock—a place wherein rich kids could visit get straightened out. One of those youngsters turned into John F. Kennedy Jr., who has become a near Barlow buddy. Meanwhile, as his former roommate Bob Weir discovered himself in a celebrated rock and roll band, Barlow began helping him placed phrases to track, at the start for a Weir solo album and then for the Dead in widespread.
I’m no longer positive how Barlow have become interested in the era—maybe it changed into simply his specially tuned zeitgeist antenna. Somehow he wound up at a Hackers Conference in 1989, in which I met him. As a once in a while Deadhead, I had a fanboy attraction to a person who was part of the circle of relatives. But he became keenly inquisitive about the world of hackers and we spoke endlessly approximately that. A few weeks later, once I scored a couple of tickets to the Bay Bridge World Series, I presented one to him. Twenty minutes earlier than the beginning time, the Earth shook—the Loma Prieta earthquake. It wasn’t until properly after the middle of the night that we found an operating cellphone to document ourselves alive to our respective other halves.
Over the following few years, I watched with fascination as Barlow has become the main voice in a generation. With no engineering enjoy whatsoever, he became a super explainer, turning his present for bullshit into a pressure for comprehension. He may want to hang around a group of cryptographers for a while and two weeks later explain public key crypto (pretty lots) to a room of bankers, diplomats, and corporate managers. Even extra important, he grasped the soul of the generation, whether or not the transporting elements of virtual reality or the wonderful disruptiveness of friction-free distribution. In this contemporary technology of virtual remorse, his Panglossian take on the net is on occasion mocked. But as he defined to Andy Greenberg a couple of years in the past, he turned into all too aware that the possibilities he celebrated will be the artifacts of a super outcome, a state of affairs worth operating for. One nevertheless well worth dreaming about.
During the 1990s, Barlow labored his way into the center of large tech discussions, each via his writing and his activism. He satisfied software program entrepreneur Mitch Kapor to fund the EFF—a basis dedicated to retaining virtual human rights that solid an admirable legacy over the following few decades. He became friends with Tim Leary. Barlow also located soulmates in the Clinton White House and the NSA. When one buddy accused him of liking Air Force Two a bit an excessive amount of (sure, Al Gore was a Deadhead) Barlow professed to be hurt and then admitted there has been greater than a bit truth to that. Naturally, his epic manifesto of the virtual age, “A Declaration of Independence for Cyberspace” become banged out on a keyboard throughout a World Economic Forum.
His big thoughts and big persona often overshadowed what I idea turned into Barlow’s underrated power as a writer. Between 1989 and the early 2000s he created a series of operatic non-fiction pieces—on digital truth, on the prosecution of hackers, and of the route at the that means of our online world—that matched the fine within the commercial enterprise. I could often goad him to get into that business. Indeed he changed into for all time making plans to write a magnum opus on his era views, to be entitled “Everything You Know Is Wrong.” But he in no way appeared to have the time or area to craft that legacy-making massive e-book.
Barlow become constantly at the move, and in email dispatches he sent to a voluminous mailing list of buddies–“by means of that I suggest folks that could bail me out of jail,” he’d explain to the masses who healthy that category–he’d percentage a complex itinerary, along with his contemporary region in “meatspace.” Despite his self-styled rambling guy persona, he loved his three daughters, whom he dubbed the Barlowettes. But in 1993, Barlow met and fell difficult for a young female who become attending a convention at a hotel wherein Barlow additionally took place to be staying. She became a superb psychiatrist just quick of thirty. The of them moved into my Greenwich Village apartment whilst my family turned into spending a year in Western Massachusetts. When we moved again, we kicked him out—he in no way did manage to satisfy his indistinct promise to pay us a few hire—and they moved to a floor condo on twenty-third St.