WHEN I FIRST met John Perry Barlow, we became instant soulmates. While that sentence is authentic for me, it also applies to 10,000 different human beings. That turned into Barlow—whether you were an international-well-known avatar of LSD, a stuffy CEO, or the US Vice President, he might win you over with his pleasant demeanor, arresting observations, and a mordant take on 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 the simplest 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 became an influential voice and an intimate participant in the early days of Wired, a co-founder and non secular 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 had become more well-known for proselytizing the internet than for co-writing “Cassidy” and different Dead classics.
Done he is—, Barlow died in his sleep closing night in San Francisco. He turned 70 years vintage. Barlow’s effect is such that even individuals unfamiliar with his name have long been grappling 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 is remembered only for how he rustled prose, ideas, or lyrics. IRL, he turned into larger than life.
Barlow turned 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, where his roommate (and, obviously, soulmate) became Destiny Dead guitarist Bob Weir. Barlow went to university inside the liberal arts enclave of Wesleyan, in which, via his 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 to get straightened out. One of those youngsters became John F. Kennedy Jr., who became a near Barlow buddy. Meanwhile, as his former roommate, Bob Weir discovered himself in a celebrated rock and roll band, Barlow began helping him place phrases to track at the start of a Weir solo album and then for the Dead widespread.
I’m no longer positive how Barlow has 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, where 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 curious about the world of hackers, and we spoke endlessly approximately that. A few weeks later, I presented one to him once I scored a couple of tickets to the Bay Bridge World Series. The Earth shook twenty minutes earlier than the beginning time—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 became the generation’s main voice and a super explainer with no engineering enjoyment whatsoever, turning his presence for bullshit into 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 importantly, 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 occasionally mocked. But as he defined to Andy Greenberg a couple of years ago, he became all too aware that the possibilities he celebrated would be the artifacts of a super outcome, a state of affairs worth operating for. One, nevertheless, is 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 solidified 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,” became banged on a keyboard throughout a World Economic Forum.
His big thoughts and persona often overshadowed what my ideas 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, the prosecution of hackers, and the route 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 for all time, planning to write a magnum opus on his era’s views, to be entitled “Everything You Know Is Wrong.” But he never appeared to have the time or area to craft that legacy-making massive e-book.
Barlow constantly becomes at the move, and in email dispatches he sent to a voluminous mailing list of buddies–” using 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 attending a convention at a hotel wherein Barlow also took place to stay. She became a superb psychiatrist just quickly as thirty. They moved into my Greenwich Village apartment while my family turned to spending a year in Western Massachusetts. When we dragged them again, we kicked him out—he did not manage to satisfy his indistinct promise to pay us a few hires—and they moved to a floor condo on 23rd St.