The Internet is one way to communicate with lots of people without using the body,
you just use your mind. Is cyberspace a better place to be than this physical world?
Well, I don't think so. There is an tendency in our culture, in a broader sense the
western civilization, to reject the body in favor of an idea of the spirit or the soul.
I have never been entirely sure that that's such a good thing, and in an interesting way
this technology is pointing in that direction. One could imagine a very ascetic sort of
life growing out of this, where the body is ignored. This is something I've played with
in my books, where people hate to be reminded sometimes that they have bodies, they find
it very slow and tedious. But I've never presented that as an desirable state, always as
something almost pathological growing out of this technology.
What is your relationship with the cyberpunk-movement. Are they disappointed at you
because you don't wear silver colored clothes?
I think perhaps they have been in the past, but I've always made a very consistent
effort to warn them in advance. You know, whenever I do interviews or go on television
I start by saying that I don't really know that much about computers and I don't use
them much myself. I think the expectation at one time was that I would be this leather
clothed guy with a mohawk and pins through my cheeks, who used some sort of computer
that looked like a stealth bomber with the serial number numbers filed of. But I think
now they know that that's not the case, so I think the real disappointment has probably
In your books you often describe big, multinational companies that are in control of
almost everything. But today it's more and more easy for ordinary people to get access to
the Internet and the companies are not really in control at all. Do you think this will
change, will the
companies get control of the Internet?
Oh, I hope not. I sincerely hope not. The advent, evolution and growth of the Internet
is, I think, one of the most fascinating and unprecedented human achievements of the
century. I sometimes suspect that we're seeing something in the Internet as significant
as the birth of cities. It's something that profound and with that sort of infinite
possibilities. It's really something new, it's a new kind of civilization. And of
course the thing I love about it is that it's transnational, non profit - it isn't
owned by anyone - and it's shape is completely user driven. What it is, is determined
by the needs of millions and millions of users. So cyberspace is evolving to meet the
needs of individuals all over the world. The American so called "Information Highway",
or the "Infobahn" (laughs) which I have always liked very much, is an attempt to create
a commercial version. I think that very, very large interests are looking at the Internet,
not really understanding what it is, but thinking "We can make a fortune if we have one of
those!". You know, they want to get in there, it'll be broadcast television again.
But of course that's not going to be it, and I think that the highway metaphor is
particularly suspect. A highway is something you can go two ways on, it implies real
traffic. Really what they're offering you is a mall. They want to give you an infomall
where you pay for every bit of information you download, and you'll download from a menu
that some corporation has assembled. It's like they talk in the states about the "five hundred channel universe", and how we're all are going to have so much cable, but what are they going to put on it? In Los Angeles you can have a hundred channels of cable on your television today and you can flip through all of them and there's no content! It's amazingly content-free.
So I have great hopes for the Internet, very little hope for commercial versions, and I
profoundly hope that the Internet will continue to be the basis of this sort of growth.