[IWAR] INTERNET Esther Dysan

From: Michael Wilson (MWILSON/0005514706at_private)
Date: Sat Dec 27 1997 - 09:43:29 PST

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                  Talking with Esther Dyson, the 'Queen of cyberspace'
          Copyright ) 1997 Nando.net
          Copyright ) 1997 Scripps Howard
       (December 26, 1997 00:48 a.m. EST http://www.nando.net) -- Weirdness is
       in the eye of the beholder, which explains, quite probably, why most
       journalists strive to portray Esther Dyson as more than a little weird.
       She's not.
       At most, she is odd, as in oddly energetic (she rises at 4:30 a.m, and
       has a work schedule you wouldn't believe), or even oddly attractive.
       She is small, waifish and windswept, and displays no great regard for
       the efficacies of makeup or the thrill of expensive clothes. Usually,
       she wears cheap-looking jeans and sneakers.
       Yet journalists cannot resist portraying Dyson as
       exotic-going-on-peculiar, probably because she is seen as the doyenne of
       cyberspace. Dyson is regarded as one of the world's most perceptive
       computer theorists and intellectuals.
       She doesn't write software. Nothing so mundane. Instead, she ponders how
       computers will change our lives, and how the cyber-age will affect
       governments, societies, democracy and capitalism. Everywhere she goes,
       she's touted as a powerful and influential cyber-visionary. As a result,
       few journalists can resist calling her "Queen Neterati" -- queen of the
       One of her goals, she says, is to communicate her sense of the richness
       and potential of the net. By "net", she means both the formal Internet,
       all the other dawning networks and intranets, and all the people,
       cultures and communities that will live in, or on, the net, as if it
       were a home. The net, she maintains, offers all of us an opportunity to
       take charge of our lives and redefine our role as citizens.
       The net, Dyson reckons, will profoundly change human institutions, but
       not human nature. "The net has no independent existence," she says. "It
       matters because people use it as a place to communicate, conduct
       business and share ideas, not as a mystical entity in itself ... It will
       suck power away from central governments, mass media and big business.
       "This digital world is a new terrain that can be a source of untold
       productivity -- or a medium for terrorists, con artists and untrammeled
       lies and viciousness."
       The net gives awesome power to individuals. But, with greater ability to
       exercise our rights, or abuse them, all of us will need to assume
       greater responsibility for our actions and for the world we are
       A lot of us, says Dyson, are worried about governments spying on us. To
       which her tart response is: "Spy back!"
       We must use the net to fight for more open government, she says. "What
       are governments doing with all the information they collect? Who is
       looking at it? Who are they talking to? Why aren't they talking to us?"
       She sympathizes with official concerns about large-scale crime rings and
       terrorists operating in the cyber-shadows. "But I am also concerned
       about large-scale governments operating in the shadows."
       Dyson is never still. She seldom spends more than three nights in one
       place. One journalist said she lived a monkish existence -- or, rather,
       given that she has clocked six million airline miles, the life of a
       flying nun.
       Queen Neterati rubs shoulders with so many of the world's most powerful
       politicians, technology investors and company owners, from Microsoft's
       Bill Gates. She had just flown in from Kiev. After London, she was
       traveling to New York, where she has an office, then California,
       Washington and Moscow.
       Esther Dyson was reared in a hot-house. She was born on Bastille day,
       1951, in Zurich, the daughter of Freeman Dyson, the famous
       astrophysicist and science writer, and of mathematician Verena
       The child grew up in Princeton, N.J. H-bomb architect Edward Teller was
       a family friend, as were numerous Nobel Prize winners. One of her
       childhood toys was the remains of one of the first computers.
       At the age of 16 she went to Harvard, where she earned a degree in
       economics. Then she spent three years as a Forbes fact-checker and
       reporter, before becoming a Wall Street securities analyst, studying the
       computer and software businesses.
       She is president and owner of EDventure Holdings, which focuses on
       emerging information technology worldwide and publishes Release 1.0, an
       insider's newsletter that identifies computer industry trends and
       comments trenchantly on cyber-age issues. "What she writes is what I
       care about," Gates has said.
       As well as the newsletter, Dyson also sponsors, via her company, two
       annual conferences: PC Forum, in the U.S., now in its 20th year, which
       attracts (invitation only) 600 hotshots from the computer and
       communications businesses (again, from Gates down); and, in Europe, the
       High-Tech Forum.
       She is also a venture capitalist, both in the U.S. and in Eastern and
       Central Europe (she is fluent in Russian).
       Given the caliber of her contacts, the skill of her networking and the
       tips whispered to her via e-mail, in board meetings or at countless
       seminars and conferences, it's easy to see why Dyson, who has been
       awarded Hungary's von Neumann medal for distinction in the dissemination
       of computer culture, is so respected for her forecasts of the way the
       information age will affect individuals.
       In her recently published book, Release 2.0: A Design for Living in the
       Digital Age, she maintains that the net is handing us the responsibility
       to govern ourselves, think for ourselves, educate our children, do
       business honestly and work with each other to design the rules by which
       we want to live.
       By MICHAEL THOMPSON-NOEL, Scripps Howard News Service

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