It's with a substantial dose of disappointment that I acknowledge that Barlow's declaration doesn't stand the test of time. He saw government regulation as the major threat to the internet, and though I'm sure that's still a problem, it turns out that the greater threat came from within, from some of those whom we probably originally saw as allies, or even true comrades in arms. That, however, is my take on the declaration. Barlow himself sees things a bit differently. In an interview from February of this year, corresponding to the twentieth anniversary of the declaration, he acknowledged that perhaps some of the manifesto had been a bit over the top and that he should have made it:
more obviously clear that I knew that cyberspace was not sublimely removed from the physical world, with which it has exactly the same relationship that the mind has with the body: deeply interdependent but qualitatively different. I think that point often got lost.I'll concur with the second part of that. Rereading it now I still get the feeling that he saw the physical and the virtual as two totally different entities. And I suppose that I shouldn't be surprised that Barlow still sees governments as the greatest threat. He states:
I will stand by much of the document as written. I believe that it is still true that the governments of the physical world have found it very difficult to impose their will on cyberspace. Of course, they are as good as they ever were at imposing their will on people whose bodies they can lay a hand on, though it is increasingly easy, as it was then, to use technical means to make the physical location of those bodies difficult to determine.I have no doubt that governments, a force from outside, would love to impose their will on the internet. We see attempts at this almost every day. But I'm surprised that Barlow seems to refuse to see how much of his original vision has been corroded from within.