John Perry Barlow, RIP.


Years ago, I volunteered at the Personal Democracy Forum conference. The volunteer coordinator was one of those people you fell instantly in love with, almost otherworldly, her feet barely touched the floor. I spent the day sitting at a table with another volunteer, doing volunteer-y things, helping people along with the conference, talking occasionally to Micah and Andrew, the organizers.

At the end of the day, the coordinator came by: “we’re all having drinks upstairs, you two should come.”

Tired, exhilarated, grubby, we ascended to the much-fancier-than-expected bar and joined the others, where the coordinator was holding court, deftly hosting a dozen or so out-of-place volunteers, making us feel comfortable, as if we knew each other. Then:

“Oh! Meet my dad!”

John Perry Barlow appeared to tower over us. I was awed by the man. I’d admired him ever since I’d read A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace, followed the EFF, and only later put together that his name was also familiar from the Grateful Dead. I introduced myself in turn, unusually starstruck. Barlow chatted gamely for a few minutes and then excused himself.

Not long after, Andrew or Micah came over—”Jon, come over here, there’s someone you should talk to.” They led me to a cordoned off section where Barlow was sitting with Craig Newmark. “John, meet Jon—you’ll have a lot to talk about.” The next 45 minutes crackled with intensity and adrenaline and our excitement at the latent possibilities of the intersection of technology and civics, of what the future held.

I rode the subway home, ecstatic, thinking “I can’t believe this is my life”.

I never spoke to Barlow again, but always looked forward to the next time I would. He was as close as I get to a hero. Goodbye John.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s