Cyberspace and the American Dream: A Magna Carta for the Knowledge Age


This statement represents the cumulative wisdom and innovation of many dozens of
people. It is based primarily on the thoughts of four "co-authors": Ms. Esther
Dyson; Mr. George Gilder; Dr. George Keyworth; and Dr. Alvin Toffler. This
release 1.2 has the final "imprimatur" of no one. In the spirit of the age: It
is copyrighted solely for the purpose of preventing someone else from doing so.
If you have it, you can use it any way you want. However, major passages are
from works copyrighted individually by the authors, used here by permission;
these will be duly acknowledged in release 2.0. It is a living document.
Release 2.0 will be released in October 1994. We hope you\'ll use it is to tell
us how to make it better. Do so by:

(The Progress & Freedom Foundation is a not-for-profit research and educational
organization dedicated to creating a positive vision of the future founded in
the historic principles of the American idea.)

Preamble

The central event of the 20th century is the overthrow of matter. In technology,
economics, and the politics of nations, wealth -- in the form of physical
resources -- has been losing value and significance. The powers of mind are
everywhere ascendant over the brute force of things.

In a First Wave economy, land and farm labor are the main "factors of
production." In a Second Wave economy, the land remains valuable while the
"labor" becomes massified around machines and larger industries. In a Third Wave
economy, the central resource -- a single word broadly encompassing data,
information, images, symbols, culture, ideology, and values -- is actionable
knowledge.

The industrial age is not fully over. In fact, classic Second Wave sectors (oil,
steel, auto-production) have learned how to benefit from Third Wave
technological breakthroughs -- just as the First Wave\'s agricultural
productivity benefited exponentially from the Second Wave\'s farm-mechanization.

But the Third Wave, and the Knowledge Age it has opened, will not deliver on its
potential unless it adds social and political dominance to its accelerating
technological and economic strength. This means repealing Second Wave laws and
retiring Second Wave attitudes. It also gives to leaders of the advanced
democracies a special responsibility -- to facilitate, hasten, and explain the
transition.

As humankind explores this new "electronic frontier" of knowledge, it must
confront again the most profound questions of how to organize itself for the
common good. The meaning of freedom, structures of self-government, definition
of property, nature of competition, conditions for cooperation, sense of
community and nature of progress will each be redefined for the Knowledge Age --
just as they were redefined for a new age of industry some 250 years ago.

What our 20th-century countrymen came to think of as the "American dream," and
what resonant thinkers referred to as "the promise of American life" or "the
American Idea," emerged from the turmoil of 19th-century industrialization. Now
it\'s our turn: The knowledge revolution, and the Third Wave of historical change
it powers, summon us to renew the dream and enhance the promise.

The Nature of Cyberspace

The Internet -- the huge (2.2 million computers), global (135 countries),
rapidly growing (10-15% a month) network that has captured the American
imagination -- is only a tiny part of cyberspace. So just what is cyberspace?

More ecosystem than machine, cyberspace is a bioelectronic environment that is
literally universal: It exists everywhere there are telephone wires, coaxial
cables, fiber-optic lines or electromagnetic waves.

This environment is "inhabited" by knowledge, including incorrect ideas,
existing in electronic form. It is connected to the physical environment by
portals which allow people to see what\'s inside, to put knowledge in, to alter
it, and to take knowledge out. Some of these portals are one-way (e.g.
television receivers and television transmitters); others are two-way (e.g.
telephones, computer modems).

Most of the knowledge in cyberspace lives the most temporary (or so we think)
existence: Your voice, on a telephone wire or microwave, travels through space
at the speed of light, reaches the ear of your listener, and is gone forever.

But people are increasingly building cyberspatial "warehouses" of data,
knowledge, information and misinformation in digital form, the ones and zeros of
binary computer code. The storehouses themselves display a physical form (discs,
tapes, CD-ROMs) -- but what they contain is accessible only to those with the
right kind of portal and the right kind of key.

The key is software, a special form of electronic knowledge that allows people
to navigate through the cyberspace environment and make its contents
understandable to the human senses in the form of written language, pictures and
sound.

People are adding to