Way back in 1991 when I first got involved in the internet, I still thought I’d be making a living with my band for years to come.
At the time I had a side hustle as a subcontractor to the World Bank editing economics books.
It was the perfect gig. I picked up manuscripts and got paid $10/hr to decipher and unscramble some of the most garbled prose imaginable. I could do it on tour or in the studio.
Let’s leave aside for the moment the colonialism, exploitation and oppression baked into the economics, which did not go unnoticed by this particular copy-editor.
I’ll address those topics in another note.
One day my boss said, “hey David… you seem to be the only one here who has access. Think you can put these publications on the information superhighway?”
I did have a Mac SE at home with a 14.4 modem I used for usenet groups, gopher searches, file sharing and various multi-player adventure games known as “MUDs” (multi-user dungeons), “MUSHs” (multi-user shared hallucinations) and “MOOs” (multi-user object-oriented). I certainly didn’t have the chops to set up the World Bank’s entire presence on the “information superhighway.”
So I called my friend Steve, who was still in high school at the time, to help me figure it out.
I knew Steve because he wrote about my band Senator Flux in his high school literary journal.
Steve sometimes talked about the “black box” and “brown box” and “pink box” he used to hack into systems. I won’t mention Steve’s last name because he’s a senior engineering manager at Facebook now. He probably wouldn’t appreciate my exposing his roots in the dark arts of phone phreaking.
Steve sent me a wish list that totaled about $40,000, a SPARC 10 and a SPARC 5 workstation, a Cisco router, a CSU-DSU, and a fractional T-1 connection to SURANet.
I let Steve into the office at night, and we hooked up the equipment.
Soon we were streaming videos from the Late Night joke database from MIT and watching engineers drink coffee and write code in their cubicles over the M-BONE (the multicast backbone of the Internet).
The first graphical Web browser hadn’t been developed yet. But there were amazing resources on almost any topic that could be found through Archie, Jughead, and Veronica (really!) and new protocols and applications being released at an astonishing rate.
So I just figured… this is it.
You have a fully distributed network.
An infrastructure where anyone can share anything.
This will be the medium where it all happens.
Brilliant creators from around the world will be sharing all kinds of art, music, games, books, thoughts, ideas, experiences, experiments in a way that was completely unmediated.
Everyone will have a voice.
Everyone will find their tribe.
But it didn’t happen that way.
It wasn’t long before the “walled gardens” appeared…
search engine rankings, social media platforms, mobile apps...
...separating, containing, channeling, persuading, influencing, manipulating…
turning people into leads and prospects and disembodied credit cards and turning the amazing cultural flourishing into a strip mall with a couple fast food joints, a vape shop and a vast parking lot.
So I bided my time.
I had ideas but I didn’t know how to make them happen.
Now, we’re bringing back the old weird internet in a new weird way.
We’re putting creators back at the center.
What do I mean by creators?
Not influencers. I don’t care how many followers you have.
Not business gurus. I don’t care how much money you’ve made.
Not experts. I don’t care about your credentials.
By creators I mean people who are on the cutting edge of their own lives.
People who are aware of themselves, those around them and the world as a whole.
People who are awake to the possibilities in the moment.
People who explore and expand with insight, courage and curiosity.
And most importantly -- people who are rigorous.
It’s like Rimbaud said about how the poet becomes a seer, through a “massive, prolonged, and rational disordering of the senses.”
The rational part is as important as the inspired part.
The order in the chaos.
The particle in the field.
Creators are purposeful.
Creators have the ability to organize their hard-earned wisdom into works that can be shared.
Creators can be, on the surface, artists, executives, professionals, entrepreneurs educators, musicians -- you name it.
What’s important is what’s inside -- and the willingness to bring their gifts forward into the world.
We’re releasing our app, Scoby Social at the Shared Experience Summit, which runs from April 29th to May 30th.
I’ll be introducing some of the creators who’ve meant so much to me over the past few decades.
And I’m really looking forward to meeting more!
Let’s co-create a new possibility space together.
The Summit runs April 29th to May 1st.
Here’s the link to sign up: https://www.sharedexperiencesummit.com/
See you there!