CCN: What are your thoughts on the Internet as an environment, and your experiences as a newbie?
RAW: I think technology used properly in a decentralized way can solve all of the problems that are confronting this planet.
That's my favorite solution to all problems: better technology and more decentralization, and Internet seems to me the most successful example of what I believe in and hope for. It's a technology that's so radically decentralized that I don't think anybody will ever be able to control it.
CCN: Well, there are various efforts under way in Congress to control the content of the network. The most recent is the "Decency in Communications Act" in the Senate.
RAW: I signed a petition against it. I like the idea of an electronic petition. And I also wrote to Bill Clinton to organize the Democrats against it. It's stupid in the first place, but if they could try to enforce it, the result would be that America would fall behind the rest of the world as the Internet continues to grow. They'd be dragging people out of business.
CCN: But, in general, how are you finding your experience on the network?
RAW: There are a lot of things that are really exciting to me. One day, I exchanged e-mail with a friend in Munich twice in one day and sent a fax to a reporter in Australia, and I thought, my God, I really am living in a global village.
I begin to see some of my favorite futurist, especially Macluhan and Fuller in an entirely new way. It's becoming more real and concrete. I've been thinking about these things for years, but now it's becoming easier to think about because I've got a concrete example to illustrate ...
CCN: But when you say "it's becoming more real and concrete," what it?
The "global village of Macluhan" it? The "future is here now" it? "We're able to talk to each other no matter where we are physically" it?
RAW: One way of looking at is Buckie Fuller made a lot of graphs of trajectories. And he predicted that by the 1980s we would be crossing oceans in seconds. And he said he was stunned himself by that, and he couldn't imagine how we could do it, what kind of technology would make that possible?
Well, we're doing it. It's just that our physical bodies aren't traveling along with us.
I still go on lecture tours every year, but I always hate the airports, I hate the airplanes. I have post-polio syndrome which is not anything serious, but everybody who had polio had or has it to some extent. I get terribly cramped and have a lot of muscular problems on long airplane trips. But I have to do it because I get a lot of money out of my lecture business.
But it's wonderful that a lot of things I can do in cyberspace without traveling at all. I'm beginning to see how a time will come, I don't know all the details, a time will come in which I can get paid for my ideas by people in Tokyo and Berlin without actually traveling to Tokyo and Berlin in those god damn uncomfortable planes. I won't have to travel.
In order to compete, the airlines will have to make more comfortable airplanes, finally, which they should have done 30 years ago or 50 years ago. It's ridiculous that airplanes are so uncomfortable.
CCN: So one effect of the Internet might be more leg room.
RAW: Yes, they might build airplanes that you're not uncomfortable in, just so they can compete.
CCN: We can only hope, that and better food.
RAW: [laughs] And better food, yeah.
CCN: Have you met anybody on the Internet now? One of the great things about the Internet is the fact that you can meet people in safety. You can meet mind to mind without having to worry about the safety of the body or even the comfort.
RAW: I like that. You know, the Irish have a wonderful custom. I lived in Ireland for six years. They have a wonderful custom. You never invite anybody to your home, and you never expect anybody to invite you to their home when you're first getting to know each other.
You agree to meet at a pub. That's very comfortable because you don't have to figure how the hell to get them out the door if you don't like them. All you do is say, "Oh, geez, it's getting late," and you leave the pub, you know. And we don't have an equivalent institution in America.
E-mail does it. If you find somebody who's incompatible, you just stop answering them and they get off eventually.
CCN: You mentioned something earlier in conversation about the ramshackle nature of the Internet ...
RAW: Yeah, the ramshackle. I started referring to Internet as "ramshackle techno-anarchism" because it's growing and changing all the time, and the parts aren't always perfectly compatible, and I've begun to discover that some things are not mistakes on my part, it's just the system is weird.
And it always will be because there's always new software and hardware, and things are always changing and being added. And sometimes I'm going through Cern, and suddenly I'm cut off, and God knows why.
But I'm pretty sure, some cases, it's not a mistake I made, it's just that's the nature of the system. But that's the way the world is more and more becoming.
Internet helps you to get used to the fact that we're living in a world where everything is being torn down and rebuilt continually. The Buddha understood that, but very few people since Buddha have understood it.
CCN: What do you think the Internet's going to do politically?
Previous forms of communication, especially mass communication have all been broadcast oriented. With the Internet you can send e-mail to the author and say, "I loved your book" or "the book stinks." It's the same with politicians who are now getting on the net. There's more direct feedback mechanisms.
What do you think this is going to do to society to suddenly have a dialog capable, planet-wide communications system?
RAW: I have very high hopes for it. I think, well, to quote an unpopular poet, Ezra Pound, "Peace comes with communication."
They did a show about Internet on channel 54 a few weeks ago in which they presented some evidence, which I don't recall too well, that Internet played a large role in the failure of the coup in Russia, the attempt to restore hard-line Communism. And, I think, well, this is long before Internet, this was one of the things that I developed out of the study of general semantics 30 years ago, 40 years ago. Communication tends to solve problems.
Not always, but it tends to solve problems. Breakdown in communication tends to aggravate problems.
And, so I see Internet as potentially the greatest contribution to world peace that's come along in my lifetime, and may have played an indirect role in a lot of other things that have happened besides blocking the hard-line coup in Russia.
Since '89, we had not only the overthrow of the Soviet empire, the most peaceful, nonviolent revolution over the greatest land mass from East Berlin to Vladavostok. Nothing like that has ever happened in history before. After that, we've had the establishment of the Palestinian state, the peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis, very uneasy but still it's there, it's working. They're both working toward it.
And Nelson Mandela come out of prison. He's not only a free man, he's now the president of the country. And the IRA and the British are beginning to negotiate. The IRA is negotiating with everybody else. The British are agreed to join in the negotiations, and the president of Sean Fein was a guest of the White House on St. Paddies day.
Internet may be playing an indirect role in all these things.
CCN: When you talk about communication, one of the statements in Illuminatus!, and actually a theme frequently in your books whether it's stated explicitly or not, is that communications is only possible between equals.
Let's look at the Germans and the Jews.
How do you get through somebody's thick skull?
RAW: Well, you picked a really hard case ...
CCN: Bosnians and Serbs, I mean, we could look at the feminists, the feminists and the white males ...
RAW: Let's go back to the Nazis and the Jews. I don't think Internet, even if it existed then, would have necessarily deflected the general path of Nazism, the general direction it was going in.
But I think if it had existed, a hell of a lot more Jews would have found out soon enough how bad it was and got out quicker, so there would have been a lot more survivors. I think that's pretty damn clear. At least, I mean...we've got to distinguish survivors and escapees.
There were those who went into the camps and survived through sheer good luck, and then there were the escapees who never went into the camps because they got out before that happened.
Internet would have increased the number of escapees. There would have been a more clear understanding of what was going on. Internet would have, undoubtedly, put enough pressure on the United States to accept more Jewish refugees.
Roosevelt wanted to, but he knew what he was up against in Congress so he couldn't.
CCN: So the "ship of fools" would have been impossible.
RAW: The "ship of fools" would have landed in New York, and they all would have gotten off.
CCN: So, at the very least, even if there's not communication with the adversary, there would have been communication amongst the folks in the same boat, so that organization would have possible, survival oriented organization.
RAW: And also to some extent Internet might have cut down the size of the Nazi Party. Communication does tend to break down prejudices in the long run.
CCN: Well, let's look at the prejudices that exist in America today.
People with a certain level of technological access, income and education now on the Internet find themselves, still, with the fundamental inability to communicate. A large amount of the content of the online discussion groups is little more than personal insults and never ending verbal wars.
RAW: Well, we'll just have to wait and see just how much good Internet does.
One of the newsgroups I subscribe to is for the topic of Free Masonry, and there's a very lively discussion going on there between Free Masons and the people who believe Free Mason worship the devil.
And I don't know if the Free Masons have converted anybody yet and have persuaded them that they don't worship the devil, but it's fascinating that the conversation is going on.
And I think some people may get over the idea that Free Masons worship the devil, some of the people in that discussion.
Of course, some people, because of their own emotional problems, will never be cured by any amount of discussion.
But discussion, by and large, it's better than no discussion.