Internet pioneer John Perry Barlow died this morning, according to a statement made by the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Barlow co founded EFF in 1990 with John Gilmore and Mitch Kapor, and was one of the founders of the Freedom of the Press Foundation in 2012. Barlow is best known for his writings on the emerging philosophy of the internet during the 90s, particularly 1996’s “A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace.” He is survived by three daughters.
“Barlow was sometimes held up as a straw man for a kind of naive techno-utopianism that believed that the Internet could solve all of humanity’s problems without causing any more,” EFF executive director Cindy Cohn wrote in a statement. “As someone who spent the past 27 years working with him at EFF, I can say that nothing could be further from the truth. Barlow knew that new technology could create and empower evil as much as it could create and empower good. He made a conscious decision to focus on the latter.”
A Wyoming native, Barlow brought together both the counter-cultural and libertarian strains in early internet ideology. A longtime friend of the Grateful Dead guitarist Bob Weir, Barlow co-authored a number of songs for the band throughout the 70s. The Grateful Dead connection led him to early prominence on the WELL community (short for “Whole Earth ‘Lectronic Link”), credited as one of the first online social networks.
More recently, Barlow became known for his Principles of Adult Behavior, penned in 1977 but circulated on Reddit and elsewhere for years. The principles lay out Barlow’s approach to life in 25 concise bullet points, including “expand your sense of the possible,” “live memorably,” and “endure.”