Keen On… The Hippies: How The Counterculture Ruined The Internet

The Internet has been getting a lot of criticism lately. But there are few people better able to coherently explain what’s gone wrong than the Stanford University associate professor of communication, Fred Turner.

As the author of two important books, From Counterculture to Cyberculture and the recently released The Democratic Sound, Turner has spent much of his academic life studying the intellectual history of the Internet. And Turner isn’t happy with what he’s found. Hippies like Stewart Brand, Steve Jobs and Kevin Kelly created the idea of the Internet in their own image, he says. It reflects their dream of “living on the edge” and escaping the rules of society.

The problem, Turner says, is that the hippie ideal of escaping authority and doing one’s own thing has spawned companies like Google and Facebook that are indifferent to everything around them. Thus, the Google Bus, Facebook’s indifference to its users’ privacy and the general distrust now more and more people have with Silicon Valley.

But Turner hasn’t given up completely. The Internet can he saved, he says. Citing the positive example of Global Voices Online, we just need to take back control of the Internet and build products which empower people rather than a few powerful and self-absorbed corporations.