Prophet of Electronic Power to the People,
December 29, 2000
Everyone seems to miss what I think is the most important the point of Howard’s book. First published in 1993 and now in the expanded edition, the bottom line on this book is that the Internet has finally made it possible for individuals to own the fruits of their own labor–the power has shifted from the industrial age aggregators of labor, capital, and hard resources to the individual knowledge workers. The virtual community is the social manifestation of this new access to one another, but the real revolution is manifested in the freedom that cyberspace makes possible–as John Perry Barlow has said, the Internet interprets censorship (including corporate attempts to “own” employee knowledge) as an outage, and *routes around it*. Not only are communities possible, but so also are short-term aggregations of interest, remote bartering, on the fly hiring of world-class experts at a fraction of their “physical presence price”. If Howard’s first big book, Tools for Thought, was the window on what is possible at the desktop, this book is the window on what is possible in cyberspace, transcending physical, legal, cultural, and financial barriers. This is not quite the watershed that The Communist Manifesto was, but in many ways this book foreshadowed all of the netgain, infinite wealth, and other electronic frontier books coming out of the fevered brains around Boston–a guy in Mill Valley wearing hand-painted cowboy boots was there long before those carpetbaggers (smile).