Tim Berners-Lee: The Internet Is Not A Country
Internet Society Event
Tim Berners-Lee was the first key speaker. I raised my hand to ask a question. I had asked the exact same question to Vint Serf who I had spotted half an hour before the event began. Vint said he was George Washington, Tim might be the Thomas Jefferson, and then went on to offer small tidbits about some of the other Founding Fathers. Vint was in a jolly mood.
I asked my question and Tim's mood went foul. What was the question?
"I think of the Internet as literally the new country. This is the Internet Century. America is Europe. The Internet is America. My question is which of you - Tim, Vint - is Thomas Jefferson?"
The Internet is not a country, Tim said. If you do something fraudulent, you end up in a jail, a real jail, he said.
That cracked me up. I laughed. He knows not who he talks to, I thought.
Then he said something about people from a "different race," about not knowing who might be coming right round the corner, "virtually and otherwise."
Not one black person in the room. 200 people in the room.
You can have a gentlemanly disagreement about if the Internet is the new country or not, and Tim has a blunt scientist style of talking, which is quite endearing, especially when sometimes it comes coupled with the mad scientist wild gestures, I had seen him many times in video before, so I was aware of his mannerisms. But at some level I felt like I had perhaps touched a raw nerve.
"Vint has three answers to every question," Tim said. Vint is the one who teaches college geography, I only teach high school geography, why are you asking which person between us is Thomas Jefferson? The Internet got invented decades before the web came along. Tim probably feels like he is the grandchild of the Internet, let alone a Founding Father.
I meant no disrespect. I mean, the guy is practically a movie star.
I could not compete with Tim in internet technology, but then he could not compete with me in group dynamics. I masterminded a textbook political revolution in Nepal in 2006, it was so good it inspired revolutions in Burma and Tibet. The Arab revolutions are larger versions of what happened in Nepal, but Nepal was textbook.
Vint Cerf has a Sean Connery look.