Brad Templeton, Chairman of the Board for the Electronic
Frontier Foundation (EFF), warns that more censorship and
curtailing of our civil liberties looms on the immediate horizon.
Judging by the bright company he keeps, including Google’s bright
co-founders and other notorious West Coast futurists, this is a man
and message worth listening to.
Templeton is a rare bird. He’s a realist, idealist, futurist and
comedian all wrapped into one influential persona. Oddly enough, it
makes total sense that this jolly man has been chosen as the chief
steward of our cherished cyber-liberties. This unique balance of
characteristics allows Templeton to grock big business and
government motives, visualize the digital playing of tomorrow, go
about his stressful job with a smile and, in the end, hold out hope
for an ultimately humanizing web.
We were fortunate to catch up with Brad for an in-depth Audio
Interview (read the full transcript
here), in which he offered some choice predictions concerning
the future of the internet and the near-term state of our
When asked to provide a specific forecast for the year 2008,
Templeton expressed concern about the slippery slope of digital
Templeton (audio transcript): I’m generally an
optimist in the long term, although I am actually a little bit
afraid for the short term. I think we’re going to see,
unfortunately, a bit more repression in 2008, we’re going to see
more efforts to curtail rights, both because of the war on terror,
and because of those forces that are pushing for more and more
ability to do censorship.
The following is a transcript of an audio interview of Brad
Templeton by Venessa Posavec.
V: For Memebox.com, this is Venessa Posavec, and with me is Brad
Templeton, Chairman of the Board of the Electronic Frontier
Foundation, boardmember of the Foresight Nanotech Institute,
founder of the world’s first internet based business, comedian, and
self-described troublemaker. Today we’ll be talking about digital
rights and privacy, as well as the future of nanotechnology. Thank
you for joining us, Brad.
Brad: Good afternoon.
V: Alright, so, first question, What do you do, why are you a
troublemaker, and how is that related to the future?
Brad: Well, I guess I’ve always been attracted to technologies
that are in a very dynamic state that are changing and that are
perhaps making the future of our society; that involves both
computer technologies, and artificial intelligence technologies,
nanotechnology, and a variety of other matters, so, I’ve tried to
put myself where interesting things are happening and I’ve been
lucky enough to get to sit and get to participate in a couple of
revolutions, which usually you don’t get even one of those in a
lifetime, but we seem to be getting more of those are time goes on.
I’ve also been involved in a lot of political issues around these
things, around free speech and privacy. I got myself to be one of
the first people banned on the internet for publishing politically
incorrect jokes. Now at the EFF we do the
reverse, we’ve got Congress actually trying to pass a law to stop
us right now. That’s very disheartening in one sense, but if they
actually have to have acts of Congress to stop you, you know you’re
getting their attention.
V: Tell us, what is the Electronic Frontier Foundation?
Brad: The EFF is an organization that
was founded over 15 years ago, in 1991, which is devoted to civil
rights, particularly free speech, but a few others, and how they
are affected is the world moves into cyberspace, into online
activity. It should have been clear earlier, but it quickly became
clear that the traditional institutions of society didn’t really
understand this new environment very well, and there were going to
be all these conflicts and problems, and it was worthwhile to have
an organization that would try to understand them a little better,
try and give advice and work out things but also in many cases
perform legal action to deal with the problems that came up.
V: And so what are some of the most important battles the
EFF is currently fighting?
If Brad Templeton’s imagination manifests itself, we’ll be
walking through swarms of speeding self-driven cars sooner than
later. And that will be a very good thing.
As Templeton (EFF Chairman,
Board member of the Nanotech Foresight Institute, and
founder of the world’s first internet-based business) points
out in this audio transcipt,
driving cars “kills about 45,000 people every year.” In his words,
“That’s 15 World Trade Centers.”
“There’s another cost too,” adds Templeton, “which is that cars
produce 40% of the pollution, the greenhouse gas emissions in our
society. ... Having humans not drive cars actually could solve the
pollution problems, as well as the congestion problems, and the
wasted time, and all the horrible horrible death.”
All are inarguably great reasons to reduce the role of human
“If you don’t have to have people drive cars, you can have drive
the right car for the trip,” points out Templeton, “So, if you’re
just going to the store that’s a couple of miles away – well,
actually, you may not even have to go, you could just send your car
to get the stuff. Rather … you’d send something maybe the size of a
bicycle that would go and get the stuff.”
So when might we actually see commercially marketed self-driven
“I think we could have them in a very short time if we wanted
to,” he argues, qualifying, “I think we could have them in the
neighborhood of eight to ten years, [but] I think there will be
legal hurdles and so on along the way, and opposition from existing
entrenched parties that will delay it to more like 15 years or