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Re: <nettime> Al Gore and the Internet
Ronda Hauben on 30 Sep 2000 20:06:20 -0000

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Re: <nettime> Al Gore and the Internet

The statement Vint Cerf sent out about the important role played 
by Presidential candidate Al Gore in Internet development is an 
interesting commentary on the state of political awareness of 
corporate America in the US.
Vint Cerf wrote:

VC> [Originally To: Declan McCullaugh <declan {AT} well.com>, farber {AT} cis.upenn.edu
VC> Cc: rkahn {AT} cnri.reston.va.us]
VC> Dave and Declan,
VC> I am taking the liberty of sending to you both a brief summary of Al
VC> Gore's Internet involvement, prepared by Bob Kahn and me. As you know,
VC> there have been a seemingly unending series of jokes chiding the vice
VC> president for his assertion that he "took the initiative in creating the
VC> Internet."
VC> Bob and I believe that the vice president deserves significant credit for
VC> his early recognition of the importance of what has become the Internet.
VC> I thought you might find this short summary of sufficient interest to
VC> share it with Politech and the IP lists, respectively.
Bob Kahn and Vint Cerf have a long and important experience as
Internet pioneers in the U.S. Therefore one would hope that they
would also recognize the responsibility this carries with it to 
carry on the responsible role of a computer scientist and 
pioneering engineers and inventors. 
In other writing Bob Kahn has documented his recognition of this
responsibility by writing of the need to determine what the role 
of government has been and should continue to be in the 
development of the Internet.
(See http://www.ais.org/~jrh/acn/ACN9-1.txt The article is "The 
Role of Government in the Evolution of the Internet."  from 
Communications of the ACM, vol 37, no. 8, August 1994. )
Kahn's article points out the important role the US government 
played in the early development of the Internet and the need for 
a continuing role for both the US government and governments 
around the world.
What, however, does the statement about "Al Gore and the 
Internet" by Kahn and Cerf that Vint Cerf has circulated say?
>Al Gore and the Internet
>By Robert Kahn and Vinton Cerf
>Al Gore was the first political leader to recognize the importance of the
>Internet and to promote and support its development.
Instead of tracing the history and nature of the role of the U.S. 
government in making Internet development possible, this 
statement is, it seems, a statement claiming that whatever this 
one candidate for office did, that is to be lauded.
Hence there are no principles established for what would be 
appropriate support, nor is there any effort to establish what 
the nature of the government role has been in Internet 
Instead there is a statement that this candidate is to be 
applauded for what he has done. 
>No one person or even small group of persons exclusively "invented" the
>Internet. It is the result of many years of ongoing collaboration among
>people in government and the university community.  But as the two people
>who designed the basic architecture and the core protocols that make the
>Internet work, we would like to acknowledge VP Gore's contributions as a
>Congressman, Senator and as Vice President.  No other elected official, to
>our knowledge, has made a greater contribution over a longer period of
It is interesting that this statement leaves out the important 
role of the Advanced Research Projects Agency in the creation of 
the Internet. And of both Eisenhower and Kennedy in supporting 
that development. It was under Eisenhower's presidency that ARPA 
was created. And then under Kennedy's  presidency that the 
Information Processing Techniques Office (IPTO) was created. 
These government institutions were crucial in making it possible 
to provide scientific support for computer science researchers 
who created interactive computing and then went on to build on 
potential of time-sharing to create a computer network that would 
link the various time-sharing communities that had been created.
The paper designing the tcp/ip protocol was done in 1973 and 
published in May 1974. 
(see http://www.columbia.edu/~rh120/other/birth_internet.txt)
>Last year the Vice President made a straightforward statement on his role.
>He said: "During my service in the United States Congress I took the
>initiative in creating the Internet."  We don't think, as some people have
>argued, that Gore intended to claim he "invented" the Internet. Moreover,
>there is no question in our minds that while serving as Senator, Gore's
>initiatives had a significant and beneficial effect on the still-evolving
>Internet. The fact of the matter is that Gore was talking about and
>promoting the Internet long before most people were listening.  We feel it
>is timely to offer our perspective.
If Gore had intended to raise the public question of what should 
be the role of the US government in the creation of the Internet, 
this would be the basis for an important and appropriate campaign 
issue to be raised and spoken to by all candidates in the US 
Since this continues to be the real question, it is important to 
explore it.
>As far back as the 1970s Congressman Gore promoted the idea of high speed
>telecommunications as an engine for both economic growth and the
>improvement of our educational system. He was the first elected official
>to grasp the potential of computer communications to have a broader impact
>than just improving the conduct of science and scholarship. Though easily
>forgotten, now, at the time this was an unproven and controversial
>concept. Our work on the Internet started in 1973 and was based on even
>earlier work that took place in the mid-late 1960s. But the Internet, as
>we know it today, was not deployed until 1983. When the Internet was still
>in the early stages of its deployment, Congressman Gore provided
>intellectual leadership by helping create the vision of the potential
>benefits of high speed computing and communication.  As an example, he
>sponsored hearings on how advanced technologies might be put to use in
>areas like coordinating the response of government agencies to natural
>disasters and other crises.
In an article he wrote for Scientific American in the 1980's, Bob 
Kahn explains how the Internet grew out of the efforts toward 
the development of time-sharing. 
The important point about this is that time-sharing efforts were 
the effort to develop interactive computing, to develop a 
relationship between the human and the computer.
In October 1960 JCR Licklider wrote an article called "Man-
Computer Symbiosis". That article explained that computer 
development would progress most effectively if the effort was 
made to make it possible for humans to interact with computers.
The vision for the development of this human-computer partnership 
grew out of the notion that important potential of the computer 
was as system that would make possible intellectual power for humans 
but that the human brain was a very developed system that should 
be augmented by the computer at the stage of development that one 
could foresee at the time.
Licklider proposed the great benefit that would come from a 
partnership between the human and the computer which would 
provide society with the kind of intellectual power that neither 
the human nor the computer on its own could provide.
This was the vision that led to the development of time sharing 
communities. From these it became evident that computer 
facilitated human to human communication was a new important 
power for society.
>From this vision the notion of the developing network as an
intellectual public utility was raised by the time sharing 
And that it was important to foster such human to human 
cooperation and collaboration that grew from the human-computer 
computer communications system development.
The beginnings of the ARPANET and then of the Internet were as a 
resource sharing network, making possible the sharing of both 
human and computer resources resources.
Is this what any of the candidates for the US presidency 
recognize as the roots of the development of the Internet?
Is this what we are being told is the vision that Al Gore has
had and has worked to help implement?
>As a Senator in the 1980s Gore urged government agencies to consolidate
>what at the time were several dozen different and unconnected networks
>into an "Interagency Network." Working in a bi-partisan manner with
>officials in Ronald Reagan and George Bush's administrations, Gore secured
>the passage of the High Performance Computing and Communications Act in
>1991.  This "Gore Act" supported the National Research and Education
>Network (NREN) initiative that became one of the major vehicles for the
>spread of the Internet beyond the field of computer science.
It is important to look at what the vision of the NREN was. And 
then what has happened since, keeping in mind the pioneering 
vision of the Internet as a means of augmenting intellectual 
power the way other technologies in the past were able to augment 
muscle power.
(to be continue)
ronda {AT} ais.org
For the development of ARPA and the IPTO, see

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