David Byrne is unquestionably one of the most important musicians of the last 40-odd years, having served as the country’s first art-punk.
As the lead singer and songwriter of the Talking Heads, Byrne fused the “downtown” New York scene sonic rhythms and textures from around the world. Today he remains an active presence in the New York arts and literary scene.
And in a new post on his blog, Byrne says that in light of revelations about the amount of information getting harvested from the Internet by the NSA, Google, Facebook, and cyber thieves, it is time to consider ending the Internet as we know it.
“To a lot of folks it appears that the corporations, the thieves and the government are all doing exactly the same thing: the ‘legal’ behaviour and the illegal theft are cousins,” he writes. “Online spying and cyber theft are not freak phenomena; increasingly, they appear to be unavoidable consequences of online access as it now exists.”
“It is we who are being sold,” he adds.
He imagines — though does not advocate — a hypothetical scenario where a small team of activists “detonate a small timed radioactive paintball” that would shut down major nodes of the world wide web, as the first step in starting the Internet from scratch.
Imagine this: in a new Internet, we’d still be able to send emails. Academic and nonprofit institutions would still share resources online. Wikipedia and web-based journalism would still exist. But if we can’t be tracked as we are now, a lot would change. Google would lose its primary sources of revenue — ads — and return to being a very good search engine, with a lot fewer employees. The NSA and the other data thieves and collectors would be helpless. No one would have data on countless innocent citizens that could be repurposed to God knows what ends. The Chinese couldn’t hack into the North American power grid.
Byrne is currently advocating for overturning the longstanding practice of not paying performance royalties for airplay. At this point, that seems like a cause more suited to his wheelhouse.