Tim Wu: ‘The internet is like the classic story of the party that went sour’
As I said, no ordinary academic. But it gets better. Wu is also the guy who coined the phrase “net neutrality”, which has turned out to be a key concept in debates about regulation of the internet. He was for a time a senior adviser to the Federal Trade Commission, America’s main consumer protection agency. And somehow, in the middle of all this activity, he writes books that make a big impact.
In 2010, for example, he published The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires, a sobering history of the great communications technologies of the 20th century – the telephone, movies, broadcast radio and television. In telling the history, Wu perceived a recurring cycle in the evolution of these technologies. Each started out as open, chaotic, diverse and intensely creative; each stimulated utopian visions of the future, but in the end they all wound up “captured” by industrial interests.