Blog/David Bowie spoke about the potential of the internet in 1999.
9th January 2023
Back in the 20th century, the world wide web seemed to many people like a way of hobbyists to share their passion with the world, to find clips of TV shows from your childhood and to buy the odd thing from abroad that you couldn’t find in the shops near you – and very little more.
There was hardly any way of knowing just how all-consuming the internet would prove to be in the following 20+ years, as it slowly and steadily ingratiated itself into every single thing we do.
However, one man who clocked its potential from the get-go was pop superstar David Bowie. The Spiders from Mars singer-songwriter was, by then, already established as one of the most influential artists of all time in-terms of popular culture, but an interview – recorded in 1999 – in which he discusses the future of the web with the BBC’s Jeremy Paxman shows just quite how visionary he was beyond music.
In the interview, given before the dot com bubble had even hit its peak, Bowie spoke of how significant a development the world wide web would prove to be from a social point of view.
“I think the potential of what the internet is going to do to society, both good and bad, is unimaginable”
“I think we’re actually on the cusp of something exhilarating and terrifying.”
When Paxman fires back ‘It’s just a tool though, isn’t it?’, Bowie doubles down on his stance by saying the internet is ‘an alien life form’.
“I’m talking about the actual context and the state of content is going to be so different to anything that we can really envisage at the moment, where the interplay between user and the provider will be so in sympatico, it’s going to crush all our ideas of what mediums are all about.”
Now, it would be easy to say that it was obvious where the internet was headed as soon as it began to take off, and Bowie was simply echoing the thoughts of most people, but because he’s famous he made it on telly, to put these comments in context, one year prior, Paul Krugman, Nobel prize winning economist, predicted that the internet will have no more influence over the economy than the fax machine.
Looking back with the benefit of hindsight, with the ubiquity of the www in 2022, with social media having been proven to have been manipulated in order to influence the outcome of national elections, used to organise state-wide rebellions and with the rise of digital & crypto currency, it’s easy to see who was closer to the mark – the artist or the economist!
Watch it here: