The Grill: David D. Clark

This Internet pioneer wants to help users have better experiences online.

When the American Academy of Arts and Sciences decided to explore the complex issues of security and privacy in cyberspace for its academic journal Daedalus , it tapped Internet pioneer David D. Clark to serve as guest editor. Clark's credentials certainly made him a worthy selection. He has been involved in the development of the Internet since the 1970s and served as chief protocol architect and chair of the Internet Activities Board from 1981 to 1989.

Today he's a senior research scientist at MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. His research focuses on redefining the Internet's architectural underpinnings. Clark, who in September received the Oxford Internet Institute Lifetime Achievement Award for his work, talks here about the Internet, its potential and problems, and its future.

What do you see as the biggest benefit of the Internet? Hooking people together, intermediated by computing; hooking people to information, intermediated by a computer. In the early days, we thought we were hooking people to computers. I remember in the days of Arpanet, when email emerged, the people doing the funding said we shouldn't be doing something like email; we should really be focused on hooking people to high-power computing. But to me, [the benefit] is this intermediation of people getting to information and to each other. The computer is just the platform that makes some of this happen.

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