Vint Cerf And The Internet Driver’s License

John Battelle
22 min readFeb 9, 2024

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XrV3yTMCkNg

(Note: Having some trouble with the YT embed…will try again…)

Vint Cerf is one of the most recognizable figures in the pantheon of Internet stardom — and as he enters his ninth decade of a remarkable life, one of its most accomplished. I had the honor of interviewing Dr. Cerf last month as part of the “Rebooting Democracy in the Age of AI” lecture series hosted by the Burnes Center for Social Change at Northeastern University. The conversation also served as the kick-off to my own Burnes Center lecture series, “The Internet We Deserve” where I’ll talk with notable business, policy, technology and academic leaders central to the creation of the Internet as we know it today (last week I spoke with Larry Lessig).

Universally recognized as one of “the fathers of the Internet,” Cerf’s many awards include the National Medal of Technology, the Turing Award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Marconi Prize, and membership in the National Academy of Engineering. Dr. Cerf received his PhD from UCLA, where he worked in the famous lab that built the first nodes of what later became known as the Internet. He has worked at IBM, DARPA, MCI, JPL, and is now Chief Internet Evangelist at Google. Cerf has chaired, formed, and participated in countless working groups, governing bodies, and scientific, technological, and academic organizations.

Below is a transcript of our conversation, which, caveat emptor, is an edited version of AI-assisted output. In our wide-ranging conversation, Cerf floats a number of ideas that left me pondering the future of the Internet, notably the concept of an “Internet Driver’s License,” the possibility that the singularity is closer than we might think, as well as a proposal to rethink anonymity on the Web. Come for the brainpower, but stay for Cerf’s impression of Sigmund Freud. For that, however, you just might want to view the video, embedded above.

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John Battelle Vint, thank you so much for being here.It certainly feels like we are in another significant inflection point for the Internet as a platform — broadly under the header of “artificial intelligence.” It feels that it might be similar to other milestones we’ve seen in tech

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John Battelle

A Founder of The Recount, NewCo, Federated Media, sovrn Holdings, Web 2 Summit, Wired, Industry Standard; writer on Media, Technology, Culture, Business