CHRIS ANDERSON: OK, Stewart, in the ’60s, you — I think it was ’68 — you founded this magazine
STEWART BRAND: Bravo! It’s the original one. That’s hard to find.
CHRIS ANDERSON: Right. Issue One, right?
STEWART BRAND: Mm hmm.
CHRIS ANDERSON: Why did that make so much impact?
STEWART BRAND: Counterculture was the main event that I was part of at the time, and it was made up of hippies and New Left. That was sort of my contemporaries, the people I was just slightly older than. And my mode is to look at where the interesting flow is and then look in the other direction.
Partly, I was trained to do that as an army officer, but partly, it’s just a cheap heuristic to find originalities: don’t look where everybody else is looking, look the opposite way. So the deal with counterculture is, the hippies were very romantic and kind of against technology, except very good LSD from Sandoz, and the New Left was against technology because they thought it was a power device. Computers were: do not spindle, fold, or mutilate. Fight that.
And so, the Whole Earth Catalog was kind of a counter-counterculture thing in the sense that I bought Buckminster Fuller’s idea that tools of — are of the essence. Science and engineers basically define the world in interesting ways. If all the politicians disappeared one week, it would be a nuisance. But if all the scientists and engineers disappeared one week, it would be way more than a nuisance.
CHRIS ANDERSON: We still believe that, I think.
STEWART BRAND: So focus on that. And then the New Left was talking about power to the people. And people like Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak cut that and just said, power to people, tools that actually work. And so, where Fuller was saying don’t try to change human nature, people have been trying for a long time and it does not even bend, but you can change tools very easily. So the efficient thing to do if you want to make the world better is not try to make people behave differently like the New Left was, but just give them tools that go in the right direction. That was the Whole Earth Catalog.