Wired's Louis Rossetto on the Death of the Mega-State and the Digital Revolution

"The priests, the pundits, the politicians and the generals" who create positive change.


"We came out and said there was a digital revolution happening and it was going to change everything," says Louis Rossetto, who co-founded Wired magazine 20 years ago in 1993. "And [that] it wasn't the priests, the pundits, the politicians, and the generals who were creating positive change."

Rossetto was no stranger to bold predictions. In 1971, he co-authored a cover story in the New York Times Magazine announcing that libertarianism was the next great transformative ideology and that young people were rejecting the played-out politics of the right and the left. After editing a publication called Electric Word in the late 1980s, he and Jane Metcalfe launched Wired, the publication that not revolutionized magazine design but chronicled, critiqued, and in many ways created the Internet Age. The concept was to cover the real change makers, far from the halls of power in Washington or established business capitals such as New York, who were ushering in a new digital era that would transform society. "That meta-story," says Rossetto, "was absolutely spot on."

A critical and commercial hit, Conde Nast purchased the magazine in 1997 and Metcalfe and Rossetto raised a family, did angel investing, and ultimately started the award-winning chocolate company TCHO.

Metcalfe and Rossetto were the recipients of the inaugural Lanny Friedlander Lifetime Achievement Prize at the Reason Media Awards, which were held in New York City on November 6, 2013. The prize is named for the founder of Reason magazine (whom Rossetto knew personally) and honors people who have created a distribution platform that expands human freedom by increasing our ability to express ourselves, engage in debate, and generate new ways of understanding the power of "Free Minds and Free Markets."

Rossetto sat down with Reason TV's Nick Gillespie to talk about the origins of Wired, the promise of the digital revolution, and why "in its death throes, the megastate is going to make a lot of mess."

About 15 minutes.

Shot and edited by Jim Epstein, with help from Anthony Fisher.

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