Enormously moving speech on the way the Internet transforms lives

I'm at the Personal Democracy Forum at NYU today, and the morning plenary has been a series of fascinating short talks. But one talk, by Jim Gilliam's "The Internet is My Religion," brought the house down. Jim worked in many early and influential Internet firms, went on to produce Robert Greenwald's extraordinary films, and do many other notable things. Among them was surviving two bouts of cancer and a double-lung transplant. The story of how he went from a Jerry Falwell born-again to an Internet advocate and film producer ended with a standing ovation and not a dry eye in the house. Watch this, please, I'd consider it a favor.

Jim Gilliam- The Future of Sharing


  1. I’d love to watch the video but both here and on their website, it keeps buffering, stopping and restarting :(

  2. I’d like to watch too, but don’t want to have to give an email halfway through to finish it.

    1. relax just enter “not.putting.up.with.your.fuvg@goshpxyourself.com” swears rot-13’d as per the rules

    2. Just watched it all….pretty awesome stuff from a pretty incredible human! just give a fake email half way though….well worth the view

    3. The email thing worked okay for me. Though I’m sure someone at fuckyou@die.com is going to get spammed by Livestream, now.

      This was great, Cory – thanks for sharing.

  3. doesnt play either here on on livestream. well it plays the first 1-2 mins over and over.

  4. “each one of us is a creator, but together we are The Creator”

    Its hard to know quite how to judge that sentiment. When people who work on Wall Street make statements this, they are generally subject (here on boingboing, and elsewhere) to entirely deserved skepticism about such a self-serving analysis.

    So when an avowed geek/nerd/technophile stands up and tells a crowd of geeks/nerds/technophiles that collectively they are The Creator, does that it mean its not true? No, it doesn’t. But it does mean that one should approach the proclamation with great care and considerable skepticism.

    Personally, I think its bunk but a much better bedtime story than other accounts of The Creator I’ve come across.

  5. I think his description of God is the best I’ve heard yet, that God is what happens when humanity is connected. Really fantastic talk, thanks for sharing.

  6. We’re a large number of bags of meat, capable of helping each other out. I still don’t see where God figures into any of that. If you must have a God, then as he says, we all collectively are God.

  7. Sadly this video makes my computer crash a few minutes into it. Is it Jesus and Rush telling me something? :)

    Any of computer sorcerers know why this is happening? Black magic?

  8. Truly inspiring video! I myself tend to call it socialism. One world, one community. No gods, no masters.

  9. I agree with everyone who views the god-talk with skepticism, it just seems to me like this might be a dude who’s spent his whole life in the home schooled/Evangelical nonsense/Liberty U cycles expressing secularism/humanism using concepts and vocabulary handy to him (anyone who’s had to explain computer’s to parents can certainly relate!). Still a worthwhile vid (pro tip: fakeemail@something.com).

  10. Haters gonna hate, the internet is really really great.
    People who don’t believe in God,
    when shown a rationale explanation, sometimes come to believe, sometimes talk sod.
    God is the essence of faith, hope, and love, that people share, and comes from above.

  11. 21Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.

    22Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,

    23And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.

    24Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves:

    25Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.

  12. wow. lovely speech. i went through all of it wishing I could take him out for pizza. Seriously, i just want to feed him.

    and congratulate him on being in the club i wish I was not a member of. Cancer survivors. it is survived, not beaten.

  13. It’s interesting how even though he professes to have lost faith in God, the descriptions of the situations he finds himself in are described in very Christian-like ways: “someone else’s blood” “I needed someone to die so I could live”
    Wonderful talk, will share this with friends!

  14. I’m sure this is a great speech and the first 3:55 seems intriguing and moving. However, in five attempts I can’t get the video to go past that point with any reasonable amount of waiting. I’ve entered my e-mail address and still nothing. Shame, really.

  15. Faith and the internet don’t go well together. The internet is the place where religions come to die.

    Lovely speech.

  16. @Paul Davis: I don’t think he was saying he was that Internet developers are “the creator” and not, say, Wall Street types. So I guess I’m not buying your analogy. He said the interconnection between human beings is God. It’s not just the plumbing that is God, but each and every participant who shares collectively — meaning anyone who uses the Internet directly or indirectly (through an organ donor bank, or whatever). These days, this is pretty much everyone. The people he wanted to thank most were those that merely donated what was left of their lives to save another.

  17. Your vision of Internet democracy apparently doesn’t encompass anonymity. Asking for my email half way through is also slimy bait and switch marketing. Shame on you.

  18. Cory, come on, man. That was crap, and I had to give up my email address for it.

    I feel for his medical situation. And I admire that he’s a sharp guy. But clearly he was way too religious as a youngster and just continues to be, but with part of that nonsensical thinking transferred to humanity and technology.

  19. The talk is very sentimental but not much more than that.

    I wonder whether he would have been similarly moved by the force of the internet if all other patients had the same access and same resources to pressure the waiting list. His story is not about how us can create something bigger; his story is about getting ahead of the line by making use of resources which others didn’t equally have. Those resources are not going to be less limited, although the logistics could improve their utilization. But better logistics in itself is not creation.

  20. If God is the internet then despite being unendingly generous and sympathetic He is also dull, angry, misogynistic and petty. Oh wait.

    Seriously though, what’s so bad about putting your faith in the kindness of human strangers? Why does God have to come into it?

  21. I had never heard of this online version of PowerPoint called Livestream before. If only there was a workable platform for online video delivery where a series of pictures could be sent down a tube to you and animated with sound.

  22. ‘The Future of Sharing’

    Ironically Mr. Doctorow, this movie has been made deliberately unavailable to download or in any other way I can determine, to be saved to a harddrive.
    Various packet sniffing tools can’t access the movie filestream and it’s being blocked from temporary storage in the browser cache. (Before anyone asks, I checked using IE, Firefox and Opera.)

    I suspect that this is the kind of shortsighted grasping ‘eye-pee ownership’ of sites like Brightcove, Hulu, etc. Which I never use. Because they’re dickheads.

    Thanks for everything else you posted the last 2 days though. It’s always a pleasure to read your posts.

  23. Beautiful, honest and inspiring – thanks for not rejecting (as obviously more than a few have) a really great talk about our interconnectedness just because the speaker has (OHNOEZ!) religious convictions.

  24. Interesting and moving individual story, but his views of an “internet” writ large from his own experiences are fundamentally flawed – by his own telling.

    I’ll make reference to two of his points.

    1a) Gilliam was home schooled.
    1b) He lived across the street from Falwell’s anchor point in California.

    Why was Gilliam home-schooled? He gives us the answer. His parents wanted to shelter him from the influences of secularism. How could his parents achieve that goal? They achieved it by connecting to and “networking” within the national and international (a.k.a. global) community of Falwell sympathetic churches. All of this activity, the recognition to differences, a scheme for protection and a network of resources were available to Gilliam’s parents well before the establishment of the internet – in any early form recognizable to users today.

    2) Gilliam benefited from the assistance of friends across the web to get on a donor list.

    Gilliam identifies these friends as “activists”. Activists have a long history of serving the purpose as catalysts for action, well before the internet was a dream in anyone’s mind. Even in modern times, though pre-web, activists (particularly those within the Moral Majority) used letter writing campaigns, FAXes and other means to force action and/or changes. No web required.

    The interesting thing, IMO, is that just as Gilliam’s family managed to carve out a niche within modern, secular society that allowed for both income and the cultivation/protection of religious views, people with similar interests – be they religious, political or other – can now add the “web” to their toolkit of resources allowing them to carve-out a self-defined space from the corpus of the community and it’s means of communications within which they’re entangled.

    Frankly, there is no benefit, long term, to the eager embrace of an e-Baojia system for peoples of all nations. This modern Baojia system is the web. Freedom predicated on “from” as opposed to “to” is not freedom at all.

  25. So I’m kind of a believer in the whole Internet thing. A netizen if you will. I vehemently believe in the good that the Internet does and I believe in Wikipedia. I’m also kind of religious when it come to Free software and Linux.

    And this guy has a real sob story. He’s gotten the real short end of the genetic stick. I feel for him.

    But as an advocate for the wonders of the Internet he kinda fails. His activist friends bombarded some doctors until they put him at the top of the donar list. That means he bumped everyone else on the list down one simply because of who he knows.

    And that’s pretty much his entire argument. He mentions some fluff about people coming together and some metaphysical crap about god, but you don’t need that. It’s the INTERNET. It does REAL MEANINGFUL good in the world.

    Sorry for being a downer. But I am not moved.

    (and yeah, it was painful to get the video to work. Livestream needs to learn how to share better.)

  26. I get that people here are Atheists (as am I), but why the immediate negativity whenever the word ‘God’ is mentioned. It’s almost like non-believers are interpreting something through the lens of a belief system.

    The guy believes in God, and also believes that the innate goodness of people, working together to benefit humanity is also ‘God’. If that’s what he wants to call it, fine. But why the need to disparage what he says simply because he’s using the G word?

  27. this man’s story is amazing, and I’m impressed with him as a person, for what he’s been through, but this doesn’t even blip on the old emotional radar in the tear-jerker sector.

    ironically, I’ve heard this story, slightly modified, in church on several occasions. as much as I enjoy being a illogical, backwards, religious mud-dweller, the constant “prosthelytizing” has made me a little callous towards such stories in general, whether they’re from christians, atheists, or companies hawking their wares.

  28. One guy attributing causality to the machinations of an imagined mystical entity is not such a problem. When several billion people do it, however…

  29. have to be careful. god didn’t stop the war, or save civilian lives in afghanistan, iraq, or somalia. god didn’t melt the hearts of global bankers. if we say we are the ones we’ve been waiting for and that in fact this god-of-us is the best god we can get — but it-of-we can’t make headway against generational challenges, biblical extinction-level stuff within our understanding and our control — then what, god tells us to return to trading 3D-printed GIF kitteh statuary in our sacred bunkers?

  30. “this channel is requesting your email address to continue”. #irony #internetsfail

  31. I really resented the email demand and went looking for information about the Personal Democracy Forum to find out if it was a leftie or rightie group so I could decide if I wanted to be on their mailing list. It’s bad enough I got on the NewsMax mailing list somehow. Well, at least it lets me track what the bad guys are doing.

    I don’t trust groups without an agenda, a leftist agenda. Too many so-called ‘inclusive’ political groups turn out to be merely front organizations trying to legitimate rightist thought and right wing politicians.

    I’m am fine with the Christianity thing though I don’t understand any real Christian not being able to see through Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and all the other fake TV Christians getting rich on TV.

    It is time that the left took Christianity back. I know when I read the gospels I was shocked with how ‘leftist’ Jesus’ teachings were, you know, when he teaches that we should feed the hungry, clothe the naked, care for the injured and ill, visit the sick and those in prison and that the rich can’t get into heaven. I realized a lot of liberals/leftist throughout history had been consciously trying to follow those teachings. It’s time we reminded the Christians of what Jesus actually taught, see if they care about that. Some won’t, they only care about the superstitious part of Christianity and don’t think they should have to do anything but believe, but some will understand they have to have ‘works’ as well.

    We lefties need to pull them over to our side. That is where they belong. But we can’t do that if all we do is insult them.

    1. “It is time that the left took Christianity back. I know when I read the gospels I was shocked with how ‘leftist’ Jesus’ teachings were, you know, when he teaches that we should feed the hungry, clothe the naked, care for the injured and ill, visit the sick and those in prison and that the rich can’t get into heaven. I realized a lot of liberals/leftist throughout history had been consciously trying to follow those teachings. It’s time we reminded the Christians of what Jesus actually taught, see if they care about that. Some won’t, they only care about the superstitious part of Christianity and don’t think they should have to do anything but believe, but some will understand they have to have ‘works’ as well.

      We lefties need to pull them over to our side. That is where they belong. But we can’t do that if all we do is insult them.”

      This. QFT. The core books of the New Testament are simply not compatible with the core teachings of the Tea Party, the Republican Party, or the Religious Right. Check out Sojourners. More of us need to be there. Yes, you too, atheists and agnostics. We’re all stuck on the space-boat called Earth together and we had damn well better save it and save ourselves.

  32. he trolled the organ transplant list like 4chan trolls online talent contests – through popular support and manipulation.

    i’m not knocking the guy but a little critical thought might be more revealing than this rhetoric and sentimentality.

  33. The Livestream player is shit. I can’t watch for more than 30 seconds or so without a painfully long rebuffer. I thought that web video was a solved problem, but LiveStream appears to have unsolved it.

    I’d love to watch this. Someone please snatch this and upload it to YouTube or Vimeo were we can actually watch it.

  34. Watched it since Cory asked us to. I didn’t get any email request, it just stopped playing, so I Googled it elsewhere.

    I agree with a lot of the sentiments above. The fact that he’s helped others through the net has far, far greater weight for me than that his friends managed to hassle a surgeon through the net.

    ReCaptcha: tabouni πλοῦτος
    Hah, ReCaptcha, you thought you had me that time!

  35. So is he still a christian? Or something else? From the first parts of the video I though he became an atheist or something.

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