John McAfee, the controversial founder of the Silicon Valley anti-virus company that still bears his name, spoke before a sizable crowd Saturday at the C2SV Technology Conference + Music Festival in downtown San Jose.
A day after Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and Atari founder Nolan Bushnell were the headlining guest speakers at the C2SV (Create. Converge. Silicon Valley) McAfee appeared at the San Jose McEnery Conference Center in a fireside chat setting with Dan Holden, a veteran Silicon Valley journalist. It was reportedly McAfee’s first professional event since returning to the U.S.
Now residing in Portland, John McAfee made world headlines last year while living in Belize, where he was a person of interest in the murder of his neighbor, Gregory Faul, a U.S. expatriate. The brilliant British-American computer software engineer, whose wealth was once estimated at $100 million, fled the country with a girlfriend after weeks of hiding, only to reemerge in Guatemala to seek political asylum, citing concerns for his life if arrested by Belize authorities. While in detention in Guatemala, he feigned a heart attack and eventually was deported to the U.S.
Looking fit and energized with a splash of hair coloring, the 68-year-old McAfee seemed far much younger, in a testament to his devotion to yoga and truncated substance abuse. Over the next hour, he covered a wide range of experiences, including an early interest in mathematics, multiple businesses in Belize including QuorumEX, alleged extortion and subsequent threats from the Belize government, an ongoing blog to present his account of the story and boycott of the Central American country, his consumption of drugs and alcohol, an attack on the media for portraying him inaccurately, a constant need to be working, begrudgingly working on two movies, a TV documentary, graphic comic books, pausing to introduce his lovely wife Janice Dyson and business partnership with Portland animator Chad Essley, before talking about his latest project, which could be a groundbreaking step towards protecting consumer privacy from government agencies and hackers.
Despite a lifetime of personal drug use he described as more than the combined total of the entire audience, the Silicon Valley pioneer seemed to be as relevant, cutting edge and innovative as he was when he first launched McAfee Inc. in 1982, a company now owned by the Intel Corporation, considered the “world’s largest dedicated security technology company”. His new project is to make the “internet unhackable” – providing a “new type of internet, a decentralized, floating and moving internet that is impossible to hack, impossible to penetrate and vastly superior in terms of its facility and neutrality. It solves all of our security concerns”. He said he hopes to price the new product “under $100”.
John McAfee called this promising new venture futuresense – d-central. The official website informs its visitors, “in a time where information privacy and freedom are at risk, a new technology is arising D-CENTRAL”. Also according to the website, the countdown to launch Future Tense Central is just under six months.
After the fireside chat, audience members were able to ask Mr. McAfee a good number of questions that he described as too easy. But the last inquiry proved to be the most obvious – “will you be going back to Belize ?” To that, he responded “not anytime soon”.