In the last half century, computing power made at least three great migrations. The pendulum swung from centralized to decentralized, and then back to (kind of) centralized again. Next time the pendulum swings—and it will—what might the catalyzing event be? What shape might the networks that connect our modern world take? And to what ends might we apply such a shift in compute power?
Subscribe to our blog.
Translations: de, it, es-AR.
We already have the power, the materials and the motive to win back the Internet. But we have to start with the first step first: owning our own infrastructure.
Trump lost. Last weekend we celebrated the electoral defeat of a US president undeniably behaving as an openly fascist dictator. Yet we must remember that elections are for choosing the targets of our political pressure, not for choosing our saviors. Only we the people, not the president-elect, can meaningfully bring that pressure to bear.
In April 2001, five months before 9/11, Bram Cohen began designing a new file sharing protocol that would almost single-handedly change the face of the music, TV, and movie industries for the next two decades. The technology was not in itself a completely new idea. After all, similar technologies like the well-known File Transfer Protocol (FTP) had been designed and deployed for copying files between computers before. What made this one so potent was the way it reflected the fractured, organic structure of its underlying medium, the Internet itself.
When Bob Metcalfe invented Ethernet in the 1970’s, he intentionally designed his system in a way that would function anarchically. Many engineers believed this approach was too chaotic to succeed. How could a system of coordination function with no command center? It would be pure anarchy! Today, every Internet connection, local network, telephone uplink, datacenter backhaul, and Wi-Fi signal to your computer uses Ethernet. The anarchist approach proved simpler, more efficient, and ultimately more successful. This is no surprise to any practicing anarchist, although many practicing anarchists still won’t recognize the anarchism in action when they post their next Tweet. Meanwhile, most Big Tech insiders aren’t able to see the parallels between their beloved technology and the anarchist viewpoint. This must change, and we’re going to change it.