The Dream Internet
The internet is mostly a dystopian technological nightmare. The irony, or course, is that it was invented to deal with an apocalyptic dystopian nightmare in the guise of nuclear war. What is that old phrase about the road to hell being paved with good intentions? Right. So what’s wrong with it?
Machines of the Internet
Well, the first thing that’s wrong with the internet has to do with the technology used to access it. Windows is a gigantic steaming pile of garbage. Linux, while better, is hard to standardize on due to differing distros and is a little like a group of anarchists trying to organize a time to meet for tea. Openbsd is awesome for stability and security, but takes security so seriously it will not run on certain kinds of hardware (I am looking at you, GeForce) which is, more often than not, stuff at the cheaper end of the user continuum. Haiku is a neat implementation of BeOS. It seems like it could be awesome but is not really ready to be utilized as a daily driver. Everything scratches one itch but seems to cause a host of other unsatisfied itches.
The DNS System
Before we even consider machines, though, there is the matter of the nightmare of DNS, which, even if we do find a machine that we like well enough to make a website with makes it quite easy to shut the entire website down via censorship. Add to this various firewall and traffic filtering, and even if your site is not down, if it is not able to receive traffic, it might as well be down.
The Ubiquity of the Web
Whereas in the early 90’s the internet was optional, now everything runs on it from toasters to cars. This would be fine except that everything usually has to cooperate with http inspired technology in one way or another better known to the rest of the world as the “www” system of hyperlinks. This system while very robust in certain ways, absolutely sucks in fundamental ways. One way that it sucks is in backlinks and “linkrot” where links that existed yesterday are gone today. There is a real lack of “where something came from” or who said it, which encourages a whole lot of a kind of Alzheimer’s induced stealing provided one is not an outright thief or despot. Oh, also the internet is NOT a utility.
Add to all the above the fact that most of these devices that are on the web are busy reporting back to their masters about some aspect of your life that you have not expressly said they should. These reports are collated and sold to the highest bidders so that your life and the patterns in it become worth high amounts of dollars to those seeking insight into the behavior of crowds usually for the sake of advertising and how to pitch it.
No Flying Cars/Holograms
When you examine all the above facts, it indicates we are far from the internet of the future that movies like Minority Report indicated we were moving toward. We do seem to have the part about being arrested for crimes you have yet to commit down, though. The pieces for a “Dream Net” are all here, though. They just are not yet receiving funding or attention in the manner they ought to be.
If you want to fix the DNS, burn it down with gasoline and replace it with something else. Gnunet has done that and developed a system that makes the domain system P2P where everyone is basically hosting their own DNS and peers can find the site of the friend of a friend. This system solves the DNS problems at a construction level, though how well it scales is an unknown. Check it out here: Gnunet
Machines of the Internet
If you want the ultimate in freedom and standardization, a solution exists in the structure of NixOS. In Linux, the biggest headache is usually being able to build an application on one version in the same way as you did on another. With Nix, you can automate all this. Heck, you can even automate the build of an entire machine WITH the program all ready on it. It accomplishes this task by using “hashing” of the programs in a store as opposed to using direct links to the bin files. This solves a lot of volatility around using Linux. If you could marry the concept of NixOS to something like OpenBSD on a Gnunet, you’d probably solve about 80 percent of the above issues quite quickly. See NixOs here:NixOs
Ubiquity of the Web
I sincerely doubt anyone will be putting all the toothpaste back in that tube. If all computers stopped working tomorrow, I suspect the mental model of the internet would still be there for many generations to come and something like it would be made again. Take my above suggestions, future technician!
Most of the spying comes as a byproduct of not owning your own data. If, for instance, it were illegal to send your GPS coordinates to anything whatsoever without first asking your permission, anything that engaged in that behavior would be quite quickly lawsuitted. It follows then that if you made an internet where the user had their personal data and metrics more encrypted and locked up by nature that this kind of business would be greatly diminished.
Holograms and Flying Cars?
If the internet sucks less, then I see no reason why you could not stick some wings on a Tesla and call it a day.
Architecture of the Web
Finally, we visit the glorious area of the architecture of the web. A truth here is that there were other models than the www version. I am rather fond of the basic outline that Ted Nelson articulated in project Xanadu for the simple reason that it makes the back link as permanent as the forward link. I am not sure about his specific model for copyright and the seemingly proprietary elements of his model, but I think it is important to be able to visually show precisely where something came from so a person can read it for themselves. Otherwise, with footnotes and appendices, we have to stop the flow of our reading to go “look it up” which is, at best tedious. I especially like the idea of those who own a copyright being able to easily receive royalties, which is where the web currently is quite lacking. Most of the web has the content for free, and the price of time and hardware is being paid by someone else, somehow. Writers, I think, in particular, are especially hard hit by this model, since they are expected to write for free. Sure, you can get a crowdfunded subscription, but for that, you require building an audience which was traditionally what the magazine did that writers wrote for. Add to that the headaches of payment processors and deplatforming for someone writing something somebody else does not like, and it is clear what a mess and headache publishing becomes for a writer who simply used to write a query letter and then pecked away at his or her word processor to get paid for content. The gardens where this happens are rapidly growing smaller on a daily basis.
So, Dystopian Nightmare?
Yeah, but like any nightmare, the solutions to the problems are right here. At some point, we either believe in the nightmare and reinforce it, or say screw that, and start investing in the dream.