Quillette – Internet complete?

Quillette – Is the Internet Complete?

The internet is not complete, cannot be, ever. And it will ever more closely approximate it, just as science (at its best) is continually becoming less wrong (though unlikely to ever be “right” – just a more useful approximation at some level).

The internet is a network communications infrastructure.

It’s basic protocol (TCP/IP) was developed by DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) to allow reliable battlefield communications as long as any possible communications path remained in tact on the battlefield (ie, when paths were coming and going frequently).

Aspects of today’s infrastructure are highly centralised for a variety of levels of “economic” and “security” reasons.
Alternatives to the existing “internet” are possible, even probable, and certainly under development.

One of the major issues, that happens with all complex systems, is that as the complexity of the system increases, the impact of any innovation on any particular part of that complexity decreases, so that we see smaller and smaller improvements coming from any particular innovation (when looking at the system as a whole). When that system is embedded in an economic system that has to show a return on investment, then the rate of implementation of innovation decreases, as the return on investment slows. Couple that with the need to maintain backward compatibility to older, but still functioning, devices out there in the real world, and we see what we have.

Those of us who have been in the coding world for a few decades know that most of the banking infrastructure is still on a CoBOL code base. “If it aint broke – don’t fix it” rules – particularly in the more conservative institutions.

Cars are also changing, rapidly.
Self driving cars are real, if not yet common. I saw my first Tesla Model S on a rural New Zealand road two weeks ago.

Flying cars are unlikely to ever be common – the combination of risk profile, required energy density, and weight restrictions imposes extreme complexity (itself a risk factor) for those of us that value life highly.

As we move from fossil fuels to solar power, with very high speed internets, then we may see surface vehicles that are much slower and lighter taking us places extremely safely, extremely reliably, extremely efficiently, while we immerse ourselves in whatever communication medium takes our interest. Risk of serious injury in vehicles traveling less than 20 miles per hour is almost zero. If all goods vehicles are unmanned, what does it matter that they take a few more minutes or hours to get where they are going.

High speed travel is likely to be on underground maglev trains in evacuated tubes – no air resistance – 1g acceleration to half way, then down again to destination. With local feeders to major nodes no place on the earth would be much more than an hour’s travel from the closest local node – which would likely be within a few minutes travel of a 20mph surface vehicle. (For those who are willing to accept the slightly higher risks of high speed travel).

Fully automated systems are changing things exponentially.
That rate of change is increasing.

When we achieve fully automated systems capable of making a copy of themselves using local rock and solar power, then if it takes the first two weeks to make the second, then within 2 years there can be one for every person on the planet, and the very notion of value in exchange (market value) is not simply redundant, but becomes the single greatest source of existential level risk to us all (with all the conceptual “drag” that comes with it). {The energy requirements of the last few replications mean that the process would probably best be done in orbit using lunar mass, but that is a another story.}

And that is the sort of transformation speed that is possible – poverty eliminated within 4 years.
Every individual on the planet with practical access to the sort of life choices available only to the most wealthy today, and full recycling and ecological responsibility in a post market “economy”. A literal global village.

Not to say that it will happen, and it is most certainly a technological possibility.

About Ted Howard NZ

Seems like I might be a cancer survivor. Thinking about the systemic incentives within the world we find ourselves in, and how we might adjust them to provide an environment that supports everyone (no exceptions) with reasonable security, tools, resources and degrees of freedom, and reasonable examples of the natural environment; and that is going to demand responsibility from all of us - see www.tedhowardnz.com/money
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