Monday, February 16, 2009

The Amazing New Internet

The New York Times reported on the work being undertaken in Stanford University to create a new internet. The article traces the history of internet viruses, cyber attacks and spam, many of which we're all too familiar with. One of the best examples of the problem was Conficker.
That was driven home late last year, when a malicious software program thought to have been unleashed by a criminal gang in Eastern Europe suddenly appeared after easily sidestepping the world’s best cyberdefenses. Known as Conficker, it quickly infected more than 12 million computers, ravaging everything from the computer system at a surgical ward in England to the computer networks of the French military.

Some experts believe that the internet, as we know it, is doomed to ever-increasing problems of this nature and the only solution is to scrap the whole thing and start anew. To me that sounds a little drastic. Yet, the possibility of millions of "captured" computers working in unison for some nefarious purpose is indeed daunting. What do you think?

The problem seems to be in the explosive growth of the internet. What started out as an academic and military research network has become the depot of the entire world’s communications and commerce. The invention and expansion of the internet, for me, is one of the true wonders of the modern world.

The proposed solutions don't sound too attractive. Basically, they sound like larger versions of the private intranet systems many businesses and organizations now use. These can be controlled and made secure, at least compared to the free-for-all that is the internet at large.

But, isn't that what we like about the internet? Isn't it that very openness that makes it so exciting? One time I wrote a post about Teah Wimberley, the teen shooter in Florida. We had a lively discussion going on when all of a sudden a comment came in from Lucille, a fellow student at Dillard High personally acquainted with the girls involved in the shooting. That's the internet.

Another time I wrote about a former evangelical minister who now works as an itinerant evolution apologist. His mane is Michael Dowd and he himself commented on the post, thanking me for what I had to say. Now, that's the internet.

I realize there's a lot more to it than the insignificant little moments I've described above; they're just personal examples of my own experience as a simple user. The point is, more than sharing photos with family and friends, or communicating by lightning-fast e-mail instead of old fashioned letters, it's the possibility of reaching out to strangers that makes the internet so much fun.

What's your opinion? Is it doomed to self-destruct in some kind of implosion? Do you think there'll be a virus one of these days that will bring the whole thing down?

The article talks about the future internet being a sort-of gated community to which you'd have to be a member. Does that sound inviting to you?

Please feel free to leave a comment.


  1. Mike,

    I just read a great sci-fi book called "Earth Web" by Marc Stiegler.

    While the premise of the book is an alien machine trying to kill the earth, there is much about how the Internet is used by people in the future.

    If you are interested in seeing a different view, I would highly recommend it.

    As you should know, one of the strengths of the internet is allowing information to be challenged and corrected. This will continue, those that report the truth will develop "brands" that are trusted. Those that exaggerate, mislead or distort won't be trusted.
    These brands will be developed in digital signatures of those people or places that you can trust. We see that now in news, or review. CNET, whom you've linked to a couple of times, became a source for product reviews because of their honest reviews. Much like Consumer Reports.

    As far as the gated communities, that actually goes back a ways. There were bulletin board services (BBS) in the pre-web days. In order to join you had to be trusted. This is nothing new.

    I think there will always be areas where control can not be enforced, will not enforced and people don't want it on the net. It's too valuable and it is too hard to control everything.

    Question becomes, as in most things Mike, is this about controlling crime/viruses or is it about controlling people?

    I vote of the lack of control because as much as I dislike viruses, I dislike controlling liberty more.

    Something to consider when you think about this Mike...control in one area of liberty makes it easier to control other areas also.

    Be very careful of what freedoms you want to take away from people.

  2. The article talks about the future internet being a sort-of gated community to which you'd have to be a member. Does that sound inviting to you?

    ah, every megacorporation's wet dream of the internet - safely walled off from any content their board doesn't think will sell well, safely shut away from anybody who won't pay their asking price, whatever that may be.

    sure, y'all go right ahead and develop that world. us geeks will just start over from scratch with an updated UUCP or Fidonet or something, and build a far better network for not having any of the type of people who'd want to live in a walled garden.