There is a problem with the internet and if we don’t fix it soon, the internet won’t be around for long. The internet is the biggest technological revolution to hit humanity since the invention of the vacuum tube in 1904. The vacuum tube is what made electronics, as we know them, possible. They also gave humans the ability to upgrade their communication like no one could anticipate. A bunch of brilliant nerds with actual pocket protectors, made a communication network that could let computers talk to each other over phone lines. Much later, that network would become a public internet or a World Wide Web and THAT was born thirty years ago. August 6th, 1991, was when Tim Berners Lee made a post on a Usenet group, announcing the concept of the World Wide Web. That’s when things really took, and innovation went parabolic.
Humans saw the potential of all these connections. Connections between thousands of servers multiplied by thousands of more servers, multiplied by thousands of computers until you get an internet…and we got really good at making them. Not to mention we could do that because the core instructions of the internet. It’s open-source protocols. The internet was born to be decentralized. Anyone with a computer and a phone connection can find anyone else with a phone connection and trade 1’s and 0’s. The potential for connection is so simple but at the same time, incredibly strong. That’s the beauty of the internet; the thing that’s allowed it to grow, is its ability for INSTANT connection. Information can start being exchanged as soon as a connection is made. The better and bigger we make the connections, the faster the internet becomes.
30 years later, we have an internet so fast, so connected and so pervasive, we can do things no one thought possible even two years ago. in the 90’s, The high-water mark of communication was video conferencing. But now, that’s so common it’s almost become the standard way we go see the doctor for a routine checkup. The special sauce of the internet; its “instantaneousness” has shown to be its biggest flaw. It’s not built to last. It’s built to connect.
That’s it. There is nothing permanent about the internet. And that’s starting to become a VERY big problem. We think of the internet as long connections that are untouchable by most people. Private. The websites and apps we use are colorful and welcoming. It’s high tech. Modern. Progressive. We think the guts of the internet, servers, datacenters, cables are tucked away, left alone like monks on a mountain to quietly do their work and only everyone once in a while need a refresh, or a reboot. But the truth is. The internet has a problem that experts have known about for years. And if we’re not careful, it will bring down everything and could affect history as we know it.
War and Peace, a large book written by a Russian man named Leo Tostoy, and it’s mostly depressing, but some people have found solace in its sadness. Some War and Peace fans noticed something was different on the e-book version…
“When the flame of the sulphur splinters Nookd by the tinder burned up, first blue and then red, Shcherbinin lit the tallow candle…”
Beautiful isn’t it? But how are splinters Nooked? Well, that’s the thing. They aren’t. They are kindled. Customers who bought War and Peace on the Barnes and Noble Nook e-reader noticed this and complained. Come to find out an algorithm made by Barnes and Noble marketing went rogue and was scrubbing the word Kindle, the name of their competitors e-reader, from anything in the Barnes and Noble store and replacing it with the name of THEIR e-reader, the Nook. Funny right? No one accepted blame. And there was no record of it for anyone to track
down. Everything in the e-book world is centralized and controlled by mega corporations. Corporations that can control and manipulate the stories that have shaped society and culture.
This is a sample of the legal opinion of Justice Samuel Alito from a case in 2011. In the opinion, Justice Alito did what everyone does; cites a source and puts a link in the document. But in this opinion the owners of the page that was linked too, changed it to display a 404-error message. That’s still in the library of congress and hasn’t been fixed yet. It’s a matter of United States
law now. If this opinion needs to be referenced for a future Supreme Court Case, we won’t know what Justice Alito was referring too. It also doesn’t help that he’s dead now. This is only the tip of the iceberg. A report from Harvard Law School shows that 49 percent of all hyperlinks in Supreme Court Opinions are dead or have drifted to different content. This is not just concentrated to the supreme court, but to home deeds, medical research, scientific journals, hospital records, government records…All your photo and video memories these days are on a server, SD card or hard drive. Some of you watching this video have never physically held
a photo that you’ve taken. If you lose your phone… no problem. It’s backed up…somewhere, right? It is. It’s being kept alive somewhere. All our digital memories, photos, music, videos, require electricity to survive and will cease to do so if they aren’t maintained. But servers go down. Bits can flip, and a faulty hard drive can corrupt every memory you thought you had saved, making them little more than…well…a memory. The average lifespan of a hard drive is around 4 years old. An enterprise level solid state drive…10 years. Compare that to film, photos and Vinyl Records. Over 100 years if stored properly.
The problem is called LINK ROT and it’s been eating away at the foundations of the internet for the past twenty-five years. Links are the backbone of the internet. It’s what you click on to be taken to another website without having to type in the exact URL address. Without hyperlinks, sharing data on the internet would be clumsy and slow. It’s not just link rot, it’s the fact that changes on the internet can happen and the only record of it…if there even is one…is located on a server that only a few have access to. That’s like building a massive structure and then leaving it open to the elements. Our data on the internet is rotting away faster than we can back it up. Centralized powers in Silicon Valley are editing, censoring and banning protected speech to serve their political connections and appease shareholders concerns about quarterly profits. News outlets are rewriting articles under the radar through a process called Ninja Editing, to save face, or get out of a lie, or to change history to suit the present narrative. the average lifespan of a website is…90 days. That’s our history we’re talking about. We are only keeping things up to date for 90 days.
How can we learn from our past if it’s been rewritten a thousand times behind an opaque silicon curtain? What happens when the government decides they need some land and your house is in the way? Edit the record. What happens when a political candidate made comments in the past that are “unsavory” today? Edit the
record. But it gets darker. What if the photos of your newborns first bath, stored on iCloud, get crawled by an algorithm looking for child porn and are deleted, flagged by INTERPOL. Your Apple ID is put on a watch list. You are banned from air travel. Charges are pressed. Your face and name are put on a list of sex offenders. You have no recourse because the entire string of events leading up to that algorithm flagging your photo on iCloud are locked up behind a centralized system. This is all happening now and will only get worse. If only there was a technology that was open, search-able, resistant to change and extremely hard to hack.
Blockchain won’t fix the internet, or history. But it can make the internet more honest by making it more transparent. A court decision can be published to a database that runs on Cardano that would be logged and verified by thousands of nodes any changes would be recorded for all time on the ledger. Voting can be done on a public blockchain with no possibility of an error going unnoticed. Your medical data can be entered on to a record system based on Ethereum and a smart contract set up to give you full control over who sees what. Your photos, music and videos can be backed up on a storage based blockchains and are backed up by thousands of users all at the same time. A Presidential News conferences
can have an embedded blockchain string put in the video feed, one that verifies its integrity. No deep fakes or photoshop allowed. The internet isn’t meant to be locked up behind a wall. Controlled by only a few. It needs constant care. Blockchain is always moving. Constantly updated in one long chain that is never broken. It isn’t just the future of finance. It’s the next evolution of technology that can democratize our future and our freedoms.