Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Media futurist: Time to replace the Internet

Nathan Diebenow
Friday, February 18th, 2011

How can the stranglehold on humanity's digital communications be broken? One media studies professor has a revolutionary idea.

"If we have a dream of how social media could restore peer-to-peer commerce, culture, and government, and if the current Internet is too tightly controlled [by the network owners] to allow for it, why not build the kind of network and mechanisms to realize it?” asked Douglas Rushkoff, writing for Mashable earlier this month.

Rushkoff is the author of "Program or be Programmed: Ten Commands for a Digital Age" and a noted Internet futurist. He also teaches media studies at The New School University in Manhattan.

To foster this emerging, peer-to-peer Internet, Rushkoff announced plans for a summit called “Contact” in October at the Angel Orensanz Center in New York City.

“From the development of a new non-hierarchical Internet to the implementation of alternative e-currencies, the prototyping of open source democracy to experiments in collective cultural expression, Contact will seek to initiate mechanisms that realize the true promise of the networking revolution,” he said.

Rushkoff told Raw Story last December that authorities already have the ability to quash cyber dissent. This is due to the Internet's original design as a top-down, authoritarian device with a centralized indexing system.

Rushkoff concluded that the Internet in its current form is simply unredeemable. From the near expulsion of WikiLeaks to Egypt's Internet blackout, it became clear to him that a fundamental change must be made.

As evidenced by the troubles dealt to secrets outlet WikiLeaks, essentially all one needs to do to halt a website is delete its address from the domain name system registry. A peer-to-peer Internet would use individual computers to route traffic to sites, as opposed to one centralized server, making it more resistant to censorship.

"This is not rocket science," Rushkoff quipped.

“A p2p network protected only by laws -- that exists but for the grace of those in charge -- is not a p2p network,” he wrote. “It is a hierarchical network allowing itself to be used in a p2p fashion, when convenient to those currently in charge.”

Rushkoff previously theorized that the new system might operate like FidoNet, a pre-Internet network that relied on personal computers acting as their own servers connected by modems via telephones.

“25 years of networking later, lessons learned, and battles fought; can you imagine how much better we could do?” he asked. “So let's get on it.”

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