Why Reinventing the Internet Is Bad

I wrote this in reaction to the Pantograph article “Researchers mull scrapping Internet staring over.”

The professor leans into the microphone to further emphasize his point. “Yes, while the Bloomington-Normal works, but the current area has some serious deficiencies.”

Upon this statement, a Normalite in the crowd stands up at the comment and asks? “What are the problems with the community?”

“Well for instance, there are bottlenecks on streets when emergency vehicles use them. As you may know, a few seconds of delay crossing busy street can cost lives. In addition, many of our roads wind around or are end in cul-de-sacs, slowing or preventing the good flow of traffic, especially on the east side in the newer subdivisions. This prevents people from getting where they want to go quickly.”

The professor adds, “also we do not know who drives the cars on the road, criminals might steal someone’s car and masquerade as them. So you do never know who really is in that mini-van behind you. Not to mention those pedestrians and cyclists don’t need to identify themselves at all. The problem is that early settlers did not anticipate these changes in travel. In the past everyone knew each other in the town and relied on horse and foot travel to move people and goods around the city. Now we have automobiles, motorcycles, bikes, and even airplanes. Much of the infrastructure for these modes of travel was put in place ad-hoc as the need arose. Just look at where the airport is, it prevent growth on that side of Bloomington,” the scientist scrunched up his nose in disgust.

“I installed SimCity 4 and the Sims 3 on this laptop. My plan to create a side-by-side Bloomington-Normal and my team will work out the kinks in the current system. This new system will be more flexible, faster, and we will be able to track movement of goods and people better. In a few years, we will then overlay this new system and society will benefit as a result.”

Another person rose to ask a question, this time someone from Bloomington. “What if we don’t like it? Can we go back to the way it was?”

“But you WILL like it. After all, the best minds around are banding together for you benefit after all to improve today’s outmoded system.”

The current size of the internet community is ~1.6 billion people who have radically altered the original infrastructure of the internet and “bolted on” a plethora of technologies to what was technology that only the military and scientific community used. Now many decades later, some scientists think that there are problems with how the internet works. True, there are problems. Like any system created by man there where trade-offs; counties can filter the information their citizens see, corporations can deny the free flow of information through threats and lawsuits, and criminals can do business with relative safety. Welcome the real world.

At the base of the article, this new internet the writer talks about seem to undermines democracy since it takes both anonymity and free association to help add to the marketplace of ideas. Both of these will be undermined because all packets are tracked. Also, it seems they want priority routing of packets. This can give rise to a tiered internet since those with money or resources can make sure their packet move around it the quickest. Even with a new system, there is not to say that an new technology that reshapes how people live will fit well.

Humans never reinvent their societies on a whim, so why reinvent the internet? We did not bulldoze cities in Europe once the internal combustion engine was invented. Europeans built around it. What about electric, water treatment, or even cell phones? Do we destroy what society has made in the past just to incorporate new ideas? No, that is wasteful, we INTEGRATE. New ideas and technology came about and we fold them into the rest of our knowledge.

We do not throw away the past, nor should we throw away what the internet has become as it is a part of who we are as a society. Maybe some socialist scientists would like the build a better internet, feeling that they know better than the population at large as to how it should work. Of course, this is all in the guise of protecting ourselves from ourselves by creating something that will magically eliminate spam, porn, and illicit activities.

If the scientist’s idea is great, it will naturally be picked up by the population at large in time. Take texting, in the last five years it became ubiquitous. Many of my friends and colleagues could not understand this, calling it a fad. Now they do it themselves because it has uses apart from calling someone. This technology was bolted on the cell network, but you don’t hear wireless carriers complaining that they need to reinvent their networks to fully integrate it.

The internet should not be reinvented, only improved. It came in to being ad-hoc because of the needs of society, ethnic groups, companies, and governments. We designed a great system, if flawed in places, which allows those who access it virtually all of human knowledge.