Internet, a No Man's Land ?

Published by Richard Dern on in Thoughts. Download as PDF

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Web traffic can be split into categories:

I may have forgot some, but this structure suits my upcoming argument.

At first, machines were relatively primitive. In fact, our computers and phones were just souped-up radios or TVs, although, back in the days (we're talking about the 70s and 80s), we were rightly thrilled with their creative power.

They really gained power when they became mainstream in the mid-90s, during the buying frensy around them. Not only could consumers create documents and reports, or write official correspondance, they could play with them. Machines were not merely tools, they became a leisure activity.

When FaviconTim Berners Lee created the very first web page, hosted by the very first server, he made it to be read by humans, not machines. Nevertheless, before it can be read by another human located hundreds of kilometers away, the machines, Berners Lee's and his reader's, had first to communicate. The machines were merely a vehicle for the message but without understanding it.

We used these machines for a few years, as vehicules for informations. Then, one day, two or three megalomaniac monsters thought maybe there is something to do to scrutinise what kind of information is transported, and, more interestingly, this is typical of human curiosity, what is its content ?

As human intelligence is proportionally limited by financial greed, they needed some time, until mid noughties, to understand the power given by this information, even if it were not directly related to them. But it became increasingly easy to adapt machines and make them work on something more than just transportation. And so, mass data collection was born.

Two of the protagonists broke through, becoming billionnaires. FaviconOne by creating a search engine, which means a lot of machines able to find all and everything on the web, Faviconthe other by waiting for humans to give their informations willingly. We'll see what to do with this information later. For instance, create machines to analyse it. Make science fiction come true: create the holy Artificial Intelligence. Then we will sell it on, of course.

These two principles forged an Internet of the future where man doesn't play any role anymore. Machines will observe him first, like scientists, carefully registering every action performed by the human being observed, crossing this information with older ones, and maybe compare with others, similar humans history. Then, in the end, when machines have learned everything, or, at least, memorised everything, mankind will become a toy for business companies that went too far into marketing. And man being desperately weak and slow against machines specifically made to reproduce same actions over and over, he will become helpless, unable to understand who is addressing to him, to what end. He will get scared, feel trapped, unable to take any kind of decision. How could he when, on one side, he needs his smartphone to keep in touch with relatives, and on the other side, the very same smartphone produces such anguish ?

Let's not forget the weight of guilt. As part of the network, he his responsible for informations he owns, which could be contact data from his relatives, friends, collegues. Usable - and used - data, by machines he his not even aware of, sometimes located thousands of kilometers away, by companies he has never heard of, and took control of his life anyway. To him, it's just annoying notifications, an unreliable connection, highly dependent on where he stands, whereas the truth is his smartphone is painfully slow only because it's a machine made to exchange data. Not between the client and his phone, but rather between the phone and other manufacturer's machines. The manufacturer created a social network for machines, and human is the platform.

As mankind created machines ought of curiosity, it makes sense that these machines are animated with curiosity. Consequently, these social networks for machines are anything but useless, limited and isolated. Far from it.

By adding a pinch of politics, we spread social networks for machines. Because the governments headings benefit from some kind of law or business offer allowing them to connect their network with others.

And so, every social network of machines in the world is connecting to the others at an alarming pace. Or going to, in a more or less long term.

If the social protocol of the machines was limited to introduce themselves ("I'm an iPhone", "I'm a Nexus"), no harm would be done. After all, machines also have the right to socialise. The big issue is when they are made to gossip.

And aforementioned monsters crossed thresholds we thought unattainable on that matter. They clearly understood - part of - the power they get in their hands. One Faviconjust got a pinch on his shoulder, but the other has more glibness and experience. Especially since he knowns politics very well, at the point of Faviconbeing able to influence them. Can you imagine a corporate business having influence in politics and military ? There is no democracy in business.

But getting back to communications: we crossed a threshold in 2016, when Faviconweb traffic generated by machines outperformed human traffic. A traffic caused by some machines: the two monsters ones. Well, part of. Except they gossip. And I begin to consider every connected object I have no control over as school bullies: from afar, with outraged and wrath-filled eyes, mixed with the fear it comes too close to me and steals my personal data as bullies steal alloyances at school.

Despite I've always loved Internet, computers and new technologies, they now inspire me fear. I've always been called a paranoid because of all the protections I spend my life to set up and manage on my home networks, sometimes initiating huge frustration crisis about unavailability of some website that probably holds a very important information, but unwilling to give it to me until I give it my informations back. Because once data is harvested by someone, it spreads, everywhere, all the time, limitless, to other humans but also to other machines.

Most of the time I'm able to trace where a message in my mailbox comes from, or a commercial in my postal box, etc. But for a few weeks now, I can't anymore. Where they could have got my postal address from ? My private email, given to no one as I only use expendable aliases ? Should I consider the government did it ? That it sold my informations, or simply handled them to a third-party ? Or made an actual business model out of them ? Or maybe the registrars, banks, insurance companies, maybe the garage owner, all these persons we are practically obliged to give some personal informations which, once inside their machines, can spread anywhere without any knowledge of it. Much like we did in the late 90s with meat, we need some kind of traceability of our data. But...

I believe our skills, as web experts, are becoming less important. Our capacity to outcome bad web uses eludes us. It dies. So the web. It follows a parabolic curve, and we are at the top of it, right before the fall. Common foke gave up, and if our saving, yet unknown action withers, there will be nothing left to keep modern "East India" Trading Companies to establish a permanent domination over the web, and so our lives.

Mankind would not come to the Internet anymore. Only then, and counter-intuitively, Internet will become the most powerful tool for controlling people. Fed by people habits, paid by their tendence to throw money away upon threat, self-powered and industrialised, meaning able to regenerate and geographically spread, Internet will become the most fearful network, and will trigger a war against the machines. But even if this scenario sounds a lot like Terminator, it differs on one key point: motivation.

There is not a single machine that wants to destroy us. There are only men who want to get richer by stealing wealth from the others, and not just money but also personal data. Machines are the most powerful and modern way to do that.

And no one can really stand against them. After building companies with revenues higher than GDP of more or less modest countries, after infiltrating governments, after studying psychology of the masses on real populations, these people hold a knowledge that most of the populations gave them willingly, thinking they are just paying taxes, reporting a thief, or contacting a distant relative. Yet, they are still not fully aware of the colossal and destructive power they are holding. And we will still have the feeling they are playing with that power, until they truly figure it out. It will be a this precise moment that fate of mankind will weight in the balance, maybe finally more than money.

So, maybe like Oppenheimer facing terror inspired by "his" atomic bomb saying: "I became death, the destroyer of the worlds", Tim Berners Lee will think the same when seeing what Internet became: while originally a scientific project with unlimited potential to make mankind evolve, it becomes a weapon of destruction even more terrifying than previous ones.

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