Wednesday, June 12, 2013

What is the Internet?

The Internet is not a network.  It's not a collection of information, a graph of computer nodes, or anything like that.

The Internet is a limb.  A sense.  As integral to my generation as eyes were to the generation previous.  In a very literal sense, my generation would be blind and helpless without it.  In a very real sense, all generations prior to the current ones -were- blind and helpless.  The Internet isn't the computer I use to access it, or the hardware and software that permit it to be - it's an extension of self.

The reason the public is so defensive about the internet isn't that they're merely fond of it.  It's that, in a very real sense, any intervention in the government is an assault on their person.  Government censorship of the Internet feels no different from the government coming into our homes and cutting our fingers off.  When a state institutes a sales tax on the Internet, they're changing the character of the Internet - they're invading something very personal to us.

We're not giving it up without a fight.

And there's a fight coming.  The government has been rendered increasingly obsolete; the mechanisms of its power are becoming increasingly irrelevant.  The NSA scandals don't surprise me.  I expect far worse is going on.  The government has lost control of its creation.  The central struggle of the last twenty years has been between government and the Internet, and government has slowly been losing ground.  Don't expect it to go down without a fight.

Tor and The Silk Road demonstrate clearly and conclusively that government as we know it will never exist again.  Without raising a gun the world is revolting against the government-that-was.  What will replace it?  The next decade will decide that.

Don't make the mistake of assuming that the Internet cannot be used against us.  It has been, and it will be.  Right now we're winning because the model of government is at odds with the model of the Internet; a centralized authority cannot win in the decentralized world of the Internet.  A decentralized authority -can- win.  And is capable of horrors you cannot imagine.  Don't make the mistake of assuming the war is won.  It has just begun.  Institutions of power are already seeking to control the character of the Internet; Facebook has capitulated and is now shutting down critics of Feminism, one of many institutions of power at play in the world today.  This is the kind of informational warfare that will characterize the next decade.  And if we permit it, we are doomed.

We're at war.  Recognize this - those in power already do.  It's a war we can win - all we have to do is not surrender.  The Internet is as my eyes, my hands - and I at least will not surrender it without a fight.

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