For the Week of December 25, 2006
This will be the final e-mail version of A-Clue.Com in its present form. That does not mean it will cease, not at all.
A-Clue is being folded into the DanaBlankenhorn.Com blog. It's actually been that way all this year. Most of this past year's Clue essays are already archived there. The main A-Clue site will stay open with the old archives, and links to the rest of my work.
I'm doing this mainly because e-mail is a dieing e-business model, and I don't ever want to be yesterday. I'm also spending several hours each week coding and loading each week's issue, time that could be spent writing.
To celebrate this change I have five essays on the main topics this blog has covered in its decade of e-mail existence, looking mainly at their present and future. First was e-commerce, the original beat here. Next was Moore's Law, then The World of Always-On, and last week Political Cycles.
Following is the big Internet Future essay.
Something that sets my teeth on edge is any reference to what the Internet is doing" or where the Internet is going.
The Internet isn't doing anything, and isn't going anywhere. It is a protocol, a way to connect computers together. It's a voluntary technical agreement.
When they make this reference, people are usually talking about HTTP, the HyperText Transfer Protocol first unveiled by Tim Berners-Lee in 1989. They may be talking about the Internet address space, or its naming conventions, or some technology like AJAX that makes the Internet more efficient. Or they may be talking about some other new technology, like video over IP, that runs on the Internet Protocol.
That would make sense.
When it gets crazy is when they start talking about social networking, or blogging, or TV clips, as what the Internet is doing. (Time Magazine just did that in naming no one in particular as its Person of the Year.) These are just services that ride on the IP backbone. They're not the Internet. The people who use the Internet, who feed it material and download that information, they are doing something. The Internet? Not so much.
IP itself is nearly 40 years old, and it should change. A new version of the numbering conventions, IPv6, has been around for nearly a decade now. It promises to give every device its own IP address, and eliminate the technical bias of Ipv4, which reserved most addresses to the U.S. and Western Europe, where most computers were when the protocol was formulated. Local language naming spaces would be another welcome improvement, so long as we have reliable translation between those domains. That's a technical challenge I hope will be tackled soon.
The slow uptake of Ipv6 and of other Internet innovations, like the World of Always On, comes down to something that was seemingly (and without intent) built into the Internet's DNA. That is, a suspicion of government. And the bigger the government the greater the suspicion.
Thus to many governments the Internet has become a law-free zone, therefore suspect, therefore something they must seek to control. This is a worldwide phenomenon. Since 9/11 the U.S. Government has become as anxious to control what people do online as anyone else. From its collection of everyone's online records to its ban on Internet gambling to its approval of dinosaur-like monopolies to recent calls for an Internet Sedition law, or the registration of blog content, it seems the entire Republican Party, which still dominates our politics, has become a giant House of Lud.
Thanks to both business and government monopolies, the pace of online innovation has slowed in recent years. The financial excitement over so-called "Web 2.0" companies is a pale imitation of what went on a decade ago concerning the original Web. The financial hits of this decade -- Google, MySpace, Apple -- seem to be all-or-nothing affairs, near monopolies that control, thus monetize, types of Internet activity that used to be open to free competition.
People have a natural distrust of big businesses and big government. This existed before the Internet. And when such institutions become rapacious, people shy away. Who wants to put their heart or sugar records online, who wants to put the status of their lights and home alarms and home temperature online where Big Brother might get at it, or where Little Brother might find it and abuse it? If a crook can find out you're keeping the house cold, and that a program is running the lights, they know not to fear those lights, come on in and take all our shiny stuff. If they know where you are medically vulnerable, they can take advantage of that as well.
But we are entering an age where all such protests -- whether by government, business, cons or consumers -- will no longer suffice. There are crises before us against which the Internet's technology must be deployed, lest we and the world die.
I'm talking here of the twin crises of global warming and aging.
The possible death of the world will require all our energies to turn around. We must not only find non-hydrocarbon energy, and a new system for distributing it, but we have to solve the problems of world poverty, lest the poor destroy the world for short-term survival.
The aging of the West -- not just here in the U.S., but throughout Western Europe and East Asia -- also requires the Internet's advance to deal with. Nearly the entire planet is now reproducing at less than a replacement rate, so nearly the entire planet is now aging. Weaker eyes, weaker hearts, weaker minds, weaker bodies, decay and death await all of us. There will be fewer-and-fewer caregivers as time goes on. We must automate, we must age in place, and we must age more slowly, maintaining what remains of our intellectual power and advancing it.
There is no longer a choice. That is the message of this time, the crisis no political party has yet come to grips with, and few "thinkers" have yet addressed.
The Internet is becoming the hive mind that will address these problems. All our knowledge, all our intellect, and all our machines can use these protocols to address personal, local, national and worldwide life-and-death crises that are coming on us thick and fast.
You think the Internet's something now?
You ain't seen nothing yet.
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I'm continuing to produce a special blog on Open Source for ZDNet. I am pleased to say it has grown into a real money-maker. This blog too has an RSS feed and e-mail subscription.
I am also the editor Voic.Us, which aims to become a political "super-site" and offer mobile marketing services. So far we have over 2,800 subscribers to its RSS feed. Please visit that blog as well.
Finally I have begun working with Connexxions at Rice University to turn my work on the Internet Political Thesis into a book and college level course.
Remember: it's journalism that keeps the Clues coming...
Best of the Week
This is what inevitably happens when a Thesis expires, and it always occurs after the Thesis is first rejected in a Congressional election. Its proponents decide to take it to extremes.
Apple is now starting to take the desktop market share Linux was long-expected to grab, despite its proprietary nature. That's again because Apple sees the PC as a consumer electronics product, not as a computing product. The distribution channels now agree with it.
The idea that freedom carries obligations with it is the most universally accepted yet universally disputed point one can make.
Each generational change in our history has been preceded by a great popular movement, and the first Presidents of the new thesis actually leaned against that movement in winning election.
The United States under this Administration is betraying its ideals, betraying its own Constitution and laws, becoming, potentially, the Great Satan its enemies call us.
The aim of A-Tech Review is to become a virtual "trade paper" for what is variously called assistive technology, adaptive technology and accessibility technology.
A true Crisis is so enormous in the psychological landscape of the nation that intellectuals frequently make the mistake of analyzing the next crisis solely in terms of the one that came before.
Joe Lieberman lives in 1962, the High Kennedy period.
ZDNet Open Source
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