TCP/IP Is Eating The World

What in the world is going on?

Allow me to be blunt. TCP/IP is eating the world.

Consider, if you will, the previously unthinkable:

Trump. Brexit. Frexit.

The apparent collapse of centralized-authoritative institutions, like: Representative democracy. Higher education. Money. Banking.

Bitcoin. And the blockchain. And so on. They are all driven by what we might call “Reverse Conway’s Law.”

Conway’s Law

Conways Law says that

“…Any organization that designs a system (defined broadly) will produce a design whose structure is a copy of the organization’s communication structure.”

What is being said here is that “organizational structure” (the way authority is distributed) influences software system design and architecture. This insight has profound implications for society and in fact explains the previously unexplainable.

With me so far? Let’s go one step further, now:

Reverse Conway’s Law

The reverse of Conways’s Law goes like this:

“…any system (defined broadly) that an “organization” repeatedly and persistently uses will encourage the appearance of authority distribution schema that are copies of the communication structure of that system.”

“Organization” is this context includes: Dyads. Triads. Families. Clans. Tribes. Societies. Corporations. Civilizations.

In other words, the design of the decentralized internet (a system that people worldwide repeatedly and persistently use) is encouraging new and decentralized forms of authority distribution in the “real world.”

Decentralized Bitcoin for money, instead of central bank notes. Nationwide referendums on whether the centralized EU makes even any sense anymore. The apparent collapse in the credibility of some of our most cherished institutions.

These signposts are emblematic of a much wider trend…and a much bigger story.

TCP/IP Is Eating The World

When TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol) was conceived, a primary design goal was to be indestructable. To be permanent. To survive. Designed to be what we call a “robust” system in software engineering.

TCP/IP was designed to survive mortal death blows to the network infrastructure. TCP/IP achieves this by using a peer to peer communication protocol, set of communication paths. A “P2P” communication design. “Any to any” connectivity. This “any to any” idea is a robust network design.

This design was conceived and implemented at a time when the world was working from a “1-to-many” (a “hierarchical”) societal design. Think institutions. Think banks. Broadcast television. Higher education. All built on an authority-centralized design. With an authority-centralized communication structure.

Only one problem with that schema: it’s not very useful if you are trying to build a network that knows how to survive a mortal death blow.

The Here and Now

Fast forward to the present day. At the bottom of the internet stack is TCP/IP. A protocol.

Next, on top of that, ride more specific and narrower protocols, protocols that support applications. Think “Simple Mail Transfer Protocol” (SMTP) for e-mail. Think Internet Relay Chat (IRC) for messaging. Think “HyperText Markup Language & Transfer Protocol” (HTML & HTTP) for web pages.

All P2P in nature.

Still with me?


The next layer is the applications. Web browsers running over HTTP and HTML. Messaging apps running over IRC. Email running over SMTP. And so on. Instagram. Facebook. Twitter. Slack. Etc etc etc.

Bitcoin. Blockchain.

The Consequences of All This

And now: we can make sense of a world that seems to be dis-integrating.

Except that it’s not.


  1. TCP/IP is the P2P substrate that underlies everything running on the web. TCP/IP *is* the web. And so much more.
  2. TCP/IP is designed for indestructability. To “be robust.” To adapt to variation in network infrastructure and still work.
  3. Reverse Conway’s Law is affecting you, right here right now. Medium is a browser app running over HTTP/HTML which is running on TCP/IP. See it? If you use Twitter of Facebook or LinkedIn or any web app, you are being affected by this. Affected- by the P2P, “any to any” nature of what turns out to be very *personal* communication paths.
  4. All of society is affected. Profoundly. And after a delay before reaching critical mass (per Metcalf’s Law.) The slow drip of P2Pness that is pervading every aspect of digital life is now affecting every aspect of society. The general and very real sea change (the big *trend*) is away from the centralization of authority and towards the very rapid DE centralization of authority. This explains and helps “make sense” of Brexit. Frexit. Bitcoin. Trump. Blockchain. The implosion of mainstream media authority. Etc.

This has profound implications for you, you family, your job, your business, your future businesses, your society, and your civilization.

For those who get it, big change means big opportunity. When everyone gets it, the move is over.

So, in summary, consider this:

TCP/IP is eating the world. Many previously secure and highly authorized institutions are going to fall. Are falling.

Welcome to the decentralization of authority.

The world is not in fact disintegrating. But the centralization of authority is. And that’s your opening.

This game is yours to win, but only after you realize, and then accept, and then act on the reality that TCP/IP is eating the world.

A world previously built on the centralization of authority.