National Technology Park
The National Park Service is one of America’s great ideas. While we have not always lived up to our ideals, the basic idea is great: every American is entitled to have amazing places of natural beauty and historical signifigance available to them. Simply by virtue of being American, we are entitled to a stake in the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone.
I think the internet deserves it’s own National Park. I’m picturing National Technology Park as something like a super-utopian technology company, but sliced in half and displayed like an Ant Farm so that you can see how it all works.
The organizing principle for the project is to provide every American with their own virtual private server, from a National Data Center, located within National Technology Park. Every American could walk down to their local Post Office and get the login credentials for their own server, and then go home and ssh into it.
Of course, there may be some Americans out there who are not familiar with command line network interfaces, so we could also make it the responsibility of the National Technology Park to develop software that will make the servers more useful. The Park employees could contribute to existing open source software for server management and improve features like accessibility and documentation that could make the tools useable to more people. Or they could develop new tools that would help make these VPSs useful to more people.
Just like the Grand Canyon, the Tech Park’s people are park rangers, but they are also workers executing projects. We could make this a model of diversity, explicitly recruiting Americans from all walks of life. Every race, every state, every age, every gender should feel welcome. Everybody needs to participate in both realms-with teaching the public about the work they’re doing, and how it is relevant to the overall project of One Server Per American, but also with implementing the project. The whole concept relies on this being a sort of ecosystem, just like you might see at a current park.
Like most good tech ideas, this is also scalable. We could build something like this on probably a few million per year. But we could also take this basic concept, and turn into a massive national infrastructure project. We could spend billions, and connect every library and school in the country to a national fiber network. We could build tech parks inside libraries all over the country, where people could learn about operating their vps.
This could be like the Homestead Act of 2017: a way to open up a new frontier to Americans, without anybody losing anything. One great thing about this project is that is in the fine tradition of Americans building Really Cool Stuff, with no real ideology. Every American would benefit from having a place on the internet, that is not owned by some corporation. It’s not even hard to imagine that direct economic benefits would eventually significantly mitigate the cost.
For the entire internet lives of most people, they have never seen the internet before it became corporate. The corporations did not build it or create it. They showed up later and colonized it.
I’m not advocating that we go back to the pre-1995 internet. But I do think we should set aside some space on the internet for the American people. If people want to rent it out to some corporation, that’s fine; this is America, after all. If most people never log in or show any interest, that’s fine too.
America needs some sort of big national project. Something we could all get behind. Something maybe a little goofy, that we’re basically just doing because it is cool. We created the idea of a national park in the first place. We landed men on the moon just to prove we could.
The internet is the next Frontier. (Obviously, underwater after that, and Finally space.) This time, every American deserves a spot.