If Buddha built the Internet, what would the OSI model look like?
Traditionally, the OSI model had seven layers. Many people joke that there’s an invisible Layer 8, which is politics.
What does Buddha’s Internet stack look like? Obviously it’ll be based on the eightfold path:
- Right Understanding
- Right Thought & Attitude
- Right Speech
- Right Action & Conduct
- Right Livelihood
- Right Effort
- Right Mindfulness
- Right Concentration
How does this map to the Internet? Here’s a potted history of the Net organized by the eightfold path:
- Right Understanding: Binary circuits are fundamental to the digital computer. We got this right in the 1940s. Without this understanding, we would be stuck in the world of analog circuits.
- Right Thought & Attitude: Logic forms the basis for computer science. Note: propositional logic is not the only kind of logic! The relational algebra gives us databases. Temporal logics enable model checking. Constraint logics help us book flights.
- Right Action & Conduct: The client/server model. Multi-tier architecture allows horizontal scalability. Applications appear: we see the rise of e-commerce; dating sites; spam; and online gambling.
- Right Livelihood: Remember The Internet’s Original Sin? We explore different business models: subscriptions, advertising, app stores. Spam and phishing and ransomware. Wrong livelihood.
- Right Effort: Sadly, advertising dominates. Jeff Hammerbacher’s quip: “The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads,” he says. “That sucks.” This is wrong effort.
- Right Mindfulness: Facebook causes depression. Social media creates echo chambers. Fake news proliferates. Dopamine addiction kills. Trolls bait you into flamewars. Tempers rise. The public sphere is polluted.
- Right Concentration: It’s hard to focus. We’re all being driven to distraction.
Well, that got dystopian fast. We seem to have lost our way, about halfway through. Many of the later layers show negative results.
But let’s not despair. There are better, righter ways of doing the Internet.
Right Action & Conduct: Opensource development is the shining example.
Right Livelihood: The new economy unleashes creativity. YouTube stars are born. Etsy shops are launched. People pursue their passions full-time. The collaborative economy helps people get more out of their assets and their time.
Right Effort: Agile Development. Lean Startup. Khan Academy, EdX, MOOCs. Podcasts. Kickstarter. The Internet made all these forms of effort possible.
Right Mindfulness: Wikipedia. The Quantified Self. Meditation apps. A.I. and automation that take the tedium out of work and lets us focus on creative challenges.
Right Concentration: Hearkening back to Stewart Brand: “We are as gods and might as well get good at it.” That’s our call to action. This is our challenge, to make a better Internet:
How can we empower ourselves to create technologies that do more harm than good?
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could use all our new capabilities, our chatbot APIs and ridiculously cheap Raspberry Pis, our free-tier AWS cloud services, in better ways?
To better connect intention with affordance?
To become our higher, truer, happier selves, rather than waste time fighting with badly designed systems and malware?
To attain Nirvana, and relieve the suffering of all other Internet users?