Nod to hierarchy.

When I was quite young and the internet, let alone the www, didn’t yet exist, my father worked in a round about way for the US military. He was an engineer/inventor and he invented a few things that led to him having a nervous breakdown, quitting the army and going into inventions that saved lives instead. While with the army though he got to play with a massive room sized computer by IBM that was shared with several other government departments to calculate large and or important numbers. His numbers were for things like metal fatigue and optics, but others used it for fluid statistics on populations or the volume of an entire sewerage system. There were no such things as computer networks at that stage, even within one building, they were just big calculators yet to be replaced by hand-helds or even basic monitor interfaces.

At a young age I got to know second hand via dad that computers and more importantly that access to computers, was strictly controlled but that with the right answers you could find out how they worked if not what was actually being calculated. To this day over 35 years later, access on computers is still controlled but it has shifted to the software and the hosts controlling that software. In terms of functionality internet access is still hierarchical in nature if not more so, but it is largely forgotten that all computers in a single network is a structurally hierarchical environment. The foundations of the internet were commissioned by the US military. Of course it has hierarchy designed into it.

But, we mostly assume that the device we hold in our hands is the latest expression of our stand alone free citizen status until we encounter some hierarchical access issue on the UX that reveals both an underlying surveillance capacity and the fact that the data collected on us has been sold to a blue pill merchant, amongst others. Conversely, our devices are constantly marketed to us on the basis that they are certainly an expression of our stand alone freedom, and going deeper I could say that the global phenomenon of selfies is a direct result of over a decade of just that sort of advertising. We do not own our access to the internet. It owns us.

A brief explanation. Basically the hardware of the internet is a single space through which all the decentralized elements of the internet must pass to get to each other. This means every member of the global network is responsible for their own security and must act as a gatekeeper for themselves. This is an intersection between an analog environment and a digital environment, and that intersection is where everyone must encounter the hierarchy inherent in password access and the total lack of data sovereignty either before you get there, or after you enter a site and just as importantly, while your data is in transit through that single hardware realm. There is only one www because there is only one way to get to it and it’s a highway full of highwaymen.

The delusion that we do not really suffer hierarchy or even encounter it in any meaningful or deleterious way is so pervasive that even Zuckerburg argued for a while after the US election that he wasn’t really a publisher in control of his medium, and a lot of Facebook users don’t really care even after they’re bothered enough to think about it. With all due respect, I presume Zuckerburg has for so long worked in the digital realm he ignores that there is a physical realm that affects it and that it indeed does make him a publisher. And he is certainly not alone at all in assuming that the hierarchical nature of the internet will not change as well as not need to be taken into account.

No, the hardware will not change, but it is in essence a global hardware system and there’s nothing stopping an operating system being built for it just as an operating system turned your otherwise localised piece of hardware into a networked entity 20 something years ago. It just needs to be an operating system that works over the network as if the network is itself a single computer that everyone is using. An operating system to turn the Internet itself into a platform for citizenship by virtually decentralising the hardware. The change will be that that hierarchical intersection will be greased out of existence, because the internet will become as decentralized as the webs running on it. It’ll be a virtual hardware, in 3D just like other virtual worlds, with millions of www’s instead of just one. It will be virtual privacy in a public digital world.