Thoughts and Conclusions April-June 2018
“The Web as I envisaged it, we have not seen it yet. The future is still so much bigger than the past.”
— Tim Berners-Lee
For the last three months, we have posted a section to our Weekly Update that aims to contextualize Elastos within the larger scale of our shared history and future. This section is about a lot of things: art, science, music, literature, politics, technology, the ever-changing landscapes of our society, our shift to new power models, and of course, the internet and the movement to modernize it, re-decentralize it, fix its security problems, give power back to the people, free our planet from its current ills, and to do all of this together, as one global community. These pieces are about our Foundation, our Community, and about our world from our earliest recorded history to the coming century ahead. We are part of the everything — connected to everything — a node in the network that is life. We invite you to read about and to share some of our thoughts and conclusions so far.
On the fifty year anniversary of Martin Luther King’s assassination, it is an appropriate time to think back on the American hero’s steep uphill battle for civil rights. Revolutionaries are almost always met with resistance from the status quo, and when that status quo is afraid to change in the face of a new freedom, in the face of a new equality, the resistance is even steeper. MLK’s movement cannot be trivialized by comparing it to other movements, and decentralization is no exception, but the comparison is still apt. The internet was conceived of as a plane of equality. A universe where all could access the native limitlessness offered by interconnectedness, vast possibilities of information accessibility, and self reliance. Quite simply, a place of civil rights. With no middle man — who cannot come to the table? Who cannot participate in this new economy? Who cannot have their own digital ID and be admitted to a world where they are included, autonomous and free-willed? What few can see, because this original vision has never come to fruition, is that the internet is still so young, and the addition of blockchain and the security it offers can revolutionize a digital world still unknown to us. It is not too soon and we are not too naive to begin to imagine the future of the internet and believe it a reality. That time is now — and its leader is Rong Chen.
It is said that in 1900 Lord Kelvin claimed, “There is nothing new to be discovered in physics.” Five years later Einstein had his “extraordinary year.” This is true of all breakthroughs — most people, even experts in the field they happen in, do not see them coming. We are at a point where a breakthrough is coming. But it will not be seen by the short sighted, by the complacent, or by those content with thinking there is nothing new to be discovered. Imagine explaining the internet to someone in the early 1990’s knowing what we know today. Now imagine someone in the 1890’s. Elastos is hard to conceive of in either era. Quantum mechanics is as equally radical today as it was 100 years ago. It is going to take more than just the scientists and the futurists to lead us forward, for the implications of a new internet, or digital currencies, or a shared economy, or any leveling of the playing field through technology goes against history and yet towards the future.
There is a point where the humanities and science intersect and it is this point that is the most potent union for global change. The arts, literature, philosophy, and science and technology must join together to appeal to the hearts and to the minds of society and propel us forward toward a harmony that has become stuck on the boulders of centralization in an otherwise free-flowing river of human endeavor. But it will not be technology that saves us, that improves society on its own, as we have already seen with many tech companies. It will be people who are just and honest and kind and true and loving. People who stand out in the world of technology. People like Rong Chen.
Below is a quote by MLK worth thinking about. It is not technology that has failed us, but how we have used it.
Onward! Upward! Elastos!
“There is something wrong with our world, something fundamentally and basically wrong. I don’t think we have to look too far to see that… And when we stop to analyze the cause of our world’s ills, many things come to mind. We begin to wonder if it is due to the fact that we don’t know enough. But it can’t be that. Because in terms of accumulated knowledge we know more today than men have known in any period of human history… And then we wonder if it is due to the fact that our scientific genius lags behind… Well then, it can’t be that. For our scientific progress over the past years has been amazing… I think we have to look much deeper than that if we are to find the real cause of man’s problems and the real cause of the world’s ills today. If we are to really find it I think we will have to look in the hearts and souls of men. The trouble isn’t so much that we don’t know enough, but it’s as if we aren’t good enough. The trouble isn’t so much that our scientific genius lags behind, but our moral genius lags behind. The great problem facing modern man is that, that the means by which we live have outdistanced the spiritual ends for which we live… The problem is with man himself and man’s soul. We haven’t learned how to be just and honest and kind and true and loving. And that is the basis of our problem. The real problem is that through our scientific genius we’ve made of the world a neighborhood, but through our moral and spiritual genius we’ve failed to make of it a brotherhood.” — Martin Luther King
The French poet Arthur Rimbaud once wrote, “One must be absolutely modern.” On a week where the United States House and Senate held joint committee hearings to discuss data privacy for its citizens, an issue that faces potentially billions of people globally, Elastos’ revolutionary vision is truly emerging at the right time and is truly the definition of modern. Rong Chen has said there will be room for both centralized internet companies, “chain grocery stores,” and modern decentralized organizations like Elastos, “farmer’s markets.” One involves a middle man, takes a cut of the profits, and compiles data on its customers. The other allows for person to person interaction without a middle man, and allows assets to be distributed more evenly — like a fine organic butter.
The centralized internet platforms, or “fenced gardens” as Rong calls them, segregate the internet while in many cases concurrently “sharing” your data with third parties, because they, not you, own this data. This allows the profits to go to the centralized corporation, and allows “mistakes,” as one CEO put it before Congress this week, that result in mass data breaches. These fenced gardens allow you to produce the content and share it within those walls, but only the central authority can truly own and share the data outside of those walls. This does not sound much like a garden at all, but another fenced-in institution in our society.
But on a peer to peer platform with decentralized applications that allow the same file sharing and communication and “platform for ideas” that some social networks espouse as their current virtues, Elastos envisions all of the strengths of the modern landscape of the internet but without the self-centered corporate mentality. Elastos is an organization. A shepherd ushering in a new vision of the internet that does not put walls around gardens, but allows the creation of endless harvests of ideas without limits. It invites developers to create the next decentralized vision. It invites absolute modernity.
The conversation of data privacy is happening this week and is one of the very few issues with bipartisan support in the current political climate in America.
Senator Bernie Sanders, an Independent from Vermont, said about the hearing, “All of the convenience and the connection that we are now seeing comes with a price. Our privacy has been invaded in a manner that would have been unthinkable even 20 years ago. This nation needs a serious conversation about the proper role of these companies. Should Facebook, Google, and Amazon be allowed to control so much of the internet? Today’s hearing must be considered as a beginning, not an end, of the discussion about the dramatic impact that Facebook, technology companies in general and the internet at large play in our society.”
In light of this conversation, an image comes to mind, sprung forth from the halls of freedom and revolution. Imagine this: Rong Chen and his millions of lines of original code, cascading over the ether to the sound of Queen’s “I Want to Break Free.”
Because it’s time.
So if you ‘want to break free,’ because you’ve ‘fallen in love’ with Elastos — you’re not alone — you’re a part of something — something big.
There is a beautiful music in the air this week. Can you hear it? It is the dawning of a new web. A smart web. And it emanates from the musicality of the Elastos vision. It’s not just the code, but something altogether invisible. Jimi Hendrix said, “What’s good or bad doesn’t matter to me; what does matter is feeling and not feeling. If only people would…think in terms of feeling… You’ve got to know much more than just the technicalities of notes; you’ve got to know what goes between the notes.”
It’s true. There is a feeling about Elastos. Can you feel it? It’s what goes between the notes, between the lines, those millions of lines of original code, that pinnacle of the life’s work of a visionary, because that is the intangible… the ineffable… the mysterious and indescribable essence of the vision that births the results into our physical world, all over our planet, that will connect us all like we have never been connected before. No middle man, no central authority, no big brother taking a cut, owning your data, selling your data, and making you just an analytical commodity. “You own your data,” says Feng Han.
So take back your identity. Break free. Fall in love.
Free the web.
Onward! Upward! Elastos!
In a week where the the FBI, the US Department of Homeland Security, and the United Kingdom’s National Cyber Security Centre issued a joint alert warning for a hacking campaign directed at devices like routers, it’s a good time to be able to actually comprehend the merits of Elastos.
The Russian hacks are designed to look at data passing through routers and undermine the firewalls that protect the device from malicious traffic. The warning was directed at internet service providers, firms, government departments, and large companies.
Former NSA hacker Jake Williams said of this, “Everybody hacks routers. Saying that home routers with default passwords are getting owned is like saying that thieves are picking up unattended money in a public area.”
Yet of all of the national media outlets in both the US and UK that detailed the extent of these attacks, not one of them mentioned an operating system that could have prevented them. This is a potential crisis of personal and national security that is not going away on its own. While many projects in this space struggle to truly define how they will change the world, Elastos is ready to solve a problem at the highest levels of technological vulnerabilities. This has the potential for globally earth-shaking reverberations. Smart routers run by the Elastos OS could have an enormous impact — in fact, the word enormous is an enormous understatement.
Why should we settle for allowing thieves to pick up our unattended money in a public area? Our phones and computers and devices should not be laughably easy to gain access to. Yet this never even crosses the average person’s mind.
Rong Chen has said, “I think the internet as we know it today is broken. Broken from a cybersecurity point of view. For example, according to Kaspersky Labs, on peak days we can see about 1500 individual Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDos) attacks every day. Some of these attacks last a whole day. What worries me is that we are now moving to build really safety-critical applications on top of this “broken” infrastructure.”
This is not just about technology anymore. This is about society. This is about how we live our lives, so much of which are now lived online. It’s also about our phones and our computers, our routers, and soon, our cars, our things will live online too. We live online, yet we accept a different set of rules there like we are just visitors to some foreign world with its own laws, its own kings and thieves. Though Rong Chen may never say it himself, he is not average among the great minds he calls his peers, he is exceptional in a way that is bigger than any operating system, any mere technological product could ever be. That is his vessel, his lens, his portal to make the world better by creating the platform for people to build that world while simultaneously keeping our physical world safe. To protect our physical identities while giving us digital identities. Rong is a philosopher. A pioneer heading west, envisioning a digital society that is not a series of dictatorships masquerading as innovative egalitarian ecosystems, but as a chunk of breathtaking land, where a flag is staked that contains all flags and yet contains no flags at all. And from that fresh soil, a shout is heard across the plains for all to hear. It says, “Here it is, now come and build the rest.”
This is not to make profits, but to give profits back. This is not to cling to every last cent of revenue, dodging every legal obstacle in the way, but to cling to the vision of a country where you own what makes you valuable. You exchange. You, and the person you want to exchange with, exchange. It is quite simple. The entire Elastos vision may seem complicated, but this part is simple. You interact with the application directly while the application interacts with the internet indirectly. You get the immediacy to interact safely with the dapp, and the dapp gets the non immediacy with the internet to keep you safe. It is the same for your things — your router or your smart devices. The device interacts with the Elastos OS software and the software interacts with the internet. This magical buffer, between you and potential attacks, written in C, a nearly ubiquitous coding language, can be installed on almost any device or thing. Are you getting it? Remember that national security warning about the ease with which our walls are breached through the internet? This would stop that — and it was created to help you, to help the world, not some corporation, by a man who actually thinks differently.
The Elastos Runtime is an impenetrable fortress, perfectly hidden behind the current OS already on your phone. You don’t even need to switch what you already have. It runs as a virtual machine, which is just like any other app, except it protects your data and prevents dapps running via the runtime from ever touching the internet. It is the filter of malware, of viruses, of dos attacks, and when those malicious little bugs do come after you, the Elastos virtual machine acts as a sandbox, a place of no escape, that impenetrable fortress that contains the virus and eliminates its spread. Let’s put it another way by painting a picture. It’s like a giant roach motel, but instead of a cockroach, it’s someone trying to steal your data, your identity, your money. The roach enters the motel/VM through one door and into one room. But for the roach, there is no second door. Once it is determined that a roach has entered, the room is sealed, and the roach/virus is defenseless, rendered useless, dead. It can still “steal” your data, but it cannot leave, it cannot access the internet to send it anywhere. This c++ virtual machine is a checkpoint, a holding center, that only allows what is safe to pass through. Malicious content is contained, and then removed. Why would you want to allow roaches to breeze in and out of your devices? Viruses shouldn’t be like Nietzsche’s theory of eternal recurrence. Trap them with Elastos!
Picture an internet where you are free — where you are safe. Go ahead and picture it right now, because you can’t go online and see it, and if things stay as they are today, you won’t see it. But that is why Elastos is so important to the world right now. That is why Rong Chen has been working on this for 34 years, the last 18 of which have been on Elastos. He wasn’t just taking his time — he’s been building something groundbreaking, something we actually need. How many people can actually say that? Now, how many people need to actually hear about it?
So ask yourself — have I taught anyone about the wonders of Elastos this week?
Onward! Upward! Elastos!
“I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. He will put some things behind, will pass an invisible boundary; new, universal, and more liberal laws will begin to establish themselves around and within him; or the old laws be expanded, and interpreted in his favor in a more liberal sense, and he will live with the license of a higher order of beings. In proportion as he simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness weakness. If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”
Onward! Upward! Elastos!
In a week that saw a man-in-the-middle attack result in the theft of over a hundred thousand dollars of cryptocurrency by users of MyEtherWallet (MEW), Elastos continues to stand in plain sight while the fragility of the internet is exposed on a weekly basis.
The hackers rerouted DNS traffic by hijacking a protocol called BGP which is used to route internet traffic. These attacks are commonplace at this point — let’s examine why.
In the early 1980’s, the internet was merely a series of networks that needed the ability to route data from one network to another. After the development of the Gateway to Gateway Protocol and the Exterior Gateway Protocol, the internet was still in desperate need of expansion.
In January of 1989, two men at an engineering conference tried to come up with a short term solution to routing the growing data that was swelling an internet that was on the brink of exploding. They needed to keep data flowing while the internet exponentially grew.
Kirk Lougheed of Cisco and Yakov Rekhter of IBM sat down for lunch and started to sketch ideas for a new protocol on the back of a few napkins. The idea was to create a kludge, a sort of Frankenstein’s Monster assemblage of parts that would fix the problems of routing until a better solution came along. The idea was merely to get something in place to temporarily patch the problems they saw with the internet. As for the idea of security at the time of their lunch, Rekhter has said it “wasn’t even on the table.”
The lunch produced what became the Boarder Gateway Protocol (BGP), or the “three-napkin protocol,” still one of the most widely used routing protocols in the world today.
Hacking itself was still relatively rare at the time. Lougheed has said, “In the early days of the internet, getting stuff to work was the primary goal. There was no concept that people would use this to do malicious things…Security was not a big issue.”
“We needed to sell routers. And we had a strong economic motive to make sure this party would continue. When Yakov and I showed up with a solution and it seemed to work, people were quite willing to accept it because they didn’t have anything else.”
Their protocol was embraced by the world — and because technological change can be incredibly daunting once there is mass adoption — today, in 2018, this same protocol produced over a lunch while George H. W. Bush was president, still reigns globally — allowing hackers embarrassingly easy access to our data.
The main problem with the way data is routed internationally is that BGP and other internet systems were designed to automatically trust users. When these hijackings occur, data can be routed, or redirected all over the world with no system of verification in place. These vulnerabilities are quickly becoming one of the key global issues of the 21st Century. This is not an understatement.
Looking back, Rekhter said,
“Short-term solutions tend to stay with us for a very long time. And long-term solutions tend to never happen. That’s what I learned from this experience.”
He’s not wrong. The internet is broken and long term solutions tend to never happen. But should this just be the accepted status quo? A quick fix technology from 1989? Allowing the entire world’s data to be exposed while we simultaneously increase the amount of things connected to the internet?
While Rong Chen took 18 years and over 4 million lines of original code to create his vision of fixing the internet, the designers of the BGP took one lunch to design their fix on the back of a few ketchup stained napkins.
And they found mass adoption.
But it was not their fault. They never tried to come up with a long term solution, and sadly, they now believe that long-term solutions “never happen.” In this assessment, they are wrong. Wrong about Rong.
Rong Chen has designed a long term solution. In fact, he has affectionately called it the last OS. The man-in-the-middle attack that happened this week could have been prevented with Elastos. The unverified honor code of routing and trust that allows people to have their data routed anywhere a hacker wants, could be prevented with Elastos. The inherent flaws of an internet that grew too fast and was “fixed” with solutions too small can be transformed into a new SmartWeb.
It is time we start thinking long term.
This is not an idea written on the back of a napkin. Or an OS that puts security in the background. This is a big idea, and as Steve Jobs would say, people need to be seduced into using it. Slowly, gradually, and in a very human way, the more one learns about Elastos, the more they feel comfortable allowing themselves to fall in love with its vistas of open-ended potential. There are several features to this vision. OS in devices, OS Runtime on a phone, a peer to peer platform for dapps, an economic zone for ownership of digital assets, and a blockchain that ties it all together by issuing decentralized digital IDs for people and things alike. That’s a lot of vision. But like James Joyce’s Ulysses, once you do start to understand it, it’s like a domino effect, it all comes rushing at you in waves of brilliance. The curtain parts and the stage is set, there in the spotlight. You understand. This really is an eco-system. This really is security on the internet. This really is the dawn of data ownership. This really might be the last OS. Or to put it another way, this might be the first and last OS. This is not just another blockchain project, this is the internet, redecentralized, returned to its glorious conception, and finally safe.
Rong Chen is the OG of the OS.
He’s a classic. He’s always in style — and he’s about to have his day in the sun.
His vision is the definition of long term and long term is the definition of the answer we desperately need.
Some people think a project needs a clear and precise short term vision — Elastos has one — but while clear short term visions can be progressive, they produce short term solutions. A mere point of concentration is limiting. When we limit our vision to a point, a “What does it do?” question, we may produce an answer, but we obscure the totality of where the vision can go. A better question is, “In what direction can we start moving?”
We are about to start moving not toward the short term fix that will extend far beyond its life span and become a relic of antiquity that we accept out of laziness, out of lack of vision, but towards a long term fix that will extend itself into perpetual modernity.
If there is one thing that can be surmised from the past, it’s this: what is coming started long ago.
It started in 1984 — the year the founding fathers of the internet were at once stepping into their vision of what could be while Rong Chen was stepping off of a plane from China into America. It would seem that the winds of momentum, that carry us technologically in the direction of where we can go, were blowing that day.
Those winds were also blowing while he studied operating systems at the University of Illinois, and in 1992 when he started at Microsoft developing their operating systems of the 90s.
And they were blowing again in 2000 when he went back to China to begin work on what he saw to be the operating system of the future, the solution that would solve the inherent design deficiencies of the internet. Those gusts of momentum howled again, and again, and they are howling now.
Leonard Bernstein said, “I’ve been all over the world and I’ve never seen a statue of a critic.” In this evolving revolution, it will not be the critics on the sidelines or the short term visionaries that will be remembered, but those who actually dared to build something that should last. Who has been as daring as Rong Chen? Who has put their entire life’s work on the line? He has built a truly safe operating system for the world and a vast and modern ecosystem for the internet to go with it. He has not thought small, but so large that we currently need the experts among us to pull his vision down from the stratosphere so we can get a long enough glimpse to examine its dream-like textures. When we do, we end up like Kevin Zhang when he first comprehended this vision: our minds are blown. That which is ahead of its time, absolutely modern, is always incomprehensible to the masses, and even many “insiders.” That is not a weakness; that is how you know it is visionary. What visionary idea, technology, or artistic movement was ever pondered early on by the critics and the masses with the unified response, yeah, I totally get it, that makes total sense. If that were the case it would not be revolutionary. Big ideas and big visions need big comprehensive powers. They need bigger canvases than napkins. You believe in this project because you have those or you have enough to understand the feeling it evokes. You do not need to be a technical wizard like Kevin to feel this project. Intuition is built into us. Just become still enough to hear its call.
So many projects have empty words attached to them. Words most of the public do not even understand. But how many projects have human beings like Rong Chen attached to them? Not a hyped up pitchman, but someone who tirelessly worked his entire career to become the incarnation of the operating system of the future. A humble man who wants to release his life’s work into the world for the betterment and safety of the internet that we all use.
So how about this word: Security. Because we need it — we have a situation — a big one. Ice Cube said, “The worst thing you can do about a situation is nothing.” We need to do something, because all of our short term fixes are essentially nothing. We need to stop setting our sights low and achieving our mark and instead set our sights high up in the stratosphere where Rong set them 18 years ago. We need to fix the way we access the internet.
We need the OG of the OS.
We need Rong Chen.
Onward! Upward! Elastos!
“Blunt is simplicity. Meandering is complexity.” Ken Segall, Former Creative Director of Apple
This week Elastos announced the direction of its new logo and rebranding. It was revealed that the community engagement of creating logos, and the subsequent voting and discussion on this process, was a preliminary event to lead to a professional design firm creating an original logo from that inspiration. This unique combination of community engagement and professionalism, as Elastos begins its journey into the public eye, is worth thinking about in terms of another projects unique beginnings — early Apple.
Rong is Rong. There is no reason to compare him to someone else, but if one were to try, Bill Gates seems logical, if for no other reason than Rong worked alongside him for years. But when you really lift the rock of Rong’s vision, things under the surface are a lot more “far out” than Microsoft ever was. This is why the comparison to early Apple is so interesting.
In the 1970’s, Steve Jobs stood at the intersection of the counterculture movement of the 60’s and the coming technology of personal computers. It was this free spirited, Eastern philosophy laden, anti-establishment mindset that primed him for taking technology to a place of mass interconnectivity.
Rong Chen now stands at the intersection of a new kind of counterculture: decentralization, and a new kind of coming technology: blockchain. But he is not just creating something new. He is also fixing an internet that was never built correctly in the first place.
And yet, at first glance, Rong doesn’t seem anything like a San Fransisco hippie — he really doesn’t. But then he opens his mouth — and he begins talking about cyber republics, and about not thinking about profits, and about doing what’s best for the citizens of a country instead of central needs, and what he says about the internet is more in line with that same intersection than anyone may give him credit for. We start to see beyond his physical image and into the dream-like image he is elucidating for us so easily and yet so revolutionarily. Rong Chen has more in common with Thomas Jefferson than Mark Zuckerberg. He is talking about building a decentralized country online. This has never been done. His vision is very cyberdelic. When he talks about taking down walled gardens, and fenced institutions, and direct contact with the good stuff and no contact with the bad stuff…you kind of hear a little hippie vibe in him. One might even think a young Steve Jobs would dig it, you dig?
Say what you want about early Apple, but their vision was, well, visionary, far out. But even in their conception they used the word customer, not community member, because they were a company and buying their products was the extent of a users participation in the experience of their vision. Elastos, however, is not calling you a customer, but a community member. This is, ironically, what makes Rong Chen more of a hippie than Steve Jobs ever was. In fact, someone recently posted about an experience of asking Rong about his vision after a meetup, and when Rong responded by asking what hethought, what was his advice, not threatened because he is the only genius, but curious because someone else might have a good idea too, he enabled another mini-Rong in the process, leaving him a bit shocked and flattered. Asking another their opinion, and a non-employee no less, is not very Jobs-like at all. But it is Rong-like, and two Rong’s do make a right.
It would seem that there is something extraordinarily not egotistical and controlling happening with Elastos. Taking the important tenets of successful tech projects and then going even further in combining them with the important tenets of co-habiting the planet and working together for the betterment of all is not just the next evolution of the internet, but the next evolution of globalization. This is not about Rong Chen’s ego. This is about a better internet that we all build together.
Kevin Zhang said this week, “Elastos’ mission is to decentralize the internet. Our organization is decentralized too. It is very different than a traditional software company. In the future, the majority of work will be done not by company employees, but by community members. Elastos will eventually become a developer community, the world’s largest working space, no walls, no ceilings, no desks, with everyone working remotely and contributing to the community.”
Woah, sounds like Kevin Zhang is pretty cyberdelic himself.
But how do you express that vision? How do you tell that complex story in a simple way?
Steve Jobs knew nothing about marketing until he met Mike Markkula in 1976, a retired 33 year old from Intel who was an expert in it. Markkula would become an equal partner with Jobs and Wozniak and teach Jobs how to take Apple mainstream. When Markkula started, Apple was valued at $5,309. Within three years it was worth 1.79 billion.
Jobs said of him then, “Mike really took me under his wing. His values were much aligned with mine. He emphasized that you should never start a company with the goal of getting rich. Your goal should be making something you believe in and making a company that will last.”
That will last. Something you believe in, that will last. Elastos is marketing itself, and believes itself to be, the last OS. A universal and revolutionary system of security for the exploding industry of IoT, the global phenomenon of the smart phone, and by extension, a new smart web that will empower wealth generation and data ownership for the individual. No one wanted to give Steve Jobs the several hundred thousand dollars he needed to put the Apple II into production, even with offers of huge equity (they probably regretted that). Markkula gave him 250k because what he saw fit his definition of something you believe in that will last.
In 1977, Markkula wrote a one page document entitled, “The Apple Marketing Philosophy.” It listed three simple objectives: empathy, focus, and impute.
Empathy was to understand what their customers needed. To have an intimate connection with their feelings. Focus was to ignore what was unimportant to the vision so they could succeed at what was. Finally, impute was to deliver marketing that was clear, because even with a superior product, people do judge a book by its cover, and they form opinions based on what they perceive. Therefore, if they are presented with a creative and professional image they will impute those qualities onto the project. They will impute what you present them with onto what you have actually created.
Apple once had what was described as “an ornate Victorian woodcut-style logo.” When they first started to market the Apple II, Regis McKenna, a publicist Jobs hired after seeing his ad campaign for Intel, went to work on brochures that would include a new logo. An art director named Rob Janoff was put in charge of the design, and Jobs told him, “Don’t make it cute.”
Janoff produced two versions. One, a simple apple, the other, a simple apple with a bite out of it. The simple apple was said to look more like a cherry, so Jobs picked the second — and thus the Apple logo contest ended.
Apple was not interested in gimmicks. Their hype was part of what they were actually doing.
They did revolutionize the personal computer and we continue to use their products but it’s not because of a commercial from 1984. They knew how to tell the story of what they were doing in simple, elegant, and edgy ways. They chose revolutionaries as their icons, as their visionaries. They looked to people who had changed society, not to people who had changed technology; they would be the one’s to do that. They superseded their industry by appealing to what unites us as people, not what unites us as customers of technology. They went after the dystopias, and yet, we are again faced with another one right now, the current internet.
Let’s talk about Elastos.
Empathy. Elastos has it. People want to feel safe on the internet. They do not want to feel vulnerable. Rong has spent over half his life getting to the point where that is about to be possible. Given the option, most people would choose to create wealth from the data they already produce and are basically forced to allow corporations to profit from. They do not want to be second-class citizens renting the internet from centralized oligarchs — they want to own it for themselves. Elastos understands these feelings maybe even before most people realize they have them. It’s not about Elastos profiting. It’s about the community profiting.
Focus. Elastos has focused all of its efforts thus far on its groundbreaking technology (18 years of it) and they have succeeded. No one else has created what Rong Chen and his team have. His focus has been exactly where it needed to be and now our focus will be to deliver this vision to the public.
Impute. Elastos is now working on an image that will live up to its tech. We are not a company like Apple, but by presenting the vision of our foundation in clear, creative, and professional ways, we will help people impute those same qualities onto what Rong has given the world.
But no matter what marketing a company chooses, the best way to spread a vision is with evangelists. People truly passionate about something, that tell other people why, is always better than an advertisement. If you really care and love a product or a vision, and explain that to someone else, and they can see your honesty, your transparency, they will more likely buy it or use it than if they are told by a campaign or an ad or a slogan. But why not have both? Clear and simple marketing and a community of evangelists that actually believe in Elastos. That is where the community comes in again. We are working on a rebrand that will deliver our vision in a simple, creative, and professional way. As community members, as evangelists, talking about, writing about, making videos about, and building demos and applications, are ways in which you can market as well. First think about how many people started using Apple products because of an ad they saw, then think about how many people started using them because a friend told them how much they loved using theirs.
We have imagined a cyberdelic fusion of freedom and direct connectivity with advanced computing: a peer to peer platform, on a totally secure OS, with its own economy, all on your phone or device. We are building a new society, a country, a republic where flower power meets coding power, whose aim is not greed but wealth for anyone, and we should be proud.
We are inspired by a lot of visionary ideas, including early Apple, and we plan on delivering our own unique vision in the coming months with a new website, a new logo, and new marketing.
If anyone has thought differently, Rong Chen has. He’s been doing it since 1984, when he came to America, and when Apple launched their famous Super Bowl ad decrying the end of the totalitarian state and the dawning of the Macintosh. Now, let us let Elastos decry the end of the totalitarian internet, and the dawn of the Cyber Republic.
Let us not toast to an Orwellian future, but to just maybe, a Rongian one.
Onward! Upward! Elastos!
There is something…in the air, a current blowing in the winds that whip across the entire globe. A palpable electricity. A levy is about to burst, not a literal one, but a symbolic one that has stopped the river of progress and equality from flowing in far too many areas of our world. Power has always been held by the few, and in all of these areas, the equality of power is now at stake.
People are starting to move from centralized power models to decentralized ones. Moving from the few holding all of the power to the many sharing in it. When this dam bursts, or even begins to leak, there will be a mass shift where everyone involved will become more powerful while the most powerful among us will start to becomes less so. That leak has already begun and we are already seeing it happen in certain areas of society. It is the dawning of the new power.
This week Rong Chen stopped by the Elastos Telegram group and was greeted much like Mick Jagger at a Rolling Stones concert. While Rong answered many questions about Elastos, one particular statement seemed to, once again, stand out and exemplify his unique leadership style.
“The Elastos community doesn’t really have a boss. It will be autonomous driving.”
This statement may not seem revolutionary at first glance, but put into the proper context, one will see that Rong is the definition of the new power.
The contex can be found best in a remarkable new book entitled, “New Power: How Power Works in Our Hyperconnected World — and How to Make it Work for You,” by Jeremy Heimans and Henry Timms. The book, a national bestseller and suggested reading, focuses on the shifting movement from what the authors term “old power” to “new power.”
Here is how these two terms are defined.
“Old power works like a currency. It is held by few. Once gained, it is jealously guarded, and the powerful have a substantial store of it to spend. It is closed, inaccessible, and leader-driven. It downloads, and it captures.”
“New power operates differently, like a current. It is made by many. It is open, participatory, and peer-driven. It uploads, and it distributes. Like water or electricity, it’s most forceful when it surges. The goal with new power is not to hoard it but to channel it.”
Old power terms are: centralized, exclusive, confidential, institutionalized, traditional corporate style professionalism, non-participatory. New power terms are: decentralized, open sourced collaboration, radically transparent, do-it-yourself crowd culture, very participatory.
New power is not political. Both ends of the political spectrum are old power, and both ends are now employing new power tactics. New power merely enables movements to mobilize with technology and decentralize power.
New power is already becoming possibly the defining movement of the 21st century thus far. It is a movement that is technology-centric, but is certainly not limited to areas of technology. Instead, its effects span across most areas of human society.
Old power has always dominated society and examples can be found everywhere. But as our lives become more technology-driven, new power is being ushered in more and more because interconnectivity is the forerunner to decentralized power.
Old power is a top down power model. The top creates, controls, and hoards the power and whatever is left trickles down to everyone else. New power is a sideways power model. Participants or community members co-create their new world together and power moves laterally. The power is shared and our active participation is what generates more power. As we build, we all get stronger, not just the top. Many are starting to believe in what economist and social thinker Jeremy Rifkin has stated for years: that power moving from a hierarchical to a lateral model will be the major factor for creating a sustainable planet on and offline.
Let’s take a look at a recent example of an old power model shifting to a new power model, in a place one might not think to look at in this context: the MeToo movement.
Harvey Weinstein held such a significant amount of power in Hollywood, that in a 40 year span ending in 2016, he had been thanked at the Oscars 34 times, the same number of times as “God.” He was the definition of old power. Yet when his power began to become decentralized, and his accusers came forward, he had so much stored up, that countless women across the globe were energized and enabled to step into their own power in a way that left reverberations for both men and women everywhere.
One of the main reasons that the MeToo movement spread with such speed and intensity is because in a new power system, people are not relying on the old power ways, but purposely rebelling against them, in many cases because the old power is the source of the problem in the first place. In this case, powerful men, protected within their centralized power structure, were able to hold that power and abuse rampantly. They had the control, they got the profits, they could do what they wanted. But when power was shifted, women began speaking out peer-to-peer, not with a centralized leadership, but on consensus, thereby beginning to deflate that old centralized power. The effects were global, massive, and very fast. The fact that the movement was ownerless was what gave it the ability to flourish rapidly. Power was given back to the people of the movement and they became immensely more powerful than the people that kept them silent. This is one example of many movements exposing how centralized power comes all too often with an abuse of it. When movements seek to shift power back to average people, without a third party intermediary, there is a new freedom that circumvents the abuses old power so easily gets away with. Peer-to peer platforms, with decentralized power structures, and the ability for people who were previously powerless to now participate in the distribution of power, are going to continue all over the world and change society.
Now let’s look at a one of the platforms that helped that movement spread, a new power model with old power values: Facebook. The authors write, “Those who are building and stewarding vast platforms that run on new power have become our new elites. These leaders often use the language of the crowd — “sharing,” “open,” “connected” — but their actions tell a different story. Think of Facebook, like the new power platform that most of us know best. For all those likes and smiley faces we create using what the company calls our “power to share,” the two billion users of Facebook get no share of the vast economic value created by the platform. Nor any say in how it is governed. And not a peek into the algorithm that has proven to shape our moods, our self-esteem, and even some elections. Far from the organic free-roaming paradise the early internet pioneers imagined, there is a growing sense that we are living in a world of participation farms, where a small number of big platforms have fenced, and harvest for their own gain, the daily activity of billions.”
Yes, Facebook likes “sharing” your data, being “open” to making money off of you, and being “connected” to the control of all the power.
The Facebooks of the internet were a step in the right direction: an evolution to a new power system but with old power values. But now we need to evolve further to a new power system with new power values. We need someone who can walk the walk with the gait of a tiger. How about something where value is distributed, data is owned, governing is decentralized, the code is open-sourced, and the ecosystem is actually safe? That sounds like the next evolution of new power.
It is important to note, though, that not all old power models are bad and not all new ones are good. It’s not binary. In fact, some of the best models to emerge recently employ a combination of the two. The results are always determined by the people involved and their goal for how to use this power.
Elastos is one of these hybrids: centralized and decentralized in design, with the goal of an eventual decentralized self-driving sustainable ecosystem. Rong Chen’s world-class expertise in operating systems is very old power (which in this case is exactly what you want) but his vision for his creation is very new power.
Turning power over to the crowd will be a major trend and marker of success in the future. We are starting to see it with things like Kickstarter, Lyft, Airbnb, Wikipedia and most notably, blockchain. But to create an entire internet ecosystem that has fixed the enormous security flaws of the old internet, and combines that with the new power values of a new internet, Elastos is at the absolute cutting edge of this shift that has already started to happen.
Take NASA for example. After facing large budget cuts in 2010, NASA began a program of “open innovation.” The idea was to open up their workload to the public and actually crowd solve problems at NASA. The concept was met with distain from the old power thinkers who employed an “us and them” mentality. They believed only the exclusive white lab coat wearing PhD’s of NASA should be allowed to have this power, and they planned on hoarding it for themselves. Yet others at NASA liked the idea of enabling a new power model. NASA selected fourteen R&D challenges and opened them to the public. 3000 people in eighty countries participated and helped solve some problems better than NASA had previously done themselves. One solution included a heliophysics problem that was solved by a retired engineer from New Hampshire who was in fact not a heliophysicist. In 2017, NASA hosted a “Space Apps hackathon” that assembled 25,000 people from 69 countries to help solve some of their toughest challenges. It was a success. The key difference in mentality can be seen in two versions of the same idea. The old power thought, “the lab is my world.” The new power thought, “the world is my lab.”
Does any of this sounds familiar yet? If you watched the Developer’s Meetup on Tuesday night, this story is very similar to what Kevin Zhang said he plans to do with the Elastos. He stated that he does not see borders. That we are building the largest workspace in the world. Kevin believes in the crowd wisdom and will not only open up solving Elasots problems to the world, he will pay people in ELA for helping to solve them. We will also be hosting our own hackathons.
Kevin is not hoarding the power he has, he does not believe his team is the world, he believes the world is his team. To put it simply, new power models do things differently, and if it’s good enough for the rocket scientists at NASA, then it’s good enough for the rocket scientists at Elastos. In fact, we plan to do a lot of things differently.
We are not hoarding profits but will actually pay you to build this world with us. Our bounty program is the picture of bountiful design utilizing the new power. This is the opposite of the current/old model of intended income inequality.
People today, especially young people, want to participate and be a part of the world. They want to contribute and have the ability to be compensated accordingly, and the world is full of talented people with a computer who are looking for a way to express what they believe in. Our phones are now gateways to doors, but thus far these doors lead to single worlds of centralized power. But Elastos is a door to many worlds, where universes upon universes could exist one day. In these worlds power is given to people, on people to people exchanges. Think of Elastos as a button on your phone that opens up to a realm where you have a power that you never had before. When you really let yourself imagine this, something happens…a blissful moment drapes over you…an intuitive feeling that you know is right because its makes sense emotionally. It’s a place where you won’t get hacked. Where no one can watch you. Where you can participate in creating value for yourself and the betterment of the world. Elastos is not a utopia — its goal is not unreasonable and unrealistic — it’s simply giving power back — and that’s what makes it powerful.
Someday this new power model internet could be exponentially more powerful than the internet currently is. Think of those centralized titans as hoarding our power as their currency. Then think of the floodgates opening and it being distributed out among billions world wide like a current, an electricity that will shock the very system it overturns and in doing so shock the world. This tech, is physical, corporeal — but it is also symbolic, incorporeal, and formless. It represents unity. Instant connection. In physics terms, non-locality. Space and time can no longer separate us — and with Elastos — neither can cyber oligarchs. We are free — to talk, to share, to own, to be safe, to co-create together. We can finally own our internet. This is power.
People have forgotten, and many are not even aware, that there is an entire undiscovered landscape of potential on the internet. We have settled for a broken, vulnerable, corporate owned monopoly internet. As if we can only eat at a few chain restaurants at some strip mall, and while we are eating we are being watched by the owners and we may even get robbed. Somehow, this type of internet is what we are addicted to and in awe of. That has to change. We have to build a new internet and extend an invitation to the globe to build it with us.
Economic advisors to President Obama, Peter Osrzag and Jason Furman, have made the argument that the monopoly income made by the internet giants has contributed to income inequality maybe more than any other factor. We are being taken advantage of by an old power system and it is hurting society. As Obama said about this issue, “a capitalism shaped by the few and unaccountable to the many is a threat to us all.’
If the Macintosh was a “bicycle for the mind,” then Elastos will be wings for the internet. So let us fly freely, safely, and dazzlingly through the skies above the old power and off into a new world. Let us fly high above the Amazons, and the Googles, and the Facebooks, and high above the hackers and the viruses and the DDoS attacks, and let us look down at the grander picture of what we have accepted as our internet from that view on high, and see just how in need it is of a great overhaul, of a great healing, of a great and new vision of power — because from up there, we can see ourselves like ants marching in lock-step towards our homes at one of the monstrous centralized internet giants on our little hackable highway we call the internet. We have so little of the power in this image, and most of us don’t even know it, like we are merely sleepwalking though our lives online. Here, take my money, take my data, take my privacy, because I need you and your addictive algorithms that give me just enough satisfaction to stay addicted…But from up high, with our new wings, we can see something starting to appear on the horizon with a clarity and a brightness so intense that we know it is the heralding of something better. It’s a place where we are safe and free and power is decentralized. A place where Rong Chen is just like one of us — if not slightly cooler in a Mick Jagger kind of way.
While Bill Gates is talking about how he would like to short Bitcoin, Rong Chen has merged mining with it. This is a clear display of the old verses the new. Not to mention that Bill did not believe in Rong’s idea enough to pursue it when he shared it with him in the 90’s, and now Microsoft has dismantled its Windows 10 team while Rong is launching the last OS. This is not to disrespect Microsoft or many who represent the old power, but it shows the dichotomy of the then and the now.
Bitcoin is certainly part of the new power, and several other projects in this space. But no other project is fundamentally fixing how we use the internet the way Elastos is. No one else has developed an OS like this. In fact, Rong Chen was riding the winds of the new power all the way back in 2000. Elastos actually precedes Bitcoin and blockchain. While blockchain is a singular manifestation of the new power, Elastos is part of a much bigger context than any mere cryptocurrency. It is a project to make the internet smart, and without it, anything built on top of the internet will only be building on a broken stretch of dark road. While the internet is full of companies who will gladly sell you a matchstick — Elastos is ready to give you a lightbulb.
Bob Dylan famously sang, “I shall know my song well before I start singing.”
So ask yourself this: who has prepared for this change of power on the internet as much as Rong Chen? Who has known their song so well before they started singing it? Because singing…we shall do. This is not just a weekly report, this is a song, and we are singing. Singing the gospel, not of a man, but of a vision of a new internet that we all share, that we all build together.
Now can I get an Amen?!
Rong Chen is the new power. Kevin Zhang is the new power. Fay Li is the new power. They are not our bosses, they are not self-important, they are not going to control us and take all of the profits for themselves. But they just might be prophets of what is to come on this new internet where we have leaders but they do not lead us. We lead ourselves. We will take the internet from the clutches of the greedy and the possessive and the unwilling to share — and we will share it.
Because we are the new power.
We’re not making a device, or a centralized platform, we’re making a world. A world of liberty and opportunity that is safe and can encompass other projects within our spheric embrace. Other blockchains can actually join our ecosystem, not compete with it, thus growing this new internet into a colossus of new power.
We are all building it — and they will all come.
Onward! Upward! Elastos!
Sitting in the crowd of the New York meetup last Saturday, mere blocks from Lincoln Center, home to The New York City Ballet, The New York Philharmonic, The Metropolitan Opera, and The New York Film Society, one could easily feel a certain vibe begin to radiate the room while listening to Rong Chen and Feng Han speak about their passionate vision —
Elastos…is a work of art.
Art starts with a dream. A dream to reveal a hidden truth. A symbol that is closer to this truth. Art is that symbol. It represents something about ourselves that we know to be true and because we think it is beyond ourselves we need the artist to express it. It says, “Show me myself.”
Not unlike a master artist, Rong Chen has worked on his masterpiece for 18 years, and his journey to get there started long before that. What Rong has envisioned is this: Elastos is collective work of art. A collective dream. An inherently unifying experience. Elastos, is a mirror.
We are about to enter a collective dream.
We are the cyber dreamers, waking the world out of the illusion of interconnectedness we are told we already have. Will you dare with us to dream a better dream?
Rong spoke to the crowd,
“The internet of information is the internet of data. The new internet, the value internet is the internet of code. If we share data between each other, can we really pass assets, can we really pass value to each other, other than a number? Bitcoin has numbers, there is a ledger we can trust with no central agency, yet I can send one Bitcoin to someone. That’s just sharing a number through a ledger. If you want to share anything other than a number, a digital asset, say an ebook, movies, games, any other digital asset, we share between peer-to-peer. If we share a blob, a bunch of zero’s and one’s, can we really share assets?”
“We have no control of our data. Let’s say I make a short video and I share it with you. If I don’t control the code, which interprets the data I share with you, then I don’t really share anything. Without controlling the data, I don’t control anything at all. By sharing data on social networks, we are not really sharing assets. We are sharing information that can be copied and there is no value to that. If we can copy data infinitely, there is no value, there is piracy everywhere, and people cannot make profit from the data. Then, only the cartels, the big ones like Alibaba, Google, Facebook, they make money off of the data, not us, because they own the channel, they own the player. So the real issue is, who owns the media player, owns the data. So to achieve the goal of building a value internet and to share digital assets peer to peer, we have to be able to share code peer to peer. That’s a very big leap forward…Sharing code is easy, it’s just that we can’t because all current operating systems are vulnerable to viruses. So if we are going to share code, we need a way to quarantine viruses, and currently the technology is there, it is very mature now.”
Then it was Feng’s turn to speak.
For all of the profundities that Rong spoke of, Feng Han parted the seas of the universe itself and put them back together. But in that brief opening, what you saw, if you paid close attention, was enlightening.
Feng began to discuss the concept of quantum wealth. He explained that he originally studied quantum physics when he got his bachelor’s degree but could not really believe what he was learning and went on to start a business after college. Years later, after finally understanding it, he got his PhD. from Tshinghua University.
He found the quantum world to be literally unbelievable.
But what was it that he could not believe?
There are unseen realities. Entire worlds that operate in radical and baffling ways to our normal everyday experience. These worlds are shocking, revolutionary, and for some, life changing upon learning about their existence. Stranger still, we have known about them for well over 100 years. These sub-atomic realities paint a very different picture of our everyday life. How matter behaves at the smallest levels is quite unreal, even illusory. When one tries to reconcile these discoveries with the world at large and with its predecessor, classical or Newtonian physics, they are left with more philosophy than science sometimes.
The macro world is a world of lack and extreme competition. The quantum world is a world of abundance and wild collaboration.
It seems that what happens in the invisible realm may be of even more value to us than what happens in the visible one. If only we could understand it.
Physicist Niels Bohr famously said, “Those who are not shocked when they first come across quantum theory cannot possibly have understood it.”
So what does this radical and hidden world have to do with Elastos?
Think of the current internet like the world of classical physics, where people only direct their attention to the big picture, the visible. On this internet it would appear that capitalism exists in many forms. We can buy and sell physical things, we can make money in what appear to be free markets, and we seem to have freedom and self-determination. It appears that the internet is much like the real world, and maybe, that’s Feng’s point.
But what if the wealth online, the native currency, the natural resource of the internet, is not money? What if it is something invisible? Something most people are not even aware exists? Something that behaves mysteriously to the average person? Then, without this knowledge, would we really be participating in a free market at all?
In quantum wealth, like quantum physics, it is all about the invisible world. Until you can see the quantum, the micro, you really are only seeing illusions. Because under the surface, things are very, very different. Quantum wealth is another world…beyond the illusion that the internet giants have draped over our eyes like a veil. And in this other world…it’s not about money, it’s all about something else —
This is the true wealth on the internet.
Whoever owns it, whoever controls it, controls the wealth.
Think of data as the sub-atomic particle of this online world. We don’t see it. It’s invisible. It’s mysterious and unknown to most of us. But if one can control the subatomic world then they could in theory control the macro world, the world we see. The internet giants control this hidden world and therefore control the larger world we all see. We know they are controlling all of the wealth, but we don’t see how they are doing it. They are doing it with an illusion.
What is beyond this illusion?
We have to understand that we don’t really exist online. The internet is not a physical place. We exist there as our data. Our data represents us. It is who we are and the value we create for ourselves. Yet, because we do not even know this, because we have not been taught that our data is ours, we have given it away so easily and wondered why the tech giants are so rich while so much of the online world is so poor. We exist as data and someone else owns it. This system that the tech giants have hid from us, this system they have profited so massively from, the current internet itself, is not really capitalist at all.
All this time, the internet has not really been capitalist when it comes to the free market of its inherent and unique currency. A very small number of companies control all of the data online. If the average person cannot own their own data, cannot own the code, and their only job is to produce the data and push it around to other people for the big companies to own and profit from, then the internet is something far worse than monopoly capitalism.
We do not have real identities and real ownership of our wealth online but are more like amorphous, miasma-like creatures ripe for disenfranchisement as the data of our online selves is funneled into the data of others bank accounts. Put simply, we don’t own ourselves on the internet. We thought we were profiles and pictures and videos but we’re really code. We don’t own the code — therefore, we do not own ourselves. Regular people are not even in the game. We produce the natural resource, we do all of the work, and we get nothing. Instead, we get distracted by the macro. By the illusion of the internet and the satisfaction these giants promise. It’s all a giant form of smoke and mirrors. You look at the visible and stay addicted, while they take all of the invisible oil you are producing out from under you and profit off of it without you even knowing. And this is all while spinning a narrative that never even mentions how valuable your data is.
We essentially pay for the services of Facebook or Google by agreeing to give over our data. These companies know what we search for, what we share, what we buy, and use this information to make money. They also use this data to buy out the competition which they can see coming from a long way off because of data, stifling competition and cementing their monopolies. They say their services help the world. But how can we know if this tradeoff is equal when no other option exists?
Data is the oil of the 21st century. But unlike oil, we don’t need to look for this natural resource. It is a commodity and a good that we produce and we should be able to own it and profit from it and make it scarce. We deserve a real capitalist system online that involves the internet’s native currency. We need to own ourselves online.
Elastos will be the first truly capitalist society on the internet, ever.
In fact, Rong Chen has said about Elastos,
“Everyone is an entrepreneur here.”
Yes. We are all now entrepreneurs because we are all going to be playing with the same currency. So away with the idea that someone else owns “you” on the internet, and they sell “you” on the internet, and they make money off of “you” on the internet.
We say: Own yourself! Own the internet! Join the internet of actual capitalism!
Elastos is not about sharing equally in the internet economy, but about being able to share at all. We are not redistributing the wealth, we are allowing the wealth to actually be distributed and accessible to the people creating it in the first place.
We all understand how to give value to our car, to our house, to our bank account. But now we need to understand how to give value to our thoughts, our ideas, our data. Feng Han says, “Our knowledge can become our asset.” This is innovation capitalism. This is when we learn to be like Einstein, and Heisenberg, and Schrodinger, and find out that the invisible world is where the value is; our minds are where the value is. Rong Chen has built a work of art to allow us to incubate what makes us so valuable in the first place — our uniqueness, our individuality, our freedom, our thoughts, our ideas and our representative for all of this on the internet — our code. The internet has been totalitarian this whole time, and most of us never even realized it. So let us start a new one — let us take the power back and be self-reliant.
Rong Chen said on Saturday,
“The internet of code will be a much bigger tidal wave than 1995.”
A tidal wave. A much bigger one. That is possible now. Up until now data has either been worthless because it can be copied or it has not been able to be owned at all. This is going to change. In 1995, the internet ushered in a new capitalism that connected people to each other all over the world 24 hours a day. Now, with digital ownership and the ability to profit from it, a new age of data will reinvent capitalism online.
1995 was not that long ago, and yet Bill Gates said in an interview that year, “It’s very hip to be on the internet right now.” Wow. People were not aware what was about to happen, and most are unaware again. People are going to profit from their own data. If it is an option, many are going to take it. This is part of the tidal wave Rong speaks of.
The internet is symbolic of the unified field, a place without separation. Non-locality is a principle that shows that particles even billions of lightyears apart can be instantaneously influenced by each other, defying all rules of time and space and painting a portrait of the universe as a smart ecosystem of oneness. We are getting closer and closer to that universe online, and it is becoming seamless with the physical world. For the internet is not just symbolic of the universe, but a part of it too.
Everyone in technology is so obsessed with creating the new, that we forget that what we are creating can symbolize something very old. Something…ancient even. A sort of nostalgia. A memory, or a feeling, or even just a faint impression of a world where we are actually connected. A safe world. A place where we don’t worry as much about being taken advantage of. Of our freedom being taken away. Where we are actually ourselves and yet in harmony with others.
The blockchain, this trust machine, this ledger, is as old as humans. The primordial account of who did what, of who is who. We may be building the new internet, but we are really building the first world, or the first idea of a world. A safe place where we are all connected and power is shared. It’s not about the unknown, but about what is known so well that it has been forgotten. We have become so used to the chaos and the attacks and the monopolies and the lack of trust that we have forgotten that no one in their right mind would dream up such an internet. But what if in the right state of mind, a better internet was dreamed up? This is what we are building. It is not like any other project. It is not trying to evolve out of the current internet, for why would one want to evolve out of what is broken? This is starting over. Going back to the beginning. What is the internet? How do we access the internet? How do we make sure the internet is safe? How do we make sure we know who is who and what is what that is connected to the internet? How do we take the internet’s inherent natural resource, its unique value, and allow the people who produce it to own it and decide what to do with it? How do we build an internet that makes sense?
That’s what happened all those years ago. Someone started asking and answering those questions. Now, you come in. Because this world is for you. It’s for you to have a haven that makes sense in the senseless world of the internet.
Coming out of the Manhattan rain on Saturday afternoon, one might have imagined Rong Chen as a character in a Bob Dylan song, “I came in from the wilderness, a creature void of form, come in she said I’ll give ya, shelter from the storm.” We are all that creature void of form, this data, out in the wilderness, this internet, and we are being invited into a world that is a true shelter from it.
Art reveals what is hidden, just like quantum physics, and just like Elastos. So let’s reveal to the world what is hidden on the internet. Let’s be artists, and scientists, and human beings that can reimagine something that has become far too unimaginative.
Dylan goes on to sing, “Try imagining a place that’s always safe and warm.” So go ahead, imagine it. Then help us build it.
Onward! Upward! Elastos!
Today marks a day that may be remembered as a historic turning point in internet history. On May 25th, 2018, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) goes into effect in 28 nations in the European Union.
The GDPR is a law that aims to protect the more than 500 million citizens of the EU online when it comes to their data privacy. It allows citizens to request easy to understand documents about what information companies hold about them and allows citizens to request the information be restricted or deleted. Internet giants, retailers, banks, even grocery stores must comply with this transparency-centric law, the most dramatic data privacy law anywhere in the world.
Citizens can now also download their data and take it with them to a competitor. You could leave one bank for another, or leave one streaming service for a rival, bringing your data along. You may have received one or more emails recently from a company ensuring you that they will protect your data and want you to continue trusting them with it. These emails are in compliance with the new law, and companies have every reason to comply, as the maximum fine for non-compliance is up to 4% of annual revenue. For a company like Google or Facebook, the fine could be in the billions.
The GDPR is a complicated issue, and it will take years to sort out if it’s a positive or less than positive law for individual privacy and protection. It will come down to a combination of how the law is enforced, and how individuals use these protections to their advantage. Many people may simply agree to continue allowing their data to be beyond their control because they feel it is overwhelming, or an inconvenience to try to sort it out. These are legitimate reasons as much of society feels inundated online when agreeing or not agreeing to terms that allow them to access the sites and apps that are now part of their daily lives. It is a sort of panopticon bargain that is made so easily because no other easy to use option exists — or, did not exist.
One of the main concerns with the intersection of blockchain data storage and these new privacy laws is that blockchain is immutable. If personal data is stored on a permanent ledger, then a person could not have the information deleted. Is this true for all blockchains? Is it true for Elastos?
Before that is answered, it must be said that the real issue, far beyond the what ifs of data and blockchain and government regulations and citizens taking their online rights back, is that most people, including most politicians, do not understand technology. What your data is, how it is stored, how it is shared, what blockchain is, if it is a positive or a negative to this problem, all of these questions are barely understood and even fewer able to be answered by the masses including our democratically elected representatives. What the world needs now, especially The United States, is education on technology.
That’s what Elastos intends to do, not try to merely benefit themselves, but educate society on the important technologies they know so little about.
Let’s look at data storage on Elastos.
On Elastos, a user will receive a decentralized ID issued by the main chain. Data itself will not be stored on the Elastos main chain, but instead, on an inter planetary file system (IPFS) that will be spread across thousands of severs, all encrypted. When someone wants to access this data, the Elastos Carrier, without knowing where the data is stored, will retrieve it. This is decentralization at work.
Elastos will not store your personal data. We are merely a platform to write decentralized applications on top of. Each dapp itself will be responsible for being in compliance with whatever data laws apply to them. However, dapps on Elastos will also store data in a decentralized manner. Even if personal data is stored somewhere, the dapps themselves will not control the storage hardware. In addition to all of this, Elastos will let users save their personal data onto their own private cloud storage drive in their home. This is real data privacy. This is real data control. This needs to be taught to the public and the government.
Fay Li and Feng Han traveled to Washington DC this week to meet with a politician, Ro Khanna, about this very issue: education.
So who is he?
Ro Khanna began his Washington Post Op-Ed from last October, “Walt Whitman wrote in his poem, “Passage to India,” that the Suez Canal would enable “the earth to be spann’d, connected by net-work, the people to become brothers and sisters. . . . the lands to be welded together.” Today, this passage captures the spirit of Silicon Valley: a conviction that technology will help spread knowledge, improve connectivity and create jobs.”
Ro Khanna is a first term Democratic Representative from California’s 17th Congressional District. That makes him the representative of Silicon Valley. Ro has a vision for a more egalitarian economy, not just in Silicon Valley itself, but across America. He believes for this to happen, technology jobs have to spread. “Tech companies must offer an aspirational vision of how all Americans, regardless of geography, can benefit from a tech-driven economy.”
Mr. Khanna has a unique vision for a United States Congressman. At 41 years old, he is young among his peers and this clearly is a strength when it comes to understanding how the internet and the founding principles of American society can intersect in a way that they currently do not.
While speaking on CNBC in the wake of the Mark Zuckerberg testimony before Congress, he had this to say:
“In Europe we have a regulatory framework called the General Data Protection Regulation. We need a similar internet Bill of Rights here in the United States. That would give consumers access to data like they have access to their health care data or credit data.”
“There are common sense regulations that we can adopt that would protect people’s freedoms. The right to know where your data is going, or where your data is, the right to be able to correct it, the right to be able to move it, and those are simple things.”
“What the Congress needs to do is set out the general principles that give people the rights in the cyber world that they have in their ordinary lives.”
…Sounds like something you could have heard in a past issue of this section.
But the parallels continue. Last year Ro co-founded a caucus called the NO PAC Caucus for members of Congress who do not take money from Political Action Committees, and instead, only individual contributions. This ideological step towards removing the centralization of corporate money in our political system is philosophically aligned with Elastos vision of a new internet.
Fay Li and Rong Chen met with Ro Khanna in March to discuss educating Congress on blockchain technology, and now, Fay and Feng have met with him again.
This time, Ro Khanna, who has been asked by House leaders to draft an “Internet Bill of Rights,” asked Fay Li to draft a proposal for what is tentatively being called, “The United States National Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Council.”
The idea for the council is to form a group of educational experts and influencers to help educate the public and The United States Congress so that laws and measures can be taken for the success of this technology and the success of the nation. The council aims to include academics from top universities, economists, blockchain research laboratories, tech companies, exchanges, and other experts in the industry.
The council also intends to hold international conferences and help facilitate cross-border communications between the US and other governments, starting with politicians in the EU and China.
All of these ideas are the beginnings of a wave of national education on blockchain and cryptocurrency that will be fundamental for mass adoption.While there is no guarantee that the US Congress will cooperate, these plans, between Fay and Rep. Khanna, and the eventual members of this council are democracy at work. Citizens with an expertise of national interest forming a council to better society with the help of their democratically elected representative is what makes democracies great. It is also symbolic of what many blockchain projects, including Elastos, are trying to achieve: interconnectivity and cooperation that improves lives.
There is a moment right now, as the public and the government are in desperate need of understanding what many of us reading this piece already do. The tidal wave Rong speaks of. The incoming shift to an ancient idea given a modern expression. Ro has said of technology in general,
“Technology offers us hope for a new prosperity and understanding for this century. But it will take enlightened leadership. More than stock prices or product launches, Silicon Valley’s legacy will be defined by whether tech leaders step up to contribute to the larger American experiment.”
This movement will take leadership — in America and abroad.
Elastos intends to lead.
Ro Khanna does too. “Tech firms should continue expanding its recruitment strategies, looking to state schools and historically black colleges and universities beyond the Ivies, Stanford and the University of California at Berkeley. The industry has a long way to go in creating workplaces free of misogyny and sexism and to embrace gender equity. The industry also needs to ensure that its contract workers, whether janitors or cafeteria workers, make a decent wage and have some prospect for upward mobility.”
Here is a statistic to illustrate Ro’s last point. It was recently revealed that Jeff Bezos of Amazon makes more than the yearly median income of his employees every 10 seconds.
If Americans want upward mobility, they need to start learning about technology, not necessarily working for the big tech companies, but understanding how they can use it be a part of a globally changing economy.
It is imperative for technology insiders to contextualize this movement with the larger course of human history and equally imperative for those who know nothing of technology to learn and do the same. This movement intersects with the arts, with finances, with individual freedom, with infrastructure, with health care, with supply chain management, with globalization, centralization and decentralization, and with the governments who try to craft laws to shape our future. This is a massive international space — and one cannot take a myopic view that merely involves daily fluctuations and speculative predictions. Someone, if not many, need to think about the big picture. The big, big picture. To do that, they need to be educated.
Without education, there can be no real progress.
Take for example a congressional race in California that has brought this space into the public conversation. Brian Forde, was a senior advisor in the Office of Science and Technology Policy when Barack Obama was president. After his work in the White House he went on to MIT’s Digital Currency Initiative and has been a public advocate for blockchain and cryptocurrency.
Forde is now running for a House seat against incumbent Mimi Walters in California’s 45th Congressional District. Here is where it gets interesting.
Forde is accepting Bitcoin as campaign donations, a perfectly legal act as deemed by the Federal Election Commission in 2014. However, a fellow Democrat running for the same seat, Dave Min, has run an attack ad directed at his pro-Bitcoin stance.
The ad features Forde’s face superimposed over an image of a hacker typing on screens of code. A voice over describes, “Brian Forde’s big donors” as “Bitcoin speculators that oppose cracking down on drug deals and human trafficking.”
Forde said of these ads, “These comments about my supporters are sensationalist, wildly inaccurate, and in line with my opponent’s lack of understanding of the technology,”
“While his ad disparages a technology he clearly doesn’t understand, the United Nations uses it to address human trafficking,” Forde was referring to a United Nations project in Moldova that uses blockchain-based IDs to help stop sex-trafficking. “We need more rational scientists and technologists in congress armed with evidence-based policymaking, not politicians making irrational decisions based on their emotions.”
This is a direct example of spreading misinformation about blockchain by a potential congressman trying to win a seat. But what is refreshing about this story is that on the other side is a potential congressman who does understand the technology and believes that the rest of congress should too.
Brian Forde is only 38. After working in the Peace Corps in Nicaragua, he saw the high price of phone calls and started one of the largest phone companies in the country, creating a low-cost phone service for 250,000 people. In the White House, he started a tech initiative in 72 communities to train and hire Americans for high-paying tech jobs. We need politicians who understand technology.
Europe has data privacy laws. The United Kingdom has launched a Crypto Asset Task Force. America needs an Internet Bill of Rights — and it needs a Blockchain Council. The United States needs to begin to lead on these issues before it falls behind.
We need a technologically educated society educated about technology. That includes our schools, it includes our public, and it includes our democratically elected government.
One of the issues that all projects face right now is in explaining what they offer to a layman. If we begin to teach our society about what is happening in this space we will be able to lay the foundation for understanding what each project can or cannot offer.
Elastos itself is not merely a blockchain project. As Rong says, the blockchain can only do so much. It is the idea of a decentralized and actually safe internet that could have an even bigger impact than blockchain alone. It is a massive idea, and we intend to share it and the vision of the entire blockchain industry, by helping to form a council of the best and the brightest in the space.
We must not assume to know everything, but constantly learn, and constantly teach each other.
If our governments will not lead, then we must lead for ourselves.
Let’s share the knowledge that pays the best interest. Let’s share this knowledge with other Americans and let’s share it with the world. There is a moment here, before the knowledge spreads. In filmmaking, the hour before the sun sets, and the hour after it rises, is called magic hour. Some films spend an entire day preparing for a single shot of that perfect blend of colors in the sky. Almost…alive.
The sun is now setting on one era of technology while rising on another.
But let’s not bask in this magic hour.
Let’s have the audacity to share our knowledge with the world.
Onward! Upward! Elastos!
This week Elastos announced partnerships with BIT.GAME, HashWorld, and Weatherblock, three very different projects, all with ambitious goals. While BIT.GAME and HashWorld may appear more comprehensible and even more logical on the surface, a deeper look at Weatherblock and the future of shared economic models reveals an equally interesting landscape and yet most people are completely unaware of its existence.
To do this, a little background is needed.
Jeremy Rifkin is an economic and social theorist. He taught at The Wharton School Of Business for 15 years. He is now known mainly as the author of “The Third Industrial Revolution, How Lateral Power Is Transforming Energy, The Economy, And The World.”
Rifkin proposes that the GDP has slowed internationally and will continue to for decades. To combat this, society must change its energy sources, its communications, and its transportation systems to a sustainable model if we are to succeed as a species in the coming century. The Internet of Things and renewable energy are at the heart of his proposal. His platform for the future was officially endorsed by the European Union in 2007 in a vision called Smart Europe, now a $744 billion dollar initiative. That same initiative in now in China. To quote Rifkin,
“When President Xi and Premier Li came into office, Premier Li published his official biography, which mentioned that he had read my book The Third Industrial Revolution and had instructed the central government to pay close attention to the narrative and proposals outlined in the book. President Xi and Premier Li realized that their country had been locked out of the first Industrial Revolution and much of the second, and they didn’t want to lose out on the third. Shortly after the first of several formal visits I had with Chinese leaders, the chairman of the national electric power grid announced an [US]$82 billion commitment to digitize the state electric power grid in the current Five-Year Plan. Millions of Chinese people can produce their own solar and wind power, and use it locally or sell it back to the grid. With the Belt and Road project, they’re moving the same technologies to other countries. China calls this digital transformation the Internet Plus revolution, which is similar to the Smart Europe initiative.”
Just this week President Xi Jinping said in a speech,
“A new generation of technology represented by artificial intelligence, quantum information, mobile communications, internet of things and blockchain is accelerating breakthrough applications.”
He went on to say,
“A new round of scientific and industrial revolution is reconstructing the global innovation map and reshaping the global economic structure.”
Mr. Rifkin’s vision is far too large and meticulously researched to cover here. But the basics will illustrate how Elastos fits in with nothing less than the future of our society’s success.
Here is Rifkin’s definition of a technology platform.
“At a certain moment in time, three technologies emerge and converge to create in what we call in engineering a general-purpose technology platform. That’s a fancy way of saying ‘a new infrastructure’ that fundamentally changes the way we manage power and move economic life. What are those three technologies? First, new communication technologies to allow us to more efficiently manage our economic activity. Second, new sources of energy, to allow us to more efficiently power our economic activity. And third, new modes of mobility, transportation logistics, to allow us to more efficiently move the economic activity. So when communication revolutions join with new energy regimes it does change the way we manage power and move economic life.”
The first industrial revolution began in the 19th century. It started in England as a communications revolution combining the new technologies of steam powered printing and the telegraph, with the new energy of coal. This led to the steam engine, and then, to the railroads.
The second industrial revolution began in the 20th century. It started in The United States when centralized electricity and the new technologies of the telephone, the radio, and then the television, combined with the new energy of oil.
According to Rifkin, the one important factor that economists have not historically included in economic models is called ‘aggregate efficiency.’“Aggregate efficiency is the ratio of potential work to the actual useful work that gets embedded into a product or service. The higher the aggregate efficiency of a good or service, the less waste is produced in every single conversion in its journey across the value chain.” He makes it clearer with this example. If a lion hunting an antelope chases the antelope down and then kills it and eats it for energy, about 10–20% of the antelope’s energy then becomes ‘embedded’ into the lion. The rest of the energy is lost in the conversion. This percentage that the lion gets is the ‘aggregate efficiency.’
In 1905, when the 2nd industrial revolution began in The United States, there was a 3% aggregate efficiency. By the 1990’s, The United States hit its ceiling on that ratio with an aggregate efficiency of 14%. But the ceiling was also hit worldwide. The economic model of the 2nd Industrial revolution plateaued everywhere. Even Japan, which hit a 20% ratio, never went any higher.
This second industrial revolution took society all the way into the 21st century, where it finally peaked in July of 2008. It was a month that saw oil hit a record price of $147 per barrel that simultaneously stalled global economies. This was the economic earthquake. 60 days later, the world financial markets collapsed…this was the aftershock. The financial collapse of 2008, the worst since the Great Depression, caused by the downward pinnacle of an outdated fossil fuel infrastructure, signaled the coming end of an unsustainable era, and yet… a new beginning.
Because something else happened in that same aftershock…as if the script of history is penned by more than one trajectory at a time, perhaps a narrative with a pendulum-like balance. On Halloween of 2008, amidst the peak price in the history of oil and the global financial markets epic collapse, amidst actual international doom and demise, an anonymous figure released an essay of sorts about a new technology…it was a whitepaper for something called Bitcoin…it’s author, Satoshi Nakamoto.
These events occurring together is no mere coincidence and looking back decades from now it will not be seen as one.
One giant door may have been shut on human progress, but another door was opened, and it remains open today.
The question after 2008 became, for those willing to look forward with a realistic view of the future and its specific challenges was, how do we create a new sustainable economy with new energy sources and new technologies to support it?
Rifkin puts it this way,
“Communication internet is converging with a nascent, digitalized, renewable-energy internet. And now both of these internets are converging with a fledgling, automated, GPS, and very soon driverless, road, rail, water, and air transport, to create three internets: communication internet, renewable energy internet, automated transportation-logistic internet. One super internet to manage power and move economic life.”
This is a vision of smart agriculture, smart homes, smarts cars, smart roads, smart sensors all collecting data and creating immense efficiency and economic opportunity for everyone. Rifkin predicts this internet will be ubiquitous by 2030. He calls it, “A distributed nervous system,” that will allow citizens of the Earth to directly engage each other at minimum cost and circumvent middle men that before, separated us. He states, “This is the revolution. This evens the playing field.”
“This new platform is really radical, because the third industrial revolution platform is designed to be distributed, not centralized. It works best when it is collaborative, and open, and transparent, rather than closed and proprietary. And benefits come when more and more people join the network, and each contributes their talents, which benefit the network and then benefits us. This is what moves us from the 1% and the 99% to a vast, vast expansion of social entrepreneurialism and global networks.”
…if the above quote is not a definition of the goal of Elastos…what is?
Here is where it gets very interesting and very important. We can have an interconnected society with sensors that enable data to flow and create efficiency, renewable energy, and economic growth for individuals instead of only corporations…but Rifkin raises some serious concerns after stating, “I am not a techno-determinist. I am not a utopian.”
Here the real-world concerns raised by Rifkin as we head towards this new model.
How do we ensure that everyone has access to this new platform?
How do we ensure governments don’t steal this platform?
How do we ensure the giant monopolies, many on the internet, don’t use the data for their own commercial purposes at our expense?
How do we ensure privacy when everyone’s connected?
How do we ensure data security when everyone’s connected?
How do we prevent cyber crime and cyber terrorism that could disrupt the system and take it down when everyone’s connected?
He says about these concerns, “The DarkNet is as impressive as an opportunity as the BrightNet. This is an uphill battle. This is not a cakewalk.”
Elastos is the BrightNet.
The prospect of the DarkNet is one of the most serious challenges in the coming decades. There is no doubt that the more connected we become, the more security issues we face. There is also no doubt that we must drastically change our ways in the world and online if we are to succeed as a global family.
Elastos is the definition of a new technology platform, providing a new infrastructure for the convergence of new communications, new sources of energy, and new modes of transportation. But most importantly, every one of Rifkin’s concerns can be addressed with the potential of Elastos. Access. Decentralization. Privacy. Data ownership. Revolutionary security for people and smart devices. A global economic platform for person to person exchange of digital assets and data, including new energy sources. Who else can say that?
“Our society, especially our young people are going to be heavily engaged in a new political movement and that movement is going to ensure against the DarkNet prevailing and making sure that we all have equal access, so that the human family can engage in a distributed nervous system to begin to have a vast expansion of social entrepreneurialism.”
“The 62 richest people on Earth now have the combined wealth of half the population of Earth, over 3.5 billion people. There is something really dysfunctional about the way the human family is organizing its economic relationships on this Earth.”
Human family….what a very particular way of looking at society. It is a view that Elastos shares.
This is an immense and global family we are building — and you reading this are a unique part of it. This is a movement. Rong is not our leader nor is he our boss, and this is not his project. It is ours and he is one of us. We are all modern entrepreneurs here. We are the future of this Earth and the stakes are extremely high.
What is interesting about Rifkin’s ideas is that at their core is the concept of zero-marginal cost, meaning that some goods and services will become nearly free to produce and will be able to be shared with one another for free. While this concept is hard to imagine for many, what is even more interesting than sharing things that are limitless like solar and wind, is being able to make things that were limitless, scarce.
While being agreeable with Rifkin’s theories is certainly a contextualization that is much needed to understand the massive scope of Elastos, throwing a wrench in them is fun too.
Rifkin is not, or was not before, familiar with the idea of scarcity of digital assets. In fact, he frequently mentions Napster as the dawn of zero-marginal cost economies on the internet where one can very cheaply produce music and videos and books and then share them for free. While this is true, this is one area where margins would actually help the individual. Content does not pour out of us like cosmic energy from the sun. Those who take the time to produce it, even for near zero cost, deserve a platform to be paid for it and create some margin for their time and effort. Elastos is marvelously part of the future of the modern economy and yet floating above it because of its unique technological vision.
But back to sharing limitless goods that will help to heal our economies and our planet.
If we can monetize the value of art, of music, of literature, of cinema, and even of time…why can we not do it with the wind, and the sun, and the rain, and the snow, and the energy contained in a wisp of thin air?
Why can the individual not benefit from the unlimited abundance of its natural world? Is this not the first place one should look when creating an economy?
As the planet and its mirror the internet both continue on a path of obvious illness, the question becomes…
Can we have a more holistic economy, internet, world? And can we make these things all intersect?
And we might have to.
Enter Green Panda.
Elastos is partnered with Green Panda Energy Group Limited and New Energy Exchange Limited.
Green Panda is a leading global eco-development solution provider. They notably have large solar panel fields built in the shape of panda bears which aim to engage young people in sustainable development issues. In 2017, they signed an action plan with the Chinese government and the United Nations Development Programme. They are building green power plants in China that include wind, solar, and hydro and have plans for 100 more along the “Belt and Road.” The Belt and Road initiative is a Chinese government sponsored multi-decade international infrastructure project connecting nearly 70 countries that evokes a giant, smart, modern day silk road trade route. It is an integral part of the future of the Third Industrial Revolution for those involved.
New Energy Exchange provides a platform for global energy exchange using blockchain technology.
Rifkin has explained the progress in this field. “The payback for renewable energy is much more rapid than people think. The fixed costs — materials and installation — have gone down exponentially. In 1979, the fixed cost of producing one watt of solar electricity was $79. As of August 2017, it’s 55 cents. By 2020, it will be 35 cents. The viability of the technology is just now reaching a tipping point. As for the marginal costs, there aren’t any. The sun and wind haven’t sent us a bill.”
The dots are easy to connect with this one. Rifkin has laid out the context for the reason this type of economic platform is vital, if not deadly serious to our future. Being able to switch to zero-marginal cost renewable energy sources like wind, solar, and hydro and being able to exchange those energies through a blockchain backed person to person platform is the definition of The Third Industrial Revolution. This is it. This is the first step to putting solar panels in our back yard and selling the energy. This is what a plan to heal the planet and the economy looks like. Green Panda is literally part of the Rifkin-inspired platform adopted by Premier Li and China. Elastos is the Cyber Republic for the BrightNet to flourish on — it is the holistic internet for a holistic world. This is a literal modern day industrial revolution — and we are part of it.
Which brings us to SAIC. Rifkin predicts that society will eliminate 80% of cars worldwide in the coming decades, with the remaining 200 million cars being powered by renewable energy. “The Millennials, their children, their grandchildren, are never going to own cars again. This I know.” It is already happening. Especially in cities, ride sharing programs and soon self-driving cars will disrupt the car industry forever. Cars will become self-driving data collecting machines that connect to our cities, connect to our computers, and connect to other sensors creating a smart and efficient society. SAIC is the largest car company in China. They, like China as a whole, are preparing accordingly. They are currently testing Elastos tech for their smart cars.
And then…there was Weatherblock. Almost forgot in all of that preparation to properly introduce them.
Why do we need weather data?
Jermey Rifkin predicts that many of our products will be delivered by drones at zero-marginal cost.
Drone delivery sounds terrifying to some, but other than its newness, it actually is a very eco-friendly and economically efficient way of delivering goods and collecting data. Companies like Amazon and Domino’s Pizza are already developing large scale plans for drone delivery that will enable them to deliver goods directly to your home without the use of a car or truck. There is just one huge problem holding the technology up: weather.
Drones require low-level atmospheric data. For Amazon to safely deliver your package with a drone, it would need block by block weather data. It would basically need to know the exact wind conditions directly over your house. This kind of data is not available. Currently, weather data is collected mostly in high altitude areas and lower ones around airports.
The director of safety and regulatory affairs for Amazon’s drone unit, Sean Cassidy, has said, “The weather issue is a very significant one. We don’t have anything at the level of granularity that you would need to operate.”
But it’s not just large corporations. A Silicon Valley company called Zipline has a program to deliver blood samples to hospitals in Rwanda. Their number one issue: weather.
Weatherblock specializes in that level of granularity. This is what makes their model relevant and part of the future and The Third Industrial Revolution.
Take this hypothetical example.
A Domino’s delivery person loses their job to a drone. But the person is smart and has prepared for this day. They have bought a backyard weather data center and now charges Domino’s for the data they need for their drone to deliver pizza. This is a machine replacing a human job and the human adapting to technology to create income. While this is hypothetical, the uses for weather data are immense and go far beyond drones. From smart cities and self-driving cars to accurate weather on a massive scale, this will become a commodity and it is society’s for the taking.
If data is the currency of the future, then the data in our backyards is ours.
Imagine making money off of the sun, the wind, the rain and the snow. To be able to monetize the natural world as a citizen of the Earth…to be able to go out into your backyard and look at the clouds and think…I can get paid for that information…talk about making it rain. We are part of a real ecosystem, the Earth. There is value everywhere we look. Most just never look, or never know how to use these free sources of value. Solar panels, IoT sensors, blockchain decentralized platform economies… there is wealth to be had for individuals. We may not have to go to a factory, but we can turn our homes into factories. Our properties can be power stations, like we’re the tornado chasing crew from the film Twister.
There is data to be had. Data to be organized and out of the silos and onto an efficient marketplace to buy and sell it. Let’s do it. Let’s buy and sell our data. Why not? If not us, then some big company will. Be a company unto yourself! Everyone in Elastos is an entrepreneur!
We need to grasp the enormity of our current, not future situation, and begin preparing for it. We must start to become “smart” in our societies, in our cities, and in our backyards. As we do this, we will make the planet healthier and create new economies. We cannot ignore the disturbing realities of our planet — but must prepare for them.
Finally, on a lighter note.
There is currently an IMAX film playing in theaters across America entitled, “Dream Big, Engineering Our World.” The film is an educational documentary about how engineers are the artists that keep us safe, design our futures, and will save our planet. Any community member of Elastos would not be able to avoid thinking of Elastos during this fantastic film.
The film travels the world following engineers as they study and design our infrastructures.
After an earthquake in Nepal in 2015, one engineer went and studied the foundations of buildings that were not designed by engineers and helped rebuild communities devastated by the quake with buildings that would be prepared for the next one.
Another engineer traveled to The Great Wall in China to study why this structure has help up so well over time. He used a drone to scan the wall for places it particularly held up and discovered something interesting. In places the wall was in the best shape, the builders used sticky rice to hold the wall together and thus allow it to expand, or as the engineer says in the film, “be more elastic.”
In Shanghai, engineers studied the world’s second largest building, The Shanghai Tower. The building uses wind turbines to generate 10% of the building’s 127 stories of power while the building itself uses an elegant spiraling technique to combat wind and protect its massive vertical infrastructure.
In Texas, students built solar powered cars and raced them on a track.
The film explains that by the end of the century, it is projected that 90% of the globe will live in cities. The film is teaching our societies and especially our children, that we are starting to prepare for a smart world where engineering using the most advanced technologies and renewable energies will power our world. Engineers are the artists of our future and we need more of them and a society prepared to adapt. The film states an engineer’s number one job is to keep people safe. What, if nothing else, has the engineer behind Elastos tried to do?
We will need to live off of the Earth, the sun, the cosmic energy. Tesla understood that there is energy everywhere and it can power the planet for practically no cost. Our energy is here. A sustainable economy is here. We need engineers to build the world, in the physical world and on the internet. By upgrading the internet to make it sustainable and to support a platform for a sustainable economy and world, we are upgrading the world for the challenges of the future. Green Panda, Weatherblock, SAIC, these companies could all work together to make our world smart and efficient. These are companies of the future.
A mission as large as this takes time. Jeremy Rifkin’s plans adopted by the EU and China are plans that unfold over decades. They are literally upgrading every building and industry to prepare for the future. America needs to start preparing for this now. We not only desperately need a new infrastructure, we need a smart infrastructure like Smart Europe and China Internet Plus. This kind of rebuild requires humans, not machines, and could provide millions of jobs for decades. This should be on the news at night in America — maybe every night — not just in IMAX theaters.
“We need to transform every building in the United States to a node. These nodes then connect, and they are big data centers. They are micro power plants. The nodes connect like wifi and all those nodes, those buildings — homes, offices, factories — that’s your internet of things.”
This is a huge undertaking and much of the world is already preparing. Jeremy Rifkin says that when humans get the story, they move quickly. But we need to hear the story first.
Elastos has also been preparing — for 18 years so far. This is no drop in the bucket blockchain project. The label blockchain is not even accurate. Elastos is the internet platform for the future of this planet — because when we pull all the way back…and back…and back…and back some more…we can see that what has been engineered here, is no less than the internet of the next industrial revolution.
Onward! Upward! Elastos!
“There’s a change in the way you define freedom. The way you define power. And the way you define community. And these changes really suggest the real revolution. For my generation and the generation before me, freedom was very simple, to be free, is to be an autonomous agent. To be not beholden to others. To be an island to oneself so one can have freedom as exclusivity. For the millennial generation that grew up on the internet, autonomy is death. Because for your generation, you ask the question, “How can I flourish to the full extent of my possibilities on the planet?” And it’s clear that your answer to that is that I flourish to the extent that I am embedded in network after network after network; community after community, where I can share my talents. And those talents can benefit the network and come back to benefit myself. I am free because I have access, and for you, freedom is not exclusivity. It’s inclusivity. It’s access to others in networks. This is very alien to our generation. We may have to change all the constitutions in the world. This is a completely different idea of freedom. You have a different sensibility about power, which makes the older generation very nervous. We essentially believe that power is always a pyramid. It goes from the top down. That is power. There is no other way to define power. But young people that grow up on the internet, for you power is not vertical, it is lateral. Power is being embedded in network after network where you benefit each other. Open source. This is so strange to our older generation. We do not have this notion of power. It makes no sense to us actually, but it makes total sense to you.”
— Jeremy Rifkin
Onward! Upward! Elastos!
Sing to me Muse of the man of many gifts,
who was driven on many twists and turns, far and wide,
after he left the embattled internet of that distant age.
Many flaws he saw and many fixes he devised,
many nights he pondered on the open sea,
fighting to save our network and protect our rights,
our ideas, our safety, and set us free.
But he could not convince his comrades then,
as hard as he did try,
for the Gates were shut in their gated minds.
Their narrow views made them blind like fools,
and as they built the internet, the internet Gods becried.
Launch out this story Muse, daughter of our cyber eyes,
sing to us of this man who will return us home,
with his cyber gift for our cyber time.
On this tenth thoughts and conclusions section, it seems a fitting time to take a look back to one of the earliest tales in all the world, of a man who left for war for ten years and took another ten to return home. It is time to tell a story, this time, in Homeric fashion, of a man coming home from a different kind of great battle. Rong Chen has been walking home for 18 years. Walking home not just to his life’s work, but to a home for all of us. Elastos is like a Homeric epic. Rong Chen is our Odysseus. The internet of the past is our Trojan War — and the creation of Elastos is our journey home.
Rong Chen was born into a family of scientists. According to him, the keywords of his life and career have been,“epiphany, perseverance, gratitude, luck.”
In 1977, after a decade long chaos that was known as the Cultural Revolution in China, college entrance examinations were resumed for the first time since 1965. To make up for the prolonged gap of education and opportunity that plagued China during these years, citizens from ages 13 to 37 were allowed to take the exam. This was not only a chance at freedom, but at escape. The build up and bottleneck of talent in China led to 5.7 million people taking the exam in November and December of 1977, in what is considered possibly the single most competitive scholastic test in the history of modern China. Only 4.7% of people who took the test, or 273,000, were admitted to universities. This class of 77’ would become known as the best and the brightest of their generation. From artists, to politicians, to engineers, to this day, the class of 77’ includes many of the most elite citizens of China who have gone on to succeed at the top of their society. This was a single moment for those who dreamed of a better life and wanted to make a desperate plea for advancement.
Rong Chen was one of the 4.7%. In fact, his scores were top notch and he was admitted to Tsinghua University. He became not only one of the first people in China to receive a college degree after the Cultural Revolution, but became one of the first people in the history of China to become a software development graduate. After Tsinghua University, Rong went on to study at the Institute of Computing Technology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Founded in 1956, it was the first school to specialize in computer sciences in China.
On January 4, 1984, feeling both luck and gratitude, Rong Chen stepped off of a plane in New York City at John F. Kennedy International Airport. From there, he began his education in operating systems. Rong was admitted to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, which in the mid-1980’s began a state-federal partnership to become home of The National Center for Supercomputing Applications, leading the university to house some of the best supercomputers in the world to this day. Supercomputers…remember that term.
Rong’s 7 years studying operating systems was backdropped by a time in computing history that included UNIX operating systems beginning to become open source for many top American universities and the arrival of a new coding language called C++. Rong Chen was captivated by this new language. It was…an epiphany.
Rong studied and studied, even staying up at night to read hundreds of thousands of lines of operating system code. He began designing his own operating systems in those years. He was obsessed, singularly, with this new and beautiful language.
In 1992, Rong began work at Microsoft Research as the first Chinese employee in its history. His work was in writing for the research of operating systems. Within a few years, Microsoft’s browser and Windows converged to monopolize the market and the PC internet. But there was a fatal weakness, and Rong saw it.
Computers around the would were vulnerable. Hackers. Viruses. Attacks. These were not going away. Money was being lost.
Rong’s team began to work on solutions. His team were some of the best programmers in the world at a time when the internet was beginning to take off in a global way. Yet even among his elite team at Microsoft, Rong had ideas that were extremely advanced.
An idea emerged from their work.
“The network is the computer.”
It was the concept of designing an operating system that made the network into a large computer, with the operating system solving the security problems. The project became known as “.NET”
This idea, of a network computer and a world computer coming together was the first seed of what would later become Elastos.
Up until then, Microsoft’s operating system was Windows 2000, which would later become Windows XP. These are stand-alone operating systems which are very different than network operating systems. .NET was the idea of a network of operating systems connecting together.
Rong now saw the battlefield, the war torn landscape of the future of the internet filled with viruses and attacks, and he proposed something to save it. He would write .NET in C++. He would create the network operating system.
But his proposal was rejected — and in 2000, he left the war behind, and returned to China to begin work on his own idea, alone.
While Odysseus devised the idea for the Trojan Horse, Rongysseus devised the way to stop them.
Thus began the twists and turns of his epic journey. Rong believed he could complete his virus-free operating system within three years, but did not take into full account that it would need to go onto hardware, and that meant competing with giants who wanted their own operating systems and their own hardware.
Now home again, it was the early days of the internet in China. William Ding, Founder and CEO of NetEase, had just registered his first domain name. Pony Ma, CEO of Tencent, was trying to sell his QQ with no success. Even Jack Ma, who was giving passionate speeches about the internet and e-commerce was met with disbelief. No one believed him about the future of the internet. In fact, they called him a liar. But these men, like Rong Chen, were men of perseverance. Men who would prove people wrong.
Rong assembled some classmates from Tsinghua. He said of the time, “Starting portal sites and doing e-commerce was not enough to quench our thirst. We wanted to do the most difficult task by developing the first set of operating systems.” They made plans to develop an embedded operating system called, “Hexin,” and to complete it in three years time. They would take down the monsters and be home in no time. Or so they thought.
There were many who doubted their vision. Calypso-like voices who tried to convince Rong and his team that they should stop their journey, that the landscape was too tough, and should instead, stay on their little island for the seas of the domestic market were too rough to sail.
But Rong and his team continued, and in 2003 finished Hexin and were visited by President Hu Jintao. Programmer Magazine declared Rong part of their, “20 people who influenced China’s software development.” It was a list of some of today’s most important programmers.
Rong became the first person in China to create an operating system.
But the twists and turns continued. In 2003, because of State policy changes, investors withdrew capital from the team of more than 100 people and Rong found himself in a tight spot, like being trapped in a cave with a Cyclops. His team were low on funds, and just when things became dire, the Shanghai government reached out with an offer to help them with mobile phones. They agreed.
Rong and his team continued to work until 2006 and completed their operating system in C++. They now had an OS that could be installed onto any hardware. With this OS, network requests would be handled by the operating system itself instead of the applications, thus blocking applications from creating background processes and preventing man in the middle attacks and many viruses that are spread through the use of background processes on a device. Applications would now be prevented from direct access to the internet. This would later become the Elastos OS.
By 2006, when the smartphone was launched in China, Rong and his team had designed all of the software, the kernel, the interface, and the functionality. The phones were a success. But by 2007, Rong found out that Apple and Google were also releasing smartphones with operating systems…and it was then that he said to himself, “I know it’s over.”
His new operating system would need to go onto hardware to succeed, and this meant competing with companies whose means were far too great at the time.
“Both Apple and Google are rich companies that we couldn’t match from a hardware and ecology standpoint. Building an operating system exceeds the capacity of a person, a company, or even a local government…. We were not prepared psychologically and financially. We also lacked hardware capabilities at that point.”
Within four years, his company was in an even tighter spot financially. They took an investment from Foxconn and Rong temporarily stopped working on the product design of the operating system, but refused to part with his native code. Until 2012, his team worked on mobile customizations for Foxconn and outsourced work for Android. They learned a lot about the Android system.
Then, in 2012, Rong found out that Microsoft was pursuing his original idea that he gave to them to rewrite .NET into C++. He proposed to Terry Gou at Foxconn that he create an open source industrial internet operating system by rewriting Android into C++ with end-to-end security. Foxconn agreed to invest.
Rong and his team began rewriting the Android code, which used the Java language, into C++, thus allowing him to run Android applications on a C++ device, or any device.
This code evolved into a virtual machine in C++.
A little background. An operating system is a piece of software that can control the hardware of a computer. A virtual machine is an emulation of a computer system, yet it can run within an existing operating system. It is like a computer within a computer, that can be installed on top of existing operating systems without replacing them. Rong realized that this could be the ticket to circumventing the monopoly that the giants had. They controlled the process of getting their operating systems onto the major hardware providers in the world, but a C++ virtual machine would not have to compete with them for hardware, but instead, could go on top of their software.
Rong was now combining his original OS from 2006 with the Android in C++, to create a virtual machine in C++. The benefits of this were that with a CVM, there is no bridge needed for the virtual machine to talk to the hardware. This prevents man in the middle attacks. This is a true sandboxed environment. By not needing to communicate with a bridge to the hardware, when a file is opened in a C virtual machine, the VM can act as a quarantined area if it has a malicious actor within it. This is unique to the C language and was a breakthrough for technology.
This marvelous machine would later become the Elastos Runtime.
The team also began work on a decentralized peer to peer network. If they could install their new virtual machine on top of an Android or iOS, they now had a solution for creating millions of users without needing to compete for hardware. They began writing the protocol for this peer to peer network from scratch. This would become the Elastos Carrier. With the new sandboxed C virtual machine and a P2P network to connect them all directly through potentially hundred of millions of devices, Rong and his team were truly getting close to the network operating system.
This idea, of creating a network of devices is really the same idea as the internet of things, but with a much more accurate name. For an operating system in a sensor, in a camera, in a router, in a smart speaker, in a car, in a phone, in anything at all, to be able to communicate with other operating systems and create a network with real security that itself becomes a giant computer, is not really about the thing, but about the web that connects them. It is the web that is the core of this, not the thing. To call this an “internet of things” is less accurate than calling it a network operating system or web OS. What Rong devised is larger than the internet of things itself… it is the web of interconnection with real security that can connect any hardware in the world into a giant smart network….and even with the immensity of this idea, he had not even discovered what he would use as the final piece of his project.
Halfway through the project Foxconn pulled out its investment. This near final twist and turn on his journey home led him to a new entrepreneurial opportunity and the cherry on top of a decades long dream. After all of his different innovations, after every twist and turn, after the amalgamation of 17 years of work, Rong Chen finally found his epiphanic glue: blockchain.
With the discovery of blockchain technology, and the influence of Feng Han, Rong Chen decided that when combined with the network operating system of virtual machines and a decentralized peer to peer network, he could actually achieve “the value internet.”
Thus, Elastos was born.
In 2017, Rong realized that with the combination of hundreds of millions of virtual machines all within their own sandboxed environment with each request made by the virtual machines authenticated by a blockchain ID and communicated directly via a decentralized peer to peer network, he would finally and truly create the Elastos network operating system.
With so many virtual machines being able to talk to each other, each getting its own ID from the blockchain, Rong finally had a real “world supercomputer.”
The internet he had been imagining for so long, was about to become very smart.
But Rong also knew that while blockchain helped create the value internet, it was not the value internet alone. A blockchain is a bookkeeping method. It can allow people to know how A transferred over to B, and this creates a new revolution of transparency and trust, but it does this slowly. It is more trustworthy, but less efficient. Blockchain is not meant for transferring movies, and music, and messages, and sending large packets of data. Blockchain is a ledger, not an entire internet, and not an operating system. Instead, blockchain would become the ledger of the network operating system thus enabling the value internet.
Rong understood what blockchain could do, but more importantly, heunderstood what it could not do.
With Elastos Runtime spread out across millions of devices, decentralized applications could run on sidechains, instead of the main chain of Elastos, enabling near infinite scalability.
Rong knew that blockchain possessed six traits that would benefit this internet: it could remove the operating intermediary, it could remove the player intermediary, it could give IDs, create scarcity, enable consensus, and create tokens.
This last part is important because for an open source project to work, it needs an incentive to maintain it. This is where miners and tokens come in.
“There used to be three big operating systems: Microsoft, Apple, and Google. They’re basically different ecosystems for applications so every application must take sides. In today’s value internet, there’s no side to take. The internet is a platform for people to communicate. So everything should be open source. We have worked on the operating system for 18 years. Previously, we didn’t have enough resources. Now we have the token incentive mechanism to reward the participants, so everyone can participate. We are throwing out our bricks in hopes of getting back jade.”
All of his work has been in the creation of an ecosystem that works automatically. Rong has said that this is the key to its success.
“Besides being open source, technically speaking, the biggest and most important difference is the web OS. Elastos’ technical guiding ideology is, “The internet doesn’t involve computing. And computing doesn’t involve the internet.” In short, we are making sure the value is there on the internet. In other words, all the network communication between virtual machines is generated automatically. All communication between virtual machines is generated automatically. This phrase is the core and key of our technology.”
And so, here we are today. Building an ecosystem. Incentivizing our citizens. Creating an industrial network operating system for every hardware, for every person to be connected safely, to own their own code and join an internet of value that is decentralized and for everyone. This epic journey, this surreal odyssey, has at its center, a humble man.
When asked of his idols, “I’ve never thought about it. Some pioneers are marvelous, such as Steve Jobs. But now I think being a prophet is actually quite sad.”
When asked if there were times when he was filled with fear on his surreal journey, “No, I’m an optimistic person.”
When asked of his dream,
“To make Elastos available to the whole of mankind.”
Rong Chen is a surrealist, an abstract expressionist who has found form in asandbox for the subconscious…the subconscious of the internet that is….the unseen world before us, the wild west of symbols and code and darkness that is uncontainable and can infect us with its caged fury. We are all vulnerable in this online world, Rong knew it back in the 90s, and he has spent all these years building us a defense, a new playing field, leveled just for us. The Runtime that quarantines the Darknet. That quarantines the Trojan Horse that for Odysseus and the Greeks, was the gift horse that took down an empire, that took down a country. Our country is not made in this image, but in the image of a hero’s journey that does not take down empires, but builds them up. We are starting with our citadel on a hill, our cosmic fortress, our floating castle with the knowledge of what can take us down, what can take anyone down, ahead of time. We are building this internet knowing not to accept the Trojan Horse and look its gift in the mouth — but to instead, quarantine it.
We are not the Greeks nor the Trojans nor any people within any border.
We are the world and the world is us.
Elastos will be what we are, the community that builds it.
Some might think it is self-promotional to commend one’s own so thoroughly, and under certain circumstances, this would be correct. But in this case, it’s not self-promotion, because Rong is just a human being, and he would never do that for himself. It it simply actual appreciation. There is nothing more authentic than recognizing someone’s hard and selfless work and the long journey it took them to get there and feeling enthusiasm for it. People respond to authenticity with authenticity. Rong is as authentic as they come, in tech, or in any other field. He is a humble servant to society, who has traveled a long way for many decades to get us to this point with him. We may be enthusiastic for Elastos, and have been for months, and those months may even feel like years, but Rong has been enthusiastic about it for actual decades. This is his life’s work — a safe internet that works and provides a cyber republic for the common man and woman in any country, regardless of geography, regardless of borders and divisions and regardless of how they look or what they are called. An internet for all things and all people in an open source and yet secure way. Elastos is a foundation that wants to create the foundation for a global idea. We are all connected now, and this is only going to become more common and connect more things to us in the future. We need a new infrastructure for this new smart internet of everything for everyone. We need a network operating system that can go on any device and has a blockchain to create verification and scarcity and ownership and consensus. We are not one of hundreds of similar projects — we started decades ago in the mind of a man who is more famous for what he did after he left the battlefield than when he was on it. His epic journey that started in the 1970’s and saw him live at the heart of operating systems and the internet and be bold and brave enough to face the monsters and the naysayers and the twists and turns along the way, and to make it home, to be standing today, traveling the world trying to help it benefit itself by banding together and helping each other. This man is the stuff of epics.
The Odyssey is an over 2700 year old script of 2109 lines of dactylic hexameter verse. It tells the tale of one man’s journey coming home that is really the story of all of us with a bit of epiphany, perseverance, luck, and gratitude, and that is why it has survived this long. Rong’s project is also lines and lines of a strange and intriguing language, not dactylic hexameter, but C++, that tells a story of our time in technology and as a society. It is a document of all of us. His lines paint a picture of a vision to connect everything openly and fairly and allow us to have a world where our value is ours.
This is his journey.
It is classical. It is Homeric. It is a story worth being told.
There are many suitors currently feasting in our halls, vying for our affection on a grand and global scale, but there is only one who took the journey to truly get there.
There is an old Zen koan that says, “The journey is the reward.”
So let’s take our own journey — let’s claim our own reward.
Onward! Upward! Elastos!
In a week that saw the repeal of net neutrality rules go into effect in The United States, internet freedom continues to be at the forefront of public and government debate worldwide.
Net neutrality, or the Open Internet Order, were a series of rules enacted by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in 2015, that required internet service providers to offer equal access to all legal content on the internet. The laws prohibited internet service providers from doing three main things. An ISP could not block or discriminate against the legal content of websites or applications, they could not slow down or throttle the transmission of data of legal content, and they could not create a fast lane for customers and companies who paid additional fees or premiums for prioritization.
At its root, the idea of net neutrality is that whoever provides you access to the internet cannot limit, manipulate, or play favorites with websites and applications and must instead treat all of them equally. The case for and against repealing these laws is not only highly technical, but also leads to philosophical and economic arguments about what the internet is and how it should be treated in its still nascent and permeable state.
On Monday, June 11th, the repeal of those protections went into effect, backdropped by a public and government debate and outcry on the potential consequences Americans will now face when accessing the internet. But if that backdrop were not enough, the very next day, June 12th, a federal judge ruled in favor of AT&T buying Time Warner in a content meets distribution vertical merging. But before any conclusions can be made on the advantages or disadvantages of this repeal of ISP restrictions and what it could mean for the future of the internet, a brief history of the topic is necessary.
But before we truly begin, it is worth saying that this subject has been compared by one television host as, “the equivalent of chasing an Ambien with a shot of chloroform.” This statement, of net neutrality’s banal, even somnambulant nature, which rings at the very least, partially true, is the very reason that it needs to be talked about. So do not prepare to be bored, but instead, informed about the public service you are using to read this article.
We begin with a scene of a burgeoning telecommunications industry in need of regulations for service providers, and a company at its center (now AT&T) with a monopoly on the industry. Republicans and Democrats are arguing in Congress over government oversight verses economic growth in regards to these new technologies…the year…is 1934.
Up until then, America had rules in place to govern radio and telecommunications, but President Franklin D. Roosevelt wanted the government to oversee these technological industries in a more expansive way. The existing laws were combined and organized to create federal regulation for the telephone, telegraph, and radio. Thus, the FCC was born and with it an important piece of legislation.
The issue of net neutrality starts with Title I and Title II of the Communications Act of 1934.
Title I was a more general classification and had fewer restrictions attached for government influence. Title II was a classification called “Common Carrier.”
Common carrier is the important classification and philosophical concept when thinking about the internet and what it represents in America. Common carrier laws date back as far as ancient Rome. The idea is that certain services and businesses are so essential to public life and the functioning of society that these carriers should be open and accessible to all. In America, prior to 1934, the railroad, electricity, and water were considered services and businesses that carry something from point A to point B, that the public needs. These are public utilities and these services should not be able to discriminate or charge unreasonable prices for what they provide. The telephone joined common carrier status in 1934 in an attempt to control, although many argue cement, the monopoly that Bell System (now AT&T) had on the industry.
In essence, what this act established was that Americans could now consider affordable and non-discriminatory access to the telephone and the radio as rights regulated by the new FCC. This classification by the government was saying that the data and information being carried by these providers was a public good that needed to be provided in an agnostic way with equal access and regulatory oversight.
In the 1990’s, the Act got an update in the form of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. This act regulated phone service providers with stricter common carrier status or Title II, and included things like government price fixing and requirements to share their infrastructure with competitors, while classifying the emerging cable and internet sector as information services or Title I. This distinction of telecommunications services and information services, with less government regulations for the internet, was the basis for achieving the goal of increased investment into the space and providing the means for massive growth. Those in favor of the new rules, or lack of them, sensed that the internet had enormous potential and could one day converge with phones and cable and that the government should not stand in its way. These are the “Clinton-era” internet rules that proponents of the net neutrality repeal cite today as a successful deregulatory approach for innovation. They believed then, and now, that the markets should sort themselves out and allow for economic growth while trusting that the companies involved will not take advantage of consumers. This made sense in the late 1990’s, to allow the new cyber market to grow and not to slow it with regulations. The market was completely new at that point. But at what point would that growth be sufficient for the government to revisit how it classified an internet that would become part of every American’s life?
These issues began to emerge when cable companies began offering broadband internet access that was less regulated than the telephone companies DSL service because it fell under stricter regulations. DSL used the same copper wire to transmit data as it did voice transmission for telephones and this required the phone companies internet access to be classified as common carrier, and this meant sharing their infrastructure to competitors or “unbundling,” and deterred them from investing heavily into the technology. There was a problem, how do you get phone companies to invest in better infrastructure if they have to share it with their competitors?
In 2002, the FCC deemed cable internet providers to officially be information services, freeing them of many restrictions and placing them firmly outside of a common carrier label. They would not have to worry about sharing infrastructure.
That same year, a Columbia Law professor named Tim Wu, coined the phrase “network neutrality” in a paper he wrote responding to Comcast banning access to virtual private networks (VPNs), AT&T banning the use of Wi-Fi routers, and additional charges being added for certain applications by ISPs. Wu saw these restrictions as, ironically, hurting innovation, and called for a non-discriminatory framework for the internet and ISPs.
By 2004, the FCC spoke on “Preserving Internet Freedoms,” and in 2005 released its “Internet Policy Statement,” a series of four principles, not rules, that said customers had the freedom to access legal content, the freedom to use applications, the freedom to attach personal devices to their internet access, and the freedom to obtain service plan information from their provider. Providers could have tiers of internet plans with varying bandwidth options. But how would these principles be enforced?
In a 2005 Supreme Court ruling, referred to as Brand X, the courts upheld the notion that cable modem providers were information services and could not be held to common carrier standards. That same year, the FCC reclassified DSL as information services, now putting them on equal footing with the cable modem providers and laying the groundwork for deregulations for the entire internet provider space. The phone companies would no longer have to unbundle, or share their internet infrastructure, and this meant less competition. At the time, there was much talk of internet freedom for the consumer while deregulating the internet providers.
Now, free of the common carrier regulations for the entire space, America could finally see if ISPs would act on good faith as planned.
In 2007, the public learned that Comcast had been slowing traffic to peer-to-peer applications BitTorrent and Gnutella for two years. This practice is known as throttling. Comcast defended itself by saying that it needed to slow these sites for overall network quality during peak hours. However, the FCC found out through a study that Comcast was throttling the sites at all hours of the day and sometimes shutting them down completely and that this was in violation of its principles in its Internet Policy Statement. The FCC told Comcast that it needed to create a new management plan that did not involve throttling. Yet when Comcast took the FCC to The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the court ruled that the FCC did not have the legal authority to enforce network neutrality rules because Comcast was not a common carrier.
By 2009, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) applications were becoming very popular, especially as smartphones became mainstream, and providers began blocking them. In a now famous case, when Skype became available on iOS in 2009, AT&T, who had an exclusive contract for the iPhone, asked Apple to block these calls and openly admitted it was because Skype was a competitor.
2010 saw the first detailed FCC net neutrality rules, the Open Internet Order. The rules said that providers could not block content, had to be transparent in their practices, and could not practice unreasonable discrimination. It was also the year that AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile announced plans for an unfortunately named mobile payment system called Isis. When Google tried to launch its own wallet on Samsung Galaxy phones, Verizon made claims that it was not compatible and blocked Google’s wallet in an effort by all three companies to block Google.
In 2012, Verizon was caught blocking people using tethering applications that could help them circumvent Verizon’s $20 tethering fee. Tethering is a practice that allows people to turn their device into a hotspot for internet access. That same year, AT&T announced that it would disable FaceTime from its customers iPhones unless they paid for a more expensive plan.
By 2014, the FCC found itself back in court, this time with Verizon over its ability to enforce its 2010 rules on net neutrality. Verizon openly admitted to the court that if given the chance, it would pursue the practice of preferring some services, content and sites over others. The courts ruled that because the FCC did not classify internet service providers as Title II Common Carriers, they had no legal footing to enforce their rules. This would set the stage to bring back the original debate of common carrier verses information services.
The FCC opened the debate to the public: fast and slow lanes, or reclassify the internet as a public utility common carrier. The debate was heated, breaking all records of public comments to the FCC for a single issue.
When the FCC proposed a tiered approach, backlash was felt across the country, including from large internet companies. To exemplify to the public what fast and slow lanes could do to people psychologically, sites like Reddit, Netflix, Vimeo, and Twitter purposely slowed down on September 14th, 2014. President Barack Obama saw the division and suggested that ISPs be reclassified as telecommunications, or common carriers, but with less restrictions than their telephone counterparts.
The FCC decided to apply the common carrier classification to the internet as part of the Communications Act of 1934 and Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, and the Open Internet Order, or net neutrality, was for the first time, actually real.
Arguments against the rules at the time, and still being made today, said that the rules for telecommunications could not be applied to the internet, and that investment would pay the price. But the FCC made clear that very few of the Common Carrier rules would be applied, and that investment would not be effected because these laws were a light-touch approach that merely allowed the FCC to legally enforce rules that it already had. The reclassification was so the FCC could do its job and not have its decisions overturned in court. Statements from the FCC regarding the new rules were clear on this.
“Today, our forbearance approach results in over 700 codified rules being inapplicable, a ‘light-touch’ approach for the use of Title II. This includes no unbundling of last-mile facilities, no tariffing, no rate regulation, and no cost accounting rules, which results in a carefully tailored application of only those Title II provisions found to directly further the public interest in an open Internet and more, better, and open broadband. Nor will our actions result in the imposition of any new federal taxes or fees; the ability of states to impose fees on broadband is already limited by the congressional Internet tax moratorium. This is Title II tailored for the 21st century.”
“Unlike the application of Title II to incumbent wireline companies in the 20th Century, a swath of utility-style provisions (including tariffing) will not be applied. Indeed, there will be fewer sections of Title II applied than have been applied to Commercial Mobile Radio Service.
History demonstrates that this careful approach to the use of Title II will not impede investment. First, mobile voice services have been regulated under a similar light-touch Title II approach since 1994 — and investment and usage boomed.”
The FCC was clear that they had no interest in hurting investment or using antiquated rules that were not adapted to modern times. In fact, the 2015 net neutrality rules were very light on actual new rules, and were more an attempt to give the government legal footing to enforce the rules it already had. A case could be made that DSL had more regulations before 2005 than the phone companies had in 2015. This was common carrier status more in name than in actuality. The concept of unbundling, or forcing companies to sell access to their infrastructure because they are common carriers, was not even included, and this concept has proven to help create ISP competition in other countries. This is a complicated issue though, because while selling access helps create competition which could be what drives the markets to work themselves out, thus not needing as many laws in theory, it can also hurt the companies who have to sell the access, thus decreasing incentive for their own investment. But the fact that this essential part of common carrier law was not even going to be included in 2015, and the fact that maybe it should, is never mentioned by the new FCC. If competition between ISPs would help solve these issues, and the new FCC says that they would, and that is why they have repealed the 2015 laws, then this issue, which could possibly hurt the big ISPs but help the smaller ones, should be discussed more in public. By not mentioning this concept, it seems that the big ISPs are being favored, with or without net neutrality laws, and that helping the little guy and creating competition is merely political rhetoric. The public does not read fine print FCC documents, nor do they know the term unbundling, but for most Americans, choices for internet service providers can be very limited. For about 46 million Americans, there is only one high speed choice available in their area.
Back to the companies that said they could be trusted without rules, now, under actual rules.
The lead up to 2015 saw AT&T data capping its unlimited data customers, who once they reached a limit, throttled their data transmissions and failed to notify them they were doing it.
In 2016, AT&T was caught using what is called “zero-rating,” a practice that allows some content to not count against a data plan. The content that AT&T was not counting for its customers use, however, was access to DirecTV, a company they own. This practice, of data exemption, was not illegal in all of its forms under the new rules, but by a case by case basis. In this case, AT&T was unfairly favoring its own company’s streaming service over the competition, or picking winners and losers.
But the conversation completely changed in 2017, when Ajit Pai became the new Chairman of the FCC, as appointed by President Donald Trump. Pai quickly announced that he would be reclassifying the internet once again, and would roll back the regulations which he claimed hurt investment into the space and threatened national security. In December of 2017, the FCC voted to remove the common carrier status for all broadband providers as well as remove rules against blocking and throttling content. ISPs would now only have to release their management practices but would not be required to give equal access to the internet. Enforcement of internet rules now moved from the FCC to the Federal Trade Commission, an agency that could not create rules, but only enforce them after they had already been broken.
At present, the Senate has passed a vote to overturn the FCC’s December vote and a House of Representatives vote is still waiting on the required number of votes to create a vote on the measure. If the House does pass the measure to overturn the FCC, the measure would then go to the President who has openly supported the new FCC policy.
More than twenty states are now suing the FCC while some governors have passed executive orders to protect net neutrality in their state. This week saw the state of Washington become the first state to pass its own net neutrality laws in reaction to the FCC. A tech industry group that represents Netflix, Google, and Facebook, along with other internet companies has announced it will join the legal fight to restore net neutrality. It appears that the public, many of the state governments, and even the big tech companies, want to keep net neutrality.
Those opposed to the FCC repeal say that service providers could start to bundle the internet into varying price packages much like how American cable companies stagger prices that include more channels for a higher monthly rate. Many politicians, including Rep. Ro Khanna, have pointed this possibility out. An example of this would be that customers would now have to pay more to access popular sites like Netflix or Facebook. This could create the equivalent of a premium cable package and leave lower income people without access to much of the internet.
Another concern is that if fast lanes are created, only large companies and wealthier households and individuals would be able to afford it, thus creating a slow lane for the majority of websites and customers accessing the internet. By being able to offer a “pay-for-play” option, small businesses and start-ups along with average people would likely suffer the consequences of being left in a slower internet lane further cementing financial divide and the chance at upward mobility. Those opposed to the repeal argue that the internet is for everyone, and giving preferential treatment to those with money will corrupt the internet and demolish a level playing field, hurting Americans freedom and the economy, not helping it.
With all of the unified reaction against the repeal, many people are asking what the argument for the repeal is. Ajit Pai has stated that he is for a fair and open internet, and not only will these deregulations create more competition and a faster internet, but it will restore the FTC to protect consumers from ISPs that perform anti-competitive acts. He also states that by making ISPs transparently provide management practices on their own website or the FCC’s website, consumers can make informed decisions.
“Why am I confident that this approach will work? Because it was a tremendous bipartisan success for two decades. At the dawn of the commercial internet, President Clinton and a Republican Congress agreed on a light-touch framework to regulating the internet. Under that approach, the internet was open and free. Network investment topped $1.5 trillion. Netflix, Facebook, Amazon, and Google went from small startups to global tech giants. America’s internet economy became the envy in the world.”
“But then in 2015, the FCC chose a different course and slapped heavy-handed regulations from 1934 — known as “Title II” — on the internet. This was the wrong decision. Rules designed for the Ma Bell monopoly during the era of rotary phones were a poor fit for the greatest innovation of our time, the internet. Following the FCC’s decision, network investment fell by billions of dollars — the first time that had happened outside of a recession in the broadband era.”
Ajit Pai is painting a very bleak picture of net neutrality rules. He is making claims that the rules that already existed long before 2015, in the days when he says the internet thrived, but were merely unable to hold up in court, are bad for America. This contradicts many timelines and facts. The FCC already tried to enforce net neutrality rules, they just lost in court to big companies like Verizon, and used the one solution at their disposal, a reclassification that did not include any 1934-esque ideas, but simply the framework to hold up their rules legally.
Ajit Pai is trying to use rotary phones as clever marketing to smear an old law that he fails to mention was updated in 1996. But America has a history of old laws, like the Bill of Rights. The real comparison is not about rotary telephones and their temporally short lifespan, but about what they represented at the time, a public utility, and that is a universal concept that does not age poorly like clever marketing by a corporate-government conflation who used to work for Verizon.
Ajit Pai was previously a lawyer for Verizon and many of his arguments sound like thinly-veiled talking points from ISPs themselves.
Pai also says that ISPs will not do anything against the public interest, as if the history of their wrongdoing is merely a misunderstanding. This idea ignores the fact that these companies have consistently been caught breaking neutrality rules and then taking the government to court over them. Even now, when the ISPs themselves say they will practice in a fair and open internet system, simply trusting them ignores the basis of why laws exist. Operating under the assumption that we do not need laws because corporations say they will not do anything wrong could only be delivered by someone who used to work for one of the exact corporations that would benefit from such a policy. This is called lobbying. It is how corporations control American politics and ISPs spend millions per year on it. For the Senate to agree on this issue, and now half the states to agree on this issue, and for the big tech companies to agree on this issue, and for most of the public to agree on this issue, it seems oddly suspicious that the person who does not agree on this issue worked for the one groups of people who will most likely benefit from this issue.
But merely taking reactionary sides does not help. The real question is how do we allow investment and growth in the private sector of the internet while also allowing open access and relatively agnostic transmission of data? How do we create competition among ISPs? Is this even possible at this point?
There is also the issue of trying to argue all of the points of both sides: there are many, and many are legitimate, and it would take far too long to do them all justice. The state of the internet is complicated and no one has figured out the ideal solution yet. Take for example the argument that the internet can never totally be neutral by the very nature of its framework. Special arrangements have already been going on for years between heavy bandwidth sites like Netflix and Google and ISPs. Google has routers inside data centers that ISPs use to allow direct access in a practice known as peering. Google also has routers inside of the ISPs themselves to help deliver content even quicker in a practice known as a content delivery network. All of this is legal. Even still, take backbone internet providers, a term most have never heard of that are even more fundamental to the internet than ISPs. ISPs merely deliver content to customers. Backbone internet providers or transit network providers, like Level 3, are independent companies that form the core of the internet that resembles a mess of wires more than a simple series of tubes. These companies also allow peering, or direct access, to anyone. Companies like Netlfix, Facebook, and Apple will or have already built their own arrangements for faster delivery.
Peering itself is the idea that a streaming video needs to arrive faster than an email, not much faster, but faster. Peering is part of the argument that net neutrality cannot exist in some utopian way, and it’s true. Yet peering agreements remained legal during net neutrality because the internet needs certain arrangements to run properly. Those arrangements make sense for everyone. But slowing down a competitor does not. What net neutrality laws did protect in regards to peering deals were that they had to be fair to everyone that wanted them. You may have to pay more to get a special and larger package of data to arrive at a faster rate, but you need to offer the same fair pricing to everyone, much like another common carrier, the postal service.
The main argument, though, that investment in the space will go down, does not have much proof. In the small sample size while net neutrality existed after 2015, the FCC reports there were losses to the industry. Yet Comcast, the biggest provider, and some others, reported gains. Of the losses, it is unclear if government regulations had any influence at all.
What seems to be clear, and is becoming a reoccurring theme, is that the public and the government do not know how technology works. The internet infrastructure is a vastly complicated and technical space that most people know absolutely nothing about. Ask someone what happens when they play a movie on Netflix and see if they can answer how the process works. It is easy to take sides on an issue at surface level, saying this is fair or this is not fair, this hurts me or this hurts the economy. But the simple truth is that instead of trying to just squeeze the internet into a box like the Title II label, the internet may need its own label altogether. Most people can agree that helping grow the economy and helping innovation is a good thing. Most people can also agree that we should have equal access to the internet and that simply trusting companies who have violated the public trust multiple times when given the chance, or simply trusting people like Ajit Pai who used to work for an ISP, is not enough assurance. When framed smartly and politically, and when said with a best case or worst case scenario in mind, both arguments can sound reasonable. But the internet and our society is far murkier than that. The real question to ask yourself when considering each side of the debate is, who benefits?
What is clear is that the internet of the early 2000’s did not work perfectly and in fact has led to the serious vulnerabilities and monopolies that we see today. To say it was wildly successful without regulations is to only focus on a dollar amount. Those two years of net neutrality in 2015–16 did not destroy the internet either. They were a good start in creating equality, but they did not solve all of the internet ills and they were not heavy on the regulation part. It is becoming clearer and clearer as the internet grows and includes more devices and more people who want fair and open access to what is considered a public utility, that there needs to be a serious and thoughtful discussion on how to treat the internet. We do not understand how the internet works. We do not understand how our data works. We do not understand what happens when we volunteer our data on the internet to access massively popular sites. We do not understand how to shift the tides of absurd income inequality between Silicon Valley and the rest of the country. We do not understand what blockchain and cryptocurrency are. We do not understand so much about what goes on regarding the internet. We need an Internet Bill of Rights.
So, with that dark cloud of a backdrop in mind, let’s get some fresh air and talk about Elastos.
In framing a conversation about Elastos in regards to net neutrality, there is the specific, and the more general and philosophical. First, the specific.
Whether ISPs will or will not control the flow of traffic, thus creating super fast lanes for certain websites while creating slow lanes for other websites, we now know that legally, in America, they can. This is because internet service providers work with IP addresses.
The Elastos carrier is a decentralized peer to peer network that lets anyone from any device in the world host a micro-website to serve files or sell digital assets. Usually, in order to host a website, you need an IP address assigned by an ISP or you need to go through an Amazon Web Services or Google Cloud. An average person could have 10 devices in their home but they would only have one public IP address to use when information is sent out to the internet. While these 10 devices have only one IP address, they are all assigned private addresses that are not accessible from the internet. With that, a technique called Network Address Translation (NAT) is used when these devices need to talk to the outside world. Elastos Carrier allows you to host as many micro-websites as you want in any number of devices you want each behind their own firewall. What is unique, is that none of these websites need to have a public IP address because Elastos Carrier does not contact an IP address directly. Instead, the Carrier accesses a resource, and this resource could be hosted in any device in the entire world. Therefore, because these websites or Elastos DApps do not have an IP address, an internet service provider can neither create a fast lane nor a slow lane for them. There would be no way to do this unless an ISP attempted to throttle all traffic going to a particular place. Even then, it would be very hard to recognize such traffic.
Elastos Carrier can also work cross border across firewalls. Let’s say there are two nodes, node A and node B, and they are trying to directly connect for a transfer of assets. But, in this case, there is a firewall preventing this direct transfer. With Elastos, there is a high probability of penetrating this firewall. In this example, node A is trying to send a movie to node B, but node B has a firewall to block traffic from node A. On the traditional internet, there is no way to get around this issue other than whitelisting node A on node B’s firewall. However, the way Elastos Carrier’s P2P network works, is that it then tries to find yet another node, node C, and then maybe node D, that might have direct access to node B. In this case, the transfer of the movie would go from node A to node C, to node D, and then to node B, instead of node A to node B, thereby getting around the firewall being put up by an ISP or a third party. It is also important to note that in this example, node C and node D cannot intercept the traffic they are facilitating the transfer of, because it can only be decrypted by node B.
But besides the technical advantages of avoiding potential manipulation by internet service providers, there is a growing international movement for a more fair, open, and transparent internet, and Elastos is the shining symbol of that idea.
Technology writer, Farhad Manjoo wrote in the New York Times this week,
“Today, the internet is run by giants. A handful of American tech behemoths — Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft — control the most important digital infrastructure, while a handful of broadband companies — AT&T, Charter, Comcast and Verizon — control most of the internet connections in the United States.”
“The very idea that large companies can’t dictate what happens online is laughable now. Large companies, today, pretty much are the internet. In this world, net neutrality didn’t have a chance.”
While there is currently a sense of hopelessness surrounding the internet, or, some would say, a sense of realism about the state of the internet, there is also a tangible desire now for something better. When things get bad, and people get fed up, great change can propel itself to happen. Elastos is emerging at a very auspicious time.
When people talk about net neutrality, many are referring to the internet being a public utility that should be agnostic to how it delivers content, much like when you turn on your sink, water comes out regardless of who you are. Sweetheart deals, and paid prioritization, and manipulation, should not be allowed for services that the public use and rely on. The internet is a lot more complicated than water, but in some ways, it is better to frame it like a universal building block to society than a place where the only concern is investment. There are two kinds of investment on the internet, the financial infrastructure one that leads to innovation and expansion, and the moral one that leads to an internet that is for everyone, including the companies yet to be born who can only succeed on a level playing field. Google and Netflix did not have to compete with Google and Netflix, but the next generation of innovators will. If the internet itself cannot be an open platform for innovation and fairness, and it is becoming increasingly clear that it is not, then Elastos will become the internet within the internet that is not only safer, and this concept of safety cannot be emphasized enough, but also more open and fair. One of the setbacks of treating all data as the same, or even with the repeal, not the same, is that there is no way to verify access. Repeal or no repeal, the internet will continue to be a dangerous place where people do not control their data and cannot create an economy for themselves outside of the internet giants control of digital assets. Net neutrality is a great concept, and in theory, so is innovation on the internet, but neither of these proposals fix the inherent problems with the internet and the ever-pressing upgrade it needs. Elastos provides actual safety and verification of identity, it can stop cyber attacks, it allows people to fairly own their own content and if they choose to, charge others to buy it from them. Elastos allows anyone to build on top of the platform, and incentivizes those who do with ELA. Elastos has a model of decentralization and horizontal, not vertical power, where everyone exists on a level playing field from the start. Elastos avoids IP addresses and prevents manipulation of access. Elastos is an internet of neutrality, neutralizing viruses and attacks, neutralizing monopolies, neutralizing lack of data ownership, neutralizing IP address vulnerability, and neutralizing the now antiquated and inelegant design of the internet that is begging for society to make it over. We have a long way to go in educating society and creating laws to protect citizens from big money and big data and create an internet that works for everyone. But the backlash against net neutrality repeal, the backlash against Facebook data selling, the establishment of neutrality laws in Europe, in South America, the growing shift to decentralized models of power utilizing the internet, and the incoming innovation in blockchain and the internet of things, signals that society is ripe for a new platform and a new way of thinking about and using the internet.
So let’s give them another one. Let’s give them Elastos.
Onward! Upward! Elastos!
This week, in light of the coming opening of Cyber Republic, it is time to discuss the concept of networks. Understanding networks is an important context to understanding why Cyber Republic and Elastos as a whole adheres to the philosophy it does.
The idea of Elastos was not created in a vacuum. Understanding global shifts help contextualize how many areas of our world are changing in unison and have been for some time. These processes develop over decades, but once they start, these new directions can be watched with a perspective towards the whole instead of the individual parts. We need to begin to view this topic from a very wide perspective to begin to see that all things in this universe are interconnected, including human consciousness, and that Elastos sprang forth not from one person’s mind, but from everything that connects to that mind too.
Cyber Republic is a community, or network of people, who want to help build Elastos. Any person can join. Any developer, any non-developer. By creating and helping complete tasks, each person can gain ELA as a volunteer. People from all over the world will create a large network that is direct, decentralized, global, and inclusive.
But what is a network and why are they important?
To begin, we must look closely at the brilliant work of Manuel Lima. Much of Mr. Lima’s work has focused on how people organize and visualize information. He has been called “the man who turns data into art,” and is a frequent lecturer on topics of design, art, history, and his research of networks and their visualization. He is also the current Design Lead at Google.
Mr. Lima begins his lectures by describing the metaphor, for the mode of organization of knowledge and power, for much of human history: the tree. Trees represent the natural ranking order of the world. The “great chain of being” or “scala naturae.” Trees have always been an important part of our cultures. From religious symbols, to ancient Babylon, to Christianity and the Garden of Eden, to Judaism and the Kabbalah Tree, to the Buddha meditating under a tree. The Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge are symbols of how we order our society and our world.
There have been trees that map morality: The Tree of Virtues and the Tree of Vices. Trees of consanguinity, or trees of blood ties. Trees that map our family history or genealogy. There have been trees that map the laws of kings and of rulers. Trees that map the Bible. Trees for areas of science, and trees that map the relationships of all species. Trees are important when talking about science, even today, when we refer to areas of science as branches of science. Trees have been the ultimate metaphor for humanity because they represent order, symmetry, simplicity, balance, unity, and most importantly, hierarchy. Ancient depictions of trees are quite beautiful and show how antiquity ordered both life and knowledge.
One of the oldest models of the tree comes from Aristotle. He attempted to order all of the knowledge of the world at the time into a tree, with substance at the very top, and man, or himself, at the very bottom.
This is the classic tree model. It is like a pyramid. Its power is hierarchical and goes from the top down. The top influences to level below it and then the level below that and so on. Branches of a tree do not connect to each other directly. For much of human history, including ancient Greece, this model made sense. These previous models were models of simplicity. The tree, with substance, or power at the top, was a way to order this simplicity. Long before the onset of modern science and modern technology, Aristotle and those who followed after him could not see the complexities of how the universe works nor could they enable connection with people in other parts of the world.
But with modern advancements in science and technology, there has been a paradigm shift. Trees can no longer be a metaphor for the modern world to answer the question of how things influence each other in our universe. We now need a new metaphor to organize our world. That metaphor is the network.
A network is not like a tree. Networks represent nonlinearity, decentralization, interconnectedness, interdependence, and multiplicity. Networks, unlike trees, are abstract. But networks, like trees, can be quite gorgeous. This has led Manuel Lima to map and visualize the beauty and power of networks. Some of the causes of being able to map this shift are that: our ability to generate data has far outpaced our ability to understand that data, data has become widely accessible and has become its own currency, advanced visualization software has been created to map this data, and some social social scientists, like Mr. Lima, believe that mapping data and understanding networks can actually lead to understanding human behavioral and social evolution, and our world at large.
Lima is part of a project called Visual Complexity, whose self-described goal is to, “leverage a critical understanding of different visualization methods, across a series of disciplines, as diverse as Biology, Social Networks, or the World Wide Web.” Lima has mapped knowledge networks, social networks, art, the world wide web, biology, transportation networks, music, computer systems, business networks, political networks, food webs. In these images, one is just as likely to find a map of a protein network as a subway network. The larger point being, the universe is a network. His goal is to find a holistic approach to mapping these networks. What is vital here is that Lima is not just focusing on the obvious mapping of the social network, where vast networks of people connect through social media sites, but is generalizing the concept to as many facets of our ecosystems, internally and externally, to exemplify how widespread and prevalent networks are and why this makes them so important to study. Networks have always existed in our universe, and science has finally realized this. The world is not merely becoming a network as our society becomes more connected to the internet, but already is a network, and technology is allowing us to understand that. Because of technology, these once invisible networks that are everywhere, from our brains to our oceans, are now able to be seen and to develop in almost everything we do. This will continue and expand. The world will only evolve towards more direct decentralized connection, not less. This symbolic, metaphorical, and literal idea of the network is one of the major movement of modern times.
In these maps, each person, animal, or thing, is a node. Each node connects to another node to form a network that when viewed visually, can reveal important revelations on how this data can quite literally paint a picture of how ecosystems actually work and even predict outcomes.
This shift we are now seeing world wide, from trees to networks, is where we can begin to contextualize that Elastos was not created in a vacuum, but is part of the natural evolution of our cultures and our world.
Let’s look at some examples of this shift.
We start, with Charles Darwin.
Darwin’s Origin of the Species contained only one image in the entire book. It was an image of the Tree of Life. It was a representation of ordering nature. Darwin had a very hierarchical top down structure to map nature. One of his simplistic images showed that a cat influences a mouse that influences a bee that influences a clover. It accounted for basic and simple interactions of the species on planet Earth. However, scientists would later overlay another image to this Tree of Life that Darwin made, and they realized something…there is a dense network of bacteria that connects thousands of species that Darwin could not see at the time. Another map that Lima shows of our ecosystems reveals how a simple codfish off the coast of Canada interacts with over 100 other species. Each interaction is connected by a line, and when more and more lines connect, the image of the map becomes a giant network of lines. Our ecosystems are immensely more complex than science thought and immensely more interconnected. Scientists no longer use Darwin’s “Tree of Life” model of our ecosystems, but the more accurate “Web of Life.” Life is not really a tree at all, but a smart web. Life is a smart network.
Next, the human brain.
Science once thought that the brain was much like the tree model. They believed the brain was centralized, with certain areas in charge of certain behaviors and could map the brain in sections, like branches. But with recent technology and programs like the Blue Brain Project, a Swiss brain initiative that is similar to the Human Genome project, we can see that the brain is anything but. It turns out that the brain is not centralized at all, but is more like a musical symphony of interconnections played by millions of players in a decentralized union.
The image above shows 10% of the neocortex of a brain. There are 10,000 neurons and over 30 million connections. Each point, a node. Each line, a direct connection. The entire image, one interconnected collective decentralized power model. Each one of us, has this network in our head.
Cyber Republic is a decentralized brain. Each community member is one node that connects to the whole to create a musical symphony.
Human knowledge has a long history of being separated into categories or branches. We study subjects separately in school and are taught that these subjects are independent from each other in many cases. The tree model has always worked well for human knowledge. In 1751, the French Encyclopedia became the most thorough compilation of human knowledge at that time. It ordered subjects into branches. It contained 71,818 articles. This was massive for the time and exemplified the separateness of knowledge.
But today, many humans have begun to classify knowledge in an open sourced, decentralized, and highly interconnected way. Wikipedia is a profound example of society being incentivized to grow a project, without leaders, without a pyramid of power, but with the goal of simply getting the information right and improving society, therefore improving their own lives. By today’s count, Wikipedia has over 5,662,000 articles. All of these articles are highly interconnected and contain links to other articles. Global Wikipedia use has been mapped and its images are nothing like the hierarchical Tree of Knowledge, but show that knowledge is also a network that is highly interconnected and interdependent. Wikipedia not only shows the network of knowledge but it also shows the network of people that assemble that knowledge, mirroring the process with the result.
Cyber Republic is the network that builds and assembles the result which is also a network.
Next, how we organize ourselves.
After the industrial revolution, society has had a very hierarchical structure. In a company, we are all familiar with the structure of the CEO at the top, and at the very bottom we have the lowest worker.
At Amazon today, we can see Jeff Bezos at the top making the yearly median salary of his workers at the bottom every 9 seconds. This is truly a hierarchical tree model structure and is common throughout the world. In this structure, humans have to conform to the rigid logic of this pyramid and in many ways, it goes against our nature. Ask an employee at the bottom or the middle of such a structure if this model feels intuitively correct to them.
To contrast this rather mundane image, Lima shows a chart mapping Pearl developers collaborating on open source projects and the beautiful patterns the mapping creates.
Here we see not a tree at all, but an abstract and yet innately pleasurable viewing experience. Something within us recognizes the beauty of decentralized interconnection. It is not rigid, but free flowing. Not logical, but abstract. It is not a simple image, but art.
Which bring us to art.
For centuries, art represented a certain kind of order, and our notions of beauty went along with these values. But with the onset of modernism in art, the notions of beauty began to change. Poets like Arthur Rimbaud in late 19th century France, and later in early 20th century literature, James Joyce, ushered in new forms of beauty in writing. Abstract painting movements like Surrealism, Cubism, Futurism, and then Abstract Expressionism, all changed our notions of beauty and explored interconnections that were met with some level of resistance, but eventually, were generally accepted as beautiful.
The visual aspects of mapping networks intersects with the arts. To break down a painting like Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Night, we see the elements of dot, line, color, shape, direction, texture, scale, dimension, and motion. These elements can combine to create balance and instability, symmetry and asymmetry, transparency and opacity, accuracy and distortion, sharpness and diffusion, flatness and depth, predictability and spontaneity, regularity and irregularity, subtlety and boldness. However, all of these elements and the balances and beautiful juxtapositions that they create do not make the work of art great in and of themselves. In painting, in music, in dance, in poetry, in cinema, in sculpture, in photography…the whole is other than, or even greater than, the some of its parts. This idea was popularized by The Berlin School of Experimental Psychology in the early 20th century and particularly Gestalt psychology which dealt with the perception of the world. The Gestalt effect was that one experiences the perception of a whole as different than the perception of the individual parts. Many take that to mean greater than. The idea is about how no mere collection of dots and lines, or in our case, people and nodes, can summarize the whole. One must see them as a fully identifiable pattern. In a painting, we cannot look at one corner of the work and understand the painting. In Elastos, we cannot look at one person, or one idea, even if they appear more important, and understand the whole. In a network, one must look at the whole with a wide angle lens. It is the connection of these elements that create the whole, not any one element by itself.
Cyber Republic is a about the whole. It becomes stronger with each new connection, with each new person and their unique contribution. This is beauty.
In the image above, one is a map of the brain by the Human Brain Project, a project co-funded by the European Union, and the other is a Jackson Pollock. We can see the abstract and decentralized power that both have when viewed as a whole. No one line or point is central and in charge. All work in unison with lateral power to create a truly magnificent work. To see the human brain and a great painting look remarkably similar shows how networks are truly everywhere and truly important and even natural and beautiful to humans. Networks do not go against our nature, but towards it.
This is what Cyber Republic and Elastos are. With each person, with each idea, with each thing, with each node, we are creating a fully decentralized virtual country where we will reflect the very same order of the natural world, of the art world, and of the universe itself. We are new, and yet not new. Modern, and yet ancient. We are not an idea created in a vacuum, but the evolution of society combined with a beautiful technology. Without this context, one cannot understand what Elastos is. When Cyber Republic is thriving, and mapped to show its visual complexity, it will be able to be placed along those two images above and create a third in the sequence, and we invite Mr. Lima to do it.
While Pollock did not know of the mapping of the brain that would take place decades after his death, it seems obvious that he was tapping into something, through the network of human consciousness, and was actually mapping his own mind onto his canvases. What is more beautiful and abstract than that?
With Cyber Republic, we can map our own minds and our own ideas onto the canvas of our societies.
One of the patterns in Pollock’s work that has been noticed by physicist Richard Taylor, is the presence of fractals. Fractals are all over nature, are all over Pollock’s paintings, are all over James Joyce’s work, and some speculate that humans are naturally possessed by them. This has led Lima to conclude that if fractals are everywhere and humans are possessed by them, then networks are also everywhere and humans may also be possessed by them, saying,
“The brain is a network of nerve cells connected by axons, and cells themselves are networks of molecules connected by biochemical reactions. Societies are networks of people linked by friendships, familial relationships and professional ties. On a larger scale, food webs and ecosystems can be represented by networks of species. And networks pervade technology: the internet, power grids and transportation are but a few examples. Networks are truly an omnipresent structure.”
Lima shows the hidden pervasiveness of networks just like fractals as “omnipresent” and does not even go into the subatomic world where quantum physics has proven the interconnection of the universe to baffling degrees. Feng Han has spoke of non-locality and the ability for particles to communicate with each other instantly across millions of lightyears. Networks. Interconnection. Decentralization. This is the fabric of the universe. Not the hierarchical top down power structure we are told is the only way the world works.
There is a fascinating example of the two systems of trees and networks in a book titled, “The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations,” by Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom. The book, rather poetically, states the spider is the representation of a top down centralized power structure. Cut off its head, and it dies. The starfish on the other hand, represents the decentralized lateral power structure. Cut off one its arms, and it grows back. The spider is a tree, the starfish is a network. Elastos and Cyber Republic are starfish. We grow back.
The book lists the traits that a person who can create a decentralized network possess. These people are called catalysts and their traits are as follows: Genuine interest in others. Numerous loose connections, rather than just a small number of close connections. Skill at social mapping. Desire to help everyone they meet. The ability to help people help themselves by listening and understanding, rather than giving advice. Emotional intelligence. Trust in others and in the decentralized network. Ability to inspire others. Tolerance for ambiguity. A hands-off approach. Catalysts do not interfere with, or try to control the behavior of the contributing members of the decentralized organization. Ability to let go. After building up a decentralized organization, catalysts would rather move on than try to take control. The authors even state that when networks become large, attacking the “top” can actually strengthen the network.
Today, we are seeing this same change into a modern system of networks, with decentralized brain power not in a pyramid or an ordered beauty, but an abstract beauty. Elastos is very modern. This is clear. It may be met with strange looks by some, but those that know which way the wind is blowing can understand that while Cyber Republic and Elastos may begin by being centralized to some degree, that their goal is real decentralization. We may be abstract and modern — but this is where the beauty is. We are a reflection of the human mind, of human consciousness, of the universe and nature and of great modern art.
We are a network and our community is our secret weapon.
Right now, we are at a place in human history when the entire physical world is about to get very smart. Cars. Appliances. Televisions. Sensors. Tools. Data centers. Wearables…Our clothing will be connected to the internet. We are also at a point in human history when the smart phone is now part of almost every society and its numbers are growing. Each one of these things, each one of these companies, and each one of these people can have their own DID and become secure nodes, or points of contact that when connected with lines in a visual depiction can become a secure and smart visual network. A decentralized smart network that is secure and can scale. Anyone can build on this network. Anyone can join this network. We need to think very very big. The Elastos Carrier, the P2P network, is the platform for all of these smart devices and all of these people to interact directly and utilize data that they can now own. This is a smart internet for a smart world. An Internet of Things and an internet of people who all work in unison with an abstract and decentralized approach can create a technicolored symphony of a network when given the chance. This platform is not for small things. It includes small things, but remember, we must look at the whole. The big picture. Do not stand 3 inches from a Pollock and deem you know everything about the painting. Do not study one link in the human brain or one fish interacting with one other fish and deem to understand the entire ecosystem. In a network, it is about the whole, not any one. If you join Cyber Republic, you strengthen the whole. You become integral to the whole. You are valued and have power. We do not favor one part of our brain and say, yes, this part is important, but I could live without the rest. So it goes with real networks. So it will eventually go with Elastos and Cyber Republic. We are not there yet, but we are moving that way with great determination.
We are bridging the smart world of IOT with the smart world of a decentralized, safe, and data-ownership internet onto a P2P platform. This is a network of networks where everything has a verified DID connected to the blockchain and everything can communicate with each other. At our center, we have a real network operating system. There is security and blockchain to verify people and verify smart things. And if all that were not modern enough, we have interoperability. We can have integration and interconnectedness with other networks. We allow companies to own and share data securely across industries. We allow people to own and share data securely across borders. We are secure and we can scale.
Elastos is elastic.. Cyber Republic is too. It can expand and expand and it will never break.
If we connect every node, every virtual machine, every member of Cyber Republic, we could one day see a fantastic abstract expressionistic canvas of networks that beautifully depicts not only Elastos, but our species, our world, the universe itself.
If a map of the brain is same as a map of the universe is the same as a map of our ecosystems is the same as a map of our knowledge is the same as a map of Cyber Republic and Elastos… What does this say that the brain, and the universe, and the internet we are building all resemble each other? There is a visual symbology of the network. Are we collectively building a decentralized network because we are in fact already a decentralized network? Is what is happening in technology today merely an effect of a larger cause within humans relationship to their universe and themselves? Are we headed where we already are, but just don’t know it?
Our philosophers and our spiritual leaders have spoke of these decentralized interconnections for centuries, even millennia. Is what we are seeing on the internet merely in line with what already is at the micro and macro level of our perceived reality? In this sense… is decentralization in some ways inevitable? What we do know if that we are more ready for it than ever before. Therefore, it is appearing, and it is appearing, all over this earth, many examples being directly born out of the internet…the same internet we are going to improve and evolve with Elastos.
The brain is abstract decentralized and interconnected. The universe is abstract decentralized and interconnected. And while man cannot control the workings of the brain and cannot control the workings of nature and cannot control the workings of the universe, man has tried to control the internet. Man has tried to make the internet specific, centralized, and connected only with the limits of third parties who profit. The internet is unnatural. It is manipulated. It is a facade. But it wants to be free. It wants to be more natural. Cyber Republic is its voice.
More information will be released about Cyber Republic. We ask that you read it — and share it — and if you are inspired…to join it, because you are more than welcome to be part of this network. Your presence will make this network greater, will make this network more complex, and will make this network even more beautiful.
Onward! Upward! Elastos!