sponges

The future of the Internet may be sponge nets

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Since the start of the Internet revolution, computer mastery has grown along with computer technology: 20 years ago, college students would enroll in high-level courses to get the same computer knowledge today’s elementary kids take for granted.

So maybe 20 years from now (or less), everybody will know about sponge nets and how to maintain them, and today’s Internet will seem as limited and antiquated as Victorian hand-crank telephones.

At least, Amara D. Angelica hopes so. Angelica, editor and cofounder of the KurzweilAI [Accelerating Intelligence] blog, called for readers to “bypass the Internet” on January 30.

She wrote:

“I’m sick of hearing about how we need to cave in to repressive governments and throttle back Google, Twitter, Facebook, and other information services and accept Web censorship and limits on free expression. Get the hell off my cloud.”

Instead, Angelica recommends an idea proposed by futurist Ian Pearson the day before. Pearson insists that “web censorship will force next generation nets,” and told his readers:

“I’ve written a number of times about jewellery nets and sponge nets. These could do the trick. With very short-range communication directly between tiny devices that each of us wears just like jewellery, a sponge network can be built that provides zillions of paths from A to B, hopping from device to device till it gets there.”

Such a network would not rely on relatively centralized Internet service providers, as the Internet does today, and would be much harder for government censors to suppress, he argues.

Is Pearson’s idea too fantastic for plausibility? Maybe. But there are already real-world examples of implausible science-fiction ideas becoming reality less than a generation later. The late sci-fi writer Arthur C. Clarke could have made billions, if he’d thought to patent his idea of a worldwide geostationary communications satellite network before he mentioned it in a World War Two-era radio magazine.

But in 1945, the idea of a man-made satellite network was almost as ridiculous as time travel … or government-proof sponge networks replacing the Internet.

Plausible or not, Pearson’s idea is generating enthusiasm. One person on Twitter who forwarded Kurzweil’s link described the idea as: “#Freedom from totalitarian communication lockdown, along the lines of a #meshnet using mobile phones”.

Commenter Guy on Kurzweil thinks the idea would be easier to implement than most people realize:

“I live up in the hills in southern Oregon and although my cellphone regularly drops out due to ridge lines, etc. on every road between home & the 3 closest cities I can find (with a smartphone app Wi-Fi analyzer) wireless routers that completely blanket/overlap every path…. Which just goes to show that the hardware is already in place for what you describe.”

Photo by Gregory Moine