ThreeFold Manifesto Draft – please leave feedback in the comments!
Realizing the promise
The Internet, also known as the web or cyberspace, is a global social space that allows us to connect and exchange across cultural and geographical borders. It is like an act of nature; it grows itself through our collective actions. It may still offer a powerful outline of cyberspace governance: an equal and enlightened arena, a neutral ecosystem that interweaves people and machines. Unfortunately we’re not even close to that today. But it’s not too late to realize that vision.
What was once a massive global movement sparked by idealism of free culture and the net is now hosting a wave of unintended consequences that may destroy sovereignty and freedom as we know it. The digital revolution and the “democratization” of the Internet promised to lead us to a prosperous and equitable world, one that brought us closer together, eliminating both physical and virtual boundaries. Just over twenty years ago, activist and internet pundit John Perry Barlow praised the virtues of a system that holds the potential to transcend identity, space, sovereignty, and geography:
“We are creating a world that all may enter without privilege or prejudice accorded by race, economic power, military force, or station of birth… a world where anyone, anywhere may express his or her beliefs, no matter how singular, without fear of being coerced into silence or conformity… Your legal concepts of property, expression, identity, movement, and context do not apply to us. They are all based on matter, and there is no matter here.”
Unfortunately, this is not the world we live in today. Borders are hardening in our virtual world with the Great Firewall of China and the widespread emergence of Internet “clusters”. Many countries have attempted to turn off internet services or to prevent free speech. In a world where our networks and algorithms control our destiny, neutrality and freedom is disappearing. If we fail to address our broken information ecosystem, we will never be able to address the challenges we are to face collectively.
Not only that, the Internet is currently controlled by a handful of tech giants and governments. Their approach commoditizes our lives, leaves the underserved behind and fails to provide sovereignty where we gather. The technology that connects us is being used to distract, manipulate, polarize, divide and control the way we think, act and live our lives.
Yet billions of people and IoT devices are expected to join the digital world this decade. The Internet is interconnecting humanity, both online and offline, and is certainly playing an important role in making our world more transparent and fair. The potential of technology to change the world remains endless and limited to our own imagination. People are more than just data generators and consumers. Our Internet must respect human complexity if it is to provide us with the tools we need to create a better future.
So as we move towards a world where tech and science is merging together, how do we ensure a neutral, inclusive and sustainable digital future?
Inspired by how nature functions at both a micro and macro scale, a peer-to-peer Internet would allow people to connect computers from their homes or offices to participate in a distributed data economy. By allowing humans and machines to interact without intermediaries, such a system would empower us to be self-sovereign as we would store our data and define who can access it.
Quite simple – there is no good reason that our data is being stored and controlled by others in the information age. Why are we paying companies to handle our information for us, when it makes us vulnerable to be turned into products, and would take us the same time to do it ourselves?
Peer-to-peer isn’t an alternative to the Internet, it’s an alternative to cloud giants. The Internet doesn’t need replacing; it is one of the most beautiful inventions of our civilization, if not the greatest. Which is not to say that cloud providers are completely obsolete. They serve functions that decentralized systems cannot (e.g. big data); peer-to-peer systems are just infinitely more resilient, secure, private and scalable.
In times of exponential evolution and innovation, we have our fears around the Internet. A centralized Internet which is controlled by a handful of companies is a serious existential threat. If emerging technologies such as IoT, Blockchain and the Metaverse are not hosted on a self-sovereign, peer-to-peer platform, we may be running head down into the matrix.
We don’t need to disconnect ourselves even further from our reality and it is our responsibility to ensure a safe and fair future for the generations to come. We fear a world that relies and empowers a small technocratic minority. While it has always been that way, peer-to-peer holds the potential to shift those paradigms and allow us to explore new horizons.
We decide to switch from fear to love and to move forward as one humanity. It is our responsibility as humans to pursue greater consciousness.