We have to fix the internet. After 40 years, it has begun to corrode, both itself and us. It is still a marvelous and miraculous invention, but now there are bugs in the foundation, bats in the belfry, and trolls in the basement.
I do not mean this to be one of those technophobic rants dissing the internet for rewiring our brains to give us the twitchy attention span of Donald Trump on Twitter or pontificating about how we have to log off and smell the flowers. Those qualms about new technologies have existed ever since Plato fretted that the technology of writing would threaten memorization and oratory. I love the internet and all of its digital offshoots. What I bemoan is its decline.
There is a bug in its original design that at first seemed like a feature but has gradually, and now rapidly, been exploited by hackers and trolls and malevolent actors: Its packets are encoded with the address of their destination but not of their authentic origin. With a circuit-switched network, you can track or trace back the origins of the information, but that’s not true with the packet-switched design of the internet.
Compounding this was the architecture that Tim Berners-Lee and the inventors of the early browsers created for the World Wide Web. It brilliantly allowed the whole of the earth’s computers to be webbed together and navigated through hyperlinks. But the links were one-way. You knew where the links took you. But if you had a webpage or piece of content, you didn’t exactly know who was linking to you or coming to use your content.