18 November 2009

Decentralised Nation

One of the internet's greatest strengths is the fact that it is decentralised. With the emergence of cloud computing powerhouses such as Google and Facebook we are seeing the decay of a decentralised internet. Majority of our time online is spent "logged in" to some or other cloud infrastructure which has sweeping power over our personal information.

Now i'm fairly lax about Google having access to my personal info because they have been true to their "do no evil" motto and let's be honest, it is alot better being served adverts that are appropriate to my interests. But i think we should all be aware of how Google has softly and gently pulled our pants down and is now carefully bending us over the kitchen table while reassuring us that this is what we want. The signs are there, regardless of how comforting the process may be.
The same holds true with politics, any party may have good intentions initially but given enough time with enough power, justification can be stretched very thin. Democracy was created as a means for the people to govern themselves but let's face it, we have quickly returned to an aristocratic model. With a few individuals controlling the needs of the people, our opinions are easily swayed. Absolute power corrupts absolutely; it's a cliché for a reason.
The truth is; there is no clear cut definition for 'good' and 'evil' which means Google's admirable motto really holds no water. The safest definition for 'good' is decentralisation, Google will inevitable rape us on that kitchen table. Our saviour however, comes in the form of Peer-to-Peer. Peer-to-Peer is the closest thing to 'good' the information world has ever known because no single entity controls it and it benefits everyone involved.
Bit torrent technology has taken the piracy world by storm with it's amazing powers of sharing but it has one fatal flaw; trackers. Trackers are to a lesser degree points of centralised weakness. These trackers were exactly what the media industry targeted in their efforts to thwart the use of torrents. The founders of The Pirate Bay have faced enormous resistance to their very successful site and endured a David and Goliath battle on a massive scale. As of 17 November 2009 The Pirate Bay has shut down it's trackers and has opted for the decentralised DHT and PEX methods. And with torrents over HTTP on the horizon, file sharing has never looked better.
Rule of thumb for ethics... If it hurts a few wealthy individuals and benefits vast amounts of ordinary people it's safe to call it 'good'. File sharing, including piracy, is good in it's simplest definition. Peer-to-Peer cloud technology in conjunction with distributed computing is a positive prospect but the centralised clouds that exist in today's IT landscape are a recipe for disaster. In order to put the power back in the hands of the people we need to throw the politicians back into the crowds and embrace decentralisation.