On September 11, 2001, two airliners crossed the azure and set the twin towers of the World Trade Center ablaze, with them collapsing the certainties of a hitherto untouched America. That day, the internet slowed down, but did not “go down”, as the telephone networks did in the five minutes following the tragedy; and it was thanks to ICQ, the ancestor of all instant messaging, that I was able to learn, character after character, that my American colleagues from Ukibi, headquartered on Wall Street, were safe and sound. Character after character, the internet had demonstrated the resilience for which it was designed.
Twenty years later, the network connects more than 4.5 billion humans, and ten times more objects. The majority of Earthlings connect to it with a smartphone, and for all those born after September 11, the internet is now quite obvious: essential, invisible, and diverse. The only question that touches them is to know how humanity was able to manage without… The digital revolution is complete; we just didn’t realize it. Yet the paradox of the Internet is that it is based on code, and that this code is widely accessible to all: would the future of the Internet be its disappearance?
Philippe Dewost (Geraldine Aresteanu)
The question depends on who is asked: the answer differs on either side of the “Great Firewall”, and the Chinese are stepping up their presence and their efforts in standardization bodies to push “their” version. The future of the internet will perhaps be played out in the plural, as Jonathan Bourguignon clearly shows. His book “Internet, year zero” (ed. Divergences) reminds us that we can only think of the Internet from its history. However, this story, made up of technology, geopolitics and inseparable economic issues, is as if overlooked by entertainment on the one hand (90% of passengers on a bus or metro use a pocket supercomputer connected to the world. integer to … scroll through images or videos with the thumb), and on the other by the “no code” – as if we wanted to hide what is “ under the hood “!
“Splendors and miseries of the cybermonde”, by Michaël Fœssel
The dystopian visions of these worried lookouts who are the great directors of science fiction films give us the first tensions on (de) centralization, freedom and control, privacy and governance. However, these are the main lines of force around which the future of the Internet could be articulated. In the event of a limited network dissociation (a Chinese subnet surrounded by the Great Firewall “great computer wall”), the network will connect during this century 10 billion humans and at least 100 billion people. ‘objects. Moore’s Law [le doublement tous les deux ans du nombre de transistor présents sur un microprocesseur, NDLR] will continue its work in each of these objects and in each of our palms, so that the computing power of the entire network will have accumulated on its surface. This vision underpinned IBM’s “Device Democracy” white paper that led to the development of their Hyperledger blockchain infrastructure.
A common good
The first issue is therefore that of decentralization. A devolution of power currently in the hands of mega-platforms is a possible scenario. Decentralization is one of the facets of resilience, and one of the foundations of the transitivity of information, trust, and transactions. In a context of growing mistrust of institutions, including financial ones, the internet will remain the crypto-monetary transport infrastructure for a long time to come. In this context, the “freedom to calculate” will be a second essential stake of political significance. Will the possibilities offered in this context by homomorphic cryptography and “zero-knowledge proof” make it possible to hope for a balance between freedom and security?
The third stake of the future of the Internet will be based on the freedom of access to information – including the code, and the concomitant freedom of contribution. In this area, the unexpected and dazzling success of Wikipedia, or even of the open source approach, which today “powers” 99% of the web, demonstrate that in digital technologies, “the only limit is talent”. It will still be necessary to identify, attract, retain and motivate these talents, by arousing their curiosity, by nurturing them with challenges, and by valuing them for what they do.
Wikipedia: the underside of a miracle
The future of the internet will be what we make of it. We will do with it what we understand. And we will understand it only if we have been taught in the three non-negotiable subjects if we want to educate engineers and free citizens: mathematics, philosophy and history. Only then will the future of the internet be that of a common good.
Illustration of a person connected to the internet