Inventor and scientist Danny Hillis warns that the Internet has “expanded it way beyond its limits,” and is set for a “disaster,” calling for an ‘Internet Plan B’ that would operate in times of emergency.
Hillis is the founder of Thinking Machines Corporation, which developed the Connection Machine, a series of supercomputers designed by Hillis while he was working at MIT.
Speaking to Wired’s Michael V. Copeland at the TED 2013 conference currently taking place in Long Beach, Hillis argues that because so many interconnected systems are now reliant on the world wide web, “We’re setting ourselves up for disaster, like we did with the financial system.”
Pointing to examples like the Stuxnet virus, US military data being routed through China, and the threat of a massive denial of service attack targeting the entire web, Hillis advocates building a second backbone that would kick in like a back-up generator “when the internet is in trouble.”
What Hillis imagines is a second network that could come online in case of emergency. It would use different protocols from the existing internet, and would be kept separate as much as possible (“Hygiene would be required,” Hillis says.) So when the internet goes down, police stations, hospitals and airports could still function.
In the face of the billions of dollars that companies and governments face to lose if their swath of the internet is taken over by bad guys, to say nothing of the chaos that would occur with a wholesale shutdown of the internet, the few hundred million dollars it would cost to build Hillis’ Plan B seems like money well spent.
As we have documented for the best part of a decade, Internet Plan B, or Internet 2, would be a perfect excuse for authorities to replace the current Wild West-style Internet system with a newly regulated, censored structure under which everyone would require permission and approval to operate a website.
Of course, this would be a routine procedure for monied corporations, prominent individuals and offshoots of the establishment itself, but could serve to strangle independent voices that have helped mould the Internet into what it represents today – the final bastion of true free speech.
Citing threats posed to cybersecurity, governments could agree to kill off the old world wide web in favor of a highly controlled Internet which would bar terrorists, criminals, subversives and anyone deemed a security risk by the state from getting online – a no fly list for cyberspace.
Internet ID cards or licenses would be issued to individuals who have proven themselves to be well behaved citizens – those have not used the web for illegal downloads, hacking, or God forbid – criticizing officialdom. The Great Firewall of China would be implemented globally – killing off all those annoying alternative media websites and blogs and allowing the mainstream media to reclaim its audience share.
The problem with Hillis’ argument is that many of the threats he cites as a justification for creating a new government-controlled ‘hygienic’ Internet 2 were created by the same military-industrial complex that would benefit from the new system.
As we have documented, the last five major computer viruses – Stuxnet, Flame, SP, SPE and IP – were all most likely the work of US and Israeli intelligence services.
Hillis and his peers should be more sophisticated about denigrating the old Internet and calling for a new “emergency” Internet 2 given that this would represent a perfect opportunity for those who have not hidden their agenda to destroy free speech on the world wide web in moving us closer to a draconian, onerous Chinese-style Internet.