Author Topic: An Internet After the Money's Gone?  (Read 964 times)

Offline apophenia

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An Internet After the Money's Gone?
« on: April 29, 2020, 10:23:10 AM »
This isn't so much a scenario as a question springing from a scenario. We're living through 'interesting times' so I'll ask forgiveness in advance for a dark theme. Most of our dystopia stories involve violent catastrophes - nuclear holocausts, zombie apocalypse, etc. I'm not much interested in those. My sense is that the scope of human cooperation tends to be hid under a bushel. Generally, when the worst happens, cooperation seems to increase (think East Enders during the Blitz).

Europe's Dark Age (a contentious term, I know) seems mainly to have been a result of the economic collapse of the Western Roman Empire. That process may have begun in the 2nd Century AD but, by the 6th, Europe was a much poorer place. So, the scenario here is what happens to a critical element of modern Western Civilization if all the money were to run out?

In the medieval period, practical information was mainly transmitted orally or by watch-and-learn. Of course, there were learned tomes but you needed wealth or privilege to get access. A stereotypically view of the Dark Ages was a loss of knowledge and complex skill sets. Some of the latter was purely a matter of base economics - no solidi, no aqueduct built. The former seems to me more about the difficulty of spreading oral information in uncertain times. We no longer have that problem - the last month having demonstrated the value of the internet very well.

Without getting too lyrical, it strikes me that the modern equivalents to epic poetry and medieval apprenticeship are the information exchanges of the internet or even - Pixies preserve us! - all those how-to videos on YouTube. If correct, the simplest way for preserving practical/technical information and continuing the distribution of that information is to maintain the internet in something approaching its current form.

"Everything's gonna be put on electricity and run on a paying basis."

So, what is that form? First, I should acknowledge that I am well out of my depth here. I get that internet routers are owned and run by an array of ISP firms. And somewhere in there are the data centres with server farms which the internet has come to rely upon for storage. So, a bunch of redundancy and decentralization - just like ARPA originally intended.  But what happens if the profit-motive is removed? Put another way, what are the potential alternatives to Big Corporate ISPs?

Grid computing - working on problems by networking multiple computers online - the provider side of grid computer is a good example of the sort of cooperation instinct I was referring to. Being an online phenomenon, obviously grid computing (or volunteer computing) is not the answer to post-money server farms. So what could be?

I've read a little (and understood even less) about cluster computing like a Beowulf cluster assembled out of standard PCs. Could such arrangements conceivably step in for internet router systems? If scale is a key issue, could a greater number of decentralized clusters stand in for internet routers abandoned as uneconomical by ISP firms? Are there other approaches that could simulate the current internet (even if they meant a much reduced bandwidth)?

"'Reliable', 'sensible', 'dependable', and lots of others words that end in '-ible'".

Systems that survive have features that are durable, reliable, flexible, and possibly redundant. That sounds handy for the non-zombie apocalypse! So what kinds of computer hardware, operating systems, etc. fit that bill?

Here, I'm mainly concerned about people who don't code, can't hack, have never assembled their own PC, barely understand the simplest computing concepts ... okay, I mean me  :-[   What is the simplest, most durable form of computing hardware out there? Ditto for software? I remember some ancient story about a ruggedized, 64K laptop that would survive being dropped out of tree in Africa. What's the 21st Century version of that story?

Still reading? Good on ya! Thanks for sticking with it  ;D

So, that's it: If/when all the cash is hoovered out of the system (and it doesn't come back), how do we build jury-rigged crutch for the internet? Then, how do hapless computer illiterates like me get access to this spit-and-sticks interweb?
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Offline GTX_Admin

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Re: An Internet After the Money's Gone?
« Reply #1 on: April 30, 2020, 03:05:36 AM »
A couple of questions:

  • Why would you think all the money would go?  Where would it go?
  • What is the scenario you are talking about here?  A modern dark ages?
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Offline Frank3k

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Re: An Internet After the Money's Gone?
« Reply #2 on: April 30, 2020, 04:11:35 AM »
"Money" wouldn't vanish - it would just be replaced by something that can be valued - like toilet paper. The internet (at least the network behind it) was designed to be self repairing and designed to survive a nuclear war. Solar power should still be available and solar panels are relatively low tech. Consumer level computers - barring an EMP pulse -should be functional at some level for at least 50 years, maybe less, when the interconnections between the silicon and the metal pads that connect to them start failing. There might be a market for pre-2003 (pre-RoHS) electronics and CPUs, but they'll have lesser performance. A pre-2003 Pentium III might cost 10 TPs, while a 2021 i9 might only cost 2TPs. Storage will also be a problem - spinning disks will fail, SSDs will fail long before metal whiskers become an issue.

Offline apophenia

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Re: An Internet After the Money's Gone?
« Reply #3 on: April 30, 2020, 12:47:44 PM »
What is the scenario you are talking about here?  A modern dark ages?

Yes, exactly. This sprang from a conversation about the nature of the historical Dark Ages and could it conceivably occur again. The simplest explanation for the Dark Ages seems to be inflation and other economic issues leading up to the 'Crisis of the 3rd Century'. An extended period of poor economic policies seems repeatable.

Janina Ramirez takes pains to separate ignorance from illiteracy (which is where I got the stuff about orally transmitted knowledge). So, our trite conclusion was Got Internet = No 'New Dark Ages'. Afterwards, the thought occurred: But what holds up the internet if the profit motive were gone?

Why would you think all the money would go?

Strictly a scenario worked backwards. Barring nuclear exchanges, zombie uprisings, etc., an extended economic crisis seemed the most plausible cause of any 'New Dark Ages'. I'm not suggesting that a direct analogy of a degraded denarus with the solidus replacement left too late. Perhaps something more akin to 1970's-style hyperinflation run amuck.

Frank: So those TP hoarders might be on to something  ;D

On the hardware side, sounds like old tech is durable tech ... up to a point.  A pity about SSDs  :(  I hadn't really thought through a timeline but I'd reckon that 50 years would do the job ... if the internet were to continues to function (more or less).

Possibly being naïve here but loss of technical knowledge in the historical Dark Ages seems to have mainly been a problem of communications and storage retrieval. So long as the internet functions, we don't really run those risks ... regardless of what policy shenanigans our political masters get up to.
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Offline apophenia

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Re: An Internet After the Money's Gone?
« Reply #4 on: May 01, 2020, 04:42:25 AM »
It seems that what I was looking for was a distributed internet based upon peer-to-peer networks. I should have realized that, having watched Silcon Valley's Pied Piper smartphone P2P theme  :-[  Same idea, I guess, but based on more durable computers.

Add in IPFS or some other kind of P2P archiving and, hey presto, 'New Dark Ages' avoided  :smiley:
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Offline Frank3k

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Re: An Internet After the Money's Gone?
« Reply #5 on: May 01, 2020, 06:12:43 AM »
Some ICs may degrade, but most electrolytic capacitors will fail; when they do, the attached electronics will fail as well. Devices that use batteries to hold settings. So you'll need "archeologists" to dig through landfills and find and test electronic components.

Offline apophenia

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Re: An Internet After the Money's Gone?
« Reply #6 on: May 01, 2020, 06:34:11 AM »
Hadn't thought about holding settings. Good point.

Electrolytic capacitors: Yes, I've seen life expectencies for aluminum electrolytic capacitors given as low as 2 years. One source did say though that de-rating voltage could extend life span to 15 years. Controlling temperature seems to be a big part of this ... like everything with computers.
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Offline GTX_Admin

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Re: An Internet After the Money's Gone?
« Reply #7 on: May 02, 2020, 04:37:05 AM »
One way for this scenario to play out might be for something such as a nuclear war or perhaps at least massive use of EMP weapons to essentially destroy many forms of electronic comms etc.  Basically, blast the world back into the dark ages.  Basically then force countries/governments/people to revert into more local groupings.  That said, people would still know that others were out there and some way to re-establish comms would occur and thus the transfer of knowledge.

Personally, I believe the removal of money would be a good thing, so long as done in conjunction with a growth in technology and maturing of civilisation.  Sadly I doubt the latter will happen in my lifetime.  The last 3 - 4 yrs have proven we are devolving if anything.
All hail the God of Frustration!!!

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But you can make the Bastard work for it.

Offline apophenia

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Re: An Internet After the Money's Gone?
« Reply #8 on: May 02, 2020, 07:10:07 AM »
Yep. When he was playing in Soundgarden, Kim Thayil said (tongue-in-cheek) "You can keep the fame, just give me the money!". I'd flip that around in a para-phrase: 'Forget the money, just gives us the tech!' A side order of maturing civilisation would be most welcome too  :smiley:
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Offline Story

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Re: An Internet After the Money's Gone?
« Reply #9 on: May 02, 2020, 10:23:34 AM »
What happens when the right guy isn't in the right place at the right time?

In 1982, no one questioned the use of pay phones in the film, but the movie’s sequel, Blade Runner 2049, launches in a world where many people bought their tickets on cellphones. CNET  asked director Denis Villeneuve about the lack of such devices in his new movie. The director actually gave two answers to this question. The first was a tongue-in-cheek response that there was no Steve Jobs in that world, and thus no iPhone or other smartphones.
https://www.digitaltrends.com/movies/blade-runner-director-explains-lack-of-cell-phones/

What happens when society stumbles and technology slips between the pages of history books?

http://www.antikythera-mechanism.gr/

What happens when you slaughter all the homeopathic practitioners of herbal medicine?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spanish_Inquisition

Let's ask Johnny.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y26TQKczaaY

.... because the guy from FEMA doesn't know.

Offline buzzbomb

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Re: An Internet After the Money's Gone?
« Reply #10 on: May 02, 2020, 05:35:49 PM »
Very interesting concept. Coming from the time when computers filled rooms (The boring actual huge box processors not the whirring tapes that you see on old shows.. they were just storage), MIPS and instruction counts were crucial

Some ICs may degrade, but most electrolytic capacitors will fail; when they do, the attached electronics will fail as well. Devices that use batteries to hold settings. So you'll need "archeologists" to dig through landfills and find and test electronic components.

Frank, that is a concept I can relate to, in one of SM Stirling's books, Island in the sea of Time (Short synopsis. Nantucket island of he late 1990's gets flung back into the Bronze age). Folks who committed misdemenours were sentenced to digging out all the old landfills for any technology items.


Offline elmayerle

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Re: An Internet After the Money's Gone?
« Reply #11 on: May 03, 2020, 12:30:00 AM »
Retaining programming knowledge would likely be a necessity, too.  Look at several US states today, who are in desperate need of COBOL programmers because their ancient computer systems in the state departments that handle unemployment use it and the current programs cannot deal with the number of people filing for unemployment due to the present situation.
« Last Edit: May 03, 2020, 01:31:31 AM by GTX_Admin »

Offline Frank3k

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Re: An Internet After the Money's Gone?
« Reply #12 on: May 03, 2020, 02:59:14 AM »
I learned BASIC on my own, but COBOL and RPG were the first languages I was taught - in high school (our school got free time on a mainframe). At UCLA I had the last FORTRAN class taught with paper cards for programming; I almost gave up on having anything to do with computers after that.

I guess you could "roll your own" capacitors and go back in IC history as the newer/denser semiconductors fail; building CPUs with old TTL chips, then individual transistors and resistors and finally making vacuum tubes. The technology to make ICs with small transistor counts isn't very advanced at all (it can be done by hobbyists) so maybe the transistor or tube level won't be reached.

@Story - by definition, if you slaughter all homeopathic practitioners, their medicines will still work. Although many of my ancestors were forced out of Portugal and Spain during the Inquisition. They weren't homeopaths, though.

Offline apophenia

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Re: An Internet After the Money's Gone?
« Reply #13 on: May 03, 2020, 03:07:24 AM »
Evan: Interesting. Some of this sounds to be about a more general lack of preparedness. After all, the rate that people are finding themselves under/unemployed may be unprecedented, but the US has seen something similar before (eg: Sept 2008-April 2009 with ~4,930,000 jobs lost and, coincidentally, around the time of the H1N1 flu outbreak). [1]

Speculation is always dodgy with my limited level of understanding. But I'm wondering if open-source compilers like GnuCOBOL might not be of use here. Of course, it is governments themselves who often insist that their 'clients' use closed-source, proprietary software. Why is beyond my ken.

Again, if the profit potential is seriously reduced, who will support that proprietary software? At present, Linex has a shorter support 'shelf-life' than Microsoft's o/s programmes. If the tech giants whithered on the profit-making vine, perhaps there would be more tech-cred cachet for individuals who provide support for Linex?

... Folks who committed misdemenours were sentenced to digging out all the old landfills for any technology items.

buzzbomb: That has interesting implications for general recycling operations. There would be a lot of mucky grunt work involved in 'mining' the landfills. After that, I'd assume an increasingly fine screening process by folks with increasingly high degrees of technical knowledge.

Locally, we already see the effects of profit motive on general recycling. I live less that 1 km from a 'gravel' pit that has to grind up granite to produce much more aggregate. Just uphill from the pit is a maxed out landfill where all our 'recycled' glass ends up (because there is 'insufficient market' for glass). Decades ago, glass was ground up as twinkly road aggregate. Now we pay to buy grit and ground-up granite for local roads and then pay again to bury our post-consumer glass  ::)

__________________________

[1] That amounts to roughly 16% of the 2008-2009 US population (rounded off to 305.0M). Although official unemployment was given as only 8.9%. I'm not sure why the difference. Its easier to explain in Canada (for decades, StatsCan hasn't counted anything deemed inconvenient). Still, official GoC job loss counts for that period were only 377,900 (or ~8.8% of a population of 33.50M) with official unemployment rate of 8.4%. The UK is trickier (since unemployment rates had already been growing) but Australia's unemployment rate in that period was only 5.5%.


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Offline Klown

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Re: An Internet After the Money's Gone?
« Reply #14 on: June 08, 2020, 10:29:00 AM »
Imagine going even further down the track and I think we can base it off recent events. Societies begin to crumble due to unrest among 5th columnists. An illness spreads even further, services like Police, Fire Brigade etc no longer are willing to take any action as their staff members just hideaway at home.

Slowly everyone stops working as it is no longer safe to be out. Electricity and other sources of energy cease.'

Anyway, I guess that is how I would approach it. A Mad Max type meltdown.

Offline apophenia

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Re: An Internet After the Money's Gone?
« Reply #15 on: June 09, 2020, 04:49:47 AM »
And, of course, we now have to add 'Zombie Fires' to the mix  ;)
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Offline Frank3k

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Re: An Internet After the Money's Gone?
« Reply #16 on: June 09, 2020, 08:41:39 AM »
It's possible that less policing leads to less crime
As the pandemic has shown, the critically important people in society are the doctors, followed by the people who kept the infrastructure up and running, including supermarket workers and Amazon shipping slaves workers. Everybody else is basically freeloading.

Offline Klown

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Re: An Internet After the Money's Gone?
« Reply #17 on: June 09, 2020, 02:25:27 PM »
It's possible that less policing leads to less crime
As the pandemic has shown, the critically important people in society are the doctors, followed by the people who kept the infrastructure up and running, including supermarket workers and Amazon shipping slaves workers. Everybody else is basically freeloading.

What about the people who buy the essential modeling supplies from Amazon and then hurt themselves also requiring the doctors? I would not call those people freeloaders...

Offline Frank3k

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Re: An Internet After the Money's Gone?
« Reply #18 on: June 10, 2020, 02:20:34 AM »
What about the people who buy the essential modeling supplies from Amazon and then hurt themselves also requiring the doctors? I would not call those people freeloaders...

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