November 6, 2009
Just a shot in the dark with that title…
As pointed out this article in Wired UK (found via Klint Finley’s Mutate!), Google recently unveiled that their NAdroid phones will use a new internet protocol known as DTN (delay tolerant networking, something created with the help of the JPL). This is an alternative to the current TCP based internet that we all know, love, and run rampant on every day. As the Wired UK article points out, Google was “eventually forced to acknowledge that TCP simply couldn’t cut the mustard, with massive delay and data loss caused by celestial motion rendering TCP useless.”
“There was a little problem called the speed of light,” joked a typically playful (Vint) Cerf, as he outlined the idea to the OpenMobileSummit conference in San Francisco. “When Earth and Mars are closest, we’re 35 million miles apart, and it’s a three and a half minute trip one way, seven minutes for a round trip. Then when we’re farthest apart, we’re 235 million miles – 20 minutes one way, 40 minutes round trip.“
So Google went looking for something that didn’t need a reliable connection. DTN was just the thing, as it sets up to buffer (you know what that is if you’ve ever watched a video on the internet) all communications until a stable connection is established. Basically, it’ll hold your email to Mars until it’s sure the Martians are able to pay attention.
Exciting stuff; the idea of a space based internet system is a good one. Although the Wired article claims that “most people don’t have a need for regular satellite communication”, not everyone thinks so. In fact, DARPA is looking to build just such a (albeit groundbased) system for inter-satellite communication by 2012. A recent (and lengthy) comments conversation with Reclusland regular Speedbird explores the topic from a slightly different angle. If you want to read through the conversation, you can start here.
We (or at least I) tend to get a bit overly mystical when talking about this stuff, but that’s just a personal penchant for trying to clarify connecting patterns seen between the “post-information-scarcity” technology revolution we find ourselves in the midst of, and older, mystical/numinous ways of seeing the world and our place in it. There are too many parallels between the two for me to ignore them. Maybe it’s just an attempt to see the dharma through the age of a new lens, but hey, I enjoy it.
Anyway, one conclusion drawn from that discussion, that’s relevant to this post, is the idea of a sort of global wi-fi/ubiquitous/ambient computer network. Sure, anything like that seems to be too far away in the future to dream about, but technology has a funny way of evolving way quicker than our common sense expects it to. This points to “a truly distributed field where all the computers can access all the other computers equally at all moments. Each computer would be a holographic representation of the entire internet, because the entire connected net of other computers would be accessible instantaneously from that one computer. The whole internet reflected in a dewdrop, so to speak. Do that, make the computers something that can be carried on a person at all times, that can interact with each other wirelessly in real time regardless of distance, and make file exchange near-instantaneous, and bam, thats it.”
“It” being an idea that’s been bounced around a lot in the more fringe cultures in the past few decades. Marshall McLuhan called it an “echoing land” or “global village”, when all of humanity would share enough of a common culture to have it’s subconscious aspects manifest more directly within it, as it did/does in smaller isolated tribes. I like to think of this as something akin to the Australian Aborigines’ “Dream Time“. Teilhard de Chardin called it the Noosphere. I’ve also drawn parallels to the Age of Aquarius as well, where man pours water out over the world, water being a symbol for mind (And Aquarius supposedly rules electronics as well, for what that’s worth).
Basically, with such an easy and instantaneous way for people to interact and communicate, enough of the outside worries are taken care of that the inside can manifest itself more fully into the consciousness. Sort of shot at a Mass-Maslow-self-actualization. That’s the dream anyway. And you know what Google says about dreams: “When a great dream shows up, grab it!”