Sabine Hossenfelder produced an excellent video about renewable energy storage to mitigate the unreliability of sun and wind. I would like to focus on the hydrogen storage segment of this.
Hydrogen storage being cheap should be explored more. The biggest problem with hydrogen is the danger of storing it as pressurized gas, which requires significant volume and strong materials. The hazard to be mitigated is fire that causes a powerful explosion of expanding gas under high pressure.
The solution to hydrogen storage is metal hydride, which would provide higher density storage than even pressurized gas. Another benefit of metal hydrides in the form of powder or tiny beads is that they are stable at atmospheric temperatures and pressures, they are easily transportable, they are easily stored in small tanks of vehicles, and safe even if the tank is damaged by vehicular collision. Therefore, it is foreseeable that metal hydrides (hydrogen fueled internal combustion engine) would be a viable alternative to gasoline and diesel fueled ICEs in today’s vehicles, especially given that the exhaust from combusting hydrogen is water vapor.
The next problem to solve would be to develop a metal hydride ecosystem, so that the life cycle of “charging” them with hydrogen to fill a vehicle, and then returning spent fuel to the fueling station to “recharge” is as convenient as gasoline/diesel filling stations. We can imagine this being solvable, because it is analogous to refining petroleum and delivering refined fuel to the fueling stations, except with the added return path of the spent fuel back to the refinery (hydrogen production facility, where solar/wind/nuclear power is converted to H) to “recharge”.
I’m a proponent of thorium molten salt reactors (MSR), such as LFTR, for producing electricity. Combining modern (passively safe) and reliable nuclear power generation with hydrogen production (using electrical power to split water molecules) and storing hydrogen in a metal hydride seems to me to be a good long-term solution to replacing gasoline and diesel fuels for transportation.
This Web2 era of the Internet has culminated in the concentration of economic power in a few of the largest corporations, a phenomenon that is termed Big Tech. Facebook (Meta), Amazon, Apple, Netflix, Google (Alphabet) are known as FAANG, the dominant Big Tech players. Centralization of control and concentration of power go hand in hand. This control is being used for social engineering, which is divisive, and it is destroying social cohesion.
Web2 is described by Britannica as:
the post-dotcom bubble World Wide Web with its emphasis on social networking, content generated by users, and cloud computing from that which came before.
The digital economy that has emerged from Web2 is based on either extracting fees from users, as Netflix does with subscriptions and Amazon does with Prime, extracting profits from selling goods as Amazon and Apple do, or selling ads as Facebook and Google do. In each case, the business model relies on positioning the Big Tech company as the dominant supplier in the supply chain.
If you produce movies, you have to go through Netflix to reach your audience. Producers of goods have to go through Amazon to sell to your customers. If you produce iPhone apps, you have to go through Apple’s App Store to offer apps to users. If you want to advertise, you have to go through Facebook and Google to reach your audience. In every case, Big Tech is an intermediary that gets rich as the middleman.
One feature of Web3 is the incorporation of digital currencies (crypto). This would disintermediate payments by potentially eliminating banks, credit card companies, and payment processors. The payer and the payee would transfer funds directly with a transaction on a blockchain, which itself has no controlling entity and is therefore decentralized (assuming we are talking about Bitcoin, not some shitcoin). Financial transactions paid in crypto require no middlemen. Digital transactions have concentrated power into Big Tech because integration with the fiat financial system is expensive and subject to onerous regulation.
Integrating a crypto payment protocol natively into the Web is a game changer. Not only would it begin to decouple commerce from the fiat financial system, it should also begin to alter the relationship that users have with service providers and each other. Fiat payment processors impose an asymmetric relationship between participants: merchant and consumer. Crypto eliminates that asymmetry by enabling anyone to send funds to anyone with an address who can receive them.
Monetizing with ads destroys Social Cohesion
Google and Facebook have thrived on advertising dollars because of the asymmetrical relationship imposed by the fiat payment system. The Social Dilemma is a Netflix documentary that explains how the ad revenue model provides social media companies perverse incentives to design systems that encourage harmful behavior among the user base. Engagement becomes divisive. Information bubbles form. Users become addicted to dopamine hits. All to lure more eye balls and clicks so that advertisers can be charged for more impressions and conversions. Users hate seeing ads, but it is the price they pay to receive free services, as their engagement is monetized. The users become the product that is sold to advertisers.
Monetizing without ads brings Social Cohesion
How does eliminating fiat asymmetry fix this? Users on social media are content creators. Their opinions are an organic source of reviews, endorsements, and complaints. Every day the most compelling content goes viral because the audience is won over and engages enthusiastically.
What if a decentralized social media platform, instead of directing advertising dollars to Big Tech, rewarded users for content creation and promotion?
Users could be paid to post quality content with their compensation being proportional to the positive engagement they receive from others. This could be achieved through tips from the audience and from promotion fees charged for boosting content. The key is rewarding users for positive contributions. This institutes an incentive structure that increases personal fulfillment and social cohesion. This is what we want to enable with Web3.
Entrepreneurship is characterized by willingness to take on higher-than-normal risk in pursuit of outsized reward. To achieve outsized rewards, one must be willing to accept higher risks, because risk and reward are proportional. Success comes from skilled assessment of what risks are worth taking for the rewards that can be earned with respect to capital accumulation (growing the business), production capacity, revenues, profits, market share, innovation (bringing superior products and services to the market), and customer satisfaction (making a positive difference to society).
Start-ups pursuing highly uncertain goals on the frontier of human innovation are at the extreme end of the risk-reward spectrum. Near-certain failure is assumed by outsiders. Most people believe the pursuit to be impossible. Only the entrepreneur has the vision and courage that are uniquely exceptional to overcome the status quo. The culture of a start-up is defiant, contrarian, and non-conformist.
A start-up’s market is initially non-existent because demand follows supply. Supply is zero until the product is produced and its value can be demonstrated to consumers. People could not have imagined the product until the invention brought it into reality. Invention creates a market, where none existed before. Before the automobile was invented, the market for transportation could only imagine a stronger, faster horse. Once an automobile could be supplied, consumers demanded it.
Contrast a start-up with an established corporation. An established corporation has mature processes, regimented procedures, and formalized governance. Standards, guidelines, and best practices are enforced through reviews and approvals for compliance. The intent is to reduce and mitigate risks: financial risk, schedule risk, technical risk, security risk, and market risk. Knowing what has proven to work, it is imperative to institutionalize delivering quality reliably and consistently to engender trust with customers and shareholders. The culture of an incumbent is compliant, conformist, and standard-bearing.
Entrepreneurship often involves recognizing that what has worked for the incumbents can be revolutionized. Processes can be more efficient. Labor can be automated. Products can be better designed or entirely obsoleted by the next generation of technology. Business models including the relationship with customers can be changed (i.e., a perpetual license can be replaced by a subscription). The goal is to win sales from customers by having a competitive advantage. Entrepreneurs seek to disrupt the market for existing incumbents.
Incumbents are intent on protecting their market position. Risk is ever-present that a competitor may win out. New up-starts entering the market are disruptive to the market. There is the risk that an established business can be made obsolete. Obsolescence is almost inevitable, as we are continually advancing to improve quality of life. Danger exists for incumbents who stubbornly cling to their established ways, eschewing novel innovations that are causing the industry to evolve. Incumbents may even resort to erecting barriers to entry through lobbying and regulatory capture. But the relentless march of progress never stops.
There is an uncomfortable tension between maturity (protecting what is proven to work) and novelty (inventing better ways of working). Culturally, it is very difficult for an incumbent to build disruptive technology that threatens its own business, even though it knows this kind of disruption is necessary to make a better future. This clash in cultures is usually overcome by entrepreneurs building start-ups, which are unencumbered by the status quo. The freedom to explore disruptive innovations allows a start-up to break all the old rules and ignore every self-imposed constraint that would hold back an incumbent from going against its established know-how. An incumbent’s financial strength allows it to forego risky experimentation, which is prone to failure, and watch the landscape for successful start-ups that can be acquired before they grow to become a competitive threat. In so doing, an incumbent gets the best of both worlds. It can protect its market position while also benefiting from risky bets taken by entrepreneurs that prove successful.
When an incumbent acquires a start-up to absorb successful innovations the clash in cultures becomes apparent. There is a desire to incorporate the smaller start-up into the larger incumbent’s organizations, and subject them to mature policies, processes, and procedures. Often, what is discarded are what made it possible for the start-up to be entrepreneurially successful: the freedom to be agile, rule-breaking, disruptive, and anti-establishment. The incumbent usually incorporates innovative technology but resists incorporating innovative culture and spirit, especially entrepreneurial risk-taking.
It should be clear to everyone that government has long been corrupted by moneyed interests, a process known as institutional capture. Our public institutions now serve those crony interests and not the people at large.
Large corporations hire lobbyists to influence lawmakers and write legislation that favors those corporations over competitors and imposes barriers to entry to new upstarts. Elected officials are bribed with campaign contributions toward re-election, and they seem to be immune to enriching themselves by insider trading and conflicts of interest. Corporations bribe regulators and bureaucrats with future employment. The upper echelon of elites is bribed with million dollar book deals and speaking opportunities worth hundreds of thousands of dollars per engagement. Regulatory agencies are bribed to approve certain products based on fraudulent evidence and to prevent competitive products from getting to market. All of this corruption is the status quo.
What is more covert is the degree to which corporations and seemingly private institutions are also captured and corrupted.
Wikipedia is captured by establishment actors to promote propaganda.
The White House has been signalling for quite some time that it is engaged in suppressing dissent in the private sector.
Now, evidence emerges from whistleblowers that DHS is colluding directly with Twitter to censor speech that the government does not like, which is a clear violation of the First Amendment right to free speech. The government is prohibited from directly censoring speech. Instead, the government is colluding covertly with private actors like social media companies, journalists, and fact checkers to spread disinformation, suppress dissent, and enforce narrative control. They will get away with it, unless corporations resist or victims fight this corruption in court. Instead, we see ever-growing collusion to implement regime narrative control through collaborations like the Trusted News Initiative.
Elon Musk is a self-declared free speech absolutist. Seeing the importance of Twitter as a digital space for public dialog, Elon is offering to purchase Twitter and take it private in order to protect free speech for everyone. Immediately, the European Union announced the passage of the Digital Services Act, which mandates content moderation practices. This demonstrates how hostile European governments are to free speech and how Elon’s ownership of Twitter would threaten to dismantle the collusion to implement government censorship.
Hopefully, Elon’s purchase of Twitter will close and he delivers on his promise to uphold free speech. We need a radical dissident to champion individual rights despite the regime’s relentless infringements. We need someone with FU money to actually say FU, when it matters the most.
Jack is backing an alternative to the Web3 vision called Web5 (Web2 + Web3) through an organization named TBD with open source projects for decentralized identity and decentralized web nodes for personal data storage that work with distributed web apps. On the surface, as I have not had an opportunity to look deeper into this Web5 initiative, the overview seems closely aligned with what I independently have imagined. I feel the potential kinship to what this project is doing.
The Web5 project appears to be directionally attractive with regard to how the problem space is framed. However, we need to examine the solution approach to see if the protocols and architecture being proposed are also attractive. The Web3 approach is decidedly not attractive for the reasons that Jack has highlighted. I credit him for being a vocal dissenter, when honest dissent is warranted.
I will dig deeper into Web5 and offer some insights from my own perspective. If this turns out to be closely aligned to my own passions, I may volunteer to contribute.
Is it possible to build tech to track reputation for a digital identity across services without having it gamed or turned into a social credit system of institutionalized cancel culture?
The topic of reputation came to mind was promoted by this tweet. Saifedean Ammous (The Bitcoin Standard) had this idea for how Twitter could be improved. It is about reputation. To determine whether someone should be distrusted, a person can look to their own social network to see how often the counterparty is distrusted. Apply the Web of Trust pattern toward distrust. The same system for tracking certification (a form of trust) can be leveraged to track distrust also. This would be a very valuable service for reputation tracking and analysis.
Web of Trust
Reputation may not be an absolute measure. Saifedean’s observation suggests to me that it should work more like Web of Trust, except in the case of blocking it would be a measure of distrust. Each block is an attestation of distrust of the blocked user. The users who Saifedean follows form his web of trust. To some lesser degree the connections to others through his follow list deserve some trust as a transitive relationship. Those blocked by these trusted users can each be assigned a distrust score based on the attestations from Saifedean’s web of trust.
From your perspective, the reputation of someone else would be based on your own web of trust. It is subjective, relative to your social network and the attestations of each member. Attestations of trust contribute to a score for how much a person deserves to be trusted. Attestations of distrust contribute to a score for how much a person deserves to be distrusted.
Calculating reputation scores based on attestations on social networks raises questions and concerns. Scoring can be gamed and abused. Bot nets can be deployed to skew scores by contributing many bogus attestations. This can be used to smear a hated enemy or to fraudulently raise someone’s public stature. We see such gaming in search engine optimization, in likes and dislikes of content on social networks, and in product rating and review sites. Personal and professional reputation is a high stakes affair.
Reputation is not Social Credit Score
Everyone is aware of China’s social credit system. It enables the government to track every citizen’s activities. Individuals are scored according to the government’s preferred behaviors. The government uses the scoring to punish citizens by denying low scoring individuals from participating in society (i.e., economic transactions, travel, etc.). If we introduce reputation scoring, such abuse cannot be permitted.
A reputation system exists to facilitate individuals to freely associate with others or to deny such associations. This system must forbid the government or other powerful entities from being able to coerce others into and out of associating with individuals these powerful entities target for punishment, which would be tyrannical.
Is it possible for such a reputation system to be deployed prolifically without enabling tyrannical regimes or angry mobs from exploiting it in violation of individual rights? Lives are destroyed in this way, as they are cast out of society. Ideally, the system’s protocols would make it impossible for such power to be abused. Reputation is tied to a person’s digital identity. If a person is shackled to a single identity, they are vulnerable to that identity being smeared and targeted for cancellation by adversaries.
There must be some recourse. If a person can change identities and recertify their verified credentials for their replacement identity, this could effectively renounce any references to the old identity. Attestations of distrust of the old identity would have no effect on the new identity. However, attestations of trust for the new identity would need to be earned and reestablished. This makes changing identity a costly migration, only worthwhile if shedding a highly disreputable identity to start fresh.
It is also important for the identity protocols to be decentralized. The system should be open to many providers with no coordination, shared storage, policy enforcement. There must not be an single source of truth for human identity tied to digital identities, otherwise a person can be cancelled by tyranny or abuse of power.
We want to enable Alice to assess Bob based on Bob’s positive and negative attestations among the people connected between them. That allows Alice and Bob to associate or not based on informed consent. We do NOT want voluntary associations to be interfered with by tyrannical powers. Tyrants wish to exert control over collectives to target individuals regardless of consent. Freedom of association must be protected.
I find myself being more diligent taking notes and then distilling knowledge from my notes into articles for others. I used to be able to complete tasks serially, more or less. Occasionally, I noticed that follow-on tasks were hard to accomplish, because I couldn’t remember what I was thinking originally. So I tended to capture essential (summary and instructional) information into README, comments in code, and docs. I never really took detailed notes to log my step-by-step activities until recently. I started doing this logging, because I find myself multi-tasking and distracted so much by so many concurrent activities, I can hardly focus on getting anything done. The context-switching was so frustrating, and I didn’t have enough stack space in my head to keep anything straight. So now I’m employing some rudimentary techniques to apply computer-assistance by just taking notes. That is why my mind wanders to the topic of personal assistants in the workplace as being the next frontier. Personal Assistants
The Loretta superbowl ad by Google was a very compelling story about the benefits of memory assistance if the human-computer interface is frictionless enough to integrate into normal experience.
Google’s commercial was extremely compelling, except that Google is failing to see how to apply its foresight into its products (Android, Keep) to enable quickly clipping ANY content while using ANY app to save as notes, and then applying machine intelligence and analytics to provide reminders and personal assistance based on computed insights.
The reason I was trying to recall the notes-related insight was actually because I’ve been finding myself buried in unrelated tasks and things to do coming from so many directions every day, it’s hard to keep track of what and when. The obvious solution is to use some kind of task reminder application. The problem with those is that I have to take time out of what I’m doing to go into such an app and create a task, which is distracting and time consuming in itself. What I really want is while I’m in any other application, whether I am reading email, reading Slack messages, attending a Zoom meeting, working a JIRA issue, responding to PagerDuty, writing on Confluence, reviewing code in GitLab, or literally anything, I want a one-click mechanism to “remember this”, so that an app will keep a note, maybe translate it into a task on my to-do list, remind me later if necessary, help me prioritize, and help me remember things. It is the one-click action in the context of the application that I’m already working in that is the key feature to interface to all these other personal assistance capabilities.
Android does support highlighting content and using Share to Keep Notes. However, this does prompt for additional information, and it creates a new Keep document. This is close, but not sufficient. From a user experience perspective, it is fine to highlight and share, but the aim should be to “remember this” without prompting for anything more so that focus is not taken away from the original context.
The app for keeping notes should be light weight. Notes should be more like items on a list, timestamped, and available for subsequent labelling, re-organization, searching, and use (integration with related apps like for task management). It needs to be a clipboard with unlimited history, so that snippets of information can be remembered on the fly for later review, classification, and movement to other applications. Life is a stream of notable events, many of which we want to queue for later recall in a different context, as we are preoccupied with what we are busy with in the moment.
The idea of a personal assistant is that without the user needing to click at each moment to clip something at each interesting moment, an agent can shadow the user’s activity and automatically track what is attracting the user’s attention. It can keep a history of bookmarks and actions across applications based on the user’s activity. Later, this record will help to answer questions about what the user had done earlier and what information was encountered. An assistant would ensure that everything is committed to memory continually without interrupting the user’s normal flow of work. When the user does highlight and share, it indicates something of particular interest that becomes a priority.
Having a recorded history of work can then be analyzed to document procedures, teach others the same workflow, and automate procedures for repeatability. Repetitive tasks are a machine’s specialty. Reducing tedium is what mechanization is meant for.
Here is my childhood story about dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT).
I grew up on a 30 acre vegetable farm north of Toronto. When I was a toddler, my parents would leave me to play by myself as they and my older sisters worked the fields. I’d climb on the mountain of stacked bags of fertilizer and DDT.
My family would fill burlap sacks full of DDT and walk among the vegetable fields, shaking the powder into a fog. Womp! Womp! Womp! I don’t remember if they bothered to wear respirators.
One day, my mom returned to the DDT mountain to find me digging into a bag with my hands elbow deep. I had smeared the white powder all over my face. I told her I was wearing it as makeup. She tells everyone that is why I grew up to be healthy and strong.
The moral of the story is: DDT was so safe, farmers used it without any protection and children played among it without being harmed. After DDT was banned, we switched to toxic chemicals like Malathion, Parathion, Captan, Diazinon, and others.
Unlike DDT which harmed no one and nothing, after spraying these potent chemicals, we would return the next day to find a field sometimes littered with dead birds. No one sprays these without wearing respirators. Deadly stuff.
A black hole’s charge and angular momentum would cause a magnetic field (Maxwell’s Law) to accelerate accreting matter into relativistic jets, as we can observe. Matter spirals around, orbiting the black hole’s equator, and falls inward toward the black hole event horizon. Some or all of this in-falling matter is redirected to jets firing out from the poles of black hole, and this matter is accelerated to relativistic speeds (near the speed of light). This involves a huge transfer of energy from the black hole to the matter from the accretion disc.
Could that transfer of energy carry information away from the black hole? Maybe this hypothesis isn’t sufficient by itself to explain how a black hole’s mass shrinks — only how its angular momentum slows.
We can also hypothesize the magnetic field is strong enough to produce pairs of particles that add to the jets. Photons of the magnetic field collide to create electron-positron pairs. Now we have a mechanism, pair production, for mass to escape the black hole in a manner that is distinct from Hawking (thermal) radiation. That would be how information flows out, so it is not lost.
The trucker’s freedom convoy in Canada has revealed how individuals are vulnerable to tyrannical (rights violating) actions. Governments and corporations cooperated with authoritarian diktats across jurisdictional boundaries. Maajid Nawaz warns of totalitarian power over the populace using a social credit system imposed via central bank digital currency (CBDC) regimes being developed to eliminate cash. “Programmable” tokens will give the state power to control who may participate in financial transactions, with whom, when, for what, and how much. Such a regime would enable government tyranny to reign supreme over everyone and across everything within its reach. We need decentralization.
Centralized dictatorial power is countered by decentralization. Decentralization is especially effective when designed into technology to be immutable after the technology proliferates. The design principle is known as Code is law. The Proof of Work (PoW) consensus algorithm in Bitcoin is one such technology. CBDC is an attempt to prevent Bitcoin from becoming dominant. Criticism of PoW using too much electricity is another enemy tactic.
National and supranational powers (above nation states) are working against decentralization in order to preserve their dominance. The World Economic Forum (WEF) is installing its people into national legislatures and administrations to enact policies similar to those of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). They seek to concentrate globalized power for greater centralization of control.
We look toward Web3 and beyond to enable decentralization of digital services. As we explore decentralized applications, we must consider the intent behind distributed architectures for decentralization. What do we want from Web3?
Traditionally, we think about availability with regard to failure modes in the infrastructure, platform services, and application components. Ordinarily, we do not design for resiliency to the total loss of infrastructure and platform, because we don’t consider our suppliers to be potentially hostile actors. However, multinational corporations are partnering with foreign governments to impose extrajudicial punishments on individuals. This allows governments to extend their reach to those who reside outside their jurisdictions. Global integration and the unholy nexus of governments with corporations put individuals everywhere within the reach of unjust laws and authoritarian diktats. It is clear now that this is one of the greatest threats that must be mitigated.
Web3 technologies, such as blockchain, grew out of recognition that fiat is the enemy of the people. We must decentralize by becoming trustless and disintermediated. Eliminate single points of failure everywhere. Run portably on compute, storage, and networking that are distributed across competitive providers. Choose a diversity of providers in adversarial jurisdictions across the globe. Choose providers that would be uncooperative with government authorities. When totalitarianism comes, Bitcoin is the countermove. Decouple from centralized financial systems, including central banking and fiat currencies. Become unstoppable and ungovernable, resistant to totalitarianism.
To become unstoppable, users need to gain immunity from de-platforming and supply chain disruption. Users need to be able to keep custody of their own data. Users need to self-host the application logic that operates on their data. Users need to compose other users’ data for collaboration without going through intermediaries (service providers who can block or limit access).
To achieve resiliency, users need to be able to migrate their software components to alternative infrastructure and platform providers, while maintaining custody of their data across providers. At a minimum, this migration must be doable by performing a human procedure with some acceptable interruption of service. Ideally, the possible deployment topologies would have been pre-configured to fail-over or switch-over automatically as needed with minimal service disruption. Orchestrating the name resolution, deployment, and configuration of services across multiple heterogeneous (competitive) clouds is a key ingredient.
Custody of data means that the owner must maintain administrative control over its storage and access. The owner must have the option of keeping a copy of it on physical hardware that the owner controls. Self-hosting means that the owner must maintain administrative control over the resources and access for serving the application functions to its owner. That hosting must be unencumbered and technically practical to migrate to alternative resources (computing, financial, and human).
If Venezuela can be blocked from “some Ethereum services”, that is a huge red flag. Service providers should be free to block undesirable users. But if the protocol and platform enables authorities to block users from hosting and accessing their own services, then the technology is worthless for decentralization. Decentralization must enable users to take their business elsewhere.
Privacy is a conundrum. Users need a way to identify themselves and authenticate themselves to exert ownership over their data and resources. Simultaneously, a user may have good reason to keep their identity hidden, presenting only a pseudonym or remaining cloaked in anonymity in public, where appropriate. Meanwhile, governments are becoming increasingly overbearing in their imposition of “Know Your Customer” (KYC) regulations on businesses ostensibly to combat money laundering. This is at odds with the people’s right to privacy and being free from unreasonable searches and surveillance. Moreover, recruiting private citizens to spy on and enforce policy over others is commandeering, which is also problematic.
State actors have opposed strong encryption. They have sought to undermine cryptography by demanding government access to backdoors. Such misguided, technologically ignorant, and morally bankrupt motivations disqualify them from being taken seriously, when it comes to designing our future platforms and the policies that should be applied.
Rights are natural (a.k.a. “God-given” or inalienable). They (including privacy) are not subject to anyone’s opinion regardless of their authority or stature. Cryptographic technology should disregard any influence such authorities want to exert. We must design for maximum protection of confidentiality, integrity, and availability. Do not comply. Become ungovernable.
While the capabilities and qualities of the platform are important, we should also reconsider the paradigm for how we interact with applications. Web2 brought us social applications for human networking (messaging, connecting), media (news, video, music, podcasts), and knowledge (wikis). With anything social, group dynamics invariably also expose us to disharmony. Web2 concentrated power into a few Big Tech platforms; the acronym FAANG was coined to represent Facebook (now Meta), Amazon, Apple, Netflix, and Google (now Alphabet).
With centralized control comes disagreement over how such power should be wielded as well as corruption and abuse of power. It also creates a system that is vulnerable to indirect aggression, where state actors can interfere or collude with private actors to side-step Constitutional protections that prohibit governments from certain behaviors.
David Sacks speaks with Bari Weiss about Big Tech’s assault on free speech and the hazard of financial technologies being used to deny service to individuals, as was done to the political opponents of Justin Trudeau in Canada in response to the freedom convoy protests.
Our lesson, after enduring years of rising tension in the social arena and culminating in outright tyranny, is that centralized control must disappear. Social interactions and all forms of transactions must be disintermediated (Big Tech must be removed as the middlemen). The article Mozilla unveils vision for web evolution shows Mozilla’s commitment to an improved experience from a browser perspective. However, we also need a broader vision from an application (hosted services) perspective.
Composability is how users with custody of their own data can collaborate among each other in a peer-to-peer manner to become social, replacing centralized services with disintermediated transactions among self-hosted services. The next best alternative to self-hosting is enabling users to choose between an unlimited supply of community-led hosted services that can be shared by like-minded mutually supportive users. The key is to disintermediate users from controlling entities run by people who hate them.
Here is a great analysis of the critiques against today’s Web3 technologies. It is very clarifying. One important point is the ‘mountain man fantasy’ of self-hosting; no one wants to run their own servers. The cost and burden of hosting and operating services today is certainly prohibitive.
Even if the mountain man fantasy is an unrealistic expectation for the vast majority, so long as the threat of deplatforming and unpersoning is real, people will have a critical need for options to be available. When Big Tech censors and bans, when the mob mobilizes to ruin businesses and careers, when tyrannical governments freeze bank accounts and confiscate funds, it is essential for those targeted to have a safe haven that is unassailable. Someone living in the comfort of normal life doesn’t need a cabin in the woods, off-grid power, and a buried arsenal. But when you need to do it, living as a mountain man won’t be fantastic. Prepping for that fall back is what decentralization makes possible.
In the long term, self-hosting should be as easy, effortless, and affordable as installing desktop apps and mobile apps. We definitely need to innovate to make running our apps as cloud services cheap, one-click, and autonomous, before decentralization with self-hosting can become ubiquitous. Until then, our short-term goal should be to at least make decentralization practical, even if it is only accessible initially to highly motivated, technologically savvy early adopters. We need pioneers to blaze the trail in any new endeavor.
We need a general purpose Web architecture for dApps that are not confined to a niche. I imagine container images served by IPFS as a registry, and having a next-gen Kubernetes-like platform to orchestrate container execution across multicloud infrastructures and consuming other decentralized platform services (storage, load balancing, access control, auto-scaling, etc.). If the technology doesn’t provide a natural evolution for existing applications and libraries of software capabilities, there isn’t a path for broad adoption.
We are early in the start of a new journey in redesigning the Web. There is so much more to understand and invent, before we have something usable for developing real-world distributed apps on a decentralized platform. The technology may not exist yet to do so, despite the many claims to the contrary. This will certainly be more of a marathon, rather than a sprint.