The internet, in its early days was a freely open platform. It was always on course to change the world and the way we shared information. It started off chaotic and disorganised. Like many technologies before it, it took a centralising force to convert it into a more unified manageable system. Newspaper, radio, television – they all progressed this way. But the internet today is undeniably the biggest communicative influence.

Since its inception, a lot has changed about the way the internet functions.

  • In 1980 there was Usenet. Anyone could run their own server, connect to other computers and start sending messages; its organic design meant no one could control it.
  • In 1990 the World Wide Web appeared; users could host a website on personal servers and buy a DNS domain to direct traffic to it. The websites then link to each other, forming a web of information.
  • Today websites are no longer managed by users, instead information is filed under a monopolised organisation; content manufactured by individuals, is all managed and stored by large commercial services.

However, when you have very few influencing parties in a network, the monopoly on information distribution is incredibly powerful.

  • Governments like monopolies because they are very easy to influence. When one organisation is in charge of information they can easily foresee external threats and monitor communications.
  • Companies like monopolies because they are built to maintain power and wealth; they do just as much data collection as the government, devising new ways to generate additional revenue. Infrastructure companies manage how data is transported; large providers extract fees from smaller networks because they need their infrastructure for transport; this hierarchy means large sections of infrastructure are unused because of access limitations. These administrations continue to grow daily, consuming their competitors; directing increasingly larger revenue streams to a single destination.

Today we see the threat that companies pose to net neutrality. AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Comcast, etc. All these ISP’s pose a threat to the open internet, spending unfathomable amounts of money to lobby governments into bending over, so that they can reap more profits by charging premiums to deliver faster content.

Furthermore, we’ve also seen the threat posed by ransomware, when government departments like the NSA try to install backdoors into the software that is supposed to be secure. Or not highlighting vulnerabilities they find so that they can use them to widen their scope of mass data collection, at the risk of everyday citizens having their hardware infected with malicious content.

The Project

This project visualises an imminent future in which the systems instigated to exert control over the communications and the sharing of knowledge and content have failed. The administered centralisation has led to a mass mistrust and divide between governance and liberties. And this has caused the people to take action, re-harvesting the infrastructure to create and re-hash a newer, more-level, open-source network – free from monopolisation and privatisation.

The idea is loosely based on principles of natural decentralisation found in insect colonies – where control is distributed amongst the homogeneous biological agents who act upon local information – resulting in complex global behaviours which propagate through the entire system.

The network is established as a series of structures that interlink with no converging pathways or destination to monitor. Each node is an assembly of pneumatically constructed rings, and each holds a series of interconnected servers running off applications stored on localised databases.

The servers are transformed into a shared global network that can move data around while maintaining ownership of that data. The network makes full use of unused computing power by stripping ISP hierarchies and ensuring each server is impartial while avoiding the need for data to travel to other cities to get from one network to another.

Our future will ultimately rely on our ability to take ownership of our own circumstances. The ‘internet’ will no longer be dominated by corporate greed, but lead by every people, people who are inherently bound to perhaps our most influential driver of contemporary development. Vertebrae is thus the backbone of our society as we move forward; A system constructed by the collective, a free and open internet for all.

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