We are told that the origin of internet began through a research commissioned by United States Department of Defense in the 1960s to enable time sharing of computers and took the form of ARPANET in the 1970s serving as a backbone of US military network. That was nearly 20 years before it was available for linking of commercial networks and enterprises. Let’s put that into context. The western world realized the advantages of information as a potent force when it is gained before anyone else evident in the history of Reuters. Which is why media today is hailed as a vital pillar of democracy. It also realized how knowledge can be used to stay on top as was shown by Isaac Newton through his holding back aspects of his research to be released when the time is right.
By the time the world was ready for internet the geography of the world had already been mapped, the land as well as the oceans, and to a large extent even ownership was fixed in areas as remote as the Antarctic. Science had precluded the possibility of another world war and economic power had emerged as the new battlefront. What was necessary now was to map the new field of influence. The consumers, the people, across continents in a borderless world of free trade, free information and knowledge exchange. The internet was celebrated as the information revolution. The great equalizer. The finest example of democratic values.
It was idyllic, too good to be true, and had the scepticism of the corporations right from the start. The corporates preferred to have their own intranet and knew that information is not safe on the internet. Remember, this is the time when even individuals guarded their privacy fiercely. Weary of government control and interference in matters considered private. Piles of literature written on one or the other type of dystopian world were still looked at as warnings of what might happen if we lose our priorities. They spawned a liking for the rebel, sometimes even the outlaws were looked at as more in the right than wrong. These suppositions, of course, were always brushed aside as too improbable and far removed from reality. Something which will never come to pass. Then came the social networks.
The idea of being able to connect with the world on one to one basis was incredible and it was free. This was, as we now know, only a hook to get everyone on board. There was a mapping underway which no one was aware of. The revelations by Edward Snowden were brushed aside because we just couldn’t bring ourselves to face the reality and its implications. The horrors of brave new world and 1984 were no more fictional and had been accepted by the masses in lieu of convenience.
What had surprised the institutions in the beginning years of internet was the amount of original content that was being put out for free. Those with agendas in the sphere of academics found alternate views being put out for consumption. Those in charge of establishing narratives, whatever might be the subject, felt threatened. An information war began on the internet. Also a market had been created and was waiting to be monetized. But the content creators were not the ones to benefit. The algorithms were against their enterprise. The large part of the action went to the advertisers who were not dependent upon the content creators but were counting on the algorithms of the social networks to create silos of repetition, reward and reinforcement.
In the real world, a content creator could dictate the advertising terms and the revenue depending upon his viewership. Now, it was the network that offered the content creators to use its advertising feature to enhance their reach. This was possible only because normally you would imagine that your connections will be able to see your content but the algorithms of the network wouldn’t allow the content to appear on everyone’s screen. A scenario which was later tackled by a mobile app but was bought over eventually by the very social network it was improving upon.
Very soon, in fact, a bit too soon, the same platforms were manipulating the content we see and were used with military precision to topple governments one after another. Internet was hailed as the tool that is empowering the masses, encouraging freedom of speech, opinion and giving a voice to suppressed desires, whether political, social or personal. With the benefit of hindsight we can see that the same places are struggling even with maintaining the slightest pretense of order. Anyone who can’t see that the vast majority in these countries had been played still can’t see the forces they are up against.
And yet, it is all purely economical. Everything just makes good business sense. As the principal concern of all governments, world over, is being in control of all the important affairs and since consumers were the new power source it naturally veered towards the control of the internet and this exercise has been fraught with attempts to regulate and monitor all in the guise of greater good.
Like the rebels and the outlaws, one anonymous disrupter was able to see through all the made up ‘concern’ for the common man. The tightknit world of commerce has its profits and benefits skewed towards the organizations or governments pretending to serve the man on the street all the while trading bets on the debts incurred and interest levied. On 31st October, 2008, using the name Satoshi Nakamoto he launched Bitcoin. A currency that didn’t belong to any country. Could be used for anything. By anybody. Anywhere. Right now, it is the highest valued currency and the fastest growing asset and the governments of every country want to stop or regulate, tax, and somehow govern this radical and dangerous currency in any which way possible. But a new order has been established and it has its own universe. Cryptocurrency with the success of bitcoin gained so much traction that there are today over 8000 cryptocurrencies. All operating in the blockchain system. A system that can’t be hacked and is outside the law. The operating principle is that there is no “trust.” A word which has been leveraged and abused by the hoods of legitimate business. Bitcoin has rattled their world. Posing a threat which no one, in his right mind, wants to overlook.
The outlaws established the alternate universe, the crooks, the opportunists and the fraudsters quickly populated the space to run their schemes. The pump and dump gang looted the cryptocurrency blockchain space and the governments found a valid reason to step in. It’s important to note why the blockchain space is so popular and powerful. It’s powered by an open source community which in looking out for themselves looks out for everyone. In total decentralization it has managed to empower everyone. Opinions of the majority decide the course of affairs. No on knows anyone. No one trusts anyone. And everyone’s opinion matters. Everyone is protected. Shielded from everyone else. Don’t you think an open source community of say all things cricket could radically improve for the fans and change the conditions for players. Where the stakeholders are the fans and the players and the clubs and the boards and all of them are also the decision makers on every aspect of the game. No more arbitrary and random decisions affecting players or clubs or teams or the sentiment of the fans. Everybody counts. What if this was driven by its own currency. A self sustained world. A world that looks after what it cares about, that is cricket. A perfect world.
With blockchain you could ensure that no one tampers with the decentralized ecosystem and empower all the elements of the open source community. Only an outlaw could have come up with it. Now, with government regulation, it seems that a schoolboy in shorts and black “naughty boy” shoes in the manner of Angus Young needs to walk into the backyard of outlaws holding the institutions by one hand and waving a white paper in the other. Beginning a new era.