Federation at Risk

We consider the risks of building federated wiki or anything else permanent on something as fragile as information.

The Long Now chose bronze age technology for their clock seeing as how little else was likely to keep working.

# Computers

It might be possible to sustain the federation with a computer as powerful as the PDP-11 which could be built with modest integrated circuits. But who would make even them if the intricate supply chain of semiconductor manufacturing were to collapse?

Flat panel displays suitable for side scrolling through wiki pages have only emerged in the last few decades and have a similarly long supply chain that must be sustained.

# Network

We presume connectivity on a single world-wide low-latency public network. One exists today due to a perfect storm of liberal thought in just a few decades after world war two. An emerging tribalism seems more likely to destroy the one we have rather than making another.

Protocols balance many competing interests such as throughput, latency, reliability, security, privacy and economic sustainability. Corporations with their own interests tamper with every level of the network stack requiring adjustments on a yearly basis.

We depend on domain names for identity which by rules of ICANN provides consistency and some rights to name holders. We've demonstrated that we can run a limited federation on internet protocol addresses alone where peer to peer sharing substitutes for registries and registrars. Exotic cryptography holds some promise but these systems bootstrap off of dns just as we have.

# Browsers

We've recreated a federation browser inside a web browser by using networking, computation and graphical interaction services sustained by three corporations and a non-profit. Obscene concentrations of wealth leads to tit-for-tat behavior reminiscent of feudal kings. We can presume no other agency with respect to this future.

Javascript provides the mechanism by which we assert control over resources we lease from vendors under onerous click-through licence agreements and click-through terms of service. The meaning of every javascript statement depends on stability of the mexican-standoff that guides its evolution.

# Software

We maintain and distribute our own source in the form of open source git repositories and closed source GitHub discovery and workflow. Repos like ours have moved from SourceForge to GitHub and can move again. We should not forget the power of plain text.

We maintain and distribute packages using npm operated by one company but one that has open roots and might have given away a strangle hold over their ecosystem based on their own idealism or the careful watch of users.

We assemble our work based on the rich library of node modules and related tools, especially browserify, which normalizes somewhat the execution environments on client and server. To our knowledge CPAN was the first such open collection in the web era.

We code in coffeescript, a reasonably direct syntax translator to the good parts of javascript created in the open by largely one individual. We've isolated this work to core client and server components and a dynamically loaded plugin environment where coffeescript is recommended but not required.

We wrap some large and hard to replace services in plugins recognizing that should the service disappear the content will too. Maps and video are to stellar examples.

# Community

We depend on sharing within a long-lived community as the bases of our content longevity. We speak of this in terms of life but recognize that life itself preserves only a small part of what it produces and is subject to irreversible extinctions.

Continuity across generations requires the teaching and acceptance of doctrine, of which some are better than others, such as constitutional law and natural science, but are all subject to corruption being themselves sustained by humans.


Greenpeace estimates that the power consumption of just one of Appleā€™s immense data centres is equivalent to the annual supply for 250,000 European homes. aeon