[FoRK] TAPP - the Technology Availability and Preservation Project

Jeff Bone jbone at place.org
Wed Jul 22 06:10:35 PDT 2009


Okay, just want to toss this out there and let it stew.  If you've got  
anything to say about this, please send it to me directly w/o copying  
FoRK (as if you do the latter, it'll get filtered into the "read  
someday maybe" archive and I won't see it.  Sorry;  still working my  
"1-1 conversations only" thing, the intermittent "broadcast" or  
"multicast" such as this notwithstanding.  No offense intended to FoRK- 
as-society.)

--

There are any number of things that I'd like to do someday, given time  
and resources, but at present have no real time to do (or even start)  
by myself.  One rather largish project --- bigger than anything a  
single person might tackle --- that has been much on my mind lately is  
something I've been calling the "Technology Availability and  
Preservation Project."  Basically, it's kind of an Asimovian  
Foundation project, but on a far smaller and more focused scale.   
Consider:

The history of civilization has an overall upward trend-line with  
respect to tech, but on local scales of time and space there are often  
rather dramatic regressions.  In our increasingly-interconnected  
society, risks abound.  These happen, even today, just not here ---  
yet.  Even small effects could severely if temporarily disrupt the  
availability of various technological resources that we're  
increasingly dependent on;  and it's already clear that the widely  
cross-connected network of society causes dependencies on others that  
can easily be disrupted.  (I.e., how many of us could *actually* even  
diagnose, much less fix, a simple failure of some sort in, say, our  
lawn mower?  Particularly if the Web was temporarily unavailable as a  
whole?  Assuming we even own a lawn mower ourselves these days...)

In particular I've become rather concerned about availability of e.g.  
Wikipedia resources, online course materials and practical how-tos,  
important public data sets and resources, and so on.  Either wide- 
scale or local disruptions of the power and / or telecom grids for  
various natural, economic, business, socio-political or other reasons  
could severely impact these critical information resources.  So...

Wouldn't it be useful if we could build distributed, redundant local  
caching of these resources in numerous geographically-distributed  
"depots" with redundant self-sufficient infrastructure, power, and  
even networking (perhaps via local packet-radio mesh and long-haul  
radio WAN)?  Consider a kind of OceanStore of semi-curated data run on  
a parallel and durable network that could be locally useful in the  
event of temporary or long-term disruptions in essential information  
services and infrastructure.  Make it global, and put depots in  
particularly-delicate third-world locales, and you've got something  
that might even tip the odds in various localized "EOTWAWKI"  
scenarios, censorship scenarios like we see in <insert any one of  
three major regimes "cracking down on" Internet communications today>  
etc.

Think interlocking p2p-darknets / an open, global, decentralized CDN  
used as information stores / caches / shares to provide continuity and  
preservation of key information, how-to knowledge, etc.  Not  
contemplating building any particular value-added services on top of  
that, but potentially that could come, too.  Plus a focus on  
information that can help sustain the infrastructure itself:  cheap  
DIY hardware fabbing at least at the level of RepRap, stockpiling of  
parts and low-cost / low-energy "plug" servers, cheap storage, used  
gear, radio and antenna parts and schematics and how-tos at a  
practical level, etc.  And most of this could be assembled with open /  
free-as-in-speech software technology and / or readily available and  
low-cost hardware resources.  "Let a thousand repo nodes bloom."

Seems like something The Long Now folks might be interested in and  
willing to participate in.  Lifeboat Foundation, maybe.  TED / ATN.   
Seems like it might play nicely w/ Tom's Portland project, unsure if  
that's still going.  Other partners, funding sources, etc. might be  
interested too.

You could argue that Google serves this purpose to some extent w/ its  
widely-distributed DCs.  But a more broad-scale distribution under the  
control of numerous entities would be even more robust, if less  
capable (at least initially.)

Any of this sound compelling?  If so, drop me a line.


jb





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