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The Philosophical Basis for ICANN
NOTE - This is in very early development. It wasn't supposed to be discovered yet. But enjoy and pass it around. Just don't edit it yet.
Thanks - Marc Perkel - firstname.lastname@example.org
How to use this document
This document is the original work of Marc Perkel. The idea here is to put some ideas on the table that are hopefully clear enough to get the ICANN community excited about these concepts as the foundation for Internet Governance (IG). After people get interested in this as worthwhile then a PDP process should be started to incorporate these ideas into the official structure of ICANN.
My hope is that people take these raw ideas and build on them to make it much more than what I have come up with. The Internet is expanding exponentially and it is never too early to start figuring this stuff out. It is my hope that by getting a good start on this it will have a positive effect on the eventual evolution of the human race and avoid plausible pitfalls for humanity as depicted in popular science fiction.
What is ICANN and how does it fit into the story of the universe?
Officially ICANN is the Internet Corporation for the Assignment of Names and Numbers. Sounds fairly simple on the surface. Someone has to run the resource index. But the simplicity ends when you consider what the Internet is and the role of the internet in the evolution of humanity. In that context the role of ICANN is likely to be part of an ongoing process that might directly impact the future of human development.
If the Internet were seen as a fetus, ICANN might be compared to the first brain cells developing. In the course of human evolution this analogy might end up being spot on. If ICANN makes the right choices humanity might turn out far different than if ICANN makes the wrong choices at this critical juncture.
In these articles we are going to look at the universe as a whole. Where it's been, where it is now, and where it's going. We'll see that ICANN is actually part of the evolution of the universe. We'll see that right and wrong decisions are not subjective but that we can derive the right course through a scientific process and that our decisions can be measured and tested against objective standards to determine if we are actually on the right course. We'll see that the multi-stakeholder model might become the blueprint for the future of human society and that we have both the opportunity and responsibility to get it right.
None of the concepts in this article are in themselves that much of a radical idea. But the way it is all connected and structured is somewhat new. Because this is a different way of thinking about our role in the universe and how the Internet is humanity's future, it might take a lot of thinking and discussing to grasp the big picture. For comparison, this is as strange as when Einstein suggested that time itself is relative. The physics community at the time had a hard time grasping it. But eventually they did, and it was a breakthrough in the way we think about reality. To that end these are the important concepts.
- ICANN might be for more important in the future than people realize.
- The Internet has put humanity in a state of hyper evolution.
- Global society is an emergent property of the Internet.
- ICANN must stay the course for the global public good.
- The multi-stakeholder model might become the basis for future society.
- The positive evolution of the Internet will define the positive evolution of humanity.
- Humanity's future has two paths, positive evolution or extinction.
- Right and wrong can be scientifically derived and decisions can be objectively checked through testable standards.
Big History and ICANN
You might be asking yourself at this point, "What the heck are you talking about? How can ICANN possibly be that important?" To answer that question I ask you to expand your perspective to view the universe from the perspective of Big History. Big History is the story of the universe from the Big Bang to the present, and possibly beyond. ICANN is actually something that the laws of the universe predicts must happen.
To explain what I mean let's look at the properties of the universe. The universe is driven by a simple formula, evolution. Evolution is randomness that selects on survivability. That which survives continues to evolve. That which doesn't survive is out of the game. Evolution creates two paths, to continue to improve and survive, which is called Positive Evolution, and extinction.
Consider this; life evolves on some planet and thrives. Over billions of years it evolves greater intelligence. As this life gets smarter the individuals develop language allowing their minds to work together and build a society. Written language allows information to be stored and replicated so that the individuals in the society get the benefit of knowledge of others. The society builds a knowledge database and social software to develop and improve society.
Eventually these aliens discover electricity. Then they develop the transistor. That leads to the invention of computers. Computers lead to computer networks, and the first thing you need for a computer network is a symbolic name to resource translator. You need DNS, and to have DNS you need someone to manage it.
Thus life on another planet at the same level we are at would need to have an ICANN. The name of the organization would be different but the function is the same. Like our Internet their Internet would be the start of a global community. ICANN is a necessary step in any evolutionary process and it is important to understand that because if ICANN is effectively prophesied by the evolution of the universe, then what is ICANN's role for the future? Where is this all heading? And what should we be doing to realize our mission and do what we are supposed to do?
What is the Internet?
What is the Internet really? Is it just a bunch of computers connected together? Is it a toy to be played with? Is it a passing fad? Because it just sort of evolved out of nowhere it seems that we don't appreciate it. It's kind of counter intuitive that something that's really big and important "just happened" without anyone realizing the magnitude of something that spontaneously occurred. We went from a system that hardly existed 20 years ago to something that is so vital to humanity that if you turned the Internet off millions of people would likely die. These days everything is controlled over the Internet. It is central to humanity. And it all formed without a plan, without anyone in charge, and without a government.
Like what is happening in computer memory and processing power the Internet is expanding exponentially. The power of computers increases allowing computers to do more things and server more people. The infrastructure expands and more fiber is laid, more satellites launched, more data centers built. The expansion of capacity and the extension of reach and the lowering of cost allow for more and more of the human population to participate in the network.
Some day soon humanity and the Internet will be as inseparable as bees are to the hive. In reality, although we are individuals humans are more socially interdependent than bees are. As the Internet expands the Internet becomes an extension of who we are. It is a common mind that we all share. When I write this article my thought are instantly in front of the whole world within milliseconds after I click on "Save Page". Once out there other minds can evaluate these ideas, test them, and improve upon them.
ICANN's Role in the Internet Present and Future
You might be asking yourself, "What does all of this have to do with ICANN? ICANN is just DNS and names and numbers. It's a technical group for geeks and policy people with big egos and too much time on their hands." And you might be ultimately right.
Since an ICANN like organization is actually something that would be predicted by the evolution of the universe as being at least one of if not the earliest Internet service, it is in a position to be the institution where an emergent Internet Governance function might form.
For example, Back in the 1990s I was in the software business writing network control programs for Novell Netware networks. I would talk to guys who were heads of their IT departments and they would tell me stories about how that got that job. Generally it was something like this. "Back in 1979 I was a salesman for the company and I bought a TRS80 computer and a printer at Radio Shack so I didn't have to retype everything and because I was the only one with a computer back then I ended up becoming head of the IT department."
I can see the same thing happening here. ICANN already has a world wide infrastructure and is way ahead of the United Nations or any other entity on the planet and might act as the seed where the crystal grows. In fact we can make it that seed by creating the right kind of infrastructure where the future is a place where humanity can thrive and prosper. ICANN already accepts that it's role is for the Global Public Good which is the right goal to have. All we have to do is build out on that idea and actually define what the Global Public Good is using objective testable standards. And how hard could that be?
The important point here is that we may be at the nexus of an extremely important point in human evolution where taking the right initiative could determine the course of human evolution. We might have a unique opportunity to put humanity on the right path to the future and if this is so - should we not take it on?
What is Humanity and what makes us different?
Until humans evolved a species was mostly defined by their hardware. Their DNA determined how strong they are, how smart they are, if they have claws or sharp teeth, and what firmware they were born with so they knew how to hunt food and avoid being eaten.
So what makes us different? We have adapted the ability to share information. We don't have to all start from scratch. Our knowledge is cumulative and we have evolved and adapted to be completely on the knowledge and experience of others. Our societies are really a form of software created through evolution and as true with all evolution that which works tens to survive. That which doesn't work tends to go extinct. Not the most efficient way to develop software but nonetheless it shows that software is an emergent property of human networking. Our software is cumulative, that's what makes humans different. When we learned to talk we became something different than anything that previously existed. We created a new evolutionary paradigm where our software became dominate over our hardware.
For example - today's humans are genetically identical to humans 300 years ago. But today humans can fly. Humans can communicate across the world. We can see 13 billion years almost back to the beginning of time itself. We can take the heart out of one person and put it into another. Yet we are genetically identical.
The difference is in our software. When someone invents something we all share in that. Others can improve on it and we share in those improvements. The more we develop the more humanity improves itself. And the more effectively we can store and share information the faster our development accelerates.
Language was that start. Humans could tell each other things and the information was passed on. But when language started to be written then information could be stored externally to the minds and in a stable form that didn't suffer the distortions of human memory. Written language accelerated human software evolution.
Similarly radio. television, advances in transportation increased our ability to cooperate and communicate. Slave labor has now been replaced by machines. But when we invented the transistor we crossed yet another line because soon came logic circuits and the computer. (Yes, I know early computers predated transistors)
With the computer we could offload mental processes to machines. They could calculate far faster and more accurately than humans, and had more accurate memory for data and could compare and manipulate it for us much faster. These machines made it possible to offload a lot of our thinking the way machines allowed us to offload physical labor.
A More Complete Understanding of Evolution
Just like everything evolution is evolving. Not just our understanding of evolution is evolving - but evolution itself is evolving.
Evolution was first expressed in terms of "survival of the fittest." envoking images of two males fighting to the death and the survivor gets the prize of mating with the female. Or the eagle with the better eyesight gets more mice to eat than the eagle more nearsighted. Genetic mutation causing random differences and those that provide a benefit become the dominate trait over long periods of time.
Humans evolved an ability that changed evolution. Unlike other species where most all knowledge learned by an individual dies with the individual, humans developed symbolic language which allowed knowledge to accumulate. Our ability to survive increased as the knowledge increased. As a result of the success of this new ability humans evolved around this new ability and our brains reconfigured to support verbal communication. This new ability forked a new evolutionary paradigm, the information was evolving too. As we invented new things our abilities increased without a corresponding improvement in the DNA based hardware. This started information evolution.
We then applied our abilities to affect the evolution of other species. Farmers employed selective breeding so that we could change plants and animals we used for food. We took and evolutionary process and sped it up by applying our own selection criteria rather than the long process of survival of the fittest. This created a form of controlled evolution. This is a new paradigm.
With new technologies we can now engineer life at the genetic level and skip the whole breeding paradigm and go directly to what we want. This engineered paradigm of evolution is very new and we are very early in the development of custom life forms, but one has to assume that this will continue to expand in the future and will need to be incorporated into a new way of thinking about evolution.
In addition to altering our genetics we are now interfacing technology and biology so that these two technologies work together and talk to each other. This is opening up yet another paradigm, cybernetic evolution.
Just as language started humanity on the path to information evolution new technologies expanded this form of evolution. Written language allowed the speaker and the listener to be separated by time and space. Allowed information to be preserved and reproduced. Paper became an external form of information storage enhancing and supplementing our biological brain. Information could be remembered even after death.
But today we have much more that mere paper. We have the Internet which has virtually infinite storage and instant communication worldwide. We have computers that let us offload our thinking and can think for us in ways that our brains could never process. This new paradigm is causing humanity to evolve exponentially and experience hyper-evolution.
All these new forms of evolution create a new evolutionary class paradigm called engineered evolution; the ability to use our knowledge to design the next generation. The next generation will have far greater abilities to engineer an even more advanced generation, and so on.
Different Kinds of Evolution List:
- Traditional Evolution - survival of the fittest
- Information Evolution - The ability to store and build knowledge through language
- Controlled Evolution - Selective Breeding of plants and Animals
- Genetic Engineering Evolution - Building Custom Life
- Cybernetic Evolution - Mixing Machinery with Biology
- Engineered Evolution - The sum effect of all the new forms of evolution
The important point here is that we need to look beyond the scope of traditional evolution we aren't blinded to the effect of new forms of evolution. It isn't accurate to say that humans aren't evolving - or evolving backward - based on our DNA alone. In fact the new evolutionary paradigms are making traditional evolution obsolete. We are quickly developing the ability to determine what we will evolve into. Because of that we not have to face the question, what should we evolve into?
And you might be wondering, "What does this have to do with ICANN?" ICANN is a logical result of the Internet which is a logical result of human evolution. DNS is like the first brain cells of the Internet. It's the point where a world government is spontaneously forming as an emergent property. So it is at least a logical place to start this kind of discussion.
The Internet causes Humans to experience Hyper-Evolution
But when computers started to be networked even new emergent propertied surfaced. The networked computers were far more than the sum of their CPUs, memory, and storage. It allowed computers to be optimized for special functions that they made available to the whole network and if any part of the Internet had a new ability then they whole of humanity had that ability. And those abilities combined together to form new abilities as an emergent property of the network.
For example, I used my cell phone app Fandango to look up a movie. It accessed information about the movie from publishers and then accessed where it was playing from data that came from theaters. After selecting the movie I could then buy a ticket. The ticket sale talked to a credit card clearing process and the ticket was sold to me and that sale was communicated back to the theater along with a process that divided up the money to everyone getting their cut which was electronically deposited into their respective accounts.
The app then asked me if I wanted to add it as an event to my calendar, and I touched "Yes". The calendar sent the data to Google where it knew both when and where the movie was, and where I was in relation to the theater. It also picked up traffic data to know what the roads were like and then calculated how long it would take me to get there and subtracted that from the start time of the movie to send me an alert telling me it's time to head that way.
This process demonstrates the emergent properties of the Internet which is a construct that humanity created for itself to evolve forward. But because of the rate of technological advancement and that our own evolution is tied to this advancement, it through humanity into a form of hyper evolution, which is where we are today. And because we are moving so fast it seem to me that we need to understand who we are, how we got here, and where we are going so that this thing doesn't go so fast that it runs off the rails and crashes before we figured out what is happening. We need to get out ahead of it and figure it out so that we are in control of our own evolution and our own destiny.
Right vs. Wrong - How do we know if we are on the right track?
An age old philosophical question that seems on the surface to be nearly insurmountable. Philosopher have been working on this problem since the dawn of time. But because of the Internet and a deeper understanding of the universe a new philosophy is emerging that actually answers that age old question. We are at a point where we can answer the questions, "Wat is the meaning of life?" "What is the purpose of humanity in the universe?" And we can answer those questions in an objective scientific context without the need for any subjective assumptions. We can then derive a value system from these conclusions to determine what right and wrong is and create objective testing to determine if humanity is on the right track.
This is all very new and in a primitive state but the nature of the universe and the formula for evolution itself reveal to us a set of foundational principles that are logically provable. I will now discuss these principles and propose that they become the foundation for ICANN policy as well as for any proposed Internet Governance. We can then build an infrastructure based on these principles that will act as an operating system for humanity itself.
The two Paths - Positive Evolution or Extinction
At any moment all life in the universe can go on two paths. We are either evolving forward or we are heading for extinction. That is the mechanism as to how evolution works. Some people ask, "Why are the dinosaurs extinct?" The correct answer is, "Because they failed to develop a space program." If they had a space program they would have been able to push that asteroid out of the way and it wouldn't have hit the Earth. And every time a ig asteroid whizzes by the universe is asking us, "How's that space program coming?"
Some people might argue that maybe the Earth would be better off without humans and that maybe humanity should go extinct. But if that happens then we are out of the game, excommunicated from reality altogether. We cease to exist. So if we accept the axiom that to exist is better than to not exist then extinction would be considered the wrong path.
Static existence is also the wrong path. We can't just keep things the way they are and just sit here maintaining. We know in 4 billion years the Sun will expand and the Earth will be vaporized leaving only the 2 Voyager spacecrafts to act as a tombstone to let the universe know that we ever existed. In order to stay in the game we have to embrace positive evolution as a necessary step to continuing to exist. What is positive evolution? It is acting in the Global Public Good; something that ICANN has already figured out.
It's not a coincidence that ICANN came to this same conclusion because evolution is a property of the universe and after a billion years of evolutionary survival our minds are encoded with this evolutionary software to intuitively understand this principle. But we don't have to rely on this intuition anymore now that we understand where the intuition comes from. We can just accept as part of an objective logical infrastructure that extinction is bad and we need to do what it takes to avoid it.
Living in Right Relationship with Reality
Humanity has no choice but to learn this important key concept. We need to live "In right relationship to reality." What does this mean? It means that we live in a real universe that is quite frankly really hostile to life and this planet is like living on the surface of a soap bubble. This is a bad time to screw up and go extinct after getting this close. After all, we have evolved to the point where we know the size and age of the universe.
For example, it's pretty obvious that a full scale nuclear war is a really bad idea. Because we know this we have to make choices to make sure this doesn't happen. But the same thing applies to anything and everything else that might lead to our extinction like if we overheat the planet, poison the planet, or overpopulate the planet.
Similarly, we are looking at how the Internet will be structured in the near future. For example, do we as a world community allow nation states to spy on us, record our phone calls, read our email, and exert domination over us by creating a two level society where there are the watcher class and the watched class? Where does that model lead? Is that in the interest of positive evolution or the global public good?
This kind of activity could create global slavery where everything we do is watched and scrutinized. A world where inspired innovation stops and be become part of a global hell that only good science fiction can depict.
By creating the right kind of moral infrastructure we can have the language to make the arguments as to why an Orwellian society isn't our best choice and we can make that argument in objective terms that link back to the positive evolution of humanity and what that objectively means.
The Trajectory of Humanity
The idea of the trajectory of humanity is like trying to figure out where a missile is going by knowing where it is and where it has been. Likewise we can look at where humanity is and where we have been to determine where we are heading. Maybe even guide the trajectory so that where we get to is where we need to be.
Assuming that nothing unexpected and dramatic occurs that changes everything, we can see trends to give us some general ideas about the future. For example - if Moore's Law continues then we can expect that every computer in the year 2100 will be more powerful than the sum of all the computers on the planet today. That may be hard to imagine now what that will be like, but we can look backwards to the year 1960 and realize that the laptop computers of today represent more than the sum of all the computers on the planet back then.
We also have to note at this point that we are using our technology to look for signs of intelligent life on other planets and so far we have found nothing, which is disturbing. The elements to create life have existed in the universe for 10 billion years. Life on this planet has been around for 3.8 billion years leaving the possibility that something out there could be 6 billion years ahead of us. If that were the case they would have had plenty of time to colonize our entire galaxy and their electromagnetic signals would be everywhere.
But they aren't. All we hear from space is the silence of random noise. What does this mean?
- We could be the first life in our galaxy to get to this level.
- Advanced life in the Universe is at least extremely rare.
- When life reaches a level shortly beyond where we are it usually destroys itself.
- The galaxy is teaming with advanced life and we just don't have the technology to find it yet.
- Some other reason not listed here.
The one that should concern us most is number 3. That our technology gets away from us and because we don't get out in front to see where we are going in time we are doomed. We are at a critical point in human development where we are transitioning into and engineered form of evolution that we might not survive, unless of course we learn to live in right relationship with reality and we make sure that the coming disaster never occurs.
But possibilities 1 and 2 are also very plausible. The more we learn about this planet and how we formed we are becoming more aware of how lucky we are to be here. The right distance from the Sun. The right amount of gravity. Just the right amount of water on the surface. Not too thick or thin of an atmosphere. We have Jupiter acting as a giant vacuum cleaner sucking up asteroids. We are at the outer edges of the galaxy where things are more stable. Because of this, we may be it.
What if we were the only intelligent life in the galaxy or even in the whole universe? That means if we blow it and destroy itself then the universe goes back to being a dumb universe. Nothing in the universe that understands what particles are. No one to know about the big bang. No one to appreciate mathematics or the meaning of reality. The universe goes back to rocks colliding in space, stars exploding, and on one there to witness and comprehend it all.
Would that not be a great loss? Should we not put out the effort to stick around long enough to at least see where this is all heading? Wouldn't going extinct now be like walking out of a movie right before it ends and just after it started to get interesting?
Testable Outcomes and Values
So how can we test objectively to see if humanity is on the right track? There can be many tests. I suggest one of them is Moore's Law. Computing power doubles every 18 months. What if all of a sudden after some serious change in social structure that computing power quit increasing? If there were no technological reason for that then one might wonder if this were an indicator that we are on the wrong track. That wouldn't of course be the only and final indicator but is an example of something that should continue on course.
There are also general values that tend to lead to a healthy society. These include:
- Innovation - People inventing things is a good sign
- Free Exchange of Ideas
- Anonymity - the feeling you are not being watched
- Space Programs
- Scientific Research
- Arts and Culture
- Respect for Reality
- Increase in knowledge over time
Getting it right - A Tale of two Koreas
As an example of why making the right decision is better that making the wrong decision we can look at Korea. Korea was one nation split into two and went on very different paths from a common starting point. One can use east and west Germany as a similar example. Generally it is accepted in retrospect that South Korea has made more progress and is a more productive and healthier community than North Korea. Similarly West Germany did far better than East Germany.
These are examples of the comparison between making the right choice versus making the wrong choice. But what makes one choice right and another choice wrong? By what universal yardstick can we claim what the word better means and how to measure it?
Because most all unbiased observers would agree is there some universal principle that we all instinctively realize that allows us to perceive what better means without having better formally defined? And would we get a more precise understanding if we put out the effort to determine what those universal principles are so that when we are faced with conflicting interests we can determine the right course from the wrong course before having to learn by suffering the consequences of our mistakes?
And since the Internet is evolving and growing at an exponential rate would it not be prudent to get out ahead of it to make sure that it is going in the right direction? And in order to do that won't we have to be able to define precisely what the right direction is in terms of universal axioms?
If the fundamental axiom for right and wrong is whether humanity is advancing and going extinct then we can build a philosophical infrastructure around which to frame the debate on any issue for which must be resolved. If we don't know what right and wrong mean because we don't have a philosophical infrastructure then our choices might be determined but money, power, corruption, and influence.
ICANN, for example, has a meme that it should act in the interest of the Global Public Good. By defining the Global Public Good as a standard then debate about issues is tested against this meme. Is my position more in the Global Public Good that your position? And that elevates the debate even if we haven't precisely defined the word "good". Wouldn't we make better choices if good is defined?
Multi-Stakeholder Buy in
All stakeholders should want to buy into this model on the basis that what is good for humanity is good for everyone.
For example - if humanity goes extinct - that's bad for business. But a thriving humanity is good for business. The business just needs to buy into a long term perspective and then the good fortunes of humanity will trickle down on them.
Extinction is also bad for governments because if we go extinct there will be no one to govern.
The changing role of the GAC
One of the biggest changes in the future of humanity will be the roles and relationships between the emerging world community and the existing nation states. The first thing one has to understand is that change is both inevitable and unstoppable. The nation states of the world are going to have to evolve into the new emerging paradigm. The only way to stop this is to get rid of the Internet, reverse our technological advancements, and freeze the clock 25 or more years in the past. We can not do that. Nor can we stop the progress to be made in the future. Certain changes will occur and must occur. We know that:
- The world community created by the Internet will continue to expand and become more dominate.
- Conflicting laws between nations will have to be reconciled.
- Nations will have to agree to some form of universal rights of the individual.
- Nations will have to agree to not destroy the infrastructure of the Internet.
- Nations will have to determine the limits of war as waged on the Internet.
- Nations will have to learn to treat the citizens of other nations as they would expect other nations to treat their citizens.
That transition will be similar to what happened in the computer world as different kinds of computers were interfaced to the Internet. Before the Internet there were computers made by Apple, or computer running Windows, Linux, Unix, Netware, etc. These computers all worked fine stand alone. But when they were networked the operating systems needed to be enhanced to talk to the world using standard protocols. Everyone needed a TCP/IP stack just to exchange random data. But soon thereafter the differences and incompatibilities started to surface. Files on one computer weren't compatible. There we different competing protocols with different platforms claiming to be the superior technology and fighting for dominance.
As a result the IETF was formed and without a lot of structure created standard protocols so that computers could, for example, exchange email, regardless o what kind of computer or device you were using. The process of standardization needed to happen and therefore it did.
Similarly nation states can no longer regard people as having two classes, citizens and foreigners. That is because we are all foreigners in most of the world, and would therefore be treated as second class citizens by most of the world under this model. The obvious solution is the acceptance of universal human rights with respect to all nations where nations treat "foreigners" just like they treat their own.
So in this context, if we were to ask the question "Is it right for America's NSA to collect information about the citizens of everyone in the world, one only has to ask, how would we feel if other nations did the same thing to us? If nations can't respect the rights of others, then by what authority does a nation demand that other nations respect their rights?
So - just like when the different operating systems joined the Internet so too nations themselves are connecting to the internet and are going to have to alter themselves to be compatible with universal protocols. And there really is no way around this process. Nations are just going to have to accept that this is something that has to be done if one is going to participate in the larger community. Since this must occur then nations can choose to be either embracing of the inevitable or be dragged kicking and screaming into the future.
I think the correct attitude, if I can be so bold, is to look at this as an opportunity for growth. We can take the best aspects of all of the world's diverse societies and incorporate them as the standard protocols of a new global society that we all share and define the relationships of the global community and national sovereignty in a healthy productive way. We can collectively decide to do it right and rejoice in the benefits of our success or we can fight and disrespect each other and argue who gets the blame. I say - let pull together and do it right. Let's accomplish greatness together and succeed.
Commercial Stakeholder Buy in
Just as the world is changing for nations so is the world changing for corporations. Technology continues to evolve and no place is the evolution faster than the Internet. This leads to technologies sometimes having a very short life because a new technology replaces it. An exciting world full of pitfalls and opportunity awaits those who get involved commercially.
One of the common conflicts in philosophy regarding the Internet from a commercial perspective is short term vs. big picture thinking. Something that has short term gain might have severe long term consequences. One has to find the balance and fine tune short term and long term decisions.
Problem than need to be solved
What is the jurisdiction of Internet Governance? Here are some immediate issues that these standard can be applied to.
- Net Neutrality
- Government Spying
- Government Censorship
- Intellectually Property
- Law Enforcement
- Differences in laws between nations
ICANN provides an international forum 4 times a year where international issues can be worked out between countries. ICANN is a more efficient forum and more fairly balanced than the United Nations and therefore it is reasonable to consider that the structure could be used as a forum for negotiations between countries for issues like:
- International Banking Regulations - differences between laws have led to countries becoming tax havens to as to scam governments out of revenue and allow an oligarchy of super rich people to control the affiar of nations rather than to pay taxes due.
- International Corporations and Commerce - Standardization, especially regarding Internet related transactions, would be useful to make the Internet safe and consistent for all users of all countries.
- Internet Human Rights - Countries agree to basic human rights and commit to treating the citizens of other nations as they would expect other nations to treat their citizens.
- Global Visions - Forming task forces to understand emerging new technologies and make recommendation to the GAC for consistent international law.
Additionally ICANN can work on creating models to facilitate international cooperation. ICANN could provide arbitration and mediation services bringing in organization like JAMS and other kinds of experts in coordinating the development of better ways to get things done. ICANN can create both a philosophical foundation for cooperation between all the planets stakeholders and build the tools for which the Global Public Good can be accurately determined and implemented.
Even if ICANN isn't ultimately the organization that implements these goals we can create a blueprint for successor organizations that will follow us to use.
What I want to see ICANN do
Because of the nature of the Internet a new global community is forming, has formed, and is inevitable. Just as the invention of the automobile lead to paved highways and traffic laws this new global community will continue to grow and dominate the social paradigm. As the Internet grows some kind of structure will form. That structure will be Internet Governance.
Right now the Internet is like the wild west. Other than ICANN and the IETF there is no Internet authority. What structure exists how developed organically shaped but organizations like ICANN, IETF, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Linux Kernel development, commercial developers, political websites, and individuals with good ideas. But how do we move forward? What kind of future will the Internet have? It raised questions.
- Will the Internet continue to evolve organically with minimal governance as it is now?
- Or - will the Internet turn into an Orwellian Police state where everything you do it watched and if you get out of line a death chip in your brain puts you down.
- What will the role of existing nations become in an Internet dominated society?
- What roles and responsibilities will law enforcement have?
- How will incompatible laws between nations be resolved?
- How can we protect Intellectual Property without overprotecting it?
- What are the rules of war on cyberspace?
- How do we protect the rights and dignity of individuals in the new world community?
These are all big questions and they deserve big answers. We not only should get it right - but we have to get it right. And the best time to get it right is now in the very beginning, while it is still forming, while it is still a zygote. But who is going to do this? The short answer is ICANN.
Why ICANN? How many other organizations are in a position to do it. Just like the example of the salesman with a TRS80 computer becoming the IT department ICANN is just at the right place at the right time. Someone had to be the one to be at the right place at the right time and ICANN is it.
One might ask, what about the United Nations? Yes they are bigger and older but the UN is a World War 2 relic that was create mostly to deal with nations going to war with each other. Their job is to try to solve unrest before it becomes a world wide crisis. It is completely dominated but governments with the exclusion of NGOs and the 5 nation security council is the seat of power. Hardly compares with ICANN's milti-stakeholder model where a broader number of kinds of voices are heard. ICANN's structure more closely matches and is in tune with the organic development of the Internet. ICANN is also a technical organization that can process the complexities of technology. If ICANN isn't suited for the job it is as close to suited as we have.
If we don't do it - who will? There's a saying - if you want something done right - do it yourself.
What I want to see ICANN do is to put together the intellectual infrastructure for Internet Governance. I want to see it developed in a way that has structure, much the way software has structure or physics has structure. That way new ideas added to the structure are logically consistent.
Even if ICANN never "rules the world" (which isn't really what I'm looking for) if this were done only as an intellectual exercise it could become the foundation for a values structure for the real thing. And that is worth doing.
Power and Authority - where does it come from?
Some people my be asking, "Why ICANN? Who died and made us God?"
The short answer is - no one. But power and authority doesn't come from being elected or appointed. Sometimes you're just the person or organization that is in the right place at the right time. Sometimes you're just first in line. Sometimes it's like being the lottery winner and wondering, "Why me?"
But - before excessive egos kick in we're not talking about being king or president of the world here. This is more like being system administrators to the world. ICANN might look at themselves as the world's IT department. And that is reflected in the multi-stakeholder model. If you have a company the admins don't tell you what to do. When the rest of the company agrees that they want some new feature then the admins make it happen. When people at the company are still arguing about what software to get and not agreeing on what they want the admins just sit back until they work it out.
Human Software and Human Networks
The invention of computers and computer networks has given us a new philosophical perspective on who we are as people and how we functions as a society. Computers and computer networks run on software. There is software that resides on each computer, and there is software and functionality provided by the network. Computers now have interface software built in so that the first thing they do upon being activated is to connect to the network to receive updates and reprogram itself. Some computer boot off the network and the only thing they know is how to go out and get an operating system, and some diagnostics.
Humans are not unlike computers in this respect and the computer give us insight as to who we are. We are individuals, but we are also part of a network. We have evolved to the point of being so dependent on the network that we need the human network in order to survive. If an individual is isolated from the network they usually don't survive and if they do don't live a life much different than any other animal. In fact isolation is considered to be cruel and unusual punishment in some countries.
One could consider one's personal behavior to be running one's personal software. But your software interfaces with the software of the society you are attached to or a member of. For example, when we drive cars we stop at red lights and we go on green lights. That's because we as a society agreed to these rules so that people aren't killed as they drive through intersections.
The human software model of understanding human behavior is a good model for understanding the Internet which is an artificial network created by humans for the purpose of expanding who we are as individuals and as a society. If we understand this in terms of software then we can understand that the better the software, the better the systems of society run. Historically this software has been developed through evolution. Over thousands of years cultures tried different things and that which worked survived and that which didn't tended to fade away.
Now however we are on the verge of a new paradigm where instead of the slow process of evolution developing the software of humanity humans are reverse engineering themselves and reverse engineering the universe to understand the reality that we exist in - and to determine what we need to do to stay part of reality. That is - to not go extinct. This new paradigm is engineered evolution.
Engineered evolution is having an understanding of the big picture from a big history perspective. We can then determine our role and our goals and with an increase in knowledge and wisdom we can set a course from where we are to where we need to be. Thus the software for the societies of the future can be developed today. Human software can become yet another open source project that humanity can develop.
The Internet is also blurring the distinction between the software of humanity and the software of machines. Take Facebook for example. Is Facebook human software or machine software? Or is machine software an emergent application that runs on human software? And will human software eventually run on machines?
These questions illustrate the purpose for this article. If humanity's network is merging with the Internet - humanity need system administrators. And that is the connection to ICANN.
Define Human Rights
Similar to the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights we should start with our own declaration of human rights first defining everyone as equal and entitled to the same fundamental rights.
We don't need to duplicate the UN declaration as it focuses on slavery, forced marriages, torture, law, persecution, torture, and issues more appropriate to what they do. We can recognize them by a reference statement including it as a whole within our declaration.
Instead we should focus on the online world relating to issues of freedom of expression, anonymity, online harassment, control of your personal data, the right not to me monitored, tracked individually, to keep one's files secret. Rights to privacy. To keep war off the Internet. Reasonable protections of intellectual property.
Recognize ICANN's role in Big History
As stated earlier ICANN is actually predicted by the evolution of the universe itself. This is explained by:
- Evolution is a fundamental property of the universe.
- Evolution leads to life.
- Life evolves into intelligent life.
- Intelligent life will invent the computer.
- The invention of the computer leads to the invention of the Internet.
- The invention of the internet leads to the implementation of a symbolic name to resource locator (DNS).
- Someone has to administrate DNS and that is ICANN.
Because of this ICANN is sort of the preordained initial form of Internet Governance (IG). Everything has to start somewhere and where it starts and who is involved is somewhat by random chance. Someone has to win the lottery and whoever wins will have to ask themselves, "Why Me?" ICANN is just in the right place at the right time.
Like a lottery winner ICANN has to claim its prize or the jackpot will move onto the next drawing which mat be far less suited than ICANN is. Would we want the United Nations taking over the Internet? Or would we rather have a world wide oligarchy form that will dominate humanity where we will be controlled by warring corporations and rich ideologues fighting for personal power? Or will the machines evolve into life forms and kill off all the biology and move out into space to conquer the universe?
It is our turn. We can choose to pick up the ball and run with it or we can sit back and hope someone else do it at a later time when it is harder because bad things might be more entrenched.
Another analogy, perhaps better, is that a plane has crashed and ICANN has the seat next to the escape hatch and because we are sitting there it is our duty to open the door and assist everyone in exiting the plane in 90 seconds before the plane burns everyone up. The sooner we get started the more likely the results will be better.
So - we won the lottery. Are we going to go claim the prize or leave the money on the table? I say - let's go for it!
Right Relationship with Reality
So where do fundamental values come from? Whee does right and wrong come from? Where does morality itself come from? What should ICANN use to determine these values in constructing the framework for IG? Fortunately we have a template that is discoverable and that template is reality itself.
Reality includes the set of all things that is actually real. It even includes all other reality that actually do exist, at the exclusion only of those things that do not exist. For the purpose of this discussion we don't have to have the argument as to what is real or what isn't.
Rather, what we should do is accept that we live in a universe and that we exist. We know that we have a past, present, and future. We are subject to the laws of cause and effect. Our present was caused by the events of the past. Our future will be determined by our choices in the present. Because our ancestors made the right choices, we exist. If we make the right choices our descendents will continue to exist. If we make the wrong choices, we could go extinct. If we are extinct we are no longer part of reality.
The concept of living in right relationship to reality is based on the axiom that survival is better than extinction. Thus it means that we need to take an active role to make decisions that lead to the goal of survival as opposed to extinction. In order to survive, especially in a state of hyper-evolution, we have to understand reality, understand our place in the universe, and to make decisions to get us from where we are to where we need to be.
One of the discussion I had at ICANN 47 in Durban was about this topic. "What is the purpose of humanity in the universe?" I don't remember who but someone said, "The purpose of humanity is to survive long enough to determine what the purpose of humanity is," I had a longer and more complex answer but his answer was easier to understand and incorporated the principles that I thought were important. His answer implied not only do we survive, but that our understanding of reality would increase over time and in the future our understanding of our own purpose will increase.
To that end we need to act in the Global Public Good so that humanity flourishes. So that our understanding of reality increases. In order to do that we need a global society that gets along, cooperates, values knowledge, innovation, safety, personal dignity, and is generally wise. We take responsibility for our actions and we learn to live in harmony with the natural world.
When we live in right relationship with reality then many of the questions we face as an ICANN community can be solved in these terms and that the right choice can be distinguished from the wrong choice in terms that can be described scientifically and derived from universal principled based on our commitment to remain as a member of the real world.
The alternative is to be reckless and petty and to end up becoming extinct and forgotten. And in 4 billion years when the Sun expands and destroys the Earth the only remnant of our existence will be the two Voyager spacecraft that are the only human made objects to leave our solar system.
Is this only about the Internet
What is the scope of this proposal? Is it only about the Internet? Should it be about everything? Conversely, is it outside the scope of ICANN and we should be talking only about DNS related issues. Some people might think that world domination is mission creep, and they would be right.
The short answer is - I have no idea.
A longer answer is - it's all related. What is being proposed here is more of a thought experiment. Although ICANN is charged specifically with DNS which is a single technical aspect of the Internet, we have formed what is now the official world community where the world comes together to resolve policy conflicts between governments and between nations and non-government stakeholders. ICANN is to the Internet what the United Nations is to war. And as the UN branched out into social unrest, international law, disease control, and disaster relief. ICANN too has to branch out to deal with related issues.
One has to also look at the role of ICANN from the perspective of the future especially with the hyper-evolution of the Internet. It is easy to see that as technology creates a world community that the ball is moving into our court and that we are presently in a unique position to get it right from the start. We can, and should, at least come up with the philosophical framework for the future.
What we come up with can be applied to all aspects of life. For example, if we adopt the view that the positive evolution of humanity is a better path than extinction, and the the idea of the Global Public Interest is a good standard, then these ideas could be easily applied to decisions about the environment. Clean air and water is better than polluted air and water. Peace is better than war. Nuclear annihilation is a bad idea. We all sort of know this but if we have a solid philosophical infrastructure we can precisely explain why these statement are true and we can create testable outcomes to check our decisions against.
The Magna Carta for example became the philosophical framework that lead to constitutional democracies. We don't know where our work will lead but it very well could happen that something we never dreamed of will be based on the work we do here, and that's why we should do it.
Write a philosophical preamble to the bylaws to define our mission in big picture terms
The preamble defines the overall mission. It's like the preamble to the US constitution.
We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
ICANN should include:
- A commitment to the progress of humanity.
- Everyone is included
- Everyone has fundamental rights
- Everyone is considered equal
A commitment to getting it right
There's an old saying, "If you don't have time to get it right when are you going to find time to do it over?"
I think ICANN can come up with a form of IG and get it right as long as we use the right methods to get there. We need to start working on this early and get stakeholder buy in on the fundamental principles laid out here.
- And all inclusive approach seeing humanity as a single community.
- A commitment to reality based thinking
- staying with the Global Public Good theme
- Testing new ideas against fundamental principles
- Checking our work with tests that result in measurable outcomes.
We have a unique opportunity to form the basis of global society and get in on the ground floor and do it right. Humanity is at a critical point in the evolution of life on this planet and we are giving birth to a new future that is very different than anything this planet has ever been through before. This new future can be compared to a zygote, just a bunch of cells that are just beginning to an organism that we will eventually become.
We are in a unique position to start out right while this is forming. We can either act or not act. But if we don't act then someone else will, or flaws might develop (America's NSA, International Oligarchy) that might become the model for human development. Such a model could lead to extinction.
We have an opportunity to write the operating system for humanity's future and I think we should do it and do it right. Otherwise we could end up regretting our inaction.
It is at least worth serious discussion and consideration.