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Rewilding The Internet

The internet has become an extractive and fragile monoculture. But we can revitalize it using lessons learned by ecologists.


16 Apr 2024

We Need To Rewild The Internet

"Our online spaces are not ecosystems, though tech firms love that word. They’re plantations; highly concentrated and controlled environments, closer kin to the industrial farming of the cattle feedlot or battery chicken farms that madden the creatures trapped within.

We all know this. We see it each time we reach for our phones. But what most people have missed is how this concentration reaches deep into the internet’s infrastructure — the pipes and protocols, cables and networks, search engines and browsers. These structures determine how we build and use the internet, now and in the future.

Up close, internet concentration seems too intricate to untangle; from far away, it seems too difficult to deal with. But what if we thought of the internet not as a doomsday “hyperobject,” but as a damaged and struggling ecosystem facing destruction? What if we looked at it not with helpless horror at the eldritch encroachment of its current controllers, but with compassion, constructiveness and hope? 

Technologists are great at incremental fixes, but to regenerate entire habitats we need to learn from ecologists who take a whole-systems view. Ecologists know something just as important, too; how to keep going when others first ignore you and then say it’s too late, how to mobilize and work collectively, and how to build pockets of diversity and resilience that will outlast them, creating possibilities for an abundant future they can imagine but never control. We don’t need to repair the internet’s infrastructure. We need to rewild it. 

We need to stop thinking of internet infrastructure as too hard to fix. It’s the underlying system we use for nearly everything we do. The former prime minister of Sweden, Carl Bildt, and former Canadian deputy foreign minister, Gordon Smith wrote in 2016 that the internet was becoming “the infrastructure of all infrastructure.” It’s how we organize, connect and build knowledge, even — perhaps — planetary intelligence. Right now, it’s concentrated, fragile and utterly toxic."


For more:

Protocols, Algorithm, Cloud, Decoupling, Design, Regulation

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