Sympathy Post: Our Condolences, Jian-Yang

Erlich has shown great generosity in letting Pied Piper continue to use his incubator as offices, long past the point when most companies acquire their own offices. This can obscure the fact that there are other incubees living in the Hacker Hostel, working on their own apps, including the talented Jian-Yang (last name unclear).

After many months of hard work under Erlich’s mentorship, Jian-Yang’s app to help parents find uncrowded playgrounds (a noble aim!) was finally ready to pitch to our friends at Raviga. But despite all his hard work—and a last-minute pivot in response to some legitimate concerns of Monica’s—the app has sadly failed to acquire funding. We at Pied Piper wish to offer support to Jian-Yang at this moment that all tech entrepreneurs experience and is nonetheless always quite hard.

But chin up, young fellow! The Jian-Yang I know—and am occasionally able to successfully converse with—is marked by perseverance, notably in ignoring Erlich’s requests regarding trash disposal. You’ll get ‘em next time, Jian Yang!

We’re Headed for Arbitration!

Since the day that Hooli first sued us, it seemed as if that obscenely baseless legal action would drag on forever. And this was indeed Hooli’s intent: to strangle a new company as it lay in its crib, with our last sight being the racist tattoos on the needle-scarred forearms of our foster-mother’s boyfriend du jour, flexing as our windpipe collapsed. But once again, I digress! “Close the window,” Jared!

The point is, I was flabbergasted to learn that our dauntless CEO Richard Hendricks has prevailed upon “Darth” Belson (I have nicknamed him in this manner, after the “Star Wars” villain, to indicate his unscrupulous nature) to convert this suit into binding arbitration! This will bring about a resolution within weeks, rather than a year or more. And I have no doubt that with our case in the steady (for almost six months now) hands of noted litigator Pete Monahan, it will go our way!

Yes, despite our recent setbacks with brain rape, with office space, with live-streaming and with deleting vast quantities of pornography, I see light at the end of the tunnel! Sometimes a great legal mind fallen on hard times is willing to waive their fee! Sometimes California Child Protective Services makes an unannounced visit at precisely the right time!  As Anne Frank famously said, “I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.” So onward to victory!

The Importance of Strong Security Protocols in the Age of Hacking

Hi, there. This is Richard Hendricks, CEO of Pied Piper. I’m writing today as a guest blogger. Because we have something very serious to discuss.

We live in a dangerous time. A very, very dangerous time. We’ve all heard of the Jonathan James hack of NASA. The Vladimir Levin attack on Citibank. The Stuxnet worm. The North Korean Sony hack. The Lulzsec Sony hack. The bottom line is: No one anywhere is safe, especially not Sony. And these are only the tip of the “danger iceberg.”

Twenty years ago, DDOS meant you were typing the operating system DOS and the “d” key stuck. No more. Now, today’s tech CEO is surrounded by a host of threats. The botnets of Russian criminal groups. Chinese military hackers. Network security specialists you accidentally got fired, who are angry. Very, very angry.

Only the strongest of security protocols can possibly defend against a deadly misstep in this modern digital minefield. There must be regular updates and patches for all software. All computers must be air-gapped. Wifi? Buh-bye. Hardlines only. All employees’ cell phones must be stored in Faraday cages, or better yet, a lead-lined box in a freezer. Blackout curtains, unless you want camera drones shoulder-surfing your passwords. Vary your routes to and from work. Ideally, daily polygraphs and invasive body searches for all employees, vendors and visiting “friends” and “relatives,” although admittedly this might not fly in the culture of the Bay Area.

A great man once said, “All paranoid fears have a basis in fact.” I won’t tell you who, because I don’t know who is reading this or what advantage over me they might derive from that information. I will say this: Eternal vigilance may be the price of freedom, but it is also the price of doing business in today’s technology sector.

Problem 1:

Single Points of Failure

Libraries are vulnerable to losing their collection because all of their books are contained at a single location. Say, for instance, that there was a fire, or a flood, or a vandal defaced John James Audubon’s masterpiece Birds of America by giving all the Warblers human genitalia. Even worse, if the vandal recruited bird haters from other neighborhoods and got ahold of all the copies of the book in existence, it could be lost crude doodles forever. It would be a tragedy on par with the destruction of the Library of Alexandria.

The Problem

Because Birds of America is centralized in one public location, it’s susceptible to permanent deletion. The same goes for content on the Internet — storing all your family photos on a single account in a cloud service? They could all be wiped away if someone hacked your account or corrupted the host servers.

The Solution

Our solution: In our decentralized library, we would duplicate and distribute multiple copies of Birds of America to your neighbors — if you need a copy, you would just go to your neighbor’s house. As our Pipernet town of mobile devices grows, so do the number of neighbors who might have a copy of your book. And the more potential copies there are available, the more secure the book is.

That’s what our new internet will allow you to do too: spread your personal files on devices across the world, so they’re completely safe from bad actors manipulating or deleting them.

Takeaways

All copies of your files in a well-known, hackable location = RISKY!

Files copied and distributed to multiple locations = SAFE!

Problem 2:

No Privacy

In order to check out books, you must have a library card — an ID that links back to your real world identity. That library card reveals all the books you’ve ever checked out, where you returned them, and whether they were returned on time.

The Problem

The tech titans collect data profiles on us too, and theirs are far more comprehensive. They amass thousands of personal data points by tracking our activities in both the online and physical worlds.

Users don’t own or control their own data, so it can be used against them. Take, for instance, Richard’s lawyer Pete Monahan, who had his probation revoked when the state retrieved his library records. Which was… probably a good idea. But for this metaphor’s purposes: bad that they can access that information!

On the web, our data profile is far more detailed, the laws around privacy even looser, and more freedoms are at stake. For example, what if Hooli sold your search data to an insurance company who then denied you coverage because you’ve HooliSearch-ed “kindest Palo Alto based Cardiologist” a few too many times?

The Solution

Replace library cards with anonymous identification cards which are impossible to connect to your real world identity. Instead of using a library card (linked to your name, address, etc.) to check out books, you would swipe a nondescript card (containing no personal details). Your activity would be tracked to keep the system stable, but your identity would not be siphoned and sold. I, for example, would no longer check out books as "Donald Dunn," but rather the nom de guerre "h3w0vbk37vpm."

That’s what our new internet will allow you to do too: use its apps and services without compromising your privacy.

Takeaways

Trading your identity and data for online services = RISKY!

Using services anonymously so nobody can target you = SAFE!

Problem 3:

Censorship and Manipulation

Because a town’s library is run by a small group of administrators, they could theoretically decide what books are available to its people. They could even decide to ban Birds of America, depriving young birders of Audubon’s elegant illustrations, pored over page by page under a government-issued blanket after lights out, giving you hope that even a slender-framed, shivering boy could grow to be as majestic as a Hooded Merganser.

The Problem

On the internet, multinational corporations can screen content, or even “adapt” their services to fit the local government’s requests. In both libraries and on the Web, we’re susceptible to data being censored or manipulated by intermediaries.

The Solution

A peer-to-peer lending system backed up by a fully public ledger, allowing you to send and receive books freely to anybody in the world without worrying about censorship or interference. Want to add Catcher in the Rye, Fahrenheit 451, or your controversial essay on Audubon’s coloring techniques? No problem, even if the town surrounded you with pitchforks to ban them, these vital texts would be available to share neighbor to neighbor, impossible to delete.

That’s what our new internet will allow you to do too: exchange messages and files directly with their intended receiver, disperse ideas and information free from threats of censorship.

Takeaways

Pushing all transactions through a central authority = OPPRESSIVE!

Establishing a peer to peer exchange system based on an immutable public ledger = FREE!

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