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Jared, Thy Name Is Vanity

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I’ve gone by many names throughout my life: Donald, Jared, Child #61728. But this week I earned myself a new one: the Dorian Gray of Silicon Valley. For I let my vanity make a monster of me.

It all started when I joined Richard for an interview on Bloomberg. I’d only come for moral support, but then Emily Chang started asking me questions, and the interview went live, and all of a sudden I was being asked to do Adrian Grenier’s edutainment web series. I hadn’t even planned to watch the Bloomberg interview, but Dinesh convinced me to review the footage to improve before my next appearance. He said it was for the good of the company! Little did I realize that to watch a YouTube clip of oneself on repeat is the digital equivalent of Narcissus’s unwavering gaze into the water.

Such began my stumble into the depths of shallowness. I’d never considered myself a superficial person before. I put care into my appearance, of course, but only as a gesture toward professionalism. (To show up in anything short of combed hair, pressed khakis, and a lint-free fleece vest is disrespectful.) And sure, I’ve humbly accepted a few comparisons to movie star Anthony Perkins, but I always thought that was more about our shared love of birds than anything else. But now, before I knew it, I was fretting over my nose, demanding lip injections to distract from it. I thought they would have a subtle, bee-stung look, but there was more truth in that syringe than saline. My lips had grown as inflated as my new ego.

Even though the doctor told me the puffiness will subside after twenty-four hours, I think the effects on the computer education students at Paul Revere Middle School may last longer than that. How must they feel, knowing I chose Grenier over them? That I chased a shiny piece of Turkish delight instead of the home cooked meal of their company? Those kids depend on me to teach them about life in tech, to share stories of my past bullying, no matter how tangentially related to the day’s lesson. At least they got to meet Richard. The photos I’d shown them in class could only do him so much justice.

Well, readers, it’s time to repair the damage our network suffered this week, ice my lips again, and look inward. Until next time!

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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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