The Mole

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Hello again, readers! Let me tell you, since my last post, I’ve had quite an adventure! For those of you who grew up addicted to film noir or following clues left by a murdered friend like I did, this post may be a special treat!

As a lot of these stories do, it started with me alone in the office. It was another lonely night, staring into the bottom of the third glass of tangerine La Croix I had poured myself. Open in front of me were our employees’ private emails. I was in a real pickle, the mole was out there, right under our noses, lurking just out of sight in a dark mist, but tracking him down risked losing the trust of our employees.

I must have run my finger around the rim of my glass a thousand times before I finally gave in. I couldn’t forget that Richard came to me, with those blue eyes and those curls, asking for help. As COO the mole was in my jurisdiction, I knew I had to find him.

I couldn’t do it alone. Lucky for me, I had one of the best investigators around: Bertram Gilfoyle. Sure he was caustic and had little regard for the rules, but that’s exactly what the situation called for. Gilfoyle and I dove in. We checked thousands of emails. Their contents revealed little in way of our current investigation, but they did shine a light on the type of interpersonal grime you only see when people think they are completely alone.

Gilfoyle and I eventually stumbled upon the equivalent of an abandoned building ripe with the scent of death you could smell from a block away, a smell I thought I had forgotten. We realized one of our own had been sending encrypted emails straight to the enemy. The biggest betrayal of all…he was a Stallion. Gilfoyle may have said it best when he described Jeff as “a tapeworm, who had clung to the small intestine of our company…Dinesh.”

In the end, we got our man, and took a nail gun to most of his possessions. On most days, solving the case of the mole and uncovering Big Head as the rightful heir of the Bachman fortune would be enough, but my biggest case yet might have just landed on my desk. Jian-Yang is missing, potentially with our code. Looks like there’s a demon on the loose in China.

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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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