Decentralized, distributed computing and cryptocurrency blockchain projects share the grand goal of breaking up monopolies in a variety of sectors in order to enable the free sharing of ideas, and unleash boundless creativity on the part of individuals. Of course, all of this rides on the assumption that people will use the technology, which so far remains an open question. Also worth considering is the degree to which individuals can be empowered in this way when only slightly more than half of the world’s population has access to the internet, in the first place.
The spread of mobile phone infrastructure, and cheap phones and plans, has recently been the most powerful driver of increased internet access in many parts of the world. It seems logical, then, that any plan to address the so-called global “digital divide” should also take into account the particular way in which mobile phone usage might shape the internet. As Hypernet works to change the world through parallel distributed computing, the spread of mobile phones represents an extraordinary opportunity. Hypernet’s technology is built to harness the latent computing power newly available on millions of mobile phones all over the world.
At the same time, there are certain other actors taking advantage of the global mobile phone revolution. These other actors are the tech giants which offer free data usage on mobile phones in several countries. With net neutrality top of mind, this should be a source of worry and consternation for everyone in the crypto space and, more generally, for everyone who cares about freedom of information. For many individuals in developing countries, they only know of the internet by the corporate brand which provides it to them in exchange for their personal data. If you care about the free market of ideas, this should immediately set off alarm bells.
The way in which tech platforms can shape the way we understand new information has been a major topic of discussion in the United States since 2016, when it was argued that large tech companies could actually skew democratic elections. The problem may be getting worse rather than better, and it’s not just Americans who need to worry.
Duterte in the Philippines may owe his controversial success to his online media campaign. It’s not just about winning elections, either. His critics charge him with spreading false information online in order to influence policy, or more specifically, to “fuel” a violent drug war.
Myanmar is another country in which free access served to bring an entire population online, suddenly and all at once, with the result that a single service provider has total power over information delivery. Instead of a drug war, this configuration has contributed to large-scale human rights violations and what many are calling acts of ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya Muslim population.
In short, it’s an understatement to say that we should be concerned about the incredible concentration of online information distribution. Ever since Marshall McLuhan declared “the medium is the message” in the 1960s, media theorists have recognized the importance of the delivery platform in the shaping of the very meaning of content. This point takes on absolutely crucial significance, though, when one organization or delivery platform usurps monopoly power over the dissemination of news.
The only solution to the problem created by concentrated data control is making the internet, and the flow of information and communication that goes with it, indiscriminately accessible. The free flow of ideas and information is a democratic ideal of the highest order. Since the internet is today’s most widely used channel of communication, we should work to protect it from distortion and bad actors, to ensure that it remains neutral.
Given that mobile phones are the most commonly used devices for accessing the internet worldwide, Hypernet would be perfectly suited to partner with other organizations seeking to provide internet in a fair, uncensored, and equitably accessible manner.
Imagine an organization built on the explicit mission of democratizing internet access for everyone on the planet, of offering the opportunity and possibility of the internet without the harmful effects of the single provider system. This would be the pinnacle of open and equal information sharing. Now imagine that this organization is already reaching millions of users through software on millions of devices. Hypernet would be a natural and beneficial addition to an already symbiotic relationship. Hypernet would be able to provide the necessary computational component for a decentralized internet, and the owners of mobile devices would gain the capacity to monetize their devices, in addition to accessing the internet.
These are precisely the types of partnerships that Hypernet is interested in forming, partnerships that create value for everyone involved while preserving the values and vision of a decentralized internet and the free circulation of ideas.