The Internet of People

July 12, 2017. Today is global Net Neutrality Day. Amidst our turmoiled political climate, America has united to uphold the principles of free speech we hold so dear. You can participate in this battle here.

The internet is not made of things.

We have inclinations to view the internet like any other object, like something we can just pick up, use, and put down. And certainly, there is an element of truth to this perspective. The internet has computers, cables, and screens. The words you’re reading are sitting on a box somewhere on Dreamhost’s servers, being transmitted at light speed through intercontinental cables. Cables, screens, and servers – those are all ‘things.’

But the internet is not ‘things.’ It should be obvious that the internet transcends the traditional boundaries of ‘thing’ that we ascribe to other everyday objects. It doesn’t transport material goods. We’ve created a system where we use imaginary digital currency to pay for imaginary digital goods. None of it exists. Netflix shows are not ‘things.’ My digital money is not a ‘thing.’

In reality, the internet is this abstract, amorphous structure that just, well, exists. It’s nowhere and everywhere. You can’t shut it down. It’s a bastion of free speech. It’s started uprisings, united distant friends, and told stories. It’s the most powerful platform of expression that humanity has ever created. The internet is an abstraction of humanity, a digital embodiment of ourselves.

Because the internet isn’t about things, it’s about people. It’s about expression. It’s an information superhighway. It’s humanity’s greatest invention. It’s a symbol of unity. It’s a pinnacle of technology. It’s the greatest expressive platform that we have ever created.

And the FCC is trying to turn it into a thing.

When I play with toys, I play with a ‘thing.’ But when I play a video game, I’m playing a product that never existed physically. Many games are created, published, and sold all in cyberspace. They’re just ideas. Some of the ideas on the internet are stronger than others. The internet has memes to passions to personas and everything in between, and these ideas collectively form the most visceral and direct manifestations of individuality we have ever seen.

With the rise of Youtube and Tumblr stars, we’ve seen this fundamental expression be turned into business. It’s the content creator agreement. I make cool stuff, you look at it. Both of us benefit. The people in the middle lay down the roads for us and don’t mess with the shit we’re trying to send through.

Essentially, ISPs (the monopolistic ones, like Comcast) have been constantly trying to mess with these roads. They own the roads, and they thus claim the right to be able to throttle and control bandwidth. This is a terrible thing, but they call it ‘innovation.’ ISPs have tried to do this again and again, only to be faced with legislation and pushback. But somehow, something always happens, and a loophole is always found. The latest loophole would allow ISPs to overturn the safeties that were been put in place for consumers in 2015.

We fought them back then, so we can fight them now. Participate in this battle here. Want to know more? Vi Hart has a fantastic video summing up the history of this whole thing.

If you’re a developer, you know that the internet has evolved to nourish thousands of cultural microcosms that span political borders. You’ve seen what the internet has brought to the world.

Fight to defend it. Fight for free speech.