Its Later Than We Think

What and Why of Hayduke

Hayduke is a challenging concept, especially to myself. The best I can describe it right now is that it’s a project, a vehicle to connect with like-minded individuals, open source projects, movements, non-profits, NGOs and so on. Leave the “what” aside for now. The why of Hayduke is the right place to start. 

It’s later than we think. It’s almost too late for the internet, the signal achievement of the last century. Over the last 20 years, it has joined many industries in focusing on resource extraction and monetization. The resource is personal data, the digital means grow ever more rapacious as the monetization is taking on ever complex forms. The online advertising sector alone represents ~$750Bn annually. The internet is a dangerously weakened and exploited ecosystem.

Sadly, and not coincidentally, it’s also too late to avoid climate-driven chaos and disruption. From a recent and particularly chilling poll, the experts are not optimistic. “Almost 80% of the respondents, all from the authoritative Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), foresee at least 2.5C of global heating, while almost half anticipate at least 3C (5.4F). Only 6% thought the internationally agreed 1.5C (2.7F) limit would be met.” The tremendous chaos both ecological and societal has already begun and will continue to accelerate. Indeed, the UN Sec Gen Guterres has called last year’s IPCC Sixth Assessment Report (AR6), “an atlas of human suffering and a damning indictment of failed climate leadership.” 

The Internet and Ecology

Beyond the excited buzz for climate-tech and the wild opportunities of new innovations, behind the earnest pledges from the network behemoths for respect for privacy and dedication to “fighting climate change,” lies fundamental contradiction. The preponderance of all technical innovation works to improve efficiency of the cycle of extraction and monetization, the very ideology that is threatening human survivability.

Ironically, Leslie Daigle in her magisterial’s study “The Invariants,” likens this exact situation to the climate crisis and the internet to a dying ecosystem. “This is ‘climate change’ of the Internet ecosystem: absent concrete action to address the departure of the application infrastructure of the Internet from the ideal outlined in the Invariants, the experience of the Internet going forward will not feature such a rich diversity of solutions to the needs of the world’s population.” Just one of the many vital global ecosystems, the internet is becoming unable to provide the needs to sustain us, to sustain our human rights.

Fruitfully extending the ecological theme, Maria Farrell and Robin Bergen proposed a bold, actionable framework for Rewilding the Internet. I can’t recommend this highly enough. Their framework was clarifying moment for Hayduke, and affirming in the feeling of intellectual kinship personally. 

Architecture as a Survival Ecology

Building off the ecological rewilding which, from the IUCN, “aims to restore healthy ecosystems by creating wild, biodiverse spaces.” Weaving ecology, data infrastructure and critique of power, Farrell and Bergen firmly situate the current state of our data infrastructure and the climate catastrophe, “Concentrated digital power produces the same symptoms that command and control produces in biological ecosystems; acute distress punctuated by sudden collapses once tipping points are reached.” Their prescription is to work to re-wild parts of the internet as we would an ailing ecosystem.  It would be easy to mistake this as an exercise in nostalgia, an attempt to recapture some falsely remembered “good old days” of the internet. You don’t need to look far to find nostalgia projects. This is something different. We have to be careful to not mistake the character of the open, decentralized internet for the principles that allowed it to take root. Not all wild ecosystems are the same, but they all arise from complexity driven by diversity. That is something we need to recognize and carry from those early days of terminals and dial-up. 

But Hayduke will go a step further, while keeping the ecology analogy. Instead of attempting to conserve some “managed” park-like ecosystem of internet solutions, it’s essential to “dynamically maintain, restore and create ecosystems” that are capable of adapting to contingencies of the climate emergency. Gardner and Buller provide a careful analysis of a type of “survival ecology,” an effort that above all seeks “retain into the future an Earth system in which life (including human life) can flourish.”

Hayduke proposes to practice network and solution architecture as a survival ecology, an essential design discipline in the face of catastrophe and instability. It’s the work of relearning and uncovering the design constraints of the climate emergency. These design constraints are not limiting, rather they are liberating in that they point to a praxis of network solutions that work in concert retain into the future a system in which life can adapt and survive. 

This is the first of a series of design diaries for Hayduke’s work. If there are specific topics you’d like to see, please don’t hesitate contact us.

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