There’s nothing you can hold for very long …

This is the first in a regular series of posts connecting a recent events to the Hayduke philosophy. If I can muster a daily post, I’ll be ecstatic but more likely weekly for the time being. I’ll be an optimist and actualize the practice by naming this the <not> daily.

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“This is one of the classic characteristics of infrastructure: when it is working as intended, it often seems to recede into the background of life, taken for granted as though it always existed and couldn’t be otherwise.”

                                                                         –Dugan Meyer,  “Infrastructures of Control”

I am constantly reminded of the invisible but immense power of infrastructure. I’ve been practicing solution architecture for over a decade now. Technology was never really the difficult part, rather bending technology to meet business requirements, an innocuous phrase that covers all manner of modern wonder and depravity. But it’s afforded me with the opportunity to  develop a keen eye for both what the modern network infrastructure can do and, more importantly, how social and other forces have largely determined its shape. 

It’s made me a data infrastructure geek and an exhausted one at that as “business model innovation” is ever more determinative of the shape of the internet today. Exploitative and extractive innovation drives and strongly influences what and how network technology is getting developed and deployed. It’s an infrastructure of “the plantation,” as I quoted in an earlier post, and an eerie parallel to resource extraction infrastructure more broadly. 

This take on the modern internet is not especially new. The pull between different visions of the internet are as old as the project itself, see Katie Hafner’s excellent Where the Wizards Stay Up Late. But the Hayduke project isn’t necessarily working to make the internet what it was in the past or it should be in the now. Hayduke’s urgency is cobbling together network technology and architecture what we need now and will need ever more in the future as climate disruption accelerates. 

I find both urgency and inspiration from stories such as these. Let’s begin with the urgency. The NTY’s Li Yuan’s latest piece <NB Paywall> from her “The New New World” column explores China’s shrinking internet. The CCP’s censorship over the internet in China is well-known. I’ve experienced it as minor conveniences when there. But Li Yuan reports today on the wholesale removal of websites, posts, comments … everything … about certain topics, individuals, etc. The number of website in China is falling as the CCP continues to refine their infrastructure of control. Li Yuan’s piece is especially powerful in that it gives voice to the personal impact of this accelerating trend … and an excellent list of Chinese digital archives.

This piece highlights the brittleness of our data technology infrastructure in the hands of authoritarian regimes and movements. There are no shortage of examples and they will continue to accumulate as climate impacts begin to bring home the oppressive political practices that global resource extraction relies on, a kind of climate-driven political blowback. Eve Darian-Smith’s Global Burning is an excellent resource to dig deeper.

On a brighter note, I caught up with Dina Temple-Raston’s Click Here podcast, part of The Record – Recorded Future News. She spoke with 2 incredible engineers who hacked together a solution to GPS jamming’s, a one of a growing arsenal of tactics in cyber attacks and armed conflicts, impact on the Ukrainian power grid. It’s a great story of how real innovation (not the buzzword of earnings calls, conference stages and startup pitch decks) happens, with a good hard problem worth solving featuring Cisco’s Joe Marshall and Ukrenergo’s Tamas Vasyliv

The best, and most instructive part, was Joe Marshall’s admission that the solution was a “hack.” One of those “ugly hot” solutions that is much more common than even cynics imagine. That the hero of the story is a rugged ethernet switch is just icing on the cake. 

I shamelessly admit that this is the spirit of innovation that we need to rewild the internet,  reclaiming/repurposing network infrastructure and software to ensure that networked communication can serve true human need and resilience. 

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Upcoming is more on infrastructure alternatives for networked computing. Hope you’ll subscribe.

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