The END

Well, today was our last seminar. Its funny how time flew (it seemed like the beginning of the semester were only some weeks ago!). Before talking about today’s seminar, I would like to start by thanking my wonderful teachers and also my classmates. It is amazing how much I’ve learned with you guys, with such interesting discussions that broadened my perspectives on so many issues..

Today’s seminar was led by us (students)! We decided to focus on the Internet on the recent US election and also on the Internet in developing countries. For me, it was extremely interesting to read about the effect of the Internet on Donald Trump’s campaign. In Brazil, propaganda for elections are mostly made through television and radio stations, so I had never experienced any election in which the Internet was a huge factor. Donald Trump made great use of the Twitter social media. In simply 140 characters, he would make statements (without any further explanation), and post them on his account. This provoked many reactions from the public, as through his 140 character statements, Trump would not give any backup for what he was saying or explanation. A question that came up today was if Trump was really aware of how he was using Twitter in this “genius” manner. I personally believe that this was not intentional from the beginning, but as soon as he saw the repercussions his tweets had, he continued doing it and increased his tweets. I would also say this is also part of his “business” side, exploiting the Internet as a businessman.

We also talked about bots, which were extremely influential in these elections as well. These Twitter bots are (amazingly) able to become very popular, in such a way that the information they share (whether true or false) becomes very influential on election results. Although in these elections there were Pro-Trump and Anti-Hillary bots (among others), there are also “non-harmful” Twitter bots such as one that corrected people in the way they referred to Caitlyn Jenner. The problem with bots is: how to regulate them? Should we regulate them? How can we decide whether a bot is harmful or not? Should Twitter have to take any action to remove these bots? In my opinion, I believe the job of controlling and eliminating Twitter bots in a situation such as the elections should be under the responsibility of the FEC (Federal Elections Commission) rather than Twitter.

The last topic we discussed was Internet in developing countries – a topic I really relate to. The question I brought to the discussion was how can Internet and technology be increased in developing nations? The problem with developing nations is that most have unstable economies and governments, which cause foreign countries and possible investors to become skeptical about investing in a country with corruption scandals and monetary issues. Who, then, would invest to increase technology in these nations? The government in Brazil, for example, has a huge debt and cannot invest in technology. Could we count solely, therefore, with the effort of Non-Governmental Organisations? From personal experience, I believe that we cannot count only with NGO’s to solve these problems. Developing countries like Brazil are massive and relying on NGO’s to implement all of the technology necessary would be too much on these NGO’s.

One last remark I wanted to make is a comment regarding the future of elections. I was actually surprised by everything I learned about these US elections and the impact that the Internet and social media had on the results. This is a completely new reality for me, given that in Brazil the Internet is not very much used as a tool for election propaganda. But this got me thinking: what will our future elections be like? Will candidates take full advantage of the Internet (like Donald Trump with Twitter)? Will this end up bringing any huge consequences? Will this change the purpose of social media like Facebook and Twitter? I guess we’ll have to wait and see! ūüôā

“Ineffa√ßable”

Today’s seminar got me thinking about several topics.¬†We talked a lot about internet vs face-to-face communication. This made me think a lot about how people may seem one person on Facebook, but another completely different person personally. The things we say, the way we saw them, what we post and what we like on social media such as Facebook/Twitter, can cause many to “judge us” (even if unconsciously) and get completely different impressions of who we are. Think about it: what do you usually express on social media? Is it your like for a given subject such as math or physics, or is it photos, political views, videos you like?¬†When¬†I think about it, I would say many people share/add things to their Facebook accounts, that are maybe not the best reflection of who they are. In my opinion, getting to know someone personally is much more authentic. I believe that communicating through the Internet brings us a barrier in communication. Maybe the way a person writes a given sentence, or the punctuation she or he uses, may lead you to interpret what they said in one way, when they actually meant a completely different thing. When talking face-to-face, however, I believe these types of “misunderstandings” and therefore judgements are less likely.

We also discussed about how different social medias have their different expectations. It was funny to reflect about this in my daily life. I clearly notice that sometimes I am much more cautious with what I post on social media like Facebook or Instagram (in which likes are involved and I have many more friends), compared to what I post on Snapchat. We discussed in class the idea of how having “likes” (and nowadays, reaction buttons on Facebook), can change what one posts/shares on social media. I would argue this is completely true. Many people are worried about how many likes they will get in a picture, or if the picture will look “cool”, and this certainly influences what people post and what they choose not to post. In social media like Snapchat, however, in which no likes are involved, I feel people tend to not worry so much about what they post, as there is no “reaction from the audience”.

Another topic that interested me in the readings, was the conflict between France and Google. It’s amazing how many things I study at Harvard end up relating to each other: today for my French homework I had to make a video talking about the dangers of the Internet and its risks for young people. This is where today’s blog¬†title comes from. The word¬†inneffa√ßable in French is anything that cannot be erased or forgotten. France’s “right to be forgotten” allows a person to go to a service like Google and ask them to remove a piece of information about them which they believe is no longer valid/useful.¬†This brought about a huge conflict with Google. France also wanted this to be a¬†universal right: it wanted this to be applied all over the world. This would mean, then, that¬†the unwanted piece of information would also have to be removed from the Google search engines in other countries, like the US. This got me questioning whether this action is valid or not. Would it be right for the information to be erased in all countries, even if countries do not agree to this regulation? Or should the right to be forgotten only apply to France?

CCC

Hey guys, welcome back! This week’s topic was “CCC”: Cyber war, Cyber conflict and Cyber crime. But before I dive into today’s discussion, I wanted to relate some recent events to some things we studied previously. I want to talk, of course, about the American presidential elections, whose results were shocking to many. Believe me, even people back in Brazil were shocked. When I woke up the morning after the election results came out, my phone was bombarded with messages from Brazilian friends/family asking me if what happened was really true…

But, moving on, today’s seminar began with the following question: “could the election have been hacked?”. This question came up because the results in this election were different from the polls. I personally think that the election results were not hacked. Firstly, this is because most of the voting in the US is not done online, but also a possible explanation is that the polls were wrong. The polls might not have represented the population and they might have asked vague questions which then led to wrong results. It was also kind of shocking for me to find out that there was a machine (AI system) that had always predicted election results correctly, and that this machine had predicted Donald Trump’s win. Does this mean that in the future, we will be relying more on AI systems than polls/data from the population to predict certain outcomes?

Today’s guest speaker was Professor Jonathan Zittrain, founder of the Oxford Internet Institute, early founder of the Berkman Center and Professor at Harvard. The interesting part of today’s discussion, for me, was related to one of our past seminar discussions. As we discussed some weeks ago, there is no governance on the Internet. But, if there is no governance, as a lawyer, how can you deal with issues of crime on the Internet? What can you do? What is the legal framework to do that?

Professor Zittrain talked about preempting something as a possible framework – what can we do so that it doesn’t happen at all? Another way would be to let people do what they want to do, and sanction them after they do it. The problem with this is that people could be harmed/damaged. The third strategy would be “resilience” – are there ways of taking the bad thing and making it less harmful ahead of time?

A rather amusing event Professor Zittrain told us about was when a person from Qatar was vandalizing pages on Wikipedia and Wikipedia then blocked this person as a sanction. This led to a huge scandal and article saying that Wikipedia had blocked Qatar as Qatar used that same IP address for everyone!!

Apart from this, we also talked about “law and architecture”. Law is one way to influence people’s behavior, but architecture and code (using laws of physics) can also be used as¬†a way of keeping people out. I thought it was an extremely interesting parallel¬†to talk about code (in the cyber context) as architecture. The fourth force we also discussed were markets. The example he gave us involved tobacco usage: if you want to affect how much tobacco usage people engage in, you can tax cigarettes. Actually, this would be called¬†a¬†corrective tax –¬†¬†I studied this in Ec10 a few weeks ago! Its funny how everything, somehow, always seems to connect, even though you might take classes in diverse areas!!

“There Isn’t Any”

My blog’s title today was the first thing I heard in today’s seminar. This week, we had a guest speaker with us, Scott Bradner. He is a senior figure in the area of Internet governance, serving as the secretary to the Internet Society. Guess what we talked to him about?¬†Internet governance!¬†The first thing Bradner¬†said about Internet governance was: “there isn’t any”.

According to Bradner, there is no Internet governance and it is extremely unlikely that there ever will be any Internet governance. This is almost strange to think about, in a world where almost everything we do is controlled (in some way), but the government. The Internet is a form of information that bypasses government controls and it is almost impossible for the government to regulate everything we do on the web. I enjoyed the comparison of the Internet to a bumble bee. Scientists, according to our speaker, said bumble bees could not fly. People also said the Internet “couldn’t fly”. And guess what happened with bumble bees (and the Internet)? Both flew off, showing people they were wrong.

 

Bradner also talked about the Communications Decency Act, when the congress of the United States created this act to protect under 18’s on the Internet. He, and many others, fought against it, because this was merely impossible. The supreme court ended up hearing them – even though they agreed that under 18’s had to be protected, this was obviously not the most efficient way to do it. Many websites all over the world won’t be subject to the US.

We also went on to discuss some cases in which countries have (or have tried) to regulate the Internet. China, for example has a firewall between the Chinese internet and the rest of the world. But, according to Bradner, this did not stop communication between the Chinese population. My home country, Brazil, also tried to implement some type of governance on the Internet. The way I see this in my daily life in Brazil, is through Netflix, as Netflix in Brazil does not show us all the TV series and movies I can see here in the US, but Bradner also talked about the fact that data localization was proposed by the Brazilian government, but did not pass our parliament.

The most interesting, and rather new, part of today’s discussion, was the regulations in France. I learned that the European Union has very strict regulations, with strict regulations regarding privacy of individuals. One of these regulations is the right to be¬†forgotten.¬†This allows you to go to a service like Google and say that a piece of information about you (even though it is true), is no longer useful or valid. You can then request Google to remove and erase this piece of information. Google has a way of doing this (which is rather expensive), but it does not require the original source to take the piece of information down (something I personally found amusing!). The problem is, France says that if you request your right to be forgotten in France, this should be applied all over the world, they say it is a¬†universal right. This obviously brings about discussions as not every country agrees with such idea.

I’d like to finish off today’s post with a funny remark made today. In the last few minutes of the seminar, we talked about cases like Mark Zuckerberg’s in Harvard and Bill Gates’s in Harvard as well, and our conclusion was: these are¬†great examples of what you get when you break Harvard’s rules!!!

Digital Citizenship

Hey guys, welcome back! This week’s seminar was amazing: we had a guest speaker, David Eaves! For those who don’t know him, he is a public policy entrepreneur, open government activist and negotiation expert. He is retained by several governments to advise on open government and open data. Today, David shared with us his opinions on the government use of data and technology to be¬†more efficient. This idea of government using technology had never actually passed through my head, as in Brazil, the technological advances in the government are very little.

A first interesting question that one of my classmates asked David, was about his views on the digital government under the two American candidates: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. He said the digital government was not mentioned a lot by both candidates, as they focused more on other issues, but that he found it hard to find republicans in the technology space. He also remarked that he sees very little change on Hillary’s side, and that Obama did really like the USDS people and understood the impact of technology, but he thinks Hillary does not put a lot of importance on this technological side (at least at the moment)!

He also discussed his view of what is civic technology, a “narrower” view as he said: companies that are either trying to help the government deliver services more effectively, or companies that are trying to help governance. What I found really interested was the way he described and explained the technological path the government is heading into. Before, as he said, people thought of technology in the government as the “IT” group. Their job was to make sure the phone and computer were on your desk, that they wore working, that the server was working, etc. You had a director of IT, not a CTO. These directors, would then report to a CFO. The problem was, the CFO only cared about money and keeping costs low, he didn’t actually care about the technological side of things.

Nowadays, however, there is a change. Boston started doing interested things with data, for example. These same IT guys, were now asked to do data analytics – an explosion of expectations taking place in IT. The IT, however, lacked the skills to do this. The director of IT, for example, was not grown to be a CIO of IT, not grown to think about the “strategic things”, he was just trained to do his simple “IT guy job”. This is why, David explained, we see the explosion of chief data officers – people with right skill set and level of seniority to interact with the executive about the issues. This is the great change that is starting to happen.

We also asked him about which government agencies were actually “doing it right”. According to him, the Government Digital Service in the UK was an extremely good effort for a long time, but now they are getting dismantled ( ūüôĀ tears!). USDS is “unknown” at this point – has done some good work but they still haven’t solidified themselves, and New York on the data analytic space is doing well, but not so well in the technological space. What really effective governments are thinking about is how to store data to a server as an API, that anyone can plug into their applications. They are trying to standardize services across the many applications on their platform. The question in mind is: if there is some information that is so common, why should we rebuild it every time? Having everything in one database would be more efficient and save us time.

I would like to finish off by mentioning a rather, “exciting”, but also scary part of our discussion today. We discussed the power of the US government to intercept your information, what you say and what you do. According to David, the US government is able to intercept the Macbook you order in the US, add hardware to get all your information, and you wouldn’t even notice it. He also talked about how they would “overlook” people with 3 degrees of separation from “dangerous” people. It turns out, all of us are 3rd degrees of separation from Bruce¬†Schneier, as we have contact to David Eaves and Professor Waldo – some great news to end my¬†blog post with!

Facebook wants YOU to vote

Before talking about today’s topic, I would like to share with you guys an interesting piece of news I read this¬†weekend – it actually has much to do with last week’s discussion. A group of Japanese engineers aim to develop a flying car. The project is being led by the group “Cart!vator”, founded by the scientist and researcher Tsubasa Nakamura. Their idea is that the car is able to drive through the streets, having the ability to take off and land back on the street. If this project is actually concluded, it will be shown in Toquio’s National Stadium in the opening ceremony of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games!!! (Let’s wait to see if 2020 finally brings us flying cars!)

Moving on, today’s discussion was a really interesting one. It focused on the Internet and the process of voting/elections. This was extremely relevant as US elections will happen soon on the 8th of November (a very exciting time for Americans, I would say!).¬†The readings and the discussion were not only interesting because of the new content I learned, but because I was able to learn more about the voting process in the US. The voting process in Brazil is extremely different to the US. Firstly, voting is compulsory: each and every person has to vote. The discussion about whether voting should be obligatory or not came up several times during the seminar, and, in my opinion, I believe voting should never be obligatory. People should always have the right to vote, but also the right to not vote if they do not want to, or feel they don’t have enough information.¬†In¬†countries like Brazil, where poverty and social inequality are very high, making voting an obligatory process means that many people who might not even know how to read or write, or might have no information on candidates/the government, will be forced to vote. These types of decisions can affect the overall outcome of the election, which will affect how the country is ruled and governed.

Voting in Brazil is also done through machines. There is huge skepticism to voting electronically. I, myself, am skeptic too. How will you ever know what happens to your vote? What if that data could be manipulated to change the whole outcome of the election? As I learned today, the US system employs the form of voting by paper ballots in some states. These paper ballots are, in a way, a method of “proving” your vote, to make sure it is counted right. It is much harder to affect an election where people vote by paper than electronically, were data could be changed and erased.

Our discussion also went along to talk about how Facebook has impacted elections until today. The articles we read showed us how Facebook was able to manipulate elections. Not only did this involve the “I Voted” button, but Facebook also controls what you see on your news feed. They can control what you see by looking at what you usually search for, your likes, your political views, your friends, etc. Even though you might think Facebook “shows you everything”, in reality, Facebook shows you what¬†they want you to see. The paper “A 61-Million-Person Experiment in Social Influence and Political Mobilization”,¬†found that in the last election, about 20 percent of the users who saw that their friends had voted also clicked on the “I Voted” button, compared to 18 percent of the people who didn’t get the “I Voted” message from their friends. That is, positive social pressure caused more people to vote (or at least to tell their friends they were voting). These statistics show how much influence Facebook can have, on such an important event, whose result affects the future of a country. Should we be concerned about this?

The question that was brought up during our conversation that most intrigued me was whether Facebook was showing us a prejudicial feed, or if they were just reflecting our own prejudice. Would there be a way to tell? Facebook has tools that can figure out your preferences, but are these targeted ads based on how you would vote anyway? When I think about people already made¬†decisions about their vote, I would suggest that the ads wouldn’t have such an impact. However, if you¬†think about an undecided/uncommitted person, ¬†these ads could have a much greater influence on deciding their vote. Targeting is, therefore, influential, but would it be a deciding factor in elections?

 

THE SINGULARITY

As my title clearly emphasises, our discussion today was about “THE SINGULARITY”. These two words do, indeed, deserve caps lock as I write about them, because of the largeness and great importance of this event. So, lets start from the beginning: what is the singularity? Many argue that within 30 years, we will have the technological means to create superhuman intelligence (yep, that’s right!). What happens is that technological change increases exponentially and the “returns”, such as chip speed and cost-effectiveness, also increase exponentially, and therefore this results in exponential growth in the rate of exponential growth. This means that, within a few decades, machine intelligence will surpass human intelligence, leading to¬†the singularity – “technological change so rapid and profound it represents a rupture in the fabric of human history”. When reading such a profound term as “rupture in the fabric of human history”, you may feel a bit scared of this extreme event. Don’t worry – that’s exactly how I felt after reading about the singularity! But discussions in class brought about many different perspectives of what the singularity would be and its possible effects.

Firstly, we talked about Moore’s law. If Moore’s law continues, in 2045 we will be able to have a computer with the processing power of a human brain. This brought about the discussion of what can we characterise as the human brain? Do we, humans, know everything about the human brain? When we say a computer will have the “processing power of a human brain”, does this mean a brain or a human mind? What, then, would be the difference between a brain and a mind? Also, what is intelligence and what makes someone or something intelligent?

There are, in fact, many different types of intelligence. I personally would analyse this situation by separating the types of intelligence. Computers have mathematical intelligence – they are able to solve problems quickly (calculators for example), producing answers to problems that could take us¬†a lot of time to find. However, human beings have practical, social and emotional intelligence. We are able to react to real-world situations, we have empathy, we can socialize and develop our social relations and interactions and we are able to evaluate another’s opinion and argue about different topics. Computers may come up with an answer to a complicated problem, but they may also lack many of these forms of intelligence that humans carry.

Nevertheless, I also have some counter-arguments to what I just said. For many years, people have challenged what computers could do, and were proved wrong. “Computers will never be able to play chess better than humans!” – how many of you play chess and have actually won the computer? (It is actually hard!). “Computers can’t have empathy!” – Eliza was a program created in the 1970’s that you could have a conversation with, a “computer therapist”. It gave responses¬†just like a therapist and people actually enjoyed having a conversation with Eliza, and soon forgot they were talking to a machine. Eliza seemed to have empathy. And for that matter, Eliza made me remember of the movie¬†Her (2013), in which the protagonist Theodore falls in love with a new operation system – it is a great movie, I strongly recommend it!

If we think about a computer nowadays, it still requires human input to some extent, and it is still not capable of resolving all problems by itself. In the case of a natural disaster, for example, a computer can alert us of a disaster but we are the ones responsible for taking actions to protect ourselves with the information the computer gives us. The question is: what will computers have gained when the singularity is reached? If the singularity comes, will we know? Can we predict when it will come? In my opinion, the singularity will not be an exact given moment, it will involve a continuous process. If we think about it, there are already several aspects of our computers nowadays that we do not understand completely Рcould the singularity have already started, then?

Whether the singularity will not happen (as Paul Allen argues) or whether it will lead to the extinction of humankind (as Vinge argues), I am still not sure, but this whole discussion about the singularity got me really interested in how our future can change in a way that we can’t even picture nowadays!

 

Some of this week’s reflections…

Hey all! This week’s discussion was mostly based on the Internet of Things, and, once again, I’m actually surprised by many of the things I learned from the conversation.

One of most interesting part of today’s conversation, in my opinion, was comparing the advantages and drawbacks of the Internet of things. Having a personal camera in your house to watch your dog, or a camera in your father’s house to make sure he is okay, or a fridge that orders food, all have their clear advantages. Firstly, it allows us to do less work; it is¬†convenient. Convenience is a huge word to describe the Internet of things, that make our day-to-day lives much easier. Another advantage is it is easier to set up and operate. If we take Apple as an example, it has products that sync and work together – one complements the other and makes communication much easier. Many of our regular daily actions are made automatic, meaning that we, humans, don’t require that much thinking. It is also efficient to save money. Lets say, for example, you forget to turn off your home lights when you travel – this could be done for you! Making operations in your house, work environment, or wherever you are becomes more efficient. We cannot forget, also, that all of this is interesting and “fun to play with”¬†(we all have our child spirits inside of us!!!). Lastly, the argument of safety and security is extremely valid. If you have Onstar in your car, for example, it knows if you are in an accident or a dangerous situation.

However, we can also think about these points through another perspective. This basically comes down to one very powerful word: privacy. When we start adding more and more of the Internet to our lives, we end up losing our privacy. Although the safety argument is valid, how can one guarantee that their data will not be stolen or their equipment infringed? There is no guarantee of how people will (or can) use your information. If someone else gets hold of your nest, this is a huge threat to your safety. Someone could intercept your video footage, get access to your wireless network or even your log in credentials. With this, people could manipulate your data, and end up costing you not only your security, but money as well. Another point that was brought up was regarding human interaction. I believe this point is extremely important: as we get more and more connected to the Internet and technology, we end up giving up our human interaction, our face-to-face conversations. It seems, sometimes, that we could be losing an essential part of our human identity.

I wanted to mention as well two interesting examples of the Internet of Things. The first one, is an application to agriculture. Sensors can see how much water is in the soil and therefore calculate how much water the sprinklers have to shoot on crops. The sprinklers can adapt to the weather forecast for the next day, and GE sensors can also find the optimal mixing process for their various compounds Рwould you imagine this? It is astonishing to see how so many things can be figured out today to make our jobs and daily lives much more efficient. The second example is of a project called Asthmapolis, which uses a sensor that attaches to an asthma inhaler. It is able to map usage to generate insights into where attacks are likely to occur. Once again, the daily life of someone who suffers from asthma would be extremely facilitated by this, not to mention their health safety as well!

I would like to finish off this week’s remarks by stating that I had¬†no idea that the most common cause of power accidents were squirrels – who would think these little creatures would cause any harm ?!

Well, this is a bit of this week’s reflections and I’ll be back in two weeks with more to share!!!

 

HARVARD

By putting my blog’s title as “Harvard” today, this may, (possibly), increase the number of views I receive! Although this may seem funny at first sight, I learned in my seminar today that Bloomberg reporters get paid according to how many people click and view their article. Professor Waldo mentioned that a research showed that including the name “Harvard” in the lead, increased the number of clicks by 10% (would you believe that?!).

Today’s discussion was all about the various effects of the Internet on the economy. Its funny to think how the Internet was never intended to have any impact on the economy, but nowadays it is hard to¬†find situations in which the Internet had no impact whatsoever. During the process of creating the Internet, it was not able to support sound or video. Nowadays, it is impossible to think about music without thinking of the Internet. Spotify, SoundCloud, Apple Music, amongst many others, have taken control of the music industry. CD’s are rarely bought. Not to mention illegal downloading of songs, which is also extremely common today – artists end up¬†not getting what they fully deserve. However, it was mentioned during today’s discussion that research showed that the increase in piracy led to a proportional increase for music revenue: the internet allows us¬†to listen to a huge variety of songs, and those who listen a given song/album and like it, may want to buy it at a better quality (CD) to keep. Streaming leads to recommended songs and artists (which actually becomes a cycle), allowing us to discover whoever we want in the music market. If we think about it, in the past, musicians would make concerts to promote their albums, and¬†nowadays they make money through concerts and festivals, and the songs put on the Internet are used to promote their concerts.

Overall, we notice that the Internet has caused industries to phase out. So much is available online that it shifts the stores we go to for entertainment. Newspapers, for example, used to make money on classified ads. Newspaper companies now save money by posting online in stead of printing, but there is more competition in the market (they are not only competing with other newspapers, but all other sources of information available on the Internet). As a result, less people will be viewing their ads and they profit less. As they profit less, they can hire less people, which makes it harder to find news, to conduct in depth research on news, and, as a result, the quality and quantity of news developed is affected. As we can see, it is a chain of cause and effect, with one problem leading to another one.

When reflecting on pricing, the Internet has also changed the way pricing goes. In stores, we clearly know the price of a given product and therefore what other people or paying for a good. The Internet, however, is way less transparent: you don’t know what other people may be paying. It was amazing, (but at the same time shocking), for me to hear a classmate talk about how buying a plane ticket online can become more expensive if you open the website various times. This will definitely make think further when¬†buying things on the Internet (especially plane tickets!!!).

Overall, a lesson I extracted from the readings and today’s discussion is that the Internet causes each sector to have to reprove itself constantly. Technological advances and new discoveries are made frequently, and sectors have to continually become better, to prove they deserve a spot in the market. What will this lead to in the future, though?¬†Not only will we have much less stability for work, but it will become harder and harder each time for companies to exist. This makes me wonder about the future – what will the market and work environment be like?

The time has come…

The time has finally arrived: the Internet was created!!! Not today, (obviously!), but in our seminar’s reading of Hafner and Lyon’s book! This week’s reading was by far the one that most interested me, as it involved the steps from the ARPANET¬†to the¬†real Internet.

The creation of the Ethernet, in my opinion, was one of the major advances in this whole process we have been studying. The ARPANET pioneers wanted to get rid of the AT&T Network (by the way, this is not the AT&T phone company we use today!) as their phone lines were extremely expensive. Many local networks were arising, and the thought now was to find a way to connect these local networks and allow communication between them. Networks such as the SATNET, CSNET and ALOHANET were being developed and this was an incentive for people to build different networks for the local. The question was: how would these networks communicate to each other? Taking the ALOHANET and the ARPANET as examples, both had different interfaces, transmission rates and packet sizes (the ALOHANET was for broadcasting with radios while the ARPANET was for routing and has IMPs and host computers). Their solution came down to a simple word: a gateway.

The gateway was a machine with a software that made it look like a host to the ARPANET IMPs and it would be connected to the radio waves at ALOHANET. This means another level of indirection was added: the gateway would be connected to an IMP on ARPA and radio waves on ALOHA. It did not focus on the content or the complexity of the content being transferred, it assumed things that came before were reliable and therefore its job was simply to transfer the information (end-to-end reliability). So, the Ethernet actually originated from the already-existing ALOHANET.

The protocol used began as TCP (Transmission Control Protocol) and then it ended up splitting into TCP/IP (Internet Protocol). After this split, the TCP would be responsible for “breaking up messages into datagrams, reassembling them at the other end, detecting errors, resending anything that got lost, and putting packets back in the right order”, while the Internet Protocol would be responsible for routing individual diagrams. In this way, the huge function that the TCP had before was distributed and this shifted reliability onto the hosts.

So, this brings us to the distinction between what was the “internet” and the “Internet”: the first meant any network using TCP/OP while the second meant the public, federally subsidised network that was made up of many linked networks (all running TCP/IP protocols). And this, ladies and gentlemen, was how this Internet was finally created (!!!!).

Later on in the seminar, we moved our discussion to a topic that I personally had never thought about. Would you imagine that typing in a set of numbers into your browser could lead you to a webpage? Well, I didn’t, until¬†Dean Smith and Professor Waldo explained the DNS – Domain Name System – in which each webpage has its set of characters corresponding to its type of protocol, name server and top level domain. It’s amazing to think about how many things we use nowadays on the Internet, without¬†knowing the actual work behind them. The good part is, though, that the¬†seminar will¬†help me with this issue¬†by teaching me new things as we go along!