How We Can Take Back OUR Internet

Abstract: The IOUR Foundation proposes a new internet protocol with blockchain that favours open and decentralized resource management for a diversified and resilient network. IOUR’s vision is an internet that respects fundamental rights and freedoms around the world.

Diversity creates unhappiness. Denmark, where the population is pretty homogenous, is one of the happiest places in the world. They don’t have to deal with so many conflicting perspectives, priorities, and expectations as most places, which reduces stress and makes people feel better. It takes effort for most of us to overcome our tendency towards sameness, because we are wired to seek comfort and avoid conflict.

So why strive for diversity? Similar people can communicate better, are motivated to work harder, and have less conflict.

The answer is that diversity creates resilience, and resilience is more valuable than short-term comfort by several measures. Forbes recently published a piece showing that success is linked to resilience.

A pine forest is far more efficient than a mixed tree forest — it produces more pine trees faster and, in the simplest analysis, it seems like the right solution. But when a disease comes along that affects pine trees, or a wildfire starts, the whole forest can fall victim. A mixed forest resists the spreading of disease or fire far more effectively, because what demolishes one kind of tree will have little effect on another one. In the short term, it usually seems better to choose the simplest path towards a goal. In the long term, that strategy is often a mistake.

To interact with people different from us, we have to understand new body language, make allowances for other moral codes, and spend longer reaching agreement. But a diverse group of people has a wider range of responses when facing a challenge, just like the mixed forest does.

The Internet has been trending away from diversity for decades. We’ve grown accustomed to having our flow of information controlled by a few large tech companies. It’s so easy to let the Googles and Amazons of the world provide our needs through their servers, their search algorithms, and their applications. Almost without realizing it, we’ve allowed the internet to become controlled by and centralized in the hands of a few non-diverse entities. The Internet Society has been doing its best to raise the alarm about this concentration of power. The Center for Humane Technology is raising awareness of the dangers of profit-centered content and the need for digital democracy.

A certain amount of consolidation in the Internet provides more services more cheaply to more people. Just like the pine forest, on the surface this seems like great thing. On the other hand, it makes the Internet more vulnerable to catastrophe. Whether that catastrophe is a failure of essential resources or a complete consolidation of them, the result is that we will experience a reversal: less innovation, higher costs for services, and reduced access for those without privilege.

The concept of equal access and autonomous trust is a driver for blockchain technology. In practice, this means we don’t need a third party to carry out an online transaction between any two people. One example of this is substituting cryptocurrencies for centralized money to allow peer to peer transfers. But we can take it further than that.

If money is the foundation of our global economy, the Internet is fundamental to our ability to access that economy. We may have hardly noticed the Internet’s evolution from a free space to a tool dominated by centralized US tech companies, but we are starting to realize how much we’re paying for it.

Applying blockchain could create an Internet that is diversified, peer-to-peer, open, resilient, secure, and trustable. Making this vision a reality will run up against the powerful tech companies who have no interest in losing their hold on how we access the global economy. But a neutral foundation proposing a new set of internet protocol standards could do it. Not having a business interest in the outcome makes it possible for the foundation to grow and find support around the world. Governments support it to take their power back from US big tech, like-minded societies see it as a way to achieve their humanitarian goals, and people embrace it to protect their privacy and freedom.

This is the vision that led us to found IOUR, the Internet of Universal Resources — or “YOUR Internet”, because it defines the standards that will allow citizens of the decentralized world to take ownership and control of their Internet.

IOUR is a standard that extends the existing protocol definition to remain compatible with today’s Internet. The new standard simply opens the door for forward-thinking visionaries to begin building the decentralized Internet of the future. The more we build, the more resilient our Internet becomes.

We may have gotten comfortable giving away our data and privacy to large entities in exchange for access to the global economy, but humanity’s strength is our ability to see when comfort needs to be relinquished to achieve freedom and fairness. Our current Internet is not free, and it is not fair. IOUR has the potential to make the Internet a true common for humanity. This will change lives for the better around the world. And that’s a vision worth giving up a little comfort for.

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