If there is anything good to be said about mass surveillance, overcharging and monopolization by telecom/ISP companies, and government censorship including cell phone and Internet shutdowns as they see fit, it is that these heavy-handed measures only create a stronger desire for freedom.
For many in the modern world, open access to the World Wide Web is being viewed as an essential human right – it is a gateway to knowledge, peer-to-peer communication, innovation and economic opportunity. Basically: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. For the 5 billion people who still do not have access, it represents the universal dream of self-determination.
There are several devices in various stages of development that aim to rectify the gaps in knowledge and communication which keep large portions of humanity enslaved and threaten freedom for the rest of us if the restrictions mentioned above are permitted to flourish. It is clear that some, if not all, of what is mentioned below carry various hurdles and challenges that might be difficult to overcome if widespread adoption is a goal. However, the ideas are there to be expanded upon – and as we know: “There is one thing stronger than all the armies in the world, and that is an idea whose time has come.”
1. Lantern – Lantern has officially adopted the term Outernet for its mission of providing free data anywhere in the world. It’s the perfect antithesis to the expanding move to exert control over the IN-ternet. https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/lantern-one-device-free-data-from-space-forever
2. goTenna – This device enables off-grid communication between any goTenna-connected smartphones, but without the need for cell towers, Wi-Fi, or satellites. It’s like a walkie-talkie on steroids. http://www.gotenna.com/
3. Cryptocurrencies – Within an Outernet framework cryptocurrencies like bitcoin could become even more powerful. We can imagine one more layer put between their use and the regulators who continue to seek ways to eradicate this powerful peer-to-peer form of economic empowerment.
4. OpenBazaar – A peer-to-peer marketplace with no central server susceptible to shut down or seizure by authorities. By running a program on your computer, you can connect directly to other users in the OpenBazaar network and trade with them. No mandatory fees, and your trade is censorship-resistant. OpenBazaar uses Bitcoin cryptocurrency, and is an open source project, which means the code is publicly available, can be reviewed, and anyone can join the project and suggest changes. This system is in beta testing right now and is expected to be fully released in 2015. https://openbazaar.org/
5. Mesh Networks – Authoritarian governments around the world (including the U.S.) have considered implementing full communications shutdowns during protest. P2P chat apps likeFireChat were used by Hong Kong democracy protesters to end-run a potential Internet shutdown and/or cell tower jamming. Similar local-range solutions could be instrumental during natural disasters as well, facilitating community organization, as well as search and rescue when traditional networks might be overloaded. Texting is the first useful app for mesh networks, but imagine combining it with goTenna and Lantern technology as well as P2P markets and the current way we access the Web may soon change altogether.
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